Tag Archives: war

Down with Drones: Protest at Ft. Huachuca Today

Dronebanner-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

Southern Arizona peace activists have organized a anti-drone protest outside of Fort Huachuca today, Monday, April 29.

Drones are a big deal in Southern Arizona. Ft. Huachuca, Davis-Monthan, Raytheon, the University of Arizona, and Cochise College– all have a piece of the military industrial complex's drone pie, and if our esteemed US Senators have there way, more money for drones along the Arizona-Mexico border, more money for militarization of the border overall, and more money (and customers) for private prisons will be attached to "imigration reform" legislation.

Sorry for the late notice about this action, but here's the information from the organizers:

We invite you to participate in a day of peaceful  demonstration on Monday April 29th, 2:30-4:00 PM at the Fort Huachuca Main Gate, Sierra Vista AZ   Since 2004 over 4,700 deaths are attributed to Dronestrikes, civilian deaths remain unconfirmed though unfortunately post-strike photos show many children are among the lost. We’re encouraging a coalition of community voices, faith based, political, sectarian, to express concern regarding the ethical, moral, spiritual implications of the use of drone technology in warfare and the equally problematic domestic privacy concerns.  Literature will be available but we encourage you to bring signs, share information, prayers, let your voice be heard.  Participation could make all the difference in bringing attention to this critical issue.

Help Us Make a Difference!! Thank You!  JOIN US!

The Drones Are Coming: FBI Seeks Info on Drone Spotted in JFK Air Space

Dronebanner-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

Many Americans don't have a problem with the drone warfare being waged by the United States against "persons of interest," "enemy combatants," or "terrorists" because: 1) we have an old west "get the bad guys" attitude toward foreign policy; 2) we use drones because we can; and 3) drones kill other people's citizens not ours (except in the cases when we have killed US citizens with drones). Right now, we are the big bully on the block with drone warfare, but 70+ countries now have drone technology, and soon US air space will be opened up to drone usage by law enforcement. 

It looks as if that future– the future where we may be attacked by the technology we created– came a bit closer to reality today. According to the Huffington Post, an Alitalia pilot reported a close encounter with an unknown drone in the air space over John F. Kennedy International Airport outside of New York City. More details after the jump.

From the Huffington Post

NEW YORK — The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday they are investigating a pilot's report that he spotted a small unmanned aircraft near Kennedy Airport.

The Alitalia pilot told controllers that he saw the aircraft as he approached the runway at Kennedy at about 1:15 p.m. Monday. The pilot said the aircraft was 4 to 5 miles southeast of the airport and was flying at an altitude of about 1,500 feet.

The FBI said the aircraft was described as black in color and no more than 3 feet wide with four propellers.

"The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us," Special Agent in Charge John Giacalone said. "Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew."

The FBI said the unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of the Alitalia plane.

The Alitalia pilot can be heard on radio calls captured by LiveATC.net, a website that posts air traffic communications, saying, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft." The FAA said the pilot did not take evasive action and the plane landed safely.

The FAA and FBI did not say whether Alitalia passengers might have seen the unmanned aircraft.

It's unclear what the small aircraft was. Some remote-controlled planes flown by hobbyists are wider than 3 feet. Under FAA rules, model planes are restricted to altitudes of 400 feet or less.


Pictures for peaceniks: Why the US military budget should be cut

 pt 10-350-flagby Pamela Powers Hannley

Remember the Super Congress? It was a gimmick that Congressional Republicans came up with after the huge debt ceiling and budget battle in August 2011.

The Super Congress was supposed to balance the US budget during the fall of 2011, but they failed to do so. As a result, the country is now facing "sequestration"– a fancy name for automatic budget cuts and tax increases that were trigger by the Super Congress' failure and the regular Congress' failure to negotiate and agree on humane budget cuts coupled with revenue-generating and economy-growing measures.

Thanks to Congressional foot-dragging, sequestration is upon us. The biggest budget that is up for trimming is the military budget. Although hawks are wringing their hands over potential cuts, the US military budget is by far the largest in the world. In fact, in 2011, the US spent more on the military than the next 13 countries combined! Wonkblog has provided great charts and background information on military spending– perfect ammunition for anyone who in more invested in peace than war. Check out it out after the jump.

From Wonkblog…

The United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But now that those wars are ending and austerity is back in vogue, the Pentagon will have to start tightening its belt in 2013 and beyond. If Hagel gets confirmed as secretary of defense, he’ll have to figure out how best to do that.

Below, we’ve provided an overview of the U.S. defense budget — to get a better sense for what we spend on, and where Hagel might have to cut:

1) The United States spent 20 percent of the federal budget on defense in 2011.

budget defense

All told, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance in 2011 — more than it spent on Medicare. That includes all of the Pentagon’s underlying costs as well as the price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to $159 billion in 2011. It also includes arms transfers to foreign governments.

(Note that this figure does not, however, include benefits for veterans, which came to $127 billion in 2011, or about 3.5 percent of the federal budget. If you count those benefits as “defense spending,” then the number goes up significantly.)

U.S. defense spending is expected to have risen in 2012, to about $729 billion, and then is set to fall in 2013 to $716 billion, as spending caps start kicking in. 

2) Defense spending has risen dramatically since 9/11.

Here’s a historical chart of U.S. defense spending since World War II in inflation-adjusted dollars. There’s a big spike for the Korean and Vietnam wars. There’s another big ramp-up during the 1980s under President Reagan. Then defense spending got cut significantly during the Clinton years until soaring to historically unprecedented levels after 9/11. 

U.S. defense spending is set to fall again in 2013, though it will still be as high in real terms as it was at the height of the Reagan build-up for the foreseeable future.

3) The Pentagon’s budget mostly consists of personnel pay, weapons procurement, and operations.

Source: Office of Management and Budget, Graph: Dylan Matthews

In 2011, the Pentagon spent about $161 billion on personnel pay and housing, $128 billion on weapons procurement, and $291 billion on operations and maintenance— the last largely in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those three items made up the bulk of the budget. Smaller amounts also were spent on R&D (about $74 billion) and nuclear programs ($20 billion), as well as construction, family housing and other programs ($22 billion).

My colleague Dylan Matthews created the graph above to show how these portions have changed over time. Personnel spending has stayed constant over the years, even as the number of soldiers in the U.S. military has shrunk (pay and benefits have increased). Weapons procurement can vary wildly. And operations spending has soared during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

4) The United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined in 2011.


Needless to say, the United States remains the world’s dominant military power. The graph above comes from the Pete G. Peterson Foundation, which compiled data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

5) The U.S. defense budget is poised to shrink in 2013 and beyond, although this won’t be the biggest downsizing it has ever faced.

Two big things are about to happen to military spending. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. And, thanks to the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon is facing both hard budget caps and a looming sequester that would cut defense spending by about $1 trillion over the next decade (compared to what was expected).

That’s a serious cut. Although, as the graph above from the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows, even if the sequester is fully implemented, which no one expects, the drawdowns after Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War were far more drastic in inflation-adjusted dollars. 

6) Sequester or no sequester, the 2011 Budget Control Act is expected to rein in the Pentagon’s base budget over the next decade:

BCA and defense spending

The chart above comes from the Congressional Budget Office,* which points out that the spending caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011 are likely to force the Pentagon’s “base” budget to stay virtually flat in the next decade, adjusting for inflation (that’s the light-blue dashed line). If Congress fails to avert the sequester, then funding levels will drop to an even lower level (that’s the light-blue solid line). 

These numbers don’t include any additional war funding that Congress might approve over the next decade. Still, sequester or no sequester, the Pentagon’s base budget will be well below the dark blue solid line, which is the CBO’s projection of what the Department of Defense’s budget would look like if costs remained “consistent with DoD’s recent experience.”

7) The Pentagon and Congress are already rejiggering the military budget in response to austerity.


Photo: Raytheon

Back in January, the Department of Defense unveiled its proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 — a look at how it would deal with new budget constraints. As Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reported, the Pentagon wanted to downsize about 100,000 human soldiers and ramp up advanced weapons programs, including drones, bombers and missiles.

Of course, the Pentagon doesn’t have the final say. Congress eventually passed its own $631 billion defense appropriations bill in December that made some changes to the Pentagon’s vision. Many of the weapons systems that the Obama administration wanted to retire — such as three Navy cruisers — were kept in. The final did, however, make plans to reduce civilian and contractor personnel by 5 percent over the next five years. 

8) The next secretary of defense will have to make further tough choices about the Pentagon’s budget.

reduction force

The chart above comes from a recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which asked seven teams of experts to come up with ways to meet the Pentagon’s new spending constraints in the coming decades. It shows what areas different teams would cut — some experts advised heavily slashing the civilian workforce, others advocated cutting aircraft inventory. (There were some areas of consensus, though: surface ships were generally cut more than submarines, for instance.)

The cuts weren’t always painless. For instance: “Five of seven teams agreed that they could not fully resource their strategies under the assumed fiscal guidance unless they accepted near-term risk by reducing current readiness programs.” These are trade-offs Hagel will have to navigate.

9) Ordinary Americans want to cut defense spending far more than is already on the table,

Back in May, the Stimson Center unveiled the results of a new survey asking U.S. voters about their views on defense spending. As it turns out, Democratic, Republican and independent voters all want to cut military spending far more severely than the sequester would and far, far more severely than either party has proposed. Congress isn’t likely to pay much attention here, but it’s a reminder that defense cuts tend to be extremely popular.

Correction: I replaced the original graph in #6 with a better chart from the Congressional Budget Office, which shows military spending shrinking over the next decade under the 2011 Budget Control Act (after adjusting for inflation), not growing as originally stated. Apologies for the error.

Code Pink flash mob: ‘Arms are for hugging’ (video)

by Pamela Powers Hannley

You've gotten hand it to Code Pink. They're everywhere (1, 2, 3) protesting for peace and an end to corporate domination of our country. Check out the video of their flash mob protest over inauguration weekend after the jump.


Martha McSally: Warrior woman hides from questions, constituents, inconsistencies

If there were a race between Senator Jon Kyl and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who would you vote for?

The CD2 race is just that. Former Kyl employee Martha McSally is running against former Giffords employee Ron Barber.

Whose legacy would better serve Southern Arizona? That of a right-wing, anti-woman, every-man-for-himself, war-monger who never ventured south of his Tucson Foothills office or that of a reasoned, pro-choice, pro-public health Blue Dog who wasn’t afraid to meet constituents?

As a long-time resident of Giffords’ district, my experiences yesterday made up my mind. Yesterday, I thought I was going to meet the Warrior Woman who hopes to take the CD2 seat– you know, the one who says she “resemble[s] Gabby Giffords more than the man who worked for her”– but she was a no show.

McSally is no Gabby Giffords

Giffords was not afraid to face constituents and answer tough questions. McSally apparently doesn’t have the nerve to answer questions that are not softballs from right-wing commentators. (Sounds like something Jon Kyl would do, huh?)

I had a scheduled interview with McSally to discuss women’s issues (since she now claims to fight for women’s rights, while being anti-choice); the multiple inconsistencies in her platform (believing in the “sanctity of life”, while flying 325+ hours as a bomber) pilot; and rumors circulating about her two-year marriage to Donald Henry in 1997 (what’s up with that annulment in Santa Cruz County, when you were married and lived in Pima County).

When I showed up at her office, video gear in tow, I was given mush-mouth excuses from her press secretary and campaign manager. “Gosh, she’s so busy.” (My guess is they Googled me and said, Yikes– we’re not talking with her!)

Not surprised that McSally bailed on a video interview with a feminist who wanted to ask about women’s issues, I went to her constituent event at Nimbus, down the street. I waited with about 30 old white folks on the Nimbus patio for 45 minutes. Eventually, McSally staffers said, “Gosh… she’s so busy. She doesn’t have time to come and talk with you all today. Scheduling conflicts, you know… blah, blah, blah.” Since when does a politician in a tight race not have time for a meeting with rich, old white folks?   (Was it something I tweeted?)

More unanswered questions about Martha McSally after the jump.

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Code Pink To Dems: Stop Drone Warfare, Bust Up Big Banks


by Pamela Powers Hannley
I knew when I saw that hot pink bra on the sidewalk, I knew that Code Pink must be nearby. 
Code Pink, the women-initiated peace and social justice group, protested the War on Women at the Republican National Convention. Their message for President Barack Obama and Democrats targets the military-industrial complex.
At the People's Convention, sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin spoke against war– particularly drone warfare– and called for Congress and the President to make dramatic cuts to the military budget.
Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, is a highly vocal peace activist.
At the PDA event, she said that there are strong, powerful men like Arizona Senator John McCain, who are standing up against cuts to the military budget, which are scheduled to go into effect due to sequestration.
But where is the movement to protect Pel Grants, Medicaid, and other social programs? she asked. According to Benjamin, the US could cut the military budget by 80% and still have the largest military in the world.
"Slash the Pentagon and put that money into life-affirming activitieis, which is what the people on the planet need," Benjamin demanded.
Attacking the other sector of the military-industrial complex, Benjamin and other Code Pink protesters wore pink bras on the outside of their clothes and shouted "Bust up the banks" in front of Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, host city of the Democratic National Convention.
Video after the jump.