War Is A Crime

Mandatory School Testing Gone Way Wrong: How Thousands of High School Students May Be Pushed Into a Pentagon Enlistment Exam

Thousands of New Jersey high school seniors may be taking the military’s enlistment exam to fulfill a graduation requirement because they opted out of the controversial PARCC tests when they were juniors.

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The Pentagon Is a Massive, Unacknowledged Threat to the Global Climate

During the November 15 Democratic Presidential Debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sounded an alarm that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." Citing a CIA study, Sanders warned that countries around the world are "going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops and you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."

On November 8, the World Bank predicted that climate change is on track to drive 100 million people into poverty by 2030. And, in March, a National Geographic study linked climate change to the conflict in Syria: "A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people."

The sobering insight that climate change can accelerate violence should weigh heavily on the minds of delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris—a city that, on November 13, suffered grievously from the blowback of the Syrian conflict. But there is another looming threat that needs to be addressed.

Put simply: War and militarism also fuel climate change.

From November 30 to December 11, delegates from more than 190 nations will convene in Paris to address the increasingly visible threats of climate disruption. The 21st Conference of the Parties (aka COP21) is expected to draw 25,000 official delegates intent on crafting a legally binding pact to keep global warming below 2°C.

But it is difficult to imagine the delegates reaching this goal when one of the largest contributors to global-warming has no intention of agreeing to reduce its pollution. The problem in this case is neither China nor the United States. Instead, the culprit is the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's Carbon Bootprint

The Pentagon occupies 6,000 bases in the US and more than 1,000 bases (the exact number is disputed) in 60-plus foreign countries. According to its FY 2010 Base Structure Report, the Pentagon's global empire includes more than 539,000 facilities at 5,000 sites covering more than 28 million acres.

The Pentagon has admitted to burning 350,000 barrels of oil a day (only 35 countries in the world consume more) but that doesn't include oil burned by contractors and weapons suppliers. It does, however, include providing fuel for more than 28,000 armored vehicles, thousands of helicopters, hundreds of jet fighters and bombers and vast fleets of Navy vessels. The Air Force accounts for about half of the Pentagon’s operational energy consumption, followed by the Navy (33%) and Army (15%). In 2012, oil accounted for nearly 80% of the Pentagon's energy consumption, followed by electricity, natural gas and coal.

Ironically, most of the Pentagon's oil is consumed in operations directed at protecting America's access to foreign oil and maritime shipping lanes. In short, the consumption of oil relies on consuming more oil. This is not a sustainable energy model.

The amount of oil burned—and the burden of smoke released—increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. (Indeed, human history's most combustible mix may well prove to be oil and testosterone.) Oil Change International estimates the Pentagon's 2003-2007 $2 trillion Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of CO2 pollution per month.

The Pentagon: A Privileged Polluter

Yet, despite being the planet's single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing—or even reporting—its pollution. The US won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a "national security provision" that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control. As Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recalled: "Every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got." (Also exempted from pollution regulation: all Pentagon weapons testing, military exercises, NATO operations and "peacekeeping" missions.)

After winning this concession, however, the US Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Accord, the House amended the Pentagon budget to ban any "restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto Protocol," and George W. Bush rejected the entire climate treaty because it "would cause serious harm to the US economy" (by which he clearly meant the U.S. oil and gas industries).

Today, the Pentagon consumes one percent of all the country's oil and around 80 percent of all the oil burned by federal government. President Barack Obama recently received praise for his Executive Order requiring federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but Obama's EO specifically exempted the Pentagon from having to report its contribution to climate chaos. (As a practical matter, the Pentagon has been forced to act. With battlefield gas costing $400 a gallon and naval bases at risk of flooding from rising seas, the Pentagon managed to trim its domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by 9 percent between 2008-2012 and hopes to achieve a 34 percent reduction by 2020.)

Climate Chaos: Deception and Denial

According to recent exposés, Exxon executives knew the company's products were stoking global temperatures but they opted to put "profits before planet" and conspired to secretly finance three decades of deception. Similarly, the Pentagon has been well aware that its operations were wrecking our planetary habitat. In 2014, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel identified climate change as a "threat multiplier" that will endanger national security by increasing "global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict." As far back as 2001, Pentagon strategists have been preparing to capitalize on the problem by planning for "ice-free" operations in the Arctic—in anticipation of US-Russian conflicts over access to polar oil.

In 2014, Tom Ridge, George W. Bush's Homeland Security chief, stated flat-out that climate change posed "a real serious problem" that "would bring destruction and economic damage." But climate deniers in Congress continue to prevail. Ignoring Ridge's warnings, a majority of House Republicans hammered an amendment onto the National Defense Authorization bill that banned the Pentagon from spending any funds on researching climate change or sustainable development. "The climate . . . has always been changing," Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) said dismissively. "[W]hy should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"

Since 1980, the US has experienced 178 "billion dollar" weather events that have caused more than $1 trillion in damages. In 2014 alone, there were eight "billion dollar" weather calamities.

In September 2015, the World Health Organization warned climate change would claim 250 million lives between 2030 and 2050 at a cost of $2-4 billion a year and a study in Nature Climate Change estimated the economic damage from greenhouse emissions could top $326 trillion. (If the global warming causes the permafrost to melt and release its trapped carbon dioxide and methane gases, the economic damage could exceed $492 trillion.)

In October 2015 (the hottest October in recorded weather history), BloombergBusiness expressed alarm over a joint study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley that predicted global warning "could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output as much as 23 percent by the end of the century."

This is more than a matter of "political ideology."

The Pentagon's role in weather disruption needs to become part of the climate discussion. Oil barrels and gun barrels both pose a threat to our survival. If we hope to stabilize our climate, we will need to start spending less money on war.

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Errol Morris's New Doc Doesn't Ask the Truly Uncomfortable Questions

When Donald Rumsfeld used to hold press conferences about the Iraq war, the press corps would giggle at the clever ways in which he refused to actually say anything or answer any questions.

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Top 45 Lies In Obama's U.N. Speech

1. President Obama's opening lines at the U.N. on Tuesday looked down on people who would think to settle disputes with war. Obama was disingenuously avoiding the fact that earlier this month he sought to drop missiles into a country to "send a message" but was blocked by the U.S. Congress, the U.N., the nations of the world, and popular opposition -- after which Obama arrived at diplomacy as a last resort.

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John Kerry Couldn't Sell a Used Car

After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that President Bashar al-Assad avoid a war by handing over any chemical weapons his government possesses, Russia quickly seconded the motion, and Assad agreed to it.  Just as quickly, aparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, Kerry's staff put out this statement:

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Ten Years After The Bombing Stopped: Vieques Still Struggles With Environmental Catastrophe U.S. Military Wrought

Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot.  On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed. People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.

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Powerful Court Rules Peace Activists Can Sue the U.S. Military for Infiltration

In a potentially precedent-setting decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a Guild lawyer’s challenge to military spying on peace activists can proceed. The ruling marks the first time a court has affirmed people’s ability to sue the military for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

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Meet the Soldiers Who Refuse to Kill

One of the most inspiring events thus far at the Veterans For Peace National Convention underway in Miami was a presentation on Thursday by several veterans who have refused to participate in war.  Typically, they have done this at the risk of significant time in prison, or worse.  In most cases these resisters avoided doing any time.  Even when they did go behind bars, they did so with a feeling of liberation.

Gerry Condon refused to deploy to Vietnam, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, escaped from Fort Bragg, left the country, and came back campaigning for amnesty.  President Jimmy Carter pardoned resisters as his first act in office.  Condon never "served" a day, in either the military "service" or prison.

Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist refused to fly to Iraq, choosing instead to sit down on the tarmac.  Ben Griffin from VFP's new chapter in the U.K. refused to participate in our nations' wars and has been issued a gag order.  He's not permitted to speak, and yet he speaks so well. Mike Prysner of March Forward and Camilo Mejia of VFP here in Miami described their acts of resistance.

Mejia did us all the enormous favor some years back of putting his story down in a book -- an extreme rarity, sadly, for peace activists with great stories to tell.  Mejia's book "Road From Ar Ramadi" is a terrific introduction for anyone wondering why someone would sign up for the military and then refuse to kill people.  Mejia, who now works on domestic civil rights issues in Miami while remaining part of the antiwar movement (another rarity), is a co-convenor of the VFP convention.  

In October 2003, Mejia was the first U.S. soldier to publicly refuse to fight in Iraq.  At that time only 22 members of the U.S. military had gone AWOL from that war, a number that would quickly climb into the thousands as the war worsened and as belief in the various rationales offered for the war evaporated.  Soldiers also began to refuse particular missions that would be likely to kill civilians or to put themselves at risk for no purpose other than the advancement of a commander's career -- a commander safely giving orders from a base.  Veterans of the Iraq War would soon work with Veterans For Peace to form a new organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War.  But at the time of Mejia's refusal to fight he stood virtually alone.  

Mejia joined the military largely for the very same reason most Americans do: the lack of other options.  He had worked his way through high school and community college.  But the government cut off his financial aid, and he couldn't afford the college bills.  The Army offered him college tuition and financial security.  That was enough.  This son of Sandinista revolutionaries headed off to Fort Benning, the home of the School of the Americas, where he would train to kill for U.S. empire.  

Mejia learned to dislike the military. His commitment was due to end in May 2003.  But in January 2003, the Florida National Guard shipped off to begin the invasion of Iraq that President Bush was publicly pretending to try to avoid and privately concocting harebrained schemes to get started.  Mejia's contract was extended to 2031 (not a typo), and he was sent to Jordan.  He was neither for nor against the military or the war in any simple sense.  He was aware of the massive peace demonstrations around the world.  He disliked many things about the military and about this particular war, which he believed was a war for oil.  But he was loyal and obedient, not yet convinced of the extreme immorality of the operation in which he was playing a part.

Mejia's first experience in Iraq involved the abuse of prisoners.  He disliked these practices but did not resist.  Mentally he tried to brush them aside as the work of "a few bad apples."  Or he tried to justify doing what he was doing out of loyalty to the soldiers around him.  

Mejia gradually became aware of Iraqis' desire that the occupation end, but he believed it would end very quickly.  During an Iraqi protest, a young Iraqi man was about to toss a grenade, and Mejia aimed and fired -- as did others around him.  The young man died instantly, but the trouble the incident aroused in Mejia's soul did not.

Mejia was troubled by his fellow soldiers' racist hatred of all Iraqis.  Innocent Iraqis were imprisoned and interrogated, when they weren't shot.  Their dead bodies were mistreated by joking soldiers snapping photos with their prize pieces of flesh.  "It occurred to me," Mejia writes of some Iraqis who observed such actions, "how upsetting it must have been for them to see their relative in the dirt, half naked and covered in blood, being laughed at and humiliated even in death."

The beginnings of resistance among the troops arose out of their growing awareness that their commanders were using them in a competition for the most fire fights, the most kills, and the most prisoners.  The needs of this competition outweighed justice or even strategy.  Returning to base with innocent prisoners was far preferable to returning empty-handed.  There was no grander goal driving any operations, as far as the soldiers could see.  They went on patrols the entire purpose of which was to guard themselves as they patrolled.

As Iraqi resistance grew, so did U.S. fear, to the point where troops would fire even on unarmed children if the soldiers couldn't be certain that the children posed no danger.  Mejia understood both points of view, and came to realize that in war the choices are bad or horrendous.  The only good choice, he began to see, is to not cooperate with war at all.  

At one point Mejia tried to explain to some Iraqis something he barely believed any longer himself, that the war was aimed at bringing "freedom" to the people of Iraq.  One of the Iraqis who knew something about Mejia's situation pointed out that Mejia wished to leave the military and could not.  "So how," this Iraqi asked, "can you bring freedom to us, when you don't have freedom for yourselves?"  When Mejia took part in raids of Iraqi houses, he viewed the terror the Iraqis showed of U.S. capture and "detention" as misguided.  Surely prisoners would all be fairly tried and released if innocent, he told himself.  "As it turned out," Mejia admits, "the families . . . knew my own army much better than I did."

Yet the troops that left the bases knew more than the commanders who didn't.  The latter, falsely believing that resistance was coming from outside the local area, ordered all the wrong roads blockaded to no purpose.  The soldiers who knew such decisions were wrong dared not say anything for fear of what challenging a "superior" can do to your career.

Mejia was able to return to the United States for two weeks' leave.  He went AWOL with assistance from peace groups, and turned himself in to face possible imprisonment.  He'd "served" more than the eight years he'd agreed to.  And he believed the war was killing human beings for no useful purpose whatsoever.  

A mockery of a charade of a pretense of a trial convicted Mejia and sentenced him to 1 year in jail.  "That day," as he went to jail, Mejia recalls, "I was free, in a way I had never been before."

Guess What Percentage of Americans Know Military Spending is Increasing

And keep guessing some more, because pollsters are unlikely to ask that question.

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Stop the Bombing Libya NOW

Since Saturday night, the United States, France, and Britain have been bombing Libya with cruise missiles, B-2 stealth bombers, F-16 and F-15 fighter jets, and Harrier attack jets. There is no reliable estimate of the number of civilians killed. The U.S. has taken the lead in the punishing bombing campaign to carry out United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

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Protesters Say George Bush Library Should be a Pile of Rubble

Several thousand people lined up to see George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice shovel dirt into a hole at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the site slated to become the George Bush Presidential Center housing a museum, library and archives.

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