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TBR News May 13, 2019

May 13 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. May 13, 2019: “Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for May 13:” The Social Networks are a handy means for persons to express their personal views on almost any subject and to communicate with others of a like mind. The problem that one notes from reading their postings is the same one observes in reading the comments appended to serious articles on major newspapers. In reading both of these areas, one is at once struck by the utter stupidity of the writers, their total lack of English, their constant bad grammar and terrible spelling and, most important, their desire not to express a thoughtful view but to parade their insignificance and ignorance to a wide audience.

Another negative aspect of the Social Network is that, at least in the United States, all of the networks of any size are working closely with such official governmental agencies as the DHS and the FBI, to spy on their members at no cost or effort to themselves. In these cases, the mindless babblings and boastings of the dim of wit load federal surveillance files with moronic chatters from which the authorities can easily build a criminal case.

I did some research on the social networks and discovered that they have attracted more members than the government can keep up with, redolent of the thousands of hungry flies congregating in a cow pen, and for the same reason.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Bolton Is Spinning Israeli ‘Intelligence’ to Push for War Against Iran
  • The Military-Industrial Virus
  • China to hike tariffs on $60 billion of US goods
  • Saudi Arabia: Oil tankers damaged in ‘sabotage attack’
  • Saudi oil tankers show ‘significant damage’ after sabotage attack, says Riyadh 
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

 

Bolton Is Spinning Israeli ‘Intelligence’ to Push for War Against Iran

May 13, 2019

by Gareth Porter

TruthDig

John Bolton has gotten away with a dangerous deception. The national security adviser’s announcement Sunday that the Pentagon has deployed air and naval forces to the Middle East, which he combined with a threat to Iran, points to a new maneuver to prepare the ground for an incident that could justify a retaliatory attack against Iran.

Bolton presented his threat and the deployments as a response to alleged intelligence about a possible Iranian attack on U.S. targets in the Middle East. But what has emerged indicates that the alleged intelligence does not actually reflect any dramatic new information or analysis from the US intelligence community. Instead, it has all the hallmarks of a highly political case concocted by Bolton.

Further underscoring the deceptive character of Bolton’s maneuver is evidence that senior Israeli national security officials played a key role in creating the alleged intelligence rationale for the case.

The new initiative follows an audacious ruse carried out last fall by Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, detailed in Truthdig in February, to cast the firing of a few mortar rounds in the vicinity of the US Embassy and a consulate in Iraq as evidence of an effort by Tehran to harm US diplomats. Bolton exploited that opportunity to press Pentagon officials to provide retaliatory military options, which they did, reluctantly.

Bolton and Pompeo thus established a policy that the Trump administration would hold Iran responsible for any incident involving forces supported by Iran that could be portrayed as an attack on either US personnel or US“interests.”

Bolton’s one-paragraph statement on Sunday considerably broadened that policy. It repeated the previously stated principle that the United States will respond to any alleged attack, whether by Iranian forces or by what the administration calls “proxy” forces. But it added yet another major point to Trump administration policy: “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force [emphasis added].”

That language represents an obvious move by Bolton to create potential options for US retaliation against Iran for a real or alleged attack by “proxy forces” on Israeli or Saudi forces or “interests.” Such a commitment to go to war with Iran over incidents related to Israeli or Saudi conflicts should be the subject of a major debate in the press and in Congress. Thus far, it has somehow escaped notice.

Significantly, on a flight to Finland on Sunday, Pompeo repeated the threat he made last September to respond to any attack by “proxy forces” on US“interests.” He made no reference to possible attacks against “allies.”

Bolton and his staff claimed to the news media that what he characterizes as “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” are based on “intelligence.” Media reports about Bolton’s claim suggest, however, that his dramatic warning is not based on either US intelligence reporting or analysis.

Citing “US officials,” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the alleged intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target US forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Personal Gulf with its own armed drones.”

But in the very next paragraph, the report quotes an official saying it is “unclear whether the new intelligence indicated operations Tehran planned to carry out imminently or contingency preparations in the case U.S.-Iran tensions erupted into hostilities.”

A Defense Department source said the intelligence showed “a change in behavior that could be interpreted to foreshadow an attack on American forces or interests,” according to The New York Times’ story on the matter. But the source didn’t actually say that any emerging intelligence had led to such a conclusion or even that any US intelligence official has come to that conclusion.

The timing of the alleged new intelligence also suggests that Bolton’s claim is false. “As recently as last week there were no obvious sign of a new threat,” The Wall Street Journal reported. The New York Times similarly reported that “several Defense officials” said “as recently as last Friday they have had not seen reason to change the American military’s posture in the region.”

Normally, it would require intelligence from either a highly credible source within the Iranian government or an intercept of a sensitive communication from Iran to justify this kind of accusation. But no news outlet has brought word that any such spectacular new intelligence has found its way to the White House or the Pentagon.

The Journal’s report revealed, moreover, that Bolton has only a “fresh intelligence assessment” rather than any new intelligence report. That “assessment” is clearly not a product of the intelligence community, which would have taken at least several days to arrive at such a fundamental reinterpretation of Iranian intentions. The mysterious new “assessment” was evidently unknown outside Bolton’s office before Bolton swung into action last weekend.

We now know, in fact, that the sources behind Bolton’s claim were Israel’s national security adviser and intelligence agency. Axios published a report Monday by leading Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, who covers national security for Israel’s Channel 13, revealing that a delegation of senior Israeli officials had given Bolton “information” about “possible Iranian plots against the US or its allies in the Gulf” two weeks earlier.

The Israeli delegation, led by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, met with Bolton and other unnamed officials in the White House, according to Ravid, to discuss possible Iranian plans. Bolton himself tweeted on April 15 about his meeting with Shabbat:

Israeli officials told Ravid that they understood that “intelligence, gathered by the Mossad intelligence agency, was part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.” What Ravid’s official sources told him reveals, however, that what the Israelis provided to Bolton was not really new intelligence at all.; it consisted of several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning, according one Israeli official.

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it,” the Israeli official told Ravid, “but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing US pressure campaign against them, and that they are considering retaliating against US interests in the Gulf.”

That revelation explains the lack of evidence of either genuine US intelligence reporting or proper assessment to support Bolton’s statement.

Bolton is an old hand at using allegedly damning intelligence on Iran to advance a plan of aggressive US war. In 2003-04, he leaked satellite photographs of specific sites in Iran’s Parchin military complex to the press, claiming those images provided evidence of covert Iranian nuclear weapons-related experiments—even though they showed nothing of the sort. He then tried to pressure International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to insist on an inspection of the sites. When ElBaradei finally relented, he found nothing in that inspection to support Bolton’s claim.

Bolton’s deceptive maneuver has the effect of increasing the range of contingencies that would trigger a US strike on Iran and represent a major advance toward his long-declared intention to attack it. More alarmingly, however, some media outlets have reported his claims without any serious questioning.

Given the violent struggles in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Israel itself, Bolton and the Netanyahu government will be able to portray an incident as an attack by Shiite militias, the Houthis or Hamas on Israeli, Saudi or US“interests,” just as Bolton and Pompeo did last fall. That, in turn, would offer an opportunity for urging Trump to approve a strike against one or more Iranian military targets.

Even more alarming is that both acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and new CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie have signed up for the Bolton initiative. That means that the Pentagon and military leaders can no longer be counted on to oppose such a war, as they did in 2007, when Vice President Dick Cheney pushed unsuccessfully for a plan to retaliate against a future Iraqi militia attack on US troops in Iraq.

The United States is in danger of falling for yet another war ruse as malignant as those that led Congress and the mainstream media to accept the invasion of Iraq or the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

 

 

The Military-Industrial Virus

How bloated defense budgets gut our armed forces

May 13, 2019

by Andrew Cockburn

Harpers

For a country that spends such vast sums on its national security apparatus—many times more than the enemies that supposedly threaten it do—the United States has a strangely invisible military establishment. Military bases tend to be located far from major population centers. The Air Force’s vast missile fields, for instance, are hidden away in the plains of the northern Midwest. It is rare to see service uniforms on the streets of major cities, even Washington. Donald Trump did dream of holding a “beautiful” military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, complete with “a lot of planes going over and a lot of military might,” but the Pentagon nixed the scheme by putting out word that the extravaganza would cost $92 million. The estimate was surely inflated—­it was four times greater, in real dollars, than the price tag for the 1991 Gulf War victory parade—­suggesting that the military prefers a lower profile. It often takes an informed eye to appreciate signs of defense dollars at work, such as the office parks abutting Route 28 south of Dulles Airport, heavily populated with innocuously titled military and intelligence firms.

Largely out of sight, our gargantuan military machine is also increasingly out of mind, especially when it comes to the ways in which it spends, and misspends, our money. Three decades ago, revelations that the military was paying $435 for a hammer and $640 for an aircraft toilet seat ignited widespread media coverage and public outrage. But when it emerged in 2018 that the Air Force was now paying $10,000 for a toilet-seat cover alone, the story generated little more than a few scattered news reports and some derisive commentary on blogs and social media. (This was despite a senior Air Force official’s unblushing explanation that the ridiculous price was required to save the manufacturer from “losing revenue and profit.”) The Air Force now claims to have the covers 3-D–printed for $300 apiece, still an extravagant sum.

Representative Ro Khanna of California, a leading light of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who has spearheaded the fight to end U.S. participation in the Saudi war of extermination in Yemen, told me recently that he sees this indifference as a sign of the times. “There’s such cynicism about politics, such cynicism about institutions,” he said, “that the shock value of scandals that in the past would be disqualifying has diminished.” We were discussing another apparent defense rip-off, in which a company called ­TransDigm has been deploying a business model pioneered by the pharmaceutical industry. TransDigm seeks out unique suppliers of obscure but essential military components, such as a simple cable assembly, and buys the firm, quickly boosting the component’s price (by 355 percent in the case of the assembly). Khanna was particularly depressed that the Defense Department’s inspector general—whom he, along with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, had prompted to investigate the company—had concluded that ­TransDigm’s way of doing business was, in his words, “awful, but legal.” (Unsurprisingly, Wall Street loves the company; its stock price has doubled in the two years since Khanna first raised the issue.)

At a time when defense spending accounts for fifty-three cents out of every dollar appropriated by Congress, one might expect that the Pentagon would be under intense scrutiny by those who believe that the money is urgently needed elsewhere. Yet this is evidently not the case. Outrageous examples such as the toilet-­seat cover or TransDigm come and go almost without comment, as does the ongoing trillion-­dollar overhaul of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which surely poses as great an existential threat to the planet as climate change. True, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tulsi Gabbard among the Democratic presidential contenders are campaigning for cuts in defense spending, but they all have spotty records when it comes to votes on military budget bills. The Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives has indeed pressed for a freeze on the Pentagon’s budget, along with “greater accountability and transparency in our Department of Defense,” but the former effort has been stymied by opposition from centrist Democrats and the latter demand lacks specifics. Justice Democrats, a leftist PAC that has recently emerged as a potent force behind newly elected progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, offers little detail on defense policy in its published platform beyond pledging to “End Unnecessary Wars and Nation Building.”

When I asked Khanna what it means to be progressive on defense, he respondedwith similar language. “It means,” he answered, “to understand that our recent unconstitutional wars have not made America safe. That our military is overstretched. That we are in too many battlefields overseas. That we need far greater restraint in the use of our military.” For Khanna, the fault clearly lies with our aggressive foreign policy. “The reason the military budget is bloated,” he continued, “is because we’ve got too large a presence and footprint overseas in a way that isn’t making us safer.” But why should a handful of comparatively small-scale operations “overstretch” a military with its largest budget since World War II? All indications are that the actual reason behind the military’s bloated budget goes far beyond the ill-starred ventures of our twenty-first-century presidents, and has far more serious implications for both our defense and our society.

In 1983, Chuck Spinney, a thirty-seven-year-old analyst in the Pentagon’s Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, testified to Congress that the cost of the ever-more complex weapons that the military insisted on buying always grew many times faster than the overall defense budget. In consequence, planes, ships, and tanks were never replaced on a one-to-one basis, which in turn ensured that the armed forces got smaller and older. Planes, for instance, were kept in service for longer periods of time and were maintained in poor states of repair owing to their increasing complexity. As to be expected, the high command did not react favorably to these home truths. They allowed Spinney to keep his job but stopped assigning him anything of importance. He spent the rest of his career ensconced in a Pentagon office at the heart of the military-­industrial machine, pondering and probing its institutional personality. Retiring in 2003, he maintained a steady output of pungent analyses of its workings. In a 2011 essay, “The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War,” he discussed the pattern of “military belief systems and distorted financial incentives” that produced “a voracious appetite for money that is sustained by a self-­serving flood of ideological propaganda.” Delving deep into the historical details of Pentagon spending, Spinney illustrated his analyses in the form of intricate charts that not only tracked the actual dollar amounts expended but also showed how the projected budgets for various ambitious weapons-­buying plans had never materialized, at least never to the degree necessary to buy the projected number of weapons systems—­hence the shrinking forces.

Late in 2018, Spinney’s longtime friend Pierre Sprey, a former Pentagon “whiz kid” revered for codesigning the highly successful ­A-10 and ­F-16 warplanes, and a trenchant critic of defense orthodoxy, suggested to Spinney that he add a novel tweak to his work by depicting budget changes from year to year in terms of percentages rather than dollar amounts. The analysis that Spinney produced at Sprey’s suggestion revealed something intriguing: although the U.S. defense budget clearly increased and decreased over the sixty years following the end of the Korean War, the decreases never dipped below where the budget would have been if it had simply grown at 5 percent per year from 1954 on (with one minor exception in the 1960s). “Amazingly,” emphasized Spinney,this behavior even held true for the large budget reductions that occurred after the end of the Vietnam War and, more significantly, after the end of the Cold War. It is as if there is a rising floor of resistance, below which the defense budget does not penetrate.

Only during Obama’s second term did it first dip below this level with any degree of significance. Even more interestingly, every single time the growth rate had bumped against that floor, there had been an immediate and forceful reaction in the form of high-­volume public outcry regarding a supposedly imminent military threat. Such bouts of threat inflation invariably induced a prompt remedial increase in budget growth, regardless of whether the proclaimed threat actually existed. As General Douglas ­MacArthur remarked, as far back as 1957: “Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters never seem to have happened, never seem to have been quite real.”

In 1960, for example, as President Eisenhower was getting ready to denounce the dangerous power of what he would christen the military-industrial complex, the growth rate was pressing against the 5 percent floor. On cue, there appeared the fraudulent specter of a “missile gap” favoring the Soviets. The incoming Kennedy Administration duly opened the budgetary tap. A slowdown a few years later, as Kennedy tried to apply the brakes and free up money for domestic initiatives, was reversed under Johnson with the first major escalation in Vietnam. The end of that war again brought the rate down to 5 percent. True to form, there arose a chorus of alarms about the rising menace of Soviet military power: the CIA upwardly revised its estimates of enemy weapons prowess and spending; the Pentagon asserted that our nuclear forces faced a “window of vulnerability.” The consequent spend-up accelerated sharply in the Reagan years, ultimately peaking at a record growth rate of 10 percent.

The end of the Cold War, which had underpinned the entire enterprise, might have been expected to bring a change. But no, the 5 percent limit held firm, and before too long the growth rate rose again as Clinton expanded NATO, thereby ensuring tense relations with Russia for the foreseeable future. The 9/11 attacks and the Bush–Obama wars pushed the year-on-year increases into overdrive until the rate dipped slightly below the 5 percent line in 2015. Donald Trump, for all his bombast about restoring the military, was at first apparently unwilling to undo this particular aspect of the Obama legacy—his initial budget plan for 2020 even featured an absolute decline in spending, from $717 billion to $700 billion. This aberration was brief, however. Following outcry from the military’s representatives in Congress, Trump reversed course and dutifully boosted the projected amount to $750 billion, just shy of the historical status quo.

Now that the Democratic establishment, long wedded to the notion that Vladimir Putin somehow engineered the election of Donald Trump, have become as obsessively hawkish on the subject of Russia as any Republican, it seems likely that the line will soon climb north of 5 percent and stay there for years to come. Reports that the Russians, despite having a defense budget less than a tenth the size of ours, are somehow outpacing us in the development of weapons such as chimerical hypersonic missiles go largely unchallenged. Moscow’s latest submarines, ships, tanks, cyberweapons, and supposed mastery of “hybrid” warfare are regularly invoked to justify a level of spending that, even accounting for inflation, now runs almost double the Cold War average.

This entire process, whereby spending growth slows and is then seemingly automatically regenerated, raises an intriguing possibility: that our military-industrial complex has become, in Spinney’s words, a “living organic system” with a built-in self-defense reflex that reacts forcefully whenever a threat to its food supply—our money—­hits a particular trigger point. The implications are profound, suggesting that the MIC is embedded in our society to such a degree that it cannot be dislodged, and also that it could be said to be concerned, exclusively, with self-preservation and expansion, like a giant, malignant virus. This, of course, is contrary to the notion that our armed forces exist to protect us against foreign enemies and impose our will around the globe—and that corruption, mismanagement, and costly foreign wars are anomalies that can be corrected with suitable reforms and changes in policy. But if we understand that the MIC exists purely to sustain itself and grow, it becomes easier to make sense of the corruption, mismanagement, and war, and understand why, despite warnings over allegedly looming threats, we remain in reality so poorly defended.

That latter point may seem counterintuitive. Pentagon critics like Khanna tend to focus on the misuse of our military power, such as in the wars in Yemen or Afghanistan, and on the need to reallocate money away from defense to address pressing social needs. These are certainly valid approaches, but they overlook the fact that we’ve been left with a very poor fighting force for our money. The evidence for this is depressingly clear, starting with our bulging arsenal of weapons systems incapable of performing as advertised and bought at extraordinary cost. Some examples, such as the F-35 Lightning II fighter planes bought by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, have achieved a certain muted notoriety and served as the occasional butt of jokes made by comedians on cable TV. Yet there is little public appreciation of the extent of the disaster. The F-35 first saw combat last year, seventeen years after the program began. The Marines sent just six of them on their first deployment to the Middle East, and over several months only managed to fly, on average, one combat sortie per plane every three days. According to the Pentagon’s former chief testing official, had there been opposition, these “fighters” could not have survived without protection from other planes. The most expensive weapons program in history at a projected cost of $406 billion, the F-35 initially carried a radar whose frequent freezing required the pilot to regularly switch it on and off. While the radar problem was eventually corrected, the Air Force version of the plane still features an unacceptably inaccurate gun that remains to be fixed, though the Air Force claims to be working on it.

The Navy is in possibly worse shape. Mines, to take one striking example, are a potent naval weapon and ubiquitous among our potential enemies. Fear of mines caused the United States to cancel a major amphibious landing during the Korean War, and concerns over possible Iraqi mines prevented a planned seaborne assault on Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War. A single mine (and Iran has thousands of them) in the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world’s oil transported by sea passes every day, would throw markets into total chaos. Yet the Navy currently possesses a mere eleven minesweepers, dilapidated vessels long past retirement age, with just four available for the entirety of the Middle East. Fifteen of the new and failure-­ridden class of Littoral combat ships, known to crews as “little crappy ships,” will supposedly be dedicated to mine-­hunting and minesweeping, but none of their specialized equipment—­designed to detect and disable mines, including underwater drones—has been found to work. A July 2018 report from the Defense Department’s inspector general found that the Navy deployed the relevant systems “prior to demonstrating that the systems were effective.” Asked to comment, the Navy nevertheless claimed that everything works or, as in the case of the underwater drone, insisted they are “on track” to produce something that does.

Thus the lion’s share of our defenses against mines must be borne by a small, decaying fleet of huge ­MH-53E helicopters that search and destroy mines by towing large sensor-­laden sleds through the ocean. The MH-53E, and its variant for the Marines, the CH-53E, are lethal machines—­lethal, that is, to those who operate them. According to the journalists behind the documentary Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn, the helicopters have crashed 58 times and killed 132 crew and contractors since their introduction in the 1980s, making them the most dangerous aircraft in the U.S. military.

The Navy’s shortcomings have been most vividly highlighted by a plethora of scandals in the Seventh Fleet, which operates in the western Pacific. In recent years, Leonard Glenn Francis, a contractor known as “Fat Leonard” who serviced the fleet’s port visits around Asia and held over $200 million in contracts, was found to have been bribing

a wide range of officers, among them senior admirals, with lavish entertainment—including drunken parties that lasted days and featured a group of prostitutes known as the “Thai SEAL team”—­as well as cash, to secure overpriced contracts. It also emerged that fleet movements had at times been dictated not by the Navy’s strategic requirements but by officers repaying Francis’s hospitality by directing ships to ports where he stood to make the most money. Though whistle-blowers had been sounding the alarm for years, their complaints were routinely suppressed by officers on Francis’s payroll. When the Navy finally got around to investigating his activities, in 2010, no fewer than sixty admirals fell under suspicion. To date, sixteen officers, serving and retired, have been found guilty of bribery, fraud, and related crimes, while a further twelve are awaiting trial. Another 550 active-duty and retired military personnel were investigated, although the statute of limitations precluded prosecution in some cases.

Meanwhile, the fleet itself has been progressively deteriorating, as became tragically evident when two destroyers, the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and the U.S.S. ­John S. McCain, collided with merchant vessels in Asian waters in 2017, leaving a total of seventeen sailors dead. The disasters were found to be the direct consequence of incompetent commanders and ill-trained, overworked, shorthanded crews struggling to operate broken-down equipment they did not know how to repair. The failures in leadership, investigations revealed, extended all the way to the top of the chain of command.

The Army and Marines present a hardly less depressing picture. For decades, the Army has been engaged in an expensive struggle to supply troops with reliable radios. One recent portable model, which the Institute for Defense Analyses found would cost $72,000 each, is called the Manpack. Not only is the Manpack twice as heavy as the model it replaces, with a shorter range, but it has displayed a tendency to overheat and severely burn the unfortunate infantrymen carrying it. The helmets worn by soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan have also been shown to be faulty. As the authors of the recent book Shattered Minds have demonstrated, their design can actually amplify the effects of an explosion on one’s brain. Furthermore, many of the helmets have been found to be dangerously vulnerable to bullets and shrapnel, thanks to a corrupt contractor skimping on the necessary bulletproof material. As is common with those who speak up about official malpractice, the whistle-­blowers who exposed this particular fraud were viciously harassed by their superiors and driven out of their jobs.

Scholarly commentators and pundits generally shrink from ascribing base pecuniary motives to the military-­industrial complex. Thus, one recent academic study of the reasons behind declining force numbers finds the answer in “an American cultural disposition favoring technology,” suggesting that our military leadership is driven to pour funds into technologically complex weapons systems, thereby skimping on troops’ basic needs, by some innate cultural imperative. The reality would seem to be somewhat simpler: the MIC has a compulsion to demand and receive more of our money every year. Contrary to common belief, this imperative does not mean that the budget is propelled by foreign wars. Rather, the wars are a consequence of the quest for bigger budgets. Recently, the Pentagon even proposed a war budget that won’t be spent on a war. The proposed 2020 budget includes $165 billion for “Overseas Contingency Operations” (O.C.O.), a special category invented in 2009 to support ongoing wars, rather as if a police department demanded extra money for catching criminals. In previous years, large chunks of this money have been quietly diverted to more urgent Pentagon priorities, such as funding new weapons programs. But now the diversion has become official—­the budget request acknowledges that $98 billion of the ­O.C.O. money is for routine “base requirements,” rather than fighting abroad.

In other words, it’s all about the Benjamins. Understanding this fundamental fact makes it easier to understand the decisions underlying our defense policy. Why, for example, was the Seventh Fleet sent to sea on unnecessary deployments with shorthanded crews and broken equipment? The answer, according to an investigation by ­ProPublica, was that senior officials in Washington, led by Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy throughout the Obama presidency, and the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, were determined to funnel as much money as possible into building more ships, a decision that proved quite profitable for politically influential shipyards. Why do we maintain a vulnerable land-based missile force as well as an invulnerable submarine-­based one? Because eliminating the Air Force’s ICBMs would entail a severe blow to the Air Force budget and defense contractors’ balance sheets.

We’re left with a fighting force that needs to rely on loved ones for vital needs such as armor and night-­vision goggles, while we throw hundreds of millions of dollars at exotic contraptions such as the Compass Call N­OVA, a completely dysfunctional aircraft tasked with detecting I.E.D.s. The pattern such boondoggles follow is predictable: the services insist that new weapons are needed to replace our rapidly obsolescing fleets. Inevitably, unforeseeable and rapid enemy advances require new and more “capable” weapons, costing 50 to 100 percent more than their predecessors. The presumption that more capable weapons must cost more generally goes unquestioned, despite the fact that prices for more advanced personal computers and other civilian technologies have moved in the opposite direction. Once budgets for an optimistically priced new weapon are approved by the Pentagon leadership and Congress, a program schedule is devised so that no single failure to meet a deadline or pass a test can threaten the flow of funding. In addition, the contract, inevitably of crushing complexity, is designed to ensure the contractor gets paid to cover any and all technical and management failures, which generally guarantees another doubling or tripling of the cost beyond the originally inflated estimate.

This process is little understood by the outside world, which is why taxpayers are prepared to accept a $143 million price tag on an ­F-22 fighter (that’s just the Lockheed sticker; the real price per plane was over $400 million) as somehow justified by its awesome technological capabilities. The late A. Ernest Fitzgerald, who was fired from his job as a senior Air Force cost-­­management official on the direct orders of President Nixon for divulging excessive spending on an Air Force program, used to point out that $640 toilet seats and $435 hammers (he was the first to bring these to public attention) were merely emblematic of the whole system, and that items such as a $400 million fighter were no more reasonably priced than the toilet seat.

The beauty of the system lies in its self-­reinforcing nature. Huge cost overruns on these contracts not only secure a handsome profit for the contractor but also guarantee that the number of weapons acquired always falls short of the number originally requested. For example, the Air Force first planned to buy 750 ­F-22s at a projected cost of $139 million apiece, but rising costs compelled the defense secretary at the time, Robert Gates, to cancel the program in 2009, capping the fleet at 187. With reduced numbers, weapons systems are kept in service longer: the Air Force’s planes average twenty-eight years in service, and some still in use were built well over half a century ago. The ­F-35, for example, costs almost six times more than the ­F-16 it is replacing, while the Navy’s Zumwalt-­class destroyer ($7.5 billion each) costs four times more than the Arleigh Burke destroyers it was supposed to replace. (The Zumwalt’s overruns were so enormous that although the original plan called for thirty-two ships, production was cut to just three.) On occasion, the system reaches the ultimate point of absurdity when gigantic sums are expended with no discernible results. Such was the case with Future Combat Systems, a grandiose Army program to field ground forces of manned vehicles, robots, and assorted weaponry, all linked via electronic networks, and with Boeing as the prime contractor. Twenty billion dollars later, the enterprise was shuttered, an extensive exercise in futility.

Enormous outlays for marginal or even nonexistent returns attract little attention, let alone objection, among our politicians. Congress routinely waves through the Pentagon’s budgets with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. Part of the reason for this must lie in the belief that defense spending is a bracing stimulant for the economy and for the home districts of members of Congress. This point was spelled out with commendable clarity in a March New York Times op-ed by Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. The occasion was Trump’s impending visit to the Lima, Ohio, plant that manufactures the U.S. Army’s Abrams tank. Touting Donald Trump’s role in expanding tank production (though the Army already has a huge surplus of tanks in storage), Navarro laid out the economic benefits for both Lima and Ohio, claiming the plant would employ more than one thousand people there and thousands more across the nation. “Consider,” he wrote, “the ripple effects of the Lima plant. In Ohio alone, 198 of its suppliers are spread out across the state’s 16 congressional districts.” Few elected representatives could miss the point, including the state’s liberal Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, who had worked alongside Republican lawmakers to boost funding for the project. Major contractors have turned the distribution of defense contracts across as many congressional districts as possible into a high art. Contracts and subcontracts for Lockheed’s ­F-35, for example, are spread across 307 congressional districts in forty-­five states, thus ensuring the fealty of a commensurate number of congresspeople as well as ninety senators.

The jobs argument holds sway even when an embrace of defense spending would seem to violate alleged political principles. For example, the F-35 is due to be stationed in Vermont at Burlington International Airport, home of the Vermont Air National Guard. Because the ­F-35 is at least four times noisier than the ­F-16s it will replace, large swaths of the surrounding low-cost neighborhood, by the Air Force’s own criteria, will be rendered unfit for residential use, trapping some seven thousand people in homes that will only be sellable at rock-bottom prices. Nevertheless, the ­F-35 proposal enjoys political support from the state’s otherwise liberal elected leadership, notably Senator Bernie Sanders, who has justified his support on the grounds that, while he is opposed to the ­F-35, he supports its being stationed in Vermont from the perspective of job creation.

Yet deeper scrutiny indicates that defense contracts are not particularly efficient job generators after all. Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-­Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have calculated the number of jobs spawned by an investment of $1 billion in various industries, ranging from defense to health care, renewable energy, and education. Education came in first by a wide margin, producing 26,700 jobs, followed by health care at 17,200. Defense, generating 11,200 jobs, ranked last. “All economic activity creates some employment,” Pollin told me. “That isn’t at issue. The relevant question is how much employment in the U.S. gets created for a given level of spending in one area of the economy as opposed to others.” The fact is that defense spending generates fewer jobs than green energy, education, and other critical industries.

Studies such as these are rare. Research on the impact of defense spending on the U.S. economy as a whole is rarer still, even though weapons account for about 10 percent of all U.S. factory output. A generation ago, Seymour Melman, a professor of industrial engineering at Columbia, devoted much of his career to analyzing this very subject. He concluded that defense spending’s impact on the broader economy was wholly harmful, a consequence of the bad habits injected into the bloodstream of American manufacturing management by a defense culture indifferent to cost control and productivity. The U.S. machine-tool industry, for example, had powered postwar U.S. manufacturing dominance thanks to its cost-effective productivity that in turn allowed high wage rates for workers. But, Melman wrote, as more and more of its output shifted to defense contracts, the industry’s relationship with the Pentagon became an invitation to discard the old tradition of cost minimizing. It was an invitation to avoid all the hard work . . . that is needed to offset cost increases. For now it was possible to cater to a new client, for whom cost and price increase was acceptable—­even desirable.

In consequence, as Melman detailed, the U.S. machine-tool industry gradually ceased to compete effectively with nations such as Germany and Japan, where cost control still reigned supreme.

Of course, some sections of postwar U.S. manufacturing indebted to defense dollars still led the world, most notably civilian aircraft as represented by the Boeing Company. The airliners that rolled out of its Seattle plant were well designed, safe, and profitable. Boeing had a huge defense component as well, but senior management reportedly enforced an unwritten rule that managers from the defense side should never be transferred to the civilian arm, lest they infect it with their culture of cost overruns, schedule slippage, and risky or unfeasible technical initiatives.

That began to change in 1997, when Boeing merged with ­McDonnell Douglas, a defense company. In management terms, the merger was in effect a ­McDonnell takeover, with its executives—most importantly CEO Harry Stonecipher—­assuming command of the combined company, bringing their cultural heritage with them. The effects were readily apparent in the first major Boeing airliner initiative under the merged regime, the 787 Dreamliner. Among other features familiar to any student of the defense industry, the program relied heavily on outsourcing subcontracts to foreign countries as a means of locking in foreign buyers. Shipping parts around the world obviously costs time and money. So does the use of novel and potentially risky technologies: in this case, it involved a plastic airframe and all-­electronic controls powered by an extremely large and dangerously flammable battery. All this had foreseeable effects on the plane’s development schedule, and, true to form for a defense program, it entered service three years late. This technology also had a typical impact on cost, which exceeded an initial development estimate of $5 billion by at least $12 billion—­an impressive overrun, even by defense standards. Predictably, the battery did catch fire, resulting in a costly three-month grounding of the Dreamliner fleet while a fix was devised. The plane has yet to show a profit for the corporation, but expects to do so eventually.

The two recent crashes of the Boeing 737 Max, which together killed 346 people, were further indications that running civilian programs along defense-­industry lines may not have been the best course for Boeing. The 737 had been a tried and true money-spinner with an impressive safety record since 1967. Several years ago, however, under the auspices of CEO Dennis Muilenburg, previous overseer of the Future Combat Systems fiasco, and Patrick Shanahan (currently the acting secretary of defense), who had headed up Boeing’s Missile Defense Systems and the Dreamliner program before becoming general manager of Boeing’s commercial airplane programs, the airliner was modified in a rushed program to compete with the Airbus ­A320. These modifications, principally larger engines that altered the plane’s aerodynamic characteristics, rendered it potentially unstable. Without informing customers or pilots, Boeing installed an automated software Band-Aid that fixed the stability problem, at least when the relevant sensors were working. But the sensors were liable to fail, with disastrous consequences. Such mishaps are not uncommon in defense programs, one such instance being Boeing’s V-22 Osprey troop-carrying aircraft (supervised for a period by Shanahan) in which a design flaw, long denied, led to multiple crashes that killed thirty-­nine soldiers and Marines. But the impact of such disasters on contractors’ bottom lines tends to be minimal, or even positive, since they may be paid to correct the problem. In the commercial market, the punishment in terms of lost sales and lawsuits are likely to be more severe.

In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, before tensions with Russia were reignited, the BDM Corporation, a major defense consulting group, received a Pentagon contract to interview former members of the Soviet defense complex, very senior officials either in the military or in weapons-­production enterprises. Among the interesting revelations that emerged (which included confirmation that U.S. intelligence assessments of Soviet defense policy had been almost entirely wrong throughout the Cold War) was an authoritative account of how disastrous the power of the military-­industrial complex had been for Soviet defense and the economy. BDM learned that “the defense-­industrial sector used its clout to deliver more weapons than the armed services asked for and to build new weapons systems that the operational military did not want.” A huge portion of Soviet industrial capacity was devoted just to missile production. “This vast industrial base,” according to one former high-ranking bureaucrat, “destroyed the national economy and pauperized the people.” Calls for cuts in this unnecessary production were dismissed by the Kremlin leadership on grounds of “what would happen to the workers.” The unbearable burden of the Soviet military-industrial complex was undoubtedly a prime cause of the ultimate collapse of the Soviet state—the virus had consumed its host.

The BDM contract had been issued in the belief that it would confirm a cherished Pentagon thesis that the sheer magnitude of U.S. spending, particularly the huge boost initiated in the Reagan years, had brought down the Soviets by forcing them to try to compete—­a welcome endorsement for mammoth defense budgets. But the ongoing BDM project, even before the researchers finished their work, made it clear this was not what had happened; the Soviet burden was entirely self-­generated for internal reasons, such as maintaining employment. When Pentagon officials realized that BDM’s research was leading toward this highly unwelcome conclusion the contract was abruptly terminated. The system knows how to defend itself.

 

China to hike tariffs on $60 billion of US goods

China said the move was a “response to US unilateralism.” Recent talks to end the trade spat between the world’s two largest economies ended without a breakthrough last week.

May 13, 2019

DW

China said on Monday that it would increase tariffs of up to 25% on $60 billion (€53 billion) worth of US goods, starting on June 1.

The “adaptation” was a “response to US unilateralism and trade protectionism,” the State Council’s Customs Tariffs Commission said.

US President Donald Trump last week increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% and ordered US trade officials to start looking into imposing tariffs on another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods

Talks between the United States and China on a deal to end their trade dispute ended on Friday without a breakthrough.

Chinese had collected duties of 5% to 25% on nearly 2,500 goods before the latest hike. The Tariffs Commission did not specify which goods would be targeted by the higher rates.

An hour before the Tariff Council’s announcement, Trump wrote on Twitter that “China should not retaliate” against the latest US moves. “Will only get worse!” he added.

In Beijing, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country would “never surrender to external pressure.”

Investors fear further escalation in the dispute between the world’s two largest economies could undermine global growth.

 

Saudi Arabia: Oil tankers damaged in ‘sabotage attack’

Two oil tankers sustained “significant damage” in an incident off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, according to the Saudi energy minister. Officials did not say who was behind the alleged sabotage.

May 13, 2019

DW

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers were targeted in a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The announcement comes amid increased tensions in the region between the United States and Iran, although no details have been released on the nature of the sabotage or who may have been responsible.

What happened?

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said two of its oil tankers were the target of a “sabotage attack” off the coast of Fujairah.

He said that one tanker was on its way to the kingdom to be loaded with crude oil to be sent to the US.

There were no casualties and no oil was spilled, but the incident caused “significant damage” to the two ships.

UAE officials said earlier that an alleged sabotage attack targeted four boats.

Iran calls for clarification

Iran’s Foreign Ministry voiced concern over the alleged attacks on the ships and said that more information should be made available about what exactly took place.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also cautioned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” or any attempt to undermine security and stability in the region.

The general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called the incident a “serious escalation.”

“Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,” Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said.

Tensions growing

The reports on Monday came as the US warned ships in the region that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic. Last week, the US announced that it dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran.

Iran then announced it would roll back some of its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal, which has been under fire since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord a year ago. The US has also ramped up sanctions against Iran and designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.

rs/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

 

 

Saudi oil tankers show ‘significant damage’ after sabotage attack, says Riyadh 

One vessel was bound for the US and comes after warnings that Iran or its proxies could target shipping in region

May 13 ,2019

by Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The Guardian

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers had been damaged in mysterious “sabotage attacks” in the Gulf, as Mike Pompeo rushed to Brussels to hold emergency talks with his European partners about the mounting tensions in the region.

The US secretary of state will discuss the alleged attacks on the oil tankers and the status of the threat posed by Iran after its decision to pull out from parts of the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

The escalating rhetoric is raising fears of a confrontation between Iran and the US, which is backed by its key Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Pompeo scrapped a planned visit to Moscow in favour of the Brussels meeting, but will go ahead with talks with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in Sochi.

No side has taken responsibility for the sabotage, and mystery surrounds the identity of the ships.

Tehran called for an investigation into the attacks and spoke of “adventurism” by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, called for calm in the Gulf, as he said there was a danger of conflict erupting by accident.

The foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia condemned “the acts of sabotage, which targeted commercial and civilian vessels near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates”.

A source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation and adversely impacts regional and international peace and security.”

The Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said the attacks on the Saudi-owned vessels occurred on Sunday at 6am, but Riyadh had yet to produce photographic evidence.

“One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” Falih said. “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”

Shipping industry sources identified the Saudi vessels as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah. Bahri, Saudi’s national shipping carrier, has yet to comment.

The UAE first said on Sunday that four commercial vessels of various nationalities had been targeted by acts of sabotage off the emirate of Fujairah.

The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the Emirates would investigate the “deliberate sabotage” of the ships. “The investigation will be conducted in a professional manner, the facts will be made clear, and we have our own readings and conclusions,” he tweeted.

Fujairah port is the only Emirati terminal located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass. Almost all the oil exports of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran itself – at least 15m barrels per day – are shipped through the strait. The world’s largest crude oil storage centre is also being built in Fujairah.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait in case of a military confrontation with the US. The US has largely dismissed the threat, but has dispatched an aircraft carrier to the region, adding to the sense of a build-up to war.

One of the two tankers that was attacked was on its way to be loaded with crude oil from a Saudi terminal for customers in the US, Falih said.

Oil prices rose on world markets on Monday with benchmark Brent North Sea crude up 1.8% at $71.90 (£55.18) a barrel in London.

Abbas Mousavi, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, expressed concern over the incident and its possible consequences. “The incidents in the Sea of Oman are alarming and regrettable,” he said in a statement.

He warned against “plots by ill-wishers to disrupt regional security” and called for “the vigilance of regional states in the face of any adventurism by foreign elements”, the statement said.

Adding to the sense of confusion, the UAE had on Sunday categorically denied reports on Iranian and pro-Hezbollah Lebanese social media of massive explosions in oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah, whose port on Monday was calm with no signs of damage.

The Pentagon said on Friday that it was deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged Iranian threats.

The increasing tensions come after Iran said on Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed in 2015 with the US, the EU, China and Russia. Tehran said it was responding to the failure of the EU to combat sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has reimposed since it quit the agreement one year ago.

The EU remains at odds with Pompeo, but has so far come up with no effective means of circumventing US secondary sanctions, a failure that has prompted Iran to take its first steps to leave the 2015 agreement.

Pompeo is likely to urge Europe to recognise that the deal has effectively collapsed, and to reimpose the sanctions it lifted at the time the deal was signed. He will also point to Iranian activity in Iraq, and claim Iranian forces are targeting US personnel.

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Rainbow Eagle

A.k.a. Roland Williston (real name)

Rainbow Eagle is apparently an Okla-Choctaw American Indian alleged Wisdom Keeper, honored with the responsibility of an Ancient Native American Peace Shield, storyteller, teacher and author. That is, according to generally trustworthy sources, he is not actually an elder or medicine person recognized by any Native tribe, but a former social worker who at some point decided to adopt a rather strikingly New Age-ish version of what some people think Native American names sound like, and to use the New Age popular Twilight version of Native American beliefs and practices to gain authority in the most ridiculous New Age circle

He is also a member of MUFON, and seems to have given several talks in various places on things related to alien abduction (there is an interview here). Suffice to say, his claims are as incoherent as they come. Apparently, according to Rainbow Eagle, humans were planted on Earth some 12,000 years ago (so for what it’s worth he’s got some 6000 years on the young earth creationists). Why? Well, Rainbow Eagle uses an argument by elimination; there are three possible scenarios for how we got here:

1) Aliens put us here to mine gold for them, until we rebelled. So, they genetically programmed us with loyalty to them so that we’d think of them as gods.

2) Aliens came and helped humans develop technology, so we worshiped them because we thought that that was a very nice thing to do.

3) Evolution.

The third option is apparently out, because “Man-to-ape. Somehow an ape stood up, lost its hair, got more brainpower, or whatever all that technical stuff is.” Clearly not. So that leaves us with the others, though the distinctions seem to get a little murky. Apparently, according to Mr. Eagle, it has something to do with quantum mechanics, vibration and energy, though exactly what it has to do with anything remains murky, to put it mildly. Oh, and the original races were different colors. Native Americans used to be red, blacks used to be blue, Asians used to be green, and whites used to be transparent. How come? Who knows.

Diagnosis: Astonishingly incoherent moron. His impact is probably limited, but I can certainly see why people who care about Native American culture are angry at these kinds of idiots.

Larry Pratt

Larry Pratt is a wingnut pundit and founder and/or head of several organizations civilized people do well to stay far away from, such as Gun Owners of America (a “gun rights” advocacy group that makes the NRA look meek and conciliatory by comparison), English First (an English-only movement organization), U.S. Border Patrol (an anti-immigration group), and Committee to Protect the Family (a family values group, obviously). Pratt was briefly a member of Pat Buchanan’s Constitution Party campaign staff during the 1996 U.S. Presidential Election, and has also been affiliated with the Libertarian Party, which does, despite its official ideology, have a tendency to attract hysterical Taliban dominionist theocrats who manage to delude themselves into thinking that oppressive theocratic governments are really what freedom is all about.

Pratt on guns, violence and suchlike

Most people know Pratt from Gun Owners of America (GOA), so let’s start there. Pratt seems to think that NRA focuses too much on the Constitutional rights to bear arms, and too little on all the positive social effects of increased gun use. For example, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Pratt calledfor the abolition of gun-free zones, which he said “are like magnets for the monsters in our society.” (According to Pratt “of the mass murders in the last 20 years, all but one have taken place in a gun free zone,” which is such a ridiculous myth that one wonders how anyone can repeat it with a straight face.) The more guns are allowed in more places, the safer everyone will be, according to Pratt, who promptly went on to say that gun control advocates “have the blood of little children on their hands.” To conclude, Pratt declared that the “gun control crowd” “privately rejoice” at events like Sandy Hook, because it is easier to hate those who disagree with you if you consistently imagine that they are monsters.

In a 2013 radio interview Pratt (completely falsely, of course) claimed that Jared Loughner, who attempted to assassinate Giffords and killed six people at a community event she was hosting, “didn’t find any resistance” at the scene because the victims were Democrats, and promptly laid the blame for being shot on Gifford herself. (He has also later pointed out that he is glad that members of Congress have a “healthy fear” of getting shot; chalk another great social effect down for unrestricted gun use, I suppose: it leads to a healthy fear of getting gunned down, which is good for democracy.)

Similarly in the Trayvon Martin case; Pratt accused advocates of “trying to use the race card to move against guns” (a “red herring” against gun control, which by the way is what caused Benghazi) and claimed that Eric Holder’s consideration of a civil rights charge against George Zimmerman was an effort to “intimidate” white people into staying defenseless against “black mobs” (no racism here, right?) … and to bring about communism. (The president, the first lady and Hillary Rodham Clinton are in fact trying to exploit the issue of race to “divide people” and cause “turmoil” in order to ultimately “bring collapse to the existing order” and “build their own communist society.”) Later, Pratt alleged that Martin’s own family was responsible his death: “Probably what killed [Trayvon Martin] was the broken family that he was forced to deal with.”

On a general level, Pratt opposes penalties for “straw purchases” of guns, sales to people who intend to sell or give the weapon to someone else who wouldn’t pass a background check. “There would not be straw purchasing if there were no limits on who can carry a gun,” says Pratt, which is true but sort of missing the point.

Oh, but Pratt does want to have some restrictions. According to Pratt “angry liberals should not have guns.” Indeed, Pratt claims that liberals are behind mass shootings, since liberals “are inherently violent”, as shown by … it’s a bit unclear, but at least the claim was made as a concurring response to Alex Jones’s claim that “liberal Democrat families” are “all into weird occult stuff and on a bunch of drugs and are Satan worshippers and video-game heads.”

But the GOA objected ferociously to the 2013 bipartisan bill to “extend a ban on manufacturing plastic firearms that are not detectable by security-screening devices,” claiming that it will inevitably be “twisted by President Obama” into a terror-regime targeted at all gun owners. It is worth mentioning that even the NRA did not oppose the bill. The GOA was also among the drivers of the smear campaign against Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, after Murthy dared to suggest that gun safety is related to public health. According to Pratt doctors who talk to their patients about gun safety are in fact reporting the information to the government like “German and Soviet doctors would send to the regime information about the people that were in their care,” and Murthy’s view “shows that he does not understand medical ethics,” is a “willing tool of the state” and “looks at himself as a government functionary before he considers anything about medicine.”

Pratt tends to justify his beliefs about guns and self-defense with the Bible. Gun-ownership, according to the GOA, is “an obligation to God, and gun laws are, accordingly, a sign that we are under God’s judgment. To the good citizens of Oklahoma, Pratt said that “we should be praying that we will all be able to go around armed, because that will be one outward indicator that we have God’s blessing,” for “if we’re walking around like they are in New York City and San Francisco, we’re under his judgment.” Accordingly, he has denounced gun laws as “pagan”, and argued that we should impeach Obama for his treasonous support of pagan laws. Indeed, the left are all being unconstitutionally unbiblical, according to Pratt: “Frankly, it almost would seem that animism won’t go away. The left, which is largely made up of people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ’s blood as being necessary for our salvation, view inanimate objects as possessing their own will. That’s animism, that’s a return to the most pagan of paganism and look at what nutty political views it ends up supporting.” Given that rant alone I think Pratt has disqualified himself from any attempt to accuse anyone else of “nutty” views on anything. (And no, he does not have even the faintesttrace of an understanding of the Constitution ). Presumably it was because of the pagan nature of gun control laws that the GOA was able to defeat the 2013 background checks bill through the venerated means of prayer.

Pratt on immigration

As head of the U.S. Border Patrol Pratt has strong but not-particularly-well-considered views on immigration. In particular, Pratt believes that immigration reform is a conspiracy by Obama and the liberals to “bring in a gazillion Democrat voters” who are “probably just sitting around drawing welfare and voting Democrat.” He went on to claim that most of those people are illiterate in their own Spanish language, whereas he himself supposedly speaks fluent Spanish.

It is worth mentioning that Pratt has served with several anti-Semitic and white power organizations as well, and The Center for Public Integrity released a report crediting him with “introducing the concept of militias to the right-wing underground.” In 1992, Pratt advocated the start to a militia movement in a meeting hosted by Christian Identity minister Peter J. Peters. And in 1996, it was revealed that Pratt was a contributor to the anti-Semitic organization United Sovereigns of America, and that the GOA had given donations to a known white supremacist group. Indeed, Pratt has been credited with “bridg[ing] the gap between the far right, anti-Semites, racists, and members of Congress.”

In fact, the reason Pratt was kicked out of Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign was his ties with the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and anti-Semites. (Yes, he was too racist for Pat Buchanan). Even in 2012, Pratt was scheduled to spend the Fourth of July at an event hosted by a Holocaust-denying rock band whose leader Paul Topete also thinks Israel was behind 9/11 (Cynthia McKinney planned to participate in this apparently bipartisan event as well, by the way). For the record, Pratt has himself frequently accused the left of racism and anti-semitism (“I think that the media was just convinced that this white guy – and then eventually when they realized, darn, that he’s an Hispanic and he’s bilingual, this white Hispanic – in other words, Hispanics are supposed to be brown or even darker but this guy was a white Hispanic – so, underscore the white. The racism of the media is pretty apparent. In fact, when you think about it, the KKK was an action arm of the Democrat Party.” Yeah, from a rational point of view the argument is … problematic.) And if you for any reason doubt that Pratt is a flaming racist, you can check out his chat with Selwyn Duke here, in which they discuss race (including the “surliness” of African-Americans), apartheid (not all that bad, apparently) and similar issues.

In one of his many conversations with fringe talk show host Stan Solomon Pratt agreed that Solomon wasn’t “stretching” when he predicted that Obama’s second term would bring about a race war pitting “Christian, heterosexual white haves” against “black, Muslim and/or atheist … black have-nots.” Indeed, “if you are a white person in this country, and this holds for all quality people of any color, but I’m saying specifically if you are a white, heterosexual, Christian, working, married person” and don’t own a gun, then “there is at least a substantial chance that you and/or some member of your family will be hurt and/or killed.” The “Alinskyites” who control the Obama administration think “this is the time” to “bring violence about, said Pratt, the evidence consisting exclusively of his deranged, paranoid imaginations.

Pratt on conspiracy theories in general

As wingnuts in general Pratt is – as should be abundantly clear by now – no stranger to conspiracy theories. On VCY America’s “Crosstalk”, Pratt claimed that the Left was responsible for the 2012 Benghazi attack because of its “profound dislike of self-defense […] either personally or as a matter of national self-defense,” subsequently also suggesting that the liberals may want to use the FEMA Corps to persecute political opponents. He also insisted, with fury and anger, that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will help the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives find “reason[s] to disenfranchise gun owners” (but of course), apparently by helping them identify people who are too severely mentally ill to safely own guns – you just knew that someone like Pratt would be unable to resist the claim that Obamacare will “take your guns”, didn’t you? (In real life, of course, the Affordable Care Act explicitly forbids discrimination against gun owners and any kind of national gun owner registry, and the law preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns was passed by President Bush, but you know; these are facts, and for Pratt facts are only subject to his awareness they serve his agenda.) “We are looking at a major assault on the right to keep and bear arms, it is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, where they used doctors as part of their torture routines and got people sent to the camps for improvement of their mental health,” said Pratt, imagining that the new law would force gun owners to undergo electroshock therapy against their will. In particular, Pratt claimed that the Obama administration is instructing the police to target Republicans, Christians and gun owners, and that Obamacare is an excuse to create concentration camps for these groups.

In a press release the GOA also strongly suggested that the Aurora theater shootings in 2012 were an inside job to bolster Obama’s case for increased gun control. Similarly, according to Pratt liberals were happy about the Boston Marathon bombing because it helped foster government “control.” Said Pratt: “This is mission oriented, they don’t care who the victims are, if anything it might be to their liking because maybe they’re thinking that will make the liberals all the more prone to want more control, which plays right into the hands of terrorists and criminals, but then I repeat myself,” since what liberals really want is to give more power to terrorists and criminals (according to Pratt, Obama is deliberately and “consistently” helping the Al-Qaeda because he hates America). Because that would be bad, and the liberals are evil so they want bad things, remember.

Accordingly, as he told fringe-right radio host Pete Santilli, the Department of Homeland Security is currently buying up ammunition so that President Obama, “if he can’t actually commandeer the military,” would be able to form “a national security force … equally as powerful as the military.” He subsequently offered what he called “the most benign” explanation for the DHS-ammo conspiracy theory, namely that the Obama administration was deliberately “destroying the economy” and preparing to respond to the ensuing “social unrest.” Why, you may ask. But of course: Because “Obama hates this country” and, being a “full-bore Marxist,” even stole the last election, said Pratt. Not only is Obama raising a private black army to massacre white Americans; the Obama administration officials “are terrorists” who see Americans as their enemy, as evinced for instance by the fact that FBI keeps track of white supremacy extremist and militia groups – which is clearly terrorism, right?

Based on an utterly debunked chain e-mail and a tip from an InfoWars host Pratt recently unleashed his rage over the Department of Veterans Affairs arbitrarily disarming veterans and throwing them into psychiatric hospitals, declaring it “a return to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia” and suggesting that Congress defund the VA in retaliation. In short, give Larry Pratt a conspiracy theory that fits his political views, and he will endorse it. No double-check necessary, as Pratt hardly trusts any source but his own paranoid imagination anyways.

Other political views

Larry Pratt’s interpretation of the Bible seems to be his guiding light to politics (in reality, of course, the direction is the opposite – his interpretation of the Bible is a consequence of his kneejerk paranoia, bigotry and wingnuttery). So, for instance, he thinks that welfare is “unbiblical”. According to the Bible, according to Pratt, churches and families are responsible for charity, not the civil authorities; according to the Bible the civil authorities are “really only responsibility is to kill bad guys and scare the rest of them to death.” He doesn’t give you chapter and verse. Besides, welfare recipients will “vote against freedom.”

From that perspective it may be somewhat surprising that Pratt, in 2013, warned (on Alex Jones’s show, no less) that if Republicans force a government shutdown over Obamacare (which they did), the president is so “diabolical” that he would fake an electrical outage to prevent senior citizens from receiving Social Security checks. Never mind that … well, never mind.

In 1990, Pratt wrote a book called Armed People Victorious, which advocated for the establishment of citizens’ militias similar to those used in Guatemala and the Philippines against communist rebels (i.e. the “death squads”). He is currently a big fan of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group of Tenther county sheriffs who have declared that they answer directly to their interpretation of the Constitution rather than to the federal government.

In a more recent interview with Chris Matthews, Pratt said that gun owners should be prepared “to take on our government” because “this government has gone overboard,” adding that it is time to take action “when elections are stolen” and warning Obama that he “should remember King George III’s experience.” Even his frequent requests for Obama’s impeachment tend to turn into calls for armed resistance against what he perceives to be “a dictator” (why? Because Pratt disagrees with Obama’s political views; and if you disagree with Pratt, you are a dictator, Marxist, and rotten to the core.) Here is a lucid example of the rhetoric.

Diagnosis: Here is how it works: I dislike the (nebulous) “Left”; because I have no ability to assess information except according to whether it fits what I already agree with, I therefore come to believe any negative or ominous claim anyone makes about “the Left”; which makes me dislike it even more, and the bias I apply to any information to get even stronger. The result is that my adherence to anti-“Left” conspiracies and bigotry increases exponentially. If unchecked, and depending on the degree of the lack of critical thinking skills, we may in principle reach an anti-“Left” singularity. Larry Pratt may, thus far, be among the ones who have gotten closest to that anti-“Left” singularity, at least among those who maintain a bit of actual influence.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

May 13, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

Conversation No. 56

Date: Thursday, January 2, 1997

Commenced: 1:35 PM CST

Concluded: 2:10 PM CST

RTC: A New Year, Gregory. Will we see it out, do you think?

GD: Probably. Unless, of course, we have the Rapture and you and I are left behind. Are you particularly religious, Robert? If you are, I will refrain from comment so soon after the celestial birthday.

RTC: Nominal, just nominal. Say what you like.

GD: I don’t know if you want that, Robert. I have very strong views on some aspects of religion.

RTC: A Christmas indulgence from me, Gregory.

GD: Every society needs a moral core. Mostly, Robert, religion supplies this. For the Nazis and the Communists, Hitler and Stalin supplied the religious themes, but not here. Why is America the compost heap that produces, not flies from maggots, but the Christian Jesus freaks out of absolutely nothing but pulp fiction? The Gospels are all forgeries, written a long time after the events depicted in them and they have been constantly changed over the centuries to reflect various political and economic needs. I mean, Robert, that there is not one bloody word in the New Testament depictions of Jesus that could be considered to have even a gram of historical accuracy. I could go on for hours about this subject, but the whole fabric of the Christian conservatives or the rampant Jesus freaks is that their dogma is based on total and very clear fraud. The so-called Battle of Armageddon, for example, is nowhere in the Bible…

RTC: Are you serious?

GD: Look it up, Robert. Revelations 16:16 is the sole mention of it. Just a geographical name, that’s all. No blitzkrieg of Jesus versus the Evil Ones. Nothing at all. It was all pure invention.

RTC: Well, if not in the Bible, who made it up?

GD: One Charles Fox Parham, that’s who made it up. He was a very nasty type who ran a bi-racial church in Los Angeles around the turn of the century, before he was chased out. And, of course, he did time in jail for defrauding his flock of money and, more entertainingly, buggering little boys in the fundament. Oh my yes, he made up the whole Rapture story and ranted on endlessly about a fictional Battle of Armageddon. It’s like having the Church of the Celestial Easter Bunny or the Divine Santa Claus. At least there really was a Saint Nicholas, but the Easter Bunny is as fictitious as Jesus the Water Walker.

RTC: I don’t recall learning about that as a child at all.

GD: Of course not, you belong to the original Christian church, Robert, not one of the later cults. Neither the Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox people have this silly Rapture business anywhere in their early literature. This was a fiction started up at the beginning of this century by some nut named Blackstone who claimed that Jesus was coming. I think the word ‘rapture’ didn’t come I into use until about 1910. It’s just more nut fringe fiction, nothing more.

RTC: Well, I haven’t had much in the way of contact with these people except to chase off the Jehovah’s Witnesses who bang on my door and try to shove all kinds of pamphlets on me. In the long run, Gregory, you should learn to avoid the lunatics and concentrate on more important issues. There are always nuts. Didn’t they burn witches in Salem?

GD: The same types, only then they were in power. Now they lust after power so they can shove their fictional crap onto the sane part of society.

RTC: Well, then, what about the ones who don’t believe in evolution?

GD: The same types. We have them across the street. Told me yesterday the world was only 6,000 years old and dinosaurs and men commingled in Kansas somewhere. You can’t tell these people anything. They just keep repeating that whatever fiction you go after is in the Bible. When you ask them to show you, they get angry. Nuts always get angry when you puncture their fantasy balloons.

RTC: And Armageddon? I vaguely recall something about a battle between the Antichrist somewhere.

GD: But not in the Bible. The only reference to Armageddon is Revelations 16:16 and it just mentions the name of the place, nothing about a battle, Jesus, Satan, the Antichrist or my cousin Marvin. Nothing. But when you tell the nuts this, they almost froth at the mouth. They’ll tell you the battle is there and when you make them open their chrome-plated Bible and look, they flip back and forth and get more and more upset. Of course it isn’t there so they make faces and later they tell me, with great triumph, that they asked Pastor Tim and he said it was all there. Of course when I ask them for chapter and verse, they don’t have it.

RTC: Gregory, a word of fatherly advice here. Why bother with these idiots? Who cares what they believe? Are they of use to you in some project? If they are, be patient and go along with them. If they aren’t, drop them.

GD: But they are annoying. Robert, if I told you the Japanese attacked Spain in 1941, wouldn’t such stupidity annoy you?

RTC: No, it wouldn’t. When I was in harness, I heard worse than the babbling of the Jesus nuts, believe me. Senior Company people acting like spoiled children because no one listened to their pet theories about this country, that economy, that head of state, that foreign political party and on and on. Sometime…. no, more often than I liked, some rabid lunatic did us all kinds of damage, as witness the Gottleib mind control stupidity. People like that, Gregory, should be taken out for a trip on your boat or a walk in the Pine Barrens and simply shot. What did Joe Stalin say? ‘No man…no problem.” I often had to listen to these boring nuts, but you don’t. I had to make excuses to get away from them, but you don’t have to deal with them in the first place. Most small-minded people fixate on something utterly unimportant and think they have discovered the wheel. Yes, I agree that religious loonies are probably the worst, but, believe me, the political experts are almost as bad. They hop up and down shouting, ‘Listen to me! Listen to me!’ And who gives a damn what they think? No, I agree with you about the Jesus freaks but there are legions, I say, legions of others that are just as fixated, just as crazy, just as annoying, so you would be far better served if you just shut them out of your mind and turned your talents to other matters more important. Take some comfort in the thought that just as their lights go out and the darkness swallows them that they realize in the last second that there is no heaven, no Jesus and nothing but the embalmer’s needle and the worms. Nothing. But then their brains have turned to Jello and they don’t care anymore because they have returned to the dirt that they came from.

GD: I agree, Robert, I agree with you, but I still get annoyed. But these nuts, and you can add the Jewish Holocaust nuts to the pile, demand you do not say this or read that or watch that movie. They aren’t content to live in their basements and talk to themselves or tyrannize over their poor children and wives, so they rush out into the street and issue orders as if anyone cared or worse, as if they really mattered. That I object to strongly. I have waded through tens of thousands of pages of official German papers and I can tell you, without any doubt, that the Germans did not gas millions of Jews. What do these creeps do? They tell the archives to seal the papers that make them out professional liars and attack anyone who dares to question them. The holocausters and the Jesus freaks are cut from the same piece of God’s underwear. I think the dirty parts to be sure.

RTC: (Laughter) Oh, Gregory, such passion for so little. They both think they are really important and that people actually listen to them, and even care about their unimportant obsessions. Ignore the Jews, too, Gregory, like you should ignore the Jesus freaks.

GD: Ah, but the Jews control the media and most of the publishing houses. If you write, you don’t get published. Now if I made up some fantasy that said the Germans burned two hundred million Jewish babies, I would be a best seller, number one on The New York Times book reviews and a great one on the lecture and TV interview circuit. Of course about ten people would read my fictions, but no one would be rude enough to talk about that. Christ, most of the Holocaust books are pure fiction and the rantings about the Rapture are right in with them.

RTC: Well, I can see some sense here and I admit it is difficult to get away from obnoxious Hebrews, but why not try? I find that if you ignore people like this, eventually they will go away and annoy people in public lavatories. Just another step to oblivion.

GD: I really shouldn’t bore you with you with my own obsessions but I do not suffer fools gladly.

RTC: God, there are so many of them.

GD: I remember my grandfather and one of his pet comments to bombastic idiots he encountered at social functions. He would smile and say, ‘I beg your pardon, sir, but are you anybody in particular?’

RTC: (Laughter) I don’t suppose any of the gas bags got that.

GD: No, but grandfather did, and so did I. I remember once my mother started yelling at me non-stop because I had come in late from a night with the ladies and the bottle. I listened to her rantings for about an hour and finally, after she ran out of steam, she asked me if I had anything to say and I told her, very politely, that I had been trying to tell her for the longest time that she had some hairpins coming loose just over her right ear.

RTC:(Laughter) My Lord, Gregory, what a put-down. Whatever did she do?

GD: She was so worn out shouting that she just stared at me with her mouth open and before she could get her wind back, I went in my room and locked the door. She stood in front of it yelling that I was disrespectful, until my father came out and made her go back into the house because the lights were going on in the neighbor’s homes. I had a warm and caring family life, Robert, believe it. But I didn’t have to listen to the braying of human donkeys all the time. Just the occasional parental psychotic episode. Now they come up with glazed eye and threads of drool dripping from their mouths while they clutch at you and screech, ‘Jesus, Jesus,’ or ‘six million, six million.’ Oh how I would love to give them lobotomies with a chain saw.

RTC: I don’t think you would have much luck with a lobotomy, Gregory. Most creatures like that don’t have brains.

GD: No, Robert, they don’t. What they do have are knots on the top of their spine to keep their asses from plopping down onto the sidewalk.

 

(Concluded: 2:10 PM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

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