NOTE:EAW’s editor will be on assignment in Asia for the next two weeks. We will return with new stories, reports and Action Alerts on July 3.
Be watchful, stay active, pursue peace.
ACTION ALERT: No Fly No Buy
DEMAND REPUBLICANS CLOSE THE TERRORIST WATCH LIST LOOPHOLE
(June 16, 2016) — Once again, House Republicans refuse to put the safety of our communities and our families over their friends in the NRA. House Republicans have BLOCKED an attempt to close the loophole that allows individuals on the terror watch list to purchase guns and explosives.
Their actions are incomprehensible. This is a simple, common-sense safety measure that could save lives.
Gun Control Now:
Congress Must Ban Assault Weapons CREDO Action
Tell Republicans in Congress: “It’s time to put your constituents before the NRA. Bring a real gun control legislation package, which includes a ban on assault weapons, to the floor of the House and the Senate.”
After this weekend’s horrific shooting at an Orlando LGBT club, Republican politicians were quick to offer their prayers and condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
Coming from politicians who not only refuse to act to reduce gun violence, but who also foster and promote anti-LGBT bigotry and hate through their words, their party platform and their legislative actions, those “thoughts and prayers” don’t mean much. (1)
Breaking the NRA’s chokehold on Congress will require massive grassroots pressure on our elected officials, demanding they deliver more than thoughts and prayers in the face of our epidemic of gun violence. Can you add your voice today to tell Republican leaders to vote on a meaningful package of gun control reforms, including an assault weapons ban?
Republican members of Congress respond to gun tragedies while they’re in the news. But, they don’t take responsibility for how their actions, and inaction, lay the groundwork for hate crimes and gun violence, nor do they take action to prevent these tragedies from happening again. Instead, they offer up either fleeting sentiments or xenophobic and racist policies.
They need to pass real gun control now, including: * Prohibiting the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines for civilian use.
* Closing the terror gap by allowing the Department of Justice to block guns sales to anyone on the terror watch list. Between 2004 and 2014, more than 2,000 people on the list purchased guns in the US. (2)
* Closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns without undergoing background checks through private sales, at gun shows and online. An estimated 40 percent of all firearms transferred in the US are transferred by unlicensed individuals not required to conduct background checks on buyers. (3)
* Banning convicted domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that individual has access to a firearm. (4)
In 2014 alone, the gun lobby spent over $30 million on political advertising and lobbying to influence legislators in Congress and state capitals across the country. (5).
If Republicans really want to protect Americans, they need to break their blind allegiance to the NRA and pass gun control legislation. But they’ll never act unless we force them. Can you add your voice today?
When Republicans disagree with advances in women’s rights, LGBT rights, or civil rights, they don’t just offer their thoughts and prayers, they push legislation. In just the last year, Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures across the country have worked to make abortion impossible to access, to discriminate against LGBT people, and to take away voting rights.
At the same time, they have aggressively pushed the NRA’s agenda to weaken gun laws â€” refusing to close domestic violence loopholes and promoting campus carry and stand your ground.
If all Republicans can offer after this weekend’s massacre are their thoughts and prayers, or misguided scapegoating of Muslim communities that plays into their base’s racism and xenophobia, that speaks volumes. It shows that current Republican leaders in Congress lack the care, or courage, to act.
Thank you for your activism,
Heidi Hess, Senior Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. David Weigel, “Few Republicans mention LGBT community in Orlando reactions,” Washington Post, June 12, 2016 and Jennifer Bendery and Matt Fuller, “Republicans Kill Spending Bill Over Its LGBT Protections,” HuffingtonPost.com, May 26, 2016.
2. “Closing the Terror Gap in Gun Background Checks,” Everytown for Gun Safety, July 21, 2015.â€¨
3. “Universal Background Checks & the “Private” Sale Loophole Policy Summary ,” Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, September 10, 2015.â€¨
4. “Gabby Giffords, National Domestic Violence Prevention Leaders Applaud New House Legislation to Keep Guns out of the Hands of Abusers,” Americans for Responsible Solutions, July 22, 2015.â€¨
5. Ben Geier, “NRA’s Massive Political Spending Gains Attention,” Fortune, December 3, 2015
$6 Billion for Faulty Submarines Richard Palmer / The Trumpet
(July 2016 Issue) — It emerged on March 29 that the USS Minnesota nuclear attack submarine is stuck in port as workers try to make it seaworthy. The $2.7 billion vessel is only three years old.
When the Minnesota was delivered in 2013, it was hailed as a great success for military procurement since it was delivered almost one year ahead of schedule. But it was delivered with known manufacturing defects.
According to the Navy Times, some of the Minnesota’s vital engine components were not manufactured and installed to specification. Evidence has emerged that manufacturers used fraudulent welding and other counterfeit additions to pass inspection. A $10,000 pipe failed examination, and it was discovered that the pipe had been fraudulently fabricated to appear sound.
Discovery of this defective pipe prompted investigation into other parts delivered by the US-based contractor. Two subsequently constructed multibillion-dollar subs were also discovered to have the same defective pipes installed.
After investing more than $6 billion, the US Navy has three new nuclear submarines that pose a known risk to their crews if deployed.
US submarines form a third of the military’s nuclear triad and are essential for deterrence and war-fighting capability. The revelation of these fraudulent practices has frustrated and demoralized many service personnel. Had they gone undiscovered, sailors’ lives and national security would have been at grave risk.
(July 2016) – The United States Marine Corps aviation wing is suffering from the burden of 15 years’ worth of fighting and budget cuts. Fox News reported on April 17 that the vast majority of US strike fighter aircraft are not airworthy.
Yet it is unclear where the money to maintain and replace them will come from. Budget cuts and sequestration have reduced anticipated budgets — from $691 billion in 2010 to $560 billion in 2015, an inflation-adjusted 21 percent decrease in five years.
Several aging major equipment platforms need replacing. The MV-22B Osprey was to be the solution for the rotary-wing aircraft used by the corps. Yet several accidents have degraded confidence in this “upgrade.”
The F-18 Hornets were to be replaced with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — but known flaws, significant budget overruns, and postponements in deployment testing have delayed F-35 adoption.
Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets are supposed to have a shelf life of 6,000 hours, but they are being refurbished to extend that life to 8,000 hours, possibly even 10,000 hours. Pilots are being asked to remain operationally ready with aircraft that are well beyond their engineered limits.
Not only has time spent refining their skills in the air been reduced, but pilots are now limited by aging aircraft that could pose safety risks even outside of combat roles. â–ª
Lost and Found
Have you seen a pile of $230 million worth of spare vehicle parts? Lost somewhere in Afghanistan. If found, please contact the International Security Assistance Force office in Norfolk, Virginia. We are in the process of delivering another $130 milliion of the same parts and would like to save a few dollars if possible. Posted by: NATO.
Need a renovation/demolition contractor to fix or replace buildings that were built in recent years. We spent $1.5 billion on buildings that include insulation that turns out to be a fire hazard. Contact us with your details, offering a generous government contract. Posted by: US Army Corps of Engineers
The Army knowingly purchased nonfunctional incinerators for $11.5 million. So soldiers just burned refuse in open-air pits. Now soldiers are suing the Army, saying fumes from the pits damaged their lungs. Lawyer needed to defend the Army. Posted by: United States Army
In northern Baghdad? Contact us for a free prison. This $40 million modern detention facility includes cellblocks, offices, educational and vocational training spaces, watchtowers and walls. It needs some finishing touches and retrofitting for concrete that cracks easily, but is almost completely brand-new and unused. Posted by: US Army Corps of Engineers
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Not Much Bang for the Buck Richard Palmer / The Trumpet
America has the most expensive military in the world.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it has the strongest.
(July 2016 Edition) — How safe is the United States? Could it be defeated by a foreign nation?
Many would immediately answer “No.” The world’s top military spender, America accounts for over a third of global military expenditure — spending more than the next seven nations combined.
But does big spending buy invincibility? America is great at throwing money at problems, from health care to education. The question is, how is that money being spent?
A shocking amount of it is simply wasted. Exactly how much is unknown because the Pentagon has never been audited, but it is at least tens of billions.
However, the amount of money squandered is not the most dangerous part of the story. Instead, it is what this huge waste reveals about the people in charge of America’s security. A study of this waste reveals that a casual reliance on America’s massive defense establishment is dangerously flawed.
‘The System Is Broken’
The US 7th Fleet is the most powerful naval group at sea. Its 50 to 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and 20,000 Navy and Marine personnel protect America’s interests in the Pacific.
It was also all but hijacked by one foreign national.
That man is Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard.” He ran Glenn Defense Marine Asia, and used it to steal tens of millions from the US Navy.
GDMA has supplied husbanding services to the 7th Fleet for years. When warships dock, they need fuel, supplies and maintenance; they often need towing into dock and have to pay for the parking space. GDMA provided these services — at vastly inflated prices. In just five port visits in Thailand by US ships, Francis overbilled the Navy $3 million for fuel alone.
The worst part of the “Fat Leonard scandal,” as it is known, is how Francis evaded detection. He bribed the commander of a destroyer and the deputy logistics officer for the fleet with gifts, money and prostitutes. They passed on classified information on US ship movements. They even rerouted ships to stop at ports where Francis could overcharge the Navy.
Francis bribed a supervisory agent at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who helped thwart any investigations into his dealings.
If Francis had been working for a foreign power, instead of merely for money, this could have been not only a financial disaster but also a deadly tactical one.
Francis was arrested in September 2013, but the scandal’s fallout continues. Both the director of Naval Intelligence and the director of Intelligence Operations have had their access to classified material suspended. This has left America in the farcical situation where the man running the Navy’s secret operations isn’t trusted to read any secret material. In 2015, three other admirals were censured and retired.
“Managing the command structure at the top of the Navy has become a nightmare since the Justice Department began the investigation,” wrote Matthew Gault, cohost of Reuters’ military podcasts. “No one knows who will stay, who will retire, and who will go to jail” (April 13, 2015).
This affair is just one of several scandals the US military has suffered in the past decade. “For generations the Pentagon has run the world’s mightiest armed forces with inadequate budgetary oversight. The system is broken,” Gault wrote in 2013. “Something needs to change, and it needs to change yesterday. If it doesn’t, the Fat Leonard debacle — with its self-serving commanders, misspent millions and compromised military secrets — could become the norm” (Nov. 18, 2013).
Investigations and lawsuits are ongoing regarding Fat Leonard-like cases in the 5th and 6th Fleets (responsible for the Middle East and Europe). In 2013, the US government began investigating three Navy intelligence officers who charged $1.6 million for silencers that should have cost $8,000. Twin sisters reportedly collected $20 million over the course of six years, largely by fraud and abusing the system, through their company, c&D Distributors, which in one case charged half a million dollars to ship three screws to marines in Iraq.
This goes further than a few dodgy individuals: Giants of the US defense establishment are involved. In 2003, an Air Force undersecretary overpaid Boeing for a set of tanker planes. She soon quit her job and went to Boeing, with a six-figure salary.
Beyond the money wasted, what does it mean that the US military’s procurement system is “broken”? What else about the military is “broken”? If “self-serving commanders” could become the norm, how else will America be harmed?
‘We’re Going About This All Wrong’
The US spent a vast amount of money in Iraq and Afghanistan — the Congressional Research Service estimated $1.6 trillion. Time magazine estimated the long-term cost between $4 and $6 trillion. In these two countries, America was spending $20 billion a year just on air conditioning. That is larger than Italy’s entire defense budget for 2015.
The fact that Afghanistan is sliding back toward the Taliban and Iran is taking over Iraq raises the overarching question of just what those trillions of dollars purchased. But the figures on just the straight-up waste are also huge.
The bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan reported in 2011 that “[a]t least $31 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion, has been lost to contract waste and fraud” — just one narrow type of waste — in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One of the most notorious examples of waste was $36 million spent on a command facility in Afghanistan for 1,500 personnel that was never used. Three generals requested the project to be canceled, saying it was unnecessary, but they were overruled. When investigators looked into it, commanders told subordinates to obstruct the inquiry.
There’s plenty of Fat Leonard-style corruption too. Authorities identified $1 million in overpayments for fuel in a two-month period in Afghanistan. In 2014, $45.5 million went missing from salaries meant to be paid to Afghan police.
Besides the money spent directly on the invasion, the US poured $100 billion into reconstructing Afghanistan. That’s more than America spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe after World War II. Propublica estimated that $17 billion of that was wasted.
This includes a base that was never used, roads that quickly fell apart, and payments to nonexistent soldiers. Half a billion dollars went to cargo planes that were hardly used and then scrapped; $8 billion was spent on combating the drug trade, with no result.
In Iraq, the US spent $50 billion on reconstruction. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction estimated at least $8 billion of it was wasted.
John F. Sopko has worked hard to expose waste of these funds as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). In a speech last September, he talked about schools built with American money that were “literally crumbling and falling apart” and hospitals that “actually became unsafe because their electrical and water supply systems failed.”
One problem was investing in projects that would have been great in America but just didn’t work in Afghanistan. The US spent millions on hospitals that were too expensive for the Afghans to keep running. “This sort of thing happens in Afghanistan all the time,” he said.
“You would think after 13 years of these types of occurrences, and hundreds of cases of SIGAR pointing these problems out, that someone would wake up, look around, and say ‘You know what, folks? Maybe we’re going about this all wrong,'” Sopko continued.
He described how he had to work hard to persuade one military official not to build high-tech solar-powered lighting at bus stops. How’s that for a metaphor for Afghanistan: America’s generals want to build high-tech lighting for bus stops while the Taliban retake the country.
“[A]ll I am seeing is a modus operandi that is woefully out of touch at best, and delusional at worst,” Sopko warned. “We simply must be smarter.”
Again there is a hint of a deeper problem. If America’s chain of command is “delusional” about money, how effective is its decision-making in other areas?
The Defense Logistics Agency is responsible for buying supplies and ammunition. The DLA was recently exposed spending $7 billion on things it did not need. “How do you buy $7 billion of stuff you don’t need?” asked Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro (Ret.), who oversees a special task force on logistics for the Pentagon. “If a company did that, they’d be out of business. Even Walmart.”
Punaro said this wastage is common. “It has no sense of value or time,” he said. “No one in the Pentagon is looking for a bargain on most days. It’s a cultural thing. These are people that will ship a pallet of water on a C-17.”
Waste is epidemic in the military’s central bureaucracy. Between 2003 and 2011, for example, it managed to lose track of $6 billion worth of supplies. A 2013 Reuters special report stated: “Reuters has found that the Pentagon is largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn’t need and on storing others long out of date.
“It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn’t known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies” (Nov. 18, 2013).
In a private company, the Department of Defense method of accounting would be illegal. “Former military service officials say record keeping at the operational level throughout the services is rife with made-up numbers to cover lost or missing information,” wrote Reuters.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May 2011, “My staff and I learned that it was nearly impossible to get accurate information and answers to questions such as ‘How much money did you spend?’ and ‘How many people do you have?'”
In February this year, the Center for International Policy published a report by William D. Hartung outlining more than $33 billion in waste in just 27 instances since President Barack Obama took office.
The report is focused narrowly on waste. It doesn’t include expenses like the $360 million spent on weight-loss surgery for servicemen’s families, which would hardly seem to enhance the nation’s fighting ability.
The US military has major problems with the way it pays for weapons. For example, the government will often pay companies to fix their own manufacturing defects. As the Government Accountability Office put it, in one investigation into naval contracts, the Navy is “essentially rewarding the shipbuilder for delivering a ship that needed additional work.”
David W. Wise wrote on War Is Boring, “The Navy, like the other services, has proven itself incapable of running an effective weapons acquisition program in recent decades. Instead, the services pay increasingly more money for progressively fewer units that often fail to meet original specifications” (May 27).
In just about every project, costs rise while capabilities decrease. One notorious example is the Littoral Combat Ship. It was meant to cost $220 million per ship. The first cost triple that. The ships have almost universally bad reviews. They are lightly armored and lose to Chinese ships in just about every simulation.
Meanwhile, other firms are building useless weapons. For example, the Army spends around $200 million a year on M1 Abrams tanks that it doesn’t need and that go straight into storage. Why? The tank factory is in the district of the chairman of a key congressional subcommittee.
This isn’t an isolated example. Last December, the New York Times wrote that “[l]anguage inserted into the federal budget . . . directed the Coast Guard to build a $640 million national security cutter in Mississippi that the Coast Guard says it does not need” (Dec. 20, 2015). “I guess that is how it goes,” a spokesman for the Coast Guard said. “But we are good [without it].”
One senator wanted the cutter built in his state. In the same budget, another senator pushed for the Navy to be given $1 billion for a destroyer it didn’t ask for because the vessel was likely to be built in her state.
Worse, there is strong evidence that America’s weapons are designed primarily to be job creators, not war winners.
Franklin C. Spinney is famed for his criticism of US defense procurement. In an essay written back in 1990, he forecast, “The power politics practiced by the Pentagon and Congress continue to drag our nation deeper into a quagmire of spiraling weapons costs, shrinking forces, and high defense budgets.” Now that his predictions have come to pass, it’s clear he is worth listening to.
Spinney warned that “the needs of a coherent defense policy have been preempted by the selfish desires of its individual components.” This selfishness is at the heart of his critique. The Pentagon and defense companies engage in what he calls “political engineering.” “Political engineering is the strategy of spreading dollars, jobs and profits to as many important congressional districts as possible,” he wrote.
“By designing overly complex weapons, then spreading subcontracts, jobs and profits all over the country, the political engineers in the Defense Department deliberately magnify the power of these forces to punish Congress should it subsequently try to reduce defense spending by terminating major procurement programs.”
This seems to explain the problems with the F-35 fighter jet. With a price tag around $1.5 trillion, it is the most expensive weapons system in history. It is also the future of US airpower: If all goes to plan, the majority of the US military’s planes will be F-35s. Yet the F-35 is commonly criticized for being overly complex.
A single unnecessary system — one designed to make it easier to order spare parts — leaves the entire program so vulnerable to hacking that a cyberattack could ground the whole fleet. Meanwhile, experts say Congress is unlikely to kill the program because politicians are worried about the jobs that would be lost in key districts.
There may be legitimate reasons for not canceling the F-35 program. But that decision should revolve around military consequences, not jobs.
These tactics also seem to prevail for America’s newest stealth bomber, the B-21. “By publicly announcing some of the program’s subcontractors, officials have tied the program to specific congressional districts, making it difficult for members of Congress with plants in their districts to oppose or criticize the program for legitimate military and budget reasons without also seeming to act against their districts’ interests,” reported the Project for Government Oversight in March.
The wastage and incompetence in America’s defense contracts represent more than merely a financial problem. Yes, America may have spent billions on useless roads or crumbling hospitals — but the same forces behind those purchases could have pushed the US into spending $1.5 trillion, and betting its future, on a flawed plane.
A Deadly Weakness
When decisions about the military are being made with jobs, Congressional seats and career advancements as the top priority, America’s security is dramatically undermined.
Defense wastage exposes a rot at the heart of the military. Who knows the exact reason each military official signed off on billions of useless projects in Afghanistan or bought equipment that is not needed.
But the same factors that lead to these decisions — lack of thought, lack of interest, bureaucratic red tape, the inability of different departments to talk to each other — are undoubtedly behind other bad decisions. Misspending is a quantifiable symptom that points to a much deeper sickness.
American military decision-makers around the world, from Afghanistan to Congress, have taken their eye off the ball. For some, their goal is personal gain. For others, it’s not rocking the boat. For others, it’s reelection. Too few have defending America from potential enemies as their top priority. This is the biggest reason why the shocking military waste matters.
America used to produce cutting-edge military technology at good prices. God blessed America, but no longer. In fact, the curse described in Leviticus 26:20 — directed to the ungodly and disobedient modern-day descendants of ancient Israel, of whom America is chief — well applies: “And your strength shall be SPENT IN VAIN.”
We see this in many ways — the fruitless military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. This massive waste is both a natural result of failed leadership and also a result of this curse. The preceding verse says God “will break the pride of your power.” These verses describe a nation with ample “strength” and “power,” but it is incapable of using it effectively.
When America was blessed, God said He made it so that “ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword” (verse 7). One way He did that was by blessing the nation with skilled innovators and manufacturers, allowing the nation to have its technological edge.
America still has an edge here. But too few in the military take the potential for a major war seriously. The result is a bloated system that hemorrhages money and leaves this apparently invincible nation dangerously insecure.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Victory Assured on the Military’s Main Battlefield — Washington Tom Englehardt / TomDispatch
(June 16, 2016) — When it comes to Pentagon weapons systems, have you ever heard of cost “underruns”? I think not. Cost overruns? They turn out to be the unbreachable norm, as they seem to have been from time immemorial. In 1982, for example, the Pentagon announced that the cumulative cost of its 44 major weapons programs had experienced a “record” increase of $114.5 billion.
Three decades later, in the spring of 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the military’s major programs to develop new weapons systems — by then 80 of them — were a cumulative half-trillion dollars over their initial estimated price tags and on average more than two years delayed.
A year after, the GAO found that 47 of those programs had again increased in cost (to the cumulative tune of $27 billion) while the average time for delivering them had suffered another month’s delay (although the Pentagon itself swore otherwise).
And little seems to have changed since then — not exactly a surprise given that this has long been standard operating procedure for a Pentagon that has proven adamantly incapable not just of passing an audit but even of doing one. What we’re talking about here is, in fact, more like a way of life.
As TomDispatch regular William Hartung has written, the Pentagon regularly takes “active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year — from using the separate ‘war budget’ as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret.”
When it comes to those cost overruns, Exhibit A is incontestably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane whose total acquisition costs were pegged at $233 billion back in 2001. That price now: an estimated $1.4 trillion for far fewer planes. (Even the F-35 pilot’s helmet costs $400,000 apiece.)
In other words, though in test flights it has failed to outperform the F-16, a plane it is supposed to replace, it will be, hands down (or flaps up), the most expensive weapons system in history — at least until the next Pentagon doozy comes along.
Today, Andrew Cockburn, whose recent book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (just out in paperback), is a devastating account of how US drone warfare really works, suggests that this is anything but a matter of Pentagon bungling. Quite the opposite, it’s strategy of the first order.
The Pentagon’s Real $trategy:
Keeping the Money Flowing Andrew Cockburn / TomDispatch
(June 16, 2016) — These days, lamenting the apparently aimless character of Washington’s military operations in the Greater Middle East has become conventional wisdom among administration critics of every sort.
Senator John McCain thunders that “this president has no strategy to successfully reverse the tide of slaughter and mayhem” in that region. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies bemoans the “lack of a viable and public strategy.” Andrew Bacevich suggests that “there is no strategy. None. Zilch.”
After 15 years of grinding war with no obvious end in sight, US military operations certainly deserve such obloquy. But the pundit outrage may be misplaced. Focusing on Washington rather than on distant war zones, it becomes clear that the military establishment does indeed have a strategy, a highly successful one, which is to protect and enhance its own prosperity.
Given this focus, creating and maintaining an effective fighting force becomes a secondary consideration, reflecting a relative disinterest — remarkable to outsiders — in the actual business of war, as opposed to the business of raking in dollars for the Pentagon and its industrial and political partners.
A key element of the strategy involves seeding the military budget with “development” projects that require little initial outlay but which, down the line, grow irreversibly into massive, immensely profitable production contracts for our weapons-making cartels.
If this seems like a startling proposition, consider, for instance, the Air Force’s determined and unyielding efforts to jettison the A-10 Thunderbolt, widely viewed as the most effective means for supporting troops on the ground, while ardently championing the sluggish, vastly overpriced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that, among myriad other deficiencies, cannot fly within 25 miles of a thunderstorm.
No less telling is the Navy’s ongoing affection for budget-busting programs such as aircraft carriers, while maintaining its traditional disdain for the unglamorous and money-poor mission of minesweeping, though the mere threat of enemy mines in the 1991 Gulf War (as in the Korean War decades earlier) stymied plans for major amphibious operations. Examples abound across all the services.
Meanwhile, ongoing and dramatic programs to invest vast sums in meaningless, useless, or superfluous weapons systems are the norm. There is no more striking example of this than current plans to rebuild the entire American arsenal of nuclear weapons in the coming decades, Obama’s staggering bequest to the budgets of his successors.
Taking Nuclear Weapons to the Bank
These nuclear initiatives have received far less attention than they deserve, perhaps because observers are generally loath to acknowledge that the Cold War and its attendant nuclear terrors, supposedly consigned to the ashcan of history a quarter-century ago, are being revived on a significant scale.
The US is currently in the process of planning for the construction of a new fleet of nuclear submarines loaded with new intercontinental nuclear missiles, while simultaneously creating a new land-based intercontinental missile, a new strategic nuclear bomber, a new land-and-sea-based tactical nuclear fighter plane, a new long-range nuclear cruise missile (which, as recently as 2010, the Obama administration explicitly promised not to develop), at least three nuclear warheads that are essentially new designs, and new fuses for existing warheads.
In addition, new nuclear command-and-control systems are under development for a fleet of satellites (costing up to $1 billion each) designed to make the business of fighting a nuclear war more practical and manageable.
This massive nuclear buildup, routinely promoted under the comforting rubric of “modernization,” stands in contrast to the president’s lofty public ruminations on the topic of nuclear weapons. The most recent of these was delivered during his visit — the first by an American president — to Hiroshima last month. There, he urged “nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles” to “have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”
In reality, that “logic of fear” suggests that there is no way to “fight” a nuclear war, given the unforeseeable but horrific effects of these immensely destructive weapons. They serve no useful purpose beyond deterring putative opponents from using them, for which an extremely limited number would suffice.
During the Berlin crisis of 1961, for example, when the Soviets possessed precisely four intercontinental nuclear missiles, White House planners seriously contemplated launching an overwhelming nuclear strike on the USSR.
It was, they claimed, guaranteed to achieve “victory.” As Fred Kaplan recounts in his book Wizards of Armageddon, the plan’s advocates conceded that the Soviets might, in fact, be capable of managing a limited form of retaliation with their few missiles and bombers in which as many as three million Americans could be killed, whereupon the plan was summarily rejected.
In other words, in the Cold War as today, the idea of “nuclear war-fighting” could not survive scrutiny in a real-world context. Despite this self-evident truth, the US military has long been the pioneer in devising rationales for fighting such a war via ever more “modernized” weapons systems.
Thus, when first introduced in the early 1960s, the Navy’s invulnerable Polaris-submarine-launched intercontinental missiles — entirely sufficient in themselves as a deterrent force against any potential nuclear enemy — were seen within the military as an attack on Air Force operations and budgets.
The Air Force responded by conceiving and successfully selling the need for a full-scale, land-based missile force as well, one that could more precisely target enemy missiles in what was termed a “counterforce” strategy.
The drive to develop and build such systems on the irrational pretense that nuclear war fighting is a practical proposition persists today. One component of the current “modernization” plan is the proposed development of a new “dial-a-yield” version of the venerable B-61 nuclear bomb.
Supposedly capable of delivering explosions of varying strength according to demand, this device will, at least theoretically, be guidable to its target with high degrees of accuracy and will also be able to burrow deep into the earth to destroy buried bunkers. The estimated bill — $11 billion — is a welcome boost for the fortunes of the Sandia and Los Alamos weapons laboratories that are developing it.
The ultimate cost of this new nuclear arsenal in its entirety is essentially un-knowable. The only official estimate we have so far came from the Congressional Budget Office, which last year projected a total of $350 billion.
That figure, however, takes the “modernization” program only to 2024 — before, that is, most of the new systems move from development to actual production and the real bills for all of this start thudding onto taxpayers’ doormats.
This year, for instance, the Navy is spending a billion and a half dollars in research and development funds on its new missile submarine, known only as the SSBN(X). Between 2025 and 2035, however, annual costs for that program are projected to run at $10 billion a year. Similar escalations are in store for the other items on the military’s impressive nuclear shopping list.
Assiduously tabulating these projections, experts at the Monterey Center for Nonproliferation Studies peg the price of the total program at a trillion dollars. In reality, though, the true bill that will come due over the next few decades will almost certainly be multiples of that.
For example, the Air Force has claimed that its new B-21 strategic bombers will each cost more than $564 million (in 2010 dollars), yet resolutely refuses to release its secret internal estimates for the ultimate cost of the program.
To offer a point of comparison, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the tactical nuclear bomber previously mentioned, was originally touted as costing no more than $35 million per plane. In fact, it will actually enter service with a sticker price well in excess of $200 million.
Nor does that trillion-dollar figure take into account the inevitable growth of America’s nuclear “shield.” Nowadays, the excitement and debate once generated by President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” scheme to build a defense system of anti-missile missiles and other devices against a nuclear attack is long gone. (The idea for such a defense, in fact, dates back to the 1950s, but Reagan boosted it to prominence.)
Nevertheless, missile defense still routinely soaks up some $10 billion of our money annually, even though it is known to have no utility whatsoever.
“We have nothing to show for it,” Tom Christie, the former director of the Pentagon’s testing office, told me recently. “None of the interceptors we currently have in silos waiting to shoot down enemy missiles have ever worked in tests.”
Even so, the US is busy constructing more anti-missile bases across Eastern Europe. As our offensive nuclear programs are built up in the years to come, almost certainly eliciting a response from Russia and China, the pressure for a costly expansion of our nuclear “defenses” will surely follow.
The Bow-Wave Strategy
It’s easy enough to find hypocrisy in President Obama’s mellifluous orations on abolishing nuclear weapons given the trillion-dollar-plus nuclear legacy he will leave in his wake.
The record suggests, however, that faced with the undeviating strategic thinking of the military establishment and its power to turn desires into policy, he has simply proven as incapable of altering the Washington system as his predecessors in the Oval Office were or as his successors are likely to be.
Inside the Pentagon, budget planners and weapons-buyers talk of the “bow wave,” referring to the process by which current research and development initiatives, initially relatively modest in cost, invariably lock in commitments to massive spending down the road. Traditionally, such waves start to form at times when the military is threatened with possible spending cutbacks due to the end of a war or some other budgetary crisis.
Former Pentagon analyst Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, who spent years observing and chronicling the phenomenon from the inside, recalls an early 1970s bow wave at a time when withdrawal from Vietnam appeared to promise a future of reduced defense spending.
The military duly put in place an ambitious “modernization” program for new planes, ships, tanks, satellites, and missiles. Inevitably, when it came time to actually buy all those fancy new systems, there was insufficient money in the defense budget.
Accordingly, the high command cut back on spending for “readiness”; that is, for maintaining existing weapons in working order, training troops, and similar mundane activities. This had the desired effect — at least from the point of view of Pentagon — of generating a raft of media and congressional horror stories about the shocking lack of preparedness of our fighting forces and the urgent need to boost its budget.
In this way, the hapless Jimmy Carter, elected to the presidency on a promise to rein in defense spending, found himself, in Spinney’s phrase, “mousetrapped,” and eventually unable to resist calls for bigger military budgets.
This pattern would recur at the beginning of the 1990s when the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War superpower military confrontation seemed at an end. The result was the germination of ultimately budget-busting weapons systems like the Air Force’s F-35 and F-22 fighters.
It happened again when pullbacks from Iraq and Afghanistan in Obama’s first term led to mild military spending cuts. As Spinney points out, each successive bow wave crests at a higher level, while military budget cuts due to wars ending and the like become progressively more modest.
The latest nuclear buildup is only the most glaring and egregious example of the present bow wave that is guaranteed to grow to monumental proportions long after Obama has retired to full-time speechmaking. The cost of the first of the Navy’s new Ford Class aircraft carriers, for example, has already grown by 20% to $13 billion with more undoubtedly to come.
The “Third Offset Strategy,” a fantasy-laden shopping list of robot drones and “centaur” (half-man, half-machine) weapons systems, assiduously touted by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, is similarly guaranteed to expand stunningly beyond the $3.6 billion allotted to its development next year.
Faced with such boundlessly ambitious raids on the public purse, no one should claim a “lack of strategy” as a failing among our real policymakers, even if all that planning has little or nothing to do with distant war zones where Washington’s conflicts smolder relentlessly on.
Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years. In addition to numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis, American Casino. His latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (just out in paperback).
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2016 Andrew Cockburn
Copyright 2016 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
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Omar Mateen made Facebook posts before and during his attack that killed 49 people at gay nightclub Pulse on Sunday morning. Mateen blamed US airstrikes on the death of ‘innocent women and children.’
He then wrote: ‘Now taste the Islamic state of vengeance’ and pledged his allegiance to the leader of ISIS.
Orlando Terrorist’s Chilling Facebook
Posts from Inside Club Revealed Malia Zimmerman / FoxNews.com
(June 15, 2016) — In the hours after he blasted his way into an Orlando gay nightclub, and with his victims lying dead or wounded around him, Omar Mateen took to Facebook to pledge his loyalty to ISIS and threaten more attacks on the civilized world, a key lawmaker privy to the gunman’s posts told FoxNews.com Wednesday.
Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded 53 inside Pulse early Sunday, died when a SWAT team stormed the club. But in the roughly four hours between his initial rampage and his death, the 29-year-old radicalized Muslim broadcast his twisted message of hate on social media, according to Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. (Click here to read Sen. Johnson’s letter to Facebook.)
“I pledge my alliance to (ISIS leader) abu bakr al Baghdadi..may Allah accept me,” Mateen wrote in one post early Sunday morning. “The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west” . . .”You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes . . . now taste the Islamic state vengeance.”
Mateen’s social media accounts were taken down before they could be widely viewed by the public, but Johnson’s committee investigators have uncovered some or all of them. The senator has also written a letter to Facebook executives expressing concern about Mateen’s postings and asking for more information on his activities.
“It is my understanding that Omar Mateen used Facebook before and during the attack to search for and post terrorism-related content,” read Johnson’s letter. “According to information obtained by my staff, five Facebook accounts were apparently associated with Omar Mateen.”
The posts uncovered by Johnson’s committee shed light on Mateen’s actions in the hours that followed his 2 a.m. raid on the nightclub. Mateen, armed with a Sig Sauer MCX assault rifle and a handgun, shot his way past an off-duty cop and sprayed bullets throughout the club, which was packed with more than 300 revelers when he arrived.
Some escaped, many died or were wounded and scores more waited out the horrific ordeal, knowing each moment could be their last.
As survivors cowered in darkened rooms, praying and texting police and relatives, Mateen accessed his Facebook account to search for media reports, using search words such as “Pulse Orlando” and “Shooting.” An FBI source told FoxNews.com he also made 16 phone calls from inside the club after the bloody spree began. Investigators are tracking down each of the recipients of those calls.
Mateen proclaimed his hatred for Westerners in one Facebook post uncovered by Johnson’s committee.
“America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic state,” Mateen wrote.
In his final post, Mateen made an ominous prediction: “In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic state in the usa.”
Besides looking for information on himself, Johnson noted Mateen used Facebook to search for information on the jihadist couple behind the Dec. 2 San Bernardino attack, used the search term “Baghdadi Speech,” and scouted for posts by local law enforcement and FBI, Johnson told FoxNews.com.
Johnson called on Facebook to hand over all information the company has on Mateen for review and to brief his committee on all of Mateen’s activity logs, Facebook timeline information, Facebook messages, photos, and posts by June 29.
Facebook officials confirmed to FoxNews.com they have received Johnson’s letter.
(June 15, 2016) — The Orlando gunman who killed 49 people at a gay club wrote a series of Facebook posts before and during the attack raging against the ‘filthy ways of the west’.
Omar Mateen blamed US airstrikes for the death of ‘innocent women and children’, writing ‘now taste the Islamic state of vengeance’ on the same morning he fired shots into Pulse nightclub.
Mateen’s final post was a warning: ‘In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic state in the usa’.
The Facebook posts were revealed in a letter sent by the Senate Homeland Security Committee to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that requested additional information on Mateen’s online activity.
Johnson revealed in the letter that Mateen, 29, searched for ‘Pulse Orlando’ and ‘Shooting’ during the attacks to see if news of his massacre had begun to reach the media.
In another post he pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, also writing ‘America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic state’ and ‘may Allah accept me’.
Johnson said his staff had also learned that Mateen used Facebook to search for information on the San Bernardino shooters just two days before the attack on Pulse. He also searched ‘Baghdadi Speech’ and searched for specific law enforcement offices.
Johnson said the committee had learned of five Facebook accounts associated with Mateen, and requested access to the activity logs, timeline information, messages, photos and posts.
The senator also asked that the company arrange a briefing with the committee by June 29 on the information ‘available to Facebook prior to and during this terrorist attack’.
It has also been revealed that Mateen called a local news station in the middle of the attacks to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.
Local news network Bright House cable News 13 was covering the horrific attack when a producer received a chilling phone call at 2.45am – around 45 minutes after the mass shooting began.
I’m the shooter. It’s me. I am the shooter,’ the caller told the network’s stunned Matthew Gentili. Mateen then announced that he was carrying out the atrocity in the name of ISIS.
‘He did it for ISIS, and he started speaking Arabic,’ Gentili said. ‘At the time, I didn’t know what he was saying. He was speaking so fast. But it was . . . he was speaking fluently.’
The TV producer said he had answered the phone to hear the caller ask: ‘Do you know about the shooting?’
After Gentili confirmed that he did, Mateen told him that he was the shooter and that he was carrying out the attack ‘for ISIS’ before lapsing into Arabic.
Gentili asked the caller to speak in English, and then Mateen once again pledged allegiance to the terrorist group. ‘I did it for ISIS,’ he said. ‘I did it for the Islamic State.’
Gentili said he then asked where the caller was, who told him it was ‘none of my f***ing business.’
Finally, the producer asked if there was anything else Mateen wanted to say.
‘He said no and hung up the phone,’ Gentili said. ‘I will never forget the words he said to me.’
Mateen, an American of Afghan descent who the FBI believes was radicalized online, burst into the Pulse nightclub armed with a .223 caliber AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun just after 2am Sunday. His rampage came to an end three hours later, when police shot him dead.
Mateen, who was probed in recent years for suspected extremism, is believed to have made the phone call to News 13 while he was holed up in the nightclub’s bathroom with hostages. It followed a call he had made to 911 where Mateen once again pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
He had also called a friend to say goodbye during the attack, according to law enforcement officials. The FBI are speaking to the recipient but have not released any further details about what was said during the phone call.
The agency has since pleaded for the public’s help to reconstruct Mateen’s movement in the hours leading up to the attack.
‘We need your help in developing the most complete picture of what he did and why he did it,’ FBI agent Ron Hopper said at a news conference.
It has since been revealed that Mateen visited Disney Springs, an outdoor restaurant, retail and entertainment complex at Walt Disney World, on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the FBI is still trying to establish how much Mateen’s wife may have know about the attack. An official who was briefed on the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation said authorities believe 30-year-old Noor Salman, an American of Pakistani descent, knew ahead of time about Mateen’s plan.
Investigators have spoken extensively with her and are working to establish whether she recently accompanied Mateen to the club, said a second official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
US Attorney Lee Bentley repeatedly refused to say whether charges might be brought against the wife or anyone else.
He said authorities are talking to hundreds of people and investigating everyone associated with Mateen, including family, friends and business associates.
Salman has been in seclusion for days.
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US Clears Soldiers Accused of Killing 7 in Afghanistan teleSURtv
(June 2, 2016) — The US Department of Defense absolved soldiers involved in the deaths of seven civilians, including two pregnant women, an investigation by The Intercept revealed Wednesday.
The report from The Intercept came as a result of a freedom of information request that revealed that the Pentagon found the soldiers followed the rules of engagement and therefore they did not warrant any disciplinary measures.
According to those documents, the Department of Defense found that “the amount of force utilized was necessary, proportional and applied at appropriate time” but did mention that “tactical mistakes” were made.
The incident in question happened in February 2010 in the Paktia province, Afghanistan. Shortly after the incident, a press release published by NATO said the soldiers happened upon the bodies of civilians after a gun battle with alleged Taliban combatants.
Witnesses, however, told a very different story.
What the US and NATO claimed was a “Taliban compound” turned out the be the family estate of Mohammed Daoud Sharabuddin.
Daoud was a police officer who worked closely with US forces in Afghanistan.
According to The Intercept, family and friends of Daoud had gathered at his home to celebrate a newborn son.
Daoud was reportedly the first person shot. He had exited his home thinking that the estate was under attack by the Taliban due to his association with the National Police. The Defense Department report would justify his killing by claiming he showed “hostile intent” by emerging with a rifle.
Ultimately the massacre would take seven lives.
NATO was eventually forced to retract its statement that the women had been killed as part of a so-called honor killing.
Witnesses said that the soldiers allegedly engaged in behavior suggesting they were trying to cover up their actions.
“They were taking out the bullets from their bodies to remove the proof of their crime,” one witness told The Intercept.
The investigation concluded that this did not occur, but the section detailing that allegation was heavily redacted, purportedly for national security reasons.
The Intercept spoke with the family elder, a man named Hajji Sharabuddin, who told them they did not accept the apology from the US government.
“Initially, we were thinking that Americans were the friends of Afghans, but now we think that Americans themselves are terrorists. Americans are our enemy. They bring terror and destruction. Americans not only destroyed my house, they destroyed my family,” said Sharabuddin.
(June 1, 2016) — An internal Defense Department investigation into one of the most notorious night raids conducted by special operations forces in Afghanistan — in which seven civilians were killed, including two pregnant women — determined that all the US soldiers involved had followed the rules of engagement.
As a result, the soldiers faced no disciplinary measures, according to hundreds of pages of Defense Department documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act.
In the aftermath of the raid, Adm. William McRaven, at the time the commander of the elite Joint Special Operations Command, took responsibility for the operation. The documents made no unredacted mention of JSOC.
Although two children were shot during the raid and multiple witnesses and Afghan investigators alleged that US soldiers dug bullets out of the body of at least one of the dead pregnant women, Defense Department investigators concluded that “the amount of force utilized was necessary, proportional and applied at appropriate time.”
The investigation did acknowledge that “tactical mistakes” were made.
The Defense Department’s conclusions bear a resemblance to US Central Command’s findings in the aftermath of the horrifying attack on a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October in which 42 patients and medical workers were killed in a sustained barrage of strikes by an AC-130.
The Pentagon has announced that no criminal charges will be brought against any members of the military for the Kunduz strike. CENTCOM’s Kunduz investigation concluded that “the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures.” CENTCOM denied the attack constituted a war crime, a claim challenged by international law experts and MSF.
Although two children were shot during the raid and multiple witnesses and Afghan investigators alleged that US soldiers dug bullets out of the body of at least one of the dead pregnant women, Defense Department investigators concluded that “the amount of force utilized was necessary, proportional and applied at appropriate time.” The investigation did acknowledge that “tactical mistakes” were made. . . .
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US Making a Deadly Mistake in Afghanistan, Says Former Diplomat Charles Davis / teleSURtv
(June 11, 2016) — Matthew Hoh resigned from the State Department in 2009 to protest the US war in Afghanistan. He says Obama is making the same mistakes today.
The war that Barack Obama promised to end two years ago is instead being expanded again, with reports of more airstrikes and ground combat to come, and a former top State Department official who resigned the last time the US president surged in Afghanistan says all the latest escalation will achieve is a longer war with a lot more dead.
Last year was the worst year on record for Afghan civilians, according to the United Nations: at least 3,545 innocent men, women and children were killed and another 7,457 injured, beating the previous worst year on record since the United States invaded in 2001 — the one before.
A change, then, is needed, but the definition of idiocy is US military policy, so the change that is coming is more of the same militarism that brought us to where we are today: renewed airstrikes against the Taliban insurgency and more deployments of US troops on the frontlines.
“The renewed airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan will have the same effect as the thousands and thousands of previous airstrikes we have conducted against the Afghan insurgency,” said Matthew Hoh, a former US diplomat in Afghanistan who resigned from his post in 2009 to protest the war.
By that time, President Obama had deployed 30,000 more troops since taking office to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban; six weeks after Hoh quit, Obama sent another 30,000, roughly tripling the size of the US occupation he inherited from President George W. Bush.
(Feb 16, 2016) — A United Nations report says more than 11000 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in 2015. Vanessa Johnston reports.
The number of US troops in Afghanistan has since declined from a high of around 100,000 to just under 10,000 today, not counting private contractors. But the mission Obama pledged to bring to an end by 2014 is now indefinite, and with US troops now being empowered to call in even more airstrikes than they had before, it’s likely any more ground troops that do come home will be replaced by manned and remote-controlled aircraft.
“American airstrikes will make for triumphant press releases from the US military in Kabul,” Hoh told teleSUR, “and it will kill many Taliban fighters, and also many civilians, but strategically and long term the airstrikes will not significantly weaken the Taliban.”
In fact, more bombs — like the ones that fell on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz last year, killing over 40 people — may only help the insurgency even as it eliminates insurgents “by providing more public support to them due to the civilian casualties the airstrikes cause.”
Hoh sees the US committing the same mistakes he’s seen time and again before. “Under General (David) Petraeus, starting in 2010, the US initiated scores of airstrikes, as well as dozens of nighttime commando raids, daily against Afghan insurgent targets,” he recalled. “Many of these strikes hit legitimate targets, but many more of them hit civilians. The surge in increase of public support for the Taliban in areas of the air and commando strikes is undeniable.”
It’s not that most Afghans particularly like the fundamentalist militants of the Taliban, nor do they look back with fondness on the austere if stable brand of state-enforced Islam that the Taliban imposed when in power.
It’s just that some prefer the enemy they know to the enemy from abroad that kills them with anonymity at night, and often from above, and the enemy of thy enemy often becomes a temporary ally, tragicomic myopia not limited to US policymakers backing warlords and calling them a government.
It’s for the same reason that some Afghans may prefer the foreign occupiers to the insurgents responsible for the majority of civilian deaths: the foe who hurt you last encourages friendship with whoever’s promsing to harm them next. And when one side escalates the alienating violence the other tends to respond in kind, and the cycle continues until the next president takes office.
All signs are that the cycle will continue. No one who stands a chance of winning the race for White House is calling for an end to the 15 years of failure. From Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump, the consensus is the same as it ever was: perpetual occupation for peace and security that’s always just around the corner, if we’d only be patient.
“The US does not have a strategy,” Hoh said, at least not “in any way that any person who has ever put together a plan of action or strategy for a business, construction project or even a kids’ soccer game would expect.” Rather, he argued, “the US is simply reacting to events.”
And for every US reaction over the last decade and a half, there has been an equal and opposite action from the Afghan insurgency. For the country to fulfill its progressive potential, those with power — and troops and drones — will have to decide it is the time for the deadly cycle of idiocy to stop.
Charles Davis is an editor at teleSUR. Follow him on Twitter: @charliearchy
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World’s Largest Cemetery Receives ‘100 Bodies a Day’ from Fighting in Iraq Alex MacDonald / Middle East Eye
NAJAF, Iraq (June 11, 2016) — As far as the eye can see, gravestones, tombs and Shia icons stretch out amid the baking summer heat. This is the Al-Salam Valley cemetery, the largest in the world, in Iraq’s Najaf province.
As casualties increase in the fight to retake the Islamic State (IS) bastion of Fallujah, 200km to the south, gravedigger Hamid al-Wad says he has been busy interring the dead from the battlefield.
“In my office, I’ve had an increase of 13 or 14 bodies a day, but the cemetery as a whole receives more than 100 fighters daily,” al-Wad told Middle East Eye.
He is one of a group of gravediggers at the cemetery, founded 1,400 years ago and said to contain the remains of about five million people buried across six square kilometres.
The fighting between IS and the Iraqi army and its allies has led to a rising death toll across the country.
Al-Wad said the bodies of recently slain fighters come from not only Fallujah but also from “Saqlawiyah, Jurf al-Sakhar and Ramadi”.
The Iraqi government does not release figures of those killed in the fighting, but a member of the security forces posted outside the cemetery told AFP that as of 1 June, more than 70 “martyrs” from the Fallujah operation had been buried.
Joel Wing, editor of the Musings on Iraq blog, said the government had an official policy of not releasing such figures in order to “keep up morale”.
Fighting around Fallujah has been intense since the Iraq army, allied Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) and the US-led anti-IS coalition, launched their assault on the city a fortnight ago, and the death toll has been mounting.
A visit to any of the shrines that are dotted around Iraq will often coincide with mass mourning for new “martyrs”. Draped in the Iraqi flag, men say prayers for the dead only metres away from the tombs of ancient fallen heroes of Shia tradition including Ali, Hussein and Abbas.
The vast fields of markers, gravestones, tombs and icons of the Al-Salam Valley are testament to the sacrifices made by Shia Iraqis to protect their country and their religious beliefs, which they fear are threatened by IS’s intolerant Sunni fundamentalism.
As it is located near the shrine of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and second-most revered figure in Shia Islam, many want to be buried in the cemetery.
Among the most-visited graves are those of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, killed in an ambush in 1999, whose son Moqtada al-Sadr would in 2004 seize the Imam Ali shrine in defiance of the US occupation authorities.
Despite the huge expanse of the graveyard, there are now signs that plots — particularly in the most prized spots closer to the Imam Ali shrine — are beginning to run out.
The price of plots in the graveyard has risen from about $1,500 for 500 square feet in 1991 to more than $10,000.
Though the Iraqi government has been keen to portray the fight against IS as a struggle against religious intolerance — and highlight the multi-faith nature of the army and militias — for many of those fighting, the war has a distinctly religious and messianic edge.
Ahmed Hassan Khaled Salah, a former biology student and now a fighter with the Abbas Battalion PMU, told MEE that the defeat of IS would coincide with the return of the Shia saviour known as the Mahdi.
“One year, that is enough, and we are waiting on one person,” he said. “His name is the Mahdi. We are waiting on him and when he comes we will start fighting with him, God willing.”
“We are defending our religion, but we prioritise defending our nation,” he added.
The names of the numerous militias suggest a distinctly Shia Islamic flavour to the conflict.
The Abbas Battalion was founded by the Abbas shrine in Karbala after a call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for units to form and fight against IS. The likes of Kataeb Hezbollah (Party of God Battalions), the Ali Akbar Brigades, Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas, the Mahdi Army and others all denote the leanings of those involved in the fighting.
The development of Shia identity, which accelerated after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, has fed growing concerns that Islam’s largest minority group — which makes up as much as 13 percent of the world’s Muslims — is under concerted attack from the Sunni majority in the region.
“The truth is always targeted,” said Ahmed Hassan, the former biology student. “No one wants the truth to prevail.”
The millions of bodies that reside in Al-Salam Valley testify to the fervour with which Iraqi’s Shia espouse their faith and their desire to be buried near their religious forebears.
Its continuing expansion is also a memorial to the hundreds of thousands who have died since 2003 at the hands of the US occupation forces, former Baathists, in inter-sectarian warfare and fighting against IS.
The graveyard is not likely to lose its appeal as the burial site of choice for Shia, but many may hope that when the war against IS is finally over, the influx of bodies might slow for the first time in many years.
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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Call for Bombing ISIS
After Orlando Shooting That ISIS Didn’t Direct Zaid Jilani / The Intercept
(June 13 2016) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reacted to the Orlando shooting with evidence that they can agree on at least one thing: bombing people. Both candidates called for an escalation of the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
“We have generals that feel we can win this thing so fast and so strong, but we have to be furious for a short period of time, and we’re not doing it!” Trump complained on Fox & Friends Monday morning.
“Are you saying hit Raqqa right now?” asked host Brian Kilmeade. “We’re going to have to start thinking about something,” Trump replied.
Along the same lines, Clinton suggested during her post-Orlando speech Monday afternoon that “We should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign.”
Both candidates neglected to consider that no operational links between ISIS and the alleged Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, have been discovered. While Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly before the attacks, he had reportedly previously claimed connections to two groups that oppose ISIS: the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah and al Qaeda.
And neither explained how escalating bombardments in Iraq and Syria would do anything to stop self-radicalized and/or unhinged attackers in the United States.
If ISIS is not doing anything to help coordinate or assist these sorts of mass killings, then destroying it — even if that were possible — wouldn’t make any difference.
And even if you blame ISIS for “inspiring” such attacks, the fact remains that there are any number of extremist ideologies that a deranged would-be killer could derive inspiration from — and you cannot bomb them all.
Clinton’s and Trump’s gusto about doubling down on what the United States is already doing — the US-led coalition has conducted over 12,000 airstrikes against ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria — was echoed by sitting lawmakers.
“We’ve got to be willing to take the battle to ISIS. Right now, they’re taking the battle to us, and yesterday it was in Orlando,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reviving the Bush-era slogan: “Fight them there, so we don’t have to fight them here.”
“The reality is, what we need to do is we need to take the fight to the terrorists on their doorstep. Whether it’s ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, we need to be there,” Rep. Bill Hurd, R-Texas, told CNBC on Monday morning.
But the record shows that, if anything, US military engagements in the Middle East drive recruits to extremist organizations, rather than away. Even Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon worried about that.
(June 14, 2016) — The man who shot over 100 people and killed 49 in an Orlando nightclub Saturday worked at a retirement home as a security guard for G4S — a giant, often controversial global contracting corporation that provides mercenary forces, prison guards and security services.
G4S is one of the world’s largest private security companies, with more than 620,000 employees and a presence in over 100 countries.
G4S confirmed in a statement that Omar Mateen had worked for the company since 2007, and said it was “shocked and saddened” by the shooting. A later statement said that Mateen was subject to “detailed company screening” in 2007 and again in 2013, “with no adverse findings.”
But one of Mateen’s former coworkers told the New York Times that he “saw it coming,” that Mateen “talked about killing people all the time,” and that he was “always angry, sweating, just angry at the world.”
The coworker, who said he quit his job due to harassment from Mateen, explained that he “complained multiple times” to G4S, because Mateen didn’t like “blacks, women, lesbians, and Jews.”
Yet G4S continued to employ Mateen, who was able to obtain a “security officer” license to buy firearms in addition to his state license and conceal carry permit.
Mateen was even allowed to work at G4S while under FBI investigation. According to the FBI, Mateen was suspected of involvement in terror in 2013. The FBI investigation included the use of paid informants, recording conversations, following him, electronic surveillance, and interviewing him three times, FBI Director James Comey said on Monday. The investigation was closed because it produced no hard evidence of terrorist complicity.
G4S’s statement says that Mateen was subject to “checks from a US law enforcement agency with no findings reported to G4S.” But according to the New York Times, the investigation took place because of “reports from [Mateen’s] coworkers, that he . . . suggested he may have had terrorist ties.”
G4S has previously been accused of improperly vetting its employees. In 2009, Danny Fitzsimons, a former British paratrooper and employee of a G4S subsidiary, killed two colleagues in Iraq, claiming to be “the antichrist” and saying he “must satisfy” his “bloodlust.” An official investigation concluded that his employer did not properly vet his psychological health.
In 2007, G4S signed contracts with five Israeli prisons and “interrogation centers,” leading to accusations that it was complicit in torture and the imprisonment of children. In 2010, three G4S security guards killed an Angolan national during a deportation flight from the U.K., by restraining him in an asphyxiating position.
In January, five G4S officers were arrested after a BBC expose revealed systematic abuse and neglect at a G4S-run youth jails.
G4S has also become a focal point for the Israel-focused Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement over its partnerships with Israeli prisons and military checkpoints. Activist pressure has led to divestment from the company by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Methodist Church, and UNICEF in Jordan. G4S has since announced that it would end its Israeli prison contracts.
In 2002, G4S acquired the United States-based Wackenhut Corporation, a private security and prison contractor with a deeply troubled history, including the widespread sexual assault of inmates at a Texas detention center in 1999.
Wackenhut went on to win a contract to guard the US Embassy at Kabul, worth $189 million over five years. In 2009, the Project on Government Oversight sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with photographic evidence that embassy guards had created a “Lord of the Flies environment,” at the embassy, said to include guards and supervisors “peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks . . . [drunken] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity.”
Nevertheless, Wackenhut was hired by the US government and BP in 2010 to manage perimeter security for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf Coast.
In 2011, G4S won a contract to provide security for the 2012 London Olympics — only to overcharge the British government and provide understaffed security.
On the news that Mateen worked for G4S, the company’s stock dropped 6.6 percent, wiping out $280 million in company value.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Case Against Big Oil Industry dismisses comparisons to tobacco litigation James Osborne / The Houston Chronicle
WASHINGTON (June 11, 2016) — In April, the email inboxes of energy executives filled with alerts from the nation’s top corporate law firms. Subject: The multi-state investigation into whether Exxon Mobil committed fraud by discounting the impact of fossil fuels on climate change.
For years, efforts to hold energy companies and governments liable for the warming of the planet had moved through the court system with little fanfare or success. But with state governments probing Exxon Mobil’s public and internal statements on climate change, lawyers warned their clients to get ready.
“There is escalating effort to bring pressure to bear on companies with respect to their public securities statements on the effects of climate change,” the New York law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pitman said in a letter.
For oil executives in Texas and across the country, the investigations into whether their industry suppressed findings and misled investors, policy-makers, and the public about global warming not only raise the prospects of criminal charges, but add momentum to a legal campaign that many analysts compare to the decades-long battle against Big Tobacco.
As in the early days of tobacco litigation, environmental advocates say, they have had few victories, but each case has opened new areas of inquiry, tested legal strategies, and revealed more about what energy firms and regulators knew about climate change — and when they knew it.
In recent months, environmentalists have enjoyed some small wins. In April, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that a case against the US government for inaction on climate change could proceed, explaining that “the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life” required examination by the courts.
In the Netherlands, a court ruled that the government, in the interest of protecting the low-lying country, must reduce carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020 — a ruling the Dutch government is appealing.
In Ohio, a federal appeals court opened the door to more climate change lawsuits when it said a power utility could be held liable for emissions even if it didn’t violate federal pollution laws.
“If you look at the history of tobacco litigation through the first several decades, the result was always the same. The plaintiff always lost,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law. “With each new case, more information came to public light. And that’s what we’re seeing here.”
Energy industry lawyers, however, dismiss comparisons to tobacco litigation, seeing a futile attempt by environmentalists to upend decades of case law. Courts have traditionally ruled that to hold defendants liable, their actions or products must be directly linked to damages caused to plaintiffs, said Kevin Ewing, an attorney with the Houston law firm Bracewell.
“Tobacco was shown to cause specific harm to specific individuals,” he said. “Not so with climate change, where we cannot yet discern the factual connection between a company’s conduct and individual harm, even though we can observe the global effects of climate change at large.”
Environmental lawyers have argued for years that governments and companies are obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the interests of protecting mankind from rising oceans, severe storms and the other effects of climate change.
They had little success. The US Supreme Court ruling in 2011 that the federal government alone has the power to control carbon emissions, which are legal are under air pollution laws all over the world.
But the recent entry of state prosecutors into the fray opens a new line of inquiry: Did fossil fuel companies mislead investors and the public on climate change and the risk it posed to their businesses?
The involvement of 17 state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman, who in November disclosed his investigation of Exxon Mobil, has only increased comparisons with the tobacco case. In 1998, attorneys general from 46 states won a landmark, $200 billion settlement from the tobacco industry.
Many of the lawyers involved in the tobacco lawsuits, are reprising roles in climate change cases. Ted Wells, the attorney for Exxon Mobil in the climate change inquiry, also represented Phillip Morris.
Former Justice Department lawyer Sharon Eubanks, who ran the government’s tobacco litigation team and now works as a plaintiff’s attorney, has called on federal prosecutors to pursue a possible racketeering case against oil companies, on the theory they conspired to deceive the public just as a federal judge ruled in 2006 that tobacco companies had done.
The rush to court follows revelations last year by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times that Exxon undertook climate change research in the 1970s and ’80s, and was warned by its scientists of the threat.
But some legal scholars are skeptical that the case against the oil industry is as cut and dried as that against tobacco, which was found to have hidden research proving nicotine is addictive and smoking causes cancer.
As yet, there is no evidence of oil companies hiding research on climate change. In addition, the causes and implications of climate change remained unsettled among scientists for so long that holding a company liable for espousing a dissenting view could prove difficult, said David Adelman, an environmental law professor at the University of Texas.
“The legal standard of fraud is a clear misrepresentation of fact,” he said. “With climate change, it’s a hard argument. You have to think about how knowledge and understanding changed over time. The further you go back in time, the harder it’s going to be to make a case of fraud.”
In the late 1990s, as the climate change debate reached fever pitch, former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond travelled to Beijing to speak to the World Petroleum Council.
Seven years earlier, a United Nations panel of scientists connected global warming to modern society’s dependence on oil and coal, which produce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere.
But Raymond, who held a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota, questioned the scientific basis for reducing emissions as a way to combat warming.
“Leaping to radically cut this tiny sliver of the greenhouse gas pie [that comes from human activity] on the premise that it will affect climate defies common sense and lacks foundation in our current understanding of the climate system,” Raymond said.
The following year, a leaked memo from the American Petroleum Institute, working with Exxon, Chevron, and the Alabama power firm Southern Co., laid out a public relations strategy to recruit scientists and lobby media outlets to cast doubt on science that blamed global warming on fossil fuels.
As climate science has eliminated uncertainties about the cause and effects of climate change, the 1990s public relations campaign has cast a shadow from which many energy companies are unable to emerge — no matter what they do to reduce carbon emissions.
Southern, for instance, touts that it cut carbon dioxide from its power plants 25 percent by shifting from coal to natural gas. Exxon protests that it’s unfair to suggest the company fully understood the effects of climate change decades before the world’s leading scientists.
That’s “not a credible thesis,” said spokesman Alan Jeffers said. “Our understanding of the science evolved as everyone else’s did.”
Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute declined to comment.
Environmental advocates, meanwhile, are adopting novel legal strategies to press their cases. In Oregon, for example, the group Our Children’s Trust convinced the judge to allow its lawsuit to proceed by arguing that the constitutional rights of future generations to “life, liberty and property” are violated as long as the United States allows the burning of fossil fuels.
In Germany, lawyers argue that the German utility RWE should foot the bill to protect a Peruvian mountain town from a melting glacier because RWE’s power plants contribute to greenhouse gases that put the community in peril.
In Massachusetts, environmental attorneys say Exxon should have considered the effects of climate change in devising protections for an oil storage terminal, which they allege releases pollutants into Boston Harbor as a result of increased storm surges and heavier rains.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.