A Military-Industrial Complex policy group creepily called the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is funding Michelle Obama's signature initiative, called "Joining Forces." And joining her today to head the team was fired and formerly disgraced Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, now embarking on a political version of the Celebrity Rehab Tour in an unpaid (directly) gig to ostensibly lend support to our abused and overused troops. However, according to an article by Nathan Hodge in The Nation last month called "Coalition of the Shilling", the core purpose of CNAS is anything but altruistic. Founded in 2007 by a group of centrist Democrats, defense contractors and retired military brass, its sole purpose is to keep the wars going and the profits flowing to the MIC. One of its trustees is the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, which profits mightily from its military hardware and fighter jet sales - both domestically and to foreign armies.
Hodge writes, "Two former Clinton administration officials, Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell, founded CNAS in 2007 as a way for centrist Democrats to reclaim a place in the national security debate ahead of the 2008 presidential race. It was an expert triangulation: Flournoy, Campbell and their associates staked out a hawkish (or, as they would term it, a “pragmatic and principled”) position on Iraq, opposing early deadlines for withdrawal. After Obama’s election, CNAS would emerge as a key feeder for the new administration’s national security team. No fewer than fourteen CNAS grads would land slots in the Defense and State departments. Flournoy now occupies the number-three post at the Pentagon, and Campbell is the head of the State Department’s Asia bureau.
"How exactly did Flournoy and Campbell conjure up a think tank out of thin air? In addition to support from foundations like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Ploughshares Foundation, CNAS received heavy backing from the military industry. Its list of donors includes major weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and BAE Systems. It also receives contributions from private security firms like Aegis Defence Services, as well as from KBR, the logistics support contractor notorious for overbilling the Pentagon for its services in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it generates income from research contracts with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, as do others like the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments."
As military families are struggling to get by on their relatively meager paychecks, defense contractors are getting obscenely rich on weapons systems and military hardware. And as the troops struggle through tour after exhausting tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight, the White House is utilizing the warm and smiling Michelle Obama as the face of a ramped-up PR campaign of showing the troops our love (and also to make us feel kind of bad for bitching about our own petty problems?) Keep drumming it in: they are sacrificing and getting killed to keep "us" all safe. Would that it were true and they were not just being used as warm expendable flesh to enrich a few wealthy corporations and defense contractors.
(A sidenote - one of the original alleged participants in the White House project to improve the health of the troops was a former Gitmo psychologist who oversaw the "enhanced interrogations" of prisoners. He was disinvited by the First Lady's staff after Glenn Greenwald wrote an expose on his self-proclaimed participation).
Meanwhile, the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive activist think tank in Washington DC, was one of the sponsors for today's lunchtime event on the White House steps to mark the first Global Day of Action on Military Spending. (GDAMS - love the acronym). This protest, along with hundreds of other demonstrations nationwide and worldwide, comes one day after the release of the 2010 figures for global military expenditures by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2009, the world spent more than $1.5 trillion on the military. Even in the middle of a global economic crisis, military spending has increased, with the United States responsible for nearly half of all such expenditures, worldwide. As IPS director John Feffer explains, what the American defense industry doesn't make for our own wars it gladly sells overseas -- to our allies and enemies alike. A dollar is a dollar, despite what any treaties might stipulate.
The noontime White House protest featured poetry, puppets, and graphic representations of military spending. Representatives of national and local peace and human needs organizations presented "flash facts" to demonstrate how the money spent on defense could be used for other things, such as education, jobs and anti-poverty programs.
We also don't know if Mary Tillman, who tried and failed to have McChrystal held accountable for the cover-up of her son Pat's death by friendly fire, had any reaction to his big White House comeback as a caring father figure of the troops. She was not included on today's guest list. Nor was Anti-War Mom in Chief Cindy Sheehan -- who should maybe think about setting up a new campsite on the White House lawn as a refreshing change from Bush's ranch.
There is now every sign that all those supposedly noncombat troops in Iraq will be on permanent assignment. And especially now that the U.S. is being kicked out of Pakistan after the CIA murder scandal and the collaterally damaging drone attacks, Afghanistan is not only the longest war in U.S. History, it's aiming to be one of the longest in world history, too. There is money to be made, weapons to be manufactured to boost the
|Les Screwed-Up Priorities|
* Update/Correction 4/13 -- Since writing this post, I learned that the "Joining Forces" Obama event was actually held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, not the White House as originally announced. I apologize for the error -- and will add that it now seems obvious the officials could not and did not see the demonstrations.
Update II 4/14: Mary Tillman has told Jake Tapper of ABC that she is outraged at McChrystal's appointment, and she thinks it makes Obama look "silly."
"I’ve come to learn through this journey that there are many other families that have been lied to by the military about their sons and daughters and so we feel that what happen to Pat is pertains to other people, not just us. I think it’s a slap in the face to all soldiers to appoint this man, to be on this committee," she said.
Amir Bar-Lev, the director of the critically-acclaimed documentary "The Tillman Story" was nothing if not blunt: “Putting Stanley McChrystal in charge of a commission on military families is a little like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of a commission on pensions," he told Tapper.