5% Digest (October 2014)

After the Cold War, the Pentagon needs to find a new way to justify its wasteful spending and the defense and security contractors need to find a new cause to make profits. Bob Hennelly tells the story:

In 1998, President Bill Clinton tasked former Senators Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat, and the late Warren Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican, to chair the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. The Commission panel was a cross-section of the military-industrial-media complex. Its members included Leslie Gelb, longtime New York Times correspondent and editor; Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed-Martin; and Army General John Galvin.

The panel gave its report and recommendations in January 2001. Both Senators Rudman and Hart concluded that it was not a matter of “if” the U.S. would suffer a mass-casualty terrorist strike but “when.” Among the panel’s recommendations was the massive integration of all of the nation’s domestic security, disaster planning and recovery functions into one behemoth called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

After 9/11, President George W. Bush faithfully executed the Hart-Rudman blueprint and President Obama and the Congress have continued to commit hundreds of billions to it. And so it was that the envisioned “peace dividend” cutbacks—which the end of the Cold War was supposed to have brought to the defense budget (and the bottom line of defense contractors)— were buried for good. …

Indeed, and of supreme irony, the main effect of the War on Terror, as executed so far, has been  not to eliminate terror, but to spread it—and to generate a state of perpetual war. …

Occasional voices of reason have been heard above the din of the fear-mongers. The House Committee on Homeland Security has raised a warning flag. It documented that DHS in its first five years racked up $15 billion in failed contracts—or about a third of its contracting budget. Among the committee’s list of costly fiascoes: a deeply flawed $25 billion makeover of the Coast Guard’s aging fleet, and expensive airport and border screening technologies that failed to deliver greater security. …

As recently as May, DHS Inspector General John Roth admitted in Congressional testimony that his agency was still coming up short when it came to contracting. He added that DHS continues “to struggle with acting as an integrated, single entity to accomplish its mission.”

The new Pentagon’s Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap finally recognises climate change as a reality that must be dealt with now, in contrast to earlier editions which treat it as a future threat.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront.” — US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Kawasaki Akira and Céline Nahory argued that Japanese Cabinet’s decision to fundamentally change the interpretation of war-renouncing Article 9 of its Constitution to allow the exercise of the right of collective self-defense cannot simply be viewed as a part of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s doctrine of “pro-active pacifism.”

[T]he move stems from a correlation between Japan’s rising nationalism on the one hand, and joint U.S.-Japan efforts to strengthen their security cooperation on the other, as Washington and Tokyo are renegotiating their defense guidelines for the first time since 1997. …

Despite Abe’s claim that “the reinforced Japan-U.S. alliance has contributed significantly to the peace of Japan and this region over many years, by serving as a deterrent,” the reality is in fact quite the opposite. Chinese state-run news service Xinhua has accused Japan of “dallying with the specter of war” – a view reflected by a recent survey that found that about 53 percent of Chinese and 29 percent of Japanese respondents expected a war to break out by the year 2020.

America’s largest defence contractors are funding the Centre for Security Policy, an organisation that has been accused of promoting Islamophobia and whose president Frank Gaffney has been one of the most high-profile conspiracist about Obama’s country of birth.

The document, which details contributions to the Center for Security Policy during the 2013 tax year, includes donations from: Boeing ($25,000); General Dynamics ($15,000); Lockheed Martin ($15,000); Northrup Grumman ($5,000); Raytheon ($20,000); and General Electric ($5,000).

The German military recently sent an report to parliament, confessing that half of the armed forces’ heavy equipment is unserviceable and can’t deploy in a crisis. Furthermore, Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen released a report by an outside consultancy analyzing the military’s nine biggest weapons purchases.

The report is damning. Every single procurement effort suffers some combination of cost overruns, delays and technical shortfalls. And owing to the ministry’s unwillingness or inability to negotiate proper contracts, the government has had to pay for the overruns itself. The arms manufacturers waltz away with their full fees.

Lockheed Martin announced signed a cooperation agreement with Yissum Research and Development Company, a “technology transfer” firm belonging to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The deal could lead to “more efficient means” of killing Palestinians. It also enables the privatization of knowledge.

Lockheed will reportedly be able to enjoy monopoly “rights” over any innovations realized by this partnership. Scientists working for a nominally public university are, therefore, being required to serve the interests of an American corporation that is a key supplier of weapons to the Israeli military.

Another example of the wasteful military spending is shown by the recent disclosure of the scrapping of 16 G222 military cargo planes that were given to the Afghan Air Force.

The aircraft were hardly used before being ground down and sold to an Afghan construction company for 6 cents a pound, or a total of $32,000. …

The program ran a $486.1 million tag, but the aircraft logged only 234 of the 4,500 required hours from January through September 2012.

A recent research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that only 12% of drone victims in Pakistan have been identified as militants. Moreover, the research also stated that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified as members of al Qaeda. Of the 2,370 people killed in these strikes, 704 have been identified, of which only 295 were reported to be members of some kind of armed group.

MIT political scientist Jonathan Caverley, author of Democratic Militarism: Voting, Wealth, and War, and himself a US Navy veteran, argues that increasingly high-tech militaries, with all-volunteer armies that sustain fewer casualties in smaller conflicts, combine with rising economic inequality to create perverse incentives that turn the conventional view of war on its head.

What was interesting to me is that one of the best predictors of your desire to spend money on defense was your desire to spend money on education, your desire to spend money on healthcare, your desire to spend money on roads. I was really shocked by the fact that there is not much of a ‘guns and butter’ tradeoff in the minds of most respondents in these public opinion polls.

The conflicts in the Middle East and US-led air strikes on ISIS has provided huge profits to defence contractors:

Shares in Lockheed Martin – maker of the “All for One and One for All” Hellfire missiles – are up 9.3 per cent in the past three months. Raytheon – which has a big Israeli arm – has gone up 3.8 per cent. Northrop Grumman shares swooped up the same 3.8 per cent. And General Dynamics shares have risen 4.3 per cent. …

And don’t be downhearted. The profits go on soaring. When the Americans decided to extend their bombing into Syria in September – to attack President Assad’s enemies scarcely a year after they first proposed to bomb President Assad himself – Raytheon was awarded a $251m (£156m) contract to supply the US navy with more Tomahawk cruise missiles. …

Let me give you a real-time quotation from reporter Dan De Luce’s dispatch on arms sales for the French news agency. “The war promises to generate more business not just from US government contracts but other countries in a growing coalition, including European and Arab states… Apart from fighter jets, the air campaign [sic] is expected to boost the appetite for aerial refuelling tankers, surveillance aircraft such as the U-2 and P-8 spy planes, and robotic [sic again, folks] drones… Private security contractors, which profited heavily from the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, also are optimistic the conflict will produce new contracts to advise Iraqi troops.”