5% Digest (September 2014)

Journalist Ahmed provided a brief history of the rise of Islamic State, arguing the complicity of US and British in its creation and rise through deliberate tactical actions, ill-conceived policies and indirect/direct financial support.

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

It is both the consequence and excuse for the launch and continuation of the era of war without end:

“The rise of the ‘Islamic State’ is not just a direct consequence of this neocon vision, tied as it is to a dangerous covert operations strategy that has seen al-Qaeda linked terrorists as a tool to influence local populations – it has in turn offered a pretext for the launch of a new era of endless war, the spectre of a prolonged US-led military presence in the energy-rich Persian Gulf region, and a return to the dangerous imperial temptation to re-configure the wider regional order.”

Many of the former Pentagon officials who are using the threat of IS to demand an increased US military presence in the Middle East are paid directors and advisers to some of the largest defence contractors whose profits will rise with more sales and uses of their military armaments. As shown by Lee Fang, the IS is simply an excuse for more military spending without any consideration of any practical value and practical strategy implications:

“When the Pentagon sent a recent $2 billion request for ramped-up operations in the Middle East, supposedly to confront the IS issue, budget details obtained by Bloomberg News revealed that officials asked for money for additional F-35 planes. The F-35 is not in operation and would not be used against IS. The plane is notoriously over budget and perpetually delayed—some experts call it the most expensive weapon system in human history—with a price tag now projected to be over $1 trillion. In July, an engine fire grounded the F-35 fleet and again delayed the planned debut of the plane. How it ended up in the Pentagon’s Middle East wish list is unclear.

“I think an inclination to use military action a lot is something the defense industry subscribes to because it helps to perpetuate an overall climate of permissiveness towards military spending,” says Ed Wasserman, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School for Journalism.”

It is known that military spending is very wasteful; one example is the nearly trillion-dollar real estate glut of the Pentagon. The U.S. Department of Defense owns more than half a million properties worth in excess of $800 billion dollars. The military’s real estate holdings span the globe and, all together, sprawl across 30 million acres. Pentagon auditors can’t explain what half the properties are for—and doesn’t have a plan for finding out. All this according to a Sept. 8 report from the Government Accountability Office.

Symon Hill argued that we should learnt from history and do more to stop the war propanganda. For example,

“It’s not something that David Cameron or Nicky Morgan are likely to mention as they encourage us to mark the war’s centenary. War was used as an excuse to restrict civil liberties in 1914, just as the fear of terrorism has been used to do so again and again since 2001. Indeed, the number of similarities between politics today and politics in the First World War is both amusing and alarming.

Foremost among them is the role of the arms trade – and the hypocrisies of politicians in relation to it (http://armingallsides.on-the-record.org.uk). MPs recently criticised David Cameron for licensing sales of military equipment to Russia. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) points out that the UK is continuing to arm Israel despite the attacks on Gaza.

After war broke out in 1914, it was revealed that the Austro-Hungarian fleet was armed with torpedoes made by Whitehead’s, a subsidiary business of the British arms company Vickers. Shareholders of Vickers included the under-secretary of state for war, the Speaker of the House of Commons and 25 peers. Vickers has since become part of BAE Systems.”

John J. Mearsheimer argued that the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the Ukraine crisis.

“The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine — beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 — were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a “coup” — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. … But this grand scheme went awry in Ukraine. The crisis there shows that realpolitik remains relevant — and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.”

Israeli military firms used the bombing of Gaza as a way to sell their products:

Speaking to the German magazine Der Spiegel last month, Avner Benzaken, head of the Israeli army’s “technology and logistics” division — a unit “comprised largely of academics who also happen to be officers” — explained the benefits of this occupation.

“If I develop a product and want to test it in the field, I only have to go five or ten kilometers from my base and I can look and see what is happening with the equipment,” said Benzaken. “I get feedback, so it makes the development process faster and much more efficient.”

Gaza has become a lab for experimenting weapons to offer the Israeli defense industry an unique perverse advantage:

Easy access to a captive population to experiment on allows Israeli weapons manufacturers to market their products as “combat-proven,” a coveted label that gives Israel a competitive edge in the international arms trade. Israel’s suppression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized.

This dystopian arrangement has paved the way for Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, to rank among the globe’s top five largest arms exporters and to become the world’s number one exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapon manufacturer, is looking to join the party, having just formed a subsidiary inside Israel. “The move is part of a wider push by Lockheed Martin to seek overseas defense contracts amid a slowdown in US military spending,”reportedThe Wall Street Journal.

George Monbiot wrote that

Last week’s Private Eye, drawing on a dossier of recordings and emails, alleges that a British company has paid £300m in bribes to facilitate weapons sales to the Saudi national guard. When a whistleblower in the company reported these payments to the British Ministry of Defence, instead of taking action it alerted his bosses. He had to flee the country to avoid being thrown into a Saudi jail.

Scotland’s Glasgow Palestine Action managed to shut down Thales UK’s factory in Govan for a day in protest of its collaboration with Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems.

Tom Z. Collina argued that the US nuclear arsenal is both expensive and practically useless.

As the New York Times reported on Sept. 22, the United States plans to spend about $355 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, and up to $1 trillion over 30 years. As they say in Washington, that’s real money. Yet these weapons play essentially no role in responding to today’s highest-priority threats. U.S. nuclear weapons did not keep Russia from taking Crimea. They did not stop the Islamic State from rampaging through Iraq and Syria. And Ebola? Yeah, right.


Proponents of nuclear weapons say that spending large sums of money to rebuild the arsenal is worth it, since the United States still faces nuclear threats from Russia and China that must be addressed. And since Moscow and Beijing are modernizing their arsenals, so should we. After all, with an annual $500 billion defense budget, spending $30 billion (or just 6 percent) on nuclear weapons is not so much, the thinking goes.

But the threats we face are changing, and so too must our responses to them.