Category Archives: Merchants of Death

Going Underground Interview with Seymour Hersh

Editor’s Note: The interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh begins at 2:56

US, Israel are the only countries to oppose UN ban on weapons in outer space

Ali Abunimah reports for Electronic Intifada:

‘Israel and the United States were the only two countries to vote against a UN resolution calling for the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

The resolution was among several dealing with international disarmament passed by the General Assembly on 2 December, including one calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and bring its rogue nuclear program under international supervision.

China and India, which both have space programs, along with the member states of the European Space Agency, voted for the initiative aimed at keeping space free of weapons.

The US and Israel were also the only two countries to vote against a separate UN resolution calling for a prohibition on the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction.

That resolution passed with 174 countries voting in favor and a single abstention, Ukraine.’

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Child landmine victims rise, overall casualties lowest since 1999

Anastasia Moloney reports for Reuters:

‘Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group.

In its annual Landmine Monitor report, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) said the number of recorded casualties of mines and other explosive remnants of war has decreased to the lowest level since 1999, but child victims have risen.’

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The Future of Russian Private Military Companies

Alexey Eremenko reports for The Moscow Times:

[…] A bill filed with the State Duma late last month would legalize private military and security companies (PMSCs) in Russia, an idea endorsed in 2012 by President Vladimir Putin.

Enthusiasts say it is high time that Russia, with its strong military traditions, get a toehold on the global PMSC market, estimated at up to $350 billion last year, according to the bill.

The market is currently dominated by Western companies, and many developing nations would welcome PMSCs with different geopolitical affiliations, said analyst Ivan Konovalov, who last year co-penned a Russian-language monograph on PMSCs in Russia and around the world.

“But it will take a lot of effort to edge out existing players,” said Konovalov, who heads a for-profit think tank called the Center for Strategic Trends Studies in Moscow.’

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Private military contractors ready for battle against Islamic State

Jennifer Koons reports for Tribune News Service:

‘President Barack Obama has stressed that the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State can be won without “boots on the ground.” But it depends on who’s wearing the boots.

Thousands of private security contractors, who played critical, below-the-radar and at times controversial roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are being asked to consider joining this latest battle against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria and possibly elsewhere in the Middle East. What specific jobs they will fill, and which departments or countries will be paying for their services, remains to be seen. But the demand for their considerable and varied expertise is expected to be high, and that’s welcome news for both the contracting companies and politicians, according to policy advisers and industry experts.

“I think Obama’s promise not to send ground troops to Iraq and Syria, combined with the threat there, incentivizes the administration to turn to contractors because there are such fewer political risks,” says George Washington University law professor Laura A. Dickinson, author of “Outsourcing War and Peace: Preserving Public Values in a World of Privatized Foreign Affairs.”’

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Cashing In on the ISIS Crisis

Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins write for Other Words:

The Military Fat-Cat Complex, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib‘Maybe you think the U.S. air war on the Islamic State is a fine plan. Maybe you don’t. Either way, have you considered how little Washington’s latest military foray in the Middle East has to do with America’s welfare?

In case you haven’t heard, shock and awe are out in what’s increasingly being called either Iraq War 3.0 or — more ominously — Iraq War III. “Persistent and sustainable” are in, according to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Why can’t our leaders leave bad enough alone and get out of there? One possible explanation is that this apparently eternal battle has more to do with profits than protection.

No matter how pointless these wars prove, America’s military-industrial complex makes a killing.’

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The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display

Cahal Milmo reports for The Independent:

‘The Tower of London has been accused of “crass insensitivity” by hosting a £240-a-head networking dinner for arms manufacturers days after its hugely popular sea of poppies made it the focus of the First World War commemorations.

Nearly 200 representatives of Britain’s arms industry, along with senior Ministry of Defence officials and foreign defence attachés, attended the unpublicised London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) event on Tuesday night.

The annual dinner, described by organisers as “acclaimed and influential” and a chance to “make new business connections”, was co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence company. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, was the guest of honour.

In an apparent attempt to prevent the gathering becoming a focus for protests, the venue for the LCCI Defence and Security Dinner was kept quiet. Corporate guests paying up to £3,000 per table were told they would be advised of the location “upon registration”.’

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Exaggeration Nation

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

‘[…] Government officials routinely mischaracterize and inflate the threats posed to the United States in order to catalyze public opinion and ensure congressional acquiescence to the latest foreign military intervention. Yet neither the public nor members of Congress should accept such language, because it is both deeply misleading and factually wrong. Of course, the United States has faced any number of threats that were far more sophisticated, well-armed, better funded, and larger — the Soviet Union is one notable, superpower-sized example. It is also completely incorrect to contend that IS is an imminent threat to every interest, or even directly to the United States itself. As several U.S. intelligence officials have now declared: “We have no credible information that [the Islamic State] is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.”‘

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How the Pentagon’s Skynet Would Automate War

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

‘Pentagon officials are worried that the US military is losing its edge compared to competitors like China, and are willing to explore almost anything to stay on top—including creating watered-down versions of the Terminator.

Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.

Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel ann​ounced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “mili​tary-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing.

But just how far down the rabbit hole Hagel’s initiative could go—whether driven by desperation, fantasy or hubris—is revealed by an overlooked Pentagon-funded study, published quietly in mid-September by the DoD National Defense University’s (NDU) Center for Technology and National Security Policy in Washington DC.’

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Countries Without Militaries

Kathy Gilsinan writes for The Atlantic:

‘”The pope! How many divisions has he got?” Joseph Stalin is said to have asked derisively with regard to the physical power of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is one of the rare countries in the world without armed forces. But it’s not totally alone. More than 20 other countries lack standing armies, though the length of the list varies depending on how you count armies and countries (and it grows substantially longer if you include autonomous territories like Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands).

The CIA World Factbook lists 22 independent countries that don’t have regular military forces—23 if you decide, contra the CIA, not to count Vatican City’s largely ceremonial Swiss Guard as a military.’

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Prince Harry ‘banging the drum for UK plc’ in Oman

‘Prince Harry is visiting Oman today, led by arguably the world’s longest surviving dictator, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said. He has been lauded for creative diplomacy, maintaining ties with countries NATO opposes like China, Russia and Iran. But as the former Media Manager to Prince Charles, Dickie Arbiter, pointed out on this show, the government have ulterior motives for sending the Royals to a country. Harry will be ‘banging the drum for UK plc.’ not far from the UAE, which is currently fighting a proxy war in Libya against Qatar. And UAE’s allies, Bahrain, are accused by Amnesty International of using the threat of rape of children to extort confessions.’ (Going Underground)

Did Military Burn Pits Make U.S. Soldiers Sick?

Study finds little opposition to attacks on Iraq, Syria in U.S. media

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting reports:

Debate, corporate media style:  Two pro-war guests go at it. While Congress may soon debate the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Syria, a new FAIR study shows that at the critical moments leading up to the escalation of US military action, mainstream media presented almost no debate at all.

The study of key TV news discussion programs from September 7 through 21 reveals that guests who opposed war were scarce.

The study evaluated discussion and debate segments on the Sunday talk shows (CNN’s State of the Union, CBS‘s Face the Nation, ABC‘s This Week,Fox News Sunday and NBC‘s Meet the Press), the PBS NewsHour and a sample of cable news programs that feature roundtables and interview segments (CNN‘s Situation Room, Fox News Channel‘s Special Reportand MSNBC’s Hardball).’

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Defense Secretary: U.S. needs “game-changing” military technologies to offset more muscular Russia and China

Robert Burns reports for the Associated Press:

[…] In a memo to Pentagon leaders in which be outlined the initiative, Hagel said the U.S. must not lose its commanding edge in military technology.

“While we have been engaged in two large land-mass wars over the last 13 years, potential adversaries have been modernizing their militaries, developing and proliferating disruptive capabilities across the spectrum of conflict. This represents a clear and growing challenge to our military power,” he wrote.

Speaking just a short walk from Reagan’s tomb, Hagel invoked the late president’s legacy as a rebuilder of U.S. military strength in the 1980s and cited Reagan’s famous call for the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall, which epitomized a divided Europe and a world at risk of a new global war.’

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Churchill wanted US to nuke the Kremlin to win the Cold War, according to FBI memo

Daniel Bates reports for The Daily Mail:

Russian leader Joseph Stalin (left) and Winston Churchill (right) in 1945 - he urged the US to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union to win the Cold WarWinston Churchill urged the United States to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union to win the Cold War, a newly released document reveals.

The previously unseen memorandum from the FBI archives details how Britain’s wartime leader made his views known to a visiting American politician in 1947.

Churchill believed a pre-emptive strike on Stalin’s Russia might be the only way to stop Communism conquering the West.

The note, written by an FBI agent, reports that Churchill urged Right-wing Republican Senator Styles Bridges to persuade President Harry Truman to launch a nuclear attack which would ‘wipe out’ the Kremlin and make the Soviet Union a ‘very easy problem’ to deal with.’

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Cynics, Step Aside: There is Genuine Excitement Over a Hillary Clinton Candidacy

Gleen Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

It’s easy to strike a pose of cynicism when contemplating Hillary Clinton’s inevitable (and terribly imminent) presidential campaign. As a drearily soulless, principle-free, power-hungry veteran of DC’s game of thrones, she’s about as banal of an American politician as it gets. One of the few unique aspects to her, perhaps the only one, is how the genuinely inspiring gender milestone of her election will (following the Obama model) be exploited to obscure her primary role as guardian of the status quo.

That she’s the beneficiary of dynastic succession – who may very well be pitted against the next heir in line from the regal Bush dynasty (this one, not yet this one) – makes it all the more tempting to regard #HillaryTime with an evenly distributed mix of boredom and contempt. The tens of millions of dollars the Clintons have jointly “earned” off their political celebrity – much of it speaking to the very globalists, industry groups, hedge funds, and other Wall Street appendages who would have among the largest stake in her presidency – make the spectacle that much more depressing.

But one shouldn’t be so jaded. There is genuine and intense excitement over the prospect of (another) Clinton presidency. Many significant American factions regard her elevation to the Oval Office as an opportunity for rejuvenation, as a stirring symbol of hope and change, as the vehicle for vital policy advances.’

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Veterans: Your Only Real Friend is the Anti-War Movement

Eric Mann writes for CounterPunch:

‘[…] So once again the system trots out its cruel and hypocritical Veterans day, a hollow spectacle in which the war industry tries to justify and perpetuate centuries of racism, conquest, genocide, and crimes against humanity and its perpetual war state. What a sad, hypocritical system “celebrating” the men and women who have risked life, limb, mental and physical health for an endless series of unjust wars that the U.S. turns on and off like a faucet–all for the sake of a declining empire and the profits and egos of very sick ruling class.

As an organizer and strategist I see our present condition defined by The System’s Counterrevolution Against the Great Revolution of the Two Decades of the Sixties–lead by the Vietnamese and Black Liberation Movement. Like others who share my politics, we see that Revolution beginning in 1955 with the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the murder of Emmet Till and ending in 1975 with the Vietnamese victory over the U.S.  Given that all revolutions begin as ideas in the minds of revolutionaries the system is working 24/7 to suppress the people, the history, and the ideas that lead to a world-wide united front against what we called, and should still call, “U.S. imperialism.”’

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DARPA Develops Self-Teaching Drones

UK condemned over arms sales to repressive states

Mark Townsend and Daniel Boffey report for The Guardian:

‘The government has been accused of dishonesty over arms sales as new figures reveal that the value of British weapons sales to “countries of concern” has already hit £60m this year. Former Tory defence minister Sir John Stanley, who chairs the Commons committees on arms export controls, says ministers failed to come clean on a “significant change in policy” that makes it easier to export arms to countries with a poor human rights record.

He said in a recent parliamentary debate that the government has not acknowledged that such a change has taken place, and it “should consider most carefully whether they should now offer an apology to the committees”.

The government used to reject arms export licences where there was concern they might be used for “internal repression”, but now a licence will be refused only if there is a “clear risk” that military equipment might be used in violation of international law.’

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Inside the UN Resolution on Depleted Uranium

John LaForge writes for CounterPunch:

‘On October 31, a new United Nations General Assembly First Committee resolution on depleted uranium (DU) weapons passed overwhelmingly. There were 143 states in favor, four against, and 26 abstentions. The measure calls for UN member states to provide assistance to countries contaminated by the weapons. The resolution also notes the need for health and environmental research on depleted uranium weapons in conflict situations.

This fifth UN resolution on the subject was fiercely opposed by four depleted uranium-shooting countries — Britain, the United States, France and Israel — who cast the only votes in opposition. The 26 states that abstained reportedly sought to avoid souring lucrative trade relationships with the four major shooters.

Uranium-238 — so-called “depleted” uranium — is waste material left in huge quantities by the nuclear weapons complex. It’s used in large caliber armor-piercing munitions and in armor plate on tanks. Toxic, radioactive dust and debris is dispersed when DU shells burn through targets, and its metallic fumes and dust poison water, soil and the food chain. DU has been linked to deadly health effects like Gulf War Syndrome among U.S. and allied troops, and birth abnormalities among populations in bombed areas. DU waste has caused radioactive contamination of large parts of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and perhaps Afghanistan.’

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Cambodia sees 55% rise in landmine casualties in 8 months

Xinhua reports:

‘Cambodia on Saturday reported 129 landmine casualties in the first eight months of 2014, representing a 55 percent increase from 83 casualties over the same period last year.

However, the number of the dead declined to 17 during the January-August period this year, down from 19 deaths over the same period last year, said the report of the Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.

The number of the injured people rose to 112 during the period this year, up from 64 over the same period last year, it said.’

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UK Government officials considered recruiting psychopaths ‘to keep order’ after nuclear attack

Heather Saul reports for The Independent:

Photo of a document from the National Archives on the subject of vigilante groups A Home Office official suggested recruiting psychopaths to help restore order in the event England is hit by a devastating nuclear attack, files released by the National Archives have revealed.

In 1982, the Home Office tested how the UK would cope after 300 megatons of nuclear bombs have been dropped within a 16-hour period.

The detailed top-secret exercise, which was named ‘ Operation Regenerate’, imagined many cities flattened, millions killed by the blast and millions more suffering from radiation sickness.’

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US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: New World Order Means Endless War

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘It seems lately that every war the United States gets itself into can’t just be another war, it has to be an open-ended clash of civilizations. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel set out that assessment fairly straightforwardly in his recent comments at the Washington Ideas Festival.

We are living through one of these historic, defining times,” Hagel warned, “We are seeing a new world order - post World War II, post Soviet Union implosion.”

Hagel went on to make it quite clear what that meant, open-ended war with ISIS and open-ended war with various other enemies of the US military will require a “steady, long-term effort” to defeat.’

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Obama Promised a “World Without Nuclear Weapons,” But May Now Spend $3 Trillion on Weapons Upgrades

‘We are on the road in the historic city of Vienna, Austria, not far from the Czech Republic where President Obama gave a major address in 2009 that called for a nuclear-free world. His disarmament efforts were cited when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, but since then advocates say little progress has been made. A recent New York Times investigation found the United States is on pace to spend as much as $1 trillion over the next three decades to modernize its nuclear arsenal and facilities. This week, more than 150 countries at the United Nations signed a joint statement calling on nuclear powers to attend the third major conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons scheduled this December in Vienna. The United States has yet to attend one of the meetings. We are joined by Elena Sokova, executive director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.’ (Democracy Now!)

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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