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17 Jul

Trump’s Tweets So Clearly Racist It’s Spelled Out In Discrimination Law

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Trump’s Tweets So Clearly Racist It’s Spelled Out In Discrimination Law

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

President Donald Trump’s tweet telling four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” was quite literally textbook racism.

Federal law as enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission counts discrimination based on nation of origin as one of several kinds of prohibited discrimination.

One example the EEOC lists on its website matches nearly word-for-word the President’s tweets.

Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, “Go back to where you came from.”

Highlighting the EEOC’s language Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) wrote, “The President’s bigoted words are so contrary to who we are as a country that we literally have laws against them.”

In other words, if an employer had tweeted what Trump did at his or her employees, that employer could face a lawsuit.

In a post on his website Tuesday, the Connecticut-based employment lawyer Daniel Schwartz listed several legal battles that specifically involved taunts like Trump’s.

One plaintiff who won a jury verdict against her employer recalled being told, “Speak English. Go back to your own country if you want to speak Spanish. You’re in our country.”

In another case before the Fifth Circuit, a co-worker of the plaintiff had told him, “Why don’t you just go back where you came from since you believe what you believe?”

“Suffice to say that using language in the workplace that employees should ‘go back to their country’ or words to those effect can and will be used as a basis of employment discrimination claims,” Schwartz wrote. “I never thought I’d say this, but following the President’s words can lead employers to big trouble.”

Even though Trump’s attacks on the four congresswomen of color — three of whom were actually born in the U.S. — amount to textbook discrimination, the President’s allies in the Republican party have declined to call him out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that Trump “is not a racist,” and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dodged questions on the President’s tweets, saying that Trump had “clarified” his comments.

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17 Jul

US Veterans and Public Believe Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ‘Not Worth Fighting’

Stop the War Coalition

US Veterans and Public Believe Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ‘Not Worth Fighting’

The polled groups also told the Pew Research Center that the U.S. military campaign in Syria wasn’t worthwhile

The McGlynn:

“The war on terror began in Afghanistan, spread to Iraq and destabilized the whole region, created the conditions for ISIL to wreak their havoc and misery,  spread to Syria and is threatening  to spread once again into Libya.

We are in war without end. And it is not without consequences. It hasn’t just destabilized the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has greatly increased the threat of terrorism in western countries,.

Civil Liberties have been eroded and Islamophobia has risen. And the War on Terror has led to the biggest refugee crisis the world has seen since the Second World War.

The McGlynn

Ruck

Pew found that “veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.”


The majority of American veterans and members of the general public agreed in two new surveys that the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the U.S. military campaign in Syria were all “not worth fighting.”

The Pew Research Center, for the pair of polls published Wednesday, asked all respondents to consider the costs versus the benefits to the United States in their analysis of whether each conflict was worthwhile.

Roughly two-thirds of both veterans and members of the public told Pew that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq wasn’t worth it, and nearly 60 percent said they felt the same way about the ongoing 18-year war in Afghanistan—the longest in U.S. history. The numbers were slightly lower for opposing the American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War, which is also ongoing.

Pew found that “veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.”

However, Pew pointed out that responses from the general public and veterans differed “significantly” depending on their reported political parties—Republicans from both groups were far more likely than Democrats to say the wars were “worth it.”

Dan Spinelli wrote for Mother Jones Wednesday that while support for the Iraq War dropped during the George W. Bush administration, “the Afghanistan conflict enjoyed broader support at the start of President Barack Obama’s presidency, but that approval eroded during his second term, even though Republicans continue to view both wars more favorably than Democrats. Once Donald Trump entered the White House, more than half of Americans believed the U.S. had failed in its mission in Afghanistan.”

Will Goodwin, director of government relations at the progressive advocacy group VoteVets, told Spinelli that “people came to realize over time that there was no real strategy for our engagement [in Afghanistan]… It wasn’t clear what the national security interest was.”

Trump has, at times, signaled that he agrees with the views of Afghanistan and Syria shared by most veterans and the public. Last December, the president pushed for a full withdrawal of the U.S. military from Syria and to reduce by half the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan. In February, Trump reversed his order to bring all U.S. troops home from Syria.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during an unannounced trip to Afghanistan last month, said that “we’ve made clear to the Taliban that we’re prepared to remove our forces. I want to be clear, we’ve not yet agreed on a timeline to do so.” In an interview with Fox News last week, Trump said that unnamed Pentagon leaders had convinced him some U.S. military presence in the country is still necessary.

Pew’s polling results, Agence France-Presse noted Wednesday, “come as the U.S. and the Taliban engage in talks on bringing to a close the conflict which Washington launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.”

Washington has said it wants to seal a political deal with the Taliban, ahead of Afghan presidential polls due in September, to allow foreign forces to begin to withdraw.

The United States held six days of talks in Qatar with the Taliban which ran until Saturday.

Those discussions paused for Sunday and Monday’s Afghan summit, which saw around 70 delegates including the Taliban discuss the future of the country.

The Taliban continues to provoke condemnation from human rights groups for its bombings that kill civilians—including one over this past weekend—though civilian injuries and deaths at the hands of U.S.-based forces also continue to spark sharp criticism. As Common Dreams reported in May, the United Nations revealed an “unprecedented” finding that “pro-government forces,” including both Afghan and international troops, killed more Afghan civilians than the Taliban and other armed anti-government groups did in the first quarter of 2019.

Alongside persistent concerns of civilian safety due to the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan is an ongoing battle for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country, including those committed by U.S. forces. After the ICC in April caved to the Trump administration’s bullying and decided to not pursue an investigation, Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed an appeal in June.

Source: Common Dreams

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17 Jul

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

The dead & suffering children of Iraq.


Iraq Children by The McGlynn

Published 11 years ago

War News

BBC: Iran rejects suggestion its missile programme is negotiable

Iran has rejected suggestions it is willing to discuss its missile programme with the US.

A spokesman for Iran’s UN Mission said the weapons “are absolutely and under no condition negotiable”.

His denial comes after Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested in an interview the missiles could be up for discussion if sanctions are lifted.

The US unilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed tight restrictions.

In response, Iran announced in July it has surpassed limits on enriched uranium imposed in the agreement. The country insists it is not trying to build nuclear weapons.

What did Iran say?

In a television interview on Monday, Mr Zarif told broadcaster NBC News that “room for negotiation is wide open” once the US removed its punishing sanctions.

Asked if this would include discussions about Iran’s missiles – something absent from the original 2015 agreement – Iran’s foreign minister said if the US wanted to discuss the programme “they need, first, to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region”.

Read Full Article>>

Trump administration wants to deport more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals, most of who are Chaldean – Iraqi Catholics who saw Trump as a ‘savior’ but now feel ‘betrayed’

A Chaldean woman holds a photo of Donald Trump during a protest in Detroit.

A Chaldean woman holds a photo of Donald Trump during a protest in Detroit. Photograph: Tanya Moutzalias/AP

Ten years ago, police caught Iraqi Chaldean immigrant Rani Yousuf with a small amount of marijuana. He completed probation, paid fines, and the conviction was dropped from his record when he turned 21.

Still, earlier this year, Yousuf found his car surrounded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) officers who arrested him again over the charge. He sat for months in a Michigan county jail facing the prospect of deportation to Iraq, a country he left at four years old. He has no family there, doesn’t speak Arabic, and is part of a religious minority targeted by extremists.

“As a Catholic who has tattoos of crosses, and Iraq being a Muslim country – they probably would kill me,” he said.

Yousuf is one of over 1,400 Iraqi nationals who the Trump administration is attempting to deport. Most of those are Chaldean – Iraqi Catholics – living in metro Detroit, which holds the world’s largest Chaldean population outside of Iraq.

The administration’s deportation efforts are viewed by many Chaldeans as a shocking “betrayal”, not least because many in the community have been enthusiastic supporters of Trump and voted for him in large numbers in 2016.

The generally conservative community with between 70,000 and 80,000 voters went big for Trump in the 2016 election in a state that he won by only 10,000 votes. They did so after Trump portrayed himself as a “savior” who would stand up for persecuted Christians. “Chaldeans For Trump” signs appeared at Trump rallies and in lawns in Oakland county, a wealthy metro Detroit area where the community is concentrated.

But just months into the Trump administration, Ice swept up 350 Chaldean men and Iraqi nationals. Now, some Chaldeans hold signs at protests reminding Trump “You vowed to protect us”.

“Some people thought ‘Here comes Trump who’s talking a good game about Christians in the Middle East who are being persecuted,’” said Edward Bojoka, a Chaldean immigration attorney. “A lot of people in the Chaldean community jumped on that and said, ‘Oh, he’s on our side’, and … some people feel like they were conned.”

But while there’s unanimous disappointment in the administration’s plan to deport Chaldeans, some Chaldean leaders say they still view Trump as a “friend”.

Just months into the Trump administration, Ice swept up 350 Chaldean men and Iraqi nationals.

Just months into the Trump administration, Ice swept up 350 Chaldean men and Iraqi nationals. Photograph: Todd McInturf/AP

Among those is Martin Hanna, director of the Chaldean Foundation and publisher of the Chaldean News. He said that the political parties’ priorities force Chaldeans to navigate Washington in an unusual fashion – Republicans seem more interested than Democrats in protecting persecuted Christian communities abroad, but Democrats are more helpful on immigration issues.

“People ask ‘How come you’re not denouncing Trump?’ We always say we need everyone … and we hope through communication with everyone we can find resolution,” he added.

The Trump administration has deported around 130 Iraqis, and others were removed during the Obama administration.

Ice repeatedly notes that those targeted have criminal records, but internal Ice emails obtained by the ACLU show Ice tactically targeted those with records first. It did so to “grease the skids” to more easily deport those with no criminal record later, said Michigan ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman, who is representing Iraqi nationals in a class action suit.

Of the 1,400 Iraqi nationals with final deportation orders, about 800 do not have criminal records, and those with records were convicted of crimes ranging from minor offenses to more serious, violent charges, some of which occurred decades ago.

The ACLU argues Iraqi nationals deserve new hearings in front of immigration judges because Iraq is far more dangerous than even a few years ago. Under US law, those who commit certain crimes can be deported, but the law also prohibits Ice from deporting individuals to countries where they will be tortured or killed.

Aukerman said the vast majority of Iraqi nationals who receive new hearings are winning their cases because of that.

Much of Iraq is now lawless and Christian minorities are still persecuted – about 1.5 million Chaldeans lived in Iraq before the 2003 US invasion destabilized the country, and only about 250,000 remain.

The risks are greatest for Americanized Chaldeans. Some arrived in the US as children in the 1980s or following the 1990 Gulf War. Many don’t speak Arabic and don’t have a passport or Iraqi identification. Some no longer have family in Iraq, and would arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some are veterans or worked with the US military.

“The reality is they cannot blend in anymore in Iraqi society,” said Joseph Kassab, the Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute’s founder. “They do not speak the Arabic language, and they can be easily identified for kidnapping, killing, or for other punishment.”

The ACLU is attempting to track those deportees and found some have been beaten, shot, have disappeared, or are “holed up in homes with machine guns” on self-imposed house arrest, Aukerman said.

So far, Iraq has largely refused to take deportees, effectively halting the process, but the US is putting diplomatic pressure on Baghdad to change course.

There is precedence for halting the orders. The Trump administration granted a reprieve to Liberians facing a similar situation, and could do the same with Iraqis.

In Congress, Michigan Democrat Andy Levin and Republican John Moolenaar introduced legislation that would grant Iraqi nationals with orders of removal two years of relief from detainment and deportation while they await individual hearing

Like others who made it in front of an immigration judge, Yousuf’s story had a happy ending – after months in Ice detention, his deportation order was canceled, he was released, and he ultimately ended up receiving citizenship. Still, the lives of most of those targeted by Ice have been “totally destroyed”, Bojoka said.

“The family lost the breadwinner who is in jail awaiting deportation to a place where survival is unlikely,” he said. “That puts fear into the heart of anyone who is affected.”

AP: Taliban close Afghan health facilities run by Swedish group

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban forced a Swedish non-profit group to close 42 health facilities it runs in eastern Afghanistan, the organization said Wednesday, the latest attempt by the insurgents to show strength amid negotiations to end the country’s nearly 18-year war.

In Sweden, the group’s director called the closures “an obvious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law” and demanded the facilities be allowed to reopen right away.

The Taliban currently control nearly half of Afghanistan and are more powerful than at any time since the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Sonny Mansson, the country director of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that the Taliban threatened the NGO’s staff by saying that if they do not close the facilities, “it would have consequences for themselves and their families.”

“We treat equally anyone who needs medical care regardless of who they are. Everyone who needs help gets it,” Mansson said, adding the facilities that closed over the weekend were in a Taliban-controlled area of Maidan Wardan province while others are still open in the province’s government-controlled areas.

Parwiz Ahmad Faizi, the group’s communications manager, said the closures came after Afghan forces last week raided a clinic run by the NGO in Daimirdad district. The Afghan troops, acting on intelligence, were allegedly looking for suspected Taliban fighters hiding in the clinic.

Ahmad Khalid Fahim, program director for the Swedish group, said two staff members, a guard and a lab worker, and two other people were killed in the attack, while a fifth person has been missing.

Insurgents contacted the staff and ordered the NGO to shut down, Fahim added. Faizi said the closures would affect health services for around 6,000 patients, particularly women and children.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the closure of the NGO’s facilities.

The developments come amid stepped-up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to the country’s conflict, America’s longest war. Afghan talks that brought together the country’s warring sides ended last week in Qatar’s capital, Doha, with a statement that appeared to move closer to peace by laying down the outlines of a roadmap for the country’s future.

The same Swedish-run health facility in Daimirdad was hit in 2016, in a joint raid by Afghan and foreign forces, said Fahim. Three people were killed in that attack, after which the NGO demanded an investigation but no probe results were ever released.

“We request the Afghan government give us an immediate response as to why the health facility came under attack,” Fahim said.

Read Full Article>>

NYT: Taliban Kill 18 Afghan Soldiers in Overnight Clashes, Officials Say

(Reporting by Storay Karimi in Herat, Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Nick Macfie)

KABUL — Taliban militants killed at least 18 Afghan soldiers in clashes that erupted overnight when troops were trying to capture a senior Taliban leader, government officials said on Wednesday.

The clashes started after several soldiers were airdropped into the Ab Kamari district of western Badghis province to conduct a night raid on Taliban hideouts and arrest a designate district governor of the hardline Islamist group.

Farid Akhizai, a provincial council member in Badghis, said the Taliban encircled the soldiers, killed 18 and captured 11. Ten were missing.

The district governor of Ab Kamari said a lack of coordination was to blame.

“The operation was conducted to raid a hideout used by several Taliban commanders, but the insurgents had evacuated the area two days before,” said Khudad, who goes by one name.

The Taliban in a statement confirmed that they had received a tip-off about the raid. They said their fighters killed 39 Afghan soldiers and captured 16.

The Taliban continue to stage major attacks against Afghan forces while they are engaged in a dialogue with the United States to negotiate an end to the 18-year long war.

President Ashraf Ghani said in January that more than 45,000 members of the security forces had been killed by militants since he took office in September 2014.

Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection

Leading To War – The Complete Film

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Sgt. Maj. James G. Sartor, 40, of Teague, Texas, died July 13, 2019, in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire during combat operations. This incident is under investigation.

Sartor was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Sgt. 1st Class. Elliott J. Robbins, 31, from Ogden, Utah, died June 30, 2019, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation.

Robbins was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Both soldiers died June 25, 2019, in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations. The incident is under investigation.

The deceased are:

Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, of Heilbronn, Germany. Riley was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.

Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, of Trumansburg, New York. Johnston was assigned to 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 71st Ordnance Group, Fort Hood, Texas.

War Casualties By Name

Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

Iraqi War Children

Please Never Forget.

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16 Jul

Eisenhower’s Worst Nightmare

Tomgram: William Hartung, Eisenhower’s Worst Nightmare

Congratulations to us! Talk about the art of the deal! Whether we know it or not, in the wake of those presidential Fourth of July festivities on the Washington Mall (“the biggest ever fireworks”), we’re all Saudis now. And here’s the good news: it only cost the Pentagon $1.2 million extra — which, in the twenty-first century, is military chump change — for those spectacular fly-overs, the uniformed personnel gathered in the rain, and the otherwise largely useless tanks hovering here and there in Washington. It did, of course, cost the National Park Service another nearly $2.5 million, but who cares? And then there was that $1.7 million the city of Washington had to spend to entertain the president in the style to which he’s grown accustomed, drastically draining its Emergency Planning and Security Fund. But, hey, a small matter indeed under the circumstances. After all, what a spectacular celebration it proved to be, though less of U.S. military might than of Pentagon cost overruns.

I mean, overhead that day was the most expensive weapons system in history, the F-35, that reportedly may never really be ready for combat.  Then there were those Blue Angel jets that, according to the Washington Post, cost $10,000 an hour to operate, and F-22 Raptors for which the American taxpayer forked over significantly more than $100 million apiece, and that’s just to start down the list. No wonder that presidential spectacular on the Mall overran us all.

And hey, for his favs, the Saudis and their charming crown prince, President Trump only recently swept aside congressional objections, declared a “national emergency,” and slammed through $8 billion in arms and military-equipment sales so that they’ll never come up short in their brutal war in Yemen. And that was before, on the Fourth, he sold the rest of us on every wildly out-of-whack weapons procurement program we American taxpayers had ponied up for in these years (whether we knew it or not).

So, as honorary Saudis, we should now feel splendid indeed. And as TomDispatch regular and Pentagon expert William Hartung reports today, it’s only going to get better in the Trump years when it comes to the merger of giant weapons makers, cost-overruns, and the military-industrial corruption of Congress. Just wait until July 4, 2020, in the midst of an election campaign season, when, as already promised, Donald J. Trump will return to the Washington Mall to give us a flyover so spectacular we really won’t know what hit us. Tom

Merger Mania
The Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids
By William D. Hartung

When, in his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “unwarranted influence” wielded by the “military-industrial complex,” he could never have dreamed of an arms-making corporation of the size and political clout of Lockheed Martin. In a good year, it now receives up to $50 billion in government contracts, a sum larger than the operating budget of the State Department. And now it’s about to have company.

Raytheon, already one of the top five U.S. defense contractors, is planning to merge with United Technologies. That company is a major contractor in its own right, producing, among other things, the engine for the F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive Pentagon weapons program ever. The new firm will be second only to Lockheed Martin when it comes to consuming your tax dollars — and it may end up even more powerful politically, thanks to President Trump’s fondness for hiring arms industry executives to run the national security state.

Just as Boeing benefited from its former Senior Vice President Patrick Shanahan’s stint as acting secretary of defense, so Raytheon is likely to cash in on the nomination of its former top lobbyist, Mike Esper, as his successor. Esper’s elevation comes shortly after another former Raytheon lobbyist, Charles Faulkner, left the State Department amid charges that he had improperly influenced decisions to sell Raytheon-produced guided bombs to Saudi Arabia for its brutal air war in Yemen. John Rood, third-in-charge at the Pentagon, has worked for both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, while Ryan McCarthy, Mike Esper’s replacement as secretary of the Army, worked for Lockheed on the F-35, which the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has determined may never be ready for combat.

And so it goes. There was a time when Donald Trump was enamored of “his” generals — Secretary of Defense James Mattis (a former board member of the weapons-maker General Dynamics), National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Now, he seems to have a crush on personnel from the industrial side of the military-industrial complex.

As POGO’s research has demonstrated, the infamous “revolving door” that deposits defense executives like Esper in top national security posts swings both ways. The group estimates that, in 2018 alone, 645 senior government officials — mostly from the Pentagon, the uniformed military, and Capitol Hill — went to work as executives, consultants, or board members of one of the top 20 defense contractors.

Fifty years ago, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire identified the problem when he noted that:

“the movement of high ranking military officers into jobs with defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years away from retirement and have the example to look at of over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

In other words, that revolving door and the problems that go with it are anything but new. Right now, however, it seems to be spinning faster than ever — and mergers like the Raytheon-United Technologies one are only likely to feed the phenomenon.

The Last Supper

The merger of Raytheon and United Technologies should bring back memories of the merger boom of the 1990s, when Lockheed combined with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin, Northrop and Grumman formed Northrop Grumman, and Boeing absorbed rival military aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. And it wasn’t just a matter of big firms pairing up either. Lockheed Martin itself was the product of mergers and acquisitions involving nearly two dozen companies — distinctly a tale of big fish chowing down on little fish. The consolidation of the arms industry in those years was strongly encouraged by Clinton administration Secretary of Defense William Perry, who held a dinner with defense executives that was later dubbed “the last supper.” There, he reportedly told the assembled corporate officials that a third of them would be out of business in five years if they didn’t merge with one of their cohorts.

The Clinton administration’s encouragement of defense industry mergers would prove anything but rhetorical. It would, for instance, provide tens of millions of dollars in merger subsidies to pay for the closing of plants, the moving of equipment, and other necessities. It even picked up part of the tab for the golden parachutes given defense executives and corporate board members ousted in those deals.

The most egregious case was surely that of Norman Augustine. The CEO of Martin Marietta, he would actually take over at the helm of the even more powerful newly created Lockheed Martin. In the process, he received $8.2 million in payments, technically for leaving his post as head of Martin Marietta. U.S. taxpayers would cover more than a third of his windfall. Then, a congressman who has only gained stature in recent years, Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT), began to fight back against those merger subsidies. He dubbed them “payoffs for layoffs” because executives got government-funded bailouts, while an estimated 19,000 workers were laid off in the Lockheed Martin merger alone with no particular taxpayer support. Sanders was actually able to shepherd through legislation that clawed back some, but not all, of those merger subsidies.

According to one argument in favor of the merger binge then, by closing half-empty factories, the new firms could charge less overhead and taxpayers would benefit. Well, dream on. This never came near happening, because the newly merged industrial behemoths turned out to have even greater bargaining power over the Pentagon and Congress than the unmerged companies that preceded them.

Draw your own conclusions about what’s likely to happen in this next round of mergers, since cost overruns and lucrative contracts continue apace. Despite this dismal record, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy claims that the new corporate pairing will — you guessed it! — save the taxpayers money. Don’t hold your breath.

Influence on Steroids

While Donald Trump briefly expressed reservations about the Raytheon-United Technologies merger and a few members of Congress struck notes of caution, it has been welcomed eagerly on Wall Street. Among the reasons given: the fact that the two companies generally make different products, so their union shouldn’t reduce competition in any specific sector of defense production. It has also been claimed that the new combo, to be known as Raytheon Technologies, will have more funds available for research and development on the weapons of the future.

But focusing on such concerns misses the big picture. Raytheon Technologies will have more money to make campaign contributions, more money to hire lobbyists, and more production sites that can be used as leverage over members of Congress loathe to oppose spending on weapons produced in their states or districts. The classic example of this phenomenon: the F-35 program, which Lockheed Martin claims produces 125,000 jobs spread over 46 states.

When I took a careful look at the company’s estimates, I found that they were claiming approximately twice as many jobs as that weapons system was actually creating. In fact, more than half of F-35-related employment was in just two states, California and Texas (though many other states did have modest numbers of F-35 jobs). Even if Lockheed Martin’s figures are exaggerated, however, there’s no question that spreading defense jobs around the country gives weapons manufacturers unparalleled influence over key members of Congress, much to their benefit when Pentagon budget time rolls around. In fact, it’s a commonplace for Congress to fund more F-35s, F-18s, and similar weapons systems than the Pentagon even asks for. So much for Congressional oversight…………………..

How Powerful Are the Military-Industrial Combines?

When it comes to lobbying the Pentagon and Congress, size matters. Major firms like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon can point to the jobs they and their subcontractors provide in dozens of states and scores of Congressional districts to keep members of Congress in line who might otherwise question or even oppose the tens of billions of dollars in government funding the companies receive annually.

Raytheon — its motto: “Customer Success Is Our Mission” — has primary operations in 16 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. That translates into a lot of leverage over key members of Congress and it doesn’t even count states where the company has major subcontractors. The addition of United Technologies will reinforce the new company’s presence in a number of those states, while adding Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and North Carolina (in other words, at least 20 states in all).

Meanwhile, if the merger is approved, the future Raytheon Technologies will be greasing the wheels of its next arms contracts by relying on nearly four dozen former government officials the two separate companies hired as lobbyists, executives, and board members in 2018 alone. Add to that the $6.4 million in campaign contributions and $20 million in lobbying expenses Raytheon clocked during the last two election cycles and the outlines of its growing influence begin to become clearer. Then, add as well the $2.9 million in campaign contributions and $40 million in lobbying expenses racked up by its merger partner United Technologies and you have a lobbying powerhouse rivaled only by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense conglomerate.

President Eisenhower’s proposed counterweight to the power of the military-industrial complex was to be “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.” And there are signs that significant numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to pay more attention to the machinations of the arms lobby. My own outfit, the Center for International Policy, has launched a Sustainable Defense Task Force composed of former military officers and Pentagon officials, White House and Congressional budget experts, and research staffers from progressive and good-government groups. It has already crafted a plan that would cut $1.2 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade, while improving U.S. security by avoiding unnecessary wars, eliminating waste, and scaling back a Pentagon nuclear-weapons buildup slated to cost $1.5 trillion or more over the next three decades.

The Poor People’s Campaign, backed by research conducted by the National Priorities Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, is calling for a one-year $350 billion cut in Pentagon expenditures. And a new network called “Put People Over the Pentagon” has brought together more than 20 progressive organizations to press presidential candidates to cut $200 billion annually from the Department of Defense’s bloated budget. Participants in the network include Public Citizen, Moveon.org, Indivisible, Win Without War, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and United We Dream, many of them organizations that had not, in past years, made reducing the Pentagon budget a priority.

Raytheon and its arms industry allies won’t sit still in the face of such proposals, but at least the days of unquestioned and unchallenged corporate greed in the ever-merging (but also ever-expanding) arms industry may be coming to an end. The United States has paid an exorbitantly high price in blood and treasure (as have countries like Afghanistan and Iraq) for letting the military-industrial complex steer the American ship of state through this century so far. It’s long past time for a reckoning.

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William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

 

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