Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for the ‘military’ Category

A national treasure

Posted by Charles II on November 24, 2014

Andrew Bacevich:

Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status.

* The presence of U.S. forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.

* The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital U.S. national security interest.

* Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.

* The interests of the United States and Israel align.

* Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.

For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior U.S. official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record.

Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.

Bacevich is a national treasure. An Army colonel who lost a son, he has spoken out against our dangerous and ineffective policy with great courage.

Posted in history, Homeland Security, international, Iraq war, military | Comments Off on A national treasure

Remembering Liberty

Posted by Charles II on June 9, 2014

All states do cynical things. One can’t condemn any government for a single bad deed. But the US response to the sinking of the USS Liberty is one of those things that has to be acknowledged before the American people can have any confidence in their own government, much less that of Israel. The basic story is this:

On the 47th anniversary of that unprovoked attack let’s be clear about what happened: Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day War raged in the Middle East. Let me repeat: there is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew.

There were notably heartless actions by the pilots who engaged in the attacks–and notable bravery by American sailors–that makes this an emotional issue. Critics of Israel point to it as the moment in which that state learned that it could act with impunity, poisoning subsequent relations between the countries. That’s probably not true, since the US can always re-assert itself. And, of course, this plays into the Israel-Palestine conflict and the broader Israel-Arab conflict. Those deserve to be judged on their own merits/demerits.

And then there’s the fact that the president who directed the American response to the attack on USS Liberty was perhaps simultaneously both the best and the worst of post-WW II presidents. For those who hate him, it is easy to turn his indifference toward American servicemen into a bloody rag. The stories of both the dead and the survivors would break your heart. But lots of presidents have been indifferent to servicemen. That is, after all, why there have been so many wars and so little response to problems like PTSD, Agent Orange exposure, and Gulf War Syndrome. Just because those men suffer and die out of the public spotlight doesn’t mean that presidents are ignorant of the human consequences of their inaction.

The main issue, as far as I am concerned is the US response:

When President Johnson learned that the USS America and USS Saratoga had launched warplanes to do battle with the forces attacking the Liberty, he told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to call Sixth Fleet commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss and tell him to order the warplanes to return immediately to their carriers.

According to J.Q. “Tony” Hart, a chief petty officer who monitored these conversations from a U.S. Navy communications relay station in Morocco, Geiss shot back that one of his ships was under attack.

And then, to add insult to grave injurywas this element of the US response:

[According to a commission led by] former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and before that Chief of Naval Operations) [Admiral] Thomas Moorer…

… surviving crew members were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment, or worse” if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government.”

How come Admiral Moorer, along with Marine General Ray Davis and Rear Admiral Merlin Staring were the only senior members of the military to demand that the human beings aboard the Liberty be acknowledged?

Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the sinking of USS Liberty. Refusing to politicize it in any way, let’s make sure that it is never forgotten. Let’s make sure that the memory of what our government did never be forgotten. And let’s try to make sure that the survivors of that and all acts of war receive humane treatment for all wounds, visible or not.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, history, military, veterans | Comments Off on Remembering Liberty

Senkakooky: US launches itself into island dispute

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2013

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian:

US warplanes have directly challenged China’s claims of an expanding territorial air defence zone, flying dramatically and without incident on Monday over a disputed island chain [the Senkakus/Diaoyus].

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Crosson, a defence department spokesman, said the planes were not armed and flew “as part of a long-planned training sortie”. The Chinese did not in any way attempt to challenge the planes’ flight, Crosson said, nor did the pilots announce themselves to any Chinese authorities.

A comparable US military challenge to Chinese power has not happened for nearly two decades

The Chinese are IMO behaving very badly. The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are not important to the Chinese nor, of course, to the Japanese. None of their citizens live there. They are only useful as chits to win military and economic advantage. That’s a good sign that they should be made independent of all.

Instead, we seem to be drawn inexorably toward war.
Update: US, Japan, and S. Korea send aircraft through China’s newly-annexed “air defense zone;” China responds by sending an aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Straits.

Update, 11/29:: So of course the Chinese retaliate by sending their own jets into the Senkaku airspace.

Image from BBC (image from here
Update, 12/8:

And now S. Korea jumps in. Reuters:

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said that in expanding the zone to include two territorial islands to its south and a submerged rock also claimed by Beijing it has fully explained its position to related countries.

Posted in China, Japan, military | 10 Comments »

US military accused of killing two pregnant women, two children, and two men/updated

Posted by Charles II on May 15, 2012

Via Quotha, Defensores en Linea says that in Ahuás in the indigenous Miskito region of Honduras:

…the nighttime operation launched against supposed narcotrafficking targets in the dawn of the previous Friday was conducted by US military uniformed as DEA agents.

…a foreign military taking refuge in the new hegemonic notion of “the anti-drug war,” legalized in reforms to the Military Treaty of 1954, violates the national sovereignty and kills civilians as if they were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or Syria.

Two pregnant women, two children, and two adult men died by shots fired from helicopter gunships piloted by US military over a vessel which was returning from the (estuary?) of the Patuca river to its community. They were workers in the traditional industry of diving

..the failed state of Honduras gave way to the foreign military occupation in the guise of the so-called “war against d[r]rug cartels, as happened in the last eight years in Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala.

The general point that the dead were not drug traffickers is confirmed (again via Adrienne) by Tiempo, although Tiempo says four dead, four wounded. Supposedly a boat containing drug traffickers was fleeing from a helicopter and passed the boat of native divers. The narcos had their lights out, the divers had their lights on, so the gunners went for the visible target.

It just isn’t very important to be sure who you’re shooting at, because either they’re bad guys or they’re people whose deaths won’t be noticed.
Update, from Adrienne, hat tip to Brother John in comments. Martha Mendoza, AP:

U.S. government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because their statements had not been authorized, said Honduran law enforcement did not initiate the shooting, but rather returned fire after being attacked. The officials said the DEA agents did not fire

Because of course, pregnant women and children are so very dangerous. AP, via CBS News:

Angry inhabitants of the largely Indian Mosquito coast region burned down several government offices in the area in response to the attack and issued a statement saying they wanted DEA agents out of the area.

The official didn’t say how many helicopters were on the mission, but said the aircraft were piloted by Guatemalan military officers and outside contractor pilots.

Great. So Xe (aka Blackwater) is involved.

And WOLA is concerned about when the military “interfaces” with the civilian population. Most of us call it “shooting.” The people at WOLA are a parody of a human rights organization.

Posted in Honduras, military, War On Some Drugs | 7 Comments »

Obama at Ft. Stewart

Posted by Charles II on April 27, 2012

I listened to the Obamas speaking at Ft. Stewart, Georgia on April 27th. The speech was introduced in part by a letter recounting the experience of a veteran who was swindled by a for-profit online college.

Obama said that things had gotten so bad that college recruiters had gotten Marines with serious brain damage to sign up to take courses. Other people had been hounded into taking out high-interest student loans. And everyone was finding it hard to sort through the claims of various schools. He promised that online colleges would have to produce a simple FAQ sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”

It was not great oratory. I would have wished that he would have used it as a teaching moment to talk about the competition between funds for veterans’ benefits and for weapons systems and about the need to have a strong economy as the engine to drive a strong military. But both he and Michelle connected to the troops. And his best line was one that the general public should hear and think about (my paraphrase):

“You know that you rise and fall as one unit. All Americans rise and fall as one nation.”

If we really believed this, it would put an end to the silly Randian narcissism that imagines that if we only punish those who are lazy enough, we will make them reform, and that if we do not, then at least the right people–identifiable by their wealth– will be rewarded. The truth is that all of us, rich and poor, are part of a nation in decline precisely because we are a house divided.

Posted in Barack Obama, education, military | 2 Comments »

Taking a Rasor to military costs

Posted by Charles II on February 13, 2012

It should scandalize all of us, whether hawks or peaceniks. Defense contractors are making enormous profits because there are no effective cost controls in place. They tell the government to pay so-and-so much, and the government does–without even checking that the exp. They are endangering it by guaranteeing that there will be backlash against defense spending.

Dina Rasor has a piece out on t/o (it’s a few months old) in which she interviews Director of Defense Pricing Shay Assad on what is called “should cost pricing.”

…there are very few people left in the DoD and in the United States who really know how to do the traditional should cost studies that made US manufacturing so effective 40 years ago. The DoD has spent years making sure those types of industrial engineers were purged from the system and all traces of should cost were swept away. Assad vows to train and rebuild a professional corps who can do real should-cost studies on weapons and make it a permanent fixture on how we price weapons. He said that he was “absolutely” going to purge the historical pricing system in the DoD for good.

The Japanese still have some should-cost methodology left and they should be used as a template. The DoD should go into its archives of the work of DoD whistleblower Ernest Fitzgerald, who worked his whole career to establish should cost. His past should-cost studies on various weapons would also be an important template for future genuine should-cost studies.

•The contractors generally don’t do these types of studies anymore and thrive on keeping their records on pricing, audits and payments in chaos so they can’t be closely monitored either by the DoD or by government lawsuits.

I would not be surprised if one-third of the cost of most weapons systems isn’t waste. Ironically, the contractors only get a fraction of what is wasted. It would be less expensive if we offered them higher profit margins on honest costs.

Posted in deficit, military | 1 Comment »

Another outcome possible in Egypt

Posted by Charles II on December 19, 2011

It has occurred to me that the recent elections have made another, unanticipated outcome possible in the Egyptian uprising.

The military could very easily co-opt the Islamists by offering them Islamic law in exchange for continued military rule. The Islamists would be fools to reject that deal…and fools to accept it.

What got me to thinking that is looking at what is going on in Egypt. The people fighting in Tahrir Square are mostly westernized youth, although the woman who was assaulted by the military police, beaten, and nearly stripped naked was apparently wearing a hijab [the world owes RT a debt for being one of the few media outlets that got its film out. Most media outlets were stripped of their cameras by the military].

Meanwhile, the Islamic parties are doing even better in the second round of elections than they did in the first. The Muslim brotherhood will have a near majority, and the Islamic fundamentalists about 30%. The assault on the woman should have been an absolute outrage to the Islamists, but they seem to be more interested in putting down the Coptic minority. If they wanted to resist military rule, the humiliation of a conservative woman seems like a helluva missed chance. [Added: the Muslim Brotherhood has filed a complaint about the murder of protesters]

Sharif Abdel Kouddous from Democracy Now:

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Just with regard to the elections, as you mentioned, the Muslim Brotherhood has captured about 40 percent of the seats. The real surprise has been the ultraconservative Salafis, who have made very big gains. And liberal parties have come a very, very distant third. And revolutionary youth parties have captured almost a negligible amount. The Muslim Brotherhood has not really participated in these protests whatsoever. They want the elections to go forward as planned, because they stand to gain the most from them. And they are being very severely accused by the revolutionary youth of political opportunism in the face of a real clampdown by the army 10 months after this revolution began.

If the Islamists go along with the military, they will have absolute power over the government. And the military will have absolute power over them, because they have been so conspicuously absent from the Resistance since the elections were announced that they have no bargaining power with the military. But since the secular Resistance has been isolated and beaten down, the imposition of Islamic law would be very easy. Since the Islamists , especially the fundamentalist among them, are not all that concerned with civil liberties, what do they have to lose by forming a tacit alliance with the military?

Except, of course, any freedom that the uprising might have gained. It’s a deal that even Israel could easily live with.

Posted in Arab Spring, Fundies, military | 1 Comment »

Everything you need to know about weapon systems…

Posted by Charles II on December 2, 2011

…begins here.

Where’s a junkyard dog when you need one?

Posted in military | 2 Comments »

Obama rocks Campbell

Posted by Charles II on May 6, 2011

Obama’s speech at Ft. Campbell was noteworthy not for what it said, but for where and to whom it was said. Ft. Campbell has suffered enormous grief from men who took their own lives from the stress of war and, very recently, from four deaths due to a suicide bombing. The 101st Airborne and other Ft. Campbell units, including a battalion of the Nightstalkers (the organization on the bin Laden raid) represent 20% of the soldiers in Afghanistan. Perhaps the 101’s proudest moment, one that will endure when people ask “Osama who?”, was when it helped to liberate Little Rock Central High School from the dark forces of oppression.

Obama’s message was pretty simple. He did not boast about killing bin Laden, but connected it seamlessly to the actions of the 101 in Afghanistan in 2001-2. He made it clear that there will be no abrupt change in troop levels in Afghanistan. In effect, he promised the men that the US will have a military victory over the Taliban, although that may be by means of Aghan proxies. And he told the troops and their families that we have to tough it out through the deaths, the recession, and all the other sorrows. He told the inspiring story of a girl who was four years old when her father called her from the World Trade Center, where he was trapped. He told her that he was unlikely to make it out, and that he wanted her to remember always that he loved her and would be watching over her. Today, she is doing well in school, looking toward the future, and helping younger students.

There are some pretty tough people at Ft. Campbell–the soldiers, too. But one could see some tears in the eyes of the men, men who had been given hope that someday this will be over.

May it be so.

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, military, Osama bin Laden | 1 Comment »

New growth industry: lying for corporations

Posted by Charles II on March 4, 2011

As appalled as I have been by the increased willingness of politicians to outright lie, more concerning are five recent stories on how lying has started to permeate our entire nation… and two on how truthtelling, when it does not serve corporations, is punished. It’s those stories on truthtelling that deserve the most attention, because those show how much we have as a nation come to hate truth and embrace lies.

The first story, below, has to do with Astroturf phone calls to radio shows. The second is the lie that President Obama told regarding Raymond Davis, a CIA agent who was arrested for murder after the deaths of several Pakistanis–which the New York Times helped to cover up.

The third story has to do a recent George Monbiot column (also via Avedon) on how corporations are paying people to post comments in forums to support a corporate point of view:

After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.

Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments. I’ll reveal more about what he told me when I’ve finished the investigation I’m working on.

It now seems that these operations are more widespread, more sophisticated and more automated than most of us had guessed. Emails obtained by political hackers from a US cyber-security firm called HBGary Federal suggest that a remarkable technological armoury is being deployed to drown out the voices of real people.

The fourth story, not strictly about corporations still fits the post because the line between the military and corporations has frayed to the point of non-existence, is that the US military used a psy-ops team to convince US Senators that the nation should pour more blood into Afghan soil:

MICHAEL HASTINGS: Sure. Psychological operations and information operations are essentially just ways to influence the population. Now, the key is, is that for IO and psy-ops you’re only supposed to do those on foreign populations, on the enemy. Now, there’s another branch, public affairs, which is—which you’re allowed to then use your information on the American population. The key difference is, is that in information operations and in psy-ops you’re allowed to lie, you’re allowed to mislead, where in public affairs, in theory, at least, you’re not supposed to do that. And by using information operations with—who know how to conduct psychological operations, in the process that would traditionally be held for public affairs, you’re corrupting the entire process. And, you know, one of the interesting things has been to see the reaction from the military.

Of course, I commend General Petraeus for launching an investigation, but what we also know from a series of anonymous leaks is that the military doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong here. And that, to me, is truly disturbing and what the actual bigger story is: this very aggressive effort that called what has been at the forefront from to tear down the wall between information and propaganda between public affairs and information operations, to say it’s one giant playing field now and to allow the Pentagon and the military to be able to target not just foreign populations with their propaganda, but target the U.S. populations, whether it’s on Facebook, on social networking sites, or visiting congressmen.

The fifth story is about how political appointees at the EPA–under Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama– have endangered and continue to endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans by suppressing evidence showing that dangerous levels of toxic radionuclides are being poured into city water systems due to illegal dumping of wastewater from natural gas “fracking”:

WALTER HANG: Well, the most important thing is that the natural gas industry has said all along that there’s never been a confirmed problem with horizontal hydrofracking in Marcellus Shale. They’ve said this practice has been used for decades, it’s safe, it’s not problematic. The first installment of the New York Times series basically brought to light that in the autumn of 2008, there was so much natural gas drilling wastewater being dumped into municipal treatment plants along the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh, and these plants were not designed, constructed or maintained in any way to take out the very high salt content, the toxic chemicals associated with petroleum, or the radioactive nucleotides. And so, this contamination was going into the river in such incredible volumes that essentially it impacted a 70-mile stretch of the river, and 850,000 people didn’t have any drinking water. Subsequent studies show that actually the water became brackish. They started to find salt-loving diatoms flourishing in the water.

And so, this is when basically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tried to recommend to the state of New York, don’t go forward with horizontal hydrofracking in New York, where there’s been a de facto moratorium against that practice for two-and-a-half years, until you deal with the wastewater hazards, until you safeguard New York City’s drinking water. And that’s when the recommendation came: no drilling in the watershed. And amazingly, they actually proposed to allow the drilling in the rest of upstate New York, so that the Department of Environmental Conservation could essentially get experience regulating this practice. But then none of those recommendations made it into the final document submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation. So this is an incredible revelation about how the EPA knew about these problems, didn’t tell New York, and that’s why we’re calling for these regulations to be withdrawn, the scope revised, so that, for the first time, this kind of practice can be adequately safeguarded.

See here, here, and here for the NYT on this issue.

As for the two whistleblowers, Bradley Manning is being held under conditions reminiscent of Abu Ghraib. Tim Christopher was just convicted for presenting bids on an illegal land auction of wilderness in an attempt to prevent the despoilation of these lands, even though he later raised the money to pay for his purchases.

We had hoped that when Barack Obama won office that not only would the bad policy of the Bush Administration end, but that the lying and abuse of truthtellers would cease.

It has not.

God spare America from this most deadly sin, the sin of hating the truth.

Posted in anti-truth, astroturf, Barack Obama, BushCo malfeasance, corporatists, corruption, energy, liars, military, propaganda | 2 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: