26 January 2004. Add a reader response, and an article provided by G.
25 January 2004
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Terrorism compensation is out of whack. Families of civilians are rewarded more than those of military killed, far more, as much as a hundred times more. Some WTC families have received over a million dollars, those of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, only several thousands.
Still that warped, occasional, windfall system is no match for the enduring gap between what front-line fighters against enemies of the state are paid compared to senior officials in US government at all levels, and, worse, what top officers of companies get from their firms' profits of warfighting services and products. The percentage of difference in take-home is in the thousand percentile between a PFC and a CEO, the soldier facing slaughter, the exec only a quarterly earnings pucker.
It would be sensible for the gap to be closed, to halt widening by those who most benefit from those who most suffer. 517 killed so far, at $1million each, $517 million to surviving families, and twice that for the wounded, a total of $1.6 billion -- a single bomber, 1/2 of an aircraft carrier, 1/4 of a submarine, an offshore chip factory by Intel, a hundred LearJets. Hardly a dent in the DoD, intelligence and homeland security boondoggle, but sharing and publicizing the booty could signal what the true cost is, benefits are.
National security officials and their business supporters should, courageously, offer hefty parts of their compensation to warfighters still alive, and arrange legislation for CEO-golden pensions to the families of those killed in defense of the officials' perk-trajectories.
Why not base compensation on highest degree of risk to life and limb, not the opposite as now? Front-line combatants of wealthy nations should receive greatest pay in the world, comparable to the cost of their warfighting platforms, and those facing least bodily risk should receive the least payment, comparable to the superfluity of their indolence.
Celebrity and fame should be its own reward, no need to lay on redundant wealth as well. Admirers of stars will underwrite their addiction to narcissism. Wealth accumulated and protected by dangerous hard labor -- by low-rank service members, cops and spooks, and their compatriots in industry -- should be distributed to those who face torture, mutilation and death for criminally-low wages -- and whose death families are assaulted by pre-positioned bugles, medals, flags and condolences.
It would be a godsend, perhaps a nation-saver, for passionate patriots, war veterans in particular, to openly confess and recant their business interests in supporting leaders who call for sacrifice of the American people, in privacy, taxation, and lives of sons, daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. To deep think and critique Wall Street record-breaking profits from the fight on terrorism, the new jobs and contracts for national and homeland security, and never having to answer the door to a pair of uniformed ghouls dumping the terrible news: just when things were looking up for the nation, your city and neighborhood, that terror was receding, America was winning, it is you and your loved ones who take the hit.
If none of these imbalance corrections occur, get in sync with sappy history, get used to visits to cemeteries, to the VA fun mirror, to the WTC Memorial sinkhole; get used to pols, pundits and stars bemoaning war carnage then strolling over to the bank for a $9,999 card dip to PR kingpins to erase slurring of grunts improvised-deviced in cheap-armored traps.
Terrorism, like war, is a hellish cliche of spin bloat, except for those who grab the gold, and who laugh at believers of endless threats ever-aborning in intelligence analysts' terrifying sadism: if you doubt us, ponder this historical blunder. As if more WTCs, and worse, rogue-heaved WMDs, are to be expected, now that underpinnings of MAD are an inside, classified, joke.
26 January 2004
I wrote this on September 15th, 2001. It's my opinion at the time. If you would like, feel free to publish it on Cryptome.org as it appears below. If you receive responses to it, I would appreciate hearing about those.
Quote from the essay below: "Without an examination of why many in the world are rejoicing for the suffering of my country, without an examination of possible and specific motives of terrorists who have targeted us, and, barring the surfacing of a confession of responsibility, without a certain determination of who is responsible, people around the world who hold democracy a sacred trust will be the sole obstacles to a shallow and terrifyingly dangerous course of action being imposed on traumatized peoples around the world."
Below please find:
i. Why are we at War?
ii. Who did this to us?
iii. Who Benefits?
I want to say, first of all, that I hope that you and all of your friends are safe. Please accept my heartfelt condolences for your suffering in either case. Second, I want to tell you that I live in New York and am a U.S. citizen, I saw the second plane hit and the two towers filled with people collapse. Horrible. I condemn this act of terrorism absolutely. I am scheduled to give blood on Monday and have given my number to many Muslim friends some of whom tell me of attacks on Muslim girls in Brooklyn and are visibly shaken. So you will all recognize from the beginning that my motivation in writing this is from the best sort of patriotic feelings and not from any narrow-minded dogmatic viewpoint.
That said, I am terrified by the calls for "unity" and the lack of analysis of motives of the culprits. If we abandon the "free market of ideas" which are the very soul of our democracy, in the name of unquestioning adherence to the views of pundits on Westinghouse-, G.E.-, and Disney-owned media outlets, then we have abandoned our ability to understand what has happened. These media outlets, owned as they are by arms manufacturers (G.E. and Westinghouse) and by multinational companies (Disney) which benefit from corporate-managed trade at the expense of local peoples, should not be granted uncritical allegiance by consumers of "news".
These attacks can happen again. In the interest of the safety of our friends, families, and all residents in harm's way, we must pay close attention to and question what has happened. We must consider how U.S. residents have been place in harm's way and, in light of the catastrophic attacks that might be provoked by what most of our leaders and the media say is inevitable retaliation, what the truth is regarding the motivations of those who kill U.S. residents. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our leaders, from whom we expect critical attention in moments of great urgency are tripping over themselves to make dangerous and empty statements which bode ill for the wisdom required in deliberation and decisions regarding future action.
Obviously, those who committed this disgusting act were well-organized, intelligent, and highly motivated. Their motivation, and ability to tap into a sense of anger and helplessness of their footsoldiers made possible this act. What is critically necessary is an examination not only of how such anger has been nurtured by many of our foreign policies, but how continued U.S. military aid to states which are involved in horrendous human rights abuses against their own civilians may be creating more bin Ladens in Columbia, S.E. Asia, and Africa. We must reorient our foreign policy to be uncompromising in its commitment to the peoples of the world, to democracy, over-and-against any realpolitik, which "justifies" U.S. support for wars by states against civilians.
This horrible event is either blowback or something very much more frightening. We have been driven to War. But by whom? Our duties as citizens and soldiers is to ensure that we know our enemy. It is essential that the people of the U.S. reckon with the source of this hatred directed at us and consider a close examination of U.S. foreign policies as managed by our corporations and their politicians which may have set the stage for such deliberate and desperate acts. It's sad to say but it is true. Our country's democracy is at risk and has been for some time. Democracy is by its very nature always at risk. As has been rightly recognized by Thomas Jefferson,
The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
My co-citizens, inundated as we are by infomercials masking as news on corporate-owned media, have unwittingly abandoned their duty to be guardians of their freedoms. Only fifty percent of us exercise our sacred right to vote. And at a moment where participation and vigilance is most needed, my brothers and sisters in the U.S. are woefully unprepared to rise to that task. We must restore our democracy through questioning the acts and impacts of our leaders abroad, in the past and in the future. We cannot do this by joining in the chorus of a "false" and unquestioning unity, which our media and politicians demand of us. But by a critical re-examination of our roles as citizens, and as vigilant watchdogs of those powerful forces which have undermined our democracy.
Why are we at war?
We hear too many commentaries claiming that the motivation of these people was their fanaticism, barbarism or evil. This "analysis" automatically places the culprits outside of the realm of human understanding. We would be excused to kill them then in the interest of self-preservation against a rabid dog. Unfortunately, in reality, terrorists are not born, they're created. A good example is Batista, Henry Kissinger, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, and Osama. All of these were, if not created, then nurtured by our government. By the CIA or its predecessors. Yes, our country's industrialists were big supporters of Hitler and the other four. George Bush's own grandfather was warned, by the Justice Department, in 1942 to stop aiding the nazi war effort. Ford made the trucks which invaded Poland. Rockefeller and many thousands of American industrialists were virulent anti-semites. Osama was aided by the CIA to fight the Russians. Kissinger was Secretary of State under a number of U.S. Presidents and as such, under President Nixon, he prolonged the Vietnam War and later encouraged, under President Ford, the invasion of East Timor. Cost: 2,000,000 Vietnamese and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died to prop up a puppet, undemocratic government; 200,000 East Timorese murdered. How many of those people have brothers and sisters, children, parents, or other relatives anguished by their relatives' murder? The same goes for victims of the Shah of Iran and his secret intelligence agency which tortured and murdered thousands in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.The same goes for the victims of Saddam Hussein, who was our friend when he was fighting Iran and using sarin gas to extinguish entire towns in Kurdish north Iraq. And then when Saddam became "our' enemy because of his threat to a brutal Sheikdom in Saudi Arabia that was guaranteeing our oil supply, U.S. soldiers destroyed the civilian infrastructure of Iraq, resulting in the deaths todate of well over 500,000 Iraqi children. The same goes for Palestinians living for generations in refugee camps, where the Israeli government created Hamas to counter the PLO in the early 80s. Hamas is now responsible for many terrorist attacks against Israelis. The same goes for C.I.A. support for death squads and paramilitaries in Guatemale: 200,000 murders. The same goes for my government's current military support of the Columbian military and their right wing paramilitary proxies. Over 130 labor leaders have been assassinated by U.S.-supported armed groups. All of this is reported (uncritically) in the New York Times, only because the truth of it has become unavoidable, given international attention.
All these victims have family members who know that the U.S. is responsible for atrocities committed against them and who are understandably angered at the U.S.
Who did this to us?
But the question of motivation is key on another level: who did this? Usually a terrorist organization will take credit for the destruction it has caused and will clarify its motives. I've heard reports that certain incredible claims of taking credit have been made by a number of terrorist groups. Why have no credible claims been made? We cannot say that an organization, whose very raison d'etre is to draw attention to its claims of injustice and is willing to do so at the expense of its members' lives, are afraid of retaliation. Every Palestinian terrorist group claims credit for murdering civilians (when that is in question) in order to remind the world of the suffering of Palestinians it claims to protect. Why is there no one taking credit here? No letter drawing attention, for instance, to the building of settlements in the occupied territories which is ignored by the U.S., or to the military aid of the U.S. to Israel, or of the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia? This seems to be a severe lapse in any objective investigation of this atrocity, made possible by the media's and therefore most of the world's acceptance of the inadequate explanation of these events as "evil".
Even if the hunt for the culprits turns up exclusively Saudi and Yemeni nationals, we must eventually ask two questions to discover the full range of responsible parties: i. how was this crime possible, given our $30 billion estimated annual budget for the C.I.A. and the extensive other resources deployed by various agencies of our government; ii. why would either foreign or domestic nationals commit this crime? To answer these questions we should immediately ask the question which any objective criminal investigator would consider: Who benefits?
Because we have no group claiming credit, no confession, as it were, we must examine the crime's beneficiaries to determine motivation. As our Congress abandons its critical faculties, and lines up behind a right wing President with a corporate-dominated domestic and foreign policy agenda, we know that major corporations, including arms contractors, will not be harmed by this slaughter. The declaration of war will probably let the insurance companies off the hook. The $40 billion dollars just released this morning will assure that no business in the Towers will suffer financially. Merril Lynch's President was on the TV last night saying that he had been in contact with Washington and was reassured by the support expressed. Every movement around the world which is struggling for de-militarization, for peace, or for self-determination is seriously undermined by these attacks. States which have targeted their own civilians in brutal counter-insurgency and which have asked for U.S. military aid will likely either continue to get it or now begin to get it.
Fifty cents of every tax dollar goes to the U.S. military. That's an incredible amount of money. The U.S. sells more weapons than the next four arms exporting countries combined. That's a serious financial interest in war. It is likely that we will see incredible pressure to increase military spending precisely where it is not needed: in conventional war readiness. But this is not a conventional (or symmetrical) war. And a U.S. Army War College seminar examining our country's war readiness found that, although the U.S. would win a symmetrical war, we will LOSE an asymmetrical war.
In an asymmetrical global environment, in which our country wields immense economic and military power and many peoples are in and continue to be driven into a desperate poverty, our country will be seen, appropriately, as having taken too much of the world's wealth in a selfish, dangerous and irresponsible manner. Although our country continues to have a very high level of children born in families at the poverty level, U.S. corporations are doing quite well, extracting resources and establishing factories in countries whose horrendous human rights abuses have resulted in widespread popular support for armed insurgencies, insurgencies which will now likely be labelled as terrorist groups. That's more weapons and more distractions from the human rights abuses which have created cowering populations in many countries willing to settle for "development" projects brutally imposed on them.
Without an examination of why many in the world are rejoicing for the suffering of my country, without an examination of possible and specific motives of terrorists who have targeted us, and, barring the surfacing of a confession of responsibility, without a certain determination of who is responsible, people around the world who hold democracy a sacred trust will be the sole obstacles to a shallow and terrifyingly dangerous course of action being imposed on traumatized peoples around the world.
With a faith in the democracy that we and others around the world will one day have,
New York City
Sorely needed: a cool and reasoned national debate on security issues
By: Asheville Citizen-Times
Posted: Jan. 23, 2004 6:16 p.m.
As the 2004 presidential campaign goes into high gear, voters trying to educate themselves on the issues will be treated to a couple of horse races. Only these races won't be between two candidates; they will be between ideals and issues themselves.
While a lot of smoke will be raised on old standards like abortion, gay rights, gun rights and other "culture war'' issues, there will be little fire behind any of these in the form of actual policy.
The real horse race is going to come down to two issues: national security and the economy.
On the issue of security in particular, that is as it should be. It's an issue that affects our very lives, and should be subject to reasoned debate.
Of course, politics being what it is, we very well may get only sound bites. That would be a shame, because our defense policy has taken a direction in the past two years that would have been unimaginable before Sept. 11, 2001. We're not saying that direction is right or wrong; we are saying that a broad public discussion never occurred on what that direction should be. Particularly with the buildup to the conflict in Iraq, discussion turned ugly and fell into two camps: agree with the president or be tarred as unpatriotic and against the soldiers, or essentially disagree with just about every policy move initiated by the White House.
That's not discussion, it's bickering, and it misses a couple of important points. First, we, the people are the ones who pay for the policy in lives and dollars. But more importantly, the common sense reason for a full and thorough discussion is that the issue of defense is not about who's right or who's wrong; it's about what's right and what's wrong.
To start, we need to pry our eyes away from Iraq to look at the bigger picture.
The U.S. defense establishment is more than Iraq. Defense Department reports show the Pentagon either rents or owns more than 700 bases in 130 countries, with another 6,000 or so installations in the U.S. and its territories. Those numbers don't even include installations in places like Kosovo and Afghanistan, and of course unmentioned are numerous snooping and spying facilities around the globe. And added onto all of this are huge efforts here in the heartland to detect and prevent potential terrorist attacks.
It's a huge, far-flung and expensive affair.
With that in mind, the basic question that will be debated this coming year is whether the decision to topple Saddam Hussein was the right move.
And the answer to that is: No one knows.
Certainly, any nation would be better off without a Saddam Hussein in charge. But beyond the very welcome news of his capture, there are encouraging signs, and there are discouraging signs.
The encouraging signs include more schools, more medical care, more freedom and more wealth for the Iraqi people. They include the decision by Libya to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, the decision to allow freer inspections by Iran and at least temporary signs of sanity from North Korea. They also include moves by Saudi Arabia to take on its own radical Islamic movement and the apparent isolation of Syria.
Media critics claim these "good news'' stories haven't gotten enough ink and air time, and they're probably right.
Likewise, other media critics point to troubling news that hasn't gotten much play either, and they're also probably right.
Flying under the public radar in recent weeks have been reports both critical and downright worrisome. The critical reports include some respected sources. Jane's Intelligence Digest says "It has long been our view that the available intelligence did not provide a justification for military intervention by the U.S.A. and its allies, no matter how appalling Saddam Hussein may have been as a leader. Our main concern, however, was that the invasion of Iraq was a dangerous distraction from the very real threat posed by international terrorists, particularly al-Qaida and its network.''
And in a report published by the U.S. Army War College, Dr. Jeffrey Record assessed our current strategy and reached this troubling conclusion: "(The) global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promised much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security. The U.S. may be able to defeat, even destroy, al-Qaida, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil.''
One of the criticisms of the war in Iraq we'd best keep an eye on is that it's simply wearing out the Army. By May, 40 percent of the 100,000-member force in Iraq will be Guard or Reserve units, and rumblings about part-time soldiers pulling so much full-time duty - and in many cases apparently getting part-time treatment when it comes to supplies - should be addressed. If people begin leaving National Guard and reserve units in significant numbers, our volunteer military force may have to be restructured, since it relies so heavily on those units. A survey that appeared recently in the Navy Times should be a red flag; eight of 10 soldiers assessed the military as "stretched too thin.''
And a final sobering news item: CIA officials are quietly worrying that Iraq may be headed to civil war.
These highs and lows are things worth celebrating and worth worrying about, but most of all worth talking about on the national political scene. It's in our best interests, and in the best interests of our loved ones on the front line, to do so in a thoughtful, reasoned way that acknowledges the pros and cons and the complexity of the situation. The goal of the discussion and debate should be to find the best path forward.
And we should expect nothing less of our current leaders and from those hoping to challenge them in the November elections.