Even though the U.S. has been warring in Iraq for 24 years now, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says the war there and in Syria against ISIS could go another four years. That is a wildly arbitrary guess since so far, the longer we have been at war in the region the more the jihadist resistance has grown.

This week on the Podcast Ron Paul says that the firing of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is bad news in light of the wildly hawkish new members of the Senate. Together the latest developments spell a more active war with more spending and more killing.

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Charles Goyette is New York Times Bestselling Author of The Dollar Meltdown and Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America’s Free Economy. Goyette also edits The Freedom and Prosperity Letter.

Sony Pictures went through a nasty hacking attack this past week. It ground the studio to a halt for awhile, and also led to the leaks of some upcoming movies.

So whodunnit? Believe it or not, it sounds like it was North Korea.

Sony speculated that North Korea was behind the attack, and North Korea explicitly didn’t deny the idea, and the FBI’s own investigations are focusing on that possibility.

It’s potentially the best and craziest publicity a movie could possibly get, but upcoming Seth Rogen movie The Interview, a comedy in which a TV host and producer go to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un and are courted by the CIA to assassinate him, made North Korea livid.

North Korea complained to the UN that the Seth Rogen movie amounts to a war crime, which itself could be the setup to myriad bad Hollywood jokes, but now it seems they got so mad that they attacked Sony Pictures.

The village of Oakley, Michigan is easy to miss, even when you’re driving through it. There’s one stop light, and on either side are a gas station and a tavern/restaurant. 290 people call it home.

It’s also the home of one of the most bizarre secret police organizations in the United States. Tiny little Oakley has over 100 “reservist” police, who basically bought their badges from the police chief.

The reservists reportedly include high-profile Michigan lawyers, who use their nominal status as police officers to access police databases for cases, and NFL players who want to carry guns into stadiums, which would be illegal if they weren’t sort-of cops.

I say reportedly because the list of reservists is secret. Not just in that it hasn’t been made public, it’s preposterously secret. Like last month when the village finally managed to force the police to stop being police (because they had no insurance at the time and the village couldn’t afford the lawsuits), they asked the state police to try to help get all the equipment back, and conceded that even they have no clue who these “reservists” who have all their equipment are. Some of that equipment, reportedly, included Pentagon-provided gear, because a 290-person village surrounded by farmland clearly needs that.

The attempts to eliminate the police force began in September, failed, and continued up until the courts finally upheld the village council’s right to take away police powers they granted in the first place. That’s likely to be reversed, as the November election saw pro-police candidates sweep the vote, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Rather, the focus now is on already approved FOIA requests for the names of those secret police, filed in some cases by the village council members themselves. There had been no response from the police, other than a vague mention of ISIS, but now there’s an outright lawsuit.

According to the Saginaw News, the new lawsuit is filed by multiple John Does and the reservist force in general. Apparently they don’t even want the courts to know who they are, and the suit is once again citing the “perceived threat” from ISIS as a reason to keep their names, as police officers, secret from the public, from the village they putatively work for, from everybody.

The lawsuit goes on to accuse the owner of the tavern (who in a village this small you’ll find unsurprising was also a village council member) of plotting against the police over liquor law violations.

That too is a topic with a crazy amount of backstory, starting with a policeman unsuccessfully trying to pick up a waitress. This led to demands from the chief to fire her, and half a dozen harassment lawsuits from the tavern against the police chief, most of which the tavern-owner won, which were a big part in why Oakley’s old insurance company dropped them.

The lawsuit goes on to cite a Department of Homeland Security bulletin which warns that law enforcement should consider themselves targets for ISIS, which is a ridiculous claim in the ass-end of Saginaw County, and doubly so because these reservists aren’t remotely law enforcement officers. Rather, they just bought badges at a highish price so they could flout the law.

When I was five years old I had a little star-shaped metal badge that said “Sheriff” on it too. It was shaped like a star and came with a little toy gun. It didn’t cost thousands of dollars like these did, but it seems equally valid as a tool of law enforcement. It also seems equally likely to attract ISIS.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was supposed to steer the Pentagon away from a decade of war, including bringing US troops home from Afghanistan and paving the way for a reduction in the Pentagon budget. Instead, the Obama administration has opted for remaining in Afghanistan, continuing the disastrous drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, and dragging our nation into another round of military involvement in Iraq, as well as Syria. The ISIL crises has also been used as a justification for not cutting the Pentagon budget, as required by sequestration.

The issue facing this nation is not who replaces Hagel, but what policy decisions we want to Pentagon to implement.

  1. Troops out of Afghanistan: The public has long soured on US military involvement in Afghanistan. President Obama’s recent executive decision to keep the troops there to confront the Taliban is taking us down the wrong path. After 13 years of occupation, it’s time for the Afghan people to control their own nation.
  1. No US military intervention in Iraq/Syria: The Obama administration’s move to engage militarily in Iraq and Syria is also the wrong – and dangerous – path. US intervention, including over 6600 bombings to date, has already become a recruiting tool for ISIS and has strengthened Syrian resident Assad. And with over 3,000 US troops in Iraq in dangerous missions, President Obama’s promise of "no troops on the ground" is indeed hollow. ISIL must be confronted through political solutions, such as renewed talks between Assad and the Free Syrian Army, more pressure in Saudi Arabia to stop funding extremism, greater efforts by Turkey to stop the flow of recruits and weapons into Syria, and negotiated cooperation from Iran and Russia.
  1. Stop the drone wars: President Obama’s reliance on drone warfare in Pakistan has turned large portions of the population against the United States. It is the Pakistani government, not the US, that must counter the Taliban. In Yemen, the administration’s drone war has put the US in the midst of what has become a bloody sectarian conflict. And US drone strikes have served to increase the number of Yemenis joining Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to seek revenge.
  1. Cut and audit Pentagon spending: With other issues clamoring for attention and funds – from healthcare and schools to infrastructure and green energy – we need to stop the massively bloated Pentagon budget. The Pentagon can’t account for billions of dollars each year, literally, and is unable to pass an audit. It’s time to demand that the Pentagon rein in its rampant waste, cut its oversized budget, and become accountable to the taxpayers by passing an audit.

The talk about resetting President Obama’s security team is misplaced; we should be focusing instead on resetting his bellicose policies. Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation should be a time for the nation to step back and reexamine its violent approach to extremism, which has led to an expansion of terrorist groups, and inflated military spending. Let’s put more emphasis on the State Department and political solutions instead of continuing failed wars and starting new ones. We owe it to the youth of our nation who have never lived without war.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights group Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Originally posted at TomDispatch.

The money should stagger you. Journalist James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, a revelatory new book about the scammers, counterterrorism grifters, careerist bureaucrats, torture con artists, and on-the-make privatizers of our post-9/11 national security state, suggests that the best figure for money spent on Washington’s war on terror, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, is four trillion dollars. If you add in the bills still to come for the care of American soldiers damaged in that global war, the figure is undoubtedly significantly higher.  In the process, an array of warrior corporations were mobilized to go into battle alongside the Pentagon and the country’s intelligence and homeland security outfits. This, in turn, transformed the global struggle into a highly privatized affair and resulted, as Risen vividly documents, in “one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.” Halliburton offshoot KBR, for instance, took remarkable advantage of the opportunity and became “the largest single Pentagon contractor of the entire war,” more or less monopolizing the Iraq war zone from 2003 to 2011 and “receiving a combined total of $39.5 billion in contracts.”

So our four trillion dollar-plus investment gave rise to a crew of war profiteers that Risen dubs “the oligarchs of 9/11” and who are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.  And how has it gone for the rest of us?  If you remember, the goal of George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (or, in one of the worst acronyms of the new century, GWOT) was initially to wipe out terror outfits across the planet. At the time, enemy number one, al-Qaeda, was the most modest of organizations with thousands of followers in Afghanistan and scattered groups of supporters elsewhere.  Thirteen years and all those dollars later, Islamic jihadist outfits that qualify as al-Qaeda branches, wannabes, look-alikes, or offshoots have run rampant. Undoubtedly, far more foreign jihadis – an estimated 15,000 – have traveled to Syria alone to fight for the Islamic State and its new “caliphate” than existed globally in 2001.

Some recent figures from the Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace give us a basis for thinking about what’s happened in these years.  In 2013 alone, deaths related to “terrorism” – that is, civil/sectarian conflict in areas significantly destabilized directly or indirectly by U.S. military action (mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria) – rose by a soaring 61%.  The number of countries that saw more than 50 such fatalities (the U.S. not among them) expanded from 15 to 24 in the same period.  So raise your glass to GWOT.  If nothing else, it’s managed to ensure its own profitable, privatized future for years to come.

But here’s a question: After 13 years of the war on terror, with terror running rampant, isn’t a name change in order?  A simple transformation of a single preposition would bring that name into greater sync with reality: the war for terror.

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Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

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