In gratitude, we mark the death of Henry Kissinger, America's peerless war criminal. As U.S officials laud an "elder statesman" and "erudite strategist," the rest of us, and surely millions of brown-skinned people, celebrate the end of an "iconic napalm rights advocate" whose lies, hubris, towering inhumanity and many blood-soaked foreign policy follies left a legacy - in Vietnam, Chile, Cambodia, Argentina - of an "enormous pile of corpses" that may number four million. The consensus: "Burn hot, Henry."
The news of Dr. Death's demise at 100 was predictably, fawningly covered by an establishment press that the master of access journalism had long courted: "I'll tell you about some sleazy transgressions if you don't say I committed them and what it cost in lives or money." There were thoughts and prayers and cheesy accolades for a "towering American diplomat" who "shaped US Cold War history" and left "an undeniable legacy" - true but probably not the way they mean it. Tim Scott babbled, "While this is an incredible loss for our nation, his legacy will live on for generations to come." McConnell lauded "a titan among America's most consequential statesmen" whose "sheer force of will...changed the course of history." Chris Christie bemoaned "a very sad night" that "leaves a void all around the world." Echoing Trump's "many people say," the WaPo hedged their bets, queasily conceding with a Kissinger-like "'detached bloodlessness" that "critics held" he was kinda a sociopathic monster but who knows. Stephen Miller won the WTF-Are-You-Talking-About Award with, "May God bless Henry Kissinger, who devoted his life to the pursuit of peace," albeit with carpet bombing. Spencer Ackerman: "America, like every empire, champions its state murderers."
Some cited his inexplicable Nobel Peace Prize for ending a war that kept going - "Perhaps the vetting process needs a better vetting process"; Al Jazeera noted "the Nobel Prize-wining warmonger" had died; nobody mentioned the award was the reason Tom Lehrer retired: "Political satire became obsolete.” Few identified him as the ruthless architect of a murderous, empire-building "evil circle of power" now known as "a rules-based international order" whose deadly flaws and repercussions we still live with today, and whose crimes were so vast - of commission in Cambodia and Chile, omission in Iran and East Timor - he had to limit where he traveled to not land in the Hague. Still, Jeff Tiedrich insists, facts owe. "Good fucking riddance to Henry fucking Kissinger," he wrote of "the war criminal elephant in the room" who "never met a democratically-elected government he didn't want to topple" if they stood in his way. "There’s nothing complicated about (his) legacy. He overthrew democratic governments and bombed children on Christmas Eve" even as "DC's "power elite "sucked up to "the West Wing Playboy: "Everyone wanted this blood-spattered fuck at their dinner party." Sorry, not sorry. Voltaire: "We owe respect to the living. To the dead we owe only truth."
The truth, says historian Greg Grandin, is that during his years as National Security Adviser and then Secretary of State, Kissinger abetted or orchestrated the deaths of between three and four million civilians. His atrocities in Southeast Asia ranged from 1972's Christmas bombing of North Vietnam and Hanoi's main hospital, to devious efforts to sabotage the Paris Peace talks by passing information from them to Nixon in hopes of staying in power, to his apocalyptic, covert B-52 carpet-bombing of Cambodia, a country we were not at war with, with 540,000 tons of munitions - during all of World War ll, the U.S. dropped 160,000 tons of bombs on Japan - killing between 150,000 and 500,000 civilians in one of history's most deadly air campaigns. He and Nixon were reportedly "really excited" about the campaign - freakishly named Operation MENU, with BREAKFAST, LUNCH, SNACK, DINNER etc - born of Kissinger's order to hit "anything that moves," approving 3,875 sorties over what he claimed were unpopulated areas yielding "no significant civilian casualties." He thus galvanized Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, laying the groundwork for a genocide that killed millions; once they came to power, he secretly said they were "murderous thugs" but the U.S. "won’t let that stand in our way."
Over 10 years ago, investigative reporter Nick Turse uncovered evidence from an archive of U.S. military documents that Kissinger, who for decades dodged questions about Cambodia's killing fields, was responsible for even more civilian deaths than was known. In interviews with over 75 Cambodian survivors and U.S. witnesses, he heard tearful accounts of daily, random massacres that would kill neighbors, relatives, half a hamlet's population; of Army Rangers wildly shooting women and children before grabbing chickens, duck, cigarettes, a motorcycle; of "terrifying" air attacks by "lobster-leg" Huey Cobras wiping out families even as U.S. forces abided by the Nixon argument that, "As long as we didn’t set foot on that ground, we basically weren’t there"; of systemic disregard for, and lies about, "civilian harm" and deaths. Over his ensuing decades of impunity, Kissinger became "a visionary example for our 21st-century age of unaccountable power," a sinister template for U.S. leaders who learned they'd never face consequences for their actions in office - starting illegal wars, approving torture, dispatching drones on Afghans at a wedding - thus setting the stage for the civilian carnage of our so-called War on Terror around the world.
First came the 1973 overthrow of Socialist Salvador Allende's democratic election in Chile because, Kissinger argued, the U.S. can't “stand idly by and watch a country go communist...We will not let Chile go down the drain." Cue 17 years of of terror delivered by his military junta: Santiago's football stadium turned concentration camp with two lines - "We called them the line of life and the line of death" - wiping out "a whole generation of the working class"; entire newspaper staffs gunned down; tens of thousands imprisoned and tortured; women standing daily at bridges to look for the bodies of disappeared husbands or sons floating downriver, headless corpses with arms tied behind, fingernails ripped out, legs broken, testicles smashed, eyes gouged by cigarettes; and, later, unions decimated, multinationals enriched. Before Allende, his palace surrounded, killed himself, he urged an aide, "Tell the world." Eventually Pinochet, living in London, was extradited but ultimately let off, even as his junta agents in Operation Condor killed a former ambassador and political opponent in a D.C car bombing. Still, Kissinger stood by Pinochet, a brutal kindred spirit, telling him, "You are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world.”
And he was everywhere. In 1970, he turned a blind eye to Pakistan's slaughter of 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindu. In 1975, he similarly ignored Indonesian President Suharto's brutal invasion of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony moving toward independence, that killed over 200,000. In 1976, he brushed aside a military junta in Argentina that overthrew Isabel Perón and launched a savage Dirty War that "disappeared" over 30,000 civilians; when a junta official told Kissinger their main problem was "terrorism," the esteemed elder statesman responded, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” A Republican truly ahead of his time, he even decried democracy in his own country, telling Nixon, "We’ve got to break the back of this generation of Democratic leaders (and) destroy the confidence of people in the American establishment." And he was a Jew who escaped the Nazis only to become the flunky for a vicious anti-Semite who blamed “dirty rotten Jews from New York” (Seymour Hersh) and "Jews at Harvard for exposing the My Lai massacre. "Well, Mr. President," Kissinger responded, "there are Jews and Jews." Another time he mused, "Any people who has been persecuted for 2,000 years must be doing something wrong."
Burn hot, Henry, indeed. It's equally forbidding to confront the "horrifying catastrophe" that was the man, the malignant machine that facilitated his rise to power, and the fact he was left free to shape history and the war-torn, post-truth, self-serving world we now inhabit. There was never a trip to the Hague for Wonder Warthog, but his awfulness didn't go unnoticed. One story has the venerable Gore Vidal coming upon Kissinger at the Vatican "gazing thoughtfully” at the Hell section of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. “Look,” said Vidal to a friend, "he’s apartment hunting." The late great chef Anthony Bourdain was likewise not a fan. "Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands," he wrote in a 2001 memoir about "that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag." When he turned 100 last May and dreadful think pieces pondered "What He Can Tell Us About the World," The Nation noted he was "still at large (but) he should have gone down the rest of them. "Still a war criminal," reported David Corn. "As he blows out all those candles, let's call the roll" - Cambodia, Chile, Iran et al. "The Cubans say there is no evil that lasts 100 years," Grandin wrote. "Kissinger is making a run to prove them wrong."
With his death, many people, bitter to droll, chimed in. They suggested humans should have a shorter shelf life, he should've died "with a rope around his war criminal neck," his body should be airdropped on Cambodia "for them to defile it as they please, he belongs to the ash-heap. Many lamented they don't believe in hell but hope his apartment in the World to Come is a tiny, dark, 4th floor walk-up for groceries.They said, "Let he who has not carpet-bombed Cambodia throw the first stone," he "put Cambodia on the map and almost took it off," "Collateral damage tested much better with audiences than 'innocent victims.'" They cited Monty Python's song - 'Henry Kissinger/how I'm missing yer" - comparing him to a German parakeet and positing, like the parrot, he's "just resting" or "pining for the fjords." There were questions: Is Cheney the most evil living American now? Who gets the peace prize - Santos, Putin, Miller? Is there room for him in Hell with all the other fascist creeps? Did he have more blood on his hands than any other homicidal sociopath? When he signed a check, did he use a pen or the severed limb of a dead brown child? They said rest in piss, rest in perfidy, and in a lousy year, "It's a glorious day." And the person who runs a "Did-Kissinger-Die-Yet" account answered, finally, "YES."
Not a moment too soon, "the world awoke a little less poisoned," wrote Charles Pierce, who quoted the Revelation of St. John: "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard (the) beast say, 'Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." "Kissinger lived for over half a century in the world he had made. He was its hubris," wrote Spencer Ackerman in a fine, detailed piece on a "War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class," a headline he'd earlier prepped; it's also tagged, "Good Riddance." "The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him." Still, "no infamy will find Kissinger." Over 50 years, the millions of deaths didn't make a dent. He got rich, voiced no regrets, mocked his war criminal label, was extolled by the likes of Hillary Clinton as "a friend" whose counsel she sought in the name of a neoliberalism birthed in "Pinochet's torture chambers...a baby delivered bloody and screaming by Henry Kissinger" as U.S leaders today routinely bomb countries we're not at war with. The goal of Cold War statecraft: To maximize America's freedom to "inflict (its) will on the world, measured in impunity... The organizing principle of American exceptionalism: America acts; it is not acted upon." And it still is.
"He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies." - the early Christian theologian Tertullian, (160-240 A.D) of Carthage, thought to have produce the first extensive body of Latin Christian literature.
Pinochet's terrifying Chile, with the help of the U.S.Getty Image
Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday led a group of more than 30 U.S. lawmakers in calling on President Joe Biden to embrace a complete phaseout of fossil fuels and an immediate end to public financing of new overseas oil and gas projects as world leaders gathered for the first day of the COP28 summit in Dubai.
In a letter to the president, who decided to skip the talks, Markey (D-Mass.), Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and 32 other members of Congress wrote that the U.S. has a "duty" to pursue more ambitious climate goals and "support other countries in adopting the principles of environmental justice that we should also prioritize here at home."
"In order to remain on target for a livable future, we urge the administration to support the move toward an extensive, expedient, and equitable phaseout of fossil fuel production and consumption," the lawmakers wrote. "A full phaseout should be inclusive of coal, oil, and fossil gas, and led by the wealthiest and highest-emitting countries, including short-term phase-down goals and climate financing to assist developing countries in executing a clean energy transition."
The letter, spearheaded by the leaders of the congressional Green New Deal Resolution, was released after the COP28 talks opened with a deal to operationalize a loss and damage fund geared toward helping low-income nations recover from the increasingly devastating climate impacts they've faced in recent years, despite doing the least to cause the planetary crisis.
The Biden administration, representing the country that is the largest historical emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, pledged just $17.5 million to the loss and damage fund, a sum that one campaigner called "embarrassing."
As Common Dreams reported, the administration also drew outrage by launching an oil and gas drilling auction just days before the start of the United Nations climate summit.
In a social media post Thursday, Markey called on the Biden administration to "lead by example and take bold action to end this climate emergency."
The Biden administration has thus far rejected calls to support a full phaseout of fossil fuels, allowing U.S. oil and gas extraction to surge to record levels despite increasingly dire warnings from the scientific community.
The administration has also repeatedly broken its commitment to end direct public financing for international fossil fuel projects.
In a briefing on the eve of COP28, Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry told reporters that the administration supports "requiring the phaseout of unabated fossil fuel."
As Bloomberg's Lara Williams recently warned, the ambiguity of "unabated"—expected to be a hot-button term during the COP28 talks—"leaves an enormous loophole for the continued expansion of fossil fuel production under the vague promise that all will be abated in the future."
Experts on anti-poverty policies on Tuesday urged lawmakers weighing tax legislation to consider evidence that became strikingly clear in 2021: Guaranteeing that families have money on a monthly basis to provide for their children, via the expanded child tax credit, helped ensure that far fewer kids struggled with insufficient food and other essentials.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted that policymakers have reportedly begun negotiating a possible year-end tax bill and have already heard from dozens of pro-business groups from across the country that have called for a tax code that "supports innovation" and enables businesses to "finance growth."
To return to what analysts have called "a historic reduction in poverty" that was observed just two years ago, CBPP called on negotiators in Congress to include "a well-designed expansion of the child tax credit (CTC) in any tax legislation considered," with the children from the lowest-income households prioritized.
"Letting 9 million children in this country live in poverty is a policy choice, as recent census data underscores," wrote Chuck Marr, Kris Cox, and Sarah Calame at CBPP. "Policymakers have an opportunity to make a different—and better—choice in the coming weeks. They should prioritize reducing child poverty—and improving the life prospects of millions of children."
As Common Dreams reported in September, the opposition of Republican senators and right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) led to the end of the expanded CTC, which helped push child poverty to a record low of 5.2% in 2021 as eligible families received up to $300 per child, per month. As a result, in 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded the largest single-year increase in poverty among children in the U.S., which rose to 12.4%.
"If Congress had continued the American Rescue Plan's child tax credit expansion in 2022, about 3 million fewer children would have been in poverty, preventing more than half of the increase in the number of children in poverty last year, we estimate," wrote Marr, Cox, and Calame.
The decision to take thousands of dollars per year away from families struggling with the rising cost of living and stagnant wages was driven largely by Manchin's false claim that parents who were given money to help with the cost of childcare and groceries each month would spend the cash on drugs, but CBPP expressed hope that some Republicans facing tough reelection campaigns next year have signaled an interest in supporting the provision, which was backed by Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters in an Economic Security Project poll last year.
Civil society groups including the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) and Americans for Tax Fairness this week began calling on lawmakers to "put children first, not corporate profits" as they negotiate a tax bill.
"Right now, Congress is hearing from big business, not American families like yours," MPA told its supporters in a call to action. "We are the people who know how critical cash is to making a household work. We are the people our members of Congress need to hear from."
CBPP emphasized that "the details of any child tax credit expansion are important" and called for a particular focus on the children who have been left out of the credit in the past despite their families' struggles with the cost of housing, food, childcare, and other essentials.
The economists wrote that any tax bill must prioritize ensuring that 19 million children whose parents' incomes are too low to receive the full CTC must be "the focus of any child tax credit expansion."
Explaining that the current structure of the CTC is "upside down," they wrote that children in families with less than $2,500 in earnings are not eligible for any credit, while families with incomes below about $16,000 get less than $2,000 in total and middle- and high-income households receive the maximum of $2,000 per child.
For example, a childcare provider who has two children of their own and is a single parent might earn $15,000 per year and receive $1,875, while a married couple who employs the provider might earn $400,000 per year and receive $4,000 in CTC.
"The children who would benefit the most—children whose families face challenges affording rent, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation—often get the least," wrote the economists. "As a result, more children live in poverty than would if children in families with low incomes received the same child tax credit as children in families with higher incomes."
This inequity disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and Latino children whose parents are "overrepresented in low-paid work," noted CBPP.
The record low child poverty rate in 2021 was achieved by making the full CTC available to low-income families, raising the maximum credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children aged 5 and younger and $3,000 for older children, and providing the credit on a monthly basis rather than a lump sum after taxes were filed.
Marr, Cox, and Calame explained that simply raising the maximum amount for the CTC would do little to help the families who need it most, and a proposal led by Rep. John James (R-Mich.) would still leave many low-income families with partial or no credit.
By contrast, the economists proposed making the current $2,000 CTC—often called the "fully refundable" credit—to the lowest-income households, which could lift an estimated 1.5 million children out of poverty and boost the income of the single parent in CBPP's example by $2,125—a significant difference for a regular household income of $15,000.
"As policymakers evaluate approaches to expanding the child tax credit" in end-of-year tax legislation, said Marr, Cox, and Calame, "they should seek to maximize the number of children with low incomes lifted out of poverty."
Henry Kissinger, the former diplomat whose efforts to prolong and expand the U.S. war on Southeast Asia and undermine democracy in Latin America and elsewhere took millions of lives, died Wednesday at 100 years old.
Treated like royalty in elite U.S. political circles until his death at his home in Connecticut, Kissinger—who served as secretary of state and national security adviser under Nixon and Ford—never faced justice for the secretive carpet bombing of Cambodia that he helped orchestrate, the overthrow of Chile's democratically elected president, or the murderous "dirty war" in Argentina that killed tens of thousands.
The scope of his crimes was so vast that he had to watch where he traveled, lest he be detained to face questioning for his role in assassinations, massacres, and violent military coups whose reverberations are still felt in the present.
"The covert justifications for illegally bombing Cambodia became the framework for the justifications of drone strikes and forever war. It's a perfect expression of American militarism's unbroken circle," historian Greg Grandin, author of "Kissinger's Shadow," toldThe Intercept earlier this year. Grandin has estimated that Kissinger was responsible for at least 3 million deaths.
Observers of Kissinger's impact have said it's difficult to convey the true extent of the destruction he inflicted across the globe.
In his obituary of Kissinger for Rolling Stone, journalist Spencer Ackerman wrote that "measuring purely by confirmed kills, the worst mass murderer ever executed by the United States was the white-supremacist terrorist Timothy McVeigh."
"McVeigh, who in his own psychotic way thought he was saving America, never remotely killed on the scale of Kissinger, the most revered American grand strategist of the second half of the 20th century," Ackerman continued. "Every single person who died in Vietnam between autumn 1968 and the Fall of Saigon—and all who died in Laos and Cambodia, where Nixon and Kissinger secretly expanded the war within months of taking office, as well as all who died in the aftermath, like the Cambodian genocide their destabilization set into motion—died because of Henry Kissinger."
"We will never know what might have been, the question Kissinger's apologists, and those in the U.S. foreign policy elite who imagine themselves standing in Kissinger's shoes, insist upon when explaining away his crimes," he added. "We can only know what actually happened. What actually happened was that Kissinger materially sabotaged the only chance for an end to the war in 1968 as a hedged bet to ensure he would achieve power in Nixon's administration or Humphrey's. A true tally will probably never be known of everyone who died so Kissinger could be national security adviser."
The Biden administration's proposal to better protect drinking water nationwide was met with sweeping applause on Thursday, but at least one consumer advocacy group stressed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy is "still not enough."
With its proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule, the administration aims to replace all lead water service lines in the United States within a decade, according to the EPA. There are also provisions intended to locate legacy lead pipes, improve tap sampling, lower the lead action level, and strengthen protections to reduce exposure.
Food & Water Watch Public Water for All director Mary Grant said that "the federal government has already waited far too long to require the elimination of these toxic lead water pipes, which poisoned the water in communities across the country," from Flint, Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi to Newark, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
"The Biden administration has proposed long-overdue meaningful action toward the goal of eliminating lead from drinking water, but to ensure that every community has safe, lead-free water, much more must be done—much faster—at no cost to impacted households," she asserted.
Grant praised "agitators who emerged from... water contamination fights" and called on Congress to "step up to provide funding to replace the entire service line at no cost to impacted households, prioritizing low-income and environmental justice communities."
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden two years ago, "provided a $15 billion downpayment on this overhaul, but the total cost could exceed $60 billion," she pointed out, urging Congress to pass the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability (WATER) Act.
"In a moment when many of us feel overwhelmed by bad news, the EPA's lead rule provides a ray of hope."
While additional steps are clearly needed, impacted communities and other campaigners still welcomed the progress on Thursday.
"Communities like ours... have grappled with the repercussions of lead contamination for too long," said Deborah Brown, a steering committee member of Newburgh Clean Water Project in New York. "The proposed improvements, especially the replacement of all lead service lines, signify a significant stride to safe and clean drinking water for our families and future generations. It's a step in the right direction."
Earthjustice attorney Suzanne Novak—whose legal group has represented the Newburgh Clean Water Project—said that "the EPA's proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule are a much-needed response to a dire public health crisis that's been ongoing for more than a century."
"The administration's proposal takes important steps towards fulfilling the Safe Drinking Water Act's purpose of protecting human health to the extent feasible," Novak continued. "EPA has recognized that quick removal of all lead service lines is imperative, and that swift action is needed when a community has persistent high levels of lead in its water."
"Because the public health burden of lead exposure falls disproportionately on environmental justice communities," she emphasized, "we need to make sure that the final rule is equitable in how it achieves reduction of lead in drinking water across the country."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted "apparent weaknesses" of the proposal, including that "water systems are not required to pay for the lead service line replacement," utilities could get extensions beyond the 10-year deadline, and the action level reduction from 15 parts per billion to 10 ppb "is less strict than the 5 ppb standards recommended by health experts and the governments in Canada and Europe."
Still, Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health at NRDC, said that "in a moment when many of us feel overwhelmed by bad news, the EPA's lead rule provides a ray of hope that we are approaching the day when every family can trust that the water from their kitchen tap is safe, regardless of how much money they have or their ZIP code."
Environmental Working Group senior vice president for government affairs Scott Faber also praised the progress, saying that "once again, President Biden's EPA is putting our families first and honoring his commitments to the American people."
The campaigner also highlighted the need to better protect communities whose drinking water is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals used in various products that persist in the environment and human body and are connected to health problems including cancers.
Biden's EPA proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard for PFAS in March. Faber said Thursday that "we're confident he will also make good on his commitment to finalize a drinking water standard for the toxic 'forever chemicals.'"
"We're not at war."
That's what U.S. House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) claimed during a Wednesday hearing about controversial legislation backed by Republicans and right-wing Democrats that would create a so-called fiscal commission for the U.S. debt.
Making some on-the-fly additions to his prepared remarks, Arrington said, "120% debt to GDP—this is the highest level of indebtedness in the history of our country surpassing World War II and we're not at war, we're in relative peace and prosperity."
And yet, a report published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs shows that since 2021, the U.S. military has conducted counterterrorism operations—including training and assistance, military exercises, combat and detention, and air and drone strikes—in at least 78 countries.
"The war launched by the United States government in response to the 9/11 terror attacks continues," states the report, authored by project co-director Stephanie Savell. "This map is a snapshot of today's global military and civilian operations that evolved from President George W. Bush's 'Global War on Terror,' launched in 2001, and continued through and beyond the U.S. military's official withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. This war on terror continues under President Joe Biden."
The United States conducted air and drone strikes against militants in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and likely Yemen, according to the report. U.S. forces also "engaged in combat and detention, using force on the ground against militants/terrorism suspects" in those five countries plus Cuba, Kenya, Mali, and the United Arab Emirates.
The publication also identifies 30 countries where the United States "conducted formal, named military exercises to project
force locally and rehearse scenarios of combating 'terrorists' or 'violent extremist organizations," and 73 nations where the U.S. government "trained and/or assisted military, police, and/or border patrol forces."
As the report details:
Many U.S. military operations are not included here—notably, those aimed at what U.S. officials and media identify as the military threat posed by Russia and China, the focus of much current U.S. foreign policy. Nor does this map include the military bases that have housed counterterrorism operations. Further, it does not include counterterrorism-related arms sales to foreign governments, all deployments of U.S. special operations forces, or all Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations. Also excluded are "military information support operations (MISO)," or "psychological operations," which the U.S. military carries out in many countries on the map and beyond, such as in Iran. All of these are significant elements of the bigger picture of U.S. counterterrorism strategy but beyond the scope of the map's data set.
USA Today exclusively reported on the new map. Citing the Pentagon and David Vine, an anthropologist and U.S military expert at American University, the newspaper noted that "there are up to 800 U.S. military bases overseas," and "the Biden administration signed an agreement in June that will bring six new U.S. military bases to Papua New Guinea."
The Costs of War Project report points out that "there are a few notable differences in comparing the current data with the previous version of the map, which covered activities between 2018 through 2020 under President Donald Trump's administration." Differences include that the number of nations hit with U.S. airstrikes decreased while the tally of countries where U.S. service members engaged in ground combat rose by one—the UAE.
"Overall, though the total number of countries has decreased slightly, from 85 to 78 total countries, the United States counterterrorism footprint remains remarkably similar," the report stresses. "Taken altogether, this map's data highlights that the expansive global counterterrorism apparatus grinds ever onwards. This contrasts starkly with claims or assumptions on the part of the U.S. public and policymakers that the so-called 'War on Terror' is over."
The report comes as Congress considers how much more military aid—if any—to provide Ukraine, which has been battling a Russian invasion since February 2022, and Israel, which launched a war on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack on October 7.
"Today, in the current geopolitical context of the Middle East, the U.S. counterterrorism machinery is like a spark, ready to ignite," Savell wrote Wednesday in a related opinion piece for Newsweek. "The U.S. footprint in the region does not only make U.S. forces sitting ducks—it also threatens to dramatically escalate the current war on Gaza. Research has shown that having U.S. troops at the ready in so many places actually makes the chances of the U.S. waging aggressive, offensive wars far more likely."
"It is time for the U.S. to think deeply about the costs of overseas counterterrorism and to admit it has been a failure, underlaid by structural racism," she argued. "It is time to truly end the post-9/11 war era."
"The United States refuses to acknowledge historic responsibility for the decades of damage that has been done to communities bearing the brunt of climate change and the fossil fuel industry," said one advocate.
Climate justice advocates, outraged over the inadequate funding that was pledged to the "loss and damage" fund as the United Nations Climate Change Conference opened this week, reserved particular disdain on Friday for the United States delegation and its refusal to contribute a meaningful amount to the fund.
The Climate Justice Alliance said the U.S. contribution of just $17.5 million for the loss and damage fund—a tiny fraction of the nearly $900 billion President Joe Biden requested for his military budget earlier this year and the annual fossil fuel subsidies distributed by the U.S. government—sent a clear message to the Global South: that "the U.S. is completely uninterested in prioritizing or being accountable to the climate impacts frontline communities are facing."
"The amount pledged by the United States is insulting," said Bineshi Albert, co-executive director of the organization. "It is a paltry, shameful amount of money... By comparison, island nations have requested at least $100 billion over the first four years."
The sum also made clear that the Biden administration is following through on Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry's remarks at a hearing in July, in which he said that "under no circumstances" would the U.S. provide funding to countries in the Global South that are increasingly facing prolonged droughts, rising sea levels, and severe storms, among other climate impacts as a result of planetary heating.
"The United States refuses to acknowledge historic responsibility for the decades of damage that has been done to communities bearing the brunt of climate change and the fossil fuel industry," said Albert.
The U.S. is by far the largest historic emitter of planet-heating emissions, while many countries that are already facing the worst impacts of the climate emergency, such as small Pacific island nations, shoulder the least blame for the crisis.
Albert called the $17.5 million pledged by the U.S. "a drop in the bucket compared to the annual $20.5 billion in fossil fuel subsidies handed out by the US government, which recently surged to $7 trillion in 2022."
To help governments in the Global South rebuild damaged communities, prevent further destruction, and relocate displaced people, developing countries have said they will ultimately need about $400 billion annually.
$17.5 million "is not only ineffective to address these harms and injustices but it is minuscule compared to the hundreds of billions in loan, grants, and tax breaks available from the Inflation Reduction Act to corporations to further build out or prolong the life of fossil fuel infrastructure and energy intensive fuels like hydrogen," said Albert.
She added that it is not lost on advocates that the U.S. government pushed for contributions to the loss and damage fund to be voluntary: "another clear sign that the United States does not take responsibility for its harmful past actions nor does it consider the needs of the most impacted and marginalized communities seriously."
With contributions from other wealthy governments ranging from just $10 million (Japan) to $245 million (the European Union), Amnesty International climate adviser Ann Harrison said wealthy countries committed "barely enough to get the fund running, and little more."
"Billions of dollars are needed to make a substantive difference to communities in desperate need of help to rebuild homes after storms, or to support farmers when their crops are destroyed, or those permanently displaced by the climate crisis," said Harrison. "Considering the vast and excess profits accrued by fossil fuel companies last year while they continue to trash the climate, and that some the donor states today were responsible for a large proportion of historical greenhouse gas emissions, this is a disappointingly small initial sum."
High-income countries that continue to produce fossil fuels despite clear warnings from energy and climate experts, said Harrison, must "make new and additional commitments to the fund on a scale which reflects the global nature of climate crisis, and the threat it presents to billions of people."
"From opposing fascism in WWII to mobilizing against apartheid South Africa and the Contra war, the UAW has consistently stood for justice across the globe," said United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.
Fresh off historic contract victories, the United Auto Workers on Friday became the largest U.S. union to endorse a cease-fire in Gaza as Israel resumed its bombardment of the Palestinian territory following a weeklong pause.
"I am proud that the UAW International Union is calling for a cease-fire in Israel and Palestine," UAW president Shawn Fain wrote in a social media post on Friday. "From opposing fascism in WWII to mobilizing against apartheid South Africa and the Contra war, the UAW has consistently stood for justice across the globe."
The union's cease-fire endorsement was made public by Brandon Mancilla, director of UAW Region 9A, in remarks outside the White House, labor activist Mindy Isser reported for In These Times.
"Mancilla was at a news conference where labor leaders and union members from across the country had journeyed to Washington, D.C. to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a broad, multiracial coalition of politicians, organizers, and activists who have been on a five-day hunger strike outside of the White House to demand a permanent cease-fire," Isser noted.
On social media, Mancilla announced that the UAW's International Executive Board "will also be forming a Divestment and Just Transition Working Group to study the history of Israel and Palestine, our union's economic ties to the conflict, and explore how we can have a just transition for U.S. workers from war to peace."
The UAW's cease-fire call makes the 400,000-member union part of a growing segment of the American labor movement that is pushing for a negotiated end to the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, where U.S.-backed Israeli bombing has killed more than 15,000 people in less than two months.
Dozens of unions have signed onto a petition launched by the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, which demands the release of all hostages, an end to Israel's siege of Gaza, and a cease-fire that sets the stage for "negotiations for an enduring peace."
Despite growing labor support, the AFL-CIO—the largest federation of unions in the U.S.—has yet to back a cease-fire and has actively pushed back against its affiliates' efforts to build support for one.
During a meeting of the AFL-CIO's executive council in late October, just one union leader—Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU)—spoke up in support of a cease-fire, The New York Timesreported at the time. Last month, the APWU called for "an immediate cease-fire, the release of hostages, and urgently needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza."
"The cries of humanity demand nothing less," the union said.
Dimondstein echoed that message at Friday's press conference outside the White House.
"As working people we stand with the oppressed and the innocent, thousands of whom have lost their lives over the last two months," he said. "We unite with unions and people of goodwill around the world in calls for justice and peace."
"The long-term result from such short-sighted extremist policy will be further chaos at the southern border and further loss of life and human dignity," warned one campaigner.
As a bipartisan group of U.S. senators negotiates a deal on war assistance, rights groups and some congressional Democrats this week have condemned possible GOP policies that would make it harder for migrants to seek asylum in the United States.
"Refugees International is alarmed at Senate negotiations to potentially condition funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan on permanent changes to asylum law and parole authority that would put the lives of people seeking safety at risk," said Yael Schacher, the group's director for the Americas and Europe, in a statement Thursday.
"Heightening the asylum standard and deeming transit countries safe would violate international law and do nothing to stop people from coming to the border," Schacher asserted. "And limiting parole would end a program that has proved a lifeline for tens of thousands of Ukrainians and so many others for 70 years."
Stressing that "the rise in migration to the border is attributable to worsening political and humanitarian crises abroad that have produced historically high numbers of people needing protection," she urged Congress and President Joe Biden's administration to instead "focus on scaling up our ability to humanely and efficiently provide protection to meet this growing need."
"Instead of appeasing the xenophobia of the far right, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats should be working to make the United States more welcoming."
Advocates from Americans for Immigrant Justice, Human Rights First, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Oxfam America, and other groups have released similar statements. Calling the proposal "unacceptable," #WelcomeWithDignity campaign manager Melina Roche declared Wednesday that "emergency funding should not come at the expense of others who need help themselves to escape persecution and violence."
ACLU senior policy counsel Sarah Mehta warned that "using a one-time spending package to permanently gut our asylum system sets a dangerous precedent and undermines our nation's values, laws, and commitment to protect those seeking safety."
Denouncing Republicans' demands as "radical" and "utterly shameful," Center for Gender & Refugee Studies director Karen Musalo said that "they would result in the persecution, torture, and deaths of families, children, and adults seeking safe haven at our nation's doorstep."
Along with increasing risks for asylum-seekers, the changes sought by the GOP would be ineffective, campaigners argued. International Refugee Assistance Project policy director Sunil Varghese said that "the long-term result from such short-sighted extremist policy will be further chaos at the southern border and further loss of life and human dignity."
"Trading fundamental human rights protections for a one-time supplemental funding request is unconscionable, outrageous, and fundamentally misguided," Varghese argued. "Instead of appeasing the xenophobia of the far right, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats should be working to make the United States more welcoming, not more hateful."
Faith groups and religious leaders have also spoken out this week, including representatives from the American Friends Service Committee, Church World Service, Franciscan Action Network, and Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice.
"New restrictions will only make it more likely that people will be deported to dangerous conditions because they failed to navigate a complicated asylum system in an unfamiliar country," said Amanda Craft, assistant stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly. "Women, Black migrants, LGBTQ+ migrants, and indigenous-language speakers will be particularly impacted."
"Our Christian faith tells us to center the voice of 'the least of these,' the most vulnerable people with the fewest resources," Craft continued, citing scripture. "Instead of restricting asylum, Congress should robustly fund migrant services through the Shelter and Services Program and support communities that are welcoming migrants."
Democratic lawmakers are also raising concerns. Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and the CHC's Border and Immigration Task Force co-chairs, Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and Rob Menendez (D-N.J.), said Thursday that "we are strongly opposed to any potential measures in a rushed border supplemental that would permanently restrict asylum access for immigrants."
Separately, Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) called Republican efforts "morally bankrupt and grossly irresponsible," and pledged to vote against "any supplemental that dismantles U.S. asylum policy, adds 'third-country' limiting provisions or travel bans, or restricts our ability to receive people into the country on parole."
In the upper chamber, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) led 10 colleagues—Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)—in a statement opposing "harmful changes to our asylum system."
"We remain committed to working in good faith to modernize our outdated immigration system on a bipartisan basis and through a deliberative process," they added, emphasizing the need for "increasing lawful pathways for migration and legalizing long-time undocumented immigrants who put food on our tables, care for our elderly, and form the fabric of our communities."
The Associated Pressreported that U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday "told GOP senators behind closed doors that he needs real border security changes as part of Biden's broader war funding package."
Referring to the House GOP's Secure the Border Act, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in floor remarks Thursday, "I was deeply troubled by reports yesterday that Speaker Johnson joined Senate Republicans and made a push to inject more H.R. 2 provisions into the Senate supplemental."
"Democrats are willing to work with Republicans on commonsense, realistic border security, but we can't have the hard right essentially say its H.R. 2 or nothing," he added. "If Speaker Johnson, or for that matter the negotiators, feel they have to listen to what Speaker Johnson can pass just amongst his caucus, we'll never get anything done."