Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category
President Obama declared war on the Islamic State:
In an address from the State Floor of the White House, President Obama spoke to the nation tonight about ISIL — and our comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group.
The President reiterated that as Commander-in-Chief, his “highest priority is the security of the American people,” and noted that we have “consistently taken the fight to terrorists” that threaten the United States:
We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
“Still,” he said, “we continue to face a terrorist threat.”
We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. And that’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”
ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has since gained territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border by taking advantage of sectarian strife and the Syrian civil war. Although ISIL calls itself the “Islamic State,” the President emphasized that the terrorist group is neither Islamic nor a state.
“ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” President Obama said. “And ISIL is certainly not a state. … It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates.”
“ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.”
Adding that ISIL’s sole vision is the slaughter of anyone and everyone who stands in its way, the President detailed the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East. And “if left unchecked,” he said, “these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region.”
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our Intelligence Community believes that thousands of foreigners -– including Europeans and some Americans –- have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
Noting the concern that many Americans have about these threats, he made clear that the U.S. is “meeting them with strength and resolve.”
“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”
The four parts of the U.S. strategy
In his address, the President outlined the four key parts of the United States’ strategy to defeat ISIL:
1. A systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL
Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
2. Increased support to forces fighting ISIL on the ground
In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
3. Drawing on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks
Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
4. Providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians displaced by ISIL
This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
“This is our strategy,” the President said, adding that the United States has a “broad coalition of partners” joining us in this effort:
Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity. And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
President Obama also noted the bipartisan support for this strategy here in the United States, and welcomed congressional support for the strategy “in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.”
“Different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”
The President made clear that eradicating ISIL won’t happen overnight, but he also detailed how this effort isn’t the same as our previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved — especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
America’s responsibility to lead
President Obama called American leadership the “one constant in an uncertain world.” From fighting terrorism, to rallying the world against Russian aggression, to helping to stop the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the U.S. continues to play a critical leading role across the globe:
It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.
“Our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead.”
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said: “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for –- timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
US State Department
Office of the Spokesperson
As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, “The formula ‘two times two equals five’ is not without its attractions.”
Below are 10 of President Vladimir Putin’s recent claims justifying Russian aggression in the Ukraine, followed by the facts that his assertions ignore or distort.
1. Mr. Putin says: Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.
The Facts: Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.
2. Mr. Putin says: Russia’s actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The Facts: The 1997 agreement requires Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
3. Mr. Putin says: The opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Facts: The February 21 agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.
4. Mr. Putin says: Ukraine’s government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine.
The Facts: On March 4, President Putin himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes – more than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that will allow all Ukrainians to have a voice in the future of their country.
5. Mr. Putin says: There is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine to Russia and seeking asylum.
The Facts: To date, there is absolutely no evidence of a humanitarian crisis. Nor is there evidence of a flood of asylum-seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia. International organizations on the ground have investigated by talking with Ukrainian border guards, who also refuted these claims. Independent journalists observing the border have also reported no such flood of refugees.
6. Mr. Putin says: Ethnic Russians are under threat.
The Facts: Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on peace and reconciliation from the outset. President Oleksandr Turchynov refused to sign legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have filed petitions attesting that their communities have not experienced threats. Furthermore, since the new government was established, calm has returned to Kyiv. There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and no retribution against political opponents.
7. Mr. Putin says: Russian bases are under threat.
The Facts: Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases. It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from Russian military action.
8. Mr. Putin says: There have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and eastern Ukraine.
The Facts: Religious leaders in the country and international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said there have been no incidents of attacks on churches. All of Ukraine’s church leaders, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, have expressed support for the new political leadership, calling for national unity and a period of healing. Jewish groups in southern and eastern Ukraine report that they have not seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
9. Mr. Putin says: Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea.
The Facts: Ukraine’s interim government has acted with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand, have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and infrastructure in Crimea. The government in Kyiv immediately sent the former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada.
10. Mr. Putin says: The Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists.
The Facts: The Rada is the most representative institution in Ukraine. Recent legislation has passed with large majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine. Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the opposite.
SOUTH AFRICA — After the passing of Nelson Mandela, there was a worldwide outpouring of affection and praise; however, Nelson Mandela was on the US Terrorist Watch List until 2008. Why? Because he was a violent terrorist.
“Although initially committed to non-violent protest, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.”
“Umkhonto we Sizwe (abbreviated as MK, translated as Spear of the Nation) was the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), co-founded by Nelson Mandela, which fought against the South African government. MK launched its first guerrilla attacks against government installations on 16 December 1961. It was subsequently classified as a terrorist organization by the South African government and the United States, and banned.”
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here, as ever. I have no announcements to make at the top of this briefing, so I will go straight to Julie Pace.
Q Thank you. Has the President made any decision in the last 24 hours or so on what the U.S. response to the Syrian chemical weapons attack would be?
MR. CARNEY: The President continues to work with his national security team reviewing the options available to him. And when he has made a decision and has an announcement to make he’ll make it. So that process continues.
Q So he has not made a decision at this point?
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q And there’s a lot of speculation that this intelligence report that presumably would link Assad directly to the chemical weapons attack might be released today. Can you give us an update on the timing?
MR. CARNEY: What I would say is that yesterday I made clear that the intelligence community is working on an assessment and that once we had that assessment we would provide information to the public about it in the coming days. And that remains true. I think that that’s speculation that it would come today rather than some other day. But it will come and I think you can expect it this week.
Let me also say, and I think that both Secretary Kerry and I attempted to make clear yesterday that there is no doubt here that chemical weapons were used on a massive scale on August 21st outside of Damascus. There is also very little doubt, and should be no doubt for anyone who approaches this logically, that the Syrian regime is responsible for the use of chemical weapons on August 21st outside of Damascus.
We have established with a high degree of confidence that the Syria regime has used chemical weapons already in this conflict. We have made clear that it is our firm assessment that the Syrian regime has maintained control of the stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria throughout this conflict. It is also the case that the Syrian regime has the rocket capacity to deliver the chemical weapons as they were delivered with repugnant results on August 21st outside of Damascus.
So the deliberations that are taking place now and the options that are being considered by the President and his national security team are not around the question of whether or not chemical weapons were used in Syria on a significant scale, causing mass death and injury to innocent civilians — to women and children. It is not around the question of whether or not the Syrian regime is responsible. It’s around the question of what is the appropriate response to this clear violation of international norms.
Q But it’s your expectation the intel report — that it will provide some type of evidence that clearly shows, beyond sort of taking all of these pieces that we know and inferring that this must be the Assad regime — will this be tangible evidence —
MR. CARNEY: There will be more information provided with what we can give to you in an unclassified manner to the public from the intelligence community. But this is not just an inference. This is not just the U.S. government asserting it. I think you saw the statement from the Arab League. I think you’ve seen multiple eyewitness accounts, video accounts. You’ve seen statements from independent organizations working in Syria, like Doctors Without Borders. Some of your colleagues who are risking their lives to cover this story in Syria have provided substantial confirmation of what occurred on August 21st.
So what the President is engaged in is a process of deciding, as he consults with international allies and as his administration consults with Congress, about what the appropriate response to this flagrant violation of international norms should be. And there must be a response.
Q And then finally, British Prime Minister David Cameron is recalling Parliament this week. There’s going to be a motion put forward on Thursday, a vote on authorizing the British response. Is it fair to say that President Obama is not going to recall Congress to seek some type of similar measure before proceeding?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I don’t want to engage in speculation about a course of action that has not been decided upon. When the President has an announcement to make, he’ll make it. As this process is undertaken, we are consulting directly with House and Senate leaders in Congress. We are consulting directly with the leadership of the relevant committees as well as with other members of Congress who have a keen interest in this matter. I think you’ve seen that documented by some members who have spoken to it. And that process will continue. We think it’s very important that the consultation process take place in a matter like this of such gravity.
We are also, as we’ve made clear, engaging with our international partners. There’s a substantial list of communications that the Secretary of State has had. The President himself, as we’ve read out to you, has had consultations with Canadian Prime Minister Harper today, and in recent days with British Prime Minister Cameron, French President Hollande, and Australian Prime Minister Rudd. And I would anticipate that the President will continue to make calls to his counterparts throughout the week.
When it comes to processes — I think which goes to your question — I’m not going to — it presupposes a course of action that hasn’t been decided upon.
Q But that fact that Cameron is in a position to recall his Parliament, says he’s going to put forward a motion on Thursday, seems to suggest that there is something that’s been decided.
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me just make a broad statement. Obviously, this is a different country with a different form of government. There is —
Q I’m just talking about whether something has been decided. I mean, the fact that he’s in a position to take this step on Thursday seems to indicate something has been decided.
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, nothing has been decided, as I said in response to your first question. We are in direct contact with Prime Minister Cameron and his government, and the President himself has spoken with the Prime Minister, as he has with other foreign leaders, and those consultations will continue. And we share the views of the British government about the appalling nature of the transgression that occurred in Syria, and are consulting with the British and other allies and partners about the appropriate response.
Q Jay, you were very firm in saying just now that there’s little doubt that the Syrian regime was, in fact, responsible for this chemical attack. So in that context, what is the purpose of this intelligence report? Is it to legitimize — to get rid of any remaining doubt and, therefore, legitimize a response in the eyes of the international community?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of any doubt that exists. I think that maybe if you take Bashar al-Assad seriously on these matters you might have some doubt. But there’s no evidence to suggest that he has any credibility when it comes to his statements about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The actions taken by his regime in response to in the immediate aftermath of this heinous attack demonstrate his lack of credibility. And we believe that a careful review of the facts leads to the conclusion that the regime was behind this.
Again, it’s undeniable that chemical weapons were used on a large scale. We know that the regime maintains custody of the chemical weapons in Syria and uses the types of rockets that were used to deliver chemical weapons on August 21. The opposition does not. We also know that the opposition does not have the capabilities that the Syrian regime has. And, as I mentioned earlier, we have already had an assessment by the intelligence community with a high degree of confidence that the Syrian regime has used on a smaller scale chemical weapons in this conflict already. So suggestions that there’s any doubt about who is responsible for this are as preposterous as suggestions that the attack itself didn’t occur.
Q Secretary Hagel said, I guess it was yesterday, that any actions taken would be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification. Is any legal justification lacking prior to any action by the United States on this? And does the international community need any further convincing?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to make legal justifications for actions that haven’t been decided upon. When the President makes a decision about what the appropriate response for the United States is, we will and he will provide ample context for the decision that he makes. But prior to that, I’m not going to speculate about what that context will be because an announcement has not been made and a decision is pending, as the President and his team review the options available to them.
by United for Peace and Justice
Ten years ago this month the United Sates embarked on one of the worst foreign policy decisions in the nation’s history. Fooling itself into believing that U.S. soldiers would be welcomed as liberators, the Bush Administration ordered the invasion of Iraq. March 19th began a more intensified subjugation and destruction of Iraq that really began with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991 when I was part of that invading force.
Today due to the resistance of the Iraqi people and domestic pressure created by the peace movement here in the U.S., officially U.S. forces have left Iraq and the Iraqi people are picking up the pieces of a destroyed national infrastructure and fragmented society. The two decades of Iraq Wars from 1991 to when the last U.S. troops left in 2011 must not be swept aside like a bad dream to be forgotten. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq and to U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. I congratulate the peace movement for its successful efforts to bring our troops home and end the violence caused by U.S. military operations and or the presence of our forces, but there is still much work to do to help the people of Iraq and U.S. troops and the communities to which they have returned heal.
As always the peace and anti-war community is busy with over flowing plates of work to do. There have been important developments in the Bradley Manning case. He needs our support as much as anyone. March is Women’s History month and as we celebrate the triumphs and continuing struggles of women here at home, the challenges women face around the world in the U.S. war machine and in the aftermath of U.S. wars must be part of the dialogue.
We are beginning preparations for the April 15th Global Day of Action on Military Spending to end the madness of international squandering of material resources and people’s lives and we must support our allies in the struggle for a clean and sustainable environment so that we can have safe food and clean air and water.
Thank you for your devotion to peace and justice. We will continue in the struggle because it honors those who brought us this far, it is the right thing to do, and we know that together we are making a difference for the better.
Texas Straight Talk
Rep. Ron Paul (R) – TX 14
Last week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report on the effect of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq that confirmed what critics of our foreign policy had been saying for years. The killing of civilians, although unintentional, angers other civilians and prompts them to seek revenge. This should be self-evident. The Central Intelligence Agency has long acknowledged and analyzed the concept blowback in our foreign policy.
It still amazes me that so many think that attacks against our soldiers occupying hostile foreign lands are motivated by hatred toward our system of government at home, or by the religion of the attackers. In fact, most of the anger toward us is rooted in reactions towards seeing their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved ones, being killed by a foreign army. No matter our intention, the violence of our militarism in foreign lands causes those residents to seek revenge if innocents are killed. One does not have to be a Muslim to react this way – just human.
Our battle in Afghanistan resembles the battle against the many-headed Hydra monster in Greek mythology. According to former General Stanley McChrystal’s so-called insurgent math, for every insurgent killed, ten more insurgents are created by the collateral damage to civilians. Every coalition attack leads to six retaliatory attacks against our troops within the following six weeks, according to the NBER report. These retaliatory attacks must then be acted on by our troops, leading to still more attacks, and so it goes. Violence begets more violence. Eventually more and more Afghanis will view American troops with hostility and seek revenge for the deaths of a loved one. Meanwhile we are bleeding ourselves dry militarily and economically.
Some say if we leave, the Taliban will be strengthened. However, those who make that claim ignore the numerous ways our interventionist foreign policy has strengthened groups like the Taliban over the years. I have already pointed out how we serve as excellent recruiters for them by killing civilians. Last week I pointed out how our foreign aid to Pakistan specifically makes it into the Taliban’s coffers. And of course we provided the Taliban with aid and resources in the 1980s when they were our strategic allies against the Soviet Union.
For example, our CIA supplied them with stinger missiles to use against the Soviets, which are strikingly similar to the ones now allegedly used against us on the same battlefield according to the Wikileaks documents. As usual, our friends have a funny way of turning against us. Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein are also prime examples. Yet Congress never seems to acknowledge the blowback that results from our interventionism of the past.
Our war against the Taliban is going about as well as our War on Drugs or our War on Poverty, or any of our government’s wars. They all tend to create more of the thing they purport to eradicate, thereby dodging any excuse to draw down and come to an end. It is hard to image even winning anything this way. We have done enough damage in Afghanistan, both to the Afghan people and to ourselves. It’s time to reevaluate the situation. It’s time to come home.
Texas Straight Talk
Rep. Ron Paul (R) – TX 14
I have often spoken about the excessive size of government, and most recently how waste and inefficiency needs to be eliminated from our military budget. Our foreign policy is not only bankrupting us, but actively creating and antagonizing enemies of the United States, and compromising our national security. Spending more and adding more programs and initiatives does not improve things for us; it makes them much much worse. This applies to more than just the military budget.
Recently the Washington Post ran an extensive report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin on the bloated intelligence community. They found that an estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances. Just what are all these people up to? By my calculation this is about 11,000 intelligence workers per al Qaeda member in Afghanistan. This also begs the question – if close to 1 million people are authorized to know top secrets, how closely guarded are these secrets?
They also found that since the September 11 attacks, some 17 million square feet of building space has been built or is being built to accommodate the 250 percent expansion of intelligence organizations. Intelligence work is now done by some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private contracting companies in about 10,000 locations in the United States.
The former Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, has asserted that US intelligence now has the authority to target American citizens for assassination without charge or trial. How many of these resources are being devoted to spying on American citizens for nefarious reasons at home rather than targeting foreign enemies abroad?
It has been pointed out how much information we had about the impending attacks on 9/11, but because of layers upon layers of bureaucratic inefficiencies, our intelligence community was unable to act meaningfully on that information. Obviously we needed drastic change. But it was pretty clear that we did not need more bureaucracy, more confusion, more expenditures and more government.
It is even claimed by some leaders that the intelligence community has grown this way by design; that it is advantageous to have more than one set of eyes looking at the same information. With this logic, is there any number of intelligence employees at which we achieve diminishing returns? Can there ever be too many cooks in the kitchen, in their view?
Are there any problems at all that the government wouldn’t attempt to solve by throwing more money at them? Even now, the government is trying to solve our economic problems related to too much government spending and debt, with more government spending and debt.
The problem with our intelligence community before 9/11 was not an inability to collect information. Therefore, the post-September 11 build-up of the surveillance state does nothing to enhance safety. Instead what Americans have gotten in return for the billions of tax dollars spent on security is a surveillance state that reads our e-mails, wiretaps us without warrants, and strip searches grandmothers at airports. This is yet another instance in which Americans would be safer, richer and freer if our government would simply look to the Constitution and respect the boundaries it has set.