Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Sen. Lindsay Graham is running a pro-war campaign and his biggest contributors are military contractors

leave a comment »

“You have to spend money to make money”: I imagine a lot of military contractors are saying this as they give checked to Sen. Graham’s campaign, counting on his promises to increase defense spending and go to war in more places. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

The Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised $2.9 million through the end of June, a significant portion of which came from defense contractors that stand to gain from Graham’s advocacy for greater military intervention around the world and increased defense spending.

As Graham tours the early primary states, he tells voters that he is running to boost U.S. defense spending. “My goal is to make sure the next president of the United States, the next generation of war fighters have the capability and capacity to do the job required to keep us free,” Graham said in South Carolina earlier this year.

Graham’s Super PAC, called “Security is Strength,” received $500,000 from billionaire Ron Perelman, whose company MacAndrews & Forbes owns AM General, the manufacturer of Humvees and other products for the military. In December of last year, AM General won a $245.6 million contract with the Army. . .

Continue reading.

And of course the money buys votes. Jon Schwarz in The Intercept has a very interesting piece on politicians who admit that the money they receive shapes their votes:

One of the most embarrassing aspects of U.S. politics is politicians who deny that money has any impact on what they do. For instance, Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s notoriously fracking-friendly former governor, got $1.7 million from oil and gas companies but assured voters that “The contributions don’t affect my decisions.” If you’re trying to get people to vote for you, you can’t tell them that what they want doesn’t matter.

This pose is also popular with a certain prominent breed of pundits, who love to tell us “Don’t Follow the Money” (New York Times columnist David Brooks), or “Money does not buy elections” (Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner on public radio’s Marketplace), or “Money won’t buy you votes” (Yale Law School professor Peter H. Schuck in the Los Angeles Times).

Meanwhile, 85 percent of Americans say we need to either “completely rebuild” or make “fundamental changes” to the campaign finance system. Just 13 percent think “only minor changes are necessary,” less than the 18 percent of Americans who believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.

So we’ve decided that it would be useful to collect examples of actual politicians acknowledging the glaringly obvious reality. Here’s a start; I’m sure there must be many others, so if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments or email me. I’d also love to speak directly to current or former politicians who have an opinion about it.

• “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.” — Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 25:  Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on April 25, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Republican Jewish Coalition's annual meeting featured potential Republican presidential candidates in attendance, along with Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)

Photo: Ethan Miler/Getty Images

• “Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.” — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2015.

• “When you start to connect the actual access to money, and the access involves law enforcement officials, you have clearly crossed a line. What is going on is shocking, terrible.” – James E. Tierney, former attorney general of Maine, in 2014.

• “Allowing people and corporate interest groups and others to spend an unlimited amount of unidentified money has enabled certain individuals to swing any and all elections, whether they are congressional, federal, local, state … Unfortunately and rarely are these people having goals which are in line with those of the general public. History well shows that there is a very selfish game that’s going on and that our government has largely been put up for sale.” –John Dingell, 29-term Democratic congressman from Michigan, in 2014 just before he retired.

• “When some think tank comes up with the legislation and tells you not to fool with it, why are you even a legislator anymore? You just sit there and take votes and you’re kind of a feudal serf for folks with a lot of money.” — Dale Schultz, 32-year Republican state legislator in Wisconsin and former state Senate Majority Leader, in 2013 before retiring rather than face a primary challenger backed by Americans for Prosperity. . .

Continue reading. The list continues.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2015 at 2:48 pm

Close Military Bases at Home, But Also Close Them Overseas

leave a comment »

David Vine writes in the NY Times:

THERE are signs that Congress may soon approve another series of domestic military base closings, after the Pentagon threatened earlier this month to cut nearly 90,000 jobs instead. For years, the military has been trying to save money with new rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the congressionally mandated process for shuttering underutilized domestic military installations.

The move could save billions since, by the Pentagon’s own estimate, our network of domestic bases is bloated by more than 20 percent. But Congress has resisted, since local bases mean local jobs, and votes.

BRAC, however, does not apply to the more than 700 United States bases overseas, including 174 in Germany, 113 in Japan and 83 in South Korea, as well as hundreds more in some 70 countries from Aruba to Kenya to Thailand. The military and Congress should go further by closing installations abroad. They both waste taxpayer money and undermine national security.

Each year, United States taxpayers pay on average $10,000 to $40,000 more for each service member stationed abroad, compared with those at home. By my very conservative calculations completed during a six-year study of overseas bases, maintaining installations and troops overseas cost at least $85 billion in 2014 — more than the discretionary budget of every government agency except the Defense Department itself. Adding our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, the bill could reach $156 billion.

The Bush and Obama administrations have made some progress closing bases, especially in Europe. Still, the military has acknowledged having excess base capacity worldwide.

Unfortunately, many inside and outside the military are committed to maintaining a large and extravagant system of bases abroad. In Europe, for example, the Pentagon has spent billions building new bases at the same time it’s been closing others. President Obama’s “Pacific pivot” has meant billions more in spending in a region where the military already has hundreds of bases and tens of thousands of troops. Billions of dollars have likewise gone to building a new and permanent base infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.

Halting new construction and closing more Cold War bases in Europe are obvious ways to achieve savings, and scrapping ill-conceived multibillion-dollar buildups in the Pacific and Persian Gulf are other important steps. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2015 at 10:54 am

Thousands of Scientists Say We Need a Global Ban on Autonomous Weapons

with one comment

Unfortunately, people in general do not listen to scientists because scientists have spent years—even decades—in study, learning about their specialties, so what do they know? /snark

Victoria Turk writes at Motherboard:

Autonomous weapons are the future’s Kalashnikovs, according to over 1,000 experts in artificial intelligence. Cheap, lethal, and guaranteed to end up in the wrong hands at some point, AI weapons are poised to be at the centre of the next global arms race.

That’s according to an open letter from the Future of Life Institute, an organisation dedicated to mitigating existential risks. It’s endorsed by thousands, including such household names (and outspoken prophets of AI doom) as Stephen Hawking andElon Musk.

“People have argued about autonomous weapons for years,” said Max Tegmark, an MIT professor and one of the FLI’s founders. “This is the AI experts who are building the technology who are speaking up and saying they don’t want anything to do with this.”

He likened the situation to physicists, biologists, and chemists speaking out against research in their fields being used to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Toby Walsh, a professor of AI at the University of South Wales in Australia who will present the letter at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, said it was time that AI researchers made their stance clear.

“There have been some negotiations at the United Nations in Geneva looking towards some sort of ban on autonomous weapons,” he said. “In conversation with those people, it became to clear to us that it would help the discussions and diplomatic negotiations if they saw that there was general support from scientists and not just humanitarian organisations.”

The letter defines autonomous weapons as those that “select and engage targets without human intervention,” citing as an example “armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria.” It doesn’t include military drones in current use, as a human still has to remotely “pull the trigger.”

Walsh and his many co-signatories are urging authorities to stop an “arms race” for AI-weapons before it really started. “It has been suggested that this potentially will be as big a transformation as the invention of gunpowder and the invention of nuclear weapons to the way we fight war,” Walsh said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 July 2015 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Military, Science

Very interesting follow-up to Charleston air crash: Can the ‘Right Stuff’ Become the Wrong Stuff?

leave a comment »

James Fallows publishes some responses received after his posting of a message he got from an Air Force officer who had totally dismissed any possibility that the Air Force pilot was in any way responsible for the crash. Worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 July 2015 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Military

In Iraq, I raided insurgents. In Virginia, the police raided me.

leave a comment »

Alex Horton served as an infantryman in Iraq with the Army’s 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry, and writes in the Washington Post of a recent encounter with the police:

I got home from the bar and fell into bed soon after Saturday night bled into Sunday morning. I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door. They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers. The only visible target was my head.

In the shouting and commotion, I felt an instant familiarity. I’d been here before. This was a raid.

I had done this a few dozen times myself, 6,000 miles away from my Alexandria, Va., apartment. As an Army infantryman in Iraq, I’d always been on the trigger side of the weapon. Now that I was on the barrel side, I recalled basic training’s most important firearm rule: Aim only at something you intend to kill.

I had conducted the same kind of raid on suspected bombmakers and high-value insurgents. But the Fairfax County officers in my apartment were aiming their weapons at a target whose rap sheet consisted only of parking tickets and an overdue library book.

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat. Instinct told me to get up and protect myself. Training told me that if I did, these officers would shoot me dead.

In a panic, I asked the officers what was going on but got no immediate answer. Their tactics were similar to the ones I used to clear rooms during the height of guerilla warfare in Iraq. I could almost admire it — their fluid sweep from the bedroom doorway to the distant corner. They stayed clear of one another’s lines of fire in case they needed to empty their Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistols into me.

They were well-trained, their supervisor later told me. But I knew that means little when adrenaline governs an imminent-danger scenario, real or imagined. Triggers are pulled. Mistakes are made.

I spread my arms out to either side. An officer jumped onto my bed and locked handcuffs onto my wrists. The officers rolled me from side to side, searching my boxers for weapons, then yanked me up to sit on the edge of the bed.

At first, I was stunned. I searched my memory for any incident that would justify a police raid. Then it clicked. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the column:

. . . We’ve seen this troubling approach to law enforcement nationwide, in militarized police responses to nonviolent protesters and in fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens. The culture that encourages police officers to engage their weapons before gathering information promotes the mind-set that nothing, including citizen safety, is more important than officers’ personal security. That approach has caused public trust in law enforcement to deteriorate.

It’s the same culture that characterized the early phases of the Iraq war, in which I served a 15-month tour in 2006 and 2007. Soldiers left their sprawling bases in armored vehicles, leveling buildings with missile strikes and shooting up entire blocks during gun battles with insurgents, only to return to their protected bases and do it all again hours later.

The short-sighted notion that we should always protect ourselves endangered us more in the long term. It was a flawed strategy that could often create more insurgents than it stopped and inspired some Iraqis to hate us rather than help us.

In one instance in Baghdad, a stray round landed in a compound that our unit was building. An overzealous officer decided that we were under attack and ordered machine guns and grenade launchers to shoot at distant rooftops. A row of buildings caught fire, and we left our compound on foot, seeking to capture any injured fighters by entering structures choked with flames.

Instead, we found a man frantically pulling his furniture out of his house. “Thank you for your security!” he yelled in perfect English. He pointed to the billowing smoke. “This is what you call security?”

We didn’t find any insurgents. There weren’t any. But it was easy to imagine that we forged some in that fire. Similarly, when U.S. police officers use excessive force to control nonviolent citizens or respond to minor incidents, they lose supporters and public trust.

That’s a problem, because law enforcement officers need the cooperation of the communities they patrol in order to do their jobs effectively. In the early stages of the war, the U.S. military overlooked that reality as well. Leaders defined success as increasing military hold on geographic terrain, while the human terrain was the real battle. For example, when our platoon entered Iraq’s volatile Diyala province in early 2007, children at a school plugged their ears just before an IED exploded beneath one of our vehicles. The kids knew what was coming, but they saw no reason to warn us. Instead, they watched us drive right into the ambush. One of our men died, and in the subsequent crossfire, several insurgents and children were killed. We saw Iraqis cheering and dancing at the blast crater as we left the area hours later.

With the U.S. effort in Iraq faltering, Gen. David Petraeus unveiled a new counterinsurgency strategy that year. He believed that showing more restraint during gunfights would help foster Iraqis’ trust in U.S. forces and that forming better relationships with civilians would improve our intelligence-gathering. We refined our warrior mentality — the one that directed us to protect ourselves above all else — with a community-building component.

My unit began to patrol on foot almost exclusively, which was exceptionally more dangerous than staying inside our armored vehicles. We relinquished much of our personal security by entering dimly lit homes in insurgent strongholds. We didn’t know if the hand we would shake at each door held a detonator to a suicide vest or a small glass of hot, sugary tea.

But as a result, we better understood our environment and earned the allegiance of some people in it. The benefits quickly became clear. One day during that bloody summer, insurgents loaded a car with hundreds of pounds of explosives and parked it by a school. They knew we searched every building for hidden weapons caches, and they waited for us to gather near the car. But as we turned the corner to head toward the school, several Iraqis told us about the danger. We evacuated civilians from the area and called in a helicopter gunship to fire at the vehicle.

The resulting explosion pulverized half the building and blasted the car’s engine block through two cement walls. Shrapnel dropped like jagged hail as far as a quarter-mile away.

If we had not risked our safety by patrolling the neighborhood on foot, trusting our sources and gathering intelligence, it would have been a massacre. But no one was hurt in the blast.

Domestic police forces would benefit from a similar change in strategy. Instead of relying on aggression, they should rely more on relationships. Rather than responding to a squatter call with guns raised, they should knock on the door and extend a hand. But unfortunately, my encounter with officers is just one in a stream of recent examples of police placing their own safety ahead of those they’re sworn to serve and protect. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:33 am

Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS

leave a comment »

Both states seem pretty obvious, but obviously some disagree (but without evidence—the evidence supports the retired general’s observations). Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in aforthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.

But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”

Prior to serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn was director of Intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his time in Iraq, Flynn is credited with helping to transform JSOC into an intelligence-driven special forces operation, tailored to fight the insurgency in that country. Flynn was in Iraq during the peak of the conflict there, as intelligence chief to Stanley McChrystal, former general and head of JSOC. When questioned about how many Iraqis JSOC operatives had killed inside the country during his tenure, Flynn would later say, “Thousands, I don’t even know how many.”

In the upcoming interview, Flynn says that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic mistake that directly contributed to the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State. “We definitely put fuel on a fire,” he told Hasan. “Absolutely … there’s no doubt, I mean … history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003.”

Over his 33 years in the Army, Flynn developed a reputation as an iconoclast. In 2010, he published a controversialreport on intelligence operations in Afghanistan, stating in part that the military could not answer “fundamental questions” about the country and its people despite nearly a decade of engagement there. Earlier this year, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 1:43 pm

How the military views citizens: As fodder for experiments

leave a comment »

Caitlin Dickerson reports for NPR (with podcast at the link):

As a young U.S. Army soldier during World War II, Rollins Edwards knew better than to refuse an assignment.

When officers led him and a dozen others into a wooden gas chamber and locked the door, he didn’t complain. None of them did. Then, a mixture of mustard gas and a similar agent called lewisite was piped inside.

“It felt like you were on fire,” recalls Edwards, now 93 years old. “Guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted. And finally they opened the door and let us out, and the guys were just, they were in bad shape.”

Edwards was one of 60,000 enlisted men enrolled in a once-secret government program — formally declassified in 1993 — to test mustard gas and other chemical agents on American troops. But there was a specific reason he was chosen: Edwards is African-American.

“They said we were being tested to see what effect these gases would have on black skins,” Edwards says.

An NPR investigation has found evidence that Edwards’ experience was not unique. While the Pentagon admitted decades ago that it used American troops as test subjects in experiments with mustard gas, until now, officials have never spoken about the tests that grouped subjects by race.

For the first time, NPR tracked down some of the men used in the race-based experiments. And it wasn’t just African-Americans. Japanese-Americans were used as test subjects, serving as proxies for the enemy so scientists could explore how mustard gas and other chemicals might affect Japanese troops. Puerto Rican soldiers were also singled out.

White enlisted men were used as scientific control groups. Their reactions were used to establish what was “normal,” and then compared to the minority troops.All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren’t recorded on the subjects’ official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn’t tell doctors what happened to them. . .

Continue reading. And do read the rest of the article: there’s a lot more, and there are photos.

That’s the military mind and how it thinks. The article includes this note:

This is Part 1 of a two-part investigation on mustard gas testing conducted by the U.S. military during World War II. The second story in this report examines failures by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide benefits to those injured by military mustard gas experiments.

And the military is also happy to experiment (again, in secret and without informing the subjects) on the civilian population as well. Kevin Loria reports in Business Insider:

San Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.

But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.

The test was a success, as Rebecca Kreston explains over at Discover Magazine, and “one of the largest human experiments in history.”

But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”

The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.

The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.

This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true. . .

Continue reading. And by all means, read the rest of this article as well. The details are astonishing, including at least 1 death attributable on the attack by the US military on US citizens. The court, interestingly, found that the military is justified in conducting tests on the civilian population without informing them. That is direct contradiction to the Nuremberg Accords.

I would bet that the officers involved were promoted, not punished.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 July 2015 at 10:24 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,049 other followers

%d bloggers like this: