Jeremy Scahill on Betsy DeVos Lying During Her Senate Confirmation Hearing and Her Brother Erik Prince’s Ties to Donald Trump
Amy Goodman speaks to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill about Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos lying during her Senate confirmation hearing and her brother Erik Prince‘s links to Donald Trump. (Democracy Now!)
- Trump Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Lied to the Senate
- Betsy DeVos, an Heiress, Bashes Tuition-Free College: ‘There’s Nothing in Life That’s Truly Free’
- Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the Shadows
- Public (School) Enemy No. 1: Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary
- Meet the DeVos family: Super-wealthy right-wingers working with the religious right to destroy public education
- Erik Prince: Right Web Profile
Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.
On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.
In July, Prince told Trump’s senior advisor and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”
Senator John McCain called Monday for a massive boost in defense spending totaling more than $85 billion per year over the next half-decade, saying that is just the beginning of what it will take to restore the U.S. military to a dominant role.
The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman’s plans, detailed in a white paper, are an important marker, laying out defense hawks’ wish list as Congress prepares to debate budget priorities under the Trump administration.
Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said that after years of bleeding, the Pentagon will struggle to fight the war on terrorism while preparing to engage emerging threats in Russia and China.
President-elect Donald Trump wants to expand the Navy’s fleet to 350 ships, the largest build-up since the end of the Cold War.
But where that money will come from is unclear and defense contractors aren’t counting their ships yet.
Experts say that going from the current fleet of 274 ships to Trump’s 350 goal will cost about $165 billion over 30 years. And it will be impossible to achieve unless there’s a dramatic increase in the defense budget, currently at $619 billion.
Navy budget expert Ronald O’Rourke said the $165 billion price tag does not include broader costs such as staffing the ships, maintenance and operations.
On Jan. 11, 2017, Intelligence Online — a professional journal covering the world’s intelligence services — revealed that the pilots of Air Tractor attack planes flying from Al Khadim air base in Libya are private contractors working for Erik Prince, the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater.
War Is Boring’s own sources in Libya confirmed the assertion. Our sources said that the pilots flying the United Arab Emirates Air Force IOMAX AT-802 Air Tractors — converted crop-dusters — are mercenaries and aren’t Arabs.
Most of the for-profit aviators are American, according to IOL. Prince denied involvement in the UAE air operations.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?
If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.
There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.
That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.
In early December, the British government released its first annual report on the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Despite the total media blackout, the document reveals in stark detail the Conservative government’s plans to expand Britain’s military activities around the world.
In the name of defending “national security”, Britain is building a “permanent” military presence in the Gulf to defend Britain’s access to regional energy resources; deploying more troops into Eastern Europe, near Russia’s border; and drumming up support for rampant arms sales to despots in search of better tools to repress their own populations. This is all happening as it promotes economic aid as a mechanism to open up poorer economies to “UK businesses”.
To illustrate the levels of official delusion that saturate the thinking behind this document, it opens with a foreword from Prime Minister Theresa May, which describes “the phenomenon of mass migration” as “one of the global challenges of our times”, having “become more pronounced in the last 12 months”.
[…] My book “Command and Control” explores how the systems devised to govern the use of nuclear weapons, like all complex technological systems, are inherently flawed. They are designed, built, installed, maintained, and operated by human beings. But the failure of a nuclear command-and-control system can have consequences far more serious than the crash of an online dating site from too much traffic or flight delays caused by a software glitch. Millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, could be annihilated inadvertently. “Command and Control” focusses on near-catastrophic errors and accidents in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended in 1991. The danger never went away. Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. The other day, Senator John McCain called Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, “a thug, a bully, and a murderer,” adding that anyone who “describes him as anything else is lying.” Other members of Congress have attacked Putin for trying to influence the Presidential election. On Thursday, Putin warned that Russia would “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” and President-elect Donald Trump has responded with a vow to expand America’s nuclear arsenal. “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told one of the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?
Army Veteran William Penner used to jokingly call the thick yellow crust that crept across his young son Matthew’s scalp “Agent Orange” after the toxic defoliant sprayed on him in Vietnam before the boy was born. The joke turned sour a few years ago, when Matthew, now 43, was diagnosed with a host of serious illnesses, including heart disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Similar worries struck vet Mike Blackledge when staffers at a local Veterans Affairs hospital suggested his children’s diseases could be linked to his time in Vietnam. His son has inflammatory bowel disease so advanced he wears a pouch to collect his waste, and his youngest daughter has neuropathy, spinal problems and gastrointestinal issues. His oldest daughter — the one born before he went to fight in Vietnam — is fine.
They, like thousands of others, are grappling with a chilling prospect: Could Agent Orange, the herbicide linked to health problems in Vietnam veterans, have also harmed their children?
For decades, the Department of Veterans Affairs has collected — and ignored — reams of information that could have helped answer that question, an investigation by ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot has found.
[…] It was not the first time the villagers had seen such weapons. In December 2015, Human Rights Watch confirmed that coalition warplanes dropped CBU-105 cluster bombs on al-Hayma, damaging multiple homes and seriously injuring at least two civilians.
Researchers from Human Rights Watch identified the shell casings in photographs taken by The Intercept as a U.S.-made cluster bomb. The serial number documented in the photographs also begins with the five-number “commercial and government entity” (CAGE) code 04614 — indicating that the weapons were produced in the United States, by the Rhode Island-based company Textron Systems.
Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, seven months after Houthi rebels overran the capital city Sanaa and deposed the Saudi-backed leader, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The U.S. has been a silent partner to the war ever since, supplying targeting intelligence, flying refueling missions for Saudi aircraft, and authorizing more than $20 billion in new weapons transfers. Since the beginning of his administration, President Barack Obama has sold $115 billion in weapons to the Saudis, more than any of his predecessors.
- Iona Craig: The U.S. Could Stop Refueling Saudis and End Devastating War in Yemen Tomorrow
- US Cancels Weapons Transfers to Saudi Over Yemen Campaign
- Saudi King Defends Yemen Intervention in Televised Address
- Coalition of Aid Groups: Seven Million People Are Now Starving to Death in Yemen
- Yemen’s Toxic Trash Mountain Adds to War Woes
- In Yemen’s War, Trapped Families Ask: Which Child Should We Save?
- The Yemen Files: WikiLeaks 500 Files Allegedly Show US ‘Arming and Funding’ Yemeni Forces
Eight years ago, as Washington was making the transition from the nightmare years of George W. Bush to the endless possibilities of Barack Obama, national security elites were transfixed by a military doctrine called counterinsurgency.
The modern counterinsurgency faith stirred to life in the glory days of JFK’s “hearts and minds” campaign in Vietnam. Its champions promised to win over conquered lands by eschewing raw firepower for enlightened social projects. They pledged to use cash, economic aid, and military training to convince locals that America offered their last, best hope for a better life. When they retrofitted the doctrine to help salvage the disastrous 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, they called themselves “COINdinistas.”
Leading the twenty-first-century revival of counterinsurgency was an up-and-coming army general, David H. Petraeus, who had participated in nearly every major U.S. intervention overseas since Vietnam, including those in El Salvador, Haiti, Bosnia, and Iraq. After preaching the COIN gospel for decades on the margins of the national security establishment, Petraeus was appointed in 2007 to command U.S. forces in Iraq. There, he finally got his chance to practice what his followers liked to call the “new American way of war.”
I was recently in the Marshall Islands, which lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and south of Hawaii. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, ‘Where is that?’
When I mention Bikini, their reference is the swimsuit. Few seem aware that the bikini was named after the nuclear explosions that destroyed life on Bikini atoll; its Paris designer hoped his ‘unique creation’ would ‘cause an explosion right round the world’. Sixty-seven nuclear bombs – each of them massive – were exploded in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958: the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for 12 years.
As my aircraft banked low over Bikini lagoon, the emerald water beneath me disappeared into a vast black hole, a deathly void. This is the crater left by the 1954 Hydrogen bomb known as Bravo. When I stepped out of the plane, my shoes registered ‘unsafe’ on a Geiger counter. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.
I trekked through the jungle to the bunker where, at 6.45 on the morning of 1 March 1954, the button was pushed on the most powerful force on earth. That morning, the sun had risen; then it rose again as apocalypse. Now claimed by the undergrowth, the concrete bunker is like a capsule to modern times. There are cartons of Milkmaid powered milk, packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a sign that is beyond irony: ‘Please leave this property as you find it. Thank you for kindness and understanding.’
The explosion vaporized an entire island, its fall-out spreading over a vast area. There was a ‘miscalculation’, according to the official history; the wind ‘changed suddenly’. These were the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony have since revealed.
As voters in the United States go to the polls, Amy Goodman is joined by Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, and Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, for a look at some of the most important decisions they will make—not for president, governor, Senate or congressional races, but on more than 160 ballot initiatives in 35 states, more than in any election in the last decade. Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in nine states, and income inequality and economic insecurity are at the heart of many other measures, along with initiatives on guns, public education, the death penalty and Colorado’s Amendment 69, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment which would finance universal healthcare. (Democracy Now!)
ashington, DC, may be the only place in the world where people openly flaunt their pseudo-intellectuality by banding together, declaring themselves “think tanks,” and raising money from external interests, including foreign governments, to compile reports that advance policies inimical to the real-life concerns of the American people. W
As a former member of the House of Representatives, I remember 16 years of congressional hearings where pedigreed experts came to advocate wars in testimony based on circular, rococo thinking devoid of depth, reality, and truth. I remember other hearings where the Pentagon was unable to reconcile over $1 trillion in accounts, lost track of $12 billion in cash sent to Iraq, and rigged a missile-defense test so that an interceptor could easily home in on a target. War is first and foremost a profitable racket.
How else to explain that in the past 15 years this city’s so called bipartisan foreign policy elite has promoted wars in Iraq and Libya, and interventions in Syria and Yemen, which have opened Pandora’s box to a trusting world, to the tune of trillions of dollars, a windfall for military contractors. DC’s think “tanks” should rightly be included in the taxonomy of armored war vehicles and not as gathering places for refugees from academia.
[…] I took it upon myself this year to write several pieces assessing the sorts of Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would likely be. Of those, I have received the most feedback from the one titled “Hillary the Hawk: A History.” And given Clinton’s willingness to use force and belief in the power of coercive diplomacy, I do believe that she is slightly more “hawkish” than Trump.
To be perfectly clear, however, I have little doubt that Donald Trump would be a vastly more dangerous and destabilizing foreign-policy president than Hillary Clinton. The business mogul has not demonstrated a grasp of even the most basic principles, laws, and behaviors that govern the conduct of foreign policy, or the manner in which nation-states interact. Worse, he refuses to learn, proudly stating when asked who he listens to on foreign policy, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things…. I have a good instinct for this stuff.” He simply does not.
The basis for this judgment are Trump’s own statements on foreign policy issues.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is hammering Donald Trump over his statements on nuclear weapons in a new ad. And the Democratic nominee is using one of the most recognizable moments in the attack ad arsenal to deliver the blow.
In a spot titled “Daisy,” the former secretary of state invokes the famous 1964 attack ad President Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign used with devastating impact as footage of Trump’s comments plays throughout.
“This is me in 1964,” Monique Corzilius Luiz says as footage of her as the “Daisy Girl,” named for the shot of her plucking petals of a flower, plays in the background of the Clinton ad.
I’m getting command to aim and fire. I pull the trigger again and again until I see an explosion. I feel vaguely sick, maybe because my chair shakes every time I pull the trigger, or maybe because the images I’m seeing are blurry.
When I take off my VR headset, a smiling young woman hands me a round token: Distinguished Gunner A14, it says. I’m not exactly the target audience — and neither are the high school boys I saw enjoying the game later.
The woman tells me the game is to show just how strong the General Dynamics Stryker 30mm cannon is. I’m at the Association of the United States Army’s annual exposition, Monday to Wednesday at the new, cavernous Washington Convention Center, where in order to score contracts with the Pentagon, defense contractors are making their weapons seem fun.
AUSA features a who’s who of the military-industrial complex, and the extreme excess of money in the industry is evident everywhere.
The British government and the UK arms industry have a “politically intimate and hugely compromising relationship” that sees government officials working “hand in glove” with companies promoting weapons exports, according to campaigners who have tracked thousands of meetings between officials and arms trade representatives.
Officials from the government’s dedicated arms export department, the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), attended more than 1,000 meetings since the 2010 election – more than a third of all meetings recorded by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has published data on contact between the government and the arms industry.
The data reveals how crucial the export of British-made weapons and security equipment – totalling £8bn last year – has become to both government and the industry, ensuring that Britain is among the world’s largest arms exporters.
“The government may talk about the importance of human rights, but its role is absolutely central to the UK arms trade,” said a CAAT spokesman, Andrew Smith.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads, a thorny subject that Israel never comments on, according to an email that Russian hackers leaked earlier this week.
Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, refusing to speak about its rumored nuclear arsenal and never even going as far as to admit that it has possession of nuclear weapons.
But Powell may have given away the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Speaking to Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, he wrote that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon if it was able to develop one. He then stated that Israel has hundreds of nukes and Washington thousands, suggesting that such firepower would deter any Iranian action.
In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when Congress voted to authorize military force against the people who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the hijackings, few Americans could have imagined the resulting manhunt would span from West Africa all the way to the Philippines, and would outlast two two-term presidents.
Today, U.S. military engagement in the Middle East looks increasingly permanent. Despite the White House having formally ended the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of U.S. troops and contractors remain in both countries. The U.S. is dropping bombs on Iraq and Syria faster than it can make them, and according to the Pentagon, its bombing campaign in Libya has “no end point at this particular moment.” The U.S. is also helping Saudi Arabia wage war in Yemen, in addition to conducting occasional airstrikes in Yemen and Somalia.
Fifteen years after the September 11 attacks, it looks like the war on terror is still in its opening act.
The list of key advisers — which includes the general who executed the troop surge in Iraq and a former Bush homeland security chief turned terror profiteer — is a strong indicator that Clinton’s national security policy will not threaten the post-9/11 national-security status quo that includes active use of military power abroad and heightened security measures at home.
It’s a story we’ve seen before in President Obama’s early appointments. In retrospect, analysts have pointed to the continuity in national security and intelligence advisers as an early sign that despite his campaign rhetoric Obama would end up building on — rather than tearing down — the often-extralegal, Bush-Cheney counterterror regime. For instance, while Obama promised in 2008 to reform the NSA, its director was kept on and its reach continued to grow.
Obama’s most fateful decision may have been choosing former National Counterterrorism Center Director John Brennan to be national security adviser, despite Brennan’s support of Bush’s torture program. Brennan would go on to run the president’s drone program, lead the CIA, fight the Senate’s torture investigation, and then lie about searching Senate computers.
That backdrop is what makes Clinton’s new list of advisers so significant.
Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East.
Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.
A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West.
Meanwhile statistics collated by UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports abroad, show the UK has sold more arms than Russia, China, or France on average over the last 10 years. Only the United States is a bigger exporter.
By congressional mandate, the Pentagon needs to be ready for an audit of its finances by Sept. 30, 2017. If what’s going on at the U.S. Army is any indication — and it is — then next fall’s audit will be a shit-show of broken promises, cooked books and bizarre accounting.
The Army made headlines in mid-August 2016 when a Defense Department Inspector General report landed with a heavy thud. The 75-page reportdetailed all the ways the Army screwed up its accounting of the Army General Fund in 2015.
According to the report, Army bookkeepers screwed up the budget to the tune of … $6.5 trillion dollars.
That’s $6.5 trillion in accounting mistakes for the year 2015 alone. That’s such a huge number that it doesn’t even make a lot of sense. The annual budget for the entire U.S. military in the past few years has been around half-a-trillion bucks.
Amy Goodman speaks to Andrew Cockburn, the Washington editor for Harper’s magazine, about America’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. His latest piece for Harper’s is headlined Acceptable Losses: Aiding and Abetting the Saudi Slaughter in Yemen. He is author of a number of books, his latest is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. (Democracy Now!)
- Acceptable Losses: Aiding and Abetting the Saudi Slaughter in Yemen
- UN Rights Chief Calls for International Probe Into Yemen Violations
- The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High the Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals
- A Congressman Campaigns to “Stop the Madness” of U.S. Support for Saudi Bombing in Yemen
- Senator Chris Murphy: ‘There’s an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen’
- US Withdraws Staff From Saudi Arabia Dedicated to Yemen Planning
- MSF Evacuating Staff From Yemen After Recent Saudi Attack
- Detention and Disappearance in Houthi-Controlled Yemen
- Hundreds of Thousands in Yemen March in Support of Rebels
- America Is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen
- The US is promoting war crimes in Yemen
- More US Weapons for the Saudis’ Atrocious War on Yemen
- Over 500 Days of the Indefensible, US-Backed War on Yemen
- Civil War Costs Yemen $14 Billion in Damage and Economic Losses: Report
- Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombing in Yemen Earns Rare Saudi Rebuke at State Dept
- Unexploded Bombs Extend Yemen War’s Deadly Toll
- U.S. and Saudi Bombs Target Yemen’s Ancient Heritage
- How the Saudi-Led Coalition Is Killing Civilians
- “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” head of the International Red Cross in August 2015
When my mother came for lunch at the Pentagon, I shepherded her through the visitor’s entrance, maneuvered her onto the escalator, and had just ushered her past the chocolate shop when she stopped short. I stopped too, letting an army of crisply uniformed officers and shirt-sleeved civilians flow past us down the corridor. Taking in the Pentagon’s florist shop, the banks, the nail salon, and the food court, my mother finally looked back at me. “So the heart of American military power is a shopping mall?”
She wasn’t far off. By the time I started working at the Defense Department in the early years of the Obama administration, the Pentagon’s 17.5 miles of corridors had sprouted dozens of shops and restaurants catering to the building’s 23,000 employees. And, over time, the U.S. military has itself come to offer a similar one-stop shopping experience to the nation’s top policymakers. At the Pentagon, you can buy a pair of new running shoes or order the Navy to search for Somali pirates. You can grab some Tylenol at CVS or send a team of Army medics to fight malaria in Chad. You can buy yourself a new cell phone or task the National Security Agency with monitoring a terrorist suspect’s text messages. You can purchase a small chocolate fighter jet or order up drone strikes in Yemen.
You name it, the Pentagon supplies it. As retired Army Lt. Gen. Dave Barno once put it to me, the relentlessly expanding U.S. military has become “a Super Walmart with everything under one roof” — and two successive presidential administrations have been eager consumers.
But the military’s transformation into the world’s biggest one-stop shopping outfit is no cause for celebration. On the contrary, it’s at once the product and the driver of seismic changes in how we think about war, with consequent challenges both to our laws and to the military itself.
The Obama Administration Has Brokered More Weapons Sales Than Any Other Administration Since World War II
hen American firms dominate a global market worth more than $70 billion a year, you’d expect to hear about it. Not so with the global arms trade. It’s good for one or two stories a year in the mainstream media, usually when the annual statistics on the state of the business come out. W
It’s not that no one writes about aspects of the arms trade. There are occasional pieces that, for example, take note of the impact of US weapons transfers, including cluster bombs, to Saudi Arabia, or of the disastrous dispensation of weaponry to US allies in Syria, or of foreign sales of the costly, controversial F-35 combat aircraft. And once in a while, if a foreign leader meets with the president, US arms sales to his or her country might generate an article or two. But the sheer size of the American arms trade, the politics that drive it, the companies that profit from it, and its devastating global impacts are rarely discussed, much less analyzed in any depth.
So here’s a question that’s puzzled me for years (and I’m something of an arms wonk): Why do other major US exports—from Hollywood movies to Midwestern grain shipments to Boeing airliners—garner regular coverage while trends in weapons exports remain in relative obscurity? Are we ashamed of standing essentially alone as the world’s number one arms dealer, or is our Weapons “R” Us role such a commonplace that we take it for granted, like death or taxes?
[…] The fighting in eastern Ukraine between the Moscow-backed separatists and Ukraine’s pro-Western government killed hundreds of people, displaced thousands of residents and created a Cold War-style stand off between Moscow in the West.
It also had another consequence that is less visible but could in time prove equally dangerous: the conflict took huge amounts of arms out of government arsenals and put them in the hands of irregular units unable to properly control them.
Now the fighting has subsided, according to security officials and experts on the arms trade, the weapons are getting into the hands of criminals and being spirited to buyers well beyond the conflict zone.
Interviews by Reuters with security officials and rebels, as well as study of law enforcement data and court documents have shown that weapons are being channeled out of the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in significant numbers, in some cases as part of an organized underground trade.
Two defense stocks hit 52-week highs this week, and may be heading higher. In a time of international market volatility and global conflict, some analysts say defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications will continue to thrive. And the future of defense spending, and of these stocks, may not depend on who wins the election in November.
“I do think they will go higher,” Gina Sanchez of Chantico Global said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “The fundamentals support them; the fundamentals are rather scary fundamentals. … We have seen an increase in conflict around the world, and that has not only increased U.S. defense spending, but it’s also increased spending by its allies.”
“And if you look at both candidates, [Hillary] Clinton is hawkish, and she’s seen as likely supporting a strong military. And we know that [Donald] Trump is in favor of expanding the military, so I think the defense contractors on either side of that ticket are going to win.”
[…] According to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, underground vaults at Incirlik hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than twenty-five per cent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The nuclear yield of the B-61 can be adjusted to suit a particular mission. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had an explosive force equivalent to about fifteen kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the “dial-a-yield” of the B-61 bombs at Incirlik can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as a hundred and seventy kilotons.
Incirlik was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the Second World War; when Turkey joined NATO, in 1952, it became a crucial American base during the Cold War. With a flight time of about an hour to the Soviet Union, the base hosted American fighters, bombers, tankers, and U-2 spy planes. And, like many NATO bases, it stored American nuclear weapons. NATO strategy was dependent on nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to the perceived superiority of Soviet conventional forces. The threat of a nuclear attack, it was assumed, would deter Soviet tanks from rolling into NATO territory. And granting NATO countries access to nuclear weapons would strengthen the alliance, providing tangible evidence that the United States would risk a nuclear war for NATO’s defense.