At least 117 colleges have acquired surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense, according to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The surplus military gear was made available under a program known as the 1033 program, which shot to public attention following the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

Campus police departments have used the program to obtain military equipment as mundane as men’s trousers (Yale University) and as serious as a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle (Ohio State University).

Modified grenade launchers were also acquired, by University of Central Florida, and Hinds Community College, whilst at least 60 institutions used the program to obtain M-16 assault rifles.

Trousers and office supplies aside, why do campus police departments require military equipment designed to withstand roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Among those contacted by the Chronicle was Michael Qualls, an associate professor of criminal justice at Fort Valley State University, Georgia. In Qualls’ view, there is no reason for campus police departments not to gain access to military equipment:

“If we continue on with the 1033 program, as those items become obsolete at the military level and if they become available, why not get ’em?” Mr. Qualls said. “It’s better to be prepared than not prepared.”

However, one thing that the events of Ferguson showed was that once police departments possess military equipment, they are increasingly likely to use it. The improper use of such equipment can further exacerbate tensions with law enforcement, and is potentially disastrous.

America has already seen the disastrous consequences that can occur when a militarized force clashes with students.  In 1970 it resulted in the death of four young college students, in what became known as the Kent State massacre.

This senseless loss of life was recently used as inspiration for a sweatshirt design, in what was probably a publicity stunt by Urban Outfitters. Regardless of your view of the garment, it’s a reminder of what is at stake when it comes to police militarization.

The so-called “government shutdown” isn’t really a government shutdown at all. It’s a public services shutdown. Food aid to needy families will stop. Over one thousand food safety and inspection workers will not go to work. Veterans looking to apply for benefits will face serious delays. The IRS won’t answer the phone to help you prepare your taxes, and will stop processing returns. Depending on where you live, you might have a difficult time getting your passport renewed. Zoos and museums are closed effective immediately.But the government’s guns and surveillance state apparatus chug on without much of a blip at all.

[…]

The NSA, fully funded and operational, won’t have any problem continuing to map our social and associational patterns. The FBI will still map ethnic communities and spy on peace and justice activists. The CIA will go on plotting and executing its extrajudicial drone killings in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The DEA will still use NSA intercepts to sneakily forward drug prosecutions while hiding from judges and defendants the intelligence that sparks investigations. Customs, Border Protection will go on harassing Muslims and immigrants at the border, humiliating citizens and visitors alike for no good reason. ICE will continue to deport and detain immigrants, tearing families asunder. The surveillance state will go on, ‘protecting’ a shell of a civilization. We might not be able to eat, but at least someone will be watching us starve.
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American soldiers teasing children for water in Afghanistan

Navajo Nation battles uranium corporations, nuclear industry
May 10, 2013

Since European settlers first arrived on this continent, they set out to accumulate as much wealth and land as humanly possible. Their reign of terror on the indigenous populations —destructive of land, culture and entire communities—was the basis for immense fortunes that spurred the global economy and advancing capitalism.

This struggle, now over 500 years in the making, is ongoing on many fronts, including the Navajo Nation’s current battle over U.S. companies’ uranium extraction.

In early 2013, uranium companies approached the Navajo Nation in hopes they will allow them to renew mining operations on their land. These companies claim that they have developed newer and safer methods for extracting uranium, after decades of environmental destruction and abuse led the Navajo Nation to officially ban their mining.

This decades-long battle for environmental justice is part and parcel of the struggles for workers’ rights and Native self-determination, and against the forces of militarism and capitalism.

Exploitation of Navajo lands

The Navajo Nation sits on 27,425 square miles in the four corners area of the southwestern United States. The area holds a vast amount of uranium ore and thus has become a center in the struggle over nuclear energy and weaponry.

Since the end of World War II, and the onset of the so-called Cold War, the U.S. government began mining uranium domestically in order to not rely on foreign supplies. Uranium is one of the most common naturally occurring radioactive metals on the planet, and was understood as essential for the development of nuclear weapons and technology.

Due to the unique geology and consistent climate of the Southwest, mining companies saw the Navajo reservation as the most profitable site to open mining operations in the 1940s. In 1948, the United States Atomic Energy Commission declared it would be the sole purchaser of all uranium mined in the country, initiating a mining boom of private companies and contractors who knew they had a guaranteed buyer.

Of the thousands of uranium mines, 92% were located in the Colorado Plateau on which the Navajo Nation is located. Between 1944 and 1986 approximately 4 million tons of uranium ore was mined from Navajo Tribal land.

In the early days of mining, Navajo people flocked to the low-wage work given the scarcity of jobs around the reservation. The Navajo workers dealt with racist bosses and coworkers while going into the most dangerous and undesirable jobs at lesser pay. Nonetheless, after Navajo Code Talkers’ had famously contributed to U.S. forces in World War II, many Navajo workers believed they had a patriotic duty and responsibility to the United States.

Mineworkers were also lied to about the dangers of Radon poisoning.

Full article

Starship Troopers: One of the Most Misunderstood Movies Ever

When Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers hit theaters 16 years ago today, most American critics slammed it. In the New York Times, Janet Maslin panned the “crazed, lurid spectacle,” as featuring “raunchiness tailor-made for teen-age boys.” Jeff Vice, in the Deseret News, called it “a nonstop splatterfest so devoid of taste and logic that it makes even the most brainless summer blockbuster look intelligent.” Roger Ebert, who had praised the “pointed social satire” of Verhoeven’s Robocop, found the film “one-dimensional,” a trivial nothing “pitched at 11-year-old science-fiction fans.”

But those critics had missed the point. Starship Troopers is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism. The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers.

Read more. [Image: TriStar Pictures; Touchstone Pictures]

The rest of the world, almost unanimously, looks at America as the No. 1 warmonger. That we revert to armed conflict almost at the drop of a hat — and quite often it’s not only desired by the leaders of our country, but it’s also supported by the people of America.

War is not fucking cool. Stop glorifying it. There is nothing romantic about people killing each other. There is nothing heroic about bombs and tanks and fighter jets - it all represents money stolen from people, and people’s sons and daughters sent to kill people they’ve never met and never had a problem with, all because the people stealing the money said so. Stop.

Americans Don’t Actually Know Who They’re Bombing | YouGov

There is a great deal of confusion as to where, exactly, the US is conducting air and drone strikes, though the public does tend to support ongoing campaigns

On Tuesday this week the Pentagon revealed that it had launched air and drone strikes aimed at killing the head of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab, Ahmed Abdi Godane. While it is still unclear whether the operation was successful, it does not mark a major shift in US policy, which has seen the US launch attacks on al-Shabaab in Somalia before. US military action in Somalia is ongoing alongside the the US presence in Afghanistan, the continued drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and the recent decision to begin bombing ISIS militants in Iraq. 

YouGov’s latest research shows that many Americans are confused about where, exactly, the US is bombing. Most Americans are aware of the ongoing campaign in Iraq, and people tend to be aware of the strikes in Afghanistan. Less than a quarter of the public are aware that the US has recently launched strikes in Somalia, Pakistan or Yemen. 30% also say, incorrectly, that the US has recently conducted bombings in Syria and only 32% of Americans know that the US has not in fact launched air or drone strikes in Syria. 

Most Americans support conducting air or drone strikes in Iraq (60%), Afghanistan (54%) and Syria (51%). They also tend to support the ongoing drone campaigns in Somalia (45%), Pakistan (45%) and Yemen (38%). They would also tend to approve (38%) rather than disapprove (33%) of conducting drone strikes in Iran. 29% of Americans say that they would approve of the US bombing Gaza and Ukraine. 

The most recent use of US force in Iraq saw American firepower used to assist Iraqi, Kurdish and Shia forces in their offensive against ISIS to lift the siege of Amerli, a town populated by minority Turkmen. 

Full poll results can be found here. (Photo Credit: Screenshot from Lee Camps Redacted Tonight)

Ten years ago.

On October 26, 2001 President George W. Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law. This bill authorized warrantless wiretapping, "sneak and peek" searches of American property without notification, and the seizure of "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation in addition to many other provisions. This bill was renewed and expanded in scope by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2011. Since its inception and to this day, independent reporting has revealed that the authority granted by the bill has been abused in almost every possible dimension.

 

Ten years ago.

On November 13, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Military Order on the Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism. This order authorized the creation of secret military tribunals for the detention, treatment and trial of non-citizens deemed “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” in the war on terror. These tribunals are appointed at the discretion of the President. Further, the President granted his office the sole authority to determine who is subject to these tribunals via designation as a “terrorist” or “enemy combatant”. Both these tribunals and the designation of “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” operate without public knowledge or independent scrutiny. 

 

Five years ago.

On June 29th, 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that such military tribunals were unauthorized under existing federal law and were in conflict with the Geneva Convention. Less than five months later, on October 17, 2006 the United States Congress and President George W. Bush created and formalized such authority by passing and signing the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

 

Three years ago.

On December 1st, 2008 the Department of Defense planned to train and deploy over 20,000 troops across the continental United States for potential future civil unrest, peacekeeping, and “mass-casualty” scenarios. The target year for deployment is 2011.

 

This year.

On September 30th, 2011 an American citizen abroad in Yemen was killed by a predator drone at the order of President Barack Obama. No charge, trial, or evidence has been provided or promised by the President.

 

One month ago.

On November 17th 2011, Occupy movements across the country were simultaneously violently dismantled and evicted by local authorities. It was later revealed that President Barack Obama, through the Department of Homeland Security, had coordinated and advised mayors around the country on how and when to best suppress their own people.

 

Last week.

On December 1st, 2011 the United States Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that designated the territorial United States as a militarized “war zone”. Section 1031of the NDAA permits the President to detain ANY UNITED STATES CITIZEN indefinitely without evidence, charge, or trial so long as they are named a terrorist in the secret and inscrutable process named above. Should a citizens detained as such ever actually be charged and tried, they would go through a secret military tribunals rather than a United States court. This militarization of civil law would be the final act in the long degrading of the 133 year old Posse Comitatus Act which was passed to separate the military from domestic law enforcement.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the NDAA but not out of concern for the citizenry’s civil liberties. This is not accurate. President  Barack Obama’s administration specifically requested the removal of protection for United States citizens from such detention powers and claimed anything less would interfere with his office. Rather, the President’s veto threat is “because the extraordinary powers it would hand him are in some cases less sweeping and more constraining than what he has asserted for himself via frustratingly secret Office of Legal Counsel memos”.

 

This Week.

On December 5th, 2011 a document was leaked in which the City of London Police force had designated the Occupy London protestors as terrorists. They were classified as equivalents to Al-Qaeda.

 

Yesterday.

On December 7th, 2011 the United States House of Representatives voted to close hearings on the NDAA’s controversial provisions from public viewing or record. The bill is expected to pass without serious opposition.

 

Today.

On December 8th, 2011 I learned that the pentagon has given over $500M in military weapons to city police this year for FREE, military drones are planned for domestic surveillance in the near future, and that even PBS is openly questioning whether we live in a police state.

 

Tomorrow.

I don’t know what fresh attack the government will bring upon the people of our country tomorrow but I do know that it is coming. Join your friends, family, and countrymen in resistance so that our government may remain OF, BY, and FOR its people.

Please write your elected representative right now to voice your disastisfaction with the NDAA.

- ataxiwardance

(art from here)

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

- Thomas Paine, The American Crisis No. I (published 23 December 1776)

Guest post by Bao Phi.
Photo by Anna S. Min.
(Italicized words are lyrics taken from the libretto of Miss Saigon) 

Miss Saigon is a musical about Vietnamese women, who are all victims in need of rescue from the Third World. It is a musical about the inherent goodness of flawed white men. Vietnamese men are all abusive, sexist assholes who are so small they can’t even expand to fit into two dimensions. Also, mixed race orphans will have it better in America but that goes without saying. The play is also, supposedly, about the Vietnam War.

•••

I’m born in Saigon, just inside the Year of the Tiger. My dad is half Vietnamese, half Chinese. My mom is mostly Vietnamese, she’s pretty sure. Both lovers of poetry, they name me Thien-bao: treasure from heaven.

Three months later, bombs are falling from the sky as they shell the airport, trying to kill us. My mom and dad take turns holding me in the bomb shelter, as the world around us shook and exploded all night. I don’t learn this until years later, and it’s an odd thing to hear from your own family: we were almost killed before you had the ability to form memory.

•••

 “the heat is on in Saigon

the girls are hotter ‘n’ hell

one of these slits here will be Miss Saigon

God, the tension is high, not to mention the smell

the heat is on in Saigon

is there a war going on?

don’t ask, I ain’t gonna tell”

 

1975, my parents raise six kids and take care of my paternal grandfather in Phillips, South Minneapolis. Our house is two blocks from Little Earth housing projects. The neighborhood is densely populated with American Indians, a people who know about a great many things, including broken American promises. Many years later, as a teenager, I’ll march with American Indian activists in solidarity as they protest a visiting football team that, like Miss Saigon, claims to honor the people that they exploit. I’ll also read somewhere that Phillips is the largest, poorest, and most racially diverse neighborhood in the Twin Cities.

But when I was a little kid, I just knew it was rough. My earliest experience with multiculturalism is on the school bus: kids of all hues, from all over the world, call me chink.

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