Category Archives: The Pentagon

Top Gun: Maverick The Pentagon Recruitment Drive

Hollywood, like the US press, has not been spared the influential hand of government.  Under the mask of various projects, the defence establishment has sought to influence the narrative of Freedom Land’s pursuits, buying a stake in the way exploits are marketed or, when needed, buried.

The extent of such collaboration, manipulation and interference can be gathered in National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood (2017).  Matthew Alford and Tom Secker argue that a number of operations mounted by the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI were designed to further “violent, American-centric solutions to international problems based on twisted readings of history.”

The US Air Force has its own Entertainment Liaison Office in Hollywood, run by director Lieutenant Colonel Glen Roberts.  “Our job,” he explained in 2016, “is to project and protect the image of the US Air Force and its Airmen in the entertainment space.”  Propaganda is not a word he knows, even though he is its most ardent practitioner.  He describes the involvement of his office across scripted or unscripted television, movies, documentaries, reality TV, award and game shows, sporting events and video games.  Its purpose: “to present the Air Force and its people in a credible, realistic way” and provide the entertainment industry with “access to Airmen, bases and equipment if they meet certain standards set by the Department of Defense.”

No more blatant has this link between celluloid, entertainment and the military industrial complex been evident than in the promotion of Top Gun.  When it hit the cinemas in 1986, the US military received a wash of service academy applications, though finding exact recruitment figures linked to the film has not been easy.  (This has not stopped publications such as Military History Now confidently asserting that interest in US Navy flight training rose 500% that year.)

The film was, after all, nothing else than a relentless, eye-goggling advertisement (well, at least 100 minutes) for the US military, a sequence of swerves, testosterone jerks and puerile masculinity.  “It was probably the most realistic flying move that I’d seen, and it just left a mark on me,” Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown told a gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last August.  “I was out of pilot training, and I was already going to fighters, so it was one of those where you kind of go ‘that’s pretty realistic.’”

Top Gun also served as something of a palette cleanser for US power, bruised by its failings in Indochina and hobbled by the “Vietnam Syndrome”.  In the words of Roger Stahl, a communications academic based at the University of Georgia, “The original Top Gun arrived just in time to clean up this image and clear the way for a more palatable high-tech vision of imperialism and ultimately the Persian Gulf War.”

With Top Gun: Maverick, the collaboration between the Pentagon and the film’s producers is unerring and nakedly evident.  While Cruise plays the role of a rule breaking pilot who lives up to his name, his production is distinctly obedient to the dictates of the US Navy.

It’s also worth noting that Cruise has had trouble using the facilities of other defence ministries to shoot his films given his ties to the Church of Scientology.  There has been no such trouble with the Pentagon.  Both, it seems, have mutual fantasies to promote.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show that the movie only proceeded with the proviso of extensive defence involvement.  The production agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and Paramount Pictures is explicit in outlining the role.  The US Marine Corps expressly guaranteed providing 20 Marines from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California “to appear as an official funeral detail for the filming sequence” along with access to MCAS Miramar “to enable actors the opportunity to experience flight simulator training.  All aspects of familiarization and training will be captured by second production unit.”

In return for such access to equipment and facilities, along with necessary technical support and personnel, the DoD openly mentions assigning “a senior staff, post-command Officer to review with public affairs the script’s thematics and weave in key talking points relevant to the aviation community”.

Clause 19 of the agreement reiterates the importance of the Pentagon’s role in the production process.  A “viewing of the roughly edited, but final version of the production (the ‘rough cut’)” was to be provided to the DoD, relevant project officers, and the DoD Director of Entertainment Media “at a stage of editing when changes can be accommodated”.  This would enable the “DoD to confirm that the tone of the military sequences substantially conforms to the agreed script treatment, or narrative description”.  Any material deemed compromising would result in its removal.

The USAF has gone into an enthusiastic recruitment drive, hoping to inject some verve into the numbers.  In of itself, this is unremarkable, given a shortage of pilots that was already being pointed out in March 2018.  That month, Congress was warned about a shortfall of 10 percent equating to 2,100 of the 21,000 pilots required to pursue the National Defence Strategy.  Shortages were also being noted by the US Navy.

Recruitment stalls have mushroomed across movie halls.  Navy spokesperson Commander Dave Benham is hopeful. “We think Top Gun: Maverick will certainly raise awareness and should positively contribute to individual decisions to serve in the Navy.”  With the film running throughout the country, the Navy’s recruitment goals for the 2022 financial year of 40,000 enlistees and 3,800 officers in both active and reserve components may be that much easier.

Patriotic publications have also delighted in the recruitment pap of the new film, seeing it as eminently more suitable and chest-beating than advertising gimmicks such as the 2-minute video featuring Corporal Emma Malonelord.  Released last year, it features an individual who operates the US Patriotic Missile Air Defence system.  From the outset, we are told about a “little girl raised by two moms” in California.  “Although I had a fairly typical childhood, took ballet, played violin, I also marched for equality.  I like to think I’ve been defending freedom from an early age.”

The video is also pap of a different type.  It shows that those freedom loving types in defence can also be musical, balletic products of lesbian unions and peaceful protest.  “Emma’s reason for joining up is selfish,” states a sneering piece in The Federalist.  “There is zero in the video to inspire any kind of bravery, sacrifice, duty, honor, integrity, excellence, teamwork, or respect.”  Senator Ted Cruz was blunter in his assessment.  “Holy crap.  Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea”.

Best leave it to the likes of Cruise the patriot scientologist, lubricated with tips and much assistance from the Pentagon, to give their version of service in the US military.  Even if it is deceptive, controlled tripe.

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Do We Have a Failure to Communicate!

Ted Rall gets it right here: The Left Must Continue to Avoid the Ukraine Trap

“Find a way to be against the war in Ukraine, please.” That was the subject line of one of my recent hate emails. “If you look through Mr. Rall’s cartoons for the past month, there isn’t a single one condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” an anonymous online commenter chided. “There’s plenty of ones based around whataboutism condemning us for condemning them but not a single one that just comes right out and says what Russia is doing now is wrong.”

The Right — in the U.S. that includes Republicans, Democrats and corporate media — has set a clever trap for the anti-war Left. The rhetoric in this essay’s first paragraph is an example. If the Left were to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Right would portray us as Russia-loving hypocrites who only oppose wars when the United States starts them. If the Left backed Ukraine, they’d be joining an unholy alliance with a government installed in a CIA-backed coup that pointlessly provoked Russia by asking to join NATO and is so tolerant of neo-Nazism that it allows soldiers wearing Nazi insignia in its military and seems to be trying to set some sort of record for building statues to World War II Nazi collaborators and antisemites. Plus, they’d be helping the Right distract people from the murderous sins of American imperialism, which are ongoing.

So, again, the offensive weapons industry, from the grenade to the guzzling B-1 bomber, from the pant zipper to the propelled hand-held rockets, from the Meals Ready to Eat to the Missiles from the Drones’ Mouth, all of those shell casings and depleted uranium bullet heads, all of that, including Burger Kings for Troops to the Experimental Anthrax Vaccines, all of that, and all the paper-mouse pushers, all the middlewomen and middlemen, all the folks in this military everything industrial complex, that is what the Russian Right to Stop Extremists/Murderers/ Nazis in Ukraine is all about. USA/UK/EU can take out wedding parties, but Russia can’t take out Nazi’s.

So, we have Angela Davis (throw away your blackness black panther card) and Chomsky and Sean Penn and every manner of woke and wise idiot calling Putin a dictator, a thug, an authoritarian leader. Oh, the authoritarian BlackRock and Raytheon and Biden Administration and USA Lobbying Network, and on and on, so, again, tenured professors with book contracts and speaking (paid big bucks) engagements, forget about them.

This is the American Way — Making Money on/off of WAR. The Racket that General Butler talked about is so so more complicated than his experiences in the 1890s through 1940s. These times are filled with buckets of DNA we might think have zero to do with war, but are so attached to the inbreeding of the war machines that every nanosecond of business and every transaction in this society is all tied to WAR. Like embedded energy and life cycle analysis, the military complex, if we really did the true cost of war/warring, the one or six trillion dollars that Brown University comes up with would be factored up by 10 or more.

The 2022 spending bill, which passed both chambers with gleeful bipartisan support last week, included billions of dollars for ships and planes that the Pentagon didn’t ask for, a common occurrence in Congress. Then, here it is — just one angle. Congress authorized $27 billion for Navy ships, including $4 billion for several vessels the Navy didn’t ask for, and $900 million for additional Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets the Navy had hoped to phase out. The bill also provides billions to purchase 20 more Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes than the Pentagon requested.

And, the details are in the sausage making, from scarred land for corn, to the poisons to grow the corn, to the ponds of pig blood and guts, to the butchering of antibiotic-filled and toxin-laden pigs, to the transportation of poisoned meat, to sausage warehouses, to all of the packaging and happy meal advertisements, and then, of course, the cost of clogged arteries and obesity and colon cancers, all of that, well, figure in a similar cost analysis for every Hellfire missile produced for the profits of the offensive weapons Mafia.

Since the start of the new year, Lockheed Martin’s stock has soared nearly 25 percent, while Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman each saw their stock prices rise by around 12 percent.

In a January earnings call, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet said that the “renewed great power competition” would lead to inflated defense budgets and additional sales. On the same day, Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investors that the company expected to see “opportunities for international sales” amid the Russian threat.

“The tensions in Eastern Europe, the tensions in the South China Sea, all of those things are putting pressure on some of the defense spending over there,” Hayes said. “So I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.”

The defense lobbyist also predicted a major gain for U.S. defense firms thanks to increased European defense spending.

“As much as many countries have their own defense industrial base, they don’t make everything they need themselves. So they are going to rely on us in many cases for missiles, for aircraft, for ground vehicles,” they said. (source)

These are sociopaths. Read it again and again if you are dense. “…. thanks to increased EU spending . . . .” Or, “. . . . fully expect we’re going to see … benefit from it (wars) . . . ” These are golf course dealing misanthropes. Their kids go to Yale, and they have two or four homes around the country. They attend $500 a ticket Hamilton galas. They are the Titans of Terror.

Alas, the offensive weapons-equipment-PSYOPS-marketing-financing INDUSTRY is the gift (poison, PTSD, maiming, mauling, murdering) that keeps on giving. The sacking of our own personal and collective agency, that is, where is the fight for our poor, for our huddled masses, for our general anxiety disordered citizens? Where are those bandaids and nurses staffing those free drop-in clinics? Where are those hefty checks for clean water systems, R & R-ing lead pipes? Where are those insulating old homes programs? Where are those funds for aging in place programs? Where are the deals for the poor and struggling to get into national parks free? Where are those used tires for aging cars that take mother and daughter to their fast-food/child care/adult care jobs? Where are those food vouchers even the French are handing out? Where is all that help, uh?

Over decades of brainwashing and history scrubbing and agnotology and consumerism and propaganda and plain bad PK12 education. After years of mediocre college degrees, and after throwing money at computer engineers, the AI Hole in the Autism Wall Gang, and after so much celebrity pimping, the American public will pull out a yellow and blue hanky and smear their crocodile tears for a billionaire lying comic ZioLenskyy and wax nostalgic for those Nazi-loving Ukrainians, but never a word for fellow human beings in, well, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Russia.

We wonder about Word Press — a non-profit (sic) that takes $100 a year just for this little shit show? Will the site be hacked, cut, or disengaged because of Russia’s flag above and the UkiNazi image below?

 

Oh, the stories over at Grayzone or Consortium News or Mint Press or Covert Action Magazine, or . . . .

‘Gods of War’: How the US weaponized Ukraine against Russia TJ COLES

And the evil is the shutdown of discourse. True evil. Makes Mossad and CIA and Stasi and KGB look like Keystone Cops:

And, so, Zelenskyy wants hundreds and hundreds of billions in weapons and aid and for his padded luxurious life. Yep, a failure to communicate — the US of A! But there is still some sanity — Black Agenda Report:

Left Voices are Censored

Censorship is supposed to happen in other places, not in the U.S. But big tech, in alliance with the state, is silencing Black and other left voices in the media. The war in Ukraine is bringing this process into high relief and making a mockery of claims of freedom of expression. Jacqueline Luqman, co-host of the Sputnik program, By Any Means Necessary , explains.

The U.S. Crisis Plays Out in Ukraine

Joe Biden travelled to Europe for NATO and G7 meetings one month after Russian troops entered Ukraine. Biden predictably condemned Russia but also suggested he was seeking regime change against Vladimir Putin. Dr. Gerald Horne , author and historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, analyses US policy in Ukraine.

The end game is lies, all the spin, the tens of thousands of outlets, the social media monsters, all of the PSYOPS, all the roots of Edward Bernays, Milton Friedman, Madmen, the entire suite of propaganda tools. A failure to communicate is now an avalanche of lies, as in the Empire of Lies. Russia loses that war — information 5.0 USA style, is Russia 1.0. Honesty is a crutch.

We’ve studied this system of propaganda, and it is sophisticated, way before Goebbels, but still, he is the master 2.0. Israel is a killer of a liar. Britain. USA.

Russia’s approach to the Ukraine question is remarkably different from the West’s. As far as Russia is concerned Ukraine is not a pawn on the chessboard but rather a member of the family with whom communication has become impossible due to protracted foreign interference and influence operations. According to Andrei Ilnitsky, an advisor to the Russian Ministry of Defence, Ukraine is the territory where the Russian world lost one of the strategic battles in the cognitive war. Having lost the battle, Russia feels all the more obliged to win the war — a war to undo the damage to a country that historically has always been part of the Russian world and to prevent the same damage at home. It is rather telling that what US-NATO call an “information war” is referred to as “mental’naya voina”, that is cognitive war, by this prominent Russian strategist. Being mainly on the receiving end of information/influence operations, Russia has been studying their deleterious effects. (source)

Marketing 101 is now hyperspace marketing, and the tools of bots, AI, algorithms, etc., they are like neutron info bombs.

  1.  Bandwagon propaganda
  2.  Card Stacking propaganda
  3.  Plain Folk Propaganda
  4.  Testimonial Propaganda
  5.  Glittering Generality Propaganda
  6.  Name Calling Propaganda
  7.  Transfer Propaganda
  8.  Ad nauseam propaganda
  9.  Stereotyping propaganda
  10.  Appeal to prejudice propaganda
  11.  Appeal to fear propaganda

So therefore, this relentless manipulation of people’s emotions and coginitive disassociation and associative thinking has unleashed a dangerous whirlwind of mass insanity.

The most dangerous purveyor of it:

US Propaganda 100 Years ago and how the Media was influenced (3) | by Melmac Politics | Medium

 

The New Age of Propaganda: Understanding Influence Operations in the Digital Age

World Economic Forum Blasted for 'Insane Pro-CRT Propaganda' Video - Miami Standard

Putin's digital aggression is backfiring in Ukraine - The Hill Times

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Sick and Sicker, Dumb and Dumber, Rich and Richer

Quote — “The US will likely end up supplying Ukraine with Switchblade loitering munitions. The system poses a real threat. Nevertheless, the Russian military will likely use the tactics we saw in Syria to neutralize this threat.” (Southfront)

And, well, it is tax time, and these beasts of a nation — Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, MSM — they rally around the military offensive murdering complex for, well, billions thrown at the Nazi regime of Ukraine. And I have to pay more taxes on my subpar wages? Give me a few of those drones, please! Billions of dollars thrown at the most corrupt and evil of them all (well, there are many evil ones, so see this as hyperbole). One contract with this outfit, AeroVironment. Looking into that company, I find its current president to be an interesting man:

Wikipedia — Nawabi is an Afghan sub clan mega Barakzai the majority of this clan played an important role during the Barakzai dynasty – such as Ismail Khan Nawabi.

The name Nawabi is borrowed from the Arabic, being the honorific plural of Naib or “deputy”. The name Nawab is mostly used among South Asians. In Bengal it is pronounced Nowab. The English adjective nawabi (from the Urdu word nawwābī) describes anything associated with a nawab.

He says AeroVironment is a great place to work because: “There is no place like AeroVironment where a group of honorable, smart, and hardworking people can make such a big and positive impact on our lives and society. I am excited and honored to lead such a team in order to help all of our 3 stakeholders Proceed with Certainty.”

Wahid Nawabi

Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Yes, the face of the military murdering complex is a smile, a wink, and even a diversity statement validation.

As President and Chief Executive Officer at AEROVIRONMENT INC, Wahid Nawabi made $2,524,773 in total compensation. Of this total $632,319 was received as a salary, $535,513 was received as a bonus, $0 was received in stock options, $1,333,024 was awarded as stock and $23,917 came from other types of compensation. This information is according to proxy statements filed for the 2021 fiscal year. President and Chief Executive Officer. AEROVIRONMENT INC

So, the wink and a nod, all those stock options, all of that base pay, all of it, all predicated on, hmm, contracts. Yes, US GI Joe fed contracts. And, well, a contract is a contract, whether Mario Puzo is writing about it, or if one of the slick female heads of the war complex companies is drafting and signing it. This is one company, which I have previously discussed in general and specifically is really not just one in Santa’s Serial Murder workshops, but one represents dozens of companies (contracted) relying on those contracts for these drones with payloads: wires, optics, diodes, motherboards, paint, metal, gears, etc. Kamikaze drones, what a lovely thing to be proud of, and this company is just one of thousands that makes money off of blood.

The officials told the outlet that the White House is currently considering supplying Ukraine with Switchblades, as part of a new package of military aid. However, they noted that no decisions on the matter have been made, yet.

There are two available variants of the loitering munition, the Switchblade 300 and the 600. The 300 was designed to target personnel and unarmored vehicles. It has a range of 10 kilometers and an endurance of 10 minutes. The larger 600 was designed to destroy armored vehicles, like battle tanks. This version has a range of 80 kilometers and an endurance of up to 20 minutes. (source)

Please, kind reader, look at these people — the website of their team: Aerovironment. For me, they are scary people, for sure, in that they are the paper-pushers and state college grads from engineering programs; they are the marketers, the CPAs and the HR folk. These are what I have faced my entire life teaching — people who have no reservation about making money selling drugs that kill (Big Pharma) or booze that kills or anything that kills, both human or environment. Look at their biographies on the “About Us” page above. This is the banality of evil, and I am afraid, that evil is much much deeper engrained than Hannah Arendt could have conjured up because there is no “great war,” no great global war against Nazis and fascists, as in WWII. It’s all transactional, money for blood, weapons ‘r us!

Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.

— Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958

I’m not sure she was thinking of the pure structural/sanctions-led/financial tyranny of capitalism, that soft tyranny of western consumerism, the constant inverted tyranny in a world where most First World folk eat, drink, sleep oil. A world that is run by business men and business women, under the umbrella of the Deep State and government thugs. I do not think she was in the know around how pernicious the marketing of lies and evil doing was under the guidance of a fellow Jew, Edward (Freud) Bernays. But she was onto something, for sure:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

― Hannah ArendtThe Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951

You see, the totalitarianism is in the marketing of these spoils of war, and the war minders, and the war industry. Look at this company’s founder, Paul MacCready. Check him out on Wikipedia — Paul B. MacCready Jr. (September 25, 1925 – August 28, 2007) was an American aeronautical engineer. He was the founder of AeroVironment and the designer of the human-powered aircraft that won the first Kremer prize. He devoted his life to developing more efficient transportation vehicles that could “do more with less.”

In so many ways, MacCready represents the best and the brightest of his generation, the hope for mankind, the genius of the American System producing tools of war, tools of profit. He represents the undying American work ethic, with only the heavens (err, he said sky, as he was an avowed atheist) as his limit.

That is it, really — the biography of a military industrial complex tool of death, all started in the twinkle of a 15-year-old MacCready’s eye when he was designing planes and gliders in 1940. Now? Every sort of munition and payload delivered in the fuselages of those toys. Heck, why not drone-carrying bugs injected or engineered with viruses?

CNBC 3/16/2022: “Stocks making the biggest moves midday: Alibaba, AeroVironment, Boeing and more”. Again, success at the start of the trading and the end of the day bell on Wall Street! Get US taxpayer contract in the millions, and see you stock rise rise rise like sour dough bread,

Dark Side of Delivery: The Growing Threat of Bioweapon Dissemination by Drones —

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Why Washington’s Focus on “Credibility” is a Recipe for War

The most pressing threat to global security right now isn’t so-called “provocations” by either Russia or China. It is the United States’ misplaced obsession with its own “credibility”.

This rallying cry by Washington officials – echoed by the media and allies in London and elsewhere – is code for allowing the US to act like a global gangster while claiming to be the world’s policeman. US “credibility” was apparently thrown into question last summer – and only when President Joe Biden held firm to a pledge to pull US troops out of Afghanistan.

Prominent critics, including in the Pentagon, objected that any troop withdrawal would both suggest the US was backing off from a commitment to maintain the so-called “international order” and further embolden the West’s “enemies” – from the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) group to Russia and China.

In a postmortem in September, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, echoed a view common in Washington: “I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world, and with adversaries, is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go – and I think that damage is one word that could be used.”

At the same time, a former defence official in the George W Bush administration judged US credibility after the Afghanistan withdrawal at “rock bottom“.

The only way this understanding of US “credibility” makes sense is if one disregards the disastrous previous two decades of Washington’s role in Afghanistan. Those were the years in which the US army propped up a bunch of wildly unpopular kleptocrats in Kabul who ransacked the public coffers as the US launched an arms’ length drone war that ended up killing large numbers of Afghan civilians.

To bolster its apparently diminished “credibility” after the troop withdrawal, the US has imposed crushing sanctions on Afghanistan, deepening its current famine. There have also been reports of CIA efforts to run covert operations against the Taliban by aiding its opponents.

Cold War relic

Washington’s “credibility” was also seemingly in peril when US and Russian officials met in Geneva this week for negotiations in the midst of a diplomatic, and potential military, standoff over Ukraine.

The background are demands from Moscow that Washington stops encircling Russia with military bases and that Nato end its relentless advancement towards Russia’s borders. Nato should be a relic of a Cold War-era that officially ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Moscow dissolved its own version of Nato, the Warsaw Pact, more than three decades ago.

Russia had been given verbal assurances in 1990 by George HW Bush’s administration that Nato would not expand militarily beyond the borders of what was then West Germany. Seven years later, President Bill Clinton signed the Nato-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, which committed Russia and Nato not to treat each other “as adversaries”, while Nato reiterated that there would be no “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” in former Eastern bloc states.

Every subsequent US administration has flagrantly broken both of these pledges, with Nato troops now stationed across eastern Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, Moscow feels as menaced by Nato’s aggressive posturing, which serves to revive its Cold War fears, as Washington would if Russia placed military bases in Cuba and Mexico.

No one should forget that the US was prepared to bring the world to the brink of armageddon in a nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union in 1962 to prevent Moscow from stationing nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Historic alliance

Despite the current clamour about the need for the US to maintain its “credibility”, Washington was in fact only being asked at the Geneva talks to start honouring, 30 years late, commitments it made long ago and has repeatedly violated.

The latest flashpoint is Ukraine, Russia’s neighbour, which has been roiling since a coup in 2014 overthrew the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow. The deeply divided country is split between those who want to prioritise their historic ties with Russia and those who want to be embraced by the European Union.

Moscow – and a proportion of Ukrainians – believe Washington and Europe are exploiting the push for an economic pact to engineer Ukraine’s subordination to Nato security policies, directed against Russia. Such fears are not misplaced. Each of what were formerly Soviet states that became an EU member has also been recruited to Nato. In fact, since 2009 it has been an official requirement, through the Treaty of Lisbon, that EU member states align their security policies with Nato.

Now US “credibility” apparently depends on its determination to bring Nato to Russia’s front door, via Ukraine.

US perfidy

Reporting on a working dinner with Russian diplomats last Sunday, before the Geneva meeting, Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state, recast that perfidy as the US stressing its commitment to “the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is being widely made out to be the aggressor after he posted tens of thousands of troops at the border with Ukraine.

One can argue whether those soldiers are massed for an invasion of Ukraine, as is being widely assumed in the western media, or as a show of force against a US-led Nato that believes it can do whatever it pleases in Russia’s backyard. Either way, a miscalculation by either side could prove disastrous.

According to the New York Times, General Milley has warned the Russians that an invasion force would face a prolonged insurgency backed by US weaponry. There are reports that Stinger anti-aircraft missiles have already been delivered to Ukraine.

Similarly, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has threatened“confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine”.

Drumbeat of war

This reckless way of projecting “credibility” – and thereby making confrontations and war more, not less, likely – is currently on show in relation to another nuclear-armed power, China. For many months, the Biden administration has been playing what looks like a game of chicken with Beijing over China’s continuing assertion of a right to use force against Taiwan, a self-governing island off the coast of China that Beijing claims as its territory.

Few countries formally recognise Taiwan as a state, and nothing in relations between Taipei and China is settled. That includes heated disagreements over the division of airspace, with Taiwan – backed by the US – claiming that a whole chunk of southeast mainland China falls within its “defence zone”. That means the scaremongering headlines about record numbers of Chinese warplanes flying over Taiwan need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The same disputes apply to China and Taiwan’s respective claims to territorial waters, with a similar potential for provocation. The pair’s conflicting views of what constitutes their security and sovereignty are a ready hair-trigger for war – and in circumstances where one party possesses a large nuclear arsenal.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has stomped into this long-simmering feud by feeding the media with alarmist headlines and security analysts with talking points about a possible US war with China over Taiwan. Top Pentagon officials have also stoked concerns of an imminent invasion of Taiwan by China.

Diplomatically, President Biden snubbed his nose at Beijing by inviting Taiwan to attend his so-called “democracy summit” last month. The event further inflamed Chinese indignation by showing Taiwan and China in separate colours on a regional map.

The CIA has announced the establishment of a new espionage centre with an exclusive focus on China. According to CIA director William Burns, it is necessary because the US is faced with “an increasingly adversarial Chinese government”. That “adversary”, however, poses no direct threat to US security – unless Washington chooses provocatively to bring Taiwan under its security umbrella.

Washington’s drumbeat has been so constant that a recent poll showed more than half of Americans supported sending US troops to defend Taiwan.

Nuclear hard line

The picture is the same with Iran. US “credibility” is being cited as the reason why Washington needs to take a hard line against Tehran – goaded, as ever, by Israel – on its presumed ambitions to build a nuclear bomb.

Israel, of course, has had its own large arsenal of nuclear weapons for decades – entirely unmonitored and in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Both the US and Israel fear Iran wants to level the nuclear playing field in the Middle East. Israel is determined to make sure that only it has the power to make nuclear-backed threats, either against others in the region or as leverage in Washington to get its way.

President Barack Obama’s administration signed an agreement with Iran in 2015 placing strict limits on Tehran’s development of nuclear technology. In return, Washington lifted some of the most punishing sanctions on the country. Three years later, however, President Donald Trump reneged on the deal.

Now Iran suffers the worst of both worlds. The US has again intensified the sanctions regime while demanding that Tehran renew the deal on worse terms – and with no promise, according to US Secretary of State Blinken, that the next US administration won’t tear up the agreement anyway.

US “credibility” does not depend, it seems, on Washington being required to keep its word.

In the background, as ever, is the threat of joint military reprisals from Israel and the US. In October, Biden reportedly asked his national security adviser to review Pentagon plans for a military strike if this one-sided “diplomatic process” failed. A month later, Israel approved $1.5bn for precisely such an eventuality.

Drunk on power

Washington’s emphasis on its “credibility” is actually a story the US elite tells itself and western publics to obscure the truth. What is really prized is America’s ability to enforce its economic interests and military superiority unchallenged across the globe.

After the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the US overthrow of the elected government of Iran to reinstall its dictator-monarch, there is barely a corner of the planet where the US has not meddled. In Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and its so-called “backyard”, Latin America, US “credibility” has required interventions and war as an alternative to diplomacy.

In October 2019, as Trump suggested that US troops would be pulled out of Syria – where they had no authorisation from the United Nations to be in the first place – Leon Panetta, a former defence secretary and former head of the CIA, observed that the decision had “weakened the US” and “undercut our credibility in the world”.

He added: “There isn’t an ally that we’ve around the world that doesn’t now distrust us and worry about whether or not we will stand by our word.”

But this kind of credibility is built not on principle, on respecting others’ national sovereignty, or on peace-building, but on the gangsterism of a superpower drunk on its own power and its ability to intimidate and crush rivals.

Washington’s “word” is only selectively kept, as its treatment of Russia and Iran highlight. And enforcement of its “credibility” – from breaking commitments to threatening war – has had a predictable effect: they have driven Washington’s “enemies” into an opposition camp out of necessity.

The US has created a more menacing adversary, as Russia and China, two nuclear powers, have found a common purpose in asserting a countervailing pressure on Washington. Since the late summer, the two have held a series of war games and joint military exercises, each of them a first.

The world is entering what looks like a new, even more complex cold war, in which any misunderstanding, mishap or false move could rapidly escalate into nuclear confrontation. If it happens, the pursuit of US “credibility” will have played a central part in the catastrophe.

First published in Middle East Eye

The post Why Washington’s Focus on “Credibility” is a Recipe for War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Trump Thinks He’s Still President: What Is the Evidence?

Donald Trump thinks he’s still president according to no more reliable a source than Rachel Maddow on her February 5th show. This was confirmed in May by Vanity Fair.  Right-wing conspiracy theorists echo this analysis as recently as this month. Left-liberals are smugly confident that Kamala Harris’s running mate is in the White House, snoozing in the presidential bedroom. Inquiring minds ask what is the evidence nearly a year into the alleged Biden presidency that there has been a change of guard in Washington?

+The Obama-Biden union card check proposal was not on Mr. Trump’s political horizon, nor is it on that of the current occupant in the White House.

+The current occupant is ramping up Trump’s unhinged Sino-phobic hallucinations, sanctioning 34 Chinese entities for development of “brain-control weaponry.” Not that the Chinese have been angels. In an egregious suppression of freedom of information, the inscrutable Orientals have made it more difficult for US spies to operate in their country.

+The current occupant nominally withdrew US troops from Afghanistan as negotiated by Mr. Trump, presumably reducing overall military costs. Yet, he continues the Trump-trajectory of lavishing billions of dollars more on the military than even the Pentagon requests.

+Given his priority to feed the war machine, the new occupant is having a hard time finding sufficient funds for Biden-promised student debt forgiveness. Ditto for making two years of community college tuition-free.

+ President Trump slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%; candidate Biden vowed to raise it to 28%; the current occupant proposed a further cut to 15%.

Biden, while campaigning in 2019, pledged to wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he’s elected. And nothing has changed despite recent drama in the Senate over Build Back Better. Trump’s $4.5 trillion corporate-investor tax cut still appears secure.

+Raising the federal minimum wage to $15-an-hour from $7.25, where it has languished since 2009, was a big selling point for the Biden campaign. Now it is on hold, while billionaire fortunes balloon, leaving the working class broke but woke under the current administration.

+The Obama-Biden nuclear deal with Iran was gutted by Trump. The current occupant, contrary to Biden’s campaign utterances, has not returned to the conditions of the JCPOA. Rather, he has continued Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran.

+Candidate Biden, calling for a foreign policy based on diplomacy, criticized Trump’s dangerous and erratic war mongering. Yet only a month after his inauguration, the new president capriciously bombed “Iranian-backed militias” in Syria who were fighting ISIS terrorists and posed no threat to the US.

The new president went on to authorize further “air strikes” on “targets” around the world such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Now, the undiscriminating reader might think these are acts of war. But war, according to the “rules-based order” of the new occupant, is best understood as a conflict where US lives are lost rather than those of seemingly more expendable swarthy-skinned foreigners.

+The Obama-Biden normalization of relations with Cuba and easing of restrictions were reversed by Trump. Presidential candidate Biden had signaled a return, but the current occupant has instead intensified the US hybrid war against Cuba.

+Candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity. The presumptive intention of the review was to ameliorate the human suffering caused by these unilateral coercive measures. Sanctions are a form of collective punishment considered illegal under international law. Following the review, the current occupant has instead tightened the screws, more effectively weaponizing the COVID crisis against countries such as Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela, while adding Ethiopia and Cambodia to the growing list of those sanctioned.

+Among Trump’s most ridiculous foreign policy stunts (and it’s a competitive field) was the recognition of Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela in 2019. The then 35-year-old US security asset had never run for a nationwide office and was unknown to over 80% of the Venezuelans. Contrary to campaign trail inuendoes that Biden would dialogue with the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, the new guy in the White House has continued the embarrassing Guaidó charade.

+The current White House occupant has also continued and expanded on some of the worse anti-immigrant policies of the xenophobe who preceded him. Asylum seekers from Haiti and Central America – fleeing conditions in large part created by US interventions in their countries – have been sent packing. Within a month of assuming the presidency, migrant detention facilities for children were employed, contradicting statements made by candidate Biden who had deplored locking kids in cages.

+President Trump was a shameless global warming denier. Candidate Biden was a refreshing true believer, boldly calling for a ban on new oil and natural gas leasing on public land and water. But whoever is now in the Oval Office opened more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel drilling.

Perhaps the strongest evidence that Trump is practically still in office is the political practice of his left-liberal detractors who solemnly promised to “first dump Trump, then battle Biden.” However, these left-liberals are still obsessing about dumping Trump. Instead of battling Biden, they are fanning the dying embers of the fear of another January 6 insurrection, giving the Democrats a pass.

Of course, the Democrats occupy the executive branch along with holding majorities and both houses of Congress. Yet, despite campaign pledges and spin, the continuity from one administration to the next is overarching as the preceding quick review documented.

The partisan infighting theatrics of the “dysfunctional Congress” is in part a distraction from an underlying bedrock bipartisan consensus. Congress is dysfunctional by design on matters of social welfare for working Americans. It is ruthlessly functional for matters of concern for the ruling elites, such as the military spending, bank bailouts, corporate welfare, and an expansive surveillance state.

The Democrats offer an empty “we are not Trump” alternative. The bankrupt left-liberals no longer stand for substantial improvements to the living conditions of working people, a “peace dividend,” or respite from war without end. Instead, they use the scare tactic that they are the bulwark against a right popular insurgency; an insurgency fueled in the first place by the failure of the two-party system to speak to the material needs of its constituents.

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How Congress Loots the Treasury for the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Despite a disagreement over some amendments in the Senate, the United States Congress is poised to pass a $778 billion military budget bill for 2022. As they have been doing year after year, our elected officials are preparing to hand the lion’s share – over 65% – of federal discretionary spending to the U.S. war machine, even as they wring their hands over spending a mere quarter of that amount on the Build Back Better Act.

The U.S. military’s incredible record of systematic failure—most recently its final trouncing by the Taliban after twenty years of death, destruction and lies in Afghanistan—cries out for a top-to-bottom review of its dominant role in U.S. foreign policy and a radical reassessment of its proper place in Congress’s budget priorities.

Instead, year after year, members of Congress hand over the largest share of our nation’s resources to this corrupt institution, with minimal scrutiny and no apparent fear of accountability when it comes to their own reelection. Members of Congress still see it as a “safe” political call to carelessly whip out their rubber-stamps and vote for however many hundreds of billions in funding Pentagon and arms industry lobbyists have persuaded the Armed Services Committees they should cough up.

Let’s make no mistake about this: Congress’s choice to keep investing in a massive, ineffective and absurdly expensive war machine has nothing to do with “national security” as most people understand it, or “defense” as the dictionary defines it.

U.S. society does face critical threats to our security, including the climate crisis, systemic racism, erosion of voting rights, gun violence, grave inequalities and the corporate hijacking of political power. But one problem we fortunately do not have is the threat of attack or invasion by a rampant global aggressor or, in fact, by any other country at all.

Maintaining a war machine that outspends the 12 or 13 next largest militaries in the world combined actually makes us less safe, as each new administration inherits the delusion that the United States’ overwhelmingly destructive military power can, and therefore should, be used to confront any perceived challenge to U.S. interests anywhere in the world—even when there is clearly no military solution and when many of the underlying problems were caused by past misapplications of U.S. military power in the first place.

While the international challenges we face in this century require a genuine commitment to international cooperation and diplomacy, Congress allocates only $58 billion, less than 10 percent of the Pentagon budget, to the diplomatic corps of our government: the State Department even worse, both Democratic and Republican administrations keep filling top diplomatic posts with officials indoctrinated and steeped in policies of war and coercion, with scant experience and meager skills in the peaceful diplomacy we so desperately need.

This only perpetuates a failed foreign policy based on false choices between economic sanctions that UN officials have compared to medieval sieges, coups that destabilize countries and regions for decades, and wars and bombing campaigns that kill millions of people and leave cities in rubble, like Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

The end of the Cold War was a golden opportunity for the United States to reduce its forces and military budget to match its legitimate defense needs. The American public naturally expected and hoped for a “Peace Dividend,” and even veteran Pentagon officials told the Senate Budget Committee in 1991 that military spending could safely be cut by 50% over the next ten years.

But no such cut happened. U.S. officials instead set out to exploit the post-Cold War “Power Dividend,” a huge military imbalance in favor of the United States, by developing rationales for using military force more freely and widely around the world. During the transition to the new Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright famously asked Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

In 1999, as Secretary of State under President Clinton, Albright got her wish, running roughshod over the UN Charter with an illegal war to carve out an independent Kosovo from the ruins of Yugoslavia.

The UN Charter clearly prohibits the threat or use of military force except in cases of self-defense or when the UN Security Council takes military action “to maintain or restore international peace and security.” This was neither. When U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Albright his government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over NATO’s illegal war plan, Albright crassly told him to “get new lawyers.”

Twenty-two years later, Kosovo is the third-poorest country in Europe (after Moldova and post-coup Ukraine) and its independence is still not recognized by 96 countries. Hashim Thaçi, Albright’s hand-picked main ally in Kosovo and later its president, is awaiting trial in an international court at the Hague, charged with murdering at least 300 civilians under cover of NATO bombing in 1999 to extract and sell their internal organs on the international transplant market.

Clinton and Albright’s gruesome and illegal war set the precedent for more illegal U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, with equally devastating and horrific results. But America’s failed wars have not led Congress or successive administrations to seriously rethink the U.S. decision to rely on illegal threats and uses of military force to project U.S. power all over the world, nor have they reined in the trillions of dollars invested in these imperial ambitions.

Instead, in the upside-down world of institutionally corrupt U.S. politics, a generation of failed and pointlessly destructive wars have had the perverse effect of normalizing even more expensive military budgets than during the Cold War, and reducing congressional debate to questions of how many more of each useless weapons system they should force U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill for.

It seems that no amount of killing, torture, mass destruction or lives ruined in the real world can shake the militaristic delusions of America’s political class, as long as the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex” (President Eisenhower’s original wording) is reaping the benefits.

Today, most political and media references to the Military-Industrial Complex refer only to the arms industry as a self-serving corporate interest group on a par with Wall Street, Big Pharma or the fossil fuel industry. But in his Farewell Address, Eisenhower explicitly pointed to, not just the arms industry, but the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.”

Eisenhower was just as worried about the anti-democratic impact of the military as the arms industry. Weeks before his Farewell Address, he told his senior advisors, “God help this country when somebody sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” His fears have been realized in every subsequent presidency.

According to Milton Eisenhower, the president’s brother, who helped him draft his Farewell Address, Ike also wanted to talk about the “revolving door.” Early drafts of his speech referred to “a permanent, war-based industry,” with “flag and general officers retiring at an early age to take positions in the war-based industrial complex, shaping its decisions and guiding the direction of its tremendous thrust.” He wanted to warn that steps must be taken to “insure that the ‘merchants of death’ do not come to dictate national policy.”

As Eisenhower feared, the careers of figures like Generals Austin and Mattis now span all branches of the corrupt MIC conglomerate: commanding invasion and occupation forces in Afghanistan and Iraq; then donning suits and ties to sell weapons to new generals who served under them as majors and colonels; and finally re-emerging from the same revolving door as cabinet members at the apex of American politics and government.

So why does the Pentagon brass get a free pass, even as Americans feel increasingly conflicted about the arms industry? After all, it is the military that actually uses all these weapons to kill people and wreak havoc in other countries.

Even as it loses war after war overseas, the U.S. military has waged a far more successful one to burnish its image in the hearts and minds of Americans and win every budget battle in Washington.

The complicity of Congress, the third leg of the stool in Eisenhower’s original formulation, turns the annual battle of the budget into the “cakewalk” that the war in Iraq was supposed to be, with no accountability for lost wars, war crimes, civilian massacres, cost overruns or the dysfunctional military leadership that presides over it all.

There is no congressional debate over the economic impact on America or the geopolitical consequences for the world of uncritically rubber-stamping huge investments in powerful weapons that will sooner or later be used to kill our neighbors and smash their countries, as they have for the past 22 years and far too often throughout our history.

If the public is ever to have any impact on this dysfunctional and deadly money-go-round, we must learn to see through the fog of propaganda that masks self-serving corruption behind red, white and blue bunting, and allows the military brass to cynically exploit the public’s natural respect for brave young men and women who are ready to risk their lives to defend our country. In the Crimean War, the Russians called British troops “lions led by donkeys.” That is an accurate description of today’s U.S. military.

Sixty years after Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, exactly as he predicted, the “weight of this combination” of corrupt generals and admirals, the profitable “merchants of death” whose goods they peddle, and the Senators and Representatives who blindly entrust them with trillions of dollars of the public’s money, constitute the full flowering of President Eisenhower’s greatest fears for our country.

Eisenhower concluded, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals.” That clarion call echoes through the decades and should unite Americans in every form of democratic organizing and movement building, from elections to education and advocacy to mass protests, to finally reject and dispel the “unwarranted influence” of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

 

 

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The Delusional Commitment to the Doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” is leading the U.S. and the World to Disaster

The 21st Century was supposed to be the century of continued and unchallenged global dominance by the U.S., at least that was the plan advanced by the right-wing political hacks at the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Their optimism was understandable. With the dismantling of the Soviet Union, it was reasonable that the petit-bourgeois intellectual servants of capital would see no rival or check on U.S. power. According to liberal theorists like Francis Fukuyama, with the dismantling of the Soviet state and system, the historic struggle to establish the hegemony of classical liberalism and capitalism as the inevitable outcome of the “Western” driven project known as modernity had come in an end.

For both classical liberals like Fukuyama and neoconservatives who would rise to power during the George W. Bush administration, it was asserted that the societies of the U.S. and Western Europe should be viewed as representative of the apex of collective human development that all should aspire to because history and objective rationalism had determined it so, and – “there is no alternative.”

But human societies, even when they are claimed to be guided by objective scientific laws, have never emerged as a tabula rasa. What develops at any point in history is the outcome of the social and economic contradictions of the previous era with many of those unresolved contradictions still present in the new era.

The permanent unipolar dominance of the U.S. and the end of history that was decreed in the nineties proved to be as much of an ideological fiction as the thousand-year rule of Hitler’s Third Reich. And like Hitler, with whom the managers of the U.S. empire share a common philosophical commitment to white supremacy along with the recognition that global hegemony required a colonial empire, U.S. policymakers also made fatal strategic blunders once they found themselves with unchallenged global power.

Why?

The delusional quality of consciousness and a worldview infused with white supremacist ideology makes it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for individuals infected with this mental affliction to cognitively grasp the world as it really exists, let alone to understand the limitations of their power.

That is precisely why with the dawn of the 21st century the U.S. found itself embroiled in two simultaneous military conflicts that U.S. policymakers thought they could successfully conduct with a poverty conscripted army and a dubious rationale provided by the “War on Terror.”

However, instead of the global natives being in awe of U.S. power, by 2007 what Mao Zedong had proclaimed and the Vietnamize had confirmed and that was that the U.S. was a “paper-tiger.”

And with the defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, did U.S. policymakers draw any lesson from a military-first strategy that would compel a reassessment of that approach? Of course not.

In precipitous global decline and with an ongoing and deepening crisis of legitimacy domestically, the Obama administration launched and/or supported at least three wars, and the Trump administration continued many of those policies, including escalating tensions with both Russia and China.

The Biden administration embraced the anti-Chinese belligerence of the Trump administration and the Obama administrations’ military pivot to Asia. These policies epitomized the dangerously irrational and desperate belief that military bluster would pre-empt or reverse the fate that all empires face when their subjects are no longer afraid and the rulers have become soft, corrupt and are unable to even convince themselves that they are still fit to rule.

Yet, this is a cold-blooded criminal class that is ruthless and still dangerous. We must not forget this. The destruction of Libya, wars in Syria and Yemen, subversion in Ethiopia and Haiti, coups, illegal sanctions and the outrageous interventions into the internal affairs and electoral processes in Nicaragua and Venezuela are just some of the actions that bear out the destructive power of the U.S.

With its rulers’ consciousness and worldviews infused with the psychopathologies of white supremacist ideology, the drive to maintain global “Full Spectrum Dominance,” a grotesque, bipartisan doctrine that commits the U.S. to aggressive counters to any real or imagine threats to its global or regional economic and political dominance, reflects more than just a strategy for continued bourgeois economic and political hegemony. It takes on an existential character because for the ruling class, “whiteness” and dominance are naturally interconnected and serve as the foundation of their identity. And it is why the rise of China is so incredibly disconcerting.

That is why, like a crazed wounded animal during the decline of the white West, all of collective humanity is threatened by the devastating power of this narcissistic, colonial/capitalist minority of the global population that would rather destroy the world than to not be able to dominate it.

But then again, revolutionary forces, states, and projects are demonstrating that collective humanity is not ready to allow the greed, barbarity and selfishness of the Western capitalist ruling class to lead to the demise of life on the planet. There is growing opposition. And that opposition is clear. In order for the world to live, the Pan European colonial/capitalist white supremacist patriarchy must die.

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“Honest mistakes”: How the US and Israel justify the targeting and killing of civilians

An “honest mistake” is buying your partner the wrong perfume or copying someone into an email chain by accident. It is not firing a drone missile at a car, killing 10 civilians – and doing so when a small child was clearly visible moments earlier.

And yet, a supposedly “independent” Pentagon inquiry this month claimed just such a good-faith mistake after US commanders authorised a drone strike in late August that killed an Afghan family, including seven children. A US air force general concluded that there was no negligence or misconduct, and that no disciplinary action should be taken.

At the weekend, the Pentagon exonerated itself again. It called a 2019 air strike on Baghuz in Syria that killed dozens of women and children “justified”. It did so even after an investigation by the New York Times showed that the group of civilians who were bombed had already been identified as fleeing fighting between US-backed militias and the Islamic State group.

A US military lawyer, Dean Korsak, flagged the incident at the time as a potential war crime but the Pentagon never carried out an investigation. It came to public attention only because Korsak sent details to a Senate oversight committee.

In announcing the conclusions of its Afghanistan inquiry, the Pentagon made clear what its true priorities are in the wake of its hurried, Saigon-style exit from Afghanistan following two decades of failed occupation. It cares about image management, not accountability.

Contrast its refusal to take action against the drone operators and commanders who fired on a civilian vehicle with the Pentagon’s immediate crackdown on one of its soldiers who criticised the handling of the withdrawal. Veteran marine Stuart Scheller was court-martialled last month after he used social media to publicly berate his bosses.

Which of the two – Scheller’s comment or the impunity of those who killed an innocent family – is likely to do more to discredit the role of the US military, in Afghanistan or in other theatres around the globe in which it operates?

Colonial narrative

The Pentagon is far from alone in expecting to be exempted from scrutiny for its war crimes.

The “honest mistake” is a continuing colonial narrative western nations tell themselves, and the rest of us, when they kill civilians. When western troops invade and occupy other people’s lands – and maybe help themselves to some of the resources they find along the way – it is done in the name of bringing security or spreading democracy. We are always the Good Guys, they are the Evil Ones. We make mistakes, they commit crimes.

This self-righteousness is the source of western indignation at any suggestion that the International Criminal Court at The Hague should investigate, let alone prosecute, US, European and Israeli commanders or politicians for carrying out or overseeing war crimes.

It is only African leaders or enemies of Nato who need to be dragged before tribunals and made to pay a price. But nothing in the latest Pentagon inquiry confirms the narrative of an “honest mistake”, despite indulgent coverage in western media referring to the drone strike as “botched”.

Even the establishment of the inquiry was not honest. How is it “independent” for a Pentagon general to investigate an incident involving US troops?

The drone operators who killed the family of Zemerai Ahmadi, an employee of a US aid organisation, were authorised to do so because his white Toyota Corolla was mistaken for a similar vehicle reported as belonging to the local franchise of Islamic State. But that make is one of the most common vehicles in Afghanistan.

The head of the aid organisation where he worked told reporters pointedly: “I do not understand how the most powerful military in the world could follow [Mr Ahmadi], an aid worker, in a commonly used car for eight hours, and not figure out who he was, and why he was at a US aid organisation’s headquarters.”

The decision was, at best, recklessly indifferent as to whether Ahmadi was a genuine target and whether children would die as a result. But more likely, when it attacked Ahmadi’s vehicle, the entire US military system was in the grip of a blinding thirst for revenge. Three days earlier, 13 American soldiers and 169 Afghan civilians had been killed when a bomb exploded close to Kabul airport, as Afghans massed there in the hope of gaining a place on one of the last evacuation flights.

That airport explosion was the final military humiliation – this one inflicted by Islamic State – after the Taliban effectively chased American troops out of Afghanistan. Revenge – even when it is dressed up as restoring “deterrence” or “military honour” – is not an “honest mistake”.

Pattern of behaviour

But there is an even deeper reason to be sceptical of the Pentagon inquiry. There is no “honest mistake” defence when the same mistakes keep happening. “Honest mistakes” can’t be a pattern of behaviour.

And yet the long years of US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and meddling in Syria, have been pockmarked with air strikes that obliterated families or slammed into wedding parties. That information rarely makes headlines, eclipsed by the Pentagon’s earlier, faulty claims of the successful “neutralisation of terrorists”.

But just such “mistakes” were the reason why the US occupation of Afghanistan ultimately imploded. The Pentagon’s scatter-gun killing of Afghans created so many enemies among the local population that US-backed local rulers lost all legitimacy.

Something similar happened during the US and UK’s occupation of Iraq. Anyone who believes the Pentagon commits “honest mistakes” when it kills civilians needs to watch the video, Collateral Murder, issued by WikiLeaks in 2012.

It shows the aerial view of helicopter pilots in 2007 as they discuss with a mix of technical indifference and gruesome glee their missile strikes on a crowd of Iraqis, including two Reuters journalists, moving about on the streets of Baghdad below.

When a passing van tries to come to the aid of one of wounded, the pilots fire again, even though a child is visible in the front seat. In fact, two children were found inside the van. US soldiers arriving at the scene made the decision to deny both treatment from US physicians.

As the pilots were told of the casualties, one commented: “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.” The other responded: “That’s right.”

Before the video was leaked, the military claimed that the civilians killed that day had been caught in the crossfire of a gun battle. “There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” a statement read.

The video, however, shows that there was nothing honest or mistaken about the way those Iraqis died, even if there was no specific intention to kill civilians. They were killed because US commanders were uninterested in the safety of those it occupied, because they were indifferent to whether Iraqis, even Iraqi children, lived or died.

Killing innocents

The states that cry loudest that they kill innocents “by accident” or “unintentionally” or because “the terrorists shield behind them” are also the ones that keep killing innocents.

Israel’s version of this is the “tragic mistake” – the excuse it used in 2014 when its navy fired two precision missiles at a beach in Gaza at exactly the spot where four boys were playing football. They were killed instantly. In seven weeks of pummelling Gaza in 2014, Israel killed more than 500 Palestinian children and more than 850 adult civilians. And yet all were apparently “honest mistakes” because no soldiers, commanders or politicians were ever held to account for those deaths.

Palestinian civilians keep dying year after year, decade after decade, and yet they are always killed by an “honest mistake”. Israel’s excuses are entirely unconvincing for the same reason the Pentagon’s carry no weight.

Both have committed their crimes in another people’s territory to which they have not been invited. Both militaries rule over those people without good cause, treating the local population as “hostiles”. And both act in the knowledge that their soldiers enjoy absolute impunity.

In reaching its decision on the killing of the Afghan family this month, the Pentagon stated that it had not “broken the law“. That verdict too is not honest. What the US military means is that it did not break its own self-serving rules of engagement, rules that permit anything the US military decides it wants to do. It behaves as if no laws apply to it when it invades others’ lands, not even the laws of the territories it occupies.

That argument is dishonest too. There are the laws of war and the laws of occupation. There is international law. The US has broken those laws over and over again in Afghanistan and Iraq, as has Israel in ruling over the Palestinians for more than five decades and blockading parts of their territory.

The problem is that there is no appetite to enforce international law against the planet’s sole military superpower and its allies. Instead it is allowed to claim the role of benevolent global policeman.

No scrutiny

Both the US and Israel declined to ratify the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) that judges war crimes. That refusal was no “honest mistake” either. Each expected to avoid the court’s scrutiny.

US and Israeli leaders know their soldiers commit war crimes, and that they themselves commit war crimes by approving either the wars of aggression these soldiers are expected to wage or the messy, long-term belligerent occupations they are supposed to enforce.  But whatever they hope, the failure to ratify the statute does not serve as a stay-out-of-jail card. US and Israeli leaders still risk falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction if the countries they invade or occupy have ratified the statute, as is the case with Afghanistan and Palestine.

The catch is that the Hague court can be used only as a last resort – in other words, it has to be shown first that any country accused of war crimes failed to seriously investigate those crimes itself.

The chorus from the US and Israel of “honest mistake” every time they kill civilians is just such proof. It demonstrates that the US and Israeli legal systems are entirely incapable of upholding the laws of war, or holding their own political and military officials to account. That must be the job of the ICC instead.

But the court is fearful. The Trump administration launched a mafia-style campaign against it last year to stop its officials investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan. The assets of the court’s officials were blocked and they were denied the right to enter the US.

That is the reason why the court keeps failing to stand up for the victims of western war crimes like Zemerai Ahmadi and his children. The ICC had spent 15 years dragging its feet before it finally announced last year that it would investigate allegations of US war crimes in Afghanistan. That resolve quickly dissolved under the subsequent campaign of pressure.

In September, shortly after Ahmadi’s family was killed by US drone operators, the court’s chief prosecutor declared that investigations into US actions in Afghanistan, including widespread claims of torture of Afghans, would be “deprioritised.” The investigation would focus instead on the Taliban and Islamic State.

Once again, enemies of the US, but not the US itself, will be called to account. That too is no “honest mistake”.

• First published in Middle East Eye

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US Politics: We need a Transformation

As if we needed any more evidence of the sorry state of our political system, the long-running battle over the ‘Build Back Better’ bill has provided it. As Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out, an early version of this bill included many proposals that would help Americans live with a sense of security. In addition, these proposals were strongly supported by the US population.

Among these many items were negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to lower the obscenely high drug prices, universal Preschool for all 3- and 4-year olds, support for paid family and medical leave, and the expansion of Medicare to include dental care, hearing aids and glasses. Particularly popular with the public, the funding for this bill would come from taxes and legislative changes affecting the super wealthy who have benefited enormously from previous legislation (including gigantic bailouts) from Congress and the White House.

The corporate media reported this version of the bill had a price tag of $3.5 trillion, but failed to emphasize that this cost was spread over a 10-year period, or $350 billion per year. Many politicians opposed this bill, claiming that the cost was too high.

However, these same politicians didn’t bat an eye at giving about $715 billion a year or, assuming the same funding level, over $7 trillion for 10 years to the US military. It didn’t matter that the military has not passed an annual independent audit since Congress first mandated the audit for federal agencies in 1990. In addition, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the US spending on its military is greater than the sum of the next 11 nations combined and most of these countries are our allies.

In 1957, General Douglas MacArthur, a leading US military figure during the 20th century and hardly a peacenik, explained the support for increasing military budgets:

Our swollen budgets constantly have been misrepresented to the public. Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear … with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.

The situation is worse today than the one President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address when he pointed out the dangers of the military-industrial complex. The media, universities and think tanks now are also part of this complex and provide even more lobbying clout.

An investigation by Brown University researchers estimated that the cost of US global war on terror since 9/11 at $8 trillion with direct responsibility for about 900,000 deaths. Clearly this war has been counterproductive for the US image around the world. In addition, its illegal attacks have also caused enormous unnecessary devastation and loss of lives particularly in the Middle East. Making matters worse, these illegal interventions, particularly the war crimes committed against Iraq, had very little to do with direct US interests. What a waste of resources! The financial cost to the US would be even far higher if the US were required to pay reparations for the devastation its war crimes caused.

Yet Congress continues to generously fund the Pentagon and to enrich the merchants of death while it is a miser to agencies that actually help the American public achieve the necessities of life. These necessities include housing, education, health care, food, etc. People living in much of Western Europe live much more secure lives having had these necessities for decades. Clearly our system of legalized bribery of politicians enriches the wealthy at the public’s expense.

It is terrible that two recalcitrant Democratic senators have been able to eliminate many of the important items included in the previous version of the Act such that it now costs about $185 billion/year. It is possible that the bill’s costs will be further reduced as other provisions are stripped away. What is even worse is the role of partisan politics where not even one Republican senator will stand up for the security of their fellow Americans and support the Act. What happened to the idea of standing up for the public interest? Do they prefer to see the public continue to suffer rather than to allow the other party to claim success? This system of legalized bribery and intense partisanship is a system that dooms us to disaster.

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Hypersonic Panic and Competitive Terror

During his eventful time in office, US President Donald Trump took much delight in reflecting about the lethal toys of his country’s military, actual or hypothetical.  These included a hypersonic capability which, his military advisors had warned, was being mastered by adversaries.  Such devices, comprising hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic boost-glide vehicles, have been touted as opening a new arms race, given their ability not merely to travel at five times the speed of sound – as a general rule – but also show deft manoeuvrability to evade defences.

Undeterred by any rival capability, Trump claimed in May 2020 that the US military had come up with a  “super duper” weapon that could travel at 17 times the speed of sound. “We are building, right now, incredible military equipment at a level that nobody has ever seen before.”  Ever adolescent in poking fun at his rivals, Trump also claimed that the missile dwarfed Russian and Chinese equivalents.  Russia, he claimed, had one travelling at five times the speed of sound; China was working on a device that could move at the same speed, if not at six times.  Pentagon officials were not exactly forthcoming about the details, leaving the fantasists to speculate.

In 2019, Russia deployed its own intercontinental hypersonic missile, the Avangard strategic system, featuring a hypersonic glide vehicle astride an intercontinental ballistic missile. “It’s a weapon of the future, capable of penetrating both existing and prospective missile defence systems,” claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin at the time.  The President claimed to have reason to crow.  “Today, we have a unique situation in our new and recent history.  They (other countries) are trying to catch up with us. Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons.”

For all of this claimed prowess, nothing quite creased the brows of Pentagon officials quite as China’s July 27 hypersonic missile test.  General Mark  Milley, chairman of the Joint of Chief of Staff, said in a Bloomberg interview this October that it was “a very significant event” and was “very concerning”.  The test was first reported by the Financial Times on October 16, which also noted, without additional detail, a second hypersonic systems test on August 13.

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force had already caught the attention of US military planners in the last decade with advances in the field.  The Dongfeng-17 (D-17) hypersonic boost-glide missile, for instance, made its appearance in 2014 and was found to be dismayingly accurate, striking their targets within metres.

The July test, however, was another matter, even if it missed its target by 19 miles and had been described by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian as a “routine test” of space vehicle technology.  It had used, for instance, a variant of the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, a low-orbit missile delivery method pioneered by the Soviets to frustrate detection.  It got the drummers from the military-industrial complex all riled up, despite the US having been actively involved in the development of hypersonic weapons since the early 2000s.  In the imperial mindset, any seemingly successful experiment by the military of another power, notably an adversary, is bound to cause a titter of panic.  Pin pricks can be treated as grave threats, even to a power that outspends the combined military budgets of the next seven states.

When it comes to the perceived advances of Beijing and Moscow, Alexander Fedorov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology offers a mild corrective.  Russia had “experience without money, China has money without much experience, and the United States has both, although it revived its efforts later than did Russia or China and is now playing catch-up.”

The US military establishment prefers a gloomier reading, a point they can then sell to Congress that Freedom’s Land is being somehow outpaced by upstarts and usurpers.  George Hayes, chief executive at defence contractor Raytheon, spoke disapprovingly of the US as being a laggard in the hypersonic field, being “years behind” China.  Michael Griffin, former undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, told NPR that “it is an arms race” which “we didn’t start”, thereby providing moral reassurance for future additions to it. Milley was also not averse to inflating the significance of the July test.  “I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that.  It has all of our attention.”

USA Today certainly wished its readers to give it all their attention.  “That method of delivery also means the US could be attacked by flights over the South Pole.  American defense systems concentrate on missile attacks from the north.”

The Biden administration has already requested $3.8 billion for hypersonic research for the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2022 budget.  This is a sharp increase from the previous total of $3.2 billion, which was itself an inflation from the $2.6 billion figure the year before that.  In June, Vice Admiral Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), warned the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces of current and impending risks, thereby making the case for more cash to be thrown at the enterprise.  As things stood, “US aircraft carriers are already facing risks from hypersonic weapons that are now entering the inventory of American adversaries and the Navy has developed early defences for the threat.”

The prospect of yet another arms race (do they ever learn?) can only cause the sane to be worried.  Zhao Tong, senior fellow with the nuclear policy program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, notes that such weapons “introduce more technological uncertainties and ambiguities compared with traditional ballistic missiles, which will increase the possibility of misjudgement and overreaction during military conflicts”.  Just the sort of thing a planet troubled by climate change and pandemics needs.

Hypersonic panic is here to stay, and defence contractors are rubbing their hands and hoping to grease a few palms.  Hayes is one of them, expecting that the US would “have weapons to challenge the adversaries but most importantly, I think our focus is how do we develop counter-hypersonics.  That’s where the challenge will be.”  The National Review is in full agreement, encouraging the US to “deploy missile-defense interceptors in Australia and more sensors in space, as well as work toward directed-energy weapons that would be the best counter to hypersonic missiles.”  Yet another competitive front for military lunacy is in the offing, even before it has begun.

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