Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Trust in Government" matters



Harry Targ

In my foreign policy class I talk about one measure, “trust in government,” based on public opinion data from 1964 to 1976 and beyond. In 1964 when LBJ won a massive election victory, public trust in government reached abut 85 percent. By 1976, after Vietnam and Watergate, it had declined to less than forty percent. Trust increased a bit during the Reagan period and declined during the Clinton years. This article surveys data indicating that trust in government has reached an all-time low.

While there is more to political change than “mass consciousness,” a radical decline in respect for or pride in government may be a predictor of and stimulus for radical change of one sort or another. It may be assumed that people went out in the streets in Eastern Europe in 1989, and later gave little support for maintaining the former Soviet Union, because of declining legitimacy of government.

What this means is we on the left need to confront declining trust in government both in systematically articulating why this distrust is justified and at the same time presenting a credible alternative to the present. If we do not confront this danger and opportunity creatively, the alternative may not be an humane democratic socialism but rather a cruel fascism.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

LENNY MOSS DEFENDS WORKERS AND SOLVES A MURDER: Proletarian Fiction is Alive and Well

Harry Targ

“My efforts to contribute to the aspirations of the working class began with writing novels about hospital workers….(In)the majority of stories that were published in books or aired in movies or on television, the heroes were doctors  or psychiatrists....The service workers who maintained the institution and provided most of the services were either absent from the plot, window dressing or foils for the professional classes.” (Tim Sheard, “Insurgent Publishing for the Resistance,” Hard Ball Press, https://hardballpress.com
I’ll be ever’where-wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat. I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there…An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build-why, I’ll be there. (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Penguin edition, 1992, 419).

I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good…Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood…(Woody Guthrie, “Woody Sez,” https://www.woodyguthrie.org).

There is a long and rich tradition of storytelling and singing songs that reflect the reality of working people’s lives. The better ones inform and inspire people to action. And whole publishers have tried to bring these stories and songs to a mass audience. International Publishers, West End Press, the Feminist Press and others, particularly in the last third of the twentieth century, have struggled to keep this tradition alive. In the musical world, People’s Songs, Broadside, and Sing Out represent efforts to communicate working class music to newer audiences. But with the rising cultural hegemony of films, cable television, electronic songs and stories, and the mass-marketing of electronically downloadable fiction and non-fiction, the viability of outlets for working class culture has been made more difficult at a time when we need Steinbecks and Guthries more than ever.
In 2001, Tim Sheard published his first mystery novel about hospital shop steward, Lenny Moss, This Won’t Hurt a Bit.  Sheard then established Hard Ball Press, which published seven more Lenny Moss novels. Hard Ball press has expanded its offerings, including a new mystery by activist Bill Fletcher which addresses race in New England, numerous children’s books, and an engaging biography of Herbert and Joan March, organizers of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA-CIO) in Chicago.

A shop steward and hospital custodian, Lenny Moss, returns in Tim Sheard’s latest mystery novel, One Foot in the Grave.  In this latest encounter, Moss assists hospital workers to solve the attempted murder of a popular staff doctor. The adventure reads like a classic well-timed narrative about an attempted murder and the almost desperate efforts to save the intended victim.

This gripping mystery story is overlaid with a rich description of work life in the James Madison Hospital. Hospital administrators are motivated not by serving the ill or providing a rich and constructive work environment for the custodial workers, nurses, laboratory technicians, or doctors, but by profit. The novel describes “speed-up” on the job, including nurses and doctors assigned greater numbers of patients, and extended hours of overtime rather than hiring adequate staff. The worsening conditions of work are made more complicated by a virulent Zika epidemic that has hit the city of Philadelphia. Additional patients are added to an already overloaded hospital. Hospital workers are forced to treat patients contaminated by the spreading epidemic. Some pregnant nurses, who are devoted to their jobs, are being forced to treat Zika patients even though scientists believe exposure to patients infected with this new highly contagious strain could cause birth defects.
It is in the context of worker exploitation, threats of firings, exposure to disease, and a voiceless and demeaned work force, that Lenny Moss steps up to encourage the organization of a staff union for the nurses. Organizing is complicated by gaps between nurses who see themselves as professionals without shared interest with custodial workers despite the clear reality, recognized by the custodials, that greater strength would be achieved by unity among all hospital workers.

All of this, the murder mystery, the analysis of the hospital as a workplace, the struggles between labor and capital, the emergence of a crisis imposed by the epidemic provide a rich reading experience: entertainment, education, inspiration, and empathy for the hospital workers. The Lenny Moss series, and virtually all the Hard Ball Press offerings, suggest that characters like Lenny Moss, are modern day working class heroes such as Tom Joad, who will be wherever working people are suffering and in struggle, or Woody Guthrie, who hates a song or a story that puts people down and makes them think they are no good.
Reading the latest Lenny Moss novel, really all of them, will entertain, educate, and inspire.






Friday, May 24, 2019

IMPERIALISM, WAR, AND/OR DIPLOMACY: WHERE SHOULD THE PEACE MOVEMENT STAND? A Repost

Harry Targ

(In the Trump era, with foreign policy advisors such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, appeals to diplomacy rather than war remain critical for the peace movement. A repost -August 7, 2015-from the days of United States/Iranian diplomacy).
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Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.
….
Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place. It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported. (Barack Obama, “Full text: Obama gives a speech about the Iran nuclear deal,” The Washington Post, August 5, 2015).

The peace movement has often been faced with a dilemma. Should it channel its energies in opposition to imperialism, including economic expansion and covert operations, or should it mobilize against war, or both. The problem was reflected in President Obama’s August 5, 2015 speech defending the anti-nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran.  On the one hand he defended diplomacy as the first tool of a nation’s foreign policy and on the other hand his defense included the argument that through diplomacy the United States “won” the Cold War, and thereby defeated a bloc of states that opposed capitalist expansion. The implication of his argument was that pursuing imperialism remained basic to United States foreign policy but achieving it through peace was better than through war.

The speech was presented at American University 52 years after President Kennedy called for peaceful competition with the former Soviet Union. In June, 1963, nine months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly led to nuclear war, and weeks after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s call for “peaceful coexistence,” President Kennedy responded by urging the use of diplomacy rather than war in the ongoing conflict with the Soviet Union. 

A small but growing number of scholars and activists at that time had begun to articulate the view that the threat of nuclear war, growing U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, and repeated covert interventions in Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, and the Congo, had to do with U.S. imperialism. The dilemma for the peace movement in 1963 then as it is in 2015 is how to respond to United States imperialism at the same time as supporting the use of diplomacy to forestall wars.

In the context of political discourse in 2015, dominated by “neoconservative” and “humanitarian interventionist” factions of the foreign policy elite, the danger of war always exists. Therefore, any foreign policy initiative that reduces the possibility of war and arguments about its necessity must be supported. The agreement with Iran supported by virtually every country except Israel constitutes an effort to satisfy the interests of Iran and the international community and without the shedding of blood and creating the danger of escalation to global war. 

Neoconservatives, celebrants of war, have had a long and growing presence in the machinery of United States foreign policy. James Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense in the Truman Administration, was a leading advocate for developing a militaristic response to the Soviet Union in the years after World War II. As historian Andrew Bacevich pointed out, Forrestal was one of the Truman administrators who sought to create a “permanent war economy.” He was, in Bacevich’s terms, a founding member of the post-World War II “semi-warriors.”

Subsequent to the initiation of the imperial response to the “Soviet threat”-the Marshall Plan, NATO, wars in Korea and Vietnam, the arms race-other semi-warriors continued the crusade. These included the Dulles brothers (John and Allen), Air Force General Curtis LeMay, and prominent Kennedy advisors including McGeorge Bundy and Walter Rostow, architect of the “noncommunist path to development,” in Vietnam.

Key semi-warriors of our own day, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Robert Kagan, and others who formed the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in the 1990s, gained their first experience in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The PNAC view of how the United States should participate in world affairs is to use military superiority to achieve foreign policy goals. The key failure of Clinton foreign policy, they claimed, was his refusal to use force to transform the world. For starters, he should have overthrown Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

The neoconservative policy recommendations prevailed during the eight years of the George Walker Bush administration. International organizations were belittled, allies were ignored, arms control agreements with Russia were rescinded and discourse on the future prioritized planning for the next war. And concretely the United States launched long, bloody, immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Humanitarian interventionists, more liberals than conservatives, argued that the United States should use force, but more selectively, to achieve various goals. These goals included interventions that allegedly defended the quest for human rights. Advocates of humanitarian interventionism argued that the United States must use all means available, military and diplomatic, to maximize interests and values. And force need not be the first or only instrument of policy. 

But in the end the humanitarian interventionists encouraged bombing Serbia, intervening in a civil war in Libya, funding rebels perpetuating war in Syria, expanding military training and a U.S. presence in Africa, and funding opposition elements against the government in Venezuela. In addition, with advice from humanitarian interventionists, the United States increased the use of drones to target enemies of U.S. interests in East Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East.

Neoconservatives and humanitarian interventionists (and in earlier times anti-communists) have led the charge for war-making in the United States since World War II. Between the end of the war and the 1990s, 10 million people died in wars in which the United States had a presence. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women serving in the armed forces of the United States have died or been permanently scarred by U.S. wars. And the physical landscape of Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, Central America, and the Middle East has been devastated by war. And in the United States, foreign policy elites, politicians, and think tank experts still advocate violence to address international problems. 

Therefore, in the context of a huge arms industry and global economic and political interests, any presidential initiative that uses diplomacy rather than force, declares its opposition to unilateral action, and challenges the war mindset deserves the support of the peace movement. Given the long and painful United States war system, the battle to secure the agreement between the P5 plus 1 nuclear agreement with Iran is worthy of support.




Tuesday, May 21, 2019

U.S. Imperialism and Our "Special Relationship" With Iran: Again!



Targets of U.S. imperialism and the danger of war with Iran

Given the troubled history of U.S./Iranian relations spanning at least 60 years, the current threats of war expressed by both Israel and the United States are not surprising.

By Harry Targ  originally posted on The Rag Blog / March 28, 2012
(The United States withdrew from the comprehensive nuclear treaty with Iran, established un 2015, in 2018; thus returning to the militant US hostility to Iran reflected in this historical essay).

U.S. Imperialism in the beginning
Modern imperialism is intimately connected to the globalization of capitalism, the quest for enhanced military capabilities, geopolitical thinking, and ideologies of national and racial superiority.

The rise of the United States empire occurred as the industrial revolution spread to North America after the civil war. Farmers began to produce agricultural surpluses requiring overseas customers, factories were built to produce iron, steel, textiles, and food products, railroads were constructed to traverse the North American continent, and financiers created large banks, trusts, and holding companies to parley agricultural and manufacturing profits into huge concentrations of cash.

Perhaps the benchmark of the U.S. emergence as an imperial power was the Spanish/Cuban/American war. The U.S. established its hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, replacing the Spanish and challenging the British, and became an Asian power, crushing rebellion and planting its military in the Philippines. The empire has grown, despite resistance, to this day.

While U.S. expansion occurs wherever a vacuum of power exists, and an opportunity to formally or informally control a regime and/or territory, particular countries have had enduring salience for the U.S. Iran is such a country.

Scale of significance for U.S. imperialism
To help understand the attention U.S. policy-makers give some countries, it is possible to reflect on what is called here the Scale of Significance for U.S. Imperialism (SSUSI). The SSUSI has three interconnected dimensions that relate to the relative importance policymakers give to some countries compared to others.


First, as an original motivation for expansion, economic interests are primary. Historically, United States policy has been driven by the need to secure customers for U.S. products, outlets for manufacturing investment opportunities, opportunities for financial speculation, and vital natural resources.

Second, geopolitics and military hegemony matter. Empires require ready access to regions and trouble spots all around the world. When Teddy Roosevelt, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Vice President, and President of the United States, articulated the first warning of the need for global power he spoke of the development of a “two-ocean” navy.

The U.S., he said, must become an Atlantic and a Pacific power, thus prioritizing the projection of military power in the Western Hemisphere and Asia. If the achievement of global power was dependent upon resources drawn from everywhere, military and political hegemony in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and parts of Africa also required attention.

Third, as the imperial project grows, certain political regimes and cultures take on particular importance for policymakers and the American people. Foreign policy elites claim that the U.S. has a special responsibility for them. If these roles are rejected by the targeted country, the experience burns itself into the consciousness of the people.

For example, Cuba was seen by U.S. rulers as far back as Thomas Jefferson as soon to be part of the United States. Cuba’s rejection of this presumption of U.S. tutelage has been a scar on the U.S. sense of itself ever since the spread of revolutionary ferment on the island.

The danger of war with Iran today
Reflecting on the SSUSI adds to the discussion about current United States foreign policy toward Iran. The history of U.S./Iranian relations has been long and painful. Before the dramatic United States involvement in that country, Iran’s vital oil resource had been under control of the weakening British empire. In 1901 the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now British Petroleum) consolidated control of much of the production, refining, and export of Iranian oil. Local oligarchs received only 16 percent of the oil revenue from the global sale of the oil.

After World War II, with a young monarch Mohammad Reza Shah serving as the Iranian ruler and Iranian masses living in poverty, Iranian nationalists mobilized to seize control of their valuable resource. Upper class nationalist Mohammed Mossadegh became Prime Minister and asserted the power of the parliament over the monarchy. The parliament voted to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

The British government enlisted the United States in 1953 to overthrow the Mossadegh regime using covert operations directed by the CIA. After Mossadegh was imprisoned and the Shah given full power to impose his will on an angry population, a new oil consortium agreement was established in 1954 which allowed five U.S. oil companies to gain a 40 percent share of Iranian oil. Anglo-Iranian would retain another 40 percent, and the rest would be given to rich Iranians.

Over the years, the Shah’s regime became the bulwark of U.S. power in the increasingly vital Persian Gulf region. In the Nixon period, Iran was defined as a key “gendarme” state, which would serve as a surrogate western police power to oversee the region. Presumably Iran would protect the flow of Gulf oil to the United States, Europe, and Japan. By the 1970s, the Shah’s military was the fifth largest in the world.

To the great surprise of left critics of the Shah’s dictatorship, the CIA, and the Carter administration, the Shah’s regime began to crumble in the summer of 1978 as large strikes were organized by oil workers against the regime. In January, 1979 secretly organized massive street protests led by the religious community doomed the regime.

As Iranian soldiers refused to fire upon street demonstrators, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, urged the president to send troops to Iran to save the U.S. regional policeman, the Shah, from overthrow. That proposal was rejected by Carter.

After jockeying for power in the post-revolutionary period, religious leaders consolidated their power over the political system. To add embarrassment to loss of economic and geopolitical control over the vital Persian Gulf region, Iranian students took 52 U.S. diplomats and military attaches hostage and held them for 444 days.

In 1980 Carter authorized a military rescue effort that failed. The bungled military operation further damaged the image of infallibility that American foreign policy elites, and the public, held about the nation’s power and destiny.

In the 1980s, to challenge Iran’s potential for becoming the hegemonic power in the Gulf, the Reagan administration sided with Iraq in the brutal war between it and Iran. In 1988, shortly before the end of the Iraq/Iran war, U.S. planes shot down a civilian Iranian airliner killing 290 people aboard.

Subsequent to the ignoble history of U.S. support for the Shah’s dictatorship, militarization, the overthrow of Mossadegh, the embarrassment of the hostage taking, funding Iraq in the brutal Gulf war of the 1980s, the United States has maintained hostility to Iran despite occasional signals from the latter of a desire to establish better relations.

U.S. policy has included an economic embargo, efforts to create region-wide opposition to the regime, expressions of support for a large and justifiable internal movement for democracy and secularization in the country, and encouragement, more or less, for growing Israeli threats against Iran.

Given this troubled history of U.S./Iranian relations spanning at least 60 years, the current threats of war expressed by both Israel and the United States are not surprising.

Returning to SSUSI and Iranian relations

As an emerging global power, United States needs for natural resources, customers for consumer and military products, investment opportunities, and outlets for energy companies grew throughout the twentieth century. One of the significant historical junctures in the transfer of economic and geopolitical power in the world from the declining British empire and the rising U.S. empire was the agreement to redistribute control of Iranian oil in 1954. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was obliged to share Iranian oil with the then five U.S. oil giants.

As U.S. oil needs and those of its friends in Europe increased, control of the Persian Gulf region and access to its oil became more vital. Furthermore, since a hostile Iran could control the Strait of Hormuz, the Iranian revolution of 1979 posed an increasing geopolitical problem for American dominance.

The impulse in 1979 to send U.S. troops to save the Shah’s regime was driven by both economics and geopolitics. It was only because other Carter advisers disagreed with the National Security Advisor on the possibility of saving the Shah that a U.S. intervention stalled in 1979. But in 1980 an Iraq/Iran war provided an opportunity, it was hoped, to weaken Iran’s potential control of the region.

Finally, the U.S. decision-makers since 1953 saw a special relationship between this country and Iran. The U.S. put the Shah in power, plied him with enormous military power, encouraged and facilitated significant cultural exchanges, and defined his regime as a junior partner in policing the region.

The rapidity of the Shah’s overthrow and the anger expressed by the Iranian people about its historic relationship to the American people communicated to the world declining U.S. power. Consequently, U.S. hostility to Iran in subsequent decades using a variety of issues including processing uranium is not surprising.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Harry Targ The wars on women, the environment, people of color, and the Global South are based on a common ideology and profit motive. They must be fought in tandem by a united progressive coalition. As the old IWW slogan said: "An Injury to One is an Injury to All."

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

THE MILITARY/INDUSTRIAL ACADEMIC COMPLEX:a 2018 repost



Harry Targ

An Associated Press story posted on October 8, 2018 announced that Purdue Global, the new Purdue University online university which was purchased from the discredited Kaplan University, was launching a new degree in “cloud computing.”  As with the general Purdue Global project, there has been little transparency, including consulting the faculty and providing information about it to the public. And the degree is to be partnered with ManTech, “a global leader in technology solutions, to offer the cloud computing program to its employees, supporting ManTech’s portfolio of mission-focused solutions for national security, intelligence community and federal civilian agencies.” The article emphasized that by 2020 fifty-nine percent of the world’s internet consumers will be using cloud storage (“Purdue University Global Introduces New Cloud Computing Degree Program,” AP News, October 8, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/6d2056fe8bbe49d084a1f30980af00d9).

 Dr. Jeffrey Buck, who is identified as the “Dean of Purdue Global School of Business and IT,” pointed out that this new cloud computer curriculum will be “developed with real-world requirements and input from experts at ManTech,” and “will help students master the foundational goals of cloud computing.” ManTech CEO Kevin M. Phillips applauded the “synergy” between this new program and other “cyber certification training.” ManTech employees, he said, will be able to take advantage of “online and self-directed” programs of instruction. The article points out that the needs of non-traditional students, which are being provided for by Purdue Global’s other courses, will fit this program as well. ManTech’s Chief HR Officer pointed out that it “enhances our tradition of helping ManTech people leverage their experience, build on it and advance their careers in new ways that help safeguard America.”

This story, as with all the publicity surrounding Purdue Global ever since it was unveiled in the spring of 2017, raises more questions than it answers. Who are the students? Who are the faculty? What does the curriculum look like? What role does Purdue University have in the program aside from the use of the Purdue “brand?” How does Purdue University benefit from this it? And, of course, what is ManTech?

Searching the internet (not the cloud), one can discover that ManTech is the Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program which is the DOD “investment mechanism for staying at the forefront of defense-essential manufacturing capability.” ManTech was established by law in 1956 and its mandate has been revised periodically. Its current charge includes: the pursuit of the economical acquisition of weapons systems and components; connecting research, development and production; promoting capital investment and industrial innovation; disseminating research and technology throughout the industrial base; promoting worker training; and meeting “other national defense needs with investments directed toward areas of greatest need and potential benefit.” In short, under the ManTech label, the “cloud computing” educational program, run through Purdue University, is really a collaboration between Purdue Global and the Department of Defense.

The Purdue Global and ManTech cloud computing plan parallel’s many of the research activities of Purdue’s Discovery Park. Discovery Park was launched in 2001 with a grant from the state of Indiana and expanded by a $25 million Lilly Endowment as a nanotechnology center. Today it is a $1.15 billion research and learning complex that combines Purdue’s expertise in science, engineering, technology, and biology, with connections to the corporate world. As its website suggests: “Leveraging Lilly Endowment’s investment, Discovery Park has created an innovative environment where major global challenges are examined objectively, generating new ideas and directions for future generations.”

One of Discovery Park’s core strengths is “Global Security.” Key research on this subject is designed to respond to security threats, global instability, defense needs, terrorism, nuclear deterrence and proliferation, basically responding to “the most pressing security and defense challenges facing the nation and the world.”

To describe one of Discovery Park’s core missions, global security, Chief Discovery Park scientist, Professor Tomas Diaz de la Rubia posted an essay entitled “The New Future of Warfare.” In it he addresses the emerging salience of new military technologies based on artificial intelligence (AI) and war. De la Rubia speculates that future wars will not be fought on battlefields but rather in cities or in cyberspace. New AI weapons of war in the hands of presumed enemies could constitute an existential threat to the survival of the United States. Discovery Park, he indicated, is already engaged in vital research on biomorphic robots, automatic target recognition for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, automatic targeting for drones, and other technologies. In short, a core Discovery Park mission includes the preparation for and implementation of war. And this is necessary because as Professor de la Rubia argues:

“It has become apparent that the U.S. is no longer guaranteed top dog status on the dance card that is the future of war. In order to maintain military superiority the focus must shift from traditional weapons of war to advanced systems that rely on A.I.-based weaponry. The stakes are just too high and the prize too great for the U.S. to be left behind. All the more reason to call upon Purdue University and its inestimable capacity to weave together academia, research, and industry for the greater good. We’re stepping up to secure our place in the future of our country, and there’s much more to come!”

These articles suggest that Purdue increasingly commits its skills to research, development, training, and the production of the instruments of war. Such commitments have been made with little discussion in the broader university community. Important theoretical questions are not being raised. For example, is war inevitable? Are other countries a threat to the United States? Should the United States commit itself to remaining the number one power in the world, however that is defined? Should research prioritize human development and conflict resolution rather than “security? Is there a relationship between poverty, hunger, environmental devastation, the spread of weapons and war and violence? One wonders if more of government and corporate resources should be allocated to these many issues, rather than to particular, and, perhaps, ill-conceived, notions of national “security.” And, finally, does a Purdue Global training program in cloud computing best serve the needs for non-traditional students and the society at large or just students or employees of ManTech?

President Eisenhower in 1960 warned about an unwarranted growth of the influence of the military/industrial complex in American society. Today he would characterize the danger as the military/industrial/academic complex. It includes the skewing of research, largely in non-transparent decision-making ways about university priorities. In addition, the military/industrial/academic complex tends to defend its  existence by articulating problematic assumptions about the inevitability of war.



For more on the concept of the military/industrial complex see:




For a discussion about competing paradigms in the study of international relations see:













Thursday, May 9, 2019

THE MILITARY/INDUSTRIAL ACADEMIC COMPLEX: STILL GOBBLING UP THE WORLD AND OUR ECONOMY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Harry Targ

Parts of this blog appeared in Buzzflash at Truthout January 4, 2011

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience....In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes....
(Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961, “Farewell Address”).
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The promise of aerospace-related jobs that Purdue President Mitch Daniels for years has insisted the university was ripe to get finally landed on Wednesday….Saab will invest $37 million and  employ up to 300 people at a facility expected to make fuselages for the Boeing T-X, advertised as the U.S. Air Force’s next generation jet trainer…. Holcomb (Governor of Indiana) called it “a proud patriotic day for Indiana and its place in advanced manufacturing in the name of cutting-edge national defense.(Dave Bangert, “Purdue Lands SAAB Plant,” Journal and Courier, May 9, 2019).
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Purdue University’s Discovery Park has positioned itself as a paragon of collaborative, interdisciplinary research in AI and its applications to national security. Its Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation is already answering needs for advanced AI research by delving into areas such as biomorphic robots, automatic target recognition for unmanned aerial vehicles, and autonomous exploration and localization of targets for aerial drones.
It has become apparent that the United States is no longer guaranteed top dog status on the dance card that is the future of war. To maintain military superiority, the focus must shift from traditional weapons of war to advanced systems that rely on AI-based weaponry...we must call upon the government to weave together academia, government and industry for the greater good.
 (Tomas Diaz de la Rubia, Vice President Discovery Park, Purdue UniversityAcademia a Crucial Partner for Pentagon’s AI Push,” National Defense Magazine, February 11, 2019).

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To check China, Washington has been building a new digital defense network of advanced cyberwarfare capabilities and air-space robotics. Between 2010 and 2012, the Pentagon extended drone operations into the exosphere, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before. As early as 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will loft a triple-tier shield of unmanned drones reaching from the stratosphere to the exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by an expanded satellite system, and operated through robotic controls.
(Alfred McCoy, “Tomgram: The Global War of 2030,” Tom Dispatch, September 26, 2017).

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We have become so stupefied by politicians that we often fail to reflect on the power of their words. Seeing books on library shelves with titles like "Speeches of Great Americans" culls up in our minds Readers Digest, the History Channel, Sunday morning sermons, and all the hyperbole that passes for political discourse in the 21st century. Every once in a while though, a politician says something that is rich with theoretical insight and inspiration and begs for action.

When President Eisenhower gave his final address to the nation on January 17, 1961, nearly 60 years ago, he warned of "the acquisition of unwarranted influence" of a military/industrial complex. Some claim he originally included the word "academic" but later eliminated it, for reasons of length. He was alerting Americans to the breadth and scope of military power over the world and American society.
The President's words constituted a shocking challenge to the soon-to-be Kennedy era defense intellectuals who criticized the outgoing president's reluctance to spend more than the $40 billion he invested on the military. Even Eisenhower's direct orders to subordinates to overthrow Iran's Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and Guatemala's President Jacob Arbenz in 1954 and his declaration of the Middle East as a free-world sanctuary was not interventionist enough for the 1960s theorists and practitioners of "modernization," "development," and "democracy."

Although Eisenhower warned us about the military/industrial complex he could not foresee the dramatic impacts of America's drive toward empire on foreign policy and public life.

He only dimly saw the changes that would occur in the techniques of empire. The expansion of the use of CIA money and American intelligence and military forces engineered the creation of brutal military coups. Military advisors revamped armies and repressive police forces in countries threatened by revolutionary change. In the 1980s in the face of an increasingly skeptical public, the United States used "low intensity conflict," that is, covert operatives, to train anti-government reactionaries to fight against regimes out of favor in places such as Nicaragua, Angola, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. And then to mollify domestic critics, the U.S. initiated the privatization and outsourcing of the military as an adjunct to the more than 800 U.S. military bases in more than 120 countries that exist today. Most recently, high tech weapons, including unmanned but armed aerial vehicles, are used to kill people without endangering U.S. soldiers. Technological advances and the globalization of U.S. violence continue. And at the dawn of the second decade of the new century politicians and pundits talk about world war with China!
Eisenhower was unalterably opposed to the militarization of the U.S. economy. While he was willing to allot $40 billion in 1950s currency, he resisted the demands from Beltway liberals and defense contractors to double military spending. By the 1960s, half of the federal budget began to go to the military and one in ten workers derived wages from defense contracts. And that continues, but with less public criticism.

Finally, Eisenhower spoke to the militarization of American culture. The university became a research arm of the complex. Students were taught about the virtues of military "readiness," the threat of "communism," the problem of how "human nature" leads to perpetual war, and, more recently, the endless danger of "terrorism." Virtually every large corporation, producing such products as toothpaste, toys, breakfast cereal, medications, automobiles, electronics, or energy, is steeped in military contracts. The public airwaves, the Internet, movies, and sports are laced with war, violence, killing, and competition. As Eisenhower put it: "Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved: so is the very structure of our society."
What another great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in reference to the military/industrial complex and the Vietnam War seven years after President Eisenhower's dramatic statement still holds today:

"Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken" (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York).
And to continue this “madness,” Purdue University, a great research university in the arts and sciences, has embraced a future of advancing militarism that continues to deplete resources for human betterment while increasing the likelihood of war. Along with the wastefulness of militarism, the leaders of Purdue University rationalize their new commitments by referring to outmoded notions of the United States being the “top dog” and a cosmology that implies that war is inevitable.

Harry Targ¸ Professor of Political Science, Purdue University, who has chaired the Committee on Peace Studies, writes on United States foreign policy and the political economy of higher education. He is the author of Strategy of an Empire In Decline: Cold War II and other books and articles. He blogs at www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com


Thursday, May 2, 2019

ABOUT PETE SEEGER

Script for a Radio Show on Pete Seeger (WBAA, “Rainbow,” June 4, 2006)

Harry Targ

Pete Seeger is a world-renowned folksinger and political activist who was born in Patterson, New York on May 3, 1919 to musicologist Charles Seeger and classical musician Constance Seeger. He was exposed to the music of the rural south on tours with his parents. Seeger began to play the banjo as a teenager. After two-years of study at Harvard, Seeger began a lifetime career studying and singing the folk music of people from all over the world.

During his early years of exposure to and adaptation of what he regarded as people's music, Seeger was influenced by musicians who created an enduring genre of musical culture that would flower and grow in post-war America. These included Woody Guthrie, Hudie Leadbetter (Leadbelly), Lee Hayes, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Aunt Molly Jackson, and the folk archivist Alan Lomax. Before embracing a career as a solo performer, Seeger organized and played with the Almanac Singers, before and during World War II and the Weavers from 1948 until the 1960s. In later years, Seeger would perform with many folk artists and activists, including the Freedom Singers, civil rights activists, and Woody's son, Arlo Guthrie. Over the years Seeger has written hundreds of songs and performed them at over a
thousand concerts.

After recording popular songs such as "On Top of Old Smoky" and "Good Night Irene", he and the Weavers were blacklisted in the 1950s for their leftwing connections. Seeger was called to testify before the red-baiting House Committee on On-American Activities (HUAC) in 1955 and sited for contempt of Congress when he refused to answer their questions, on first amendment grounds, about his political beliefs. Seven years later, a Federal Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and one-year sentence on a technicality. For much of the 1960s Seeger
was prohibited from performing on network television. In January,1968, after much conflict between the CBS network and comedians Tommy and Dick Smothers, Seeger was allowed to sing his anti-Vietnam war song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" before a nationwide audience. With passion, Seeger chanted: "We are waist deep in the big muddy and the big fool says to push on."

While Seeger's music and politics has reflected virtually every progressive cause from the late 1930s until the present, his work was influenced by the variety of social movements current during different historical periods. In the late 1930s, as Seeger was learning his craft and experiencing rural life, he and Woody Guthrie performed songs about the working class and trade union organizing. Many performances were in solidarity with efforts to organize factory workers into the Congress of lndustrial Organizations (CIO).

Seeger and his friends sang songs about anti-imperialism as well: for the democratic forces fighting fascism in Spain, and opposing war in Europe. After Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and World War II ensued, he and the rest of the folk left began singing songs in support of a popular front against fascism.After the war, and for another 25 years, Seeger composed and sang songs opposing the cold war, nuclear war and later the Vietnam war.

After visiting the South in the early sixties, he put his talent behind the southern freedom movement. He helped transform an old spiritual into the anthem of the civil rights movement, "We Shall Overcome" and brought the Freedom Singers, young civil rights activists from the south, to folk concert audiences in the north in 1963. He exhorted his audiences to join the struggle tor civil rights and he particularly applauded young people who, he said, had taken the lead in fighting for civil rights.

As sixties movements diversified, Seeger's music did as well. He began to sing songs about women's rights, 1'I'm Gonna Be An Engineer," and the environment, "Sailing Down This Golden River."

Seeger has written extensively over the years, for example in the folk magazine Sing Out, and in books about folk music and has been interviewed from time to time in magazines.

However, his political philosophy is best reflected in his music. Shaped by the Marxist lens and popular front politics characteristic of the era when he began performing, four key concepts inform his music.

First, his songs reflect historical context, the material conditions of peoples' lives, and the contradictory character of the lives of his subjects.

Second, much of his work revolves around class, race, and, more recently, gender. The folk genre, as it evolved, celebrated the lives of workers and down-and-out men and women who struggle in the face of economic and political adversity. Seeger took the admonition of his comrade Woody Guthrie seriously when Woody wrote that he hates songs that put people down and make them feel that they are no good.

Third, Seeger's music since the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s has been informed by opposition to war and U.S. imperialism (although his lyrics might not use the word). "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?'' is one of many songs performed by Seeger that articulates the belief that war is futile and destructive of the human community. During the most recent phase of his career, his songs have conceptualized how a materialistic economy has made war on the environment.

Finally, much of Seeger's work offers an alternative vision of society that emphasizes simplicity, harmony between people and between people and nature, equality, and freedom from class exploitation, racism, and sexism. While his work sometimes emphasizes how economic and political systems and dogmatic ideologies threaten the human condition, he also sings about a better tomorrow; "It's Darkest Before the Dawn," and of course, Woody Guthrie's anthem, "This Land is Your Land."

Looking at the corpus of folk music in the twentieth century, particularly a folk music that links culture and politics, Pete Seeger perhaps is the most seminal artist/activist. He popularized rural southern music, working class music, the artistry of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, and was the link in the chain between these figures and Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Bob Dylan of the 1960s.