Did Washington Fake an 'ISIS Terror Threat' to Spur a Financial Windfall for US Arms Makers?
October 4, 2014
Ted Snider / AntiWar.com & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & W.J. Hennigan / The Los Angeles Times
The claim has recently been made that the Obama administration concocted not only the imminent attacks on US soil by the al-Qaeda cell The Khorasan Group, but also invented the group itself, in order to make a case for self-defense and justify the bombing of Syria. Meanwhile, arms dealers are salivating at the profits they are likely to make as the war continues to escalate.The big winner early in the war is Raytheon, who netted a big new Tomahawk cruise missile contract
Did America Fake Imminent Terror Threats
To Justify Bombing Syria?
Ted Snider / AntiWar.com
(October 3, 2014) -- The claim has recently been made that the Obama administration concocted not only the imminent attacks on US soil by the al-Qaeda cell The Khorasan Group, but the group itself, in order to make a case for self-defense and justify the bombing of Syria.
As outlandish as it may first appear that America would create a fictitious attack to justify its own attack, there is a pattern of just such fictions stretching back to nearly the very beginning of America's wars.
President James Polk led America into one of its first foreign wars when he informed the congress that Mexico had attacked a US Army detachment on American soil. In 1848, Abraham Lincoln, then a congressman, would make one of his first appearances in American history by standing up on the floor and demanding that the President inform the House of the exact spot upon which the attack took place. Polk would not answer. That first fictitious attack would justify the war with Mexico.
The second fictitious assault would take place half a century later in Manila. The Treaty of Paris would give the Philippines to the United States over the desires of the Filipinos, who would declare war on the US the next year. But the treaty required ratification by the US senate. As the senate was torn over the question of ratification and foreign expansion, Filipino insurgents attacked American soldiers in Manila.
What was not reported to the senate at the time was that the insurgents only entered the skirmish after an American soldier had fired first. The fictitious unprovoked attack on Americans led the senate to protect American soldiers abroad and ratify the treaty. This second fictitious assault made the Philippines, along with Puerto Rico, Guam and Cuba, American possessions.
A century later, the same strategy would be inflated and used again in Korea. The cause of war this time was the horde of North Korean invaders bursting the border dam and pouring, unprovoked into South Korea in a surprise attack. The next day, the Americans would introduce their fictitious story to the United Nations Security Council in the form of a resolution condemning the North Koreans for their "unprovoked aggression."
What the fictitious story's audience did not know was that the North Korean attack was preceded by two days of South Korean bombing preparing the way for a surprise South Korean incursion and attack on the North Korean town of Haeju. The American authors of the fictitious story of the unprovoked attack knew it though.
According to William Blum, an American military status report mentions the South Korean incursion on the night of the very day it happened. Blum also shows that several Western media sources independently confirm the South Korean attack. History would record North Korea's fictitious surprise assault as the beginning of the Korean War.
The fictitious attack would appear next in 1964 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara would mislead President Johnson in an attempt to pressure him into war in Vietnam. McNamara would use the story of an attack by North Vietnamese boats on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin to pressure Johnson into retaliating by bombing the North Vietnamese and to pressure congress into passing the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.
But McNamara's narrative omissions made for another fictitious assault. McNamara knew that John Herrick, the US task force commander in the Gulf, had come to doubt the attack and wanted "a complete evaluation before any further action taken." He knew too that, based on those doubts, Admiral Sharp, the US Commander, told McNamara to hold off on the retaliatory bombing. But McNamara continued to lie to the President in an attempt to use a fictitious attack to justify an American war.
A variation of the pattern may have been exploited in Syria and Ukraine more recently. In Syria, the sarin gas attack was temporarily offered as a justification for war on Assad. And though President Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that "It's an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack," that was not what Obama's intelligence was suggesting to him.
That's why Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper would not put his name on the assessment produced, not by the office of the DNI, but by the White House.
Seymour Hersh has revealed that, despite the White House's disingenuous claims, the US was aware that, not only the Syrian army, but the Syrian rebels, too, had access to sarin. Hersh says that "In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaeda, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity."
And it was not just one rebel faction that could have fired the sarin. Hersh says that the CIA told the White House that "al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) [now ISIS], also understood the science of producing sarin." He adds that a top-secret summary provided to the Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed that al-Nusra "had the ability to acquire and use sarin." The Joint Chiefs of Staff also undertook an "all-source analysis," which, Hersh reports, concluded that "rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas."
Finally, with regards to Washington's claim that reverse flight paths of the two missiles intersect at a Syrian military base, Theodore Postol of MIT and Richard Lloyd, an analyst from Tesla Laboratories, say there is a consensus among missile experts that the rockets analyzed would have had a maximum range of about three kilometers, while the claimed Syrian military launch site was about 9.5 kilometers from where the sarin carrying missiles struck.
This time the assault was not fictionalized, but staged, and then attributed to the party America wanted to attack.
If the explosion and sinking of the US battleship Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 that killed 268 men and helped whip up support for the Spanish-American war was falsely blamed on Spain, then this is an early appearance of a variant of the fiction that took place in Syria. No evidence was ever provided to implicate the Spanish.
But the claim was made that the American ship had been treacherously sunk "by an enemy's secret infernal machine" and the treachery was attributed to Spain. The real cause was a mystery, but the attribution of blame was fictionalized to help vilify and convict the party America wanted to go to war against.
A similar staging may have occurred in Ukraine in February when Maidan Square demonstrators were fired upon by snipers. The US blamed Yanukovych and his government for the sniper fire that led to the violence that left more than eighty protesters and police dead. But the identity of the snipers was not so clear.
A leaked phone conversation between Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton suggests that the snipers were not from the Yanukovych government, but provocateurs from its opposition. Paet says that a doctor informed him that the same kind of bullets killed people on both sides: the police and the protesters. "So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition," Paet says.
As in Syria, though not a fictional event, an event is staged and then attribution is conveniently made to the desired party. A similar strategy was employed in the American supported Venezuelan coup of 2002 that briefly removed Hugo Chavez from power.
And lest it seem even more outlandish, paranoid and conspiratorial that America would allow people on its side to be fired upon and killed, then enter into evidence the CIA manual that was prepared for America's Nicaraguan contra allies in the 1980's. In the manual, called Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, the CIA recommends "taking the demonstrators to a confrontation with the authorities to bring about uprisings and shootings that will cause the death of one or more people to create a martyr for the cause."
So, as outlandish as the creation of a terrorist group and its imminent attacks on the US may seem, it is not insane. At least not more insane than the historical reality that such a chain of fictional and staged attacks produced to justify American wars stretches back to the very beginning of American wars.
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.
The War Against ISIS Is a Financial Windfall for US Arms Makers
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 3, 2014) -- An open-ended war in Iraq and Syria isn't good for many people. Not the American public, which is paying for it, and certainly not for the Iraqis and Syrians. Arms dealers are salivating at the profits they are likely to make as the war continues to escalate.
The big winner early in the war is Raytheon, who netted a big new Tomahawk cruise missile contract because of all of the missiles the US has been firing into Iraq and Syria.
In the long run, the people who benefit most from the war may not be the ones making the missiles the US fired, however, but rather the companies that made the vehicles the US is trying to destroy.
ISIS' vehicles are mostly US-made vehicles looted from Iraq, and companies that made them, like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, are eventually going to be paid to buy the Iraqi military a whole new collection of gear to replace what they lost and was eventually destroyed.
With expectations for a return to runaway military spending, all of the major military contractors are trading near all-time highs on the stock market, with their prices escalating as the war does.
Military Firms Likely to Benefit
From Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria
W.J. Hennigan / The Los Angeles Times
(October 2, 2014) -- Three days after US warships fired 47 cruise missiles at Sunni militant targets in northern Syria last week, the Pentagon signed a $251-million deal to buy more Tomahawks from Raytheon Co., a windfall for the military giant and its many subcontractors.
As US combat operations ended in Iraq and Afghanistan, the defense industry braced for protracted budget cuts at the Pentagon. Major contractors have laid off workers, merged with one another and slowed production lines as spending shrank and leaner times loomed ahead.
But with US and allied aircraft now bombing Islamic State and Al Qaeda positions in Iraq and Syria, including 41 airstrikes since Monday, many analysts foresee a boost to bottom lines for munitions manufacturers, weapons producers and other military contractors -- including many in Southern California.
The daily pounding by US bombers, fighters and drones, and the resupply of European and Arab allies that have joined the effort, has cost nearly $1 billion so far, analysts say, and will cost billions more down the road.
Ironically, dozens of the US airstrikes have targeted American-made Humvees, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles and other armored vehicles that Islamic State fighters captured as they overran Iraqi military bases and airfields during their blitz across northern Iraq this year. The new government in Baghdad is scrambling to rebuild its battered army and will need to buy replacement vehicles.
Wall Street is paying attention. Shares of major military contractors -- Raytheon, Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. -- all have been trading near all-time highs, outpacing the Standard & Poor's 500 index of large companies' stocks.
Investors anticipate rising sales for precision-guided missiles and bombs, and other high-priced weapons, as well as sophisticated surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, as the Pentagon gears up for a conflict that commanders say is likely to last years.
"There are plenty of reasons to think that defense spending is going to be on the rise again," said Wayne Plucker, an aerospace analyst with research firm Frost & Sullivan. "Defense companies are not being harmed by the current situation, I can tell you that much."
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank, estimates the air campaign could cost $2.4 billion to $3.8 billion per year if the current tempo of airstrikes is maintained.
Congress also has agreed to provide $500 million in weapons and training to Syrian rebels who can act as a ground force against the militants in Syria, although it's unclear whether that will require new stocks.
The cost of future US operations will depend on how long they continue, their intensity and whether US ground forces are added beyond the 1,600 military advisors now in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon needs more money to combat Islamic State, and Pentagon officials have begun working with Congress on an emergency measure to make more available.
"We're going to require additional funding from Congress as we go forward," Hagel said at a news conference Sept. 26. "We're working now with appropriate committees on how we go forward with authorizations and funding."
The Pentagon was under pressure to lower war-related spending in the latest round of budget requests for fiscal 2015. It asked Congress to appropriate $58.6 billion, about $20 billion less than in the previous year.
But then the Islamic State fighters swept out of Syria and captured more than a dozen major cities and towns in northern and western Iraq, sparking alarm in the White House and a fast-expanding campaign of US airstrikes.
In all, the US has launched 250 airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 8 and, working with Arab partners, a total of 73 in Syria since Sept. 23. French warplanes also have bombed targets in Iraq, and British fighters also conducted their first airstrikes this week.
In Syria, the Pentagon and its five Arab partners -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar -- are flying American-made fighter jets and dropping American-made bombs that are guided by GPS signals or a laser beam that's pointed directly at the target.
The Pentagon said 96% of the roughly 200 bombs dropped on a dozen targets in Syria early Sept. 23, the first day of the expanded campaign, were precision-guided.
To replace those munitions, experts say, officials are likely to turn to Boeing Co. for a tail kit that converts an unguided free-fall bomb into a "smart" bomb through installation of a GPS-guided tail section.
The company has sold nearly 262,000 such kits, at $25,000 each, including thousands to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
"These coalition partners have already bought quite a bit of weapons from American weapons makers," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group Corp., a Virginia research firm. "After a campaign like this, they're likely to buy more."
Seal Science Inc. in Irvine was among the thousands of smaller subcontractors that shed workers in recent years. The firm makes rubber gaskets that are used in Tomahawk missiles as well as F-16 and F/A-18 fighter jets.
Gregory Bloom, the company's president, says larger military firms are already asking him to increase his capacity to supply spare parts. That means ramping up production and hiring engineers and technicians.
"We're having issues finding personnel who left the business after the downturn a few years ago," Bloom said. "We want the work, believe me, but we can't turn on a dime."
Having seen boom-and-bust cycles over the years, the Aerospace Industries Assn., a trade and lobbying organization in Arlington, Va., isn't sure military spending will rise again.
"This might not be a turning point," said Betsy Schmid, a former staff director for the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense and now vice president for national security and acquisition policy at the association. "While it may seem that there's enough momentum to get the defense cuts rolled back, there have been no promises made by Congress just yet."
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