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Posts Tagged ‘NDAA’

Defund the Pentagon – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on August 13, 2020

Economist Robert Higgs has showed that “the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense.” He calculated — ten years ago — that real defense spending was more than a trillion dollars a year. It is certainly not a penny less now.”

https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/defund-the-police/

by

Many liberals and progressives in the Democratic Party have been loudly calling for the defunding of police departments around the country after the tragic death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. While defunding the police — not to be confused with disbanding the police — means different things to different people, most advocates propose redirecting a portion of city and county police budgets to social programs, mental health intervention, combating homelessness, and affordable housing programs.

Conservatives and Republicans have generally pushed back against calls to defund the police. They typically maintain that the level of police misconduct is overstated, that police departments just need to be reformed, and that violent crime and property crime will increase if police department budgets are cut. In response to some major cities calling for defunding the police, Donald Trump simply said, “We won’t be defunding our police. We won’t be dismantling our police. We won’t be disbanding our police. We won’t be ending our police force.” Certainly the president knows that funding levels for police departments are decided on the local level without any input whatsoever from the federal government?

There is, however, one area of government spending that liberals, conservatives, Democrats, and Republicans are united on that they don’t want defunded. Even though it is one of the largest expenditures of the federal government and is unnecessary and destructive in so many ways, these groups from across the political spectrum don’t want to defund the military in any way. And of course, Trump has pushed for higher military budgets ever since he was elected.

The Democratic-controlled House (H.R.6395) and the Republican-controlled Senate (S.4049) each just passed their own version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020–Sept. 30, 2021). The bipartisan votes in the House and Senate were 295 to 125, and 86 to 14.

According to the Congressional Research Service’s publication Defense Primer: Navigating the NDAA, “Unlike an appropriations bill, the NDAA does not provide budget authority for the Department of Defense (DOD). Instead, the NDAA establishes or continues defense programs, policies, projects, or activities at DOD and other federal agencies, and provides guidance on how the appropriated funds are to be used in carrying out those authorized activities.” Budget authority is provided in subsequent appropriations legislation.

The House and Senate bills authorize FY2021 appropriations and set forth “policies for Department of Defense (DOD) programs and activities, including military personnel strengths.”

Specifically, both bills authorize appropriations to the DOD for:

• Procurement, including aircraft, weapons and tracked combat vehicles, shipbuilding and conversion, and missiles
• Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation
• Operation and Maintenance
• Working Capital Funds
• Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction
• Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities
• The Defense Inspector General
• The Defense Health Program
• The Armed Forces Retirement Home
• Overseas Contingency Operations;
• The Space Force
• Military Construction

Both bills also authorize personnel strengths for active duty and reserve forces and set forth policies regarding:

• Military personnel
• Acquisition policy and management
• International programs
• National Guard and Reserve Forces facilities
• Compensation and other personnel benefits
• Health care
• DOD organization and management
• Civilian personnel matters
• Matters relating to foreign nations
• Strategic programs, cyber, and intelligence matters

The bills also authorize appropriations for base realignment and closure activities and maritime matters, and authorize appropriations and set forth policies for Department of Energy national security programs, including the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

Both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA would fund defense for fiscal year 2021 at the obscene amount of $740.5 billion.

Politico recently ran two opinion pieces on defunding the Pentagon: the conservative case and the liberal case.

The conservative case was made by Andrew Lautz of the National Taxpayers Union and Jonathan Bydlak of the R Street Institute’s Fiscal and Budget Policy Project:

With resources more limited than ever, areas of the budget that were off-limits for years should now be more closely scrutinized. At the top of that list should be the single largest part of the federal discretionary budget, an entire category of spending that has long been off the table: the Pentagon.

Republicans in Congress need to start tackling the Pentagon budget just as boldly as they do other areas of discretionary spending. Doing so would put our nation on a better fiscal path and create opportunities for unlikely political alliances. Conservative figures like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) for years advocated restraint at the Pentagon; two of the most recent efforts to restrain the Pentagon’s budget in the coming year come from staunchly progressive members of Congress: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

The liberal case for defunding the Pentagon was made by Senator Sanders. Addressing directly the NDAA, he said,

Under this legislation, over half of our discretionary budget would go to the Department of Defense at a time when tens of millions of Americans are food insecure and over a half-million Americans are sleeping out on the street.

Moreover, this extraordinary level of military spending comes at a time when the Department of Defense is the only agency of our federal government that has not been able to pass an independent audit, when defense contractors are making enormous profits while paying their CEOs outrageous compensation packages, and when the so-called War on Terror will cost some $6 trillion.

If the horrific pandemic we are now experiencing has taught us anything it is that national security means a lot more than building bombs, missiles, nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction. National security also means doing everything we can to improve the lives of tens of millions of people living in desperation who have been abandoned by our government decade after decade.

Sanders introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would “reduce the military budget by 10 percent and use that $74 billion in savings to invest in communities that have been ravaged by extreme poverty, mass incarceration, decades of neglect, and the Covid-19 pandemic.” It didn’t pass.

Conservatives at the Heritage Foundation — who seem to have never seen a defense budget that was high enough — took notice of the Politico articles. Writing in “What the ‘Defunding the Pentagon’ Articles Don’t Tell You,” Thomas Spoehr, who “serves as director of Heritage’s Center for National Defense where he is responsible for supervising research on matters involving U.S. national defense,” says that “both pieces lack some information that would contribute to a richer, more informed discussion of this critically important topic.” His article’s three key takeaways are:

1. National defense now consumes the smallest portion of the U.S. federal budget in a hundred years — 15% — and continues to shrink.
2. Our defense responsibilities include security commitments to NATO, Japan, South Korea, international sea lanes, and other areas.
3. If the nation is going to effectively counter China, Russia, and others, continued military rebuilding following years of budget cuts is necessary.

It is no surprise that “prior to joining Heritage, Spoehr served for more than 36 years in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of Lieutenant General.”

Spoehr’s first point is a typical conservative smokescreen to justify higher defense budgets. By talking about the defense budget in terms of a percentage of something (GDP, the total federal budget, prior years, et cetera) instead of absolute numbers, conservatives can deflect attention from the obscene level of defense spending. And even worse, defense spending is actually much higher than the budgeted amount. Economist Robert Higgs has showed that “the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense.” He calculated — ten years ago — that real defense spending was more than a trillion dollars a year. It is certainly not a penny less now.

Spoehr’s second point is certainly true. The concern that he never raises is “Why?” Why should the U.S. Department of Defense, funded by U.S. taxpayers, and charged with defending the United States, have “security commitments to NATO, Japan, South Korea, international sea lanes, and other areas”?

Spoehr’s third point assumes that the United States needs to counter “China, Russia, and others.” That is only because U.S. foreign policy is reckless, belligerent, and meddling instead of being a Jeffersonian foreign policy of neutrality, nonintervention, peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none. And it is simply not true that there have been years of defense budget cuts. All one has to do is look up the figures. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending rose from $470.55 billion in 2001 to the obscene level of $849.87 billion in 2010. It declined in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014; basically stayed level in 2015, 2016, and 2017; and then rose in 2018 and 2019.

Because the Department of Defense functions as the Department of Offense, it is the Pentagon that needs to be defunded.

Laurence M. Vance is a columnist and policy advisor for the Future of Freedom Foundation, an associated scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and a columnist, blogger, and book reviewer at LewRockwell.com. He is the author of Gun Control and the Second Amendment, The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, and War, Empire and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy. His newest books are Free Trade or Protectionism? and The Free Society. Visit his website: www.vancepublications.com. Send him e-mail.

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Trump’s Point of No Return – Gold Goats ‘n Guns

Posted by M. C. on January 5, 2020

Like it or not Trump executed the man most responsible for the systemic destruction of ISIS and neutering of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. He’s also a man, over the years, who has fought the U.S. to a standstill across the Middle East.

Those were his pertinent crimes.

Israel has been itching for the U.S. to attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear R&D facilities. The only way to achieve that was to get Trump to pull out of the JCPOA, forcing Iran back into enrichment and then using that as the casus belli.

https://tomluongo.me/2020/01/03/trump-point-of-no-return/

When I wrote that the coup against President Trump had morphed into a Civil War, I wasn’t kidding. The sham impeachment created the perfect environment for the Democrats and Republicans to get something definitive from him by playing the House and the Senate off each other.

With the Senate Neocon Occupied Territory the escalation of belligerence since Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through the impeachment vote has been serious.

First, there was the rider to the NDAA which upped the sanctions on everyone willing to work on Nordstream 2. Then Lindsey Graham pushed the frankly insane DASKA bill through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Pelosi forced her impeachment vote through the House on partisan lines. Then, clearly overstepping her authority, she refused to send the Articles to the Senate hoping to add a more serious charge, like Obstruction of Justice or Treason for laundering Russian money through Deutsche Bank.

It is under these circumstances we should view the events in Iraq over the last week, especially the killing of IRGC Quds Forces Commander Qassem Solemaini.

Because I’ve warned from the beginning of this impeachment, Trump was just 17 votes in the Senate away from conviction. And failure on his part to respond to an attack on our troops now or our soil, the embassy in Baghdad, would have been enough to turn that many against him and install Mike Pence.

At the end of the day we are held captive by a minority of power-mad Trotskyites without any capacity for forgiveness or humility. They believe in societal order through the whip and the sword.

Truly Maoist in their thinking, the only political power that exists comes from the barrel of a gun. This is why there has been zero opportunities for diplomacy with Iran.

Iran is to be destroyed. If not today, tomorrow. If not then then the day after. It will not end…

This is the most dangerous escalation of Trump’s administration. Nothing he’s done to this point compares with killing Solemaini and taking immediate credit for it.

Nothing he’s done is more tone deaf or disproportionate to whatever crimes were the proximate cause. And nothing he could have done would be more galvanizing of resistance to U.S. occupation of Iraq and Syria…

A strong man admits his mistakes and makes concessions to those he’s harmed. He doesn’t hide behind how unfair it is the political machine is arrayed against him.

And, now, he’s a failed president no different than Obama who he despises.

The only thing more pathetic than Trump right now is the gaggle of jackals running against him. Weep for the future.

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Why Iran Is One of the Most Exciting Architecture ...

 

 

 

 

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While You Were Obsessing Over Impeachment

Posted by M. C. on January 4, 2020

The political class, including the mainstream media, would prefer you pay attention to the fluff, not to the things that really matter. Perhaps instead of obsessing over impeachment or the latest debate over a Trump tweet, you would be better served to pay attention to what they don’t want you to pay attention to.

https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2019/12/20/while-you-were-obsessing-over-impeachment/

…While you argued over the gory details of impeachment with your friends on Facebook, Congress passed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The nearly 3,500-page bill authorizes $738 billion in defense spending in Fiscal Year 2020. It creates a “Space Force,” so the U.S. can expand its empire into the cosmos. And Congress rejected a provision that would have made it just slightly harder for the president to unilaterally send American troops into combat. In other words, Congress agreed that it would not bother to do its job and declare war before sending the U.S. military to conduct offensive combat operations as required by the Constitution. It will continue to let the president make that call on his own. You know – the president the House just impeached.

Even worse, the current iteration of the NDAA extended provisions written into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that effectively authorize government kidnapping. The vaguely worded sections purport to authorize the arrest and “indefinite detention” of anybody the president decides might be associated with “terrorism” and subject them to the law of war. In effect, the government can deem you a terrorist and lock you away without due process. Government kidnapping may sound like hyperbole, but that’s exactly what the NDAA authorizes in effect.

Speaking of war, while all eyes were glued to the three-ring circus in D.C., the Washington Post released documents revealing that the U.S. government has been lying to us about the war in Afghanistan for decades.

“A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”

As one three-star general put it, “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction .?.?. 2,400 lives lost.”

This seems, maybe, just a tiny bit, significant. But the news barely saw the light of day. It was completely buried under an avalanche of impeachment reporting…

So, let’s review. While America was mesmerized by the pro-wrestling event on Capitol Hill, Congress agreed to maintain the government’s “authority” to kidnap you, to keep spying on you without a warrant, to continue unconstitutional wars, and to spend you deeper into debt.

Political theater makes for splashy headlines and heated debates, but it really has very little impact on your life. The political class, including the mainstream media, would prefer you pay attention to the fluff, not to the things that really matter. Perhaps instead of obsessing over impeachment or the latest debate over a Trump tweet, you would be better served to pay attention to what they don’t want you to pay attention to.

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An End to the World as We Know It?, by Philip Giraldi – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on December 26, 2019

Congress and the White House compete in year-end stupidity sweepstakes.

The U.S., to be sure, has been adept at turning adversaries into enemies and disappointing friends, and it is all done with a glib assurance that doing so will somehow bring democracy and freedom to all.

https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/an-end-to-the-world-as-we-know-it/

At the end of the nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston stated what he thought was obvious, that “England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests.” Palmerston was saying that national interests should drive the relationships with foreigners. A nation will have amicable relations most of the time with some countries and difficult relations with some others, but the bottom line should always be what is beneficial for one’s own country and people.

If Palmerston were alive today and observing the relationship of the United States of America with the rest of the world, he might well find Washington to be an exception to his rule. The U.S., to be sure, has been adept at turning adversaries into enemies and disappointing friends, and it is all done with a glib assurance that doing so will somehow bring democracy and freedom to all. Indeed, either neoliberal democracy promotion or the neoconservative version of the same have been seen as an overriding and compelling interest during the past twenty years even though the policies themselves have been disastrous and have only damaged the real interests of the American people.

The U.S. relationship with Israel is, for example, driven by a powerful and wealthy domestic lobby rather than by any common interests at all yet it is regularly falsely touted as being between two “close allies” and “best friends.” It has cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for the Jewish state and Israeli influence over U.S. policy in the Middle East region has led to catastrophic military interventions in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Mogadishu and Libya. Currently, Israel is agitating for U.S. action against the nonexistent Iranian “threat” while also unleashing its lobby in the United States to make illegal criticism of any of its war crimes, effectively curtailing freedom of speech and association for all Americans.

Far more dangerous is the continued excoriation of the Kremlin over the largely mythical Russiagate narrative. Congress has recently approved a bill that would give to Ukraine $300 million in supplementary military assistance to use against Russia. The money and authorization appear in the House of Representatives version of the national defense authorization act (NDAA) that passed last week.

The bill is a renewal of the controversial Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that Donald Trump allegedly manipulated to bring about an investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter. The new version expands on the former assistance package to include coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles as offensive weapons that are acceptable for export to Kiev. It also authorizes an additional $50 million in military assistance on top of the $250 million congress had granted in last year’s bill, “of which $100 million would be available only for lethal assistance.”

Ukraine sought the money and arms to counter Russian naval dominance in the Black Sea through its base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. One year ago the Russian navy captured three Ukrainian warships and Kiev was unable to push back against Moscow because it lacked weapons designed to attack ships. Now it will have them and presumably it will use them. How Russia will react is unknowable.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, has been in Washington lobbying for the additional military assistance. He has had considerable success, particularly as there is bipartisan support in Congress for aid to Kiev and also because the Trump Departments of Defense and State as well as the National Security Council are all on board in countering the “Russian threat” in the Black Sea. President Trump signed the NDAA last week, which completed the process.

Far more ominously, Kuleba and his interlocutors in the administration and congress have been revisiting a proposal first surfaced under Bill Clinton, that Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to the NATO alliance. Like the $300 million in military aid, there appears to be considerable bipartisan support for such a move. NATO already has a major presence on the Black Sea with Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey all members. Adding Ukraine and Georgia would completely isolate the Russian presence and Moscow would undoubtedly see it as an existential threat.

The NDAA also provides seed money to initiate the so-called Space Force, which President Trump inaugurated by describing it as “the world’s newest war-fighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. We’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, but very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot. The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

If that isn’t bad enough, the new defense budget ominously also requires the Trump administration to impose sanctions “with respect to provision of certain vessels for the construction of certain Russian energy export pipelines.” Last week the House of Representatives and Senate approved specific sanctions relating to the companies and governments that are collaborating on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will cross the Baltic Sea from Vyborg to Greifswald to connect Germany with Russian natural gas. President Trump has signed off on the legislation.

The United States has opposed the project ever since it was first mooted, claiming that it will make Europe “hostage” to Russian energy, will enrich the Russian government, and will also empower Russian President Vladimir Putin to be more aggressive. Engineering companies that will be providing services such as pipe-laying will be targeted by Washington as the Trump administration tries to halt the completion of the $10.5 billion project.

Now that the NDAA has been signed, the Trump administration has 60 days to identify companies, individuals and even foreign governments that have in some way provided services or assistance to the pipeline project. Sanctions would block individuals from travel to the United States and would freeze bank accounts and other tangible property that would be identified by the U.S. Treasury. One company that will definitely be targeted for sanctions is the Switzerland-based Allseas, which has been contracted with by Russia’s Gazprom to build the offshore section of pipeline. It has suspended work on the project while it examines the implications of the sanctions.

Bear in mind that Nord Stream 2 is a peaceful commercial project between two countries that have friendly relations, making the threats implicit in the U.S. reaction more than somewhat inappropriate. Increased U.S. sanctions against Russia itself are also believed to be a possibility and there has even been some suggestion that the German government and its energy ministry might be sanctioned. This has predictably resulted in pushback from Germany, normally a country that is inclined to go along with any and all American initiatives. Last week German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asked Congress not to meddle in European energy policy, saying “We think this is unacceptable, because it is ultimately a move to influence autonomous decisions that are made in Europe. European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the U.S.”

German Bundestag member Andreas Nick warned that “It’s an issue of national sovereignty, and it is potentially a liability for trans-Atlantic relations.” That Trump is needlessly alienating important countries like Germany that are genuine allies, unlike Israel and Saudi Arabia, over an issue that is not an actual American interest is unfortunate. It makes one think that the wheels have definitely come off the cart in Washington.

The point is that Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and Mike Esper (admittedly too many Mikes) wouldn’t know a national interest if it hit them in the face. Their politicization of policy to “win in 2020” promoting apocalyptic nonsense like war in space has also reinforced an existing tunnel vision on what Russia under Vladimir Putin is all about that is extremely dangerous. Admittedly, Team Trump throws out sanctions in all directions with reckless abandon, mostly aimed at Russia, Iran, North Korea and, the current favorite, Venezuela. No one is immune. But the escalation going from sanctions to arming the Kremlin’s enemies is both reckless and pointless. Russia will definitely strike back if it is attacked, make no mistake about that, and war could easily escalate with tragic consequences for all of us. That war is perhaps becoming thinkable is in itself deplorable, with Business Insider running a recent piece on surviving a nuclear attack. New homes in target America will likely soon come equipped with bomb shelters, just like in the 1950s.

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges Congress To Oppose Authorization for War Against Iran – Antiwar.com Blog

Posted by M. C. on May 23, 2018

More war culture

https://www.antiwar.com/blog/2018/05/22/rep-tulsi-gabbard-urges-congress-to-oppose-authorization-for-war-against-iran/

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) spoke on the floor today urging support for her amendment in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that upholds Congress’s constitutional power to declare war. The congresswoman’s amendment strikes the language of Section 1225 of the FY2019 NDAA that authorizes the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to develop and implement a strategy to counter the “destabilizing activities of Iran” and only afterwards inform Congress. The amendment will be on the House floor for a vote tomorrow, May 23. Read the rest of this entry »

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RT May Soon Be Dropped by US Providers, Courtesy of McCain & Graham

Posted by M. C. on September 24, 2017

Only officially approved versions of the truth will be accepted.

It is pretty much that way already with lamestream/NPR media.

The scum brothers McCain and Graham – No surprise there.

http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/rt-may-soon-be-dropped-us-providers-courtesy-mccain-graham/ri21012

Buried deep inside the just-passed defense budget is a small amendment, which could lead to a ban on broadcasting RT in America. The architects of the provision, Senators Graham and McCain, may recall that in their youth such practices formed what was known as the ‘Iron Curtain’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who Gives Its People a Fair Chance? Afghanistan Does

Posted by M. C. on September 20, 2012

The last two administrations have turned the US into a Bizarro world. Bad is good, war is peace, shredding the Constitution is freedom, censorship is free speech. We have reached a new low, but probably not the bottom. While one of the most backward, corrupt countries is possibly on the way to its old self of a thousand years ago. The Middle East was, in general, the leader in art, science, education and justice when Europe was wallowing in poverty, ignorance and disease. We may be coming full circle. Read the rest of this entry »

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