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
"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
- 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
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
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 I ndonesian 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
- '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
, 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
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres repeated the call for a global phaseout of fossil fuels during his remarks at the opening of the World Climate Action Summit as the U.N. Climate Change Conference entered its second day on Friday.
Guterres delivered a dire warning to the 260 world leaders gathered for the two-day summit taking place within the two week COP28 conference in Dubai as he urged them to ramp up their climate ambitions in the name of the future of human civilization.
"The science is clear," Guterres said. "The 1.5°C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate. Phaseout—with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5°C."
"Make this COP count. Make this COP a gamechanger. Make this COP the new hope in the future of humankind."
Guterres began his remarks on a positive note, congratulating COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber for a day-one agreement to operationalize the long-awaited "loss and damage" fund for developing nations. However, he quickly took a somber tone as he described recent visits to Antarctica and Nepal where he had seen ice and glaciers melt.
He said the ice loss was "just one symptom of the sickness bringing our climate to its knees. A sickness only you, global leaders, can cure."
"Earth's vital signs are failing: record emissions, ferocious fires, deadly droughts, and the hottest year ever," Guterres continued. "We can
it even when we're still in November. We are miles from the goals of the Paris agreement—and minutes to midnight for the 1.5-°C."
The cure could come, Guterres said, with a successful "global stocktake." The global stocktake is a mechanism of the Paris agreement whereby world leaders assess their progress to date and set new goals. The first global stocktake concludes with the current conference in Dubai, and the process will repeat every five years from here on out.
Guterres made three main recommendations for the first stocktake:
- " Drastically" reducing emissions : Guterres pointed out that countries' current nationally determined contributions under the Paris agreement put the world on track for around 3°C of warming and urged them to update their pledges in line with the 1.5°C goal. He said that G20 countries, which are responsible for 80% of emissions, should take the lead on this, and that richer nations should aim to reach net-zero by 2040 while less wealthy ones shoot for 2050.
- Speeding a "just transition" : In addition to phasing out fossil fuels, Guterres said countries should agree to triple renewable energy, double energy efficiency, and ensure everyone has access to renewable energy by 2030.
Ensuring "long overdue" climate justice
: Guterres called for a "surge in finance" to help poorer, climate vulnerable nations adapt to climate impacts they did little to cause and compensate for loss and damage. He also said that leaders should recommend reforms of the multilateral development banking system so that developing nations could access funds without increasing their debt burden. Finally, he said that wealthier nations must fulfill their promises to provide $40 billion a year in adaptation finance by 2025 and $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020.
In his remarks on fossil fuels and clean energy, Guterres also addressed fossil fuel executives directly.
"Your old road is rapidly changing," he said, quoting Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin.'"
Guterres cited International Energy Agency (IEA) figures finding that oil and gas companies provide only 1% of all clean energy investments.
"Do not double-down on an obsolete business model," Guterres said, addressing fossil fuel CEOs and the hundreds of industry lobbysists in attendance at the conference. "Lead the transition to renewables using the resources you have available. Make no mistake—the road to climate sustainability is also the only viable pathway to economic sustainability of your companies in the future."
Guterres ended his speech with a call to leadership.
"Humanity's fate hangs in the balance," he said. "Make this COP count. Make this COP a gamechanger. Make this COP the new hope in the future of humankind."
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."
Survey results out Thursday show that more than 80% of U.S. voters oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a finding released a day after House Republicans and some right-wing Democrats made their case for a bipartisan "fiscal commission" that critics warn would fast-track cuts to the popular and critical programs.
Conducted by Navigator Research, the poll found that 81% of registered voters from across the political spectrum are against cutting funding for Social Security and Medicare while 82% support increasing funding for the programs.
The nationwide survey reached 1,000 U.S. voters and was run from November 9-13.
The deep unpopularity of Social Security cuts may help explain why Republicans, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), are pushing for a bipartisan, bicameral fiscal commission tasked with proposing legislative changes to U.S. trust fund programs. The Biden White House and progressive advocacy groups have called the commission a "death panel" for Social Security.
Under legislation that the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee examined during a hearing on Wednesday, proposals approved by the fiscal commission would be expedited in both chambers of Congress.
Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works , wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams on Thursday that the proposed commission is a ploy "specifically designed to avoid accountability from voters," as it would "require Congress to vote on the commission's recommendations right after the 2024 election, without any amendments."
"This will allow members to run on the claim that they won't cut Social Security and Medicare, and then turn around and vote for cut," Altman added. "They will insist that they hated the cuts, but had to do something about the federal debt, so their hands were tied. Some voting for it will have lost re-election or will be retiring, with nothing to lose. All of them will be as far away from the next election as possible."
"Commissions of this kind always focus on cutting benefits and never on the adequacy of benefits."
Two of the leading supporters of a fiscal commission—Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—announced recently that they will not be running for reelection next year, shielding them from any political pressure to oppose Social Security cuts.
Johnson, the head of the House Republican caucus, described a fiscal commission as one of his top priorities after winning the gavel last month. When he served as chair of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) between 2019 and 2021, Johnson proposed massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said following Wednesday's budget committee hearing that "commissions of this kind always focus on cutting benefits and never on the adequacy of benefits," pointing to Social Security cuts proposed by the co-chairs of the infamous Bowles-Simpson commission.
"In fact, their main purpose is to give lawmakers political cover for cutting benefits. They routinely neglect revenue-side solutions, such as asking the wealthy to contribute their fair share," said Richtman. "On behalf of our members and supporters across the country, we urge members of Congress to vote against a fiscal commission, roll up their sleeves, and legislate improvements to Social Security and Medicare that protect—not punish—current and future beneficiaries."
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
about controversial legislation backed by Republicans and right-wing Democrats that would
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."
"Despite this small victory, the razor buoys are only a fraction of Gov. Abbott's racist and murderous Operation Lone Star," one group noted.
A federal appellate court panel on Friday delivered a blow to Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's anti-migrant regime, ruling 2-1 that the state must remove from the Rio Grande a buoy barrier intended to block people from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Texas and Abbott over the buoys, which are part of the governor's Operation Lone Star , in July. U.S. Judge David A. Ezra of the Western District of Texas, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, ordered the state to remove the barrier and prohibited new or additional blockades in September.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit initially blocked Ezra's ruling while it considered the case, but Judges Dana Douglas and Carolyn Dineen King—respectively appointed by President Joe Biden and former President Jimmy Carter—affirmed his decision that the buoys violate federal law on Friday. Judge Don Willett, an appointee of ex-President Donald Trump, dissented.
"I've seen Gov. Abbott's border buoys for myself. They're illegal and dangerous."
The lower court "considered the threat to navigation and federal government operations on the Rio Grande, as well as the potential threat to human life the floating barrier created," Douglas wrote for the majority. "All of the district court's findings of fact were well supported by the record, and its conclusion... was not an abuse of discretion."
American Immigration Council policy director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick
on social media that the case turned out the way it did, even though the 5th Circuit is the
U.S. appeals court, "in part because the panel draw was a very good one for the DOJ."
Abbott said Friday that the decision "is clearly wrong," that he and GOP state Attorney General Ken Paxton "will seek an immediate rehearing by the entire court," and that they will seek intervention from the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court "if needed."'
Despite the governor's determination to continue the legal battle, opponents of 4-foot-wide orange spherical buoys—which span 1,000 feet of the river near Eagle Pass—celebrated the appeals court decision.
"I've seen Gov. Abbott's border buoys for myself. They're illegal and dangerous," said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who led a congressional trip to the barrier and a letter urging the Biden administration to act. "I applaud the Justice Department for today's hard-fought victory in the conservative 5th Circuit and look forward to seeing these death traps removed from the Rio Grande."
The immigrant youth-led group United We Dream also welcomed the "small victory" but stressed that "the razor buoys are only a fraction of Gov. Abbott's racist and murderous Operation Lone Star," pointing to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report .
HRW revealed earlier this week that "dangerous chases of vehicles thought to contain migrants under the Texas government's Operation Lone Star program led to crashes that killed at least 74 people and injured at least another 189 in a 29-month period."
Alison Parker, HRW's deputy U.S. director, declared that the state operation "is maximizing chaos, fear, and human rights abuses against Texans and migrants, which might be a cynical way to win political points but is not a responsible way to run a government."
The report and ruling on Texas' operation come as congressional Republicans
to force through what migrant rights advocates are calling "unconscionable" changes to asylum policy in exchange for funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
"Each bombing, each of the killings, should be properly investigated," said Luis Moreno Ocampo, "but... the siege itself is already genocide."
Luis Moreno Ocampo, the International Criminal Court's first chief prosecutor, said Friday that both Hamas and Israel perpetrated genocide—the Palestinian resistance group by murdering around 1,200 Israelis on October 7, and the Israeli government by besieging Gaza.
Appearing on Al Jazeera 's "UpFront," Moreno Ocampo said that "you have Hamas committing war crimes... crimes against humanity, the crime committed in Israel on October 7... and probably genocide, because Hamas has [the] intention to destroy Israelis as a group."
"Then, Israel's reaction also includes many crimes," he continued. "It's complicated to define the war crimes, because each bombing has to be evaluated. But there is something very clear: The siege of Gaza itself... is a form of genocide."
"Article 2C of the Genocide Convention defines that you don't need to kill people to commit genocide," the Argentinian jurist added. "The rules say inflicting conditions to destroy the group, that itself is a genocide. So creating the siege itself is a genocide, and that is very clear."
"Many officers of the Israeli government are also
genocidal intentions," Moreno Ocampo noted. "That's why it's easy to say and there's reasonable basis to believe Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza, just the siege. Each bombing, each of the killings, should be properly investigated but... the siege itself is already genocide."
Under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide —the first human rights treaty unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly—genocide is defined as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group":
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
More than 800 international lawyers, jurists, and genocide scholars in October published an open letter stating that "we are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."
The letter notes that "preexisting conditions in the Gaza Strip had already prompted discussions of genocide prior to the current escalation," notably by the National Lawyers Guild , the Russell Tribunal on Palestine , and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
U.S. President Joe Biden in October that his "unwavering" support for Israel, including
for an additional $14.3 billion in American military aid for the country atop the nearly $4 billion it already gets each year—could make him complicit in genocide.
As for the problem of prosecuting Israeli genocide perpetrators when the country is not signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Moreno Ocampo noted during the interview that "the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem."
"Any crime committed in those places, by any person, could be mitigated by the International Criminal Court," he added.
"These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole," former Marshallese President Hilda Heine wrote in her resignation letter to COP28 chief Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber.
United Nations Climate Change Conference advisory board member Hilda Heine resigned on Friday, citing reports that the Emirati oil executive presiding over COP28 has been busy pushing for fossil fuel deals in the run-up to the event.
Earlier this week, the Center for Climate Reporting and the BBC reported that Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber—who is simultaneously serving as COP28 president and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)—"has held scores of meetings with senior government officials, royalty, and business leaders from around the world in recent months" as the "COP28 team has quietly planned to use this access as an opportunity to increase exports of ADNOC's oil and gas."
"These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole."
In her resignation letter, which was seen and first reported by Reuters , Heine—who is a former president of the low-lying Marshall Islands, one of the world's most climate-imperiled nations—called the United Arab Emirates' plan to make oil and gas deals at COP28 "deeply disappointing."
"These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole," she asserted, adding that the only way Al Jaber can restore confidence is to "deliver an outcome that demonstrates that you are committed to phasing out fossil fuels."
Al Jaber has denied that he's using COP28 for fossil fuel deal-making.
"These allegations are false, not true, incorrect, and not accurate," he said Wednesday at a Dubai press conference. "And it's an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency."
A spokesperson for COP28's presidency said they are "extremely disappointed by Dr. Heine's resignation."
"We appreciated her advice throughout the year and that we only wish she would have been with us here in the UAE celebrating the adoption of a fund that will support vulnerable island states and those most affected by climate impacts," the spokesperson said, referring to the global "loss and damage" fund that one critic
as "a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the need they are to address."
The UAE isn't the only major oil producer pushing fossil fuels while participating in COP28. Saudi Arabia—whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday was among the world leaders kicking off talks at the conference—"is overseeing a sweeping global investment program" intended to "ensure that emerging economies across Africa and Asia become vastly more dependent on oil," the Center for Climate Reporting and Channel 4 News revealed this week.