Reading the Tea Leaves: Will the Empire Break Up the Party?

Originally posted at FDL and OpenLeft

The Tea Party wants small government, right? Actually, it’s not so simple. In fact, you could drive a Bradley tank right through an ideological schism within the Tea Party.

On Tax Day, my CODEPINK colleagues and I conducted 50 interviews with Tea Party members about the cost of war and empire. With military spending eating up 20 percent of the federal budget and half of all discretionary spending, we figured that any serious effort to shrink government would have to deal with this bull in the china shop.

While a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the Tea Partiers to be a relatively homogeneous group of older, white, mostly males, we found that this group certainly doesn’t speak with the same tongue when it comes to the U.S. role in the world. On one side are the neo-con interventionists who think the United States is God’s gift to the world. On the other side are non-interventionists who want to slay the warfare state. The extreme fissure is bound to upset the tea cart as more Tea Party leaders are forced to articulate their foreign policy positions.

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Poll: Most Iraq, Afghanistan Vets Support Clean Energy and Climate Legislation

Very helpful and encouraging, though hardly surprising, news today. Per a Vote Vets press release, a new Lake Research Group poll finds that 73% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans support the passage of clean energy and climate legislation:

A compelling new poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans finds that 73 percent of them support Clean Energy Climate Change legislation in Congress, 79 percent believe ending our dependence on foreign oil is important to national security, and 67 percent support the argument that such legislation will help their own economic prospects. The poll was conducted by Lake Research Group for VoteVets.org In February, and is made up of 45 percent self-identified Republicans, 25 percent Independents, and 20 percent Democrats.  The full memo detailing the results is below.  PDF's of the memo and poll can be found here....

Veterans do not believe that the answer is just more drilling.  When asked the question, "Do you favor or oppose a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that invests in clean, renewable energy sources in America and limits carbon pollution in the atmosphere?" Seventy-three percent of veterans supported the bill, while only 22 percent opposed.

VoteVets.org also announced today that it is running new television and internet ads, nationally, and in Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and North Dakota supporting energy reform policies as a matter of security.  The ads are co-sponsored with Operation Free. The ad can be viewed at BillionDollarsADay.com

These results aren't surprising. I've written before that the military is well aware of the national security threats posed by climate change - the Navy is concerned with the effect warmer waters are already having on SONAR and the Pentagon classified climate change as a "destabilizing force" in its latest quadrennial strategic defense review. Our troops in the Middle East are in an excellent (albeit unfortunate) spot to see these effects first hand - particularly those risking their lives on supply convoys to ferry fossil fuels to the front lines.

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Iraq Veteran Loses Health Coverage, More After Discharge

Steve would prefer to not reveal his true identity, namely because he left the US Marine Corp under dishonorable discharge. At a mere 22 years old, he is currently residing in San Diego, CA, as an employee at his local Ralph’s. On his first day of work, his new co-workers had no idea where Steve had been before cleaning up the aisles of the grocery store. But it’s a time in his life that he would never forget: he was in Iraq serving as a young soldier in the midst of war. Because of his dishonorable discharge, Steve can't receive health care benefits through the Veteran's Administration, so he opted for a private health insurance company online.

"This will sound cliché," begins Steve, "but I’ve seen things, heard things and been through things that I’d never wish upon my worst enemies." Steve had no interest in school; he therefore enlisted in the military directly after his high school graduation in 2004. He arrived in Iraq two years later.

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Iraq Veteran Loses Health Coverage, More After Discharge

Steve would prefer to not reveal his true identity, namely because he left the US Marine Corp under dishonorable discharge. At a mere 22 years old, he is currently residing in San Diego, CA, as an employee at his local Ralph’s. On his first day of work, his new co-workers had no idea where Steve had been before cleaning up the aisles of the grocery store. But it’s a time in his life that he would never forget: he was in Iraq serving as a young soldier in the midst of war. Because of his dishonorable discharge, Steve can't receive health care benefits through the Veteran's Administration, so he opted for a private health insurance company online.

"This will sound cliché," begins Steve, "but I’ve seen things, heard things and been through things that I’d never wish upon my worst enemies." Steve had no interest in school; he therefore enlisted in the military directly after his high school graduation in 2004. He arrived in Iraq two years later.

There's more...

Obama Administration to Appeal Blackwater Dismissal

Earlier this month, when a federal judge dismissed manslaughter judges against five Blackwater (now Xe) operatives for the brutal killing of innocent Iraqi civilians, I had this to say:

This is the face of the United States to the rest of the world: A nation that will beat up on weaker states. A nation that can’t do its own dirty work, pretending instead that the perpetrators are rogue contractors and thus shifting the blame. A nation that refuses to hold itself accountable and puts potential legal loopholes ahead of justice. THIS is the example we set for the fledgling democracies we claim to have created? This is how we teach republican principles? …

Most importantly, Blackwater is quite literally getting away with murder.  Or as the rest of the world will see it, especially in Baghdad, America is letting Blackwater get away with murder. And to the rest of the world, that’s you, and that’s me. I don't know who to be more ticked at – the Justice Dept. lawyers [who bungled the case, ala Ted Stevens] or the judge. No matter who's at fault, however, this is about the worst possible note on which to begin a new year.

Well here’s some good news: Vice President Joe Biden announced today that the government will appeal the dismissal. I’m not the law student on this blog so I don’t have the wherewithal to know if the case for the appeal is strong enough, but I do know that true justice isn’t always a legal thing, and at least today our administration is pursuing true justice.

Blackwater security contractors were guarding U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, a crowded Baghdad intersection, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq... The case fell apart when a federal trial judge in Washington, Ricardo Urbina, said in a Dec. 31 ruling that the Justice Department mishandled evidence and violated the guards' constitutional rights. Prosecutors now face difficult odds getting an appeals court to reinstate the case.

The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed the Americans considered themselves above the law. The Iraqi government began collecting signatures for a class-action lawsuit from victims who were wounded or lost relatives.

Lawyers for two of the Blackwater guards — Donald Ball, a former U.S. Marine from West Valley City, Utah, and Dustin Heard, a former U.S. Marine from Knoxville, Tenn. — sharply criticized the U.S. government's planned appeal.

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