Category Archives: Merchants of Death

The Neoconservative Cursus Honorum

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

Having experienced several more weeks of mainstream media jingoism about the “Iranian threat,” culminating in the outrageous Joshua Muravchik op-ed advocating war with Iran as the “best option” for dealing with that country, one has to ask why it is that a gaggle of self-proclaimed “experts” has been able to capture the foreign-policy narrative so completely, in spite of the fact that they have been wrong about nearly everything?

Neoconservatives have two core beliefs. First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world in terms of its own interests and values. Constant war thus becomes the new normal. As Professor Eliot Cohen, a former State Department adviser under George W. Bush, put it, “For the great mass of the American public … and for their leaders and elites who shape public opinion ‘war weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation… .”’

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Pentagon Keeps Losing ‘Sensitive’ Explosives Gear, Then Finding It For Sale On Ebay

Tim Cushing reports for Techdirt:

‘The Pentagon may not know where some very sensitive equipment has disappeared to, but a variety of private resellers seem to have some idea where it might be found. A leaked US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) document obtained by The Intercept details the agency’s inability to keep track of its explosives-detecting equipment, bequeathed to it by the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

While it did manage to track down some of its missing equipment at various equipment resellers (the document lists a variety of URLs, including ebay.com and craigslist.org), it still has no idea how much of it is still in the military’s possession.’

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Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales

Lee Fang writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons SalesCould a deal to normalize Western relations with Iran and set limits on Iran’s development of nuclear technology lead to a more peaceful and less-weaponized Middle East?

That’s what supporters of the Iran negotiations certainly hope to achieve. But the prospect of stability has at least one financial analyst concerned about its impact on one of the world’s biggest defense contractors.

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27th. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.’

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A Blackwater World Order

Kelley Vlahos writes for The American Conservative:

Chuck Holton / Flickr‘After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s most profound legacy could be that it set the world order back to the Middle Ages.

While this is a slight exaggeration, a recent examination by Sean McFate, a former Army paratrooper who later served in Africa working for Dyncorp International and is now an associate professor at the National Defense University, suggests that the Pentagon’s dependence on contractors to help wage its wars has unleashed a new era of warfare in which a multitude of freshly founded private military companies are meeting the demand of an exploding global market for conflict.

“Now that the United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of mercenarianism,” McFate writes in The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What they Mean for World Order, “private warriors of all stripes are coming out of the shadows to engage in for-profit warfare.”’

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US Weapons Exporters Lead World in War Profiteering

Sarah Lazare reports for Common Dreams:

‘U.S. weapons exporters lead the world in profits from the booming military arms and equipment business, driven by rising tensions and conflict around the world, according to a new report from London-based analysts.

The annual study by IHS Inc.—which looks at military markets in 65 nations, excluding small arms, munitions, and surveillance programs—finds that the United States is behind one-third of all equipment and weapons exports world-wide.

This is no small amount: in 2014, global “defense” trade surpassed $64.4 billion, the report finds.’

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Saudi Arabia Has Become The World’s Biggest Arms Importer

Saudi Arabia Is The World's Biggest Arms Importer

Algerians suffering from French atomic legacy, 55 years after nuke tests

Johnny Magdaleno reports for Al Jazeera:

Algeria's agony lives on, decades after French nuclear tests‘[…] Southern Algerians were not properly warned of their danger after France’s misgoverned nuclear bomb-testing campaign of the early 1960s, which vitrified vast tracts of desert with heat and plutonium and left a legacy of uncontained radiation that is still crippling inhabitants. Estimates of the number of Algerians affected by testing range from 27,000 — cited by the French Ministry of Defense — to 60,000, the figure given by Abdul Kadhim al-Aboudi, an Algerian professor of nuclear physics.

Yet there has been little accountability for France’s disregard. A compensation scheme for victims of France’s nuclear tests exists, but it has made payouts to only 17 people. The majority of those were residents of French Polynesia, where France relocated its nuclear testing campaign after leaving Algeria and experimented with more than 190 nuclear bombs from 1966 to 1996.’

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The TV Movie About Nuclear War That Depressed Ronald Reagan

Matthew Gault writes for Medium:

‘[…] This is Kansas in the ’80s, and America is an irradiated, nuclear hellscape. Welcome to The Day After, a TV movie ABC aired during prime-time in 1983. The film was so effective that it depressed Pres. Ronald Reagan.

He wrote about it in his diary, and some biographers speculated it had a direct effect on Reagan’s desire to end nuclear proliferation during the back half of his presidency.

The Day After is about a world in which the unthinkable happens—the U.S. and Russia finally launch all their nukes and ruin the world.

The film is set in and around Kansas City, and follows several families and individuals as they struggle to survive in America’s heartland.’

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IDEX 2015: Arms exporters eye deals at Middle East’s largest defense show

Stanley Carvalho reports for Reuters:

‘International firms will scramble for new orders at the Middle East’s largest arms show which opens in Abu Dhabi next week as oil-rich Gulf states load up on weapons in a region rocked by instability and violence.

The Middle East is the largest market driver in the industry with billions of dollars spent annually on buying military equipment, from drones and jet fighters to guided missiles.

Around 1,200 companies from 55 countries are showcasing their latest military wares and technologies at the biennial International Defense Exhibition (IDEX), starting Sunday in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.’

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War College Study: “US Army officers lie” routinely

Jeremy Diamond reports for CNN:

Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty... Cover ImageU.S. Army officers often resort to “evasion and deception,” and everyone at the Pentagon knows it, according to a new study conducted by the U.S. Army War College.

“In other words, in the routine performance of their duties as leaders and commanders, U.S. Army officers lie,” reads the study, which was conducted by the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute.

The 33-page report, compiled following interviews with officers across the Army, concluded that the Army’s culture is rife with “dishonesty and deception” at all levels of the institution — from the most junior members to senior Army officials.’

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Watching the Same Movie About American War for 75 Years

Peter Van Buren writes for TomDispatch:

‘In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don’t get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are clearly finding it difficult to remain emotionally roiled up about our confusing wars in Syria and Iraq, the sputtering one in Afghanistan, and various raids, drone attacks, and minor conflicts elsewhere.

Fortunately, we have just the ticket, one that has been punched again and again for close to a century: Hollywood war movies (to which the Pentagon is always eager to lend a helping hand). American Sniper, which started out with the celebratory tagline “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history” and now has the tagline “the most successful war movie of all time,” is just the latest in a long line of films that have kept Americans on their war game. Think of them as war porn, meant to leave us perpetually hyped up. Now, grab some popcorn and settle back to enjoy the show.’

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Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation':

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

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DARPA Working on Computer Vision

Sputnik reports:

DARPA cortical modem augmented realityThe United States military’s research and development agency is designing a brain interface to inject images directly into the human visual cortex via a “cortical modem” chip implanted in the brain. Think: Terminator vision.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the project at the Biology Is Technology conference in Silicon Valley last week.

DARPA, which h+ Magazine described as a “friendly, but somewhat crazy, rich uncle,” wants to build a device that could display images over a user’s natural vision without the need for glasses or similar technology.’

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The Computer Simulation That Almost Started World War III

Matt Novak reports for Gizmodo:

Remember the 1983 movie WarGames? The film is about a computer “game” with the potential to start thermonuclear war. But strangely this scenario is more truth than fiction. Because in 1979 programmers at NORAD almost started World War III when they accidentally ran a computer simulation of a Soviet attack.

In the early morning hours of November 9, 1979 Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security advisor to President Carter, was awakened by a horrifying phone call. According to NORAD, the Soviet Union had just launched 250 missiles headed straight for American soil. Brzenzinski received another call not long after the first, and NORAD was reporting that it was now 2,200 missiles. This was the moment that every American living through the Cold War had feared. And U.S. officials had no plans to notify the public.’

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Obama administration to allow sales of armed drones to allies

Missy Ryan reports for The Washington Post:

The Obama administration will permit the widespread export of armed drones for the first time, a step toward providing allied nations with weapons that have become a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy but whose remotely controlled power to kill is intensely controversial.

The new policy, announced Tuesday after a long internal review, is a significant step for U.S. arms policy as allied nations from Italy to Turkey to the Persian Gulf region clamor for the aircraft. It also is a nod to U.S. defense firms scrambling to secure a greater share of a growing global drone market.

But in a reflection of the sensitivity surrounding sales of the lethal technology to allied countries, some of which have troubling records on human rights and political freedoms, the new policy lays out principles that foreign governments must embrace to receive the aircraft.’

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Meet The Forces That Are Pushing Obama Towards A New Cold War

Christian Stork writes for Medium:

‘[…] Moscow’s national-security interests are clear. Washington’s are as well, albeit unrelated to the security of the nation in any meaningful sense. Given the stakes, the hard line being pushed against Russia can’t solely be attributed to “Great Game” strategy — the long-running chess battle to control global energy flows.

Different players have different motives. At times they overlap; elsewhere they diverge.

As for those in the K Street elite pushing Uncle Sam to confront the bear, it isn’t hard to see what they have to gain: Just take a look at the history behind their Beltway-bandit benefactors.’

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From Laos with love. Vietnam bombs become NY jewelry

New US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Takes Revolving Door to Higher Level

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) reported last month:

‘[…] Several reports have mentioned Carter’s work as a consultant to the defense industry between stints as a full-time official at the Department of Defense (DoD). But the Project On Government Oversight has found that Carter’s role, like that of many other members of Washington’s defense policy establishment, went deeper. While working in the private sector, he has held plum positions on government advisory boards that called for reforms with potential ramifications for his defense industry clients and other companies that receive DoD dollars.

Carter is hardly alone. Federal ethics laws allow scores of advisers at the Pentagon and other agencies to serve in these influential positions while keeping close ties to big businesses overseen by the government. Carter’s nomination [which has since been confirmed] serves to illustrate how the government allows members of the policy establishment to straddle both sides, and how it’s become a fixture of the military-industrial-congressional complex.’

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Arms industry annual dinner interrupted by unexpected guest speaker

The Triumph of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Ben Cohen and Winslow Wheeler write for Medium:

‘In his farewell address in January 1961, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower famously cautioned the American public to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Today it’s routine for critics of wasteful military spending to cite Eisenhower’s warning. Unfortunately, Eisenhower did not warn us that the military-industrial complex would become increasingly malignant as it morphed into less obvious forms.

It’s now deeply embedded in the fiber of the American political system, academia, the civilian leadership of the Defense Department and—increasingly—the White House itself.’

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War Is the New Normal: Seven Deadly Reasons Why America’s Wars Persist

William J. Astore writes for Tom Dispatch:

It was launched immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when I was still in the military, and almost immediately became known as the Global War on Terror, or GWOT.  Pentagon insiders called it “the long war,” an open-ended, perhaps unending, conflict against nations and terror networks mainly of a radical Islamist bent.  It saw the revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, buried in the aftermath of defeat in Vietnam, and a reinterpretation of that disaster as well.  Over the years, its chief characteristic became ever clearer: a “Groundhog Day” kind of repetition.  Just when you thought it was over (Iraq, Afghanistan), just after victory (of a sort) was declared, it began again.

Now, as we find ourselves enmeshed in Iraq War 3.0, what better way to memorialize the post-9/11 American way of war than through repetition.  Back in July 2010, I wrote an article for TomDispatch on the seven reasons why America can’t stop making war.  More than four years later, with the war on terror still ongoing, with the mission eternally unaccomplished, here’s a fresh take on the top seven reasons why never-ending war is the new normal in America.  In this sequel, I make only one promise: no declarations of victory (and mark it on your calendars, I’m planning to be back with seven new reasons in 2019).’

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March to Folly in Ukraine

Eric Margolis writes:

The United States has just made an exceptionally dangerous, even reckless decision over Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War, warns it may lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

Rule number one of geopolitics: nuclear-armed powers must never, ever fight.

Yet Washington just announced that by spring, it will deploy unspecified numbers of military “trainers” to Ukraine to help build Kiev’s ramshackle national guard. Also being sent are significant numbers of US special heavy, mine resistant armored vehicles that have been widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US and Poland are currently covertly supplying Ukraine with some weapons.

The US soldiers will just be for training, and the number of GI’s will be modest, claim US military sources. Of course. Just like those small numbers of American “advisors” and “trainers” in Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000. Just as there are now US special forces in over 100 countries. We call it “mission creep.”’

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Citizens Foot The Bill For Super Bowl Security, NFL Makes Millions

The Super Bowl’s Military Fables

Dave Zirin wrote for The Nation in 2014:

‘The Associated Press called it, “The Budweiser Ad That Made You Cry During The Super Bowl.” There was Lieutenant Chuck Nadd returning home from Afghanistan only to be thrown a surprise “welcome home” parade by the good people at Budweiser. He and his wife even traveled through the celebration pulled by Clydesdales “aboard the famously-red Budweiser beer wagon.”

Then, after the ad ended, there was Lt. Chuck Nadd, in the stands at Met Life Stadium watching the Super Bowl. (Hopefully, he did not have to take public transportation there. The Clydesdales would have been a faster ride.)

Seeing Lt. Nadd at the big game was an audacious triple lindy of product placement. You had the military, the NFL and, of course, the smooth taste of Budweiser, all in one Fox camera shot of corporate Americana. (Budweiser is actually owned by a Belgian/Brazilian consortium, but details…)

Commercials like these, not to mention the NFL’s showing live shots of troops watching the game from Kandahar, have become so par for the course, it does not even register. It also serves a purpose for the NFL above and beyond a nod of respectful recognition to the troops.’

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Afghans live in peril among unexploded NATO bombs that litter countryside

Sune Engel Rasmussen reports for The Guardian:

unexploded ordnance awareness class in Kabul[…] Since 2001, the coalition has dropped about 20,000 tonnes of ammunition over Afghanistan. Experts say about 10% of munitions do not detonate: some malfunction, others land on sandy ground. Foreign soldiers have also used valleys, fields and dry riverbeds as firing ranges and left them peppered with undetonated ammunition.

Statistics from the UN-backed Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (Macca) show there were 369 casualties in the past year, including 89 deaths. The rate rose significantly in October and November when 93 people were injured, 84 of them children. Twenty died.’

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The “Humanitarian” Weapon: Drones and the New Ethics of War

Never Gordon writes for CounterPunch:

theoryofdroneThis Christmas small drones were among the most popular gift under the tree in the U.S. with manufacturers stating that they sold 200,000 new unmanned aerial vehicles during the holiday season. While the rapid infiltration of drones into the gaming domain clearly reflects that drones are becoming a common weapon among armed forces, their appearance in Walmart, Toys “R” Us and Amazon serves, in turn, to normalize their deployment in the military.

Drones, as Grégoire Chamayou argues in his new book, A Theory of the Drone, have a uniquely seductive power, one that attracts militaries, politicians and citizens alike. A research scholar in philosophy at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Chamayou is one of the most profound contemporary thinkers working on the deployment of violence and its ethical ramifications. And while his new book offers a concise history of drones, it focuses on how drones are changing warfare and their potential to alter the political arena of the countries that utilize them.’

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Doomsday Clock: We are closer to doom than at any time since the Cold War, say scientists

Tom Bawden reports for The Independent:

‘The end of the world has come a lot closer in the past three years, with every single person now in danger as climate change and nuclear weapons pose an escalating threat – according to the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic measure which counts down to armageddon.

They moved the minute-hand of their 68-year old concept clock forward by two minutes today, showing a time of three minutes to twelve, to reflect the fact that the “probability of global catastrophe is very high”.

The time change symbolised their damning assessment of world leaders and the outlook for their citizens.’

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How the CIA made Google

Nafeez Ahmed writes for INSURE INTELLIGENCE/Medium:

‘[…] As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.’

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America’s Terrorism Fear Factory Rolls On

John Mueller writes for The National Interest:

‘[…] It is often assumed that, even without the FBI’s aid, a determined homegrown terrorist would eventually find someone else to supply him with his required weaponry. However, as Trevor Aaronson observes in his book, The Terror Factory, there has never “been a single would-be terrorist in the United States who has become operational through a chance meeting with someone able to provide the means for a terrorist attack.” Only the police and FBI have been able to supply that service.

In his book, James Risen skewers what he calls the “homeland security-industrial complex.” American leaders, he notes, “have learned that keeping the terrorist threat alive provides enormous political benefits” by allowing “incumbents to look tough,” lending them “the national attention and political glamor that comes with dealing with national security issues.” Thus “a decade of fear-mongering has brought power and wealth to those who have been the most skillful at hyping the terrorism threat” and “is central to the financial well-being of countless federal bureaucrats, contractors, subcontractors, consultant, analysis and pundits.”

In her review of Risen’s book in the New York Times, Louise Richardson lauds his criticism of “the profligacy of government agencies and the ‘over-sight free zone’ they operated” as well as of “self-appointed terrorism experts” who promote fear “while drawing lucrative consulting contracts for themselves.” She is troubled, however, that Risen “makes no mention of the press,” which she considers a key member of the terrorism industry and “at least as guilty as others in his book of stirring up public anxiety for public gain.”’

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The African state where a grenade is cheaper than a Coke

Andrew Harding reports for BBC News:

Map‘The grenades come from China, or Bulgaria. The mortars are Sudanese. The rocket launchers were made in Iran. The bullets are British, or Belgian or Czech. Spain and Cameroon provided the shotgun rounds. And so it goes on.

A detailed survey of the weapons currently circulating in the Central African Republic (CAR) offers some intriguing insights into the global arms industry, and the extent to which its output continues to find its way – legally or otherwise – into the hands of rebel armies.

The impact of the weapons trade can be lasting and devastating.

When arms were obtained by the Seleka – a coalition of largely Muslim insurgents that swept to power in CAR in 2013 – a civil war was triggered that went on to displace hundreds of thousands of civilians.’

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