Friday, July 31, 2009

NSA could add as many as 11,000 jobs to Fort Meade area/E-Mails Show Larger White House Role in Prosecutor Firings,0,3891795.story

NSA could add as many as 11,000 jobs to Fort Meade area

By Jamie Smith Hopkins | jamie.smith.hopkins

1:42 PM EDT, July 31, 2009

The National Security Agency is planning to add as many as 11,000 jobs as part of a major expansion of its Anne Arundel County headquarters, according to a notice it filed with the federal government.

The secretive agency, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon, wants to build 5.8 million square feet over 20 years on Fort Meade land next to its headquarters. NSA detailed the plans in a notice published in the Federal Register this month, reported Friday by The Baltimore Business Journal.

The NSA said in the notice that it needs to develop "a modern operational complex" to "meet mission growth requirements." That includes consolidating intelligence-community efforts being done at other agencies, it said.

The announcement comes as the county is preparing for an influx of jobs and people from BRAC. The military base realignment and closure process is sending jobs to Fort Meade from elsewhere in the country, particularly Northern Virginia.


E-Mails Show Larger White House Role in Prosecutor Firings

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 31, 2009

Political adviser Karl Rove and other high-ranking figures in the Bush White House played a greater role than previously understood in the firing of federal prosecutors almost three years ago, according to e-mails obtained by The Washington Post, in a scandal that led to mass Justice Department resignations and an ongoing criminal probe.

The e-mails and new interviews with key participants reflect contacts among Rove, aides in the Bush political affairs office and White House lawyers about the dismissal of three of the nine U.S. attorneys fired in 2006: New Mexico's David C. Iglesias, the focus of ire from GOP lawmakers; Missouri's Todd Graves, who had clashed with one of Rove's former clients; and Arkansas's Bud Cummins, who was pushed out to make way for a Rove protégé.

The documents and interviews provide new information about efforts by political aides in the Bush White House, for example, to push a former colleague as a favored candidate for one of the U.S. attorney posts. They also reflect the intensity of efforts by lawmakers and party officials in New Mexico to unseat the top prosecutor there. Rove described himself as merely passing along complaints by senators and state party officials to White House lawyers.

The e-mails emerged as Rove finished his second day of closed-door-testimony Thursday about the firings to the House Judiciary Committee. For years, Rove and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers had rejected efforts by lawmakers to obtain their testimony and their correspondence about the issue, citing executive privilege. The House sued, igniting a court fight that was resolved this year after discussions among lawyers for former president George W. Bush and President Obama.

Robert D. Luskin, Rove's attorney, said, "I certainly can confirm that Karl answered all of the committee's questions fully and truthfully. His answers should put to rest any suspicion that he acted improperly."

Rove and Miers, as well as other Bush administration figures, still could be called to testify at a public hearing on Capitol Hill. Transcripts of their behind-closed-doors accounts could be released by the House Judiciary panel as early as August under the terms of the court settlement.

At the same time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy continues to investigate whether the firings of the prosecutors and the political firestorm that followed could form the basis of possible criminal charges such as making false statements or obstruction of justice. Rove and Miers each met with Dannehy this year.

In an interview with The Post and the New York Times this month, Rove described himself as a "conduit" of grievances from lawmakers and others about the performance of home-state prosecutors. The e-mails and interview were provided on the condition that they not be released until Rove's House testimony concluded. He said he did not recall several events because of his busy job and asserted that he had done nothing to influence criminal cases, an allegation by Democrats that has dogged him for years. Luskin, Rove's attorney, asserted that "there was never any point where Karl was trying to get a particular prosecution advanced or retarded."

"Yes, I was a recipient of complaints, and I passed them on to the counsel's office to be passed onto Justice," Rove said. The complaints about weak enforcement of voter fraud laws and public corruption "had the sound of authenticity to me. If what I'm told is accurate, it's really troublesome."

Rove added that he had "no recollection" of how he learned of the firing of Iglesias, who had been a rising star in New Mexico. A lengthy report released last year by the Justice Department inspector general said that Rove told then-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) at a White House party in mid-November 2006 that "that decision has already been made, he's gone." But Justice Department lawyers did not send a dismissal list to the White House until hours after the party, the report said.

Complaints about Iglesias began at least a year before he was relieved of his job, according to documents reviewed by The Post. Then-Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), his chief of staff, Steve Bell, and GOP lawyers in the state lobbied aggressively to oust the prosecutor. But the activity accelerated in fall 2006.

Responding to questions about another little-understood event, Rove told reporters in the interview this month that he had not seen a letter that Justice Department officials prepared and sent to the Senate on Feb. 23, 2007. The letter stated that "the department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint [protégé] Mr. Griffin" to a top job in Little Rock.

The Justice Department later retracted the statement, which the inspector general concluded was "misleading."

Rove said that he had "nothing" to do with the letter, that he did not draft it and did not approve its contents. "I'm not even sure I was still there at that point." Rove did not leave the White House for six more months, in late August 2007.

But internal White House correspondence dating to two years earlier suggests that job prospects for Timothy Griffin, who had worked for Rove in the administration, were a hot topic of conversation. In a Feb. 11, 2005, e-mail, Rove wrote to deputy Sara Taylor: "Give him options. Keep pushing for Justice and let him decide. I want him on the team."

Then-White House counsel Miers e-mailed Taylor a month later, writing, "Sara, Karl asked me to forward you a list of locations where we may consider replacing the USAs."

Rove suggested Little Rock, where Cummins was U.S. attorney, as a post for Griffin, reminding Miers in March 2005 that "that's where he's from." The next day, Sara Taylor forwarded communications about Griffin to then-Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who wrote, "let me know his reaction," according to the e-mails.

In the interview, Rove said he made no secret to anyone of his support for Griffin and cited published reports that Cummins was considering stepping down.

Graves, the U.S. attorney in Missouri, was removed after staff members of Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond (R) repeatedly complained to the White House, according to interviews and the inspector general. Rove, who had done political consulting work for Bond, said in the interview that he did not play any role in Graves's dismissal, including transmitting complaints.

The role of Bush in the dismissals gets occasional mention in the e-mails and other documents. The Justice Department inspector general's report said that Bush and Rove talked with Alberto R. Gonzales, then the attorney general, in October 2006 about voting fraud, including problems in New Mexico. And in an e-mail in mid-November 2006, as the firing plan accelerated, Gonzales's chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, asked lawyers at the White House, "Who will determine whether this requires the President's attention."

Rove, in the interview, said he wasn't certain about how Bush was informed. "I wouldn't know whether it ultimately went to him. Maybe Harriet talked to him about it. I'm sure they did walk in at the end and say, 'Mr. President, we want to make a change here.' . . . This is not at the top of my agenda. I don't wake up in the morning and say, 'What must I do today to advance the case of the U.S. attorneys?' I've got a few things on my plate."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

Afghan War Spreads to Residential Areas: UN Report

Published on Friday, July 31, 2009 by Reuters

Afghan War Spreads to Residential Areas: UN Report

by Laura MacInnis

GENEVA - The Afghan battlefield is spreading into residential areas where more people are being killed by air strikes, car bombs and suicide attacks, according to a U.N. report published on Friday.

[File photo shows a British soldier talking with Afghan children during a patrol on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP/File/Shah Marai)]File photo shows a British soldier talking with Afghan children during a patrol on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP/File/Shah Marai)

The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of their country's armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.

Commenting on the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.

"All parties involved in this conflict should take all measures to protect civilians, and to ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties, as well as justice and remedies for the victims," the South African said.

Taliban fighters and their allies were named responsible for 59 percent of bystander deaths, caused mainly by roadside blasts, and Afghan government and international forces were also faulted for errant air strikes that claimed hundreds of lives.

"Both anti-government elements and pro-government forces are responsible for the increase in civilian casualties," the human rights report said, arguing that tactical changes in the war had put more innocent people in the cross-fire.

Insurgents, who previously targeted the Afghan military and NATO troops with frontal attacks and ambushes, are now employing "guerrilla-like measures" in residential zones "to deliberately blur the distinction between combatants and civilians."

This shift, it said, is "what appears to be an active policy aimed at drawing a military response to areas where there is a high likelihood that civilians will be killed or injured."


Afghan and international forces have launched more operations in areas where ordinary Afghans live, killing people and damaging homes, assets and infrastructure, the report said.

The United Nations warned that resistance to a U.S. troop surge and efforts to disrupt August elections could lead to more loss of life in Afghanistan, where war has been waged since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for having sheltered al Qaeda militants.

"Given the pattern of the conflict so far, further significant civilian casualties in the coming months are likely," the human rights report concluded.

The U.N. tolls are based on witness testimonies, military and local leader interviews, hospital visits, and photographic and film evidence as well as media and secondary-source reports.

The latest report said 200 civilians have been killed since the start of the year in 40 air strikes by pro-government forces. May was especially bloody, with 63 civilian deaths in one aerial bombardment and a total of 81 deaths over the month.

"While the number of deadly air strike incidents remains low overall, when they do occur they can claim a significant number of lives," the U.N. study found.

It also raised concerns about raids in which people died, and said "there have been reports of a number of joint Afghan and international military forces operations in which excessive use of force has allegedly resulted in civilian deaths."

But it said pro-government forces -- who until last year were responsible for the bulk of Afghan civilian deaths -- seemed to have clamped down on "force protection incidents" where civilians are killed after failing to follow instructions when nearing military convoys, sites or checkpoints.

© 2009 Reuters


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


U.S. Adviser's Blunt Memo on Iraq: Time 'to Go Home'


July 31, 2009

U.S. Adviser’s Blunt Memo on Iraq: Time ‘to Go Home’


WASHINGTON — A senior American military adviser in Baghdad has concluded in an unusually blunt memo that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government, and that it is time “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.”

The memo offers a look at tensions that emerged between Iraqi and American military officers at a sensitive moment when American combat troops met a June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, the first step toward an advisory role. The Iraqi government’s forceful moves to assert authority have concerned some American officers, though senior American officials insisted that cooperation had improved.

Prepared by Col. Timothy R. Reese, an adviser to the Iraqi military’s Baghdad command, the memorandum details Iraqi military weaknesses in scathing language, including corruption, poor management and the inability to resist Shiite political pressure. Extending the American military presence beyond August 2010, he argues, will do little to improve the Iraqis’ military performance while fueling growing resentment of Americans.

“As the old saying goes, ‘Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’ ” Colonel Reese wrote. “Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose.”

Those conclusions are not shared by the senior American commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, and his recommendation for an accelerated troop withdrawal is at odds with the timetable approved by President Obama.

A spokeswoman for General Odierno said that the memo did not reflect the official stance of the United States military and was not intended for a broad audience, and that some of the problems the memo referred to had been solved since its writing in early July.

Still, the memo opens a rare window into a debate among American military officers about how active the American role should be in Iraq and for how long. While some in the military endorse Colonel Reese’s assessment, other officers say that American forces need to stay in Iraq for the next couple of years as the Iraqis struggle with heightened tensions between the Kurds and Arabs, insurgent attacks in and around Mosul and checking authoritarian tendencies of the Iraqi government.

“We now have an Iraqi government that has gained its balance and thinks it knows how to ride the bike in the race,” Colonel Reese wrote. “And in fact they probably do know how to ride, at least well enough for the road they are on against their current competitors. Our hand on the back of the seat is holding them back and causing resentment. We need to let go before we both tumble to the ground.”

Before deploying to Iraq, Colonel Reese served as the director of the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Army’s premier intellectual center. He was an author of an official Army history of the Iraq war — “On Point II” — that was sharply critical of the lapses in postwar planning.

As an adviser to the Baghdad Operations Command, which is led by an Iraqi general, Abud Qanbar, Colonel Reese drew examples from Baghdad Province, which is less volatile than the area near Mosul in northern Iraq, where the Sunni insurgency is strongest. But he noted that he had read military reports from other regions and that he believed that there were similar dynamics nationwide.

Colonel Reese, who could not be reached for comment, submitted his paper to General Odierno’s command, but copies have circulated among active-duty and retired military officers and been posted on at least one military-oriented Web site.

Colonel Reese’s memo lists a number of problems that have emerged since the withdrawal of American combat troops from Baghdad, completed June 30. They include, he wrote, a “sudden coolness” to American advisers and the “forcible takeover” of a checkpoint in the Green Zone. Iraqi units, he added, are much less willing to conduct joint operations with their American counterparts “to go after targets the U.S. considers high value.”

The Iraqi Ground Forces Command, Colonel Reese wrote, has imposed “unilateral restrictions” on American military operations that “violate the most basic aspects” of the security agreement that governs American and Iraqi military relations.

“The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the U.S. for attacks on the U.S.,” he added.

A spokeswoman for General Odierno, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, said of the memo: “The e-mail reflects one person’s personal view at the time we were first implementing the Security Agreement post-30 June. Since that time many of the initial issues have been resolved and our partnerships with Iraqi Security Forces and G.O.I. partners now are even stronger than before 30 June.” G.O.I. is the abbreviation for the government of Iraq; the Iraqi Security Forces are sometimes referred to as the I.S.F.

Colonel Reese appears to have anonymously circulated a less detailed version of his memo on a blog called “The Enchanter’s Corner.” The author, listed on the site as “Tim the Enchanter,” is described as an active-duty Army officer serving as an adviser in Iraq who is “passionate about political issues.” That post on Iraq, along with one criticizing President Obama’s health care proposals, has been removed but can be found in cached versions.

Under the plan developed by General Odierno, the vast majority of the approximately 130,000 American forces in Iraq will remain through Iraq’s national elections, which are expected to be held next January. After the elections and the formation of a new Iraqi government, there will be rapid reductions in American forces. By the end of August 2010, the United States would have no more than 50,000 troops in Iraq, which would include six brigades whose primary role would be to advise and train Iraqi troops.

Some experts, like Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus, have argued that this timetable may be too fast “Renewed violence in Iraq is not inevitable, but it is a serious risk,” Mr. Biddle wrote in a recent paper. “The most effective option for prevention is to go slow in drawing down the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Measures to maximize U.S. leverage on important Iraqi leaders — especially Maliki,” he added, referring to Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki “— can be helpful in steering Iraqis away from confrontation and violence, but U.S. leverage is a function of U.S. presence.”

During a recent appearance at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based research organization, Mr. Maliki appeared to be contemplating a possible role for American forces after the December 2011 deadline for the removal of all American troops under the security agreement.

But while General Odierno has drawn up detailed plans for a substantial advisory role, Colonel Reese argued in favor of a more limited — and shorter — effort, and recommended that all American forces be withdrawn by August 2010.

“If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past,” he wrote. “U.S. combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it. The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the I.S.F. is incapable of change in the current environment.”



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Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


International law violation video/West Bank Settlers Send Defiant Message to Obama

This video illustrates another violation of international law:

West Bank Settlers Send Defiant Message to Obama


By Ethan Bronner

The New York Times

July 30, 2009


NERIA, West Bank - In this land of endless history and

ethereal beauty, several thousand Jewish settlers

gathered on a dozen West Bank hills with makeshift huts

and Israeli flags over several days this week to mark

an invented anniversary and defy the American

president, conveying to his aides visiting Jerusalem

what they thought of his demand for a settlement freeze.


Eleven tiny settler outposts were inaugurated,

including one next to this settlement in the rugged

Samarian hills. A clearing encompassing a generator and

a hut with a corrugated metal roof and a ritual mezuza

on its doorpost now bears the name Givat Egoz. This is

how nearby Neria, with 180 families, got its start 18 years ago.


"We are rebuilding the land of Israel," Rabbi Yigael

Shandorfi, leader of a religious academy at the

neighboring settlement outpost of Nahliel, said during

the ceremony. "Our hope is that there will be roads,

electricity and water." The message to President Obama,

he said, is that this is Jewish land. He did not use

the president's name, but an insulting Hebrew slang for

a black man and the phrase "that Arab they call a president."


None of the hundreds gathered - mostly couples with

large families, but also armed young men and teenagers

from other outposts - objected. Yitzhak Shadmi, leader

of the regional council of settlements, said Mr. Obama

was a racist and anti-Semite for his assertion that

Jews should not build here, but Arabs could.


Mr. Shadmi said the ceremonies across the West Bank

this week honored a moment in 1946 when Zionists

established 11 settlements in the northern Negev of

Palestine in defiance of the British rulers before

Israel was created. It was important for the new

outposts to be established while Washington's

emissaries were visiting, he said. George J. Mitchell,

the special envoy for the Middle East, who is pressing

the settlement freeze, was in the West Bank at the

start of the week.


The national security adviser, James L. Jones, and a

White House adviser on the region, Dennis B. Ross, held

meetings in Jerusalem on Wednesday as part of the

negotiations, which also include attempts to get Arab

governments and Palestinians to reciprocate if the

Israelis agree to the freeze.


"We wanted to do this while they were here," Mr. Shadmi

said. "We're saying, `Mitchell, go home.' "


When the settlement of Neria was created in 1991, it

had a similar purpose. Yossi Dermer, spokesman for the

settlement, said it was known slyly to intimates as

"the James Baker settlement" because it was set up to

convey a message of defiance before a visit by James A.

Baker III, secretary of state for the first President George Bush.


Because West Bank settlements officially require

Israeli government approval and the new outposts did

not obtain it, the Israeli police have dismantled

several of the new ones already. But just as quickly,

they are being rebuilt, sometimes a bit bigger. At

nearly every outpost, the ruins left by past police

actions lie next to newly built huts.


"We'll build and build, and every time they destroy it

we will build bigger and better and prettier," asserted

Tirael Cohen, a 16-year-old girl who lives at Ramat

Migron, an extension of the unauthorized Migron

outpost, not far from Ramallah, a large Palestinian

city in the West Bank. Ruined corrugated metal and

pieces of wood were strewn on the ground nearby.


Tirael has lived at Ramat Migron for a year and a half

with 10 other girls, and, at a religiously modest

distance away, 10 boys live in a separate structure.

The girls cook, the boys build and maintain, and all

study at nearby religious academies.


About 40 religious girls from within Israel and West

Bank settlements spent three days at Ramat Migron last

week in what they called "spiritual preparation" for

coming battles over the land.


On the outside wall of the kitchen is a rabbinical

quotation about the need to redeem the land of Israel.

It says "bare mountains and deserted fields cry out for

life and creation," and adds: "An internal revolution

is taking place here, a revolution in man and the

earth. These are the true pains of salvation."


The Migron outpost itself is expected to be taken down

because it is built on land that, according to a court

case, belongs to private Palestinian families.

Centuries-old olive trees dot the landscape.


The Obama administration is hoping to help establish a

Palestinian state in nearly all of the West Bank next

to Israel. One major challenge is what to do with the

300,000 Israeli Jews who have settled here over four

decades, often at their government's urging.


Many could be incorporated into Israel through a border

adjustment; others say they would move if compensated.

But some, like these outpost settlers, say they will

never move because they believe they are fulfilling

God's plan with every hut they put up. They are likely

to be a major stumbling block to any attempt to find a

two-state solution.


At the Neria outpost celebration, Noam Rein, a father

of 10, looked out across the hills at Ramallah and

called its presence "temporary."


He added: "The Torah says the land of Israel is for the

Jewish people. This is just the beginning. We will

build 1,000 homes here. The Arabs cannot stay here, not

because we hate them, but because this is not their place."


Among the religious leaders who spoke at the ceremony,

Rabbi Yair Remer of Harasha, a nearby outpost, noted

that Thursday was the Ninth of Av, a Jewish day of

mourning commemorating the destruction of the ancient

temples. He suggested that the best way to cope with

the tragedy of Jewish history was to do what the young

builders of this outpost were doing.


"The land rejoices because its children are returning

to her," he said, referring to Jewish settlers, making

no mention of the 2.5 million Palestinians here.


Tirael, the teenager from Ramat Migron, put it another

way: "I believe that every inch of this land is us, our

blood. If we lose one inch, it is like losing a person."


Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company




Thursday, July 30, 2009

Three Good Reasons To Liquidate Our Empire

Published on Thursday, July 30, 2009 by

Three Good Reasons To Liquidate Our Empire

And Ten Steps to Take to Do So

by Chalmers Johnson

However ambitious President Barack Obama's domestic plans, one unacknowledged issue has the potential to destroy any reform efforts he might launch. Think of it as the 800-pound gorilla in the American living room: our longstanding reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it. The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

According to the 2008 official Pentagon inventory of our military bases around the world, our empire consists of [1] 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy over 190,000 troops in 46 countries and territories. In just one such country, Japan, at the end of March 2008, we still had 99,295 people connected to U.S. military forces living and working there -- 49,364 members of our armed services, 45,753 dependent family members, and 4,178 civilian employees. Some 13,975 of these were crowded into the small island of Okinawa, the largest concentration of foreign troops anywhere in Japan.

These massive concentrations of American military power outside the United States are not needed for our defense. They are, if anything, a prime contributor to our numerous conflicts with other countries. They are also unimaginably expensive. According to Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website Foreign Policy in Focus, the United States spends [2] approximately $250 billion each year maintaining its global military presence. The sole purpose of this is to give us hegemony -- that is, control or dominance -- over as many nations on the planet as possible.

We are like the British at the end of World War II: desperately trying to shore up an empire that we never needed and can no longer afford, using methods that often resemble those of failed empires of the past -- including the Axis powers of World War II and the former Soviet Union. There is an important lesson for us in the British decision, starting in 1945, to liquidate their empire relatively voluntarily, rather than being forced to do so by defeat in war, as were Japan and Germany, or by debilitating colonial conflicts, as were the French and Dutch. We should follow the British example. (Alas, they are currently backsliding and following our example by assisting us in the war in Afghanistan.)

Here are three basic reasons why we must liquidate our empire or else watch it liquidate us.

1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism

Shortly after his election as president, Barack Obama, in a speech announcing several members of his new cabinet, stated as fact [3] that "[w]e have to maintain the strongest military on the planet." A few weeks later, on March 12, 2009, in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington DC, the president again insisted [4], "Now make no mistake, this nation will maintain our military dominance. We will have the strongest armed forces in the history of the world." And in a commencement address to the cadets of the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22nd, Obama stressed [5] that "[w]e will maintain America's military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen."

What he failed to note is that the United States no longer has the capability to remain a global hegemon, and to pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.

According to a growing consensus of economists and political scientists around the world, it is impossible for the United States to continue in that role while emerging into full view as a crippled economic power. No such configuration has ever persisted in the history of imperialism. The University of Chicago's Robert Pape, author of the important study Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism [6] (Random House, 2005), typically writes [7]:

 "America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today's world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back on the Bush years as the death knell of American hegemony."

There is something absurd, even Kafkaesque, about our military empire. Jay Barr, a bankruptcy attorney, makes this point using [8] an insightful analogy:

 "Whether liquidating or reorganizing, a debtor who desires bankruptcy protection must provide a list of expenses, which, if considered reasonable, are offset against income to show that only limited funds are available to repay the bankrupted creditors. Now imagine a person filing for bankruptcy claiming that he could not repay his debts because he had the astronomical expense of maintaining at least 737 facilities overseas that provide exactly zero return on the significant investment required to sustain them... He could not qualify for liquidation without turning over many of his assets for the benefit of creditors, including the valuable foreign real estate on which he placed his bases."

In other words, the United States is not seriously contemplating its own bankruptcy. It is instead ignoring the meaning of its precipitate economic decline and flirting with insolvency.

Nick Turse, author of The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives [9] (Metropolitan Books, 2008), calculates [10] that we could clear $2.6 billion if we would sell our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and earn another $2.2 billion if we did the same with Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. These are only two of our over 800 overblown military enclaves.

Our unwillingness to retrench, no less liquidate, represents a striking historical failure of the imagination. In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner assured an audience of students at Beijing University, "Chinese assets [invested in the United States] are very safe." According to press reports [11], the students responded with loud laughter. Well they might.

[12]In May 2009, the Office of Management and Budget predicted that in 2010 the United States will be burdened with a budget deficit of at least $1.75 trillion. This includes neither a projected $640 billion budget for the Pentagon, nor the costs of waging two remarkably expensive wars. The sum is so immense that it will take several generations for American citizens to repay the costs of George W. Bush's imperial adventures -- if they ever can or will. It represents about 13% of our current gross domestic product (that is, the value of everything we produce). It is worth noting that the target demanded [13] of European nations wanting to join the Euro Zone is a deficit no greater than 3% of GDP.

Thus far, President Obama has announced measly cuts of only $8.8 billion in wasteful and worthless weapons spending, including his cancellation of the F-22 fighter aircraft. The actual Pentagon budget for next year will, in fact, be larger [14], not smaller, than the bloated final budget of the Bush era. Far bolder cuts in our military expenditures will obviously be required in the very near future if we intend to maintain any semblance of fiscal integrity.

2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us

One of our major strategic blunders in Afghanistan was not to have recognized that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union attempted to pacify Afghanistan using the same military methods as ours and failed disastrously. We seem to have learned nothing from Afghanistan's modern history -- to the extent that we even know what it is. Between 1849 and 1947, Britain sent almost annual expeditions against the Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes living in what was then called the North-West Frontier Territories -- the area along either side of the artificial border between Afghanistan and Pakistan called the Durand Line. This frontier was created in 1893 by Britain's foreign secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand.

Neither Britain nor Pakistan has ever managed to establish effective control over the area. As the eminent historian Louis Dupree put it in his book Afghanistan [15] (Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 425): "Pashtun tribes, almost genetically expert at guerrilla warfare after resisting centuries of all comers and fighting among themselves when no comers were available, plagued attempts to extend the Pax Britannica into their mountain homeland." An estimated 41 million Pashtuns live in an undemarcated area along the Durand Line and profess no loyalties to the central governments of either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The region known today as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is administered directly by Islamabad, which -- just as British imperial officials did -- has divided [16] the territory into seven agencies, each with its own "political agent" who wields much the same powers as his colonial-era predecessor. Then as now, the part of FATA known as Waziristan and the home of Pashtun tribesmen offered the fiercest resistance.

According to Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, experienced Afghan hands and coauthors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story [17] (City Lights, 2009, p. 317):

 "If Washington's bureaucrats don't remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MiGs and the dreaded Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world's sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States."

In 1932, in a series of Guernica-like atrocities, the British used poison gas in Waziristan. The disarmament convention of the same year sought a ban against the aerial bombardment of civilians, but Lloyd George, who had been British prime minister during World War I, gloated: "We insisted on reserving the right to bomb niggers" (Fitzgerald and Gould, p. 65). His view prevailed.

The U.S. continues to act similarly, but with the new excuse that our killing of noncombatants is a result of "collateral damage," or human error. Using pilotless drones [18] guided with only minimal accuracy from computers at military bases in the Arizona and Nevada deserts among other places, we have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed bystanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have repeatedly warned that we are alienating precisely the people we claim to be saving for democracy.

When in May 2009, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed as the commander in Afghanistan, he ordered new limits on air attacks, including those carried out by the CIA, except when needed to protect allied troops. Unfortunately, as if to illustrate the incompetence of our chain of command, only two days after this order, on June 23, 2009, the United States carried out a drone attack against a funeral procession that killed at least 80 people [19], the single deadliest U.S. attack on Pakistani soil so far. There was virtually no reporting of these developments by the mainstream American press or on the network television news. (At the time, the media were almost totally preoccupied by the sexual adventures of the governor of South Carolina and the death of pop star Michael Jackson.)

Our military operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been plagued by inadequate and inaccurate intelligence about both countries, ideological preconceptions about which parties we should support and which ones we should oppose, and myopic understandings of what we could possibly hope to achieve. Fitzgerald and Gould, for example, charge that, contrary to our own intelligence service's focus on Afghanistan, "Pakistan has always been the problem." They add:

 "Pakistan's army and its Inter-Services Intelligence branch... from 1973 on, has played the key role in funding and directing first the mujahideen [anti-Soviet fighters during the 1980s]... and then the Taliban. It is Pakistan's army that controls its nuclear weapons, constrains the development of democratic institutions, trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers protecting the Afghan government." (p. 322-324)

The Pakistani army and its intelligence arm are staffed, in part, by devout Muslims who fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan to meet the needs of their own agenda, though not necessarily to advance an Islamic jihad. Their purposes have always included: keeping Afghanistan free of Russian or Indian influence, providing a training and recruiting ground for mujahideen guerrillas to be used in places like Kashmir (fought over by both Pakistan and India), containing Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan (and so keeping it out of Pakistan), and extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates, and the United States to pay and train "freedom fighters" throughout the Islamic world. Pakistan's consistent policy has been to support the clandestine policies of the Inter-Services Intelligence and thwart the influence of its major enemy and competitor, India.

Colonel Douglas MacGregor, U.S. Army (retired), an adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, summarizes [20] our hopeless project in South Asia this way: "Nothing we do will compel 125 million Muslims in Pakistan to make common cause with a United States in league with the two states that are unambiguously anti-Muslim: Israel and India."

Obama's mid-2009 "surge" of troops into southern Afghanistan and particularly into Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold, is fast becoming darkly reminiscent of General William Westmoreland's continuous requests in Vietnam for more troops and his promises that if we would ratchet up the violence just a little more and tolerate a few more casualties, we would certainly break the will of the Vietnamese insurgents. This was a total misreading of the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, just as it is in Afghanistan today.

Twenty years after the forces of the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan in disgrace, the last Russian general to command them, Gen. Boris Gromov, issued [21] his own prediction: Disaster, he insisted, will come to the thousands of new forces Obama is sending there, just as it did to the Soviet Union's, which lost some 15,000 soldiers in its own Afghan war. We should recognize that we are wasting time, lives, and resources in an area where we have never understood the political dynamics and continue to make the wrong choices.

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases

In March, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert noted [22], "Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing." He continued:

 "New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults -- 2,923 -- and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [over the past year]. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them."

The problem is exacerbated by having our troops garrisoned in overseas bases located cheek-by-jowl next to civilian populations and often preying on them like foreign conquerors. For example, sexual violence against women and girls by American GIs has been out of control in Okinawa, Japan's poorest prefecture, ever since it was permanently occupied by our soldiers, Marines, and airmen some 64 years ago.

That island was the scene of the largest anti-American demonstrations since the end of World War II after the 1995 kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by two Marines and a sailor. The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet.

The military itself has done next to nothing to protect its own female soldiers or to defend the rights of innocent bystanders forced to live next to our often racially biased and predatory troops. "The military's record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it's atrocious," writes Herbert. In territories occupied by American military forces, the high command and the State Department make strenuous efforts to enact so-called "Status of Forces Agreements" (SOFAs) that will prevent host governments from gaining jurisdiction [23] over our troops who commit crimes overseas. The SOFAs also make it easier for our military to spirit culprits out of a country before they can be apprehended by local authorities.

This issue was well illustrated by the case of an Australian teacher, a long-time resident of Japan, who in April 2002 was raped by a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, then based at the big naval base at Yokosuka. She identified her assailant and reported him to both Japanese and U.S. authorities. Instead of his being arrested and effectively prosecuted, the victim herself was harassed and humiliated by the local Japanese police. Meanwhile, the U.S. discharged the suspect from the Navy but allowed him to escape Japanese law by returning him to the U.S., where he lives today.

In the course of trying to obtain justice, the Australian teacher discovered that almost fifty years earlier, in October 1953, the Japanese and American governments signed a secret "understanding" as part of their SOFA in which Japan agreed to waive its jurisdiction if the crime was not of "national importance to Japan." The U.S. argued strenuously for this codicil because it feared that otherwise it would face the likelihood of some 350 servicemen per year being sent to Japanese jails for sex crimes.

Since that time the U.S. has negotiated similar wording in SOFAs with Canada, Ireland, Italy, and Denmark. According to the Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (2001), the Japanese practice has become the norm for SOFAs throughout the world, with predictable results. In Japan, of 3,184 U.S. military personnel who committed crimes between 2001 and 2008, 83% were not prosecuted. In Iraq, we have just signed a SOFA that bears a strong resemblance to the first postwar one we had with Japan: namely, military personnel and military contractors accused of off-duty crimes will remain in U.S. custody while Iraqis investigate. This is, of course, a perfect opportunity to spirit the culprits out of the country before they can be charged.

Within the military itself, the journalist Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq [24] (Haymarket Books, 2007), speaks of the "culture of unpunished sexual assaults" and the "shockingly low numbers of courts martial" for rapes and other forms of sexual attacks. Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq [25] (Beacon Press, 2009), quotes this figure in a 2009 Pentagon report on military sexual assaults: 90% of the rapes in the military are never reported at all and, when they are, the consequences for the perpetrator are negligible.

It is fair to say that the U.S. military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. As a result a group of female veterans in 2006 created the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN). Its agenda is to spread the word that "no woman should join the military."

I believe a better solution would be to radically reduce the size of our standing army, and bring the troops home from countries where they do not understand their environments and have been taught to think of the inhabitants as inferior to themselves.

10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the "opportunity costs" that go with them -- the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't or won't.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [26] [Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters -- along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses [27], and so forth -- that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited [28] by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army's infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [12] [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism [29] in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army [30] [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.

[Note on further reading on the matter of sexual violence in and around our overseas bases and rapes in the military: On the response to the 1995 Okinawa rape, see Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire [31], chapter 2. On related subjects, see David McNeil, "Justice for Some. Crime, Victims, and the US-Japan SOFA," [32] Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 8-1-09, March 15, 2009; "Bilateral Secret Agreement Is Preventing U.S. Servicemen Committing Crimes in Japan from Being Prosecuted," [33] Japan Press Weekly, May 23, 2009; Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces [34], Oxford University Press, 2001; Minoru Matsutani, "'53 Secret Japan-US Deal Waived GI Prosecutions," [35] Japan Times, October 24, 2008; "Crime Without Punishment in Japan," [36] the Economist, December 10, 2008; "Japan: Declassified Document Reveals Agreement to Relinquish Jurisdiction Over U.S. Forces," [37] Akahata, October 30, 2008; "Government's Decision First Case in Japan," Ryukyu Shimpo, May 20, 2008; Dahr Jamail, "Culture of Unpunished Sexual Assault in Military," [38], May 1, 2009; and Helen Benedict, "The Plight of Women Soldiers," [39] the Nation, May 5, 2009.]

© 2009 Chalmers Johnson

Chalmers Johnson is the author of three linked books on the crises of American imperialism and militarism.  They are Blowback [40] (2000), The Sorrows of Empire [41] (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic [42] (Metropolitan Books, 2006). All are available in paperback from Metropolitan Books. A retired professor of international relations from the University of California (Berkeley and San Diego campuses) and the author of some seventeen books primarily on the politics and economics of East Asia, Johnson [43] is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute. To listen to a TomDispatch audio interview with Johnson on the Pentagon's potential economic death spiral, click here [44].

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs