Friday, April 16, 2010

Tree Kangaroo

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Unbridled Militarism

As a visitor to our nation's capital, I cannot tell you how disconcerting it is to step off the metro and find yourself face to face with a F-35 fighter jet. Where you would normally expect to find ads for cell phones or museum exhibitions, Washington's subway, the second busiest in the country, instead displays full color backlit billboards for some of the most deadly – and expensive – weapons systems ever produced.

The ads for such companies as Lockheed Martin, the world's largest weapons producer, Goodrich, KBR, AGI, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman can be found in many of the metro stations in the Washington metropolitan area. Not surprisingly, the heaviest concentration is at Pentagon City and near government offices at the Federal Center and Capitol South stations. Undoubtedly, the ads aim to influence key decision-makers, but they also serve the purpose of selling to the general public the concept that only our superior military prowess can protect us from a hostile world.

The billboards range from explicit ads for attack helicopters and combat vehicles to more subtle billboards for companies such as little-known DRS, owned by Italian weapons maker Finmeccanica and 26th among the top 100 Pentagon contractors, or for "rugged" Dell computers designed to meet Defense Department specifications for military-use.

Far from subtle is Northrop Grumman's marketing approach in the Capitol South metro station, the closest to Congress. In an all out assault on the visual senses, the station has been literally festooned by the country's third largest military contractor. Apparently considering the usual ad space along the tracks to be insufficient, Northrop Grumman ads can also be found on all four sides of columns installed near the turnstiles, on banners strung up along the railings upstairs and even on the floor just before the escalators. CBS Outdoor, responsible for the ad space in DC metro stations, claims that "Capitol Hill Station Domination is an impactful way to get your message in front of the Congress and decision-makers in DC."

An estimated 17,000 Capitol South metro passengers are confronted daily with Northrop Grumman Global Hawks and X-47 Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles, which boast a 4500-pound weapons bay, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, Viper Strike-armed Fire Scout unmanned helicopters and E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems (STARS), all designed "for an unsafe world." According to the centrist Brookings Institute, 90% of drone casualties in "targeted" strikes in Pakistan have been innocent civilians. Yet ads for these systems, which carry price tags ranging hundreds of millions of dollars when factoring in development costs, are on full display.

Perhaps most startling of all the Capitol South billboards is the ominous scene of a bombed out apartment building above the slogan "By the time you find the threat, we've already taken it out of the picture." Northrop Grumman fails to fill us in on what happened to the people living in those apartments.

Following the trend of major defense companies wishing to cozy up to powerbrokers in Congress and at the Pentagon, Northrop Grumman recently announced plans to relocate its California headquarters to the DC area. Officials from Washington, Virginia and Maryland have been falling over themselves trying to influence the decision of the $34 billion company. The District of Columbia has gone as far as offering a $25 billion incentive package for what Northrop Grumman estimates to be a measly 300 jobs, which will be filled primarily by company executives moving from Los Angeles!

The defense contractor presence on the DC metro is but one example of the ubiquitous signs of militarism in Washington. Standing out like sore thumbs, military personnel dressed in camouflage can be seen everywhere from the food court at the shopping mall to the line at the bank. Combat fatigues were ordered everyday wear for all service members, including those with desk jobs, following the September 11, 2001 attacks. I asked several camouflaged service members the reason behind the combat uniforms and all sheepishly replied that is was in support of the "troops in the field." One woman told me, "That's a good question. You feel kind of funny wearing this." Looking down at her desert boots, she said, "It's not exactly office wear." But it is a clear and constant reminder that the nation continues to be on a war footing.

Signs calling for support of the troops can be found on everything from restaurant walls to dump trucks. Cheering on the "troops in the field" is also the Liberty gas station on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Directly above the gas pumps is a red, white and blue sign that reads "Support Our Troops." This is either the result of disturbingly twisted logic or an astonishingly candid call for protecting U.S. access to Middle East oil reserves.

Walking the halls of Congress, you will find memorials at the offices of many representative and senators for the fallen troops from their district or state. What you will not find are any memorials for the 2,200 veterans who died in 2008 as a result of a lack of health insurance.

At Union Station, Amtrak passengers should not be surprised if a soldier or two cut in line. Signs in the station invite uniformed military personnel to skip to the head of the ticket line. According to Amtrak, which is the only Department of Defense approved rail passenger carrier in the US, it is a way for the company to "extend their thanks." That's all and good but why wouldn't Amtrak want to do the same for teachers, healthcare professionals, firefighters, librarians or non-profit volunteers?

Much of this is not necessarily new; the militarization of our society has been progressing for decades, permeating our schools, research and development programs, law enforcement and culture. And despite the heavy concentration in Washington DC, the phenomenon is certainly not limited to the nation's capital. The signs of militarism in our country are ever-present to the point of becoming virtually invisible, while subconsciously persuading us to accept violence and war as not only a suitable solution to conflict, but the only one.

Source - After Downing Street

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Peak Oil Warning From US Military

The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."

The US military says its views cannot be taken as US government policy but admits they are meant to provide the Joint Forces with "an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concept to guide out future force developments."

The warning is the latest in a series from around the world that has turned peak oil – the moment when demand exceeds supply – from a distant threat to a more immediate risk.

The Wicks Review on UK energy policy published last summer effectively dismissed fears but Lord Hunt, the British energy minister, met concerned industrialists two weeks ago in a sign that it is rapidly changing its mind on the seriousness of the issue.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency remains confident that there is no short-term risk of oil shortages but privately some senior officials have admitted there is considerable disagreement internally about this upbeat stance.

Future fuel supplies are of acute importance to the US army because it is believed to be the biggest single user of petrol in the world. BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said recently that there was little chance of crude from the carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands being banned in America because the US military like to have local supplies rather than rely on the politically unstable Middle East.

But there are signs that the US Department of Energy might also be changing its stance on peak oil. In a recent interview with French newspaper, Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, main oil adviser to the Obama administration, admitted that "a chance exists that we may experience a decline" of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 if the investment was not forthcoming.

Lionel Badal, a post-graduate student at Kings College, London, who has been researching peak oil theories, said the review by the American military moves the debate on.

"It's surprising to see that the US Army, unlike the US Department of Energy, publicly warns of major oil shortages in the near-term. Now it could be interesting to know on which study the information is based on," he said.

"The Energy Information Administration (of the department of energy) has been saying for years that Peak Oil was "decades away". In light of the report from the US Joint Forces Command, is the EIA still confident of its previous highly optimistic conclusions?"

The Joint Operating Environment report paints a bleak picture of what can happen on occasions when there is serious economic upheaval. "One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest," it points out.

Source - Guardian

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Alon e

American Ethics

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.

General Powell, who left the Bush Administration in 2005, angry about the misinformation that he unwittingly gave the world when he made the case for the invasion of Iraq at the UN, is understood to have backed Colonel Wilkerson’s declaration.

Colonel Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a US soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.

He also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”. This was “not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Mr Rumsfeld at the Defence Department]”.

Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent ... If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.

He added: “I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. I learnt that it was his view that it was not just Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.”

Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld, Colonel Wilkerson said, deemed the incarceration of innocent men acceptable if some genuine militants were captured, leading to a better intelligence picture of Iraq at a time when the Bush Administration was desperate to find a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, “thus justifying the Administration’s plans for war with that country”.

He signed the declaration in support of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese man who was held at Guantánamo Bay from March 2003 until December 2007. Mr Hamad claims that he was tortured by US agents while in custody and yesterday filed a damages action against a list of American officials.

Defenders of Guantánamo said that detainees began to be released as early as September 2002, nine months after the first prisoners were sent to the jail at the US naval base in Cuba. By the time Mr Bush left office more than 530 detainees had been freed.

A spokesman for Mr Bush said of Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations: “We are not going to have any comment on that.” A former associate to Mr Rumsfeld said that Mr Wilkerson's assertions were completely untrue.

The associate said the former Defence Secretary had worked harder than anyone to get detainees released and worked assiduously to keep the prison population as small as possible. Mr Cheney’s office did not respond.

There are currently about 180 detainees left in the facility.

Source - Times Online