Category Archives: Merchants of Death

Debunking the Myth of Why the Atomic Bombs Were Necessary

Abby Martin reflects on the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and explains why this wasn’t a necessary action in order to end World War II.’ (Breaking the Set)

The Plan to Nuke the Moon and Other Cold War Plots Revealed in Secret Documents

Kurt Eichenwald reports for Newsweek:

‘Wrestling with the huge steering wheel, a CIA agent carefully backed the large flatbed truck through an entrance in the 10-foot wooden fence surrounding a salvage yard. As the truck rumbled to a stop, he and other covert intelligence operatives moved quickly under cover of night, pushing the gate closed, barely clearing the front bumper. They then all rushed to the back of the truck, hopped inside and delicately pried open the giant wooden crate it carried, being careful to leave no marks.

And with that, the first stage of their until now secret mission was complete: American intelligence had stolen—or, more accurately, borrowed—one of the Soviet Union’s most important technologies, a Lunik space vehicle, which was a key component in its race with the United States to be the first to reach the moon.

The “kidnapping” of that missile, done without the Soviets ever knowing about it, is one of many wild and sometimes weird secret operations and schemes exposed for the first time in a series of recently declassified government documents concerning the so-called Space Race, which was feared to be important for military reasons but known to be propaganda that could swell national pride.’

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The Toxic Uzbek Town and Its Museum of Banned Soviet Art

Stephen Bland writes for VICE News:

‘Making our way out of Uzbekistan’s Xorazm Province, we began our three-hour drive to the city of Nukus, capital of the country’s autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Up until the late-1990s, the land we were driving through was still cotton fields; today, it’s just an expanse of salty grey emptiness.

Once a thriving agricultural center, Karakalpakstan is now one of the sickest places on Earth. Respiratory illness, typhoid, tuberculosis and oesophageal cancers are rife, and the region has the highest infant mortality rate in the former USSR.’

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Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Execs Remain Free as Guards Convicted for Killing 14 Iraqis in Massacre

‘A federal jury has returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. On Wednesday, the jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were convicted of voluntary manslaughter: Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard. The jury is still deliberating on additional charges against the operatives, who faced a combined 33 counts. The operatives were tried for the deaths of 14 of the 17 Iraqi civilians who died when their Blackwater unit opened fire. We speak to Jeremy Scahill, author of the best-selling book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” His most recent article published by The Intercept is “Blackwater Founder Remains Free & Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges.”’ (Democracy Now!)

Ottawa Killings: Who Wins?

Iraqis react to Blackwater verdict: ‘I’m surprised they were convicted at all’

Martin Chulov reports for The Guardian:

‘[...] The scene of the attack, Nissour Square in the west of the capital, where a Blackwater convoy killed 17 people and wounded 20 more in August 2007, was a bustling hub on Friday. Drivers stopped at a traffic light nearby shrugged when asked about the verdicts, which saw three guards convicted of manslaughter and another of first degree murder for opening fire on civilians.

“They should have all been executed,” said one man, before driving off.

“I’m surprised they were convicted at all, said another, Haithem al-Samarie. “These sorts of attacks have happened many times since, mostly caused by militias. And they will never be prosecuted.

A Baghdad-based lawyer, Ahmed al-Azzawi, said the verdicts were an important milestone for the many victims that had lost family members during the occupation.’

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Blackwater Founder Remains Free and Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges

Jeremy Scahill writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Blackwater Founder Remains Free and Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges‘[...] The incident for which the men were tried was the single largest known massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of private U.S. security contractors. Known as “Baghdad’s bloody Sunday,” operatives from Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians at a crowded intersection at Nisour Square on September 16, 2007. The company, founded by secretive right-wing Christian supremacist Erik Prince, had deep ties to the Bush Administration and served as a sort of neoconservative Praetorian Guard for a borderless war launched in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

While Barack Obama pledged to reign in mercenary forces when he was a senator, once he became president he continued to employ a massive shadow army of private contractors. Blackwater — despite numerous scandals, congressional investigations, FBI probes and documented killings of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan — remained a central part of the Obama administration’s global war machine throughout his first term in office.

Just as with the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib, it is only the low level foot-soldiers of Blackwater that are being held accountable. Prince and other top Blackwater executives continue to reap profits from the mercenary and private intelligence industries. Prince now has a new company, Frontier Services Group, which he founded with substantial investment from Chinese enterprises and which focuses on opportunities in Africa. Prince recently suggested that his forces at Blackwater could have confronted Ebola and ISIS. “If the administration cannot rally the political nerve or funding to send adequate active duty ground forces to answer the call, let the private sector finish the job,” he wrote.’

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US jury convicts Blackwater security guards in deaths of Iraqi civilians

Dan Roberts reports for The Guardian:

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.’

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Marshall Islands nuke suit against U.S. gets Nobel winners’ support

Bob Egelko reports for the San Francisco Chronicle:

‘The Marshall Islands, a small nation in the northern Pacific that endured 67 U.S. atomic tests in the 1940s and 1950s, has sued the United States in a Bay Area federal court, claiming violations of an international nuclear weapons treaty and seeking a court order that would require the U.S. to enter negotiations on nuclear disarmament within a year. The suit appears to be a longshot — Justice Department lawyers are seeking dismissal on multiple grounds, including a lack of judicial authority over the issue — but it recently picked up some eminent support.

In an open letter to the islands’ government and its people, 68 advocates of disarmament and human rights from 22 nations, including two Nobel Peace Prize winners, endorsed the federal lawsuit and a parallel suit the Marshall Islands have filed in the World Court against all nine nuclear weapons nations.’

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George W. Bush was still completely wrong about Iraq’s WMDs

Matt Purple writes for Rare:

‘Yesterday the New York Times published a major scoop: American troops had uncovered chemical weapons during the Iraq war, and on at least six occasions were injured by chemical agents. The government then frantically tried to conceal the WMDs, keeping the information classified and, in some cases, denying soldiers care for chemical-related injuries.

There are plenty of conclusions to draw from the Times story.

That the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq is vindicated is not one of them.

The Times reports that many of the chemical weapons were empty, most were unusable, and all were manufactured before 1991. This fits with the current wisdom that Saddam Hussein abandoned his chemical weapons program after the First Gulf War.

As the Times concludes, “The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.”

Still that hasn’t stopped many conservatives from engaging in a little hackneyed told-you-so. “Put that ‘Bush lied, kids died’ in your pipes and smoke it!!!” went today’s typical Tweet.’

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Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Sparks Debate Over U.S. Nuclear Strike on North Korea

Lauren Walker and Jeff Stein report for Newsweek:

RTR2TB18‘The specter of nuclear mushroom clouds rising over northeast Asia has long been a staple of nightmare scenarios in the event of another war between North and South Korea. It’s a prospect so apocalyptic that American officials have rarely articulated exactly what would trigger their use of weapons that could instantly kill millions and make the entire peninsula uninhabitable for decades.

In a memoir published last week, however, former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reopened the prickly issue, recalling a chilling, 2010 briefing in Seoul by General Walter L. “Skip” Sharp, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, who told him just such a nightmare could come true should communist forces pour across the DMZ as they did in 1950.’

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Obama and Republican hawks are in perfect agreement about Pentagon spending

Jonathan Bydlak writes for Rare:

Fotor01010161359‘At the Pentagon earlier this week for a national security update, President Obama doubled down on his calls for ending sequestration, labeling it “draconian” in a time of increased demands on the military.

Yet as recently as 2011, the President was on record as saying, “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.”

What a difference a few years makes. The sequester, a collection of discretionary spending caps, ended up becoming law after the so-called “Super Committee” failed to enact cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the President changed his tune.’

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Pentagon spending getting out of hand

Editor’s Note: William D. Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is also the author of ‘Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex‘.

William D. Hartung writes for CNN:

‘It’s no secret that the Obama administration has been routinely using the war budget as a safety valve to pay for equipment and operations that have nothing to do with fighting wars.

But as the President continues to expand U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria, it is important that this practice of using war funding to pay for unrelated items be brought to an end. The alternative — allowing the Pentagon to use budgetary sleight of hand to evade the spending caps contained in current law — is simply unacceptable.

The levels of overfunding of the war budget — known in Pentagon-ese as the Overseas Contingency Operations account — have been astonishing. Independent analysesby the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the Project on Government Oversight suggest that there may be $20 to $30 billion in non-war-related expenditures in the $80 billion-plus OCO account in the 2014 budget alone.’

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Nearly $500 Million Pentagon Plane Project Netted $32,000 in Scrap Metal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has documented a long, long list of failed programs wasting billions of dollars over the course of the 13 year war. The bad news keeps coming.

Today [Oct 9th], SIGAR is asking the Air Force for a good explanation of a program on plane acquisition for the Afghan Air Force. They bought the planes and refurbished them at a cost of $468 million before deciding they couldn’t get spare parts for the planes to keep them useful.’

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Pakistan is eyeing sea-based and short-range nuclear weapons, analysts say

Tim Craig and Karen DeYoung report for The Washington Post:

‘In one of the world’s most volatile ­regions, Pakistan is advancing toward a sea-based missile capability and expanding its interest in tactical nuclear warheads, according to Pakistani and Western analysts.

The development of nuclear missiles that could be fired from a ship or submarine would give Pakistan “second-strike” capability if a catastrophic nuclear exchange destroyed all land-based weapons. But the acceleration of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs is renewing international concern about the vulnerability of those weapons in a country that is home to more than two dozen Islamist extremist groups.’

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Costs of Obama’s New War in Iraq and Syria Set to Explode, say Analysts

Lauren McCauley reports for Common Dreams:

‘The U.S. government’s new war in Iraq that now also includes Syria has already cost American taxpayers between $780 and $930 million, and could amount to over $1 billion a month if U.S. efforts intensify on the scale demanded by war hawks in Congress, according to a think tank analysis published this week.

[...] On an annual basis, CSBA estimates, the U.S. military’s operation against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or ISIS) could cost as much as $22 billion dollars a year.

The Pentagon is currently funding the attack through a controversial war fund, dubbed the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is exempt from federal budget caps. The fund was originally created to fund the previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan though defense officials say it will likely be around for the “long-term.”

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Jeremy Scahill on Obama’s Orwellian War in Iraq: We Created the Very Threat We Claim to be Fighting

‘As Vice President Joe Biden warns it will take a “hell of a long fight” for the United States to stop militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we speak to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.” We talk about how the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that helped create the threat now posed by the Islamic State. We also discuss the role of Baathist forces in ISIS, Obama’s targeting of journalists, and the trial of four former Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square.’ (Democracy Now!)

John Oliver on America not taking very good care of its 4,800 nuclear weapons

U.S. Says it Needs Nukes to Defend Against Asteroids

NBC News reports:

‘The U.S. government delayed the dismantling of some nuclear warhead components to protect against a foreign threat: asteroids. The nuclear component, called the canned subassembly (CSA), contains highly enriched uranium. Several of them were scheduled to be dismantled in 2015, but are now being kept until senior government officials can evaluate their usefulness in “planetary defense against earthbound asteroids,” according to a Government Accountability Office document reported on first by the Wall Street Journal.’

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TV Generals and Precision Bombs: Corporate Media Go to War

Peter Hart writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

‘Want to know what corporate media look like when they’re reporting for duty?

On the most recent CBS‘s Face the Nation (9/28/14), host Bob Schieffer previewed the guests who would be appearing on the show:

We will get the latest on the mission and what it entails from Deputy National Security Adviser Anthony Blinken, retired General Carter Ham, former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy and former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell.

So that’s a current government official, a retired general, and retired Pentagon and CIA officials. Now that‘s a diverse line-up.’

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Defense Contractors Are Making a Killing

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

‘Stock prices for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman set all-time record highs last week as it became increasingly clear that President Obama was committed to a massive, sustained air war in Iraq and Syria.

It’s nothing short of a windfall for these and other huge defense contractors, who’ve been getting itchy about federal budget pressures that threatened to slow the rate of increase in military spending.

Now, with U.S. forces literally blowing through tens of millions of dollars of munitions a day, the industry is not just counting on vast spending to replenish inventory, but hoping for a new era of reliance on supremely expensive military hardware.’

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Iran says nuclear suspicions are ‘fabricated ambiguities’

Frederik Dahl reports for Reuters:

‘Iran dismissed on Tuesday as “fabricated ambiguities” suspicions that it has carried out nuclear arms research, a day after it came under renewed Western pressure to help clear up U.N. watchdog concerns about its atomic energy program. Addressing an annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), senior official Behrouz Kamalvandi also said Iran was committed to trying to reach a negotiated solution to its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

“However, measures such as sanctions or double standard approaches certainly harm the negotiating process and cause further mistrust,” Kamalvandi, vice chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said. He urged world powers – which resumed talks with Iran in New York last week – to take “constructive and realistic approaches” and fully respect Iran’s nuclear rights in order to end what he called an “unnecessary” crisis.’

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IAEA rejects Arab bid to curb Israel’s nuclear capabilities

The Jerusalem Post/Reuters reports:

Vienna ‘Member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency rejected on Thursday an Arab resolution criticizing Israel over its assumed atomic arsenal, in a diplomatic victory for Western states that opposed the initiative.

Arab states had submitted the non-binding resolution – which called on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons pact – to the annual meeting of the 162-nation UN nuclear agency, in part to signal their frustration at the lack of progress to move towards a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.’

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Sources: Libya asks chemical weapons watchdog to remove stockpile

Anthony Deutsch reports for Reuters:

‘Libya has asked the global chemical weapons watchdog to draw up plans to ship a stockpile of 850 tonnes of chemicals overseas due to deteriorating security, sources have told Reuters. Diplomats and officials said that transporting the toxins abroad for destruction, as was recently done in Syria, is the most viable option to keep them out of the hands of battling militant groups.

Since the removal of Muammar Qaddafi three years ago, the country has descended into anarchy, with rival militias and hardline Islamic groups battling for political control and vast oil reserves. Facilities to destroy the chemical weapons were set up and Libyans were trained to use the equipment, but fighting threatens stability and has made it impossible to safely conduct their work.’

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U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms

William J Broad and David E Sanger report for The New York Times:

‘A sprawling new plant here in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the aging weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines. It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars.

This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for “a nuclear-free world” and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy. The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads.

Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return. Supporters of arms control, as well as some of President Obama’s closest advisers, say their hopes for the president’s vision have turned to baffled disappointment as the modernization of nuclear capabilities has become an end unto itself.’

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Blackwater Founder: We Could Stop ISIS

Asawin Suebsaeng reports for The Daily Beast:

Erik Prince has a message for ISIS: You’re lucky Blackwater is gone. On Friday night, the controversial founder of the private military company had plenty to say about what the organization he once ran could be doing in the fight against the so-called Islamic State—and also why Republicans need to stop being such losers.

“It’s a shame the [Obama] administration crushed my old business, because as a private organization, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had contracts from people that want to go there as contractors; you don’t have the argument of U.S. active duty going back in there,” Prince said in an on-stage discussion featuring retired four-star Gen. James Conway. “[They could have] gone in there and done it, and be done, and not have a long, protracted political mess that I predict will ensue.”’

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Military-Grade Drone Can Be 3D Printed Anywhere

Jordon Golson reports for Wired:

‘We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense.

In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak for a new mission, another one can be printed out in a little more than a day, for just $2,500. It’s made with off-the-shelf parts and has an Android phone for a brain.’

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UK’s Nuclear Missiles Could Be Headed for the US if Scotland Wins Independence

Colleen Curry reports for VICE News:

‘The UK’s nuclear weapons are housed in the southwest corner of Scotland, at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, the Ministry of Defense confirmed Tuesday. The missiles, 58 of them in all, are leased from King’s Bay Naval Base in southeastern Georgia, near the Atlantic Ocean just north of the Florida border. The British have been leasing the missiles and periodically having them serviced at King’s Bay since the mid-1990s, according to the British government.

If Scotland were to vote yes on independence and no on nukes Thursday, the British would be hard-pressed to quickly find or build another place in the UK with the infrastructure to store them, according to experts. That could force the UK to ship the missiles back to the US, at least temporarily.’

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Netanyahu eyes big increase in Israel’s defense spending

Xinhua reports:

‘Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he supports largely increasing defense spending in the upcoming 2015 budget in opposition to the stance of the finance minister, which may lead to the collapse of his political coalition.

“The billions we’ve invested in Israel’s defense in recent years saved the Israeli economy … Due to the threats in our area we need a substantial increment of billions in the defense budget, and we must do so in a responsible way without a great deficit,” Netanyahu said at the fourth international cyber convention held at the Tel Aviv University.’

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The Pentagon’s $800-Billion Real Estate Problem

Matthew Gault reports for Medium:

‘The U.S. Department of Defense owns more than half a million properties worth in excess of $800 billion dollars. The military’s real estate holdings span the globe and, all together, sprawl across 30 million acres.

Pentagon auditors can’t explain what half the properties are for—and doesn’t have a plan for finding out. All this according to a Sept. 8 report from the Government Accountability Office. The nearly trillion-dollar real estate glut is merely another example of egregious military waste.’

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