Dear Friends and Supporters,
The historic peace boat, Golden Rule, has been restored by Veterans For Peace and is sailing again for a sustainable, nuclear-free world. She will be sailing through the waterways of the Pacific Northwest this summer, making multiple stops in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, from June through October. The Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project invites you to join us in making this voyage a profound success. We want to amplify the voices of those who are struggling for peace and against nuclear weapons, nuclear power and dangerous unsustainable carbon-based fuels.
The VFP Golden Rule Project is partnering with the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), KBOO Radio in Portland, Living Islands, Washington and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Jane Addams Peace Association, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, VFP Chapters and many other organizations to sail the original Peace Boat on it’s educational mission in the Pacific Northwest this year.
If you can help with outreach, media, or planning for an event, please let us know! Many communities are really excited that the Golden Rule is coming to town! Please come to an event, take a tour of the boat, or go sailing with us – it’s a lot of fun!
The story of The Voyage of the Golden Rule 2015 is captured with many great photos in our Golden Rule Newsletter.
You can support the 2016 Northwest voyage and the mission of the Golden Rule by donating through the website or by sending a check to VFP Golden Rule Project, P. O. Box 87, Samoa, CA 95564.
Sailing for a Nuclear-Free World and a Peaceful, Sustainable Future!
VFP Golden Rule Project ( )
Silencing America as it Prepares for War
By John Pilger
Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.
The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.
“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.” So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.
The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”
A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.
The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.
The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter … “. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”
Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.
In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.
James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”
On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us. For them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.
In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.
As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.
It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In its mammoth war game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.
Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.
Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland — that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.
Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.
The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.
“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.
In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?
The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.
This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.
In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”. In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.
History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.
The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.
Thanks to Todd Boyle for forwarding this article.
~ John Pilger originally hails from Australia. Arriving in London, Pilger freelanced, then joined Reuters, moving to the London Daily Mirror, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, which was then changing to a serious tabloid. He became chief foreign correspondent and reported from all over the world, covering numerous wars, notably Vietnam. He became the youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, Journalist of the Year and was the first to win it twice. He also has created many award winning documentaries.
By David Swanson
U.S. military recruiters are teaching in public school classrooms, making presentations at school career days, coordinating with JROTC units in high schools and middle schools, volunteering as sports coaches and tutors and lunch buddies in high, middle, and elementary schools, showing up in humvees with $9,000 stereos, bringing fifth-graders to military bases for hands-on science instruction, and generally pursuing what they call “total market penetration” and “school ownership.”
But counter-recruiters all over the United States are making their own presentations in schools, distributing their own information, picketing recruiting stations, and working through courts and legislatures to reduce military access to students and to prevent military testing or the sharing of test results with the military without students’ permission. This struggle for hearts and minds has had major successes and could spread if more follow the counter-recruiters’ example.
A new book by Scott Harding and Seth Kershner called Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools surveys the current counter-recruitment movement, its history, and its possible future. Included is a fairly wide range of tactics. Many involve one-on-one communication with potential recruits.
“Do you like fireworks?” a veteran of the latest war on Iraq may ask a student in a high school cafeteria. “Yes!” Well, replies Hart Viges, “you won’t when you get back from war.”
“I talked to this one kid,” recalls veteran of the war on Vietnam John Henry, “and I said, ‘Has anybody in your family been in the military?’ And he said, ‘My grandfather.’
“And we talked about him, about how he was short and he was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, and I said, ‘Oh, what does he tell you about war?’
“‘That he still has nightmares.’
“And I said, ‘And you are going in what branch of the service?’
“‘And you’re going to pick what skill?’
“‘Oh, I’m just going to go infantry.’
“You know … your grandfather is telling you he’s still got nightmares and that was 40 years ago. He’s had nightmares for 40 years. Do you want to have nightmares for 40 years?”
Minds are changed. Young lives are saved — those of the kids who do not sign up, or who back out before it’s too late, and perhaps also the lives they would have contributed to ending had they entered the “service.”
This sort of counter-recruitment work can have a quick payoff. Says Barbara Harris, who also organized the protests at NBC that supported this petition and got a pro-war program off the air, “The feedback I receive from [parents] is just incredibly heartwarming because [when] I speak to a parent and I see how I’ve helped them in some way, I feel so rewarded.”
Other counter-recruitment work can take a bit longer and be a bit less personal but impact a larger number of lives. Some 10% to 15% of recruits get to the military via the ASVAB tests, which are administered in certain school districts, sometimes required, sometimes without informing students or parents that they are for the military, sometimes with the full results going to the military without any permission from students or parents. The number of states and school districts using and abusing the ASVAB is on the decline because of the work of counter-recruiters in passing legislation and changing policy.
U.S. culture is so heavily militarized, though, that in the absence of recruiters or counter-recruiters well-meaning teachers and guidance counselors will thoughtlessly promote the military to students. Some schools automatically enroll all students in JROTC. Some guidance counselors encourage students to substitute JROTC for gym class. Even Kindergarten teachers will invite in uniformed members of the military or promote the military unprompted in their school assignments. History teachers will show footage of Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Day and talk in glorifying terms of the military without any need for direct contact from recruitment offices. I’m reminded of what Starbucks said when asked why it had a coffee shop at the torture / death camp in Guantanamo. Starbucks said that choosing not to would amount to making a political statement. Choosing to do so was just standard behavior.
Part of what keeps the military presence in the schools is the billion dollar budget of the military recruiters and other unfair powers of incumbency. For example, if a JROTC program is threatened, the instructors can order the students (or the children formerly known as students) to show up and testify at a school board meeting in favor of maintaining the program.
Much of what keeps recruitment working in our schools, however, is a different sort of power — the power to lie and get away with it unchallenged. As Harding and Kershner document, recruiters routinely deceive students about the amount of time they’re committing to be in the military, the possibility of changing their minds, the potential for free college as a reward, the availability of vocational training in the military, and the risks involved in joining the military.
Our society has become very serious about warning young people about safety in sex, driving, drinking, drugs, sports, and other activities. When it comes to joining the military, however, a survey of students found that none of them were told anything about the risks to themselves — first and foremost suicide. They are also, as Harding and Kershner point out, told much about heroism, nothing about drudgery. I would add that they are not told about alternative forms of heroism outside of the military. I would further add that they are told nothing about the primarily non-U.S. victims of wars that are largely one-sided slaughters of civilians, nor about the moral injury and PTSD that can follow. And of course, they are told nothing about alternative career paths.
That is, they are told none of these things by recruiters. They are told some of them by counter-recruiters. Harding and Kershner mention AmeriCorps and City Year as alternatives to the military that counter-recruiters sometimes let students know about. An early start on an alternative career path is found by some students who sign on as counter-recruiters working to help guide their peers away from the military. Studies find that youth who engage in school activism suffer less alienation, set more ambitious goals, and improve academically.
Military recruitment climbs when the economy declines, and drops off when news of current wars increases. Those recruited tend to have lower family income, less-educated parents, and larger family size. It seems entirely possible to me that a legislative victory for counter-recruitment greater than any reform of ASVAB testing or access to school cafeterias would be for the United States to join those nations that make college free. Ironically, the most prominent politician promoting that idea, Senator Bernie Sanders, refuses to say he would pay for any of his plans by cutting the military, meaning that he must struggle uphill against passionate shouts of “Don’t raise my taxes!” (even when 99% of people would not see their wallets shrink at all un der his plans).
Free college would absolutely crush military recruitment. To what extent does this fact explain political opposition to free college? I don’t know. But I can picture among the possible responses of the military a greater push to make citizenship a reward for immigrants who join the military, higher and higher signing bonuses, greater use of mercenaries both foreign and domestic, greater reliance on drones and other robots, and ever more arming of foreign proxy forces, but also quite likely a greater reluctance to launch and escalate and continue wars.
And that’s the prize we’re after, right? A family blown up in the Middle East is just as dead, injured, traumatized, and homeless whether the perpetrators are near or far, in the air or at a computer terminal, born in the United States or on a Pacific island, right? Most counter-recruiters I know would agree with that 100%. But they believe, and with good reason, that the work of counter-recruitment scales back the war-making.
However, other concerns enter in as well, including the desire to protect particular students, and the desire to halt the racial or class disparity of recruitment that sometimes focuses disproportionately on poor or predominately racial minority schools. Legislatures that have been reluctant to restrict recruitment have done so when it was addressed as an issue of racial or class fairness.
Many counter-recruiters, Harding and Kershner report, “were careful to suggest the military serves a legitimate purpose in society and is an honorable vocation.” In part, I think such talk is a strategy — whether or not it’s a wise one — that believes direct opposition to war will close doors and empower adversaries, whereas talking about “student privacy” will allow people who oppose war to reach students with their information. But, of course, claiming that the military is a good thing while discouraging local kids from joining it rather stinks of NIMBYism: Get your cannon fodder, just Not In My Back Yard.
Some, though by no means all, and I suspect it’s a small minority of counter-recruiters actually make a case against other types of peace activism. They describe what they do as “actually doing something,” in contrast to marching at rallies or sitting in at Congressional offices, etc. I will grant them that my experience is atypical. I do media interviews. I mostly go to rallies that have invited me to speak. I get paid to do online antiwar organizing. I plan conferences. I write articles and op-eds and books. I have a sense of “doing something” that perhaps most people who attend an event or ask questions from an audience or sign an online petition just don’t. I suspect a great many people find talking students away from the edge much more satisfying than getting arrested in front of a drone base, although plenty of wonderful people do both.
But there is, in my opinion, a pretty misguided analysis in the view of certain counter-recruiters who hold that getting tests out of schools is real, concrete, and meaningful, while filling the National Mall with antiwar banners is useless. In 2013 a proposal to bomb Syria looked very likely, but Congress members started worrying about being the guy who voted for another Iraq. (How’s that working out for Hillary Clinton?) It was not primarily counter-recruiters who made the Iraq vote a badge of shame and political doom. Nor was it outreach to students that upheld the Iran nuclear agreement last year.
The division between types of peace activism is somewhat silly. People have been brought into counter-recruitment work at massive rallies, and students reached by counter-recruiters have later organized big protests. Recruitment includes hard to measure things like Super Bowl fly-overs and video games. So can counter-recruitment. Both counter-recruitment and other types of peace activism ebb and flow with wars, news reports, and partisanship. I’d like to see the two merged into massive rallies at recruiting stations. Harding and Kershner cite one example of a counter-recruiter suggesting that one such rally created new opposition to his work, but I would be surprised if it didn’t also hurt recruitment. The authors cite other examples of well-publicized protests at recruitment offices having had a lasting effect of reducing recruitment there.
The fact is that no form of opposition to militarism is what it used to be. Harding and Kershner cite stunning examples of the mainstream nature of counter-recruitment in the 1970s, when it had the support of the National Organization for Women and the Congressional Black Caucus, and when prominent academics publicly urged guidance counselors to counter-recruit.
The strongest antiwar movement, I believe, would combine the strengths of counter-recruitment with those of lobbying, protesting, resisting, educating, divesting, publicizing, etc. It would be careful to build resistance to recruitment while educating the public about the one-sided nature of U.S. wars, countering the notion that a large percentage of the damage is done to the aggressor. When Harding and Kershner use the phrase in their book “In the absence of a hot war” to describe the current day, what should the people being killed by U.S. weaponry in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, etc., make of it?
We need a strategy that employs the skills of every kind of activist and targets the military machine at every possible weak point, but the strategy has to be to stop the killing, no matter who does it, and no matter if every person doing it survives.
Are you looking for a way to help? I recommend the examples in Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools. Go forth and do likewise.
War Is A Lie: Second Edition, published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016. Please buy it online that day.
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THE TOPLINE: Women should be required to register for the draft if all combat jobs are going to be open to them, the top generals of the Marines and Army said Tuesday.
“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley agreed with Neller.
“I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,” he added.
The two made the remarks while testifying before the panel with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Under Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy on how to implement the landmark decision to open all combat jobs to women.
Murphy and Mabus were more hesitant on the issue, only saying there should be a debate about it.
Late last year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all military jobs would be open to both sexes with no exceptions, despite a request from the Marines to keep some closed.
CARTER PREVIEWS $582.7B BUDGET: The Pentagon’s proposed 2017 budget will prepare for possible future wars against near-peer competitors Russia and China, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.
The focus of the $582.7 billion budget, he said, will contemplate fights in traditional domains of air, sea and land, as well as areas such as cyber-war and space.
“In this budget, we’re taking the long view,” Carter said in a speech at the Economic Club in Washington. “We have to, because even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come 10, 20 or 30 years down the road.”
The Pentagon is still planning to boost its spending on the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by 50 percent from last year, to $7.5 billion. Of that, $1.8 billion will go to buying more than 45,000 GPS-guided smart bombs and laser-guided rockets, Carter said.
The Pentagon will also more than quadruple its spending in Europe to reassure allies and deter Russian aggression, from $789 million to $3.4 billion. That is expected to fund more U.S. forces in Europe, more training and exercises, the prepositioning of military equipment and improving existing infrastructure there.
GENERAL URGES KEEPING TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN: The commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan is reviewing plans for troop levels after 2016, but did not specify Tuesday what force size will be necessary.
Gen. John Campbell outlined the challenges facing coalition and Afghan forces and warned the situation could deteriorate should the U.S. not extend its commitment to the country.
“Afghanistan is at an inflection point,” he said to the House Armed Services Committee. “I believe if we do not make deliberate, measured adjustments, 2016 is at risk of being no better, and possibly worse, than 2015.”
Right now, President Obama plans to reduce the 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year. But there are hints, such as Campbell’s testimony, that the Pentagon will push Obama to change course.
When asked for specifics on what further commitment the United States should make, Campbell demurred.
“It’s not as simple as I need X amount of people,” he said. “You can have the force, but if you don’t have the authorities, it doesn’t make a difference. You can have the authorities, but if you don’t have the resources to execute the authorities, it doesn’t make a difference.”
GRASSLEY WANTS ANSWERS ON CARTER EMAILS: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking Defense Secretary Ash Carter for details on his use of personal email, voicing concerns that the Pentagon chief could have been hacked.
“The use of private email in this context exposes information to possible hacks and intrusions by foreign intelligence agencies,” Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Carter in a letter released on Tuesday. “As the secretary of Defense, you are inevitably a prime target for foreign hackers. As such, the threat is real and compliance with the law is essential.”
The letter comes after The New York Times first reported late last year that Carter used a personal email during his first months in the Pentagon’s top spot, including after it was revealed that Hillary Clinton had exclusively used a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.
Citing the fallout over the Clinton revelations, Grassley added that it is “troubling” that Carter would use the personal email, “especially since you continued using that arrangement even after the risks of private use were made clear when news of Secretary Clinton’s use broke.”
Grassley is also at the center of the Senate’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time at the State Department. The issue has dogged Clinton’s presidential campaign, even as Democrats argue the probe is politically motivated.
Navy To Conduct Large War Games On Northwest US Beaches
By Dahr Jamail, www.truth-out.org
January 12th, 2016
These exclusive Navy documents outline plans for combat training exercises along vast areas of Washington State coastline. Each shows the areas the Navy is prepared to utilize.
Proposed Naval Special Warfare Training Within the Pacific Northwest (1)Proposed Naval Special Warfare Training Within the Pacific Northwest (2)
Beginning in mid-January, Navy SEALs will be practicing unannounced and clandestine combat beach landings across Washington State’s Puget Sound and many other coastal areas of that state.
The simulated combat exercises, which will include the use of mini-submarines and other landing craft, will deposit Navy SEALs carrying “simulated weapons” on 68 beach and state park areas in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Washington’s west coast, unbeknownst to most of the relevant government agencies tasked with overseeing these areas.
Internal Navy emails, two slide shows (which can be viewed in full here and here) and other documents obtained exclusively by Truthout reveal the vast extent of the operations. They also reveal the fact that the Navy labeled the relevant files as “For Official Use Only” and emails as “Attorney-Client privilege,” a move that exempts such documents from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Public concern for what is clearly an ongoing domestic military expansionism is growing.
In the new scenario, which the military calls “realistic military training,” Navy SEALs carrying “simulated” weapons may also travel across public and private property within city limits, and may swim through public and private marinas occupied by people living on boats. They could conduct war game patrols on roads through residential communities. In addition to tribal, state, federal and county lands, there are many properties on the Navy’s list of training sites marked as private.
Naval plans include the use of special reconnaissance teams conducting patrols, which are authorized to go on simulated “direct action” missions. The definition of “direct action” is “short-duration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions conducted as a special operation in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments and which employ specialized military capabilities to seize, destroy, capture, exploit, recover, or damage designated targets.”
Public concern for what is clearly an ongoing domestic military expansionism is growing. Despite some strange conspiracy theories around Operation Jade Helm in 2015, the operation also provoked a very real concern: The spread of the military into residential and public areas. This, coupled with several recently documented instances of abusive, unlawful behavior by Navy SEALs overseas, has many people alarmed by what is to come.
War Games in Peace Parks
Across Washington, the Navy’s upcoming war game exercises, which are slated to begin January 14, will be carried out across 68 beach areas around the state, many of which lie within the boundaries of state parks.
Many of these beaches are popular with the public and contain campgrounds and marinas. According to maps in the two slide shows Truthout obtained, Navy SEAL activities will occur well inland from the beaches. Each site for the exercises will be “utilized” two to eight times per year, and “events” can last between two and 72 hours.
Naval maps of the areas where the exercises will occur show large areas where “surveillance and reconnaissance” will occur, along with “direct action” areas and “insertion and extraction” zones.
According to the documents, a “safety” buffer of 500 to 1,000 meters will also be maintained by a Navy support team in boats, vehicles and on foot, which will prevent bystanders from entering the areas.
“They have exempted themselves from disclosing to the public the full scope and nature of their actions.”
This amounts to periodic closings of public land, including state parks and fishing areas, with no public comment periods or government oversight. Given that some of the exercises will entail Navy SEALs swimming through marinas where people live on their boats, along with exercises and patrols through residential neighborhoods and private land, maintaining a “safety” barrier of 500 to 1,000 meters simply does not seem possible.
One of many areas slated for direct actions in the Navy’s plans is Fort Worden State Park, on the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The Navy has designated a large area atop a hill there – a place that contains popular public trails and picnic areas – for its war exercises.
The hilltop location includes a seating area for quiet contemplation, called Memory’s Vault, which is referred to as a “peace park.” The public in the area will likely interpret the Navy’s use of this portion of the park as another of the many gestures of contempt they have seen from the military.
According to Karen Sullivan, former assistant regional director at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of External Affairs and a retired endangered species biologist, the Navy’s actions are also illegal. Sullivan has worked in the division for over 15 years, and is an expert in the bureaucratic procedures the Navy is supposed to be following.
She is now part of the West Coast Action Alliance, one of two large multistate and international citizen groups that have tasked themselves with watchdogging the Navy, due to what they believe are ongoing violations of the law, blatant acts of disrespect toward human and environmental health, and ongoing bellicose behavior by the military branch.
According to Sullivan, the Navy’s actions are a violation of several laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedures Act, National Historic Preservation Act and possibly others, as well as a violation of the public trust doctrine.
“They have exempted themselves from disclosing to the public, and even to state and federal agencies, the full scope and nature of their actions, in order to segment them into smaller pieces that individually may look harmless but cumulatively have big impacts,” Sullivan told Truthout.
The Navy’s method essentially ensures that it will get its way.
In one example, the Navy, without any consultation with the State of Washington, recently concluded that the war games would have no effect on historic and cultural properties – including those belonging to Indigenous tribes – and therefore there was no need to consult with the State or with tribes on the new sites for 2016.
Sullivan expressed deep concerns about the exercises the Navy has planned for Washington coastlines and the communities near them.
“Having Navy SEAL kill teams in battle gear conducting war games around private homes and public beaches, parks, campgrounds and marinas is going to have a big effect on the people living and recreating there,” she said. “Besides potentially creating public fear and confusion, the Navy will close off the areas they’re war gaming in. Doesn’t that require a public process?”
Connie Gallant is the board president of the Olympic Forest Coalition, a group that promotes the protection, conservation and restoration of natural forest ecosystems and their processes on the Olympic Peninsula. Like Sullivan, she agrees that while the military needs to train, the methods the Navy is employing across Washington are unacceptable.
“Navy SEALs must be well-trained for any situation,” she told Truthout. “However, given the fact that there are already many beaches throughout the country where they are currently training, in addition to having a new 60-acre Pacific Ocean complex in San Diego County that adds 1.5 million square feet of coastal development, I question the need to add our pristine beaches to their inventory. Landing on the beaches is only the first step; combat training typically includes the use of ordnance weapons.”
Gallant sees the use of Fort Worden State Park in particular as an egregious example of what the Navy’s exercises can do to a once-pristine area.
“Because Fort Worden was a military base long ago and is now a historical park, this may give the Navy a good excuse to reclaim it as yet another post/training area – thereby preventing us from enjoying our leisurely walks, exercises, environmental training of marine life, bird watching, photographing, and communing with nature. Paradise ruined,” she said.
Truthout has reported extensively on the wide-scale negative impacts the Navy’s war gaming has had, and will have, on wildlife around the region.
Nevertheless, the Navy is poised to move forward with its exercises, and according to Sullivan, it is doing so using nefarious, illegal methods.
“The Navy will retrofit an environmental assessment [EA] for the places where they’ve already done their war games all around Puget Sound, but eight new sites for 2016 will likely be exempted from the EA via a self-declared ‘categorical exclusion,’” she said. “This is illegal because the new sites are a part of the big picture and cannot legally be separated from them.”
The Navy is using an exemption process called a categorical exclusion (CATEX) as a means of sidestepping federal regulations that could prohibit its use of these areas for exercises.
By definition, a categorical exclusion is “a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment, and, for which, therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.”
According to an email obtained by Truthout, the Navy intends to issue its own CATEX on some of the SEAL activities as a means to segment and hide the full scope of its actions. Other communications have revealed that the Navy will retrofit an EA for the big action but will continue to CATEX pieces of it to keep it going.
The email also said, “… the Navy, without any consultation or concurrence with Washington’s State Historic Preservation Officer [SHPO], has concluded in the CATEX that there is no effect on historic properties and therefore no need to consult with the SHPO.”
The Navy’s method essentially ensures that it will get its way, as there is not going to be time for a full and legitimate EA and public process period between now and mid-January (in just a few days), when it begins its exercises for at least the second year in a row.
A glance at the Code of Federal Regulation citation for this shows that the Navy’s actions are anything but uncontroversial, or consistent with federal, state or local laws. They certainly do not fall into the categories of public transportation, emergency utility repairs or improvements to existing rest areas and weigh stations, for which categorical exclusions were originally intended.
Hence, in the case of these upcoming exercises across Washington State coastlines, the Navy is issuing its own categorical exclusions for a massive amount of covert training in civilian-populated areas. By doing so, it is circumventing state, local and possibly federal governments by concluding “no significant impacts” in its own assessments – and it continues to proceed in secret.
“Realistic Military Training”
The Navy defines realistic military training (RMT) as training that is “conducted outside of federally owned property.”
Hence, according to that definition and according to the US military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the RMT process is theoretically designed to ensure coordination between US Department of Defense representatives and local and regional officials in the areas where their exercises are to be conducted.
Steps like risk assessments, medical plans, surveys of training areas and coordinating their activities with local, state and federal law enforcement officials are supposed to be mandatory.
However, in the Navy’s upcoming coastal exercise, not one of the measures listed by SOCOM has been offered to the public or to local or state officials in Washington, and no publicly availabledocumentation exists that such measures have ever been considered.
According to SOCOM, the purpose of RMT is “[t]o hone advanced skills, [and] the military and interagency require large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities with access to small towns.”
Yet, many of the areas outlined in the Navy’s documents for their upcoming exercises take place in populated areas, on developed land.
Well over 100,000 people live on the Olympic Peninsula alone, and Olympic National Park hosts 3 million visitors per year.
“The Navy has millions of acres of Defense Department land to train in. Why do they need to invade our neighborhoods, too?”
“This is particularly galling with Navy SEALs about to conduct insertions, extractions, launch and recovery, special reconnaissance and other activities with ‘simulated weapons’ in populated areas without the knowledge of the public,” Sullivan said. “Training like that cannot be considered anything but RMT. The fact that the public is completely unaware of it because the Navy has not notified them, despite legal obligations via NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] and policy obligations as described in the SOCOM presentation, is further evidence of its intent to deceive the public and circumvent the law.”
There are numerous other RMT-type events that have occurred around the United States in recent years, including “urban” training events in various communities around the country.
A December 2015 US Army report titled “Intelligence Support to Urban Operations” addresses challenges facing military action in an urban environment.
“With the continuing growth in the world’s urban areas and increasing population concentrations in urban areas, the probability that Army forces will conduct operations in urban environments is ever more likely,” the manual states.
Clearly, the Navy’s training in Washington is also focused along these lines as well.
“The enemy situation is often extremely fluid – locals friendly to us today may be tomorrow’s belligerents,” the manual continues. “Adversaries seek to blend in with the local population to avoid being captured or killed. Enemy forces who are familiar with the city layout have an inherently superior awareness of the current situation.”
Military training for combat in urban environments, like the Navy’s upcoming exercises in Washington, has been ongoing at bases around the country, with the goal of preparing soldiers for close-contact engagements within urban environments. As recently as March 2015 in South Carolina, Operation Vigilant Guard saw large deployments of troops in civilian areas for training.
Sullivan sees these actions, and in particular the upcoming naval exercises across Washington State, in an insidious light.
“The real story here is the fact that kill teams in training will be conducting covert operations in and around residential communities and on public lands without our knowledge,” she said.
Sullivan believes the general public needs to be concerned about the Navy’s actions, along with the ongoing domestic military expansion as a whole, because they both present “an unprecedented and unlawful taking of public and private space for military activity.” She points out that there is no plausible justification for the Navy’s incursion into urban areas.
“The Navy has millions of acres of Defense Department land to train in,” Sullivan said. “Now they’re using and closing portions of our national forests. Why do they need to invade our neighborhoods, too?”
She also sees another threat from the Navy’s exercises in state parks and private lands: the normalization of military activity “in our lives and in places where it has historically never been.”
Like Gallant, Sullivan is not opposed to the military conducting trainings, in itself. She objects to the training happening in places where people live, work and recreate, and without the informed consent of the public.
“We object to the shell game that has passed for public process,” Sullivan said. “We object to the Navy’s apparent contempt for the laws of the land, and to the fact that the military is steadily moving off the millions of acres of land the public has given it for training, in order to practice warfare among us, the very citizens it is supposed to protect.”
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Washington Truth in Recruiting and Veterans for Peace will be tabling at the Resource Fair at the Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice.
Registration and the program are available at the Northwest Teachers for Social Justice website.
Teachers are vital in changing the acceptance of militarism and war in schools.
Should this “growing business” have such access to students?
Army’s Annual Foreign Military Sales Top $20 Billion
By Jen Judson 5:19 p.m. EDT October 13, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Army is doing big business abroad, raking in $20 billion in foreign military sales in fiscal 2015, according to the commander of Army Materiel Command.
Gen. Dennis Via said Tuesday at the Association of the US Army conference that foreign military sales is a “growing business.” In FY14, the Army made $20.7 billion* in FMS and is projecting its sales will drop to about $15 billion in FY16.
Foreign countries “know it works, they know that we have quality assurance, that we provide the total package, that we are there with them for training and training their forces with the global supply chain to help sustain and maintain their equipment at such time when it needs to be reset, we can bring that back … we can reset that equipment and give that back to the most modern and refurbished state,” Via explained.
AUSA Digital Show Daily | Defense News
While the Army FMS sales have been better than predicted in the last two years, its FY16 projections are based on international budgets.
“Believe it or not, a lot of our partner nations are in the same crunch as we are,” Heidi Shyu, the Army’s acquisition executive, said. “Their budgets are also coming down, so it’s anticipated their priorities also change, so it’s just an estimate.”
In the Middle East, Via added, “what we are seeing is a decrease or slow down and I think that is impacted by the price of oil,” which has gone down significantly. But, Via has observed an uptick in sales from Eastern Europe and in the Pacific region.
Via noted that the Army entered its third quarter in FY15 with $14 billion in sales and saw a dramatic jump to $20 billion in the last quarter “based on a couple of large buys.”
The AMCOM commander said “70 plus” countries are at the AUSA show this year interested in doing business with the Army.
Shyu noted the Army’s best sellers abroad tend to be helicopters and missiles and Via added the Patriot air and missile defense system has seen a lot of business.
The pair of Army leaders would not go into details on what kinds of business the service was doing in FMS in Iraq, but said “there is a multitude in the pipeline.”
* Due to incorrect information that was received, the FY14 figure was updated at 5:18 p.m. ET Tuesday.
October 6, 2015
No big surprise- but both Washington senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, voted to allow more war spending even if there is a budget cap on federal spending.
From The Hill:
THE TOPLINE: Democrats did not filibuster a vote to move forward on a defense policy bill on Tuesday, despite a veto threat from the White House.
Senators voted 73-26 to end debate on the $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with 60 votes needed to move forward.
Twenty-one Democrats broke ranks and voted to let the bill advance for a vote later this week. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who is running for president, was the only Republican to vote no. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a 2016 presidential contender, missed the vote due to campaigning.
The legislation is expected to pass by Thursday, which would send it to President Obama’s desk.
The Obama administration opposes the bill primarily because it keeps budget caps on federal spending, but allows for a boost in defense spending through the use of a war fund not subject to the limits.
The amount requested for the Pentagon in 2016 by the White House and Republicans is the same, at $612 billion, but the White House wanted to pressure Republicans to lift the caps on both defense and non-defense spending.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned that Democrats would, however, sustain the president’s veto of the bill if Republicans tried to override it.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned Democrats against blocking the NDAA.
“If they want to sustain the veto they’re responsible for the events that take place in the world, including [putting] the lives of the men and women serving in the military in much greater danger,” he said. “That will be their responsibility.”
Obama has threatened to veto every NDAA since he took office but has never actually done so.
The Democrats who voted Tuesday to advance the defense bill were Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Mark Warner (Va.). Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, also voted to proceed.
By Bruce Fenton, via Todd Boyle
Did you know that the U.S. government took over $5.4 million of hard earned taxpayer wages to pay to the NFL to feature flag waving and “support our troops” / “hometown hero” slogans during football games?
Categorized as part of the massive Department of Defense “marketing and advertising budget”, which does things like this very often, the deal is just one of hundreds of sports related marketing campaigns.
Another ad campaign featured an Army recruiter dressed as a camouflage Star Wars stormtrooper with a laser gun that shoots government marketing t-shirts into the cheering audience.
The purpose of this is to:
1) Increase support of war – not based on facts, not based the Constitution, not based on a case about why American soil is in danger of invasion….but based on cheering and “feel good” sentiment which could just as easily be used by any country, any time.
2) To work as a recruiting tool for young people by showing them the adulation and heroic status they can get if they enlist to fight the wars the politicians and their backers support.
There simply isn’t any way to define this other than propaganda.
Propaganda is the tool governments use to manipulate people into accepting ideas that the rulers like ….but that the ruled would not like without the manipulation.
This type of thing is pervasive throughout America — all told, they spend billions of our own money to convince us they are spending our money the right ways — in many cases is created without the government even needing to spend more of our tax dollars…the machine creates more cheerleaders. The news media, private organizations and millions of citizens have been fooled into thinking that this is patriotism.
It’s not patriotism. It’s being fooled by propaganda.
The end result of this cheerleading for war, is that war has become so common we don’t even know or care as a nation who or where we are fighting or what the objective is. While used to take seriously every death of a service-member, they are now so common it barely makes the local news.
We have placed our country in more danger, ruined our economy, made ourselves hated and have cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of other lives…with nothing to show for it. Our disastrous policies led directly to the creation of ISIS, massive instability in Iraq and the region and before this, the deposition of a democratically elected leader in Iran, replaced by our puppet the Shah who was such a dirtbag he turned the whole country against us for decades.
These are not good policies. They are stupid policies….therefor they need heavy marketing to be sold to Americans. If we stopped and thought about it logically we’d stand against these policies. We’d also most likely not get a warm and fuzzy feeling when we see young people (who are government would gladly send to die for lies) waving flags at a cost of $5.4 million of our own money.
Source: public record, multiple articles