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Archive for the ‘Pentagon’ Category

Blowback Central: Online propaganda website

Posted by Charles II on November 26, 2011

Via Scott Horton, we learn from Foreign Policy’s David Trilling that the US taxpayer is funding the Pentagon’s lie machine to improve the image of dictators who boil their political opponents to death, and the like:

Over the past three years, a subdivision of Virginia-based General Dynamics has set up and run a network of eight “influence websites” funded by the Defense Department with more than $120 million in taxpayer money. The sites, collectively known as the Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI) and operated by General Dynamics Information Technology, focus on geographic areas under the purview of various U.S. combatant commands, including U.S. Central Command. In its coverage of Uzbekistan, a repressive dictatorship increasingly important to U.S. military goals in Afghanistan, a TRWI website called Central Asia Online has shown a disturbing tendency to downplay the autocracy’s rights abuses and uncritically promote its claims of terrorist threats.

Central Asia Online was created in 2008…

The target is “online audiences” in the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics, plus Afghanistan and Pakistan, though the material — mostly about security and published in English, Russian, Urdu, and Farsi — also seeps into local newspapers, websites, and news aggregators around the world, expanding the site’s readership. Though it is the responsibility of those outlets to attribute, many, at least in Central Asia, do not, billing the stories as original, local reporting, rather than DOD propaganda.

It’s not illegal for the US to lie to foreign countries. But now we have to assume that misinformation originating from the US could end up in places like Dawn or the India Times…and thence, perhaps, in The Washington Post or The Washington Times, where it can be used to mislead the people voting on…contracts to General Dynamics.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pentagon, propaganda | Comments Off on Blowback Central: Online propaganda website

Lunatic fringe

Posted by Charles II on April 11, 2011

The Pentagon has now officially joined the lunatic fringe, claiming that the UN Rapporteur on Torture and a US Congressman would not be conducting official business in visiting veteran Bradley Manning in prison. The effect would be to prevent Manning from discussing his situation freely, since the conversations would be monitored and could be used against him in court.

Thank you, Firedoglake for bringing out this clear abuse of power. None of us has any excuse for averting our eyes from a plainly illegal action.

But wait! The State Department is trying to keep up in the race toward complete and abject lunacy by blaming anti-coup demonstrators for violence in Honduras, with spokesman Jeremy Spector actually saying: “The demonstrations of the past week are truly frightening and a cause for concern.”

Almost two years of repression, not a problem. Four soldiers get hospitalized in the course of street battles, and that’s frightening.

What’s frightening is that these people are in charge of our government.
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Added, from Ewen McAskill, The Guardian:

A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of being the WikiLeaks source and held in a military prison. It is the kind of censure the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world.

Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said: “I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr Manning.”

Posted in Honduras, impunity, looney tunes, Pentagon | 3 Comments »

Is the US stoking the drug war?

Posted by Charles II on February 18, 2011

Bill Conroy, Narconews:

Another series of leaked State Department cables made public this week by WikiLeaks lend credence to investigative reports on gun trafficking and the drug war published by Narco News as far back as 2009.

The big battles in the drug war in Mexico are “not being fought with Saturday night specials, hobby rifles and hunting shotguns,” Narco News reported in March 2009, against the grain, at a time when the mainstream media was pushing a narrative that assigned the blame for the rising tide of weapons flowing into Mexico to U.S. gun stores and gun shows.

Rather, we reported at the time, “the drug trafficking organizations are now in possession of high-powered munitions in vast quantities that can’t be explained by the gun-show loophole.”

Those weapons, found in stashes seized by Mexican law enforcers and military over the past several years, include U.S.-military issued rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and explosives.

The State Department cables released recently by WikiLeaks support Narco News’ reporting and also confirm that our government is very aware of the fact that U.S military munitions are finding their way into Mexico, and into the hands of narco-trafficking organizations, via a multi-billion dollar stream of private-sector and Pentagon arms exports.

Narco News offered an answer to that question in March 2009, when it reported that the deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars.

Those exports are approved through the State Department, under a program known as Direct Commercial Sales. A sister program, called Foreign Military Sales, is overseen by the Pentagon and also taps U.S. contractors to manufacture weapons (such as machine guns and grenades) for export to foreign entities, including companies and governments.

Now, the reason I stumbled onto Conroy’s report is that there has been a very odd incident between the US and Argentina. Briefly, an official cargo from the US contained items that the Argentines didn’t like, including a sealed container which they impounded. Eventually the container was opened. Some of the cargo was rejected and a formal protest was filed. The State Department went into the familiar, “Brown people say the darndest things” routine:

More below the fold
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Posted in gun issues, Pentagon, War On Some Drugs | 1 Comment »

Important words from Juan Cole

Posted by Charles II on January 30, 2011

[Added: Sharif Abdel Kouddous is blogging Egypt]

In analyzing the situation in Egypt, Juan Cole says something very important that US policymakers and politicians seem to have forgotten. It’s at the core of why I have stood so strongly against US interventions in Latin America. Although Juan Cole credits Max Weber for the insight (see here or here for a more precise expression of Weber), it’s really just common sense:

Why has the Egyptian state lost its legitimacy? Max Weber distinguished between power and authority. Power flows from the barrel of a gun, and the Egyptian state still has plenty of those. But Weber defines authority as the likelihood that a command will be obeyed. Leaders who have authority do not have to shoot people. …

Authority is rooted in legitimacy. Leaders are acknowledged because the people agree that there is some legitimate basis for their authority and power. In democratic countries, that legitimacy comes from the ballot box.

The urban sector has thrown up a few multi-millionaires, but many laborers fell left behind. The enormous number of high school and college graduates produced by the system can seldom find employment suited to their skills, and many cannot get jobs at all. Urban Egypt has rich and poor but only a small “middle class.” The state carefully tries to control labor unions, who could seldom act independently.

The state was thus increasingly seen to be a state for the few.

The Nasserist state, for all its flaws, gained legitimacy because it was seen as a state for the mass of Egyptians, whether abroad or domestically. The present regime is widely seen in Egypt as a state for the others– for the US, Israel, France and the UK– and as a state for the few– the Neoliberal nouveau riche. Islam plays no role in this analysis because it is not an independent variable. Muslim movements have served to protest the withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities, and to provide services. But they are a symptom, not the cause.

In modern parlance, the words for “power” and “authority” as Cole is using them might be “hard power” and “soft power” (in Weber’s theory, “authority” is actually defined as the basis on which a command is viewed as legitimate or illegitimate, rather than the actual likelihood that it will be obeyed, which he calls “imperative control.” “Power” is the likelihood that the will of the commander will prevail, with or without resistance.)

Let us compare this to what is going on in the United States.
continues below the fold
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Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, history, Media machine, peace, Pentagon | Comments Off on Important words from Juan Cole

Smear machine targets Wikileak founder

Posted by Charles II on August 21, 2010

At least, that’s the way it looks.

Via David Derbes, commenter at Eschatonblog, John Burns and Eric Schmitt, NYT

Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blower Web site WikiLeaks who has been embroiled in a fight with the Pentagon over the recent release of classified documents, briefly became the focus of new attention on Saturday when Swedish prosecutors sought him for questioning on rape allegations — then quickly said the accusations were unfounded.

Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, had quickly posted a denial of the Swedish allegations on Twitter, saying that the charges were “without basis.” After the accusations had been initially reported in a Swedish newspaper, he wrote: “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks.’ Now we have the first one.”

Now, who exactly was the source for this false story, and how did it get through the entire world media without being vetted?

Posted in abuse of power, Afghanistan, Iraq war, Pentagon, ratf*cking | 3 Comments »

Obama Overrules Gates, Cancels Nuke Program

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 15, 2009

You’d think that a) a president overruling his SecDef and/or b) cancelling a major nuclear-weapons program would be Big News. But only TNR, Global Security Newswire, and The Field have mentioned it as far as I can tell.

Here’s TNR’s skinny:

Obama’s new budget plan includes a little-noted sea change in U.S. nuclear policy, and a step towards his vision of a denuclearized world. It provides no funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, created to design a new generation of long-lasting nuclear weapons that don’t need to be tested. (The military is worried that a nuclear test moratorium in effect since 1992 might endanger the reliability of an aging US arsenal.) But this spring Obama issued a bold call for a world free of nuclear weapons, and part of that vision entails leading by example. That means halting programs that expand the American nuclear stockpile. For the past two budget years the Democratic Congress has refused to fund the Bush-era program. But Obama’s budget kills the National Nuclear Security Administration program once and for all.

“My colleagues just stared at that line,” says Joe Cirincione, a longtime nonproliferation expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund. “They had never seen anything like that.” Killing the program, he said, was “the first programmatic impact of the new [zero nukes] policy. People have said they want to see more than words, this is the very first action.”

Indeed. (Crossposted at Daily Kos.)

Posted in Good Causes, Good Things, nukes, Pentagon, President Obama | Comments Off on Obama Overrules Gates, Cancels Nuke Program

The China games

Posted by Charles II on March 9, 2009

On a day when one of China Daily’s top stories is that the US and China are conducting joint naval exercises and China stresses that its naval buildup is defensive, we get this headscratcher.

The Pentagon is claiming that the Chinese harassed an intelligence gathering ship, Impeccable. Here’s the essence of the complaint, from CNN:

The crew members aboard the [Chinese] vessels, two of which were within 50 feet, waved Chinese flags and told the U.S. ship to leave the area, the statement said.

“Because the vessels’ intentions were not known, Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the vessels in order to protect itself,” the statement said. “The Chinese crewmembers disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet.”
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Posted in China, Pentagon | 4 Comments »

Really Good News

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 26, 2009

Believe it or not, the various parts of the Pentagon are big fans of renewable energy and energy-saving devices — and since they can command enormous budgets, it’s a very good thing in this age of otherwise-nonexistent venture capital that they’re interested in this device being developed at MIT:

A team of MIT undergraduate students has invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smooths the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. The students hope to initially find customers among companies that operate large fleets of heavy vehicles. They have already drawn interest from the U.S. military and several truck manufacturers.

Senior Shakeel Avadhany (pictured in lead image, top left) and his teammates say they can produce up to a 10 percent improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers. The company that produces Humvees for the army, and is currently working on development of the next-generation version of the all-purpose vehicle, is interested enough to have loaned them a vehicle for testing purposes.

[…]

In their testing so far, the students found that in a 6-shock heavy truck, each shock absorber could generate up to an average of 1 kW on a standard road — enough power to completely displace the large alternator load in heavy trucks and military vehicles, and in some cases even run accessory devices such as hybrid trailer refrigeration units.

They filed for a patent last year and formed a company, called Levant Power Corp., to develop and commercialize the product (pictured below, right). They are currently doing a series of tests with their converted Humvee to optimize the system’s efficiency. They hope their technology will help give an edge to the military vehicle company in securing the expected $40 billion contract for the new army vehicle called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.

The shock absorber also provides a smoother, safer ride, making it possible for vehicles to move faster over rough terrain than would otherwise be advisable. And if the electrical part fails for whatever reason, it’s still a perfectly good conventional shock absorber.

I figure that this will be on civilian vehicles within ten if not five years, as an aftermarket mod if nothing else. I can easily see current owners of big trucks being interested in this device.

Posted in automobiles, energy, environment, Good Things, Pentagon | Comments Off on Really Good News

Eric Shinseki Tapped To Head The VA

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 8, 2008

This is excellent news. Not only was he right on Iraq, he also cares about vets, having left a part of a foot in Vietnam.

Over at DailyKos, diarist Homer J tells about his meeting with General Shinseki and why this leads Homer to believe that Shinseki is the perfect choice for the job.

I suspect that this is Gates’ doing. Gates and Shinseki were a part of that crew, among whose numbers was Brent Scowcroft, that criticized the runup for the PNAC-planned invasion of Iraq in 2002. In addition to providing a good person to take over the Veterans Administration, this is also a signal to the Cheney-Rumsfeld hangers-on still at DoD that they’d better start updating their CVs.

Posted in 2008, Iraq war, Pentagon, PNAC Platoon, veterans | 1 Comment »

Monday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 10, 2008

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The charmingly rabid dorkwads at Human Events are foursquare behind Sarah Palin in 2012. Assuming, that is, that she’s not in the Federal pen by then. (Though that might not matter to these folks.)

— Dear conservatives: Stop lying about Roosevelt’s record.

Joe Scarborough, complaining about Rahm Emanuel’s potty mouth, lets an F-Bomb fly on morning TV. (Funnily enough, I don’t recall him freaking out about Dick Cheney’s telling Pat Leahy, on the Senate floor, to “go f**k yourself”.)

— Saving the best news for last:

1) Obama told us months ago that he’d have his people review and prepare to undo Bush’s vilest Executive Orders. He’s keeping his promise.

2) Obama told us months ago that he plans to shut down Guantanamo’s prisons and give its inmates fair trials on US soil, in US courtrooms. He’s keeping his promise.

3) The Pentagon’s own Defense Business Board says that the Pentagon needs to go on a cash diet: “A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department’s current budget is ‘not sustainable,’ and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military’s most prized weapons programs.”

Posted in 2008, abuse of power, Barack Obama, budget, Bush, BushCo malfeasance, Constitution, Constitutional crisis, Good Things, Iraq war, Pentagon, President Obama, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples, Rule of Law | Comments Off on Monday Morning News Roundup

 
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