Category Archives: Merchants of Death

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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What Happens If We Ignore Whistleblowers? Interview with Chris Paulos

‘Open for Business’ American-Style: The Military-Industrial Complex in Iraq

Peter Van Buren, a former State Department Foreign Service Officer in Iraq, writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘The current American war in Iraq is a struggle in search of a goal. It began in August as a humanitarian intervention, morphed into a campaign to protect Americans in-country, became a plan to defend the Kurds, followed by a full-on crusade to defeat the new Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS, aka ISIL), and then… well, something in Syria to be determined at a later date.

At the moment, Iraq War 3.0 simply drones on, part bombing campaign, part mission to train the collapsed army the U.S. military created for Iraq War 2.0, all amid a miasma of incoherent mainstream media coverage. American troops are tiptoeing closer to combat (assuming you don’t count defensive operations, getting mortared, and flying ground attack helicopters as “combat”), even as they act like archaeologists of America’s warring past, exploring the ruins of abandoned U.S. bases. Meanwhile, Shia militias are using the conflict for the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis and Iranhas become an ever-more significant player in Iraq’s affairs. Key issues of the previous American occupation of the country — corruption, representative government, oil revenue-sharing — remain largely unresolved. The Kurds still keep “winning” against the militants of IS in the city of Kobani on the Turkish border without having “won.”

In the meantime, Washington’s rallying cry now seems to be: “Wait for the spring offensive!” In translation that means: wait for the Iraqi army to get enough newly American-trained and -armed troops into action to make a move on Mosul.  That city is, of course, the country’s second largest and still ruled by the new “caliphate” proclaimed by Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. All in all, not exactly inspiring stuff.

You can’t have victory if you have no idea where the finish line is. But there is one bright side to the situation. If you can’t create Victory in Iraq for future VI Day parades, you can at least make a profit from the disintegrating situation there.’

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A Former Ground Zero Goes to Court Against the World’s Nuclear Arsenals

Marlise Simons reports for The New York Times:

Tony de Brum was 9 years old in 1954 when he saw the sky light up and heard the terrifying rumbles of “Castle Bravo.” It was the most powerful of 67 nuclear tests detonated by the United States in the Marshall Islands, the remote Pacific atolls he calls home.

Six decades later, with Mr. de Brum now his country’s foreign minister, the memory of those thundering skies has driven him to a near-Quixotic venture: His tiny country is hauling the world’s eight declared nuclear powers and Israel before the International Court of Justice. He wants the court to order the start of long-promised talks for a convention to ban atomic arsenals, much like the treaties that already prohibit chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. de Brum says the initiative is not about seeking redress for the enduring contamination and the waves of illness and birth defects attributed to radiation. Rather, by turning to the world’s highest tribunal, a civil court that addresses disputes between nations, he wants to use his own land’s painful history to rekindle global concern about the nuclear arms race.’

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DARPA is developing the next generation of armored vehicles

Don’t Worship at the Altar of Andrew Marshall

Michael C. Desch writes in a book review of ‘The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy’ for The National Interest:

‘I first met Andrew Marshall, the longtime director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA), in the mid-1990s. The occasion was one of the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington’s “Strategy and National Security” conferences at the Wianno Club on Cape Cod. A number of Huntington’s students, including Eliot Cohen, Aaron Friedberg and my Olin Institute for Strategic Studies colleague Stephen Rosen, were also Marshall protégés—alumni of St. Andrew’s Prep, as they referred to themselves—having spent some of their careers under his tutelage in the ONA.

The conference gave me my first taste of the reverence with which they held Marshall. Rosen had arranged to recognize him at the dinner for the thirty or so national-security experts in attendance and had carefully selected a memento to mark the event. It was a handsomely framed print of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s painting of François Leclerc du Tremblay, the Capuchin monk who was Cardinal Richelieu’s alter ego. Du Tremblay was so influential that French courtiers referred to him as his “Gray Eminence,” in deference to the authority he reputedly exercised behind the scenes belied only by the color of his humble friar’s habit.

It thus does not come as a surprise that in their new book The Last Warrior, two more St. Andrew’s alums, Andrew Krepinevich and Barry Watts, adopt a similarly reverential tone. They trace the arc of Marshall’s career, beginning with his early days at the newly established RAND Corporation through his founding in 1973 and long-term directorship of the ONA, from which he is slated to retire in 2015 after sixty-five years of U.S. government service. He was, they tell us, “an intellectual giant comparable to such nuclear strategists as Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, and Albert Wohlstetter,” and was one of the most visionary thinkers of the post–Cold War era by virtue of his advocacy of the “revolution in military affairs” (RMA).’

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Asia’s military budgets surge as armies go high-tech

Hamish McDonald reports for Asian Review:

‘[…] With their economies moving into the so-called middle-income bracket — higher in the case of fully developed Singapore — governments have more to spend on advanced military platforms and weapons. Southeast Asia’s defense spending grew by 5% on the year to nearly $36 billion in 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, just ahead of the 4.7% increase for East Asia to $282 billion.

Meanwhile, established defense manufacturers in Europe, Russia and North America are eager to sell, with lavish export credits being made available to sweeten deals. Closer to the region, Japan and South Korea, the industrial giants of East Asia, are also entering the arms bazaar.

China’s growing assertiveness in claiming the South China Sea as sovereign territory — against counterclaims from five Southeast Asian countries — has brought encouragement from the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, and help in enhancing the capabilities of regional armed forces and coast guards.

Consequently, the region is seeing large-scale acquisitions of equipment aimed at establishing the ability to contest control and make potential rivals think twice about intruding.’

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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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