Everyone most likely knows that the United States spends more than any other country in the world on our military, which may or may not be necessary, The mind-boggling fact is that we spend more than every other country in the entire world, combined. We also spend almost ten times as much as the second place country, and only about a quarter of it goes towards the two wars we are fighting now. Every single major candidate on both sides of the aisle (the very thin, meaningless aisle) says they will raise the budget and increase the size of our military, in order to make us even “safer”. Most of us get so distracted when we watch the candidates talk and end up thinking that things like immigration or gay marriage are the issues that are going to effect the lives of our children and grandchildren, but they are not. As Glenn Greenwald points out, the more important an issue is the less it is debated or talked about by either the current administration or any of the major candidates. This will continue for as long as we let it, as long as we persist in caring more about Brittany Spears than where the money to fund the military industrial complex is coming from. The day we start getting angry (and letting people know how angry we are) that things like our education, infrastructure, and basic needs are not being met because the money is going in the pockets of billionaires, who profit of death, is the day that things will change.
Violence continues to rise in Kenya, as the death toll is around 250 people in just a couple days of rioting. Let’s see if I can break it down real quick; Kenya was one of the most stable areas in Africa up until a couple days ago. Kikuyus are the tribe that – although making up only 22 percent of the population – make up most of the ruling class and the tribe of the just “re-elected” president, Mwai Kibaki. Unlike a lot of African countries, Kenya has many tribes who normally get along; there has been intermarriage and – more often than not – peace for a long time. However, the other tribes – mostly the tribe of the opposition, Kalenjins, Luhyas, and Luos – are taking out their anger on the Kikuyus. Just yesterday, fearing violence, a bunch of Kikuyus’ barricaded themselves inside of a church for protection. The next morning, a group of Kalenjins, Luhyas, and Luos overran the guards and burnt the church to the ground, killing and badly wounding a bunch of innocent people. With things spiraling out of control, other countries (including the US) are calling for a vote recount, but Kibaki is refusing; instead declaring that there will be no political rallies or live media coverage until things are back to normal. There is strong reason to believe that the election was rigged, as the opposition (led by Raila Odinga, who used to rule with Kibaki) saw a comfortable lead in the polls suddenly disappear. In some areas, up to 110% of the population cast votes. Hopefully these people come to their senses, see that their aimless violence is doing less than nothing to get them what the want, and start to organize and work with other tribes to restore democracy to their land. With any luck, it happens before the US picks a side and starts supplying them with weapons and intelligence (which, by the way, does not show up on the military budget).
Speaking of violent places, elections in Pakistan have officially been delayed; changed from January 8th to February 18th. The election committee (who many allege are unfairly biased towards the ruling party) claims this is because the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) need their 40 days to mourn, and many polling places were burned down during riots since the death of Benazir Bhutto last week. The PPP says all excuses are false and the elections should be held when they were scheduled. The people of Pakistan are at a fork in the road right now; they can either use the next month and a half to focus on making the election fair and securing a victory, or they can get violent and lose the pity vote. Although it is probably unfair to change the date of the elections, rioting and looting are not going to make the committee decide that elections will be held on time.
There is an op-ed in the NY Times today from two members of the 9/11 commission, claiming that they were stonewalled by the CIA while trying to collect information for their report. They say that they did not care about how prisoners were treated because it wasn’t their job, but they still needed transcripts and other things relating to interrogation of suspects. The CIA gave very vague answers to all of the questions posed by the commission, so the commission asked to speak directly to the prisoners, which (then head of the CIA) George Tenet simply refused. The commission claims that the CIA never once even mentioned the existence of any tapes, even though the commission had a mandate to collect all information regarding the interrogations. This is plain and simple obstruction of justice, and anyone involved with it is guilty of this charge. I don’t know enough about the CIA to say if they cause more harm than good or the other way around, but I know enough about the way things work to say that there should be more oversight. Just because they are an important organization for our “safety” and “freedom” does not mean (as made obvious by the past) that they are not capable doing things that may actually undermine our best interests.
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