From the Front Lines of the War on Austerity

MEDIA ROOTS – United Front Against Austerity (UFAA) is a grassroots coalition with the bold initiative and hopefully the tenacity to inspire a generation increasingly strapped with debt and a diminishing political voice. Lead by such notables as author Webster G. Tarpley, an initial conference is scheduled tomorrow in New York City and will feature input from other activists such as Cindy Sheehan.

The event is sure to invoke a desperately needed review from where previous recent social movements have left off. The assembly intends to build on the advances that have already occurred in Wisconsin with insightful decisions, specific demands, and mobilized action. It will be streamed live and mechanisms are in place for online participants to also share their voice.

Dr. Tarpley, a lifelong historical philosopher, drafted an opinion piece earlier this week on how the establishment political parties (Republicans and Democrats) are succeeding in demeaning the vast majority of the American electorate – the middle and lower classes.

“There is today a consensus between Wall Street and Washington that draconian austerity must be imposed in the United States. This will be the case no matter whether Obama or Romney wins the upcoming election,” predicts the author of George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, a 1992 publication about the senior past president. Dr. Tarpley continues, “the financiers of lower Manhattan are thus ignoring the evidence offered by these other countries showing that austerity policies reduce employment, lower production, cause severe mass privation, introduce powerful elements of chaos into society, and actually increase the government budget deficits in future years — meaning that austerity fails even in its own terms.”

Because it is already ensured that virtually nothing will change upon the outcome of this year’s presidential election, this coalition is wasting no time to act. After all, effective social movements are not established overnight and time may actually be even more limited than the dwindling value of today’s dollar.

For more information on the UFAA conference, be sure to check out againstausterity.org and tune in to the live feed starting Saturday, October 27 at noon Eastern.

Oskar Mosco for Media Roots.

Image provided by United Front Against Austerity.

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PRESS TV – Observers have noted that Obama and Biden, in their three debates held so far with their Republican rivals, have never mentioned the traditional Democratic Party platform planks of raising the minimum wage; preserving the funding of the food stamp program (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of the US Department Of Agriculture) which keeps some 50 million Americans alive; maintaining and extending unemployment insurance payments to the jobless; or making it easier for trade unions to organize. 

This failure by Obama and Biden to even mention these concerns of lower middle class working people and the working poor does not represent astute politics. On the one hand, it is true that the Democratic Party has almost entirely lost its earlier base of support among white male workers. But the Democratic Party still has a sizable constituency of working women, often single mothers, who have no college education. These are the so-called “waitress moms,” for whom the economic issues are very important. But the Democratic Party ignores them, since promises of this type might get in the way of delivering the austerity demanded by Wall Street. 

To read Dr. Tarpley’s article in its entirety, check out Republicans, Democrats attacking Americans in bipartisan push for austerity at PressTV.ir.

Nobamney: Other Presidential Campaigns



MEDIA ROOTS – For the third straight election, an international convenience store chain is now offering coffee cups featuring President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. The unscientific poll currently claims to hold Obama over Romney, 58 to 42 percent respectively.

The marketing ploy has been labeled “7-Election” and offers cups featuring only the two establishment candidates running for office. However, several additional candidates continue to actively run while still not taken seriously by corporate establishments. Below are grassroots campaigns that voters might also consider to support this November despite them not having their face stamped on cups of joe.

Gary JohnsonJim Gray – Libertarian Party

    Johnson is the sanest man running for president, according to GQ. He’s on the ballot in 47 states and believes the federal government spends too much because it does too much, such as subsidizing public energy resources and prolonging warfare.

Rocky AndersonLuis Rodriguez – Justice Party

    The former mayor of Salt Lake City wishes to create a watchdog agency, instead re-enlisting Congress, to oversee the Federal Reserve while raising the federal minimum wage without first halting inflation.

Rosanne BarrCindy Sheehan – Peace and Freedom Party

    Barr calls for an end to the prohibition of marijuana, rejects continued war support for Israel, and supported Sheehan’s congressional campaign in 2008. But who will run with Barr now that Sheehan has resigned from the campaign?

Dr. Jill SteinCheri Honkala – Green Party

    This team has based their campaign around their Green New Deal and wishes to create millions of green jobs. But Dr. Stein admits a vote for her would “take votes away from Obama who would be better for the 99% than Romney.”

Virgil GoodeJim Clymer – Constitution Party

    Goode does support an audit of the Federal Reserve but believes that “legal immigration must be reduced not increased.” He rejects Obamacare and continued funding of Planned Parenthood but does support capital punishment, the utilization of nuclear power, and the expansion of domestic oil drilling opportunities.

The campaign of Dr. Ron Paul is now over with the official selection of Mitt Romney for the Republican Party’s ticket.

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Oscar Mosko for Media Roots.

Photo provided by Flickr user sashafatcat.

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Existential Conversation: State of Humanity & the World

Media Roots Radio – Late Night Existential Conversation by Media Roots

MEDIA ROOTS – Robbie & Abby Martin of Media Roots have an impromptu late night conversation about existentialism: the progression of technology and its effect on human interaction; human nature and the inability to face personal truths; reinforced perceptions of reality and societal myths keeping people in line; false flag terrorism, corporate collusion, the police state ruling society by fear and the unsustainable nature of global capitalism.

The above timeline is interactive. Scroll through it to find out more about the show’s music and to resources mentioned during the broadcast. To see a larger version of the timeline with clickable resources go to the soundcloud link below the player.

If you would like to directly download the podcast click the down arrow icon on the right of the soundcloud display. To hide the comments to enable easier rewind and fast forward, click on the icon on the very bottom right.

This Media Roots podcast is the product of many long hours of hard work and love. If you want to encourage our voice, please consider supporting us as we continue to speak from outside party lines. If you donate, we want to thank you with your choice of art from AbbyMartin.org as well as music from RecordLabelRecords.org. Much of the music you hear on our podcasts comes from Robbie’s imprint Record Label Records, and Abby’s art reflects the passion and perspective that lead her to create Media Roots.org.

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Listen to all previous episodes of Media Roots Radio here.

MR Original – A Soldier’s Story

MEDIA ROOTS – In the glory days of Rome, Julius Caesar came to understand that the masses could be pacified so long as they had plenty of food to eat and games to entertain them. It is said that while barbarians crashed at the city gates, Romans sat mesmerized by the displays of gratuitous violence in the Coliseum. Rome, like all empires eventually do, collapsed.

Welcome to the beginning of the end of the American empire. There are more than 44 million citizens on food stamps. Our televisions offer 700 channels to titillate and stimulate at all hours of the day while we flock to the latest Apple products, computers, mobile phones, electronic bells, whistles, and distractions. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam sent troops to more than 150 countries around the world and we are now entangled in military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya, borrowing billions of dollars from China each day to keep the military machine going.

Stupefying. Where are the riots in the streets? Where are the nationwide protests? Somebody else will step up and fight for us, right? 

Maybe we should take a little time to know the people who are fighting in the name of our country. Peter (pseudonym), a former Army Captain, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, recently contacted Media Roots to express how he had come to be disillusioned by the war on terror and the justifications for a U.S. presence in the Middle East:

“I just started to ask questions like: Why am I here wasting over a year of my early twenties? What is the real purpose behind this war? Why were there no WMDs? Why are soldiers outnumbered by civilian contractors almost 3 to 1?”

He also touched on alarming suicide rates, saying “…the brigade I was in on led the army in suicide rates during 2006 and 2007” and also described Fort Hood as plagued by “high crime, gangs within units, drug dealing in the barracks, bad stuff going on.”

During Peter’s tenure, the divorce rate among married soldiers “topped out at over 80%” and the Army’s maddening stop-loss policy wasn’t helping matters. With stop-loss, soldiers are forced into service past their contractual obligations.

We wanted to get to know Peter, and he was kind enough to talk more in depth in an exclusive Media Roots interview. 

***

MR: Why did you join the military? 

P: I went on active duty after graduating college when I was 22 to pay back my Army ROTC scholarship commitment. I joined mainly because I wanted to do something exciting and challenging instead of just being a typical college student majoring in business or something boring like that. I also needed a way to pay my tuition. The army agreed to pay all my tuition and fees and in return after graduating I would commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and serve at least 4 years active duty.

MR: What have you done in the service thus far and where has it taken you?

P: I served as a security platoon leader (convoy escort/VIP escort type of thing), company executive officer (2nd in command of over 200 soldiers), and a battalion assistant operations officer (higher level staff mission planning). I served one tour with the 4th Infantry Division for 13 months out of FOB [Forward Operating Base] Falcon in southern Baghdad.

MR: At what point did you start asking the kinds of questions that facilitated your political awakening?

P: When I joined up and for my first year-and-a-half of service I thought Bush and Cheney were doing the right things and keeping us safe. I felt I needed to do my part to fight Islamic extremism. My brigade was one of the last “surge” brigades to go into Baghdad. I first started to ask questions probably my first time outside the wire, maybe my third day on the ground there. The outgoing unit was showing us our OE [Operating Environment] and the main routes they used. I saw how we had basically reduced Baghdad into a cesspool of trash, sewage, rubble, and mud holes as well as displaced thousands of people from their homes. I then noticed around the FOB that civilian contractors from KBR, Raytheon, General Dynamics, etc. outnumbered actual soldiers about 3:1. I thought all this was odd as many of the civilians freely explained how much money they were making by being there, mostly in the six figures + range.

When I was moved to the position of company executive officer, I was in charge of acquiring the new MRAP [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected] vehicles up at Victory Base Complex [VBC, the huge base surrounding Saddam’s palaces and Baghdad airport]. We already had more than enough vehicles and the soldiers in my company said they preferred to use the humvee as opposed to the new MRAP. Nonetheless, we had to follow orders and I ended up leading at least five or six missions to VBC where we would pick up these brand new vehicles for the Battalion to use. While at VBC, I had the pleasure of dealing with attitude-ridden, overpaid civilian contractors who issued us the new vehicles. I also noticed the sheer abundance of the new MRAPs around the complex. I’m talking thousands and thousands of brand new vehicles just sitting in a lot, not being used. I couldn’t help but imagine the cost of making all these huge armored trucks, let alone the cost of shipping all of them thousands of miles overseas to Iraq.

In the end, my company signed for and was responsible for over 35 of these new vehicles and all of their associated equipment. They added to our existing fleet of over 60 vehicles already on the FOB of the older humvees and LMTVs for a grand total of over 95 combat vehicles. So a company-sized element now had a Battalion’s worth of vehicles and equipment. Needless to say we only used about 15% of our vehicles on missions and the rest sat there collecting dust, an absolute waste of resources.

The other thing is that my company commander had to sign for all that sensitive equipment and I was responsible for managing it for him. That means it was his ass and my ass when something went missing. So, if a private leaves a $5,000 handheld radio in a porta-potty on accident and no one can find it then ultimately it is the company commander’s fault. So there would be a big investigation as to why the radio was lost and who was at fault, ending in someone, probably the company commander, having to pay out of his pocket for that missing radio since Uncle Sam always gets his. Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon can have $3 trillion in unaccounted for spending and nothing is done about it. But the junior level army commander has the keep track of all of his property, down to the smallest weapon mount or rifle scope, and will pay for whatever is lost. All of this stuff was the spark that made me start asking questions and looking into things more. Once we got some Internet hooked up in my room on the FOB, I started looking into Ron Paul and Alex Jones type of stuff.

MR: Do you think that the threat of terrorism is exaggerated? Do you feel that the US is engaging in countries abroad to genuinely combat terrorism?

P: I did not want to believe it for the longest time but I am now sure that the terrorism threat is grossly exaggerated and it has all been staged from the beginning, most likely from our own CIA. These wars are not for combating terrorism, but for control of resources and power. It is all used as a tool for profit for international banking interests as well as all the large defense contractors. We were lied to about WMDs to get us into the war in Iraq just as we were lied to about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to get us into Vietnam.

MR: What do you think of the Army as an institution overall?

P: The Army is a good institution overall. It is a great thing for people who are trying to better themselves, get money for college, and challenge themselves. The people I served with, aside from high-level leadership like Gen. Casey and Adm. Mullen, are honorable, caring people who are just trying to do the right thing or are just trying to make a living.

In my experience, most people in the Army aren’t that concerned about the politics behind everything. They are there to do a job, better themselves and make a paycheck or they just like being a soldier and doing cool stuff like shooting machine guns and driving tanks. A lot of soldiers know the wars are a bunch of BS but with the economy so bad they have no choice but to stay in since the pay is so good now.

MR: Is the importance of strict adherence to the Constitution emphasized in the Army?

P: No, it is only mentioned in the oath of enlistment. Most enlisted soldiers have no idea what it truly means.

MR: Do you think a free press and free speech are especially important during times of war?

P: Yes, always.

MR: How would you compare World War 2 and the Vietnam War to the War on Terror?

P: WW2 at least had a known enemy and soldiers knew they were there to liberate Europe, close concentration camps and then go home when the job was done. The whole country was involved as well because of the draft and the women working in the tank and aircraft factories. It was a war with clearer objectives and politics, a good vs. evil. I don’t think it is similar at all to the wars we are in now.

Vietnam is similar in that it began as a result of a false-flag attack (Gulf of Tonkin) and was all a political, elite banker, defense contractor agenda. Kissinger, Lyndon Johnson, CIA, MacNamara—all wanted to go to war and they wanted it to last for a long time so they made the American people fear the spread of communism. That is why there was no clear objective set, strict rules of engagement established, etc. This was a war for international bankers and defense contractors to profit off of while strategically accomplishing nothing and allowing the size of government to expand.

The Wars on Terror were started because of the false flag 9/11 attack and instilled a sense of fear and vengeance among all Americans. I believe these wars had been planned for a long time by globalist neo-cons Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Bush Jr. and Sr. The other thing about this war is that it is fought by an all-volunteer force of only 0.1% of Americans. The other 99.9% is not directly affected by the war and that is why there is not as much outrage and opposition to it. When I watched TV in our dining facility in Iraq it seemed like America was oblivious to us being over there fighting insurgents. All that was on the news was Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, American Idol, etc. It makes you think, why am I here wasting my time if no one cares?

MR: You said only .1% of Americans serve in the military. Do you think that the stop-loss policy and tour extensions are due to the administration’s attempts at preventing a draft in any way possible, despite the escalation of engagement?

P: Yes, they are a result of not having a draft. I think if there had been a draft a lot more Americans would be affected by the wars and there would be a greater push to end them, as more people would have to sacrifice.

MR: You mentioned that the rate of contractors to soldiers on the ground was 3:1. How are they helping?

P: They don’t do much except take up space. They do jobs that the Army can’t do because we are so strapped for personnel. Normally the Army has its own cooks, laundry people, construction workers, etc. as all enlisted soldiers. Since we are so short on manpower, those support-role soldiers are all used on missions outside the wire and the contractors come in and fill those support jobs and are paid a lot more money to do them. So if you signed up for the Army thinking you were going to be a cook and not see any combat, you better think again because all the cooks in my battalion went on missions outside the wire.

MR: What is a “non-combat” troop? Is the idea that we are scaling down a front?

P: It is just a political term. We don’t have “non-combat” troops. Everyone goes to combat. Everyone carries a weapon. The term is meant to dupe the American people into thinking we are drawing down. I know they have closed the smaller FOBs like Falcon (where I was stationed) but I am sure we will remain at Victory Base Complex for at least fifty years. Iraq will be just like South Korea and Germany. We will be there forever.

***

To touch on a few of Peter’s points, Defense Secretary Gates announced the start of a phased ending of the hugely unpopular stop-loss policy back in March 2009, and the Army’s goal was to completely eliminate the need for stop-loss by March 2011. It is now April 2011, and we are still waiting. Secondly, the Army announced earlier this year that 343 soldiers and personnel took their own lives in 2010. That’s nearly one a day. Thirdly, an FBI report released last year entitled Gang Activity in the U.S. Armed Forces Increasing revealed that members of every major street gang, from Crips to Bloods to Gangster Disciples have members enlisted in the military at installations at home and abroad. Army recruiters have been found to look the other way when it comes to dealing with known gang members in order to meet recruitment quotas.

Bear in mind that Peter does not speak for all men and women in uniform, but he makes no such claim. If nothing else, we can view his testimony as a snapshot in time when a soldier saw the barbarians at the city gates and ran to warn his countrymen.

If you are currently serving in the armed forces or know somebody who is and would like to send us your thoughts, please send a message to [email protected] We honor all requests for anonymity. Thank you.

Interview conducted by Abby Martin, article written by Jeff Wilson

Photo by flickr user US Army Photostream

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Citizens enroll for military service for a variety of reasons.  Some do so for money towards obtaining an online degrees. Others may enroll out of the promise of a early retirement.  While some might do so just out of the pride they feel for our country and truly wish to serve and protect all that our nation stands for.  Whatever the reasoning might be, one thing is for certain, the path that they travel will rarely be the path that they imagined.

 

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MR Original – Scaling Down? Think Again.

MEDIA ROOTS- In recent months, much has been made of the ‘withdrawal of US combat brigades from Iraq.’ The language used implies that a great benchmark has been reached in the march toward peace for our country.

 Since the public was told that the combat soldiers are gone, there seems to be a consensus washing over the national consciousness that the Iraq War is nearly over. The truth is, despite the hype, little has changed in the nature of our mission or the geo-political situation. Our politicians and leaders seem to believe that all it takes is shifty worded rhetoric to change the game in the eyes of the public.

The idea of an ending war is encouraged by reports of ‘non-combat’ troops replacing combat brigades. Yet, there is no such thing as a non-combat soldier. There are non-combat jobs within the Army, but every person who dons the uniform, with the exception of a chaplain, who must remain unarmed under Army regulations, is expected to take up a weapon and dodge bullets when the going gets tough. In a war zone where the enemy attacks our presence indiscriminately, any file clerk or staff officer could end up under fire and returning it. When we have a 50,000-strong military presence in a country, conducting patrols, manning guard posts, taking fire and facing bombings, we are, by definition, in a state of combat. The Army leadership and Commander-in-chief know this.

 

According to Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy, on August 3rd

And of course, as Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, recently pointed out, “as we moved away from combat operations, the enemy has not.” Even if the U.S. combat role has been reduced, U.S. facilities and patrols will still come under attack and need to be defended. The threat of insurgent attack certainly distinguishes the “noncombat” garrisons in Iraq from those in South Korea and Germany. (Thankfully, U.S. troop fatalities are now down to below 10 per month from a high of nearly 70 in 2007.)

So while the next stage of the Iraq war may be, as Obama described it, a transformation from “a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats,” the actual mission of the remaining troops will stay largely the same: building the capabilities of the Iraqi military and rooting out the extremists.

The scope of that mission will certainly change as troop levels continue to decline, though of course this isn’t the first time a president has declared an end to “combat” in Iraq.

I have a friend in Iraq who just began his deployment, serving as combat infantry. The stated mission is to train and support the Iraqi forces. However, we know this is how Vietnam began, with “military advisors” to the South Vietnamese Army, who soon were in full combat. Regardless of the drawdown, we have soldiers in harm’s way on foreign soil, taking casualties every month from enemy activity. When General Odierno acknowledges that combat isn’t over, the Administration’s announcement to the contrary becomes a mockery of itself. After all, it was two days following Obama’s announcement that our combat role had ended in Iraq that American blood was spilled.

Remember President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, and the declaration of the “end of major combat operations”? That was in 2003, and by the 2006-7 Iraq surge, pundits and people at large were mocking that rash and incompetent gesture. This year we’ve been told all “combat” troops are leaving, and as the year ends, the Secretary of Defense is forcing the window back open.

 

According to a recent AP article Gates: US open to request from Iraq to stay

The United States is open to the idea of keeping troops in Iraq past a deadline to leave next year if Iraq asks for it, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

“We’ll stand by,” Gates said. “We’re ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us.”

Gates urged Iraq’s squabbling political groups to reconcile after eight months of deadlock. Any request to extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq would have to come from a functioning Iraqi government. It would amend the current agreement under which U.S. troops must leave by the end of 2011.

“That initiative clearly needs to come from the Iraqis; we are open to discussing it,” Gates said.

I won’t disobey a lawful order from the Commander in Chief, but I also don’t have to buy bullshit. And I certainly won’t buy it in bulk.

The Iraq War is not over, and the soldiers know it. Our friends back home need to know it too. No place on earth where US soldiers are killed in violence on a monthly basis is a non-combat zone. We cannot take the Executive branch at its word on this. While the media feeding frenzy around the “withdrawal of combat troops” did not last long, it served as a propaganda piece, a pittance to the civilian population yearning for an end to the war. I won’t say whether staying or leaving is wrong, but deliberate doublespeak from the White House is wrong. Implying that we’re coming home when we so clearly aren’t, then leaving the door open for further involvement, is not only dishonest, but also a betrayal of the President’s campaign promises.

The reality is that our 2008 Presidential “choice” was between a Republican who wanted to keep forces on the ground indefinitely, pending certain goals; and a Democrat who would keep forces on the ground to avoid a disastrous (and embarrassing) collapse of the Iraqi nation, while accepting a Peace Prize for his non-existent peace achievements. I’d guess Alfred Nobel wants his money back.

We shouldn’t forget what the President had to say in August, on the heels of his acclaimed withdrawal of “combat” troops: “Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all of our troops will be home.

Make it so, Mr. President. An open-ended offer to the Iraqi government to extend our military presence does not meet that goal.

Our Chief Executive is trying to take credit for ending a war his administration is continuing. He cannot expect to blow both hot and cold without stoking the anger of the American people, and paying the price in votes.

I challenge the same Americans who came out in force against Bush’s War, on the streets and at the polls, to do the same in defiance of Obama’s War. Americans have voted in a trend for change in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Incumbents have been hemorrhaging from both parties for four years. Are we realizing now that change doesn’t come from just one pull of a lever?

Malcolm

I am a junior enlisted man in the US Army and serve as an aviation mechanic. I have never been deployed. My unit is currently slated for an Afghanistan deployment in the not-too-distant future, but this is subject to change. I care about our country’s future because, well, we live there, and because our Constitutional government is/was the pinnacle of human achievement in the centuries-old struggle between freedom and tyranny. We’re losing it, and that would be a crime against all those who labored and died for it, and against the billions of our children who will live with the consequences if we fail.

Photo by the US Army on flickr

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