5% Digest (week 30/03/15)

Physicians for Social Responsibility’s (PRS) study concluds that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million.

It is heavily critical of the figure most widely cited by mainstream media as authoritative, namely, the Iraq Body Count (IBC) estimate of 110,000 dead. According to the PSR study, the much-disputed Lancet study that estimated 655,000 Iraq deaths up to 2006 (and over a million until today by extrapolation) was likely to be far more accurate than IBC’s figures.

Nafeez Ahmed argued that

total deaths from Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan since the 1990s – from direct killings and the longer-term impact of war-imposed deprivation – likely constitute around 4 million (2 million in Iraq from 1991-2003, plus 2 million from the “war on terror”), and could be as high as 6-8 million people when accounting for higher avoidable death estimates in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia has replaced India as the largest importer of defence equipment worldwide and became the number one buyer for the US in 2014, according to IHS’ annual Global Defence Trade Report.

One out of every seven dollars spent on defence imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia. …

Saudi Arabia and UAE together imported USD8.6 billion in defence systems in 2014, more than the imports of Western Europe combined. The biggest beneficiary of the strong Middle Eastern market remains the US, with USD8.4 billion worth of Middle Eastern exports in 2014, compared to USD6 billion in 2013.

The second tier of exporters to the Middle East is led by the United Kingdom with USD1.9 billion, the Russian Federation with USD1.5 billion, France with USD1.3 billion and Germany with USD1 billion. …

IHS forecasts that fast-emerging exporter South Korea will become a regional leader in the coming decade. Some USD35 billion in new contracts will come online within the next decade and the South Korean defence industry is forecast to win $6 billion in new business within East Asia. South Korea looks set to be the rising star of the Asia Pacific defence industry.

The arms industry has been taking advantage of the regional conflicts in the Middle East.

Sergei Chemezov, the head of the state-owned armaments giant Rostec, was quoted in Russian News Agency Tass last week – before the strikes were launched – as saying “we offered (the missiles) and they are thinking. No decision has been made yet.”

Chemezov went on to say: “I don’t conceal this, and everyone understands this, the more conflicts there are, the more they buy weapons off us. Volumes are continuing to grow despite sanctions.”

According to a new report from SIGAR, the Pentagon only knows how it spent a third of its $66 billion budget for Afghanistan reconstruction.

To be clear, the Pentagon didn’t technically do anything wrong. The rules just didn’t require it to report how it funded the contracts, so it didn’t. According to the Pentagon, hiring people now to go through millions of old contracts from the past decade would require too much time and money.

EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska had set up a high-level group of politicians, industrialists and academics to advise the EU’s executive body on how it can support defence research to reverse a slide in spending.

The panel, which met for the first time on Monday, includes Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders, BAE Systems Chief Executive Ian King and Fernando Abril-Martorell, chairman of Spain’s Indra.

Other chief executives taking part are Finmeccanica’s Mauro Moretti, Antoine Bouvier of missile maker MBDA and Hakan Buskhe of Sweden’s Saab. …

The European Defence Agency (EDA) says spending on research and technology in the defence field has fallen by 15 percent in the last five years.

One way to increase EU support for the sector would be to allow a portion of EU research spending, until now reserved for civilian purposes, to be used for military research.

The Associated Press reported The United States plans to send soldiers to Ukraine in late April to train the country’s national guard, which includes groups expressly espousing support for far-right and Nazi ideology. Some 350 U.S. army officers are taking part in the drills for Operation Atlantic Resolve, conducted at the Novo Selo training range in southeastern Bulgaria. The exercises also involve U.S. armored personnel carriers, helicopters and tanks.

“Up to 12 U.S. F-15 jets will take part and they will arrive in Bulgaria after April 10,” a defense ministry official told Reuters. The exercises will run from April 10 to June 30.

The Pentagon is contemplating easing enlistment standards to tackle recruitment challenges after 2 prolonged wars.

Specifically, the Pentagon pointed to cyber jobs as an area where standards — such as age or minor drug offenses — could be relaxed.

However, it didn’t go very well last time they lower the standards.

During 2006-2007, the military steadily increased the number of bad behavior waivers as the services — particularly the Army and Marine Corps — struggled to meet deployment demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. The services let in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, in order to meet recruiting quotas. …

But as the wars dragged on and suicides, sexual assaults and other bad behavior by service members spiked, military leaders began to question whether there was a link to the decline in enlistment standards during the wartime peak.

According to the recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, Americans have pretty irrational ideas what they perceive as imminent threats.

20 percent saw Putin as an imminent threat compared to 18 percent who said the same about Obama.

More people fear Boko Haram, a scary but ragged Islamic radical group in Nigeria that might have trouble paying for plane tickets to the United States, than Russia, which recently invaded a major European country. And a whopping 34 percent consider Kim Jong-un, the leader of impoverished North Korea, an imminent threat.

Thirteen percent of us see the Republican and Democratic parties as an imminent threat. That’s the same number who think the Chinese might be. 38 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans think their own party is something of a threat.

We see danger everywhere, even viewing the religious beliefs of our neighbors and the expansion of basic rights to all Americans as imminent threats. There are real bad guys out there, monsters who would do us harm. But far too many of these survey results suggest we are also very scared of each other. Now that is a real threat.