Category Archives: Merchants of Death

UK needs Trident to play ‘outsized’ role in world affairs, says US defence secretary

Press Association reports:

Britain must keep its Trident nuclear deterrent to maintain its “outsized” role in the world, the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, has said.

Carter said the nuclear-armed submarines were an “important part of the deterrent structure of Nato”.

MPs are expected to vote on government plans to renew the weapons system, an issue on which Labour is split.

The Ministry of Defence estimates that acquiring four new submarines to carry the Trident deterrent would cost £31bn over the course of the 20-year procurement programme, with a further £10bn set aside to meet any additional unexpected cost increases.

Carter told the BBC that Trident enabled Britain to “continue to play that outsized role on the global stage that it does because of its moral standing and its historical standing”.

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A Golden Age for Pentagon Waste

William D. Hartung, author of Prophets of War, reports for U.S. News & World Report:

160202_pentagonstockAs the Pentagon prepares for the formal release its budget next week, there is much talk within the department that the $600 billion-plus that is likely to be proposed is inadequate. In fact, rooting out billions of dollars of waste in the Pentagon budget would leave more than enough to provide a robust defense of the country without increasing spending.

Waste at the Pentagon is nothing new. But recent revelations suggest that it may be reaching historic levels.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction has uncovered scandal after scandal involving U.S. aid to that country, including the creation of private villas for a small number of personnel working for a Pentagon economic development initiative and a series of costly facilities that were never or barely used. An analysis by ProPublica puts the price tag for wasteful and misguided expenditures in Afghanistan at $17 billion, a figure that is higher than the GDP of 80 nations.

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Beware of Obama’s Nuclear Weapons Plan

Stephen Kinzer writes for the Boston Globe:

 Americans are in near-panic over the danger posed by Islamic terrorists. That danger, however, pales beside an emerging new one. President Obama has proposed a frighteningly wrongheaded plan to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal at the unfathomable cost of about $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Terror will never reach even 1 percent of our population. Nuclear “modernization” increases the prospect of true devastation.

The nuclear threat seems diffuse and faraway, while the prospect of a deranged fanatic shooting up a cinema is as vivid as today’s news. Perhaps we have been lulled into security by the fact that no nuclear weapon has been used since 1945. Voices trying to alert us to the true threat are drowned out in a frenzy of over-the-top campaign speeches and TV rants about crazed Muslims.

The most sobering of these voices belongs to William Perry, who during the 1970s and ’80s directed the development of air-launched nuclear cruise missiles and later became secretary of defense. Now Perry is campaigning against Obama’s plan to develop and buy 1,000 new missiles with adjustable nuclear capacity, 100 new long-range bombers, and a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines. He warns that if the plan becomes real, disputes among nations will be “more likely to erupt in nuclear conflict than during the Cold War.”

When Perry was directing America’s last nuclear buildup, he and others argued that it was necessary to compensate for NATO’s relatively weak conventional power in countries around the Soviet Union. That rationale evaporated when the Cold War ended, but it still shapes our defense policy.

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How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2015?

Micah Zenko reports for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Sources: Estimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2010-2015 Airpower Statistics; Information requested from CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office, January 7, 2016; New America Foundation (NAF); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).The primary focus—meaning the commitment of personnel, resources, and senior leaders’ attention—of U.S. counterterrorism policies is the capture or killing (though, overwhelmingly killing) of existing terrorists. Far less money and programmatic attention is dedicated to preventing the emergence of new terrorists. As an anecdotal example of this, I often ask U.S. government officials and mid-level staffers, “what are you doing to prevent a neutral person from becoming a terrorist?” They always claim this this is not their responsibility, and point toward other agencies, usually the Department of State (DOS) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where this is purportedly their obligation internationally or domestically, respectively. DOS and DHS officials then refer generally to “countering violent extremism” policies, while acknowledging that U.S. government efforts on this front have been wholly ineffective.

The primary method for killing suspected terrorists is with stand-off precision airstrikes. With regard to the self-declared Islamic State, U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that the pathway to “destroying” the terrorist organization is by killing every one of its current members. Last February, Marie Harf, DOS spokesperson, said, “We are killing them and will continue killing ISIS terrorists that pose a threat to us.” Then in June, Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, Combined Forces Air Component commander, stated, “We kill them wherever we find them,” and just this week, Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolvespokesman, claimed, “If you’re part of ISIL, we will kill you. That’s our rule.”

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China Dismisses US Criticism, Blames Them for North Korea Troubles

Jason Ditz reports for Anitwar:

This week’s atomic weapons test by North Korea fueled a round of condemnation by the US against them, and also against China, with Secretary of State John Kerry declaring that China’s policies toward the north had failed and it was time for new strategy.

Chinese officials today dismissed that, saying that the US-led efforts to isolate North Korea have only made matters worse, and that China shouldn’t be expected to solve the entire problemby themselves.

China was an historical ally of North Korea, but tends to see the nation as more of a headache these days, trying to keep them from starting any big wars or collapsing outright, and leading to a massive influx of refugees into China.

North Korea, for its part, is said to be courting more help from China after today’s test, saying they need to come up with a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War, and warning they will continue their nuclear tests until a peace deal happens. US officials have repeatedly ruled out a peace deal with North Korea.

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North Korea Bomb Test Challenges U.S. Policy in Asia

Carol E. Lee reports for The Wall Street Journal:

North Korea’s fourth nuclear weapons test spread alarm through the U.S. and allied countries, reigniting concerns about Pyongyang’s advancements and thrusting the country back into the diplomatic spotlight.

The Obama administration on Wednesday disputed North Korea’s declaration that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb, a thermonuclear device with far greater destructive power than a conventional atomic bomb. But even if the device is proven smaller than that claimed by North Korea, the test indicates Pyongyang has continued to advance its nuclear program.

President Barack Obama, despite a diplomatic pivot aimed at increasing U.S. clout in Asia, has seen North Korea perform three of its four nuclear tests during his time in office. The isolated communist country has long been resistant to diplomatic pressure, despite international sanctions that exacerbate the grinding poverty there.

The blast underscores both the strategic significance and the complications of the U.S. relationship with China. Despite Washington’s recent efforts to counter Beijing’s influence in the region, it is precisely China’s influence that the U.S. most needs to address North Korea’s continuing nuclear bomb work.

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How ‘Crazy’ Are the North Koreans?

Joel S. Wit, a former State Department official, writes for The New York Times:

As someone who has spent most of the past 25 years of his professional life in the United States government, think tanks and academia trying to stop the North Korean nuclear weapons program, I found last week’s nuclear test and the events that followed depressingly familiar. They reminded me of Captain Renault’s famous line from “Casablanca” just before he shuts down Rick’s Café: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” The reactions to North Korea’s 2006, 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests were the same — shock. Yet a decade has gone by and the North Korean nuclear threat has only grown.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I take my hat off to the North Koreans. They have played their cards extremely well. Despite this episodic outrage, they have managed to become a full-fledged small nuclear power with a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal. Moreover, even as they have moved down the nuclear path, they have maintained fairly normal political, economic and other relations with many countries from China to Ethiopia. In effect, a large number of countries have tacitly accepted North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

How has the North been able to do this? There are, of course, wonky answers: Unilateral and multilateral sanctions haven’t been forceful enough, negotiators haven’t been tough enough. But a big reason you will not often hear is that Americans and the international community have a comic book image of North Korea. We simply don’t take them seriously.

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North Korea cites Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘destruction’ in nuclear test defence

AFP reports:

North Koreans celebrate the nuclear test in Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung square on Friday.[…] A commentary published by the official KCNA news agency late on Friday said Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test was a “great event” that provided North Korea with a deterrent powerful enough to secure its borders against all hostile forces, including the United States.

“History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasured sword for frustrating outsiders’ aggression,” the commentary said.

North Korea said the test was of a miniaturised hydrogen bomb – a claim largely dismissed by experts who argue the yield was far too low for a full-fledged thermonuclear device.

The KCNA commentary said the current international situation resembled the “law of the jungle” where only the strongest survive.

“The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations for nuclear development and giving up nuclear programmes of their own accord,” it said.

Both had made the mistake, the commentary argued, of yielding to Western pressure led by a United States bent on regime change.

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Could Iran Nuke Deal Help Create Way to Address North Korean Crisis? Interview with Joe Cirincione and Christine Ahn

Amy Goodman speaks to Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund and author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late, and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. (Democracy Now!)

Defense Industry Revenue Forecast Gushes Over Global Turmoil

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

The global aerospace and defense industry is out of its doldrums. According to a new report by the accounting firm Deloitte, “the resurgence of global security threats” promises a lucrative “rebound” in defense spending.

The report alerts investors that “revenue growth” is “expected to take a positive turn” due to the terrorism and war in the Middle East and the tensions in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.

Many analysts predicted declining revenue for the weapons industry as the U.S. scaled down military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, as this chart from the Deloitte report shows, no other country even comes close to spending as much as the U.S. does.

But now governments around the world have moved swiftly to hike defense budgets to “combat terrorism and address sovereign security matters.”

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Behind North Korea’s Nukes: George W. Bush’s “Khan Job”

Greg Palast writes:

How did North Korea get The Bomb in the first place?  As I disclosed on BBC Television Newsnight, the ugly answer is that George W. Bush turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s secret sale of the technology to the North Korean regime.

Read the original story from The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:

On November 7, 2001, BBC Television’s Newsnight reported that the Bush administration thwarted investigations of Dr. A.Q. Khan, known as the “father” of Pakistan’s atomic bomb. This week, Khan confessed to selling atomic secrets to Libya, North Korea, and Iran.

The Bush Administration has expressed shock at disclosures that Pakistan, our ally in the war on terror, has been running a nuclear secrets bazaar. In fact, according to the British news teams’ sources within US intelligence agencies, shortly after President Bush’s inauguration, his National Security Agency (NSA) effectively stymied the probe of Khan Research Laboratories, the Pakistani agency in charge of the bomb project. CIA and other agents told BBC they could not investigate the spread of ‘Islamic Bombs’ through Pakistan because funding appeared to originate in Saudi Arabia.

Greg Palast and David Pallister received a California State University Project Censored Award for this expose based on the story broadcast by Palast on BBC television’s top current affairs program.

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In a dangerous world, North Korea’s latest nuclear test makes a kind of sense

Aidan Foster-Carter writes for The Guardian:

[…] The last century was extremely tough for Korea: it was brutally occupied by Japan, then sundered in 1945 by its liberators. Kim Il-sung’s bid for reunification by force precipitated the Korean war (1950-53) which saw the North bombed and napalmed mercilessly by the US on behalf of the UN.

To grasp the mentality this apocalypse bred, think Israel. Kim Il-sung resolved to ensure that no one would ever do that to his realm again. Taking aid where he could, but trusting friends no more than foes, he built a mighty, impregnable fortress – literally and metaphorically.

Just as in Jerusalem – which gets away with this, unlike North Korea – the view from the Pyongyang bunker is that, in a dangerous world, nuclear weapons are the only sure guarantee of security and survival. The argument is essentially the same as the National Rifle Association’s case against gun control. Fortunately most of the world’s 200-odd states do not think and act this way. Yet recent events can only have confirmed the DPRK in its worldview.

A decade ago, siren voices urged Kim Jong-il to emulate that sensible Colonel Muammar Gaddafi: give up weapons of mass destruction, come in from the cold. Pondering both Gaddafi’s miserable end and the state of Libya today, Kim Jong-un’s firm grip on his bomb makes a kind of sense.

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To End North Korea’s Nuclear Program, End the Korean War

Christine Ahn writes for The Nation:

South KoreaNorth Korea announced recently that it had successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb. “This test is a measure for self-defense,” state media announced, “to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the US-led hostile forces.”

South Korea, Japan, and China were swift to respond with condemnation, as was the UN Security Council, which issued a statement that North Korea’s test was a “clear violation of Security Council resolutions” and resolved to take “further significant measures.”

Many observers, however, including nuclear-weapons experts and government officials, doubt whether North Korea really did test a hydrogen bomb.

“I don’t think this was a hydrogen bomb,” said Bill Richardson, a former diplomat who’s traveled to North Korea. “It was apparently six kilotons. A hydrogen bomb is 20.” The White House also issued a statement saying that data collected by US intelligence was “not consistent” with a hydrogen-bomb test.

While an independent verification may take days, and the world may never fully know the true extent of North Korea’s nuclear capacity, what we do know is that this would be Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear-weapons test since 2006—and the third under President Obama’s watch.

If anything, this proves the utter failure of the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” when it comes to achieving North Korean de-nuclearization.

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The author of the above piece was recently interviewed on Democracy Now!:

Nuclear weapons risk greater than in cold war, says ex-Pentagon chief

Julian Borger reports for The Guardian:

The risks of a nuclear catastrophe – in a regional war, terrorist attack, by accident or miscalculation – is greater than it was during the cold war and rising, a former US defence secretary has said.

William Perry, who served at the Pentagon from 1994 to 1997, made his comments a few hours before North Korea’s nuclear test on Wednesday, and listed Pyongyang’s aggressive atomic weapons programme as one of the global risk factors.

He also said progress made after the fall of the Soviet Union to reduce the chance of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia was now unravelling.

“The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” Perry said. “A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia … brought about by a substantial miscalculation, a false alarm.”

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U.S. Politicians Use North Korea H-Bomb Fears to Pitch Wasteful Missile Defense Projects

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Republican politicians responded almost reflexively to the North Korean nuclear test on Tuesday by demanding more spending on missile defense programs that have historically proved ineffective at preventing an enemy strike — but are built by companies that have lavished policymakers with campaign cash and political support.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., released a statement calling for the country to “reinvest in missile defense and our military presence in the Pacific.” Mike Rogers, R-Ala., called for Obama to “dramatically enhance trilateral missile defense” and declared that Obama should deploy a Lockheed Martin missile defense system in South Korea. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are among his top donors. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Tex., issued a statement specifically calling for spending on that same program; Lockheed Martin is by far his biggest donor over the course of his congressional career.

Since the early 1990s, politicians of both parties have cited the threat of North Korea to demand funding for an array of missile defense programs that quickly became monumental examples of government waste. Meanwhile, the contractors involved in these projects, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon, among others, have manipulated the politics around these programs by funding politicians, pundits, think tanks, and lobbyists behind the never-ending spiral of taxpayer spending.

More than $50 billion has been spent on ineffective missile defense programs so far — the result of efforts that often began by citing the threat of states such as North Korea.

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Saudi Arabia Executes Sheikh al-Nimr, Will U.S. Respond by Cutting $50 Billion in Weapons Sales? Interview with Toby Jones, William Hartung and Ali al-Ahmed

Amy Goodman talks to three guests regarding Saudi Arabia and the execution of Sheikh al-Nimr. William Hartung is a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor and director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Toby Jones is an associate professor of history and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University and author of Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia. And Ali al-Ahmed is the founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs. (Democracy Now!)

There’s No Evidence North Korea Has An H-Bomb But The New York Times Knows Fear Sells Papers

Jim Naureckas reports for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Officials examining a map of North Korean seismic event (photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)The New York Times‘ David Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun (1/5/16) say that if North Korea’s claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb is true, that would “dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states.” But they don’t say why.

Fusion-based hydrogen bombs have more explosive power than nuclear fission bombs that rely on uranium or plutonium. “If the North Korean claim about a hydrogen bomb is true, this test was of a different, and significantly more threatening, nature,” theTimes reports. It’s not made clear, though, what if anything North Korea could achieve by having a bomb that could destroy a city and its suburbs rather than just a city, or how the response by the US and its allies to such a threat would be in any way different.

Nor does the Times‘ front-page story point out how unlikely it is that North Korea has, in fact, detonated a hydrogen bomb.

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US, experts cast doubt on North Korea’s H-bomb claim

Ju-min Park and Mark Hosenball report for Reuters:

North Korea said it successfully tested a powerful nuclear bomb on Wednesday, drawing criticism from world powers even though experts and the U.S. government doubt that the isolated nation’s atomic weapons capability is as advanced as Pyongyang claims.

It was the fourth time that North Korea has exploded a nuclear device. It unnerved neighbours South Korea and Japan and prompted an emergency meeting on Wednesday of the U.N. Security Council in New York.

While a nuclear test had long been expected, North Korea’s assertion that it exploded a hydrogen device, much more powerful than an atomic bomb, came as a surprise. The White House said North Korea might not in fact have tested a hydrogen bomb.

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The Oregon Militia Standoff

Jennifer Williams writes for Vox:

A militia protesting the “tyranny” of the federal government seized the headquarters of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon on Saturday and, in a video posted to Facebook, called on “patriots” from all over the country to come to the refuge with their guns to join their fight.

Among the militia’s members are Ammon Bundy, whose father Cliven Bundy became a Fox News star in 2014 for his armed standoff in Nevada with the federal government over cattle-grazing rights. On the surface, this is about a father and son from Oregon who were ordered by the court to return to prison to serve additional time for a 2012 arson on federal land. But, as with Cliven Bundy’s standoff, the anti-government militiamen who are driving this crisis believe it’s about standing up to a tyrannical federal government.

The apparent goal of the takeover is ultimately to induce the federal government to turn over government-owned land to local ranchers, loggers, and miners for their use… But the men involved in the takeover — including Ammon Bundy, Ammon’s brother Ryan, Jon Ritzheimer, Blaine Cooper, and Ryan Payne — are not locals. Rather, they are a small group of individuals who travel around the country attaching themselves to various local fights against the federal government, usually over land rights. Several of them were involved in Cliven Bundy’s 2014 standoff.

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Why police don’t pull guns in many countries

Sara Miller Llana reports for Christian Science Monitor:

The officer, alert but cautious, pounds on the suspect’s door. “Polizei!” he says forcefully, in his native German. A man thrusts open the door and walks out. His hands are at his side, but the policeman notices a gun tucked into the man’s belt. He pulls out his own firearm in response. He then moves briskly backward, coaxing the man to place his weapon on the ground.

The cop is commended for his actions.

The next officer up bangs on the same door. “Polizei!,” he says. This time the person walks out carrying a baton, not a gun. So the cop doesn’t pull out his pistol. He brandishes instead a can of pepper spray – a reflex response that also garners praise afterward.

The scene here in what looks like an outdoor movie set seems as if it would be basic enough training at almost any police academy in the world. But today’s course for the new recruits in the Ruhr Valley in western Germany represents just one small part of an educational process that will last for three years, during which the officers will be drilled in alternatives to pulling a trigger. Today’s shooting training is subtitled, tellingly, “Don’t shoot.” And it’s far from the only lesson they’ll receive in restraint. Each recruit earns a bachelor’s degree as part of basic police training – a requisite before getting a badge and a beat.

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U.S. Foreign Arms Deals Increased Nearly $10 Billion in 2014

Nicholas Fandos reports for The New York Times:

Foreign arms sales by the United States jumped by almost $10 billion in 2014, about 35 percent, even as the global weapons market remained flat and competition among suppliers increased, a new congressional study has found.

American weapons receipts rose to $36.2 billion in 2014 from $26.7 billion the year before, bolstered by multibillion-dollar agreements with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Those deals and others ensured that the United States remained the single largest provider of arms around the world last year, controlling just over 50 percent of the market.

Russia followed the United States as the top weapons supplier, completing $10.2 billion in sales, compared with $10.3 billion in 2013. Sweden was third, with roughly $5.5 billion in sales, followed by France with $4.4 billion and China with $2.2 billion.

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1956 U.S. Document Planned Mass Nuclear Strikes on Densely Populated Areas

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In a 1956 study for the Strategic Air Command (SAC), a newly declassified document reveals that the US intended to carry out nuclear strikes against the most densely populated parts of the Soviet bloc, singling out “population” centers in addition to military targets.

The 700-page document placed a priority on military installations, but also planned the “systematic destruction” of the Soviet bloc’s industrial capability by targeting “areas of human population,” including Beijing, Moscow, Leningrad, East Berlin, and Warsaw.

That may sound like a limited plan, but all-told there were some 1,200 cities to be targeted with nuclear strikes specifically to try to kill as many people as possible. Cities like Moscow and Leningrad, which also had military or government targets, were to be hit dozens of times.

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Clinton, Rubio, Cruz Receive Foreign Policy Advice From Same Consulting Firm

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Consultants affiliated with a small Washington, D.C., firm called Beacon Global Strategies hold the unique privilege of providing high-profile foreign policy guidance to Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, among others.

The bipartisan firm was founded in 2013 by former senior officials from the State Department, Department of Defense, and Central Intelligence Agency, and quickly had more than a dozen clients, primarily defense contractors, according to Defense News.

Philippe Reines and Andrew Shapiro, both considered part of Clinton’s inner circle of foreign policy advisers, are founders of the firm. Reines served as a longtime spokesperson for Clinton and Shapiro served as her assistant secretary of state for military affairs.

Eric Edelman, a former Bush administration Defense Department official, is an advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies and a leading foreign policy adviser to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “It’s mostly about defense, but I’ve talked to him about the authorization of military force. I’ve talked to him about the campaign against ISIS, about Russia and Ukraine. There’s not a shortage of issues right now,” Edelman told Reuters. The news wire noted that that Edelman “regularly briefs the senator.”

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The Unbearable Lightness of America’s War Against the Islamic State

Professor Stephen M. Walt writes for Foreign Policy:

The Unbearable Lightness of America’s War Against the Islamic State In the classic World War II novel The Caine Mutiny, author Herman Wouk quoted an “ancient adage” about the typical bureaucratic response to a crisis:

“When in danger or in doubt,

Run in circles, scream and shout.”

That couplet summarizes the prevailing U.S. response to global terrorism perfectly. All one has to do is read the panicky, narrow-minded, and irresponsible ravings of the current GOP presidential aspirants, as well as look at the latest poll numbers, and it’s clear that a good portion of the U.S. electorate is prepared to follow them off the deep end.

Yet the unhinged nature of the current discourse on terrorism also reveals how profoundly unserious U.S. counterterrorism efforts really are. To say this sounds odd, given the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been thrown at the problem, and the tens of thousands of lives (both American and foreign) that have been lost waging the “global war on terror” (or if you prefer, the “campaign against violent extremism”), is an understatement. It sounds even odder when one considers the vast army of people who are now employed to protect us from terrorism, not to mention the countries we’ve invaded, the drone strikes and targeted assassinations we’ve performed, and the mountains of metadata we’ve collected. Surely all this effort shows that Washington is deeply engaged in the challenge of thwarting al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other violent radicals.

If only.

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America’s Modernized Nuclear Arms Roil Diplomatic Waters

Lindsay Wise reports for McClatchy:

A mock B61-12 bomb on display at National Lab Day in Washington, DC, in October.U.S. plans to build a precision-guided nuclear bomb already are raising hackles in Russia.

With a new tail-kit to increase accuracy, the B61-12 will be an upgrade of a free-falling gravity bomb first built in the 1960s.

President Barack Obama asked Congress to allocate $643.3 million for the project for fiscal year 2016. The total cost of refurbishing the bombs could exceed $10 billion.

After the U.S. successfully tested a non-nuclear version of the bomb in Nevada this summer, Russia’s deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, decried the move as “irresponsible” and “openly provocative.”

A few months later, when a German TV station reported in September that the U.S. would deploy the bomb in Germany, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shot back that such a move “could alter the balance of power in Europe.”

“And without a doubt it would demand that Russia take necessary countermeasures to restore the strategic balance and parity,” Peskov said at a press conference.

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Irradiated: 33,480 Americans Dead After 70 Years of Atomic Weaponry

Brittany Peterson reports for McClatchy:

“Irradiated,” a special report published today by McClatchy, offers an unprecedented look at the costs of war and the risks of a strong defense, using federal records to chronicle the deaths of at least 33,480 nuclear workers who helped the U.S. win World War II and the Cold War.

The number of deaths has never been disclosed by federal officials. It’s more than four times the number of American casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it looms large as the nation prepares for its second nuclear age, with a $1 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear weapons over the next 30 years.

McClatchy determined the count after analyzing more than 70 million records in a database obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor under the Freedom of Information Act. It includes all workers who are dead after they or their survivors received compensation under a special fund created in 2001 to help those who got sick in the construction of America’s nuclear arsenal.

A total of 107,394 workers have been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases after building the nation’s nuclear stockpile over the last seven decades. The project includes an interactive database that offers details on all 107,394 workers.

McClatchy’s yearlong investigation, set in 10 states, puts readers in the living rooms of sick workers in South Carolina, on a picket line in Texas and at a cemetery in Tennessee. It includes interviews with more than 100 workers, government officials, experts and activists and across the country.

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IAEA Report Finds Many Allegations on Iran’s Nuclear History Are Baseless: Interview with Robert Kelly

Sharmini Peries talks to Robert Kelley, a former IAEA nuclear inspector. Kelley says that the IAEA had failed to adequately investigate charges that were made in the past by U.S. and Israel against Iran in order to derail negotiations. (The Real News)

Obama Countering Terror with Terror: Interview with Normon Solomon

Sharmini Peries talks to Norman Solomon, a journalist and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. His most recent article is Obama’s Speech, Translated into Candor. In this interview Solomon says that Obama’s oval office speech about gun control and terror leaves out who is the target of our foreign policy, and the barbaric practices of our allies like Saudi Arabia. (The Real News)

Defense Contractors Cite “Benefits” of Escalating Conflicts in the Middle East

Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report for The Intercept:

Major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors at a Credit Suisse conference in West Palm Beach this week that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East.

Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner told the conference his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

The incident, Tanner said, heightens the risk for U.S. military operations in the region, providing “an intangible lift because of the dynamics of that environment and our products in theater.” He also stressed that the Russian intervention would highlight the need for Lockheed Martin-made F-22s and the new F-35 jets.

And for “expendable” products, such as a rockets, Tanner added that there is increased demand, including from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia because of the war in Yemen.

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From Console to Trigger: How the Pentagon “Exploits” Video Game Culture to Wire Youth for War

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman talk to Tonje Hessen Schei, director of a new documentary film titled Drone, and former drone pilots including Brandon Bryant. After airing a clip from the documentary, they discuss the connection between video games and military recruitment. Bryant says: “I think gamers should be offended that the military and the government are using to manipulate and recruit. We’re more interconnected now than at any time in human history — and that’s being exploited to help people kill one another.” (Democracy Now!)