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Nederlog

May 25, 2016

Crisis: American Troops, Trump's Questions, Wall Street, Obama, Pentagon
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Introduction

1.
A Worrisome New Plan to Send U.S. Troops to Libya as
     ‘Advisers’

2. Trump’s Five Questions on US Foreign Policy
3. The New Agenda For Taking On Wall Street
4. The Obama Years Have Been Very Good to America's
     Weapons Makers

5.
The Pentagon’s Budgetary War on Accountability
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 25, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about "a worrisome new plan" to have American troops in Libya, in the coming 25 or more years; item 2 is about five questions Trump asked about US foreign policy (and the questions are sensible); item 3 is about a new plan to attack Wall Street (which I agree is the USA's greatest criminal organization: "too big to fail"); item 4 is about how extra-ordinary good Obama's reign was for the American weapon makers; and item 5 is about a fine article about the almost complete lack of any accountability, and of any auditing since 1990, of the Pentagon, that together with Wall Street seems the real forces that rule the present USA.

1. A Worrisome New Plan to Send U.S. Troops to Libya as ‘Advisers’

The first item is b
y John Kiriakou on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Dunford, said last week that the United States is engaged in a “period of intense dialogue” that could lead to an agreement with the government of Libya that would allow U.S. “military advisers” to be deployed there in the fight against Islamic State.

“There’s a lot of activity going on underneath the surface,” Dunford told The Washington Post. “We’re just not ready to deploy capabilities yet because there hasn’t been an agreement. And frankly, any day that could happen.”

This plan should worry every American. If the past is any lesson, the new U.S. military advisers will likely be permanent and will presage a large combat contingent in Libya.

Yes, indeed. But it seems by now that the Pentagon more or less does as it likes to do. (For considerably more on the Pentagon see item 5.)

Here is some information on "how this normally works", the last 66 years:

U.S. military advisers first arrived in Vietnam in 1950, a move that presaged the eventual arrival of 9,087,000 military personnel, and reaching a peak in 1967 of 545,000 combat troops. The last U.S. troops didn’t leave Vietnam until 1975, and only after 58,220 had been killed. U.S. troops entered Kuwait in February 1991 to push invading Iraqi forces out of that country. Twenty-five years later, 13,500 troops remain.

U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan after 15 years and still in Iraq after 13 years.

There is more in the original, which is recommended. But this is "how this normally works": The generals track their own course; the goverment provides the propaganda; and the taxpayer has to pay and to shut up about America's Exceptional Military.

It is complete irresponsibility (and see item 5) that would be totally impossible in a real democracy.

2. Trump’s Five Questions on US Foreign Policy

The second item is b
y John V. Walsh on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:
“Only Donald Trump (among the Presidential candidates) has said anything meaningful and critical of U.S. foreign policy.” No, that is not Reince Priebus, chair of the RNC, speaking up in favor of the presumptive Republican nominee. It is Stephen F. Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, a contributing editor for The Nation, that most liberal of political journals.

Cohen tells us here that: “Trump’s questions are fundamental and urgent, but instead of engaging them, his opponents (including President Obama) and the media dismiss the issues he raises about foreign policy as ignorant and dangerous. Some even charge that his statements are like ‘Christmas in the Kremlin’ and that he is ‘the Kremlin’s Candidate’ — thereby, further shutting off the debate we so urgently need.” (Cohen’s comment about the lack of a meaningful critique of U.S. foreign policy also covers the statements of Sen. Bernie Sanders.)
Well, I am willing to see this because (i) Barack Obama only utters propaganda, while (ii) Stephen F. Cohen (<- Wikipedia) does seem to be a serious student of Russia.

Here are Trump's points, as given by John Walsh. I did add bullets:

  • [First] why must the United States lead the world everywhere on the globe and play the role of the world’s policeman, now for example, he says, in Ukraine?
  • “Secondly, [Trump] said, NATO was founded 67 years ago to deter the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ended 25 years ago. What is NATO’s mission? Is it obsolete? Is it fighting terrorism?  No, to the last question, it’s not. Should we discuss NATO’s mission?
  • “Thirdly, [Trump] asks, why does the United States always pursue regime changes?
  • Fourthly, why do we treat Russia and Putin as an enemy when he should be a partner?
  • “Fifth, Trump asks, about nuclear weapons – and this is interesting. You remember he was asked, would he rule out using nuclear weapons – an existential question. He thought for a while and then he said, ‘No, I take nothing off the table.’
I say. I think all questions are rather good (which is the first time, reporting on Trump in Nederlog), although I don't know what Trump will be saying the next time, for consistent he is not.

As to the fifth question: I suppose it is there because Trump's position is in fact on this point the same as that of the present American government.

3. The New Agenda For Taking On Wall Street

The third item is
by Isaiah Poole on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

More than 20 progressive organizations representing millions of voters are putting their weight behind a five-point agenda for the next stage of Wall Street reform. What these groups will formally announce Tuesday, in an event featuring Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, sets a high but practical standard for what a candidate would have to embrace to be considered a progressive on reining in the financial sector.

The Take On Wall Street campaign says it intends to ensure that the voices of working people and consumers are heard above the power and influence of Wall Street. The Washington Post reports that Take On Wall Street will combine the efforts of “some of the Democratic parties biggest traditional backers, from the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO to the Communications Workers of America.”

I say. I think this is a good idea, although I have no illusions about its chances of a rapid success, nor about the strengths, the incredible amounts of money, and the criminality of America's leading bankers.

Here are the main points these organizations want to change - and the list of points is compressed here: there is text explaining each point in the article:

The campaign is pressing five changes that the coalition says would lead to a fair financial system that works for Main Street and working families, not just Wall Street billionaires. Most are embodied in legislation that is currently pending in Congress:

Close the carried interest loophole.
End the CEO bonus loophole.
End “too big to fail.”
Enact a Wall Street speculation tax.
End predatory lending and offer alternatives for the
   “unbanked.”

There is more in the original, which is recommended.
4. The Obama Years Have Been Very Good to America's Weapons Makers

The fourt
h item is by Bryan Schatz on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows, and seems to highlight Obama's real interests (if you set aside the propaganda, and follow the money):

The Obama years have been a boom time for America's weapons makers. Since 2009, the United States has approved arms deals worth some $200 billion—more than under any other presidency. The deals include sending Apache helicopters to Qatar, "bunker buster" bombs and cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, and Hellfire missiles all over the place. Predicting an increase in weapons sales fueled by the war against ISIS, an unnamed American weapons manufacturing executive told Reuters last year: "Everyone in the region is talking about building up supplies for 5 to 10 years. This is going to be a long fight. It's a huge growth area for us."

The United States currently controls more than half of the global arms market. Its top five customers are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Iraq, and Israel. By comparison, Russia, the next biggest global weapons supplier, controls just 14 percent of the market.
There is more in the article, but this is sufficient to make the point. Also, while I blamed Obama, he is not the only one who is responsible:

5. The Pentagon’s Budgetary War on Accountability

The fifth item is by William D. Hartung on Naked Capitalism, and originally on TomDispatch:
This starts as follows:

Now you see it, now you don’t. Think of it as the Department of Defense’s version of the street con game, three-card monte, or maybe simply as the Pentagon shuffle.  In any case, the Pentagon’s budget is as close to a work of art as you’re likely to find in the U.S. government — if, that is, by work of art you mean scam.  

The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year — more, that is, than was spent at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup, and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined.  And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total.  As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans’ affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries, and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches a cool $1 trillion.

Most of that money could have been spend on education, health, the American infra-structure (which is collapsing), and other more worthy aims than war, but
the Pentagon doesn't want that, and it seems it can scam as much as it likes, and it gets most things it asks.

The above quotation is followed by the next one:

The more that’s spent on “defense,” however, the less the Pentagon wants us to know about how those mountains of money are actually being used.  As the only major federal agency that can’t pass an audit, the Department of Defense (DoD) is the poster child for irresponsible budgeting. 

It’s not just that its books don’t add up, however.  The DoD is taking active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year — from using the separate “war budget” as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret.  Add in dozens of other secret projects hidden in the department’s budget and the Pentagon’s poorly documented military aid programs, and it’s clear that the DoD believes it has something to hide.

Remember the audit, and realize (see below) that it is not so much that the Pentagon cannot pass an audit, as that it simply doesn't want to pass an audit.

For the above quotation is followed by the next one:

Don’t for a moment imagine that the Pentagon’s growing list of secret programs and evasive budgetary maneuvers is accidental or simply a matter of sloppy bookkeeping.  Much of it is remarkably purposeful.  By keeping us in the dark about how it spends our money, the Pentagon has made it virtually impossible for anyone to hold it accountable for just about anything.  An entrenched bureaucracy is determined not to provide information that might be used to bring its sprawling budget — and so the institution itself — under control. That’s why budgetary deception has become such a standard operating procedure at the Department of Defense. 

The audit problem is a case in point.  The Pentagon along with all other major federal agencies was first required to make its books auditable in the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.  More than 25 years later, there is no evidence to suggest that the Pentagon will ever be able to pass an audit.
So the Pentagon - in which hundreds of billions of tax dollars disappear each year - has not been audited for 25 years...

It seems that the American taxpayers exist to support the Pentagon and its many wars with hundreds of billions of non-auditable dollars a year, instead of the Pentagon's existing to protect the American population.

There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

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