war zone i announce that i have. i' retired.m i am in retirement. ab give me six weeks and i will emerge in plan the next thing. >> host: think you for being on book tv in miami. >> tom and bill hart, editor and creator examines what he believes is the united states decade-long push for don't global dominance and the military-industrial establishment that supports it. discussing his book in hempstead new york. this program is just over an hour. >> so, i am going to talk to you about my world, but especially for the students, your world. ..
>> that first one began, of course, on the morning of september 11th, 2001. i turned on the tv while doing my morning exercises, saw a smoking hole in a world trade center tower and thought that as in 1925 when a b-25 rammed into the empire state building, a terrible accident can had happened. later, after the drums of war had begun to beat, the first headlines had screamed their world war ii-style messages; the pearl harbor of the century and so on if you remember those screaming messages, i had another thought. and for a reasonably
politically-sophisticated guy my second response was also remarkably dumb. i thought that this horrific event taking place in my hometown might open up americans to the pain of the world. no such luck, of course. if you had told me then that we would henceforth be in a state of eternal war as well as living in a permanent war state, that to face a rag tag enemy of a few thousand stateless terrorists, the national security establishment in washington would pump itself up to levels not faintly reached when facing the soviet union, a major power with thousands of nuclear weapons and an enormous military; that homeland, a distibtly un-american world would land in be our vocabulary never to leave and that a second defense department -- dubbed the department of homeland security -- would be set up not to be dismantled in my lifetime. torture, excuse me, enhanced
interrogation techniques would become as american as apple pie, and some of those techniques would be demonstrated to leading bush administration officials inside the white house; that we would pour money into the pentagon at ever-escalating levels even after the economy crashed in 2008; that we would be fighting two potentially trillion dollar wars without end in the two distant lands; that we would spend untold billions constructing hundreds of military bases in those same lands; that the cia would be conducting the first drone air war of history over a country we were officially not at war with; that most of us would live in a remarkable state of detachment from all this. and finally -- only, by the way, i'm cutting this list short, arbitrarily short just not to try your patience because it could go on forever -- that i would spend my time writing incessantly about the american way of war and produce a book with that title. i would have thought you were nuts. but every bit of that happened.
even if unpredicted by me. because like human beings everywhere, i have no special knack for peering into the future, and if you just look at any tomorrow land or old world's fair that had some exhibit on what was going to happen in the future, you can see how bad we are, actually, how poorly we can imagine our own futures. if it were otherwise, i would undoubtedly now be zipping around fabulous cities with a jet pack on my back as i was assured would happen in my distant youth. adaptability to changing circumstances may be our forte, and it certainly helps account for my being here today. i'm here because in response to the bizarre spectacle of this nation going to war while living at peace -- and if you remember, in the early part of this war the president actually urged americans to go to disney world just to show our grit, our consumerist grit -- while living
at peace even if in a state of fear, i did something i hardly understood at the time. i launched a nameless list of collected articles and my own commentary that ran against the common wisdom of that october moment when our second afghan war began. a little more than a year later thanks to the nation institute, it became a web side with the tomdispatch.com. and because our leaders swore we were a nation at war because we were, indeed, killing people in quantity in distant lands, because the power of the state at home was being strengthened in startling ways while everything open about our society seemed to be getting screwed shut and the military was being pumped up to schwarzenegger dimensions, i started writing about war. at some level, i can't tell you how ridiculous that was. after all, i'm the most civilian and peaceable of guys. i've never even been in the military. i was, however, upset with the bush add m, the connect no dots
media coverage of the moment and the repeated 9/11 rights that proclaimed us the planet's greatest victim, survivor and dominator leaving only one role, and you know who filled it hands down, greatest evil doer open for the rest of the planet. and by the way, sometimes it does help to be outside of the thing that you're writing about. that is, when you are a tree in the forest, it is hard to write about the forest, and that's maybe my one advantage about writing of war and the military. i am outside it. i won't say, however, that i have no expertise whatsoever with a permanent war state, only that the expertise i had was available to anyone who had lived through the post-world war ii era. i was reminded of this on a recent glorious sunday when from the foot of manhattan i set out on a brief ferry ride that proved for me as effective a time machine as anything h.g. wells ever imagined. that ferry was, of course, not
taking me to a future civilization at the edge of time, but to governors island, now a park and national monument in the eddying waters of new york harbor, and to the rubble of a gas station my father, a world war ii vet, ran there in the early 1950s when that island was still a major u.s. army base. on many mornings in those years, i accompanied him on that short ride across the east river and found myself amid buzzing jeeps and drilling soldiers in a world of army kids with giant pools available and cheap matinee cowboy films and everything a kid could kind of dream of or imagine. as a dyed in the wool city boy from manhattan, it was my only real exposure to the burbs. and it caught something of the militarized movement of that korean war moment. we're talking about $51, '52, '53. as on that island so for most americans there, the worlds of
the warrior and of abundance were no more antithetical than they were to military officers who were using a rising military budget and the fear of communism to create a new national security economy. an alliance between big industry, big science and the military had been forged during world war ii that blurred the boundaries between the military and the civilian by fusing together a double set of desires for technological breakthroughs leading to ever more efficient weapons of destruction and to ever-easier living. the arms race, the race that is for future good wars and the race for the good life, were then as on that island being put on the same war footing. in the 1950s a military keynesianism was already driving the u.s. economy toward a consumerism in which desire for the ever-larger car and missile -- electric range and tank, television console and submarine -- was whetted in
single corporate entities. the companies -- general electric, general motors and westinghouse among others -- producing the large objects of the american home were also major contractors developing the big ticket weapons systems, ushering the penalty gone into its own age of abundance. more than half a century later the pentagon is still living a life of abundance despite one less than victorious, less than good war after another while we, increasingly, are not. and i think that's very obvious in our world today. in the years in the between, the developing national security state of my childhood just kept growing, and in the process the country militarized in the strangest of ways. only once in that period did a sense of actual war seem to hover over the nation. that was, of course, the vietnam years of the 1960s and early 1970s when the draft brought a dirty war up close and personal driving it into american homes
and out into the streets, when a kind of intermittent warfare almost seemed to break out in this country's cities and ghettos, and when impending defeat drove the military itself to the edge of revolt and collapse. from the 1970s, that is the end of the vietnam war, until 2001 as that military rebuilt itself as an all-volunteer force -- no more draft -- and finally went back to war in the distant lands, the military itself seemed to disappear from everyday life. the world of that time bears no relation visibly to the parades of my childhood or to what you see today. there were no soldiers in sight, nothing we would consider common place now. from uniforms and guns and train stations to military flyovers at football games and the repeated right rites of praise that are now everyday fare in our world where otherwise we ignore american wars. in 1989, for instance, i wrote
this of a country that seemed to me to be undergoing further militarization, even if in an especially strange way. and this was a long quote from a piece i wrote that was actually on star wars, ronald reagan's missile defense system. missile and other space defense system that's still with us in one fashion, but i also commented on what i saw at that time as the further militarization of our society. that was '89. ours was, i said, an america that conforms to no notions we hold of militarism. it is commonly associated with uniform, usually exalted troops in evidence and a dictatorship -- possibly military -- in power. the united states by such standards still has the look of a civilian society. our military is, if anything, less visible in our lives than it was a decade ago. no uniforms in the street, seldom even for our traditional
parades. a civilian-elected government, weaponry out of sight. the draft and the idea of a civilian army the thing of the past. the reagan/bush era -- the bush was not the bush you all know, but his dad, h.w -- not w., but h.w. bush. so in the reagan/bush era, the military has gone undercover in the world that we see though not in the world that sees us. for if it is absent from our everyday culture, its influence is omnipresent in corporate america. that world beyond our politics and out of our control. the world which, nonetheless, plans our high-tech future of work and consumption. there the militarization of the economy and the corporatization of the military is a process so far gone that it seems reasonable to ask whether the united states can even be said to have a civilian economy. that was me in 1989, and it was an exaggerated statement.
you know, that was then, this is now. today it seems our country is triumphant in producing only things that go boom in the night. we have a near monopoly on the global weapons market and on the global movie market where, in the dark, we're experts in explosions of every sort. when i wrote in 989 that the -- 1989 that the process was so far gone, i had no idea how far we still had to go. i had no idea, for instance, how far a single administration could push us when it came to war and that was, obviously, the bush administration which, i think, made one singular error. i mean, they were visionaries. you might consider them mad visionaries. they were wrong in so many ways, but -- and their greatest mistake, they took in the world, they had a vision of the world, but they imagined, they also were people who had lance armstrongly not been in the -- largely not been in the military, but they were in love with the military. they were romantics about the military, and they made a terrible mistake, a miscalculation.
they believed that with the power of the u.s. mail tear -- and it was, obviously, powerful. it was a threaten force if you wanted to use it as a threat. with the power of the -- that military power was the same as global power. and it turned out it wasn't. they thought with the u.s. military they could establish americana in the greater middle east and so on and so forth. they couldn't have been more wrong and that, i think, was their most fundamental mistake. it wasn't a religious fundamentalism, it was a military fundamentalism. they thought that force was all, and they only imagined force as military force. and and i think we see that in a single -- in just a few years they pushed the united states, you know, they push the imperial part of america into a visible state of decline which, i mean, everybody can see around us today. i had no -- still, one thing that does remain reasonably constant about america's
now-perpetual state of war is how little we, the 99% of us who don't belong to the military, actually see of it even though it is all around us. so what i want to do is give you a little sense, now, of kind of how it's all around us or how i see it being all around us. this is from a remarkable array of possibilities. i'm going to offer you a few war scapes in an attempt to make more visible an american world of and way of war that we normally spend little time discussing, questioning, debating or doing anything about. let me tart by trying to conjure -- start by trying to conjure up a map of what defense as imagined by the u.s. mail -- military at the moment actually looks like. you can find a map like this at wikipedia. laid flat before you, now divide it. the whole globe like so many ill-shaped pieces of cobbler into six servings. you can be as messy as you want,
it's not an exact science. and label them. that would be u.s./european command which is really europe and russia, pac-com, pacific command. u.s. cent-com, south-com and afri-com. these are the areas of responsibility as they're called of six u.s. military commands. in case you hadn't noticed, that takes care of just about every inch of the planet. but i do hasten to add this, not every bit of imaginable space. for that if you were a clever cartographer, you would somehow need to include strat-com, and the newest of all, cyber-com,
something you guys may know something about which is expected to be fully operational later this fall with a thousand elite military hackers and spies under one four-star general, and that's not my quos, that's from a major newspaper prepared to engage in preemptive war in cyberspace. some of these commands have crept up on us over the year. cent-com, for example, was formed in 1983. it was a result, a direct result of the carter doctrine. of, that is, president jimmy carter's decision to make the protection of middle eastern oil a necessity for this country. from a mapping perspective, though, the salient point is simple enough. at the moment there is no imaginable space on or off the planet that is not an area of responsibility for the u.s. military. that, not the protection of our shores and borders, is what is
now meant by the defense in the department of defense. and if you were to stare at that map for a while, i can't help but think it would come to strike you as abidingly strange. no place at all of no military interest to us? what does that say about our country and ourselves? in case you're imagining that this map i just described is simply a case of hyperbole, consider this: we now have what is, in essence, a secret military inside the u.s. military. i'm talking about our special operations forces. these elite and largely-covert forces were rapidly expanded in the bush years as part of the global war on terror. but also thanks to secretary of defense donald rumsfeld. now, he was the secretary of defense, if you remember, for the first six years of the bush administration. he was succeeded in the last two years by robert gates who has carried over into the obama
administration along, in fact, with various bush military policies particularly. but also thanks to secretary of defense donald rumsfeld's urge to bring covert activities that once were the province of the cia under the pentagon's wing. by the end of george w. bush's second term in office -- think of that map again -- special operations forces were fighting in the, training in or stationed in 60 countries around the planet. and that was under the ages of the global war on terror. less than two years later, according to "the washington post," 13,000 special operations forces are deployed abroad in approximately 75 countries. fifteen more than at the end of the bush era. as part of an expanding global war on terror even if obama administration's ditched that actual name. in other words, special forces alone are in over 40%, almost 40% of the countries on the planet if you're figuring it on u.n. membership, 192 countries.
and talking about what the pentagon has taken under its wing, i'm reminded of a low-budget sci-fi film. probably most of you haven't seen it, it was called the blob. you could have seen it in any drive-in in those days, and in it a gelatinous alien simply ate every living thing in its path except steve mcqueen who was in his debut role on screen. by analogy, take what's officially called the i.c. or u.s. intelligence community that rumsfeld was so eager to militarize. it's made up of 17 major agencies and outfit bees including the office of the directer of national intelligence. created in 2004 in response to the intelligence dysfunction of 9/11, that office is already its own small bureaucracy with 1500 employees and, evidently, next to no power to do the only thing it was ever really meant to do -- coordinate the generally decision functional labyrinth of
the i.c. itself. you might wonder what kind of intelligence a country could possibly get from 17 competing, bickering outfits, but that's not even the half of it. according to a washington post series -- this just came out a couple of months ago, it was called "top secret america." it was a three-part thing with interactive maps, it's well worth taking a look at. it was by dana priest and william arkin, and these are just some quotes i picked out at the very first of their three articles, you know, cherry picked out just to give you a feeling for the growth of the i.c. before we get to the pentagon. in all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized -- this is intelligence organizations -- as a response to 9/11. some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations. that's 10,000 locations across the united states.
in washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top secret intelligence work are under construction, now under construction or have been built since september 2001. together they occupy the equivalent of almost three pentagons or 22 u.s. capitol buildings, about 17 million square feet of space. and that's the end of that quote. but let me just mention that more than two-thirds of the i.c.'s intelligence programs are controlled by the pentagon. which means control as well over a major chunk of the combined intelligence budget which has been announced at $75 billion in which arkin and priest point out that's two and a half times the, what the intelligence budget was before 9/11. and that's not a real number. $75 billion is what, is officially announced. it may be a fact that even the u.s. government doesn't know how much given black budgetses and so on how much money actually
goes in to intelligence and other operations like it. we just know that it's significantly more than 75 billion and that the pentagon controls a lot of that. and when it comes to the pentagon, that's just a start. massive expansion in all directions has been its mo since 9/11. its soaring budget hit about 700 million -- 700 billion, sorry -- for fiscal year 2010. and that's when you -- to get to that, you have to include a fighting supplemental of 33 billion that congress passed when they needed more money for, basically, the afghan war. an increase -- that's an increase of only 4.7%. this is in a terrible budget-slashing moment almost everywhere. the pentagon was getting maybe 8% for most of these years since 9/11. this is, this was a 4.7% jump. and it's now projected that if the pentagon budget hit about 725 billion in fiscal year 2011.
some experts claim, however, the real figure may come closer to the trillion dollar mark went all aspects are factored in and care for soldiers who have long-term care for soldiers who have been wounded or in some way damaged and so on and o forth. so forth. not surprisingly it is that the pentagon has taken over a spectrum of state department-controlled civilian activities, what previously were civilian activities ranging from humanitarian relief and development -- now called generally nation building -- to actionable diplomacy. and you can't forget its growing rolls as global arms dealer or even as green revolution energy innovator because it's going heavily into the green revolution and was the one part of the bush administration, by the way, that was into global warming. the rest of it was was denial about it, but the pentagon wasn't. you could certainly think of the pentagon on the american horizon eating everything, and yet looking around you might hardly
be aware of the ways your country continues to be militarized. now, let's turn to a different war scape at a time when as numerous commentators are pointing out the u.s. seem to be morphing from a can't do into a can do nation. when the headlines are filled with exploding gas lines and that is old gas lines that have blown up as in the california recently, and grim reports of the country's aging infrastructure when locally a major commuter tunnel from new jersey to manhattan -- the sort of project that once would have been american -- has just been canceled under new jersey's governor. at least provisionally canceled. still, i don't want you to imagine that old can do spirit i remember from my childhood america is dead. quite the contrary, we still have our great building projects. it's just that these days they tend to get built nearer to the ruins of actual pyramids. i'm talking about our military bases, especially those being
constructed in our war zones. i mean, no sooner had u.s. troops taken baghdad in april 2003, than the pentagon and the crony corporations that now can't go to war without it, began to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the construction of well-fortified american small towns. and it was billions, many billions, multibillions in iraq that includes multiple bus routes, massage parlor, internet cafés, power plants, fire stations, you name it. hundreds of military bases from the tiniest outposts to these enormous, sprawling townlike structures were built in iraq alone including the ill-named but ginormous victory-based complex with nine significant subbases -- at least nine. that nine was what i counted -- nestle led inside it. and balad air base which was north of baghdad, i don't know, 60 or 70 kilometers which sooner
or rater -- which sooner than you could say saddam hussein's in captivity was handling aircraft on the scale of heir in -- o'hare in chicago and hiring civilian defense employees, special ops forces, the employees of private contractors and, of course, tons of troops and air force personnel. and all of this was nothing compared to the feat the pentagon accomplished in afghanistan where the u.s. military now claims -- and this is something, this is what a u.s. military spokesman told nick who writes for my site, tomdispatch.com -- they now claim to have built, again, from teeny outpost to gigantic air bases, 400 bases or so in afghanistan. they're actually not sure how many themselves, as far as i can tell. in a country without normal resources; fuel, building materials or much of anything else. just about all construction
materials if those bases and the fuel to go with them had to be delivered over treacherous supply lines, and the estimate is that jutte getting one -- just getting one gallon of fuel to our troops somewhere in afghanistan, that gallon of fuel costs about $400. so, you know, when you go to your local gas station to fill up your car, just make the comparison. at some level this represents a remarkable can-do achievement and tells you a great deal about american priorities today, about where our national treasure and can-do efforts are focused. i mean, i could go on. the pentagon and the military actually make going on pretty easy. the list is reasonably unending. the militarization of our american world ongoing, and it's all happening in your time, on your watch. this is the world you are going to walk out in to. i may be 9 years old in tomdispatch.com terms, but
i've been around for 66 years, and this really won't be my world for long. so let me ask you -- this ises the students, rather than the people my age here -- are you sure that you want the u.s. military to be concerned with every inch of the planet? are you sure that you want your tax dollars to go, above all, into pyramids in this iraq or afghanistan instead of tunnels at home? or in to fighting a multigenerational war on terror planet wide, 75 countries or more? instead of putting it into -- instead into putting the unemployed to work here. if you can't imagine reducing the american military mission and footprint on this planet significantly, then, you know, ignore this talk. but do rest assured you won't save the country that way. it just won't be saved that way. it will functionally, i think, be destroyed. a decade ago when i was born as
tomdispatch.com, many of you were only 10 or 11 years old as were many of our soldiers in afghanistan and iraq. a decade from now if war in afghanistan -- and it looks increasingly like pakistan -- is still being fought, most of you will be entering your fourth decade on this planet, and you may even have a 10-year-old of your own. a decade from then if, as some top washington officials insist, the global war on terror is multigenerational, that child just might be fighting in pakistan or yemen or somalia or some other military area of responsibility somewhere on the planet. a decade from then -- dot, dot, dot. of course, whatever skills we may lack when it comes to predicting the future, all thing must end. including the american war state and our strange state of war. it will happen.
it won't take forever, not the way things are going, but it will happen in an easier and less harmful fashion if you're involved in whatever fashion you choose in making it so. had i a birthday cake with candles on it for that ninth birthday of mine and blown them out, that, i think, would have been my wish. thank you. [applause] >> we're going to open things up for your questions and comment. please, though, try to keep them pointed and brief, and you must use the microphone in the center here. and as always, we want to give priority to students. as tom has so poignantly -- >> just walk up there -- >> just walk up there to the mic. make a little line if you need to do that. thank you. >> hi. >> hi. thank you so much. before you said during the 1950s during, like, a high
time of consumerism, corporations were really involved in arms producing. >> yeah. >> how involved would you say they are now as we continue to globalize our military? >> i actually think, and i'm no expert in this, but i actually think the big weapons makers are probably less -- are probably less the big makers of consumer items. i think, i think weapon makers, i mean, they're enormous, but they're somewhat more specialized today. that's my impression anyway. >> okay. thanks. >> hi there. >> i like your appearing with a computer. this is, this is -- [laughter] >> yeah. it's the 23st century for -- 21st century for you. by the way, great speech, i really have to say. >> thank you. >> my question is due to the large amounts of money we shell out from congress to the pentagon and to these command headquarters around the world,
what if we decided to cut out some of their funding and shut down some of these out of the particular countries and used the money to reduce the deficit and for domestic use? and what are the consequences of these actions? >> well, to my mind and, of course, many people would argue differently. to my mind the consequences would be quite positive. i mean, i think there's no question one of the things that we really don't deal with in this country is the degree to which our national treasure is being -- you know, i mean, if you just start with afghanistan which is very strange. i mean, we know that 9/11 came at least partially from afghanistan although it also came from hamburg, germany, and orlando, florida, i mean, planning went on everywhere. >> right. >> and otherwise -- and al-qaeda which was a relatively rag tag group of stateless terrorists who could, who could put, who could create, they really were able to create
spectacular disastrous events about every two years of which 9/11 was just, of course, spectacular beyond what i think they even expected. but they were using afghanistan as, it was because it was there. but afghanistan otherwise is the second poorest, fifth most corrupt or maybe it's the other way. i don't have my figures here. maybe it's the second most corrupt, fifth poorest country on the planet. it's truly, there our point of view, the backlands of the planet. i think if bin laden had a sort of dream nightmare for us, it might be something like involving us forever in a war in afghanistan where we would end up spending, you know, we've already spent -- and this is conservative -- about $400 billion on that war over the years. we're building an afghan army, and we're talking about, i mean, the president now talks about getting out in about 2014. that's probably hopeful, the military's talking about a significantly longer war. we're building an afghan army of
400,000 troops. if we are successful in that and most of them don't deserve it as they've been doing it over the years, if we're successful; this is a country that has a gnp a little like what money you're paying for school right now. >> right. >> it's an incredibly impoverished country. that will be our army. we will be paying for that army. the answer is i believe that if we were to scale down the american mission massively, take that money and put it into things that mattered in this country -- and we could argue over what mattered; jobs, the deficit, so on -- it would make a big difference to us. we never should have been putting our -- i mean, it's crazy to be conducting what's already a 10-year war and in some ways a 30-year war. we've been there a long, long time. but a ten year war for another five or ten years. it will break us. however you did it, you're right.
if we could get that money out of there and into something that truly mattered to us, i think we'd make a difference. >> but it's, also, i feel -- i'm someone who wants to go into politics one day, and i really do feel the biggest uphill climb is in congress. you know, there's a lot of those republican that block legislation to cut any funding. they want to extend more funding if they take over the house i in 2010. >> some of them do and some of them don't. >> right, but it doesn't -- >> some of the tea party people don't. like rand paul does not. >> that's understandable. >> but i think you're basically right on that, yeah. >> okay, great. thank you very much. >> okay. >> first thing -- >> and we need people like you to go into politics, so it's a great idea. yeah. [laughter] >> well, first, thank you for coming. and, obviously, it's become pretty vogue to just discredit and insult everything that people disagree with in america and that itself is perfectly fine. and you have done an exceptional job with highlighting the
shortcomings of america and the american military, but what in turn would you prescribe while keeping in mind that our enemies have proven capable and willing to attack us at our heart? >> what i would say is i think the truth is that if we had been watching out in the first place, if we had locked our airplane doors so to speak, it wouldn't are happened. i mean, terrorism is a dangerous thing, but it is not, in fact, a world-ending thing. and the very danger we're dealing with, i believe, has been blown utterly out of proportion. i mean, it is terrible and it can be frightening, but in essence, fear has been pumped -- since 9/11 fear has been pumped into this country in bizarre ways. i mean, people are worried in el paso, texas, in topeka about whether they're going to get hit. no possibility. it's just not going to happen, you know? i think that we could have done
something much more modest, much more targeted, much more effective, and we would not have sent our national treasure, basically, overseas this way. so that would be what i would argue. i hear what you're saying, but that would be my argument. okay? >> if you don't mind a follow up to that? >> no, of course. >> now that we have already started upon this path, what's happened has happened, and there's nothing we can do about that. what would you prescribe for the future? this. >> no, i think there are things we can do about it. i do not think -- i've been focused on afghanistan here, i would say the same thing about iraq. i do not think we should be fighting these wars in distant countries. the full-scale counterinsurgency wars. i just think it makes no sense. so my answer would be, i think we should in a perfectly reasonable way we should do our best to make, you know, to help make the situation as reasonably stable as possible. and there are possible plans for doing this which i won't go into
here, but i think the answer is we should withdraw, we should defend what really matters to us, and we should put our money where it does matter. because the truth is the problem, the real problem here is that while we're putting our money into those wars, we are weakening at home in all sorts of ways that truly matter. our infrastructure's going. i mean, look at the unemployment many this country. it's rather startling. i mean, this country is this a state of incipient and increasing decline. there can't be any doubt it was pushed over that edge by these two wars. i mean, one war was an utter war of choice -- there was iraq -- it had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 whatsoever. you know? i think this is, i think it economically makes no sense. that's me. >> thank you. maybe ec have a good conversation later. >> thank you very much for the question. >> afternoon, sir. >> afternoon. >> having spent six years in the
military, i've come across the these super bases. in the military we call them forward operating bases. >> yeah. >> i spent 27 months in iraq, so i've seen the war up close and personal, more than your average american. just this past week i was able to be there for my son's ninth birthday. we did have candles on his cake, and he was very happy. my question to you is what future role do you see our military as far as in this global war on terrorism -- and it is global. now, in the military we do have forces abroad on almost every country whether it's not official or unofficial. given that state of expanding our military and sending, as we call, supervisors into countries who have a weaker infrastructure and we build up their security forces, do you not see that as downsizing the amount of terrorism, or do you see it -- >> i don't. >> -- with the increase of
military presence -- >> i don't see it as downsizing terrorism. i mean, i think -- you know, to take one example x it's not quite what you're talking about, but our drone war. i mean, the cia's conducting -- i mean, there's an air force drone war, there has been over iraq and afghanistan, certainly, but there is the cia drone war over pakistan. my own feeling is, i mean, the idea is those missiles, those targeted missiles should, you know, their literally trying to knock out as if it were a kind of, almost as if it were, like, the pentagon. they're trying to knock out the high command. and when they were incapable of knocking it out missile by missile, they went after mid-level people, and now they're after largely taliban and some al-qaeda people in pakistan. i think the problem is that this sort of -- just like a lot of counterinsurgency, this sort of war creates -- it's not as much a war on terror as a war that creates terror. that is, that is, for every person you're killing who you
would want to kill, you're also killing somebody you wouldn't want to kill with a family, you know? i mean, sebastian younger in his book, war, has an interesting passage on this where he talks about it's a u.s -- it's a plane, not a drone. he's in the karingal valley in afghanistan, and a plane comes in and drops a bomb on a village. the soldiers coout the next day. they -- go out the next day. they got some kids and a woman, and there's some dead bodies. you know, a week later the village elders declare jihad on american forces, you know? they're angry. so, i mean, my answer is, i mean, i think the least we can do is actually the most effective global war on terror. obviously, you do -- i mean, people who are out to get you, you want to get them. but the war, to my mind, i mean, you know, and i have to say
based at my site tomdispatch.com, i get a lot of letters from soldiers some arguing with me, some telling me i'm absolutely right. even at the level of the high command there's no agreement. there are generals and probably particularly because we mostly hear about the army and the marines at this point, there are admirals who don't care much for this sort of war and would rather not having us do this kind of global war on terror. >> thank you. >> yeah. thank you. >> good afternoon. >> good afternoon. >> you have to speak up a little for me. i'm a deaf old guy. >> yeah. like, from the political side, like, we as the voters how do you propose we gain, like, the power to die accelerate our politicians' attentions to these issues when private corporations, especially those tied up in the military, are funding their campaigns? >> you know, one thing i would say about question and answer
sessions, i often feel maybe because i'm an editor and a writer in real life, and i find that, you know, i like the possibility to to -- go back. this is an obscure way to say maybe i can't answer your question. i, you know, maybe in three days i'd have an answer to your question or three weeks or three months. or maybe i wouldn't. it's a tough question. >> [inaudible] >> it's a wonderful question that i don't actually have an answer to, and maybe the answer is the young man who wants to become a politician, maybe you guys. you know, i'm probably incapable of figuring this out. i mean, this is a question for your generation. i mean, it's clear that the american electoral process is now rather corrupt, to say the least. i mean, i mean, we worry about corruption in afghanistan, but we clearly have another striking form of corruption here, and it's quite a legal form of corruption at this point given what you said, given what the supreme court did recently on, you know, what corporations can
give and how to politics. so what to do next? i can't give you the answer, but i hope you guys will work to figure out what the answer is. >> that's really, like, the biggest problem. >> it is a big problem, you're absolutely right. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> how are yousome. >> hi. >> hi. earlier you had said that with this war we're spending our money in the wrong places, you know, taking into account the current economic instability in our country. do you think that the war had anything to do with the recession, or do you think that stopping the war will take us out? >> i think, yes. my answer to at least the first question is absolutely, yes. the war, the wars -- and not just the wars, but the world that went with the wars, the world i was trying to describe of the pebt gone, the world of crony corporations that build those bases and make the weapons and so on and so forth.
they, i think they and the bush administration in particular helped drive us -- it was like they got into a car, said, hey, this car works and drove us directly towards the nearest cliff. you know, my own answer is a longer, more historical one which is the cold war ended in 1990, right? and in this country -- and it ended by our major enemy who to the last moment most people in washington saw as a major power basically disappearing. it disappeared more or less overnight. it was extraordinary. we dealt with that here in washington in particular and in the country as a giant triumph. it was a victory, you know? and that was probably the crucial moment where real american monies could have been redirected somewhere else. i mean, there was no -- we were looking for so-called rogue states. the military and in washington they were looking for for
enemies, you know, these modest regional states like north korea or iran or whatever. they, basically, washington declared it a triumph. and weirdly enough, headed couln manager like -- we were a much wealthier and powerful nation, but it headed could be the sow out-- down the soviet path n. the soviets pumped incredible amounts of national wealth into their military. and the country, they had an aging infrastructure, they had a cracking infrastructure, and it cracked on them. our response to victory was, in essence, after a little pause and a discussion of the peace dividend which never happened, was to pour our money into down exactly the same path which was the military path. we decided we were the sole superp power. it was kind of an extraordinary moment, and i think the answer is -- and i think the truth of that moment was probably more like at the end of 50 years of
the cold war or so, not quite, there were two losers. one disappeared. the other also weakened, left the -- started to slowly leave the stage in triumph. feeling great about itself. and i think that what happened was pushing and what particularly the bush administration, pushing ourselves into a state of war, into a permanent state of war actually pushed that process farther. so the answer is absolutely, you know, now if we were to have reversed that somehow, i think it would make a difference, but i am no economist,ing so i can't really tell you exactly what -- that would be any explanation at least. something like that. >> thank you. >> great. we have time for a few more questions. we'll open it up to everyone. the more experienced and wise ones among us. so love to -- [laughter] hear some of your perspectives.
i'm struck as we, as we hear this. you know, these are hard truth to face as a people, and so many of the questions asked by our students, i think, fleck that. -- reflect that. often in the face of these realizations the response is what can we do, what can be done, are we so far down that path that we're becoming dinosaurs, you know, as a species? so i think the challenge really is as several of you have said, what can people do to act not naively, but with optimism and energy to address these issues. >> that was, by the way, this was a great set of questions, i have to say. and i, also, i have a very similar set of feelings. and, in fact, although at tomdispatch i'm very careful, i don't like to tell anybody what they should do because i don't see why -- i mean, i'm blood at a series.
i do certain things well, but i don't see why i should know what we should do or particularly what you should do. i know that something. [laughter]ly should be done. it's really important to try to figure out what in the world to do about our world. but i am not in the normal sense a pessimist. i sigh our word very dark at the moment, and we haven't even gotten in to the darkest stuff. but, but i also think history has its surprises. we can't predict it, we don't know, you know? and i'm always hopeful in that way. i'm always ready to be surprised. >> yes. >> well, i know the seeing -- equal rights amendment hasn't passed yet. i don't see any major discussion about amending the constitution to take the community out of -- money out of elections. and that, to me, is one of the biggest crises that we have.
why aren't we doing something about -- i mean, i don't know, i don't expect you to have an answer -- >> no. no. i think it's a really good question. why aren't we doing mig -- i mean, it seems as though everything's moving in the other direction when it comes to money and politics. it's really that simple. so the answer is, yes, wouldn't that be great? i'm for it. do it. >> i don't know how. someone here must -- [laughter] i didn't promise to be wise. [laughter] >> i think that was a pretty wise question, actually. >> i agree. >> real quickly, you know, before my question was about the consequences of what were to happen if we were to shut down, you know, other u.s. headquarters around the cubs -- countries. do you feel that the reason why north korea and iran and all these other countries are secretly building these nuclear power plants is because they feel threatened by the u.s.
force to the point where they have to protect themselves ask it's not just about them wanting to hurt other civilians, it's just more the threat of our force? this do we feel that's a big mayor reason why. >> both of those countries, the leaderships of both of those countries -- both pretty ugly crews -- >> [inaudible] >> no, no, yes. i'm going to agree, they're not creating nuclear weapons so that they can drop them on the world. i mean, north korea in particular is -- i mean, you look an t, and you see those soldiers go to stepping. -- goose stepping. the air force has no fuel. it's like they don't even have fuel for training. that's a disastrous country. at this point, i think, the nuclear weapons in korea, it's the up with thin they have. o.k. that they're kinging about it in networks of where you could drop it. i think they see it as a
long-term bargaining chip to get other things. and someday, i think, they will, indeed, give it up in return for some kind of a deal which we've almost reached a couple of times. but it hasn't happened, i rap as a much more complicated issue, and, of course, i don't think we know if iran is building a nuclear weapon, i think what we know is iran like a number -- they are not the only country like this -- is building, i mean, they're building a peaceful nuclear program and the possibility for a quick breakout program. this is what we really know at this point according to u.s. intelligence, basically. they're building the possibilities if they decided to create a nuclear weapon. they will be ready to build it, i think, relatively speaking, quickly. and, yes. i think they're doing that. they are dealing, you know, however they sound, they are dealing with the middle east in which israel has, it's estimated, 200 nuclear keeps.
us real's force is very little written about here, and even though everybody knows they have them, they have the interesting position of neither saying that they have them nor denying that they have them. i by think for -- but i think for iran i don't think it's a particularly serious military option. but, again, i think it's kind of a -- if that's what thai doing, it is also kind of a bargaining card that doesn't involve the u.s. and israel. i mean, iran historically, i mean, if you don't go back to distance empires, the it's not been a very aggressive country. >> i almost feel media likes to make things big enthan it actually is. i have a quick second question for you. >> i tell you what, just so we make sure everybody gets a shot, just stand in the back of him. >> if we drastically ree deuce
the size of our military, where are a lot of soldiers going to find employment? >> that's a good question, and it would have to be thought and planned out. i mean, we would have to decide -- you know, one of the great frustrations of this is to move on to another subject entirely of the obama administration is that they did have, i mean, they had a model in the new deal which was rather striking. it was a thing called the civilian conservation corp.. roosevelt went -- franklin roosevelt in the new deal, one of the things he did in the dining -- did in the national forests to give people work. it was a small idea. the obama administration has very little, it's not a program. i think it's been to their detriment because when you got money from the government rg you knew that you, your wife, your
kids, your village, your neighborhood, whatever it was knew ha that one had come from the government. you knew that the government was actually doing something for you. right now we have almost 10% unemployment, and nobody feels the government's doing anything for them. the answer is, i think you would need -- and again, i'm no economist -- some kind of serious job programs. retraining frames tend to lead to jobs. you'd need the kind that we really haven't had in this country, and it would have to involve the military because you down size the military, you do have people out of work. >> should i let him go first? >> he's had two. >> all right. i think we have, like, unofficial military bases in georgia -- >> yes. >> i'm just curious as to why we couldn't stop russia from invading. >> i don't think it was ever an option. i mean, i don't think it was
ever -- i don't think it was -- the u.s. government, the bush administration ever considered the possibility of actually throwing u.s. troops. and the fact that even had they wanted to do so, at this point, remember, they were involved in two wars and a global war on terror. the probability of standing a third world fens a major -- against a major power on its borders? you know, even the bush administration didn't seriously consider that. as far as secret bases, i don't know whether we have a secret base in georgia. one of the, one of the things the pentagon counts up it bases, it stations and offers, you know, usual hi it's about 200 a year that they publicly admit to, but there are a variety of bases around the world, i mean, in countries that are slightly embarrassed for political vns to have those spaces and share them with the united states, and they
are not an any lists. for instance, we have bases in pakistan or we at least share them with the pakistani military, it's not on any list. >> well, i was in russia when this was happening, so, obviously, the information i was receiving was probably biased; through there's a lot of pictures of documents showing american troops training georgians. >> we were training georgians, we were. >> all right. so it's not the same thing. >> i just don't know. i mean, you could be absolutely right. thank you very much. >> do we want to let her go first and then you can have the last comment. do you mind? you're so great that we want to hear from you, but -- [laughter] >> with rahm emanuel leaving and some other people under obama leaving, is there any hope for president obama get withing troops out of afghanistan any sooner than we predict now? >> there's always hope.
and the one change in the white house which is the national security adviser, the former marine general james jones, is gone. and the fellow who's taken his place at least if you read the recent woodward book was, seems to have been strongly against the full-scale general petraeus-style surge in afghanistan. he's a man closely connected to vice president biden who, admittedly, was looking for -- i mean, the thing you have to understand in washington last fall when they were doing there. they were all more options. you know, was the 20,000 troop namely its size and a lot of drones going on? it was 40,000 and then there was