US military spending has dramatically surged, reaching its fastest rate in the past five years despite the planned withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.
According to a new report by the US Commerce Department on Thursday, the military spending for the third-quarter of this year has increased by 16 percent.
Experts believe while the surge in the military spending could be attributed to several causes, the military action in the Middle East against the ISIL terrorist group is a major contributing factor.
The anti-ISIL operations have forced the Pentagon to spend more money on missiles and ammunition and support a larger military presence there.
According to figures released by the Defense Department, the new military actions in Syria and parts of Iraq will cost roughly 10 million dollars a day.
There are also speculations that the Obama administration has increased the military spending to inflate the figures of economic growth ahead of the November elections.
The projected figure on US economic growth for the third quarter is 3.5 percent, more than the predicted 3 percent with military spending being mentioned as the cause.
The U.S. Air Force says it is not halting its use of Depleted Uranium weapons, has recently sent them to the Middle East, and is prepared to use them.
A type of airplane, the A-10, deployed this month to the Middle East by the U.S. Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, is responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). “Weight for weight and by number of rounds more 30mm PGU-14B ammo has been used than any other round,” said ICBUW coordinator Doug Weir, referring to ammunition used by A-10s, as compared to DU ammunition used by tanks.
Public affairs superintendent Master Sgt. Darin L. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told me that the A-10s now in the Middle East along with “300 of our finest airmen” have been sent there on a deployment planned for the past two years and have not been assigned to take part in the current fighting in Iraq or Syria, but “that could change at any moment.”
The crews will load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into their 30mm Gatling cannons and use them as needed, said Hubble. “If the need is to explode something — for example a tank — they will be used.”
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told me, “There is no prohibition against the use of Depleted Uranium rounds, and the [U.S. military] does make use of them. The use of DU in armor-piercing munitions allows enemy tanks to be more easily destroyed.”
On Thursday, several nations, including Iraq, spoke to the United Nations First Committee, against the use of Depleted Uranium and in support of studying and mitigating the damage in already contaminated areas. A non-binding resolution is expected to be voted on by the Committee this week, urging nations that have used DU to provide information on locations targeted. A number of organizations are delivering a petition to U.S. officials this week urging them not to oppose the resolution.
In 2012 a resolution on DU was supported by 155 nations and opposed by just the UK, U.S., France, and Israel. Several nations have banned DU, and in June Iraq proposed a global treaty banning it — a step also supported by the European and Latin American Parliaments.
Wright said that the U.S. military is “addressing concerns on the use of DU by investigating other types of materials for possible use in munitions, but with some mixed results. Tungsten has some limitations in its functionality in armor-piercing munitions, as well as some health concerns based on the results of animal research on some tungsten-containing alloys. Research is continuing in this area to find an alternative to DU that is more readily accepted by the public, and also performs satisfactorily in munitions.”
“I fear DU is this generation’s Agent Orange,” U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott told me. “There has been a sizable increase in childhood leukemia and birth defects in Iraq since the Gulf War and our subsequent invasion in 2003. DU munitions were used in both those conflicts. There are also grave suggestions that DU weapons have caused serious health issues for our Iraq War veterans. I seriously question the use of these weapons until the U.S. military conducts a full investigation into the effect of DU weapon residue on human beings.”
Doug Weir of ICBUW said renewed use of DU in Iraq would be “a propaganda coup for ISIS.” His and other organizations opposed to DU are guardedly watching a possible U.S. shift away from DU, which the U.S. military said it did not use in Libya in 2011. Master Sgt. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing believes that was simply a tactical decision. But public pressure had been brought to bear by activists and allied nations’ parliaments, and by a UK commitment not to use DU.
DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and evidence of health damage produced by its use is extensive. The damage is compounded, Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told me, when the nation that uses DU refuses to identify locations targeted. Contamination enters soil and water. Contaminated scrap metal is used in factories or made into cooking pots or played with by children.
CCR and Iraq Veterans Against the War have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in an attempt to learn the locations targeted in Iraq during and after the 1991 and 2003 assaults. The UK and the Netherlands have revealed targeted locations, Shah pointed out, as did NATO following DU use in the Balkans. And the United States has revealed locations it targeted with cluster munitions. So why not now?
“For years,” Shah said, “the U.S. has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The U.S. doesn’t want studies done.” In addition, the United States has used DU in civilian areas and identifying those locations could suggest violations of Geneva Conventions.
Iraqi doctors will be testifying on the damage done by DU before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C., in December.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration said on Thursday that it will be spending $1.6 million to try to identify atrocities committed in Iraq . . . by ISIS.
There was no Russian distress call. That’s the opinion of a Swedish signal intelligence (SIGINT) source after a massive $2.8mn military and media sub-hunt consumed the country for a week.
Reports of a Russian distress signal and a grainy-picture were enough to deploy the navy while the media widely concluded the vessel had to be a Russian submarine spooking Stockholm.
The proof of this was an alleged comms intercept, at distress call frequency, between the supposed sub and Kaliningrad base.
But the Dagens Nyheter daily cited a Swedish Intel source who confessed there was no distress call.
Citing freedom of information requests and its own sources, the paper said Sweden’s signal intelligence agency knows nothing about the alleged distress calls, and registered no spikes in communication with Kaliningrad at the time.
“I’d be glad to read about that emergency call myself. But it didn’t happen, this information is incorrect,” the newspaper cites a source as saying.
The navy operation, which was dubbed ‘Hunt for the Reds in October’ by the Swedish media, was reminiscent of the Cold War era, when Swedish warships patrolled the Baltic Sea looking for Soviet submarines.
During the search, many recalled the infamous 1981 incident, when a Russian submarine got stranded near Karlskrona, a major naval base. The incident, which caused serious diplomatic waves, was dubbed ‘Whiskey on the Rocks’ because the S-363 sub in question belonged to the Whiskey-class.
Russia has denied sending any subs to spy on Sweden, or having one suffer an emergency in Sweden’s waters. Sources in the Russian military suggested that the fuss was caused by a sighting of a Norwegian U-boat participating in a joint NATO drill in the Baltics.
The Swedish Navy’s efforts to find the elusive foreign activity cost the country 2.2 million euros ($2.8 million), it reported last week. The operation was the biggest in decades in a nation, where military spending accounts for about 1 percent of GDP and has seen steady cuts during the years of the European economic slowdown.
According to the latest draft budget published in the wake of the naval operation, Sweden plans to increase military spending for 2015 by $93.7 million.
The U.S. nuclear weapons complex is greatly expanding the production of fissile cores to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War three decades ago.
The dramatic increase comes as part of a long-term billion-dollar effort to renew the nuclear arsenal under President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize largely because of his promise to greatly reduce the nation’s stockpile of these weapons—a promise he has not kept.
Instead, the Department of Energy, which oversees the nuclear weapons laboratories, is planning to produce 80 explosive plutonium cores—the key to every warhead—a year by 2030, according to The Guardian. The U.S. hasn’t needed this level of production since it was facing nuclear Armageddon with the former Soviet Union last century.
Over the next decade, the federal government plans to spend $355 billion modernizing the nuclear arsenal even though there are 15,000 cores in reserve in a Texas facility.
“I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-80 pits per year by 2030,” James Doyle, a former scientist in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said. Doyle was fired last summer for publishing an article that urged nuclear disarmament, even though the laboratory had approved the article for publication.
The commitment to build more cores stands in stark contrast to Obama’s declaration after taking over the White House in 2009 to cut the stockpile from 5,113 warheads to 1,500 by 2016. Only 309 weapons have been destroyed under his watch. His predecessor, George W. Bush, “cut the nuclear stockpile in half during his eight years in office,” Caty Enders at The Guardian reported.
Plans to expand nuclear weapons production come at a time when the Energy Department is still recovering from a significant accident earlier this year at the nation’s only repository for nuclear weapons waste. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has been closed since February, when a drum of radioactive waste exploded and exposed 22 workers to radiation.
To Learn More:
Nuclear Weapons Expansion Pushed in Congress Despite Accidents at Lab (by Caty Enders, The Guardian)
What Happened at WIPP in February 2014 (Department of Energy)
Nuclear Weapons are not Going Away…3,970 Still Deployed (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
GAO Audit Accuses Obama Administration of Lowballing Cost of Maintaining Nuclear Arsenal (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
The Pentagon and Big Oil
There is no question that, in the immediate aftermath and for several years following US military conquests, wars, occupations and sanctions, US multi-national corporations lost out on profitable sites for investments. The biggest losses were in the exploitation of natural resources – in particular, gas and oil – in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.
As a result some observers speculated that there were deep fissures and contradictory interests within the US ruling class. They argued that, on the one hand, political elites linked to pro-Israel lobbies and the military industrial power configuration, promoted a highly militarized foreign policy agenda and, on the other hand, some of the biggest and wealthiest multi-national corporations sought diplomatic solutions.
Yet this seeming ‘elite division’ did not materialize. There is no evidence for example that the multi-national oil companies sought to oppose the Iraq, Libyan, Afghan, Syrian wars. Nor did the powerful 10 largest oil companies with a net value of over $1.1 trillion dollars mobilize their lobbyists and influentials in the mass media to the cause of peaceful capital penetration and domination of the oil fields via neo-liberal political clients.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, the three major US oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, eager to exploit the third largest oil reserves in the world, did not engage in Congressional lobbying or exert pressure on the Bush or later Obama Administration for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. At no point did the Big Ten challenge the pro-war Israel lobby and its phony arguments that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction with an alternative policy.
Similar “political passivity” was evidenced in the run-up to the Libyan war. Big Oil was actually signing off on lucrative oil deals, when the militarists in Washington struck again – destroying the Libyan state and tearing asunder the entire fabric of the Libyan economy.
Big oil may have bemoaned the loss of oil and profits but there was no concerted effort, before or after the Libyan debacle, to critically examine or evaluate the loss of a major oil producing region. In the case of economic sanctions against Iran, possessing the second largest oil reserves, the MNC again were notable by their absence from the halls of Congress and the Treasury Department where the sanctions policy was decided. Prominent Zionist policymakers, Stuart Levey and David Cohen designed and implemented sanctions which prevented US (and EU) oil companies from investing or trading with Teheran.
In fact, despite the seeming divergence of interest between a highly militarized foreign policy and the drive of MNCs to pursue the global accumulation of capital, no political conflicts erupted. The basic question that this paper seeks to address is: Why did the major MNCs submit to an imperial foreign policy which resulted in lost economic opportunities?
Why the MNCs Fail to Oppose Imperial Militarism
There are several possible hypotheses accounting for the MNC accommodation to a highly militarized version of imperial expansion.
In the first instance, the CEOs of the MNCs may have believed that the wars, especially the Iraq war, would be short-term, and would lead to a period of stability under a client regime willing and able to privatize and de-nationalize the oil and gas sector. In other words, the petrol elites bought into the arguments of Rumsfeld, Chaney, Wolfowitz and Feith, that the invasion and conquest would “pay for itself”.
Secondly, even after the prolonged-decade long destructive war and the deepening sectarian conflict, many CEOs believed that a lost decade would be compensated by “long term” gain. They believed that future profits would flow, once the country was stabilized. The oil majors entry after 2010; however, was immediately threatened by the ISIS offensive. The ‘time frame’ of the MNCs’ strategic planners was understated if not totally wrong headed.
Thirdly, most CEOs believed that the US-NATO invasion of Libya would lead to monopoly ownership and greater profits than what they received from a public-private partnership with the Gaddafi regime. The oil majors believed that they would secure total or majority control. In other words the war would allow the oil MNCs to secure monopoly profits for an extended period. Instead the end of a stable partnership led to a Hobbesian world in which anarchy and chaos inhibited any large scale, long-term entry of MNCs.
Fourthly, the MNCs, including the big oil corporations, have invested in hundreds of sites in dozens of countries. They are not tied to a single location. They depend on the militarized imperial state to defend their global interests. Hence they probably are not willing to contest or challenge the militarists in, say Iraq, for fear that it might endanger US imperial intervention in other sites.
Fifthly, many MNCs interlock across economic sectors: they invest in oil fields and refineries; banking, financing and insurance as well as extractive sectors. To the degree that MNCs’ capital is diversified they are less dependent on a single region, sector, or source for profit. Hence destructive wars, in one or several countries, may not have as great a prejudicial effect as in the past when “Big Oil” was just ‘oil’.
Six, the agencies of the US imperial state are heavily weighted to military rather than economic activity. The international bureaucracy of the US is overwhelmingly made up of military, intelligence and counter-insurgency officials. In contrast, China, Japan, Germany and other emerging states (Brazil, Russia and India) have a large economic component in their overseas bureaucracy. The difference is significant. US MNCs do not have access to economic officials and resources in the same way as China’s MNCs. The Chinese overseas expansion and its MNCs, are built around powerful economic support systems and agencies. US MNCs have to deal with Special Forces, spooks and highly militarized ‘aid officials’. In other words the CEOs who look for “state support” perforce have mostly ‘military’ counterparts who view the MNCs as instruments of policy rather than as subjects of policy.
Seventh, the recent decade has witnessed the rise of the financial sector as the dominant recipient of State support. As a result, big banks exercise major influence on public policy. To the extent that is true, much of what is ‘oil money’ has gone over to finance and profits accrue by pillaging the Treasury. As a result, oil interests merge with the financial sector and their ‘profits’ are as much dependent on the state as on exploiting overseas sites.
Eighth, while Big Oil has vast sums of capital, its diverse locations, multiple activities and dependence on state protection (military), weaken its opposition to US wars in lucrative oil countries. As a result other powerful pro-war lobbies which have no such constraints have a free hand. For example the pro-Israel power configuration has far less ‘capital’ than any of the top ten oil companies. But it has a far greater number of lobbyists with much more influence over Congress people. Moreover, it has far more effective propaganda – media leverage- than Big Oil. Many more critics of US foreign policy, including its military and sanctions policies, are willing to criticize “Big Oil” than Zionist lobbies.
Finally the rise of domestic oil production resulting from fracking opens new sites for Big Oil to profit outside of the Middle East – even though the costs may be higher and the duration shorter. The oil industry has replaced losses in Middle East sites (due to wars) with domestic investments.
Nevertheless, there is tension and conflict between oil capital and militarism. The most recent case is between Exxon-Mobil’s plans to invest $38 billion in a joint venture in the Russian Arctic with the Russian oil grant Rosneft. Obama’s sanctions against Russia is scheduled to shut down the deal much to the dismay of the senior executives of Exxon Mobil, who have already invested $3.2 billion in an area the size of Texas.
The latent conflicts and overt difference between military and economic expansion may eventually find greater articulation in Washington. However, up to now, because of the global structures and orientation of the oil industry, because of their dependence on the military for ‘security’, the oil industry in particular, and the MNCs in general, have sacrificed short and middle term profits for “future gains” in the hopes that the wars will end and lucrative profits will return.
Dear Ambassador Power:
I recently read your statement decrying the UN General Assembly’s election of Venezuela to the UN Security Council. This statement, so obviously laden with hypocrisy, necessitated this response.
You premise your opposition to Venezuela’s ascendancy to the Security Council on your claim that “From ISIL and Ebola to Mali and the Central African Republic, the Security Council must meet its responsibilities by uniting to meet common threats.” If these are the prerequisites for sitting on the Security Council, Venezuela has a much greater claim for this seat than the U.S., and this is so obvious that it hardly warrants pointing out. Let’s take the Ebola issue first. As even The New York Times agrees, it is little Cuba (another country you decry) which is leading the fight against Ebola in Africa. Indeed, The New York Times describes Cuba as the “boldest contributor” to this effort and criticizes the U.S. for its diplomatic estrangement from Cuba.
Venezuela is decidedly not estranged from Cuba, and indeed is providing it with critical support to aid Cuba in its medical internationalism, including in the fight against Ebola in Africa and cholera in Haiti. And, accordingly, the UN has commended both Cuba and Venezuela for their role in the fight against Ebola. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola recently stated:
I urge countries in the region and around the world to follow the lead of Cuba and Venezuela, who have set a commendable example with their rapid response in support of efforts to contain Ebola.
By this measure, then, Venezuela should be quite welcome on the Security Council.
In terms of ISIL, or ISIS as some call it, Venezuela has no blame for that problem. Of course, that cannot be said of the U.S. which has been aiding Islamic extremists in the region for decades, from the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (which gave rise to Bin Laden and Al Qaida) to the very radical elements in Syria who have morphed into ISIL. And, of course, the U.S.’s multiple military forays into Iraq — none of which you ever opposed, Ms. Power — have also helped bring ISIS to prominence there. So again, on that score, Venezuela has a much greater claim to a Security Council seat than the U.S.
And what about Mali? Again, it is the U.S. which has helped destabilize Mali through the aerial bombardment of Libya, which brought chaos to both countries in the process. Of course, you personally supported the U.S.-led destruction of Libya so you should be painfully aware of the U.S.’s role in unleashing the anarchy which now haunts Libya and Mali. Venezuela, on the other hand, opposed the U.S.’s lawless assault on Libya, thereby showing again its right to be on the Security Council.
Indeed, while you state quite correctly that “[t]he UN Charter makes clear that candidates for membership on the Security Council should be contributors to the maintenance of international peace and security and support the other purposes of the UN, including promoting universal respect for human rights,” the U.S. is unique in its undermining of all of these goals. It is the U.S. — through its ceaseless wars in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslovia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Vietnam, to name but a few — which has been the greatest force of unleashing chaos and undermining peace, security and human rights across the globe for the past six decades or so. As Noam Chomsky has recently opined — citing an international poll in which the U.S. was ranked by far “the biggest threat to world peace today” — the U.S. is indeed “a leading terrorist state.”
Meanwhile, Venezuela has played a key role in brokering peace in Colombia, and has been a leader in uniting the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean into new and innovative economic and political formations (such as ALBA) which allow these countries to settle their disputes peacefully, and to confront mutual challenges, such as Ebola. It is indeed because of such productive leadership that, as you note in your statement, Venezuela ran unopposed by any of its Latin American neighbors for the Security Council seat.
What’s more, as Chomsky again points out, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez led “the historic liberation of Latin America” from centuries-long subjugation by Spain and then the U.S. I would submit that it is Venezuela’s leadership in that regard which in fact motivates your opposition to Venezuela’s seat on the Security Council, and not any feigned concern about world peace or human rights.
The Russian Defense Ministry believes the military operation in the Baltic conducted by Sweden in search of possible “foreign underwater activity” can only lead to undermining stability and escalate tension in the region.
“Such unfounded actions of the Swedish Defense Department, fuelled by the Cold War-style rhetoric, are only leading today to escalation of tension in the region,” Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told journalists on Friday.
“It might result not in strengthening of a particular country’s security, but in undermining the principles of the naval economic activity in the Baltic Sea,” he added.
Konashenkov said Russian military officials were anticipating “the culmination of the exciting operation” accompanied by “never-ceasing speculations by the Swedish over detecting a ‘Russian submarine’ in the region of the Stockholm archipelago.”
Sweden started its largest since the Cold War military operation in the Baltic a week ago, explaining that the troops were engaged in search of a possible “foreign underwater activity.”
The Swedish media alleged the operation could be the hunt for a “damaged Russian submarine” in the area.
Moscow has long denied any of its vessels have been damaged. Konashenkov on Friday once again ruled out any possibility of the Swedish military ever finding a Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.
The Swedish military announced on Friday it is curtailing the search operation.
“This means the bulk of ships and amphibious forces have returned to port,” the armed forces said in a statement, cited by Reuters. The military have however said the area would still be monitored by smaller forces.
That’s a U-turn from Thursday’s statement by Swedish Armed Forces spokesman Erik Lagersten, who said that the operation was not scaling down, but was entering a “new phase.”
“The intelligence-gathering operation is continuing just as before,” Lagersten said, according to the Local. “We still believe there is underwater activity.”
On Tuesday, Sweden announced it was ready to use force if it detects any foreign submarine in the waters of the Stockholm Archipelago.
Stockholm has chosen not to prolong the program for military exchange with Moscow, citing Russia’s alleged “challenging” activity in the Baltic Sea, according to Sweden’s draft budget, made public on Thursday.
“This means that Defense Forces’ cooperation with Russia is suspended until further notice,” the text of the budget says.
The draft budget says Sweden has to boost its security. According to the document, Stockholm plans to increase its military spending for 2015 by 680 million kronas (US$93.7 million).
You have heard that Sweden is hunting a ”submarine” and that it is ”presumed to be Russian”. Here is an example, Financial Times of October 21 – which incidentally also announces that the Swedish Prime Minister vows to increase defence spending.
Not the slightest evidence
There are only three problems with this:
1) There is not the slightest evidence of there being anything military, neither that it is a submarine nor that, whatever the object might be, it is Russian.
2) Even with CNN, BBC and AlJazeera this is nothing but speculative low-grade yellow press journalism. This is possible in the field of defence, security and peace because much less is required of journalists when they write about these matters than when they write about, say, domestic politics, economics, sports, books or food and wine. In these fields you are expected to have some knowledge and media consumers are able to check.
3) It serves other purposes than bringing you information: either to increase further the negative image of Russia, push Sweden into full NATO membership – see the remarkable offer by NATOs former Allied Supreme Commander, Stavridis – for NATO to come and help Sweden – or to scare the Swedes into feeling that it is necessary to pay even more to the Swedish military (a mechanism also called fearology).
Virtually every aspect of the media hype is based on prejudices instead of interest-based analysis and on partial and paid expertise that follows the ‘party line’. Russia has ‘denied’ it is there; Holland has ‘dismissed’ that its submarine should be there.
With one or two exceptions, all Swedish and international media have avoided asking: Could it be something else but a sub and somebody else but the Russians – or nothing at all?
The alleged-ness of it all is good enough to pass for objective reporting in the – alleged – free media.
From Swedish defence force to farce
Worse, the Swedish military has already made a fool of itself – not to be expected given the fairly large resources it has at its disposal.
It has sold off helicopters it now dearly needs.
It’s been – at least officially – relying on tips from ordinary citizens and one wonders where the intelligence (in more than one sense of that word) is.
A suspicion that a (Russian) special forces man had gone on land turned out to be an Swedish pensioner out fishing.
It has published a blurred photo of a wave-covered ‘object’ to be seen far out through some trees and indicated wrongly where that photo was taken.
One indeed wonders whether this farcical performance is made to show that it is so helpless that it must have large resources.
The more relevant consideration would be: How on earth can such amateurism be so easily accepted by the government, media and the people – and even used as an argument for what the PM has just announced?
Or to put it crudely: What does the Swedes get for their tax money?
Sweden is not a helpless pawn in the game
Sweden with a population of roughly 9 million is # 33 on the world list of military expenditures, spending US $ 6,2 billion per year. That is US $ 657 per capita, # 17 in the world.
Russia spends US$ 403 per capita and its overall military expenditures is 8% of NATO’s.
Sweden, thus, is not a helpless pawn in some game. If its military isn’t able to do better when it is really needed, someone should be made responsible.
Is it Russian?
If there is something out there, is it likely to be Russian? Not very likely.
Moscow knows very well that if a Russian submarine was found and brought up to the surface, it would mean a huge boost for those in Sweden and elsewhere who would like to see Sweden as a full NATO member. That is not in Russia’s interest.
But of course, the Russians could play a high-risk game in these waters with some NATO subs or be plain foolish. It can’t be excluded – but it isn’t very likely that the object is Russian.
If it Russian, Sweden itself may anyhow have an interest in not officially finding anything – to keep the Russians in the dark about how much it knows and whether or not there already is a NATO assistance in this case. In both cases we are likely to never be told what it was all about.
Could it be from NATO?
Could it be from a NATO country? If so, we’ll also never know that.
The Swedish Chief of Staff has said that if something is found it would be shot at to come up to the surface. But it’s unthinkable that Sweden, if it knew an object to be from a NATO country – would a) shoot at it and b) tell the world that it knew.
After all, most violations of the Swedish air space has been known since the 1980s to be done by NATO fighters but it’s basically only when Russian fighters come near or violate that the Swedish defence establishment leaks it or the media are interested in it.
Sweden isn’t a neutral country today, if it ever were.
Could NATO have an interest in these waters? In the wake of the Ukraine crisis we are back to a kind of Cold War situation and NATO has moved its military positions forward in various ways and held a steady focus on the Baltic States.
So, yes, NATO could be in Swedish waters with or without the knowledge or consent of the Swedes; it could be roaming around to check on the Russians simply because tension has built up.
It could be placing sonars or whatever devices for future emergencies – while not wanting Sweden to know that it considers Sweden so close to NATO that it can just as well be used.
And if so, Sweden would rather not be told. Clearly Sweden could not officially endorse a NATO submarine presence on its territory as part of Anti-Submarine Warfare or planning for future war with Russia. Both parties know that.
My concluding prediction is therefore rather simple: for the above reasons the Swedish military will soon call off the whole thing and the affair will have served its purpose – precisely by not stating what it was, who it was or why it was. Or if it was.
What the purpose of the event may be remains to be revealed at some point in the future. Or perhaps never if – the purpose was fearology for increased militarisation.
Somebody somewhere knows what’s going on. And they put citizens’ security at risk for purposes they would never tell you.
The United States has withheld assurances from Germany that the Ebola virus – among other related diseases – would not be weaponized in the event of Germany exporting it to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided a paper to the US consulate’s Economics Office (Econoff), “seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens.”
Germany subsequently made two follow-up requests and clarifications to the Army, according to the unclassified Wikileaks cable.
“This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world,” the request notes.
The Zaire Ebola virus was the same strain of Ebola virus which has been rampaging through West Africa in recent months.
“The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses,” the cable notes.
However, it also points out that Germany has in place an “exceptionally restrictive policy,” adding that approval would not be granted to the export until US assurance was provided.
“A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein,” the document stated.
There is no follow-up document available to confirm whether the US Army eventually provided Germany with the necessary guarantees.
Bioweapons were outlawed in the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and was signed and ratified by 179 signatories, including Germany, the US and Russia.
It dictates that signatories, “under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention” and “the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time.”
Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently called on the government to force young people to spend two years either “serving” in the military or performing some other type of government-directed “community service.” Neoconservative Senator John McCain has introduced legislation creating a mandatory national service program very similar to Reich’s proposal. It is not surprising that both a prominent progressive and a leading neocon would support mandatory national service, as this is an issue that has long united authoritarians on the left and right.
Proponents of national service claim that young people have a moral obligation to give something back to society. But giving the government power to decide our moral obligations is an invitation to totalitarianism.
Mandatory national service is not just anti-liberty, it is un-American. Whether or not they admit it, supporters of mandatory national service do not believe that individuals have “inalienable rights.” Instead, they believe that rights are gifts from the government, and, since government is the source of our rights, government can abridge or even take away those rights whenever Congress decides.
Mandatory national service also undermines private charitable institutions. In a free society, many people will give their time or money to service projects to help better their communities, working with religious or civic associations. But in a society with government-enforced national service, these associations are likely to become more reliant on government-supplied forced labor. They will then begin to tailor their programs to satisfy the demands of government bureaucrats instead of the needs of the community.
The very worst form of national service is, of course, the military draft, which forces young people to kill or be killed on government orders. The draft lowers the cost of an interventionist foreign policy because government need not compete with private employers for recruits. Anyone who refuses a draft notice runs the risk of being jailed, so government can provide lower pay and benefits to draftees than to volunteers.
As the burden of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy increases, it is increasingly likely that there will be serious attempts to reinstate the military draft. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continues to suggest that US troops on the ground may be needed to fight “Operation Inherent Resolve” in Iraq and Syria. A major escalation requiring a large US troop deployment will likely add pressure to consider a military draft.
The only real way the American people can protect their children from the military draft is to demand an end to the foreign policy that sees the US military as the solution to any and every problem — from ISIS to Ebola — anywhere in the world.
Some who share my opposition to a militaristic foreign policy support the draft because they think a draft will increase public opposition to war. However, the existence of a draft did not stop the American government from launching unconstitutional wars in Vietnam and Korea. While the draft did play a role in mobilizing political opposition to Vietnam, it took almost a decade and the death of thousands of American draftees for that opposition to reach critical mass.
It is baffling that conservatives who (properly) oppose raising taxes would support any form of national service, including the military draft. It is similarly baffling that liberals who oppose government interference with our personal lives would support mandatory national service. Mandatory national service is a totalitarian policy that should be rejected by all who value liberty.
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin — Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.
We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.
Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.
Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.
It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.
We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.
At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.
Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.
I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.
This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?
All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.
Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby have been challenged over the Department of Defense’s claims that the US must “deal” with “modern and capable” Russian armed forces on NATO’s doorstep.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu expressed “grave concern” and “surprise” at a Wednesday speech made by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference. Hagel declared that US armed forces “must deal with a revisionist Russia – with its modern and capable army – on NATO’s doorstep.”
During a State Department briefing on Friday, however, an AP journalist suggested that it would be more logical to say that “NATO has moved closer to Russia’s borders.”
“Is it not logical to look at this and say – the reason why Russia’s army is on NATO’s doorstep, is because NATO expands,” journalist Matt Lee said.
“That’s the way [Russian] President Putin probably looks at it, it’s certainly not the way that we look at it,” Kirby said in response to the journalist’s reasoning.
Though he eventually admitted that NATO has expanded, Kirby added that “NATO is not an anti-Russia alliance, it is a security alliance.”
“It wasn’t NATO that was ordering tons of tactical battalions and army to [the] Ukraine border,” Kirby added, before being reminded that Ukraine is not part of NATO.
Kirby then refused to agree with the point that the Russians could understandably perceive NATO’s expansion as a “threat,” especially given that the alliance existed as “anti-Soviet” for half a century.
“I’m not going to pretend to know what goes in President Putin’s mind or Russian military commanders… I mean, I barely got a history degree at the University of South Florida,” Kirby joked, dodging the question.
Kirby assured that NATO’s moves were not “hostile and threatening,” but rather a matter of security. He added that he was “worried about their [Russia’s] moves around Ukraine.” Psaki then cut in, saying that “other countries feel threatened,” and urged the conversation to move on.
In terms of new threats at NATO’s borders, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Friday that it is the US which has been “stubbornly approaching… closer to our doors.”
Relations between Russia and NATO have been tense since the alliance accused Russia of becoming involved in the Ukrainian conflict – a claim Russia has continuously denied.
Following Crimea’s accession to Russia in March, the US and Europe bombarded Moscow with sanctions. NATO also significantly increased its military presence near Russia’s borders, especially in Poland and the former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which have expressed concern at the potential for Russian incursions into their territories.