Thursday, January 18, 2007

The USA public is not taking it much longer

Whither all the war protesters?

As the Iraq war heads toward 'surge,' the antiwar movement, now mostly online, nears a crucial moment.

On a beach in US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district the other day, about 1,000 war protesters formed up to spell out the word "IMPEACH." The aerial photo quickly spread to China and Europe.

Still, there were no political harangues, no civil disobedience. The quiet turnout was mostly "old hippies, and even older hippies," jokes event organizer Brad Newsham.

In Boston, a peaceful rally to protest the planned "surge" in US troops drew no more than a few hundred people.

'Impeach' on the Beach: About 1,000 protesters gathered Jan. 6 on Ocean Beach in San Francisco to rally against President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Nearly four years into US combat in Iraq, the antiwar movement has yet to generate the kind of mass protest seen during the Vietnam War. There's no shutting down universities or blocking traffic at military bases – no tense face-offs with police.

But with the new Congress, the Bush administration's surge strategy (which critics deem an "escalation" of the conflict), and increasingly negative public opinion polls on the war, this may be a critical moment for the antiwar movement.

Now, it is organizing and most active in cyberspace. And while that "public space" is not as visible as the town square and university grounds nearly four decades ago, it no doubt feeds the growing public opposition to the Iraq war. (Seventy percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll last week.)

One key reason that opposition to the war has been less overt, organizers recognize, is the lack of a military draft. Also, the scale of the war is different. There were four times as many troops involved and 10 times as many American casualties over a comparable period in Vietnam.

Third, only a handful of Americans are directly affected by the war or asked to sacrifice for it.

For many, "it feels removed," says Tressa Jones of Needham, Mass., who joined the recent rally in Boston. "It's easy to forget because there hasn't been a draft. It's not wartime in the way we are living.... People aren't collecting scrap metal or growing victory gardens."

Yet scholars of recent controversial wars say that though the Iraq War is far different from Vietnam in many ways, opposition, in fact, developed much sooner.

"Protests against the Iraq war, throughout, have been at a far higher level than they were with regard to Vietnam at comparable stages of the invasions," says Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist who was an early critic of US involvement in Southeast Asia and often opposes US foreign policy in general.

"It wasn't until late 1967, five years after [President John F. Kennedy's] outright invasion, that a substantial movement became visible – and even then, and in fact until the end, it was mostly focused on the bombing of the North," Dr. Chomsky said in an e-mail. "It's hard to know how to measure effects – we don't have internal records, as in the case of Vietnam – but they have at least kept it visible enough so that most of the population has been in favor of withdrawal."

The Web played an important part in defeating war supporters in Congress last November, which in turn led to the current Democratic majority there.

One significant development: Thanks to e-mail and the Internet being available to most troops in Iraq and their families back home, the war can be very immediate to many Americans. That keeps many fighting men and women more politically aware and engaged than in past wars.

As a result, more American troops now disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war than approve of it, according to a recent Military Times poll.

"When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war – in 2004 – 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely," Military Times reports. Now, " that number has shrunk to 50 percent. Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way Bush is handling the war, and 42 percent said they disapprove."

At the same time, according to the poll, the number of military respondents who identify with the Republican Party has dropped from 60 percent in 2004 to 46 percent today.

On Tuesday, two active duty servicemen – Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto and Marine Corps Sergeant Liam Madden, who served in two tours in Iraq – presented to Congress more than 1,000 signatures from active duty and Reserve troops in support of "the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq." The day before, about a dozen of those troops held a press conference at a Unitarian Church in Norfolk, Va., to voice their opposition to the war.

Those are relatively small numbers compared with the 140,000 US troops currently in Iraq. But it's the kind of act that gets public and political notice. And it echoes 1969, when 1,366 active duty troops signed a full-page ad in The New York Times opposing the war in Vietnam.

Around the country next week, Veterans for Peace will launch an antiwar effort based on a constitutional argument. Organizers will target Democratic lawmakers – especially those in leadership positions like House Speaker Pelosi.

"The Constitution is being violated," says Vietnam veteran Lee Thorn of San Francisco, referring to allegations that the US has tortured prisoners as well as what he calls infringements of civil liberties. "It's our duty as those who've taken an oath to defend the Constitution to continue."

Later in the week, a large "mobilization" of antiwar groups is planned in Washington.

The Sino-American Arms Race Begins by Jeff McMahan Thursday, Jan 18 2007, 6:41pm

Chinese Stance in Opposition to US Expansion in Space Will Set Off New Arms Race

The Chinese gov't just tested a ASAT (anti-satellite attack) system successfully. The US is bound to respond by ratcheting up its warmarking capabilities in space.

I have written in past weeks about the position of the Bush Administration with regard to arms in space (it is aggressive, confrontational, and it flouts international law and public consensus). The fear has been that US may mean to begin an arms race in space, and thus put the Cold War Pentagon system back into full operation to give the executive more economic leverage by further enriching the high technology sector of the US economy (by way of an enormous public subsidy on the order of hundreds of billions a year).

Some time ago, the Chinese military is believed to have tested a high-powered laser beam for use in blinding US satellites, and the test was successful (or so said a Pentagon spokesmen). This happened just prior to the administration’s release of a revised policy directive on US military presence in space. Things have just gotten much worse.

US intelligence agencies are now reporting that USAF radar detected a ballistic missile launch from a Chinese Space Center; the missile was being tested for its ability to destroy an old, orbiting weather satellite, some 530 miles above the Earth. The test is said to have been successful, and it is suspected that the missile was “hit-to-kill,” meaning that the weapons system is advanced, well-designed and able to destroy targets without resorting to huge explosions, covering wide areas. USAF radar is thought to be tracking the plummeting debris at present, according to DefenseTech, a news and information website. [Visit:]

This is all pretty suspicious given the tactical and geopolitical stupidity of the Chinese decision to go forward with this test; could it possibly be that Beijing wants an arms race? One would think that with the Chinese command economy, an arms race is not needed – the executive is not looking for an economic lever because it is the only such lever. But the fact remains that the obvious and predictable outcome of this action is an arms race, and the Chinese see this and must have contemplated it long before taking such a rash action. This leads one to wonder whether the Chinese are seeking to recreate a new US-Russian-style arms race to allow both the US and China to take advantage of the economic and technological advances that these “highly functional” standoff arrangements create. To illustrate, Noam Chomsky quotes the Vice CFO of LTV Aerospace Corporation in his 1970 book, At War With Asia:
It’s basic. Its selling appeal is defense of the home. This is one of the greatest appeals the politicians have to adjusting the system. If you’re the President and you need a control factor in the economy, and you need to sell this factor, you …can sell self-preservation, a new environment. We’re going to increase defense budgets as long as those bastards in Russia are ahead of us. The American people understand this.

The same motivations apply in the present period, but with the Russian villain vanquished (not by our military prowess, but by the hideous inefficiency of totalitarian government) it is necessary to pick out a new mortal enemy and to reconstitute the lost beneficial arrangements. This nuclear standoff keeps domestic criticism silenced, while allowing politicians to subsidize the elites that own stock in and control the massive defense industry (which is interpenetrative with every other major branch of US industry). In what now seems a very insightful bit of prophecy, Chomsky remarks that if the Russians are for some reason no longer sufficient to sway the citizens to fear for their lives, “it is always possible to call upon …luminaries to warn of the billion Chinese, armed to the teeth and setting out on world conquest.” And here we are, 37 years later, about to watch our elites and “luminaries” make exactly this apology for aggressively pursuing policy goals that will further endanger the survival of mankind, and fill our last frontier with frighteningly effective killing machines.

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posted by u2r2h at 9:56 PM


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