According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.
The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the US government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion — 39 percent of the global total.
The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third). Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.
US military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012. NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.
Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.
This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes. Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.
Of course, there is a direct connection between the massive level of US military spending and belt-tightening austerity at home: most federal discretionary spending goes for war.
The Lockheed Martin Corporation’s new F-35 joint strike fighter plane provides a good example of the US government’s warped priorities. It is estimated that this military weapons system will cost the US government $1.5 trillion by the time of its completion. Does this Cold War-style warplane, designed for fighting enemies the US government no longer faces, represent a good investment for Americans? After twelve years of production, costing $396 billion, the F-35 has exhibited numerous design and engineering flaws, has been grounded twice, and has never been flown in combat. Given the immense military advantage the United States already has over all other nations in the world, is this most expensive weapons system in world history really necessary? And aren’t there other, better things that Americans could be doing with their money?
Of course, the same is true for other countries. Is there really any justification for the nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to be increasing their level of military spending — as they did in 2012 — while millions of their people live in dire poverty? Projections indicate that, by 2015, about a billion people around the world will be living on an income of about $1.25 per day. When, in desperation, they riot for bread, will the government officials of these nations, echoing Marie Antoinette, suggest that they eat the new warplanes and missiles?
President Dwight Eisenhower put it well in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors 60 years ago:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. . . . This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. . . . This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
That sentiment persists. On April 15, 2013, people in 43 countries participated in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending, designed to call attention to the squandering of the world’s resources on war. Among these countries was the United States, where polls show that 58 percent of Americans favor major reductions in US military spending.
How long will it take the governments of the United States and of other nations to catch up with them?
With American drug use levels essentially the same as — and levels of drug-related violence either the same as or lower than — those in countries like the Netherlands with liberal drug laws, public support for the War on Drugs appears to be faltering. This was most recently evidenced in the victory of major drug decriminalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington. Some misguided commentators go so far as to say the Drug War is “a failure.” Here, to set the record straight, are fifteen ways in which it is a resounding success:
1. It has surrounded the Fourth Amendment’s “search and seizure” restrictions, and similar provisions in state constitutions, with so many “good faith,” “reasonable suspicion” and “reasonable expectation of privacy” loopholes as to turn them into toilet paper for all intents and purposes.
2. In so doing, it has set precedents that can be applied to a wide range of other missions, like the War on Terror.
3. It has turned drug stores and banks into arms of the state that constantly inform on their customers.
4. Via programs like DARE, it has turned kids into drug informants who monitor their parents for the authorities.
5. As a result of the way DARE interacts with other things like Zero Tolerance policies and warrantless inspections by drug-sniffing dogs, the Drug War has conditioned children to believe “the policeman is their friend,” and to view snitching as admirable behavior, and to instinctively look for an authority figure to report to the second they see anything the least bit eccentric or anomalous.
6. Via civil forfeiture, it has enabled the state to create a lucrative racket in property stolen from citizens never charged, let alone convicted, of a crime. Best of all, even possessing large amounts of cash, while technically not a crime, can be treated as evidence of intent to commit a crime — saving the state the trouble of having to convert all that stolen tangible property into liquid form.
7. It has enabled local police forces to undergo military training, create paramilitary SWAT teams that operate just like the U.S. military in an occupied enemy country, get billions of dollars worth of surplus military weaponry, and wear really cool black uniforms just like the SS.
8. Between the wars on the urban drug trade and rural meth labs, it has brought under constant harassment and surveillance two of the demographic groups in our country — inner city blacks and rural poor whites — least socialized to accept orders from authority either in the workplace or political system, and vital components of any potential movement for freedom and social justice.
9.In addition, it brings those who actually fall into the clutches of the criminal justice system into a years-long cycle of direct control through imprisonment and parole.
10. By disenfranchising convicted felons, it restricts participation in the state’s “democratic” processes to only citizens who are predisposed to respect the state’s authority.
11. In conjunction with shows like Law and Order and COPS, it conditions the middle class citizenry to accept police authoritarianism and lawlessness as necessary to protect them against the terrifying threat of people voluntarily ingesting substances into their own bodies.
12. Through “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” rhetoric, it conditions the public to assume the surveillance state means well and that only evildoers object to ubiquitous surveillance.
13. In conjunction with endless military adventures overseas and “soldiers defend our freedoms” rhetoric, it conditions the public to worship authority figures in uniform, and predisposes them to cheerfully accept future augmentations of military and police authority without a peep of protest.
14. It creates enormously lucrative opportunities for the large banks — one of the most important real constituencies of the American government — to launder money from drug trafficking.
15. Thanks to major drug production centers like the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia, the opium industry in Afghanistan, and the cocaine industry in South America, it enables the CIA — the world’s largest narcotrafficking gang — to obtain enormous revenues for funding black ops and death squads around the world. This network of clandestine intelligence agencies, narcotraffickers and death squads, by the way, is the other major real constituency of the American government.
The Drug War would indeed be a failure if its real function was to reduce drug consumption or drug-related violence. But the success or failure of state policies is rightly judged by the extent to which they promote the interests served by the state. The Drug War is a failure only if the state exists to serve you.
Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation, and his own Mutualist Blog.
Distrust of the U.S. government has reached an all-time high among Americans, a majority of whom now say Washington represents a threat to their personal freedoms.
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 53% of respondents said the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms. Those disagreeing numbered 43%.
The percentage of those viewing the government as a threat represents a six-point increase from nearly three years ago, when 47% said they felt that way, and a 23% jump from November 2001, when Americans rallied around their government following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Conservative Republicans are the largest group who distrust Washington, with 76% expressing fear for their personal freedoms. A majority (54%) described the government as a “major” threat.
Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom, while 47% said it was a major threat, according to the Pew survey.
Meanwhile, only 38% of Democrats see the government as a threat to personal rights and freedoms, with 16% viewing it as a major threat.
Among gun owners, 62% see the government as a threat, compared with 45% of those without guns.
Twitter has released its second transparency report, which demonstrated a frightening increase in requests for user data by the US government and ignited serious concerns over privacy and free expression.
The list disclosed data requests from over 30 nations, and revealed that the US government was responsible for 815 of the 1,009 information requests in the second half of 2012 – just over 80 percent of all inquiries.
Twenty percent of all US requests were ‘under seal,’ meaning that users were not notified that their information was accessed.
The overall number of requests worldwide also steadily increased last year, rising from 849 in the January to June 2012 period to 1009 in the July to December 2012 period.
Twitter’s legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel blogged that, “it is vital for us (and other Internet services) to be transparent about government requests for user information.”
“These growing inquiries can have a serious chilling effect on free expression – and real privacy implications,” he wrote.
He went on to express hopes that the publication of the transparency data would be helpful in two ways – “to raise public awareness about these invasive requests,” and “to enable policy makers to make more informed decisions.”
The majority of US requests were subpoenas, which comprised 60 percent of government demands for information. Subpoenas usually seek user information such as email addresses affiliated with accounts and IP logs. A user’s whereabouts can generally be located by the IP address they are using.
Twitter complied with US government requests 69 percent of the time, according to the report.
Twitter released its transparency report on January 28, dubbed ‘Data Privacy Day.’ The US National Cyber Security alliance said it founded the day to “empower people to protect their privacy.”
According to Twitter’s report, several other governments made over 10 requests each for personal information, including Brazil, Canada, France, Japan and the UK. Japan ranked the second-highest on the list after the US; however, the US made 753 more demands for information than Japan.
Google released a statement marking the occasion, saying that the company “[doesn’t] want our services to be used in harmful ways,” and that it is “important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.”
Earlier this month, France ruled that Twitter must disclose to authorities the identities of people writing anti-Semitic tweets using the hashtags #UnBonJuif [A Good Jew] and #UnJuifMort [A Dead Jew]. The social networking platform will be fined 1,000 euros a day until it complies.
The publication of the survey came shortly after Google published its own transparency report, which showed a similarly disturbing 25 percent rise in data requests from government authorities. The report also revealed that the US had made the most requests for private information to Google of any government: Over 8,438 in the second half of 2012.
UK-based rights group Privacy International later commented that “Google, Facebook and Twitter are highly vulnerable to government intrusion.”
“I am alarmed by the number of government requests and concerned that so many are done with merely a subpoena,” said John Simpson, a consumer advocate with the California-based group Consumer Watchdog. “A warrant should be required.”
- Twitter Transparency Report v2 (twitter.com)
- Twitter: Government user data requests have risen 20 percent (sott.net)
Afghan and Iraqi Victims of Torture by U.S. Military Seek Justice From International Human Rights Tribunal
After being shut out of U.S. courts, yesterday we filed a case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of three Afghans and three Iraqis who were tortured while held by the American military at detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Pictured above are Sherzad Kamal Khalid, left, and Thahe Mohammed Sabbar, in front of the White House during a visit to the U.S. in November 2005.)
The men are part of a group that in 2005 sued then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and three senior military officials in federal court for their torture and abusive treatment. Because that case was dismissed on immunity grounds before reaching the merits, we are taking their case to the IAHCR, an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States. Our petition, the equivalent of a federal legal complaint, asks the commission to conduct a full investigation into the human rights violations and seeks an apology on behalf of the six men from the U.S. government.
Between 2003 and 2004, the men were imprisoned in U.S.-run detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, where, the petition charges, they were subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions and prolonged restraint in excruciating positions. None of the men were ever charged with a crime.
Because a remedy for these men has been denied in American courts, these courageous men are seeking to hold the U.S. government accountable on the world stage.
One of the victims, Ali Hussein, was only 17 years old when he was detained by the U.S. military in August 2003. He was held for four weeks at Abu Ghraib prison and other locations throughout Iraq. Hussein, who is now a law student, was shot in the neck and back before being arrested. He was denied food, water and pain medication for almost two days after he was shot.. He said that military personnel refused to provide him medical care for several hours, and when the bullets were eventually removed, the procedure was done without anesthetic. You can read more about the abuse that Hussein and the other plaintiffs suffered here.
In a statement yesterday, Hussein said, “I think that I and the many others who suffered unfairly at the hands of the American government deserve justice. We want America to admit that what happened to us was wrong and should never be allowed to happen again to anyone anywhere.”
As our petition highlights, “[t]he U.S. government’s own reports document that the torture and inhumane treatment that the petitioners were subjected to was not an aberration; on the contrary, it was widespread and systemic throughout the U.S.-run detention facilities in the two countries. These same reports also document that the torture and inhumane treatment of detainees were the direct result of policies and practices promulgated and implemented at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
Despite these reports and petitioners’ and other detainees’ credible allegations of torture and inhumane treatment, the U.S. government has failed to conduct any comprehensive criminal investigation, has not held accountable those responsible, and has not provided any form of redress to the petitioners and the many other victims and survivors of U.S. torture and abuse.”
A district court dismissed the federal case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, on the grounds that constitutional protections do not apply to foreigners in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Iraq and that the American officials were immune from lawsuits stemming from actions taken “within the scope of their official duties.” In his March 2007 ruling, Judge Thomas A. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia called the case “appalling,” and noted that “the facts alleged in the complaint stand as an indictment of the humanity with which the United States treats its detainees.” The D.C. appeals court upheld the dismissal last June.
The Ali v. Rumsfeld decision is not unique. It is one of several lawsuits in which victims and survivors of torture have been denied their day in American courts. These cases include Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, a lawsuit against a flight logistics company that facilitated CIA “torture flights” across the globe; El-Masri v. Tenet, a lawsuit brought by a man abducted and sent to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan; and Padilla v. Rumsfeld, a lawsuit brought by a U.S. citizen who was unlawfully detained and abused on U.S. soil (this case is currently pending appeal).
Despite U.S. court’s dismissal of these cases, that the United States tortured and abused many men in pursuit of its so-called “war on terror” is not in dispute. As Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the U.S. Army’s official investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and testified before Congress on his findings in May 2004, has stated publicly: “[t]here is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] Administration committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Although, to date, no high-ranking government officials have yet been held to account for their actions, yesterday’s filing with the IACHR seeks to do just that and to ensure that the government respects basic human rights, including the right of everyone to be free from torture and inhumane treatment.
- The Criminal in Chief (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- DOJ Wants American Contractor’s Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld Dismissed (legaltimes.typepad.com)
- Shabak tortures and ill-treats Palestinian detainees with impunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)