Posts Tagged ‘Defence Industry’

After Trident Misfiring, the Warships that Can Be Heard 100 Miles Away

February 6, 2017

Here’s another example of the defence industry selling highly expensive equipment, that is difficult and costly to maintain and which falls far short of expectations. Last week there was the news that May kept very silent about the failed test launch of a Trident missile, which went massively of course. May is very keen that we should buy the missile, despite its massive cost. So naturally she kept quiet about it, in case this would stop MPs voting for the wretched thing.

Then yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that the new Type 45 destroyers, which cost £1 billion each, and which have to be continually repaired ’cause they keep breaking down, can be heard by Russian hunter-killer subs 100 miles away. Apparently, they have been described as ‘rattling like a box of spanners’. The government has been accused of focussing too much on the war on terror, and not enough on the resurgence of Cold War rivalries.

But May’s government insists that everything is all right, as they’re designed to fight of attacks from planes. Mike comments that far from Britain being the world’s most accomplished naval nation, this is turning us into a joke.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/05/our-1bn-destroyer-ships-are-so-loud-they-can-be-heard-100-miles-away-worth-the-cost/

Private Eye has been constantly criticising the defence industry because of the way it has time and again sold the government massively overpriced weapons and equipment that don’t work. As for Trident, this was the subject of some very, very astute comedy back in the 1980s in Yes, Prime Minister. This was in an episode when Hacker was considering scrapping the nuclear deterrent and bringing back conscription. The writers deliberately satirised perennial issues that remain, year-in, year-out, regardless of the particular government in power. And the arguments about Trident are still acutely relevant today. Here’s a clip from the show, in which Hacker and Sir Humphrey discuss the issue.

A friend of mine once commented that the series now seems to him less comedy, and more documentary. Absolutely. And May and the rest of the government are so incompetent that they make Hacker, Bernard and Appleby look like political titans.

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Chris Hedges on Erosion of Civil Liberties, Journalism, the Military-Industrial Complex and the American Empire

January 18, 2016

On Saturday I posted up a piece from The Empire Files about the long history of oppression, exploitation and brutality in Saudi Arabia. This is another video from the Files. Here the presenter, Abby Martin, talks to the veteran journalist Chris Hedges about the Empire and its machine of domination, including his experiences as a reporter in Iraq and El Salvador. Hedges is a Socialist, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the host of Days of Revolt on TeleSur English.

The programme begins with a discussion of how the American state cracked down on anti-War agitators, such as the Socialists Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Berkman and others for their opposition to World War I. This conflict saw the beginnings of the military-corporatist machine and the rise of modern state propaganda, pioneered by the Creel Committee and the use of the Sedition Act to crush dissent and peace protests.

After the War, the object of hatred turned from ‘the Hun’ to Communism and what has been described as ‘the psychosis of war’. This psychosis became institutionalised as total war after World War II. After World War I, the factories, that had turned to munitions production, changed back to their peace-time produces. This did not occur after the Second World War. The factories simply carried on producing arms, supported by a government financial network. This created the modern fusion of military and corporatist power.

Hedges and Martin also explore the way the American Empire differs from other, previous imperia. Hedges states that America, unlike other empires, colonised itself. The US army, for example, acted on behalf of the mining corporations, the loggers and so on during the expansion of the American West and the genocide of the Native Americans. After the colonisation of America was complete, America expanded overseas with the annexation of the Philippines and gun boat diplomacy in the Caribbean. Previous empires, like the British, occupied the countries they conquered. American doesn’t. Instead, America trains willing indigenous elites to act on its behalf. These included dictators like Mobutu in Zaire, Samosa in El Salvador and the Shah of Iran. They also overthrow foreign rulers, who threaten American corporate interests. Allende in Chile was overthrown because he threatened to nationalise the copper industry. Arbenz was ousted in Guatemala, because he was going to nationalise the property of United Fruit. America does not directly occupy these countries, but trains their indigenous rulers troops and supplies them with arms to govern for them.

The 1979 victory of Sandinistas in Nicaragua provoked a strong response from America, as they showed that they were not going to protect American corporate interests. And so Reagan pumped massive resources into the resistance movement and in supporting the dictator in El Salvador. The Salvadorean regime were given a fleet of 70 Huey helicopter gunships. They also recruited ‘black’ armies, that did not officially existed, using troops from outside the country. And CIA operatives were also brought in to aid the operations against the Salvadorean rebels. Half the population of El Salvador were landless peasants, while the land was owned by only ten families. The mass of the population were kept in dire poverty Hedges describes as worse than serfdom. When they tried to protest, or resist by forming labour unions and other organisations, they were gunned down in the street. At one point the death squads were killing a thousand people a month.

When America invaded Iraq, the same people, who organised the death squads in Latin America were brought in and used in the same strategy there. One of the officers, who was part of the American forces in the Iraq, had organised and led the death squads in El Salvador. In Iraq he created the Shi’a death squads to murder and terrorise the Sunni Muslims. The result of this was the creation of ISIS.

Hedges also describes the difficulties journalists faced reporting these facts from Iraq. Those reporters, who did cover these abuses were under constant attack from the American government, and particularly the state department. They were vilified as ‘fifth columnists’ and collaborators with America’s enemies. They also faced opposition from their own Washington bureaux. They could also be targeted for execution. In El Salvador, 22 journalists were killed during the war. He also states that the press themselves were quite willing to be used to support the American state’s propaganda in El Salvador. In the First Gulf War, the press was subject to very harsh restrictions. Dick Cheney wanted to deport Hedges, but was unable to find him. Very few war reporters – only 10 – 15% – actually go anywhere near the war. Instead, they stayed away from the front to listen to Cheney and the generals give lectures. The pool system of trustworthy reporters used to control the press in Iraq was actually administered by the journalists themselves. Hedges refers to these journalists as ‘Judenraten’, the Nazi term for the councils the Nazis set up in Jewish communities to administer them, and which chose the members of the population, who were to be sent to the gas chambers. And those journalists, who did join the troops, received great rewards for producing stories about how heroic the soldiers were. For his efforts in covering the dark side of the Iraq War, Hedges was booed off the stage when he gave a speech at Rockford College. The New York Times, for which he was writing, even accused him of damaging their reputation for impartiality. Its columnists were selected by the establishment to report the war as they wanted it. He states that it destroyed his career, but he would not have been able to live with himself if he had not spoken out. He stated he knew people, who had been killed, and describes the destruction of the country. 1 million people have been killed, 4 million displaced; and it has been irreparably destroyed as a unified nation state. It had some of the most modern infrastructure in the Middle East. This has also been destroyed.

Hedges makes it clear that the war is about natural resources, despite the verbiage about bringing democracy. He also states that you can’t be a Socialist without being an anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. It’s important to break the back of the Empire, because the methods it uses to control the subject peoples are then brought back into the heartland to use against the American people. The result of this is that Americans are under greater surveillance, the police has been militarised, civil liberties eroded and removed and so on. All of which could be seen from where they talking in Baltimore. It was the classic disease of empire, which the Greek historian Thucydides had documented when he examined the way ancient Athens similarly destroyed its democracy when it began its imperialist expansion.

Hedges and Martin criticise Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic candidate for the American presidency. Sanders, they state, has not tried to tackle the military-industrial complex. Part of this is that the defence industry and its contractors are able to provide jobs to workers. Hedges quotes one writer as describing the emergence of the military-industrial complex during the Second World War as ‘a coup d’état in slow motion’. At the moment defence officially accounts for 52% of American state expenditure, but this is almost certainly far too low. It doesn’t count veteran affairs, the nuclear arsenal or research and development. The real figure is probably around $1.6 trillion. He states that you can’t really talk about reform when so much is spent on the military. Martin Luther King mentioned this, and that was the moment when, as far as the news was concerned, he was obsolete. It was also the moment Lyndon B. Johnson removed FBI protection, leaving him exposed to assassination. Hedges quotes Engels to the point that it really is a case of ‘barbarism or Socialism’. The world is facing the crisis of climate change, while America is facing the severe problems all empires ultimately face of expanding beyond their ability to maintain themselves. This was the cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Martin and Hedges also discuss the potential for revolution in America. Hedges states that when the system becomes so corrupt, that the elites only rule for themselves, there is always blowback. This can take malign forms, such as the Nazis in Germany. In America, blowback came in the form of FDR. He told the elites that either they gave up some of their power, there would be a revolution. This was when America still had the Communist and Progressive Parties. He states that America is now faced with the problem of challenging the dominant ideology, which has become so deeply ingrained. He describes going through the cemeteries in the American South with a civil rights lawyer. And in all of them there were row upon row of Confederate flags. The lawyer informed him that these had all gone up in the past ten years. Hedges states that what is happening in America is the same that happened in Yugoslavia just before it broke up. When people are made so desperate, they retreat into myth. Hedges finds the current rhetoric against Muslims particularly frightening, as it follows the pattern of violence he found in the wars he covered. Minority groups are first subject to verbal attack, followed by real, physical violence. He describes the American state as hostage to corporate and military power. This has become sacralised in the Christian religion, and part of the American gun cult. It will ignite into Fascism. It’s a symptom of a declining civilisation, the only solution for which is to re-integrate people into the economic system.

It’s a deep discussion, offering profound insights into the emergence of America as the modern imperial power, and the role played in this expansion by the corporate and military interests for whom the American state acts. This military-industrial complex dominates an empire abroad, and is stripping liberties and rights from its own people. The result is violent extremism abroad and at home, as alienated right-wing Americans become even more radicalised.

Bugbots – Military Nano Drones, and a Warning from Polish SF Author Stanislaw Lem

December 1, 2015

This is another interesting – and chilling – video I found on Youtube. It’s a promotional film from one of the US aerospace contractors talking up nanorobotic drones. This is drones about the size of a small bird or children’s toy helicopters. The video hypes their use for gather intelligence, both singly and in swarms like insects. It also states that they may be used to kill enemy soldiers or combatants.

We’re already using miniature drones like those above to gather information in Afghanistan.

This video shows British soldiers talking about the Black Hornet nano drone, which can be controlled in the same way you can operate a playstation.

I find this chilling, as it starts to confirm a prediction the Polish Science Fiction author, Stanislaw Lem made, about the future direction of military technology in the 1980s/90s. Lem was impressed by the increasing power and intelligence of computers, and predicted that eventually this would effect even politics. The short story played with the idea that political parties would compete to show the electorate that they had the best computer, and therefore the best solutions to the country’s problems.

He also believed that as weapons and equipment, such as planes, ships and tanks became increasingly sophisticated, so they would also become prohibitively expensive. As a result, government would turn to miniaturisation, using swarms of extremely small robots to attack their enemies.

This would result in a global situation that was neither war nor peace, as it would be unclear whether natural disasters, such as, for example, devastation of crops by bad weather or insect swarms, were genuine or caused by enemy robot intervention.

Fortunately, we haven’t got to the point where politics is decided by which party has the biggest, cleverest computer. I think if that point every comes, we may as well say goodbye to democracy and just hand the world over to Microsoft, IBM or Apple. Military technology and equipment is becoming more expensive, and in Britain we are seeing extensive cuts which may well harm our ability to fight and win wars. However, American politics is strongly coloured by the arms and other industries sponsoring politicians campaigns, in return for them continuing to receive extremely generous subsidies from the taxpayer. I really don’t see the Americans cutting back on their military spending anytime soon, still less Russia and China.

And with miniature killer drones disguised as insects, it really does look like the frowning Polish grandmaster of SF was right about the use of such robots, and the highly uncertain hostile and militarised ‘peace’ that would arise through their use.

Here’s another video, this time from Reason TV, giving three reasons why the use of drones is a bad idea.

The transcript for the video on its Youtube page runs

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may not agree on much, but they’re both totally into the use of unmanned aircraft known as drones to hunt down and kill real and imagined threats to the American way of life.

Whenever you’ve got top Democrats and top Republicans getting along, you know something has gone horribly wrong.

Here are three reasons why drone strikes are really freaking scary.

1. They’re not that accurate.

One of the main selling points of drone strikes is their supposedly surgical precision. Rather than carpet-bombing entire city blocks to nail one or two bad guys, now we can just zap them without harming anyone else.

But a new study from researchers at NYU and Stanford concludes that as many 881 civilians – including 176 children – have been killed by US drone strikes in northern Pakistan since 2004. Worse still are reports that targets get blasted repeatedly, to ward off rescuers from helping the wounded.

2. There’s no legal framework.

Drone strikes have been carried out in countries with whom we’re allies or against whom we’ve yet to declare war. They are the principal way in which President Obama’s infamous “kill list” is made operational and yet nobody knows how such decisions are being made. As The New York Times said earlier this year, “a unilateral campaign of death is untenable.”

Not only is such a campaign immoral on its face, it only damages America’s standing in the world.

3. It’s only going to get worse.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that in 20 years, as many as 30,000 drones could be filling the skies over America, doing everything from promoting local restaurants to executing warrantless snooping for local, state, and federal cops. That includes “nano drones,” that will the size of a small flying insect. As it stands, the taxpaying public has basically zero information on how many drones are being used by which parts of government.

That’s led the ACLU to file a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to find out more about the technical capabilities of drones and what parts of government are already up there in the wild blue yonder.

We need to force the government to be transparent on drones long before the machines start blotting out the sun.

This is powerful technology that clearly is a real threat to the freedom of the countries using them, as well as being unethical and counterproductive when used against the enemy. And the secrecy surrounding them should be real cause for concern.

It’s no accident that the first appearance of something like a drone – an airborne camera to spy on citizens – made its appearance as long ago as the 1980s in 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd. And a drone can also be seen flying around in the opening scenes of the Dredd movie that came out a few years ago, starring Karl Urban. Dredd is the ultimate lawman, but he’s also a deliberately ambiguous figure. John Wagner in an interview around 1983 or so stated that he would never take off his helmet because he represents the faceless police state.

When real life starts to resemble the nightmare black comedy of Megacity 1, you know something’s gone very seriously wrong.

Warmongering Republicans Advert of Iran Nuclear Threat

March 22, 2015

The Republicans’ campaign against Obama’s talks with the Iranians over limiting their nuclear programme and preventing them from acquiring atomic weapons continues. In this video, Cenk Uyghur of The Young Turks discusses the latest attempt by three Repugs and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to whip up war fever by raising the terrifying spectre of nuclear terrorism.

They have produced an advert showing a van driving through New York. On the radio can be heard the voices of two of the Repugs and Netanyahu warning of the consequences of a terrorist, nuclear Iran. When the van reaches its destination, it explodes.

It’s a vile, mendacious video. As Uyghur states, the Iranians don’t have nuclear weapons, nor are they anywhere near getting them. Netanyahu was lying when he gave a speech to the UN several years ago that they were. The Israel’s own secret services, Shin Bet and Mossad, and the Israeli Defence Force, have also made it clear that Iran is not a nuclear threat.

Yet still the Repugs, or at least a section of them, claim they are. The Young Turks point out that the three politicos involved have connections to the defence industry. They and their paymasters stand to make millions if America launches a war on Iran. And thousands, if not millions, will be killed, including the children and partners of ordinary, regular Americans, who will be sent to fight in this war.

All for nothing, except to boost the profits of another bunch of multinationals.

If America attacks Iran and sparks another war, then they will have succeeded in just about destabilising the entire northern sector of the Middle East, from Iraq to the borders of Pakistan. And the chaos spread by the destabilisation is going south. Yemen has been beset with the problems of tribal rebellions long before Bush’s invasion, but ISIS has entered the country to cause even more death and destruction. the situation can only get worse with a war with the Islamic Republic.

The Repugs aren’t promising America safety from a real and present threat. Their promising something worse – a world beset by violence and endless, a-symmetrical war. That’s terrorism, to you and me.

Fortunately, The Young Turks report that the advert was too much for most of the TV networks, who refused to run it. Except one. Faux News. Which tells you all you need to know about Rupert Murdoch. He really is like the villain in one of Piers Brosnan’s Bond outings, who was a newspaperman, played by Geoffrey Rush, intent on setting up a war between America and China so that he could make megabucks covering it. He ended up going down with his stealth yacht in a demise curiously similar to that of the very shady Robert Maxwell. It’s long past time Murdoch did likewise and vanished from the world scene.

Senator Behind Iran Letter Has Links to Arms Industry

March 12, 2015

This is another video by The Young Turks following up their story about the Republicans’ campaign to damage negotiations between Obama and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme. A group of 47 Republican senators, led by Tom Cotton, wrote a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, declaring that they would do everything to make sure that any peace deal made would not have congressional backing. It would thus be merely a presidential agreement, which subsequent administrations could easily modify or disregard.

The Young Turks rightly pointed out that it was tantamount to treason for the Republicans to try to undermine their own, elected president like this, simply in the interests of Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of a completely different country.

In this piece, they show also the domestic, economic motives behind Cotton’s and the Repugs’ attempts to increase tension with Iran: defence spending. They point out that the defence industry is one of the top three political sponsors in the US. Cotton himself went off to talk to the National Defense Industries’ Association, a lobbying group for Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Oshkosh, Booz and other defence contractors and arms manufacturers.

It also ain’t any kind of accident that Cotton is a supporter of Israel, and their plans to launch an attack on Iran. Boeing is also negotiating with Israel for purchasing B 52 bombers and bunker-buster bombs.

Cotton is therefore deliberately courting war, just so that he gets lots of campaign dollars and re-elected from the defence industry, and they get to maximise their profits by starting another war in the Middle East.

And hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will die, just so that Cotton and his cronies can make a fast buck.
Despicable.