Category Archives: Military Industrial Complex

War and Plagues: Military Spending During a Pandemic

War and Plagues: Military Spending During a Pandemic

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Photograph Source: U.S. Navy – Public Domain

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet plagues and wars take people equally by surprise”

–Albert Camus,  “The Plague”

Camus’ novel of a lethal contagion in the North African city of Oran is filled with characters all too recognizable today: indifferent or incompetent officials, short sighted and selfish citizens, and lots of great courage. What not even Camus could imagine, however, is a society in the midst of a deadly epidemic pouring vast amounts of wealth into instruments of death.

Welcome to the world of the hypersonic weapons, devices that are not only superfluous, but which will almost certainly not work. They will, however, cost enormous amounts of money.  At a time when countries across the globe are facing economic chaos, financial deficits and unemployment at Great Depression levels, arms manufacturers are set to cash in big.

Hypersonic weapons are missiles that go five times faster than sound—3,800 mph—although some reportedly can reach speeds of Mach 20—15,000 mph. They come in two basic varieties, one powered by a high-speed scramjet, the other –launched from a plane or missile—glides to its target. The idea behind the weapons is that their speed and maneuverability will make them virtually invulnerable to anti-missile systems.

Currently there is a hypersonic arms race going on among China, Russia and the US, and, according to the Pentagon, the Americans are desperately trying to catch up with its two adversaries.

Truth is the first casualty in an arms race.

In the 1950s, it was the “bomber gap” between the Americans and the Soviets. In the 1960s, it was the “missile gap” between the two powers. Neither gap existed, but vast amounts of national treasure were, nonetheless, poured into long-range aircraft and thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The enormous expenditures on those weapons, in turn, heightened tensions between the major powers and on at least three occasions came very close to touching off a nuclear war.

In the current hypersonic arms race, “hype” is the operational word. “The development of hypersonic weapons in the United States,” says physicist James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, ”has been largely motivated by technology, not by strategy. In other words, technologists have decided to try and develop hypersonic weapons because it seems like they should be useful for something, not because there is a clearly defined mission need for them to fulfill.”

They have certainly been “useful” to Lockheed Martin, the largest arms manufacturer in the world. The company has already received $3.5 billion to develop the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (Arrow) glide missile, and the scramjet- driven Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (Hacksaw) missile.

The Russians also have several hypersonic missiles, including the Avangard glide vehicle, a missile said to be capable of Mach 20. China is developing several hypersonic missiles, including the DF-ZF, supposedly capable of taking out aircraft carriers.

In theory hypersonic missiles are unstoppable. In real life, not so much.

The first problem is basic physics: speed in the atmosphere produces heat. High speed generates lots of it. ICBMs avoid this problem with a blunt nose cone that deflects the enormous heat of re-entering the atmosphere as the missile approaches its target. But it only has to endure heat for a short time because much of its flight is in frictionless low earth orbit.

Hypersonic missiles, however, stay in the atmosphere their entire flight. That is the whole idea. An ICBM follows a predictable ballistic curve, much like an inverted U and, in theory, can be intercepted. A missile traveling as fast as an ICBM but at low altitude, however, is much more difficult to spot or engage.

But that’s when physics shows up and does a Las Vegas: what happens on the drawing board stays on the drawing board.

Without a heat deflecting nose cone, high-speed missiles are built like big needles, since they need to decrease the area exposed to the atmosphere Even so, they are going to run very hot. And if they try to maneuver, that heat will increase. Since they can’t carry a large payload they will have to very accurate, but as a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, that is “problematic.”

According to the Union, an object traveling Mach 5 for a period of time “slowly tears itself apart during the flight.” The heat is so great it creates a “plasma” around the craft that makes it difficult “to reference GPS or receive outside course correction commands.”

If the target is moving, as with an aircraft carrier or a mobile missile, it will be almost impossible to alter the weapon’s flight path to intercept it. And any external radar array would never survive the heat or else be so small that it would have very limited range. In short, you can’t get from here to there.

Lockheed Martin says the tests are going just fine, but then Lockheed Martin is the company that builds the F-35, a fifth generation stealth fighter that simply doesn’t work. It does, however, cost $1.5 trillion, the most expensive weapons system in US history. The company has apparently dropped the scramjet engine because it tears itself apart, hardly a surprise.

The Russians and Chinese claim success with their hypersonic weapons and have even begun deploying them. But Pierre Sprey, a Pentagon designer associated with the two very successful aircraft—the F-16 and the A-10—told defense analyst Andrew Cockburn that he is suspicious of the tests.

“I very much doubt those test birds would have reached the advertised range had they maneuvered unpredictably,” he told Cockburn. “More likely they were forced to fly a straight, predictable path. In which case hypersonics offer no advantage whatsoever over traditional ballistic missiles.”

While Russia, China and the US lead the field in the development of hypersonics, Britain, France, India and Japan have joined the race.

Why is everyone building them?

At least the Russians and the Chinese have a rationale. The Russians fear the US anti-missile system might cancel out their ICBMs, so they want a missile that can maneuver. The Chinese would like to keep US aircraft carriers away from their shores. But anti-missile systems can be easily fooled by the use of cheap decoys, and the carriers are vulnerable to much more cost effective conventional weapons. In any case hypersonic missiles can’t do what they are advertised to do.

For the Americans, hypersonics are little more than a very expensive subsidy for the arms corporations. Making and deploying weapons that don’t work is nothing new. The F-35 is a case in point, but nevertheless, there have been many systems produced over the years that were deeply flawed.

The US has spent over $200 billion on anti-missile systems and once they come off the drawing boards, none of them work very well, if at all.

Probably the one that takes the prize is the Mark-28 tactical nuke, nick named the “Davy Crockett,” and its M-388 warhead. Because the M-388 was too delicate to be used in conventional artillery, it was fired from a recoilless rife with a range of 2.5 miles. Problem: if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction the Crockett cooked its three-man crew. It was only tested once and found to be “totally inaccurate.” So, end of story? Not exactly. A total of 2,100 were produced and deployed, mostly in Europe.

While the official military budget is $738 billion, if one pulls all US defense related spending together, the actual cost for taxpayers is $1.25 trillion a year, according to William Hartung of the Center for International Policy. Half that amount would go a long way toward providing not only adequate medical support during the Covid-19 crisis, it would pay jobless Americans a salary

Given that there are more than 31 million Americans now unemployed and the possibility that numerous small businesses—restaurants in particular—will never re-open, building and deploying a new generation of weapons is a luxury the US—and other countries—cannot afford. In the very near future, countries are going to have to choose whether they make guns or vaccines.

More articles by:

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 

Trump regime lies, deception, arrogance, and threats to humanity

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By Stephen Lendman
US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 7, 2020, in the Oval office of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

 

The Trump regime exceeds the worst of its predecessors — headed by a militantly hostile to peace, equity, and justice/profoundly ignorant and arrogant president.

He and the criminal gang infesting his regime threaten everyone at home and abroad.

They bear full responsibility for a US public health crisis, economic collapse, and increasing human misery affecting most Americans and countless millions abroad.

They’re guilty of the highest of high crimes against humanity, accountability nowhere in prospect.

Their anti-China rages risk confrontation with a nation able to hit back hard against an aggressor if attacked.

Yet US aerial and naval provocations occur regularly near its territory.

Pentagon warships and heavy bombers were deployed to Guam for purposes of harassing China.

In response to recent provocations, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intends to move its Shandong aircraft carrier group to South China Sea waters to defend its territory from hostile US actions.

Days earlier, two Pentagon supersonic bombers flew a 32-hour roundtrip from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota to the South China Sea, an air force statement saying:

“The (provocative) mission demonstrated(d) (its) dynamic force employment model in line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability with persistent bomber presence” to challenge its adversaries.

In late April, one or more US supersonic bombers provocatively participated with Japanese warplanes in the Sea Japan near North Korean waters.

Beijing warned the Trump regime that it won’t tolerate US intrusions in its territorial waters. Pentagon warships entering them will be expelled.

Days earlier China’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said “reality has proven once again that the US is the biggest facilitator of the militarization of the South China Sea, and is a trouble-maker for the region’s peace and stability,” adding:

“The PLA will remain on high alert, and adamantly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests, as well as the peace and prosperity of the region.”

In response to Trump regime Big Lies and deception about China, the country’s official broadsheet People’s Daily denounced its mishandled COVID-19 and economic collapse response, saying:

“The tragedy that is happening in America is actually a humanitarian crisis resulting from the incompetence of the (Trump regime) in dealing with (COVID-19) outbreak(s)” and dire economic hard times.

“While lives and families in America are being put in danger, what are the politicians doing?”

Trump spent a weekend golfing at Camp David, while “Pompeo repeated his claims that he had a lot of evidence that the novel coronavirus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, but failed to provide any of it” because it doesn’t exist.

“While turning a blind eye to (its own) humanitarian crisis,” it’s “stir(ring) up trouble” in other parts of the world.

China’s Global Times (GT) said the Trump regime “attacks on China are a desperate attempt “to divert attention from reality.”

The whole world knows US claims lack credibility. While Trump and hardliners surrounding him play the blame game, America leads the world in COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths, numbers increasing daily — one-third of the former, 28% of the latter.

The US has around 4% of the world’s population. Its science community and healthcare system are state-of-the-art.

Yet its indifference to public health and bungled COVID-19 response is the shame of the Trump regime and nation.

Iran far ahead of US in containing COVID-19 outbreak

Despite all-out US war on Iran by other means, Tehran University Professor Mohammad Marandi explained that its authorities began combating the coronavirus straightaway as soon as the first case was discovered — polar opposite the Trump regime’s botched response that continues to this day.

Marandi slammed the US for “weaponiz(ing) the coronavirus for the Iranian people by prohibiting Iran from using the banking sector, by prohibiting Iran from purchasing goods from important pharmaceutical companies.”

“The United States has put so many conditions on different pharmaceutical companies across the world, that they will not work with Iran.”

Despite enormous constraints imposed on the country by the Trump regime, Iran is far ahead of the US in containing COVID-19 outbreaks.

It developed its own diagnostic test kits for domestic use and export.

Widespread testing goes on daily. Numbers infected so far number about 105,000.

Around 80% of patients recovered, 2,700 still in serious condition. Around 6,500 died.

Many infected Iranians displayed mild symptoms and were treated on an outpatient basis.

The coronavirus remains a threat, but Iranian public health authorities are bringing it under control.

According to Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki, “the country is in the phase of disease management…”

“Today is the time for full-fledged combat against the virus. God willing, we will control coronavirus by late May. The virus should be controlled in the minimum possible time.”

On Friday, the daily death toll of 55 was the lowest number since outbreaks began around three months ago.

In the US, thousands of outbreaks and deaths occur daily, with no end of them in prospect.

A final comment

On Friday, China’s Global Times (GT) noted that US House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy announced the establishment of an anti-China task force to deal with a threat by Beijing to the US that doesn’t exist, adding:

No matter which right-wing of the US one-party state runs things, hostility toward China will continue because of its growing preeminence on the world stage.

In response, Beijing “needs to prepare for a long-term challenge,” said GT, adding:

“First (it must) strengthen and enhance (its) core scientific technology and military-strategic power.”

“The US (aims) to strangle China with technology export restrictions.”

“China must stick to its bottom line and prepare for (a) worst-case scenario” with a hostile US.

Stephen Lendman, born in 1934 in Boston, started writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.

Lendman’s newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)

Merchants of Death: Multibillion-dollar Bailout for Arms Industry Amid Rising COVID-19 Toll

 

“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” US President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday in a startling threat that could trigger a catastrophic war throughout the Middle East and beyond.

The threat to launch a war 7,000 miles from US shores in the midst of coronavirus pandemic, whose death toll in the US is rapidly approaching 50,000, comes on the heels of Trump’s Monday night tweet announcing a suspension of all immigration into the United States, a transparent attempt to scapegoat immigrants for the ravages of the pandemic and the layoffs of tens of millions of workers.

There is in both of these actions an expression of desperation and a flailing about in the face of a national and global crisis for which the US ruling class has no viable solution. It is a crude attempt to change the subject and divert public attention from the catastrophic consequences of the criminal indifference of the government and the ruling oligarchy it represents to the lives and well-being of the vast majority of the population.

Pentagon officials reported Wednesday that they had received no prior notification of Trump’s tweet, much less any orders for a change in the rules of engagement in the Persian Gulf.

Nonetheless, the brutal and fascistic rhetoric of Trump reflects a drive to war by US imperialism that has not been tempered, but rather intensified, by the global pandemic.

Even as Trump issued his tweet, US warships were sailing toward a confrontation with China in the South China Sea. At the same time, the Pentagon was announcing a shift in its deployment of long-range, nuclear capable B-52 bombers to make their presence less predictable to Beijing and Moscow and thereby ratchet up tensions.

In recent days, the US has sharply escalated its air strikes against the impoverished African nation of Somalia, even as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to ravage its population. Escalating war threats continue against Venezuela, and the Pentagon continues to provide support for the near-genocidal Saudi-led war against the people of Yemen.

Nowhere does this war drive find more naked expression than in the massive government bailout that is being organized for the US arms industry. With tens of millions of workers unemployed, many facing hunger, and a drive by both the Trump administration and state governors to force a premature return to work, billions upon billions of dollars are being lavished upon military contractors to sustain their guaranteed profits and the obscene fortunes generated for their major shareholders.

The Pentagon’s top weapons procurer, Undersecretary of Defense Ellen Lord, told a press conference Monday that some $3 billion has already been funneled to the arms makers in the form of early payments for existing contracts, in addition to billions more approved by Congress in the first CARES Act, which pumped trillions of dollars into the financial markets. She indicated that much more will be doled out once Congress passes another stimulus package.

Asked by a reporter how much would be need to insure Washington’s Merchants of Death from any losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, she replied, “We’re talking billions and billions on that one.” Lord added that the first priority for this aid program was the “modernization process of the nuclear triad.”

These industries are hardly the picture of the deserving poor. The fact that massive financial resources that are desperately needed to save lives and rescue millions of workers from poverty are instead being poured into their pockets is a crime.

In a conference call this week to inform Lockheed Martin shareholders of first-quarter earnings, the company’s CEO, Marilyn Hewson, boasted that the corporation’s “portfolio is broad and expanding” and its “cash generation” strong. She said the company looked forward to “supporting our warfighters’ needs.”

Indeed, Lockheed Martin pulled in $2.3 billion in cash during the single quarter and expects to top $7.6 billion—coronavirus effects notwithstanding—over the year. It has a $144 billion backlog in orders, an all-time high.

Asked whether she had any qualms about political fallout over completing a $1 billion stock buyback in the midst of the crisis, she replied, “We’re very different, I think, than those who have experienced a very significant impact to their demands.” Hewson announced that the company had set aside a grand total of $10 million for COVID-19-related relief and assistance.

The “very different” character of these companies was also noted in a financial column published in the New York Times for the benefit of its well-heeled readers, titled “Opportunity in the Military-Industrial Complex.”

Pointing to the projected $741 billion Pentagon budget for the coming year, the Times counsels: “That combination of federal dollars and corporate heft may represent an opportunity for investors who don’t mind profiting from warfare. A modest bet on a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund that buys military contractors and aerospace companies may help buffer the deep recession brought on by the coronavirus.”

In short, one can reap substantial wealth from—and amid—mass death.

One of the principal concerns expressed by Undersecretary of Defense Lord as she spelled out plans for the multibillion-dollar bailout of the arms industry was the disruption of supply chains, particularly those originating in the maquiladora sweatshops just across the US border in Mexico. She also mentioned problems in India.

Thousands of Mexican workers have struck and protested against the deadly conditions inside these plants, conditions that are being prepared for workers throughout the planet as back-to-work orders are shoved through. At a plant in Ciudad Juárez owned by Michigan-based Lear Corporation, 16 workers have died from COIVD-19, while area hospitals are overflowing with victims of the virus.

The Pentagon and US Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau have intervened with the Mexican government, demanding that the maquiladora workers be forced back into the plants as “essential” to US imperialism’s war machine, just like their counterparts in the US. Lockheed relies on low-paid Mexican workers in Chihuahua, Mexico to produce electrical wiring for the US military’s Black Hawk and S-92 helicopters and F-16 fighter jets, while Boeing gets parts from a plant run by PCC Aerostructures in Monterrey. General Electric, Honeywell and other military contractors also profit off the labor of Mexican workers across the border.

Transmitting the dictates of the Pentagon in the language of contempt for human life that characterizes all of the policies of the Trump administration and the US ruling class, Ambassador Landau launched a Twitter campaign demanding that Mexican workers go back into the maquiladoras for the greater good of US imperialism. He enjoys the full collaboration of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, promoted by the pseudo-left as a “progressive” and even “socialist,” who has prepared the country’s National Guard for deployment against strikers.

Warning that workers’ jobs are tied to supply chains linking them to US arms manufacturers, Ambassador Landau said, “if we do not coordinate our response, these chains can evaporate.”

He added, “There are risks everywhere, but we don’t all stay at home for fear we are going to get in a car accident. The destruction of the economy is also a health threat.”

These are the same reactionary, antiscientific and misanthropic arguments being made in the US and internationally in an attempt to force workers back into the factories and workplaces with the certainty that many will fall sick and die.

Workers in the arms industry in the US, like their counterparts in Mexico, have also struck and protested over being forced to work as part of the “critical infrastructure” of US imperialism. Workers at the Bath Iron Works in Maine and the BAE Systems shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, both run by General Dynamics, have struck over the failure of the employers to provide them with protection against infection and death. Similarly, workers at the GE Aviation plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, which produces engines for US Marine helicopters, picketed the plant over the lack of protective measures or any guarantee for workers who fall victim to COVID-19.

This resistance of the working class across national boundaries is directly opposed to the rabid nationalism and reaction that characterizes the response of the ruling classes, not only in the US, but in Europe and internationally, to the intensification of the capitalist crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. To defend their profit interests, they will condemn millions to sickness and death, even as they prepare for world war and fascist dictatorship. The only alternative is for the international working class to put an end to the profit system and rebuild society on socialist foundations.

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The original source of this article is World Socialist Web Site

Trump ‘exclusively serves US privileged interests’: Analyst

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US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement as he is flanked by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (far left), Vice President Mike Pence (far right) and military leaders at the White House on January 8, 2020. (AFP photo)

 

US President Donald Trump “exclusively serves US privileged interests,” an American author and political commentator in Chicago has said, adding that Trump “pretends to oppose endless wars” while he has waged them throughout his tenure.

Stephen Lendman made the remarks in an online interview with Press TV on Tuesday while commenting on Trump’s remarks about trillions of dollars wasted on endless wars.

Speaking at a news conference at the White House on Monday, Trump acknowledged “how stupid” the US has been in its Middle East adventurism.

“We spent all this money in the Middle East. 8 trillion dollars in the Middle East…How stupid have we been in this country?”

“But if you need to fill a pothole, oh, we can’t do that. How stupid have we been, just stupid!” he added.

“Like most other US politicians, Trump says one thing and does another,” Lendman told Press TV.

“He’s a narcissistic, serial liar, warlord supporter of what just societies abhor. He can never be trusted because he’s on the wrong side of virtually all vital issues, showing utter indifference toward ordinary people at home and abroad,” he added.

“He exclusively serves US privileged interests, including the military-industrial security complex, Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, other corporate predators, and the Zionist lobby,” the analyst noted.

“Iranians understand how egregiously he’s treated them. The same goes for Syrians, Venezuelans, and countless others worldwide, including a majority of Americans,” he continued.

“He pretends to oppose endless wars while waging them throughout his tenure,” Lendman said.

“When he leaves office in January 2021 or 2025, the record will show that the US was at war, not peace, in multiple theaters every single day he was in office. Not a single day of respite from his high crimes of war and against humanity,” he said.

“The vast majority of others in Washington operate the same way, notably in Congress with appropriation power. Trump and other US presidents can’t wage war without funding vote for by Congress,” he said.

“Cut off all funding and wars will end. This is how the 1960s-70s Southeast Asian wars ended,” he advised.

“Congress cut off all funding for war-making then and can do it again now, but won’t because most all its members support endless US wars against sovereign nations the US doesn’t control,” the commentator said.

“Jack Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA because he ordered all US forces out of Vietnam. Eliminating made over a decade of war possible, millions of Southeast Asians killed,” he concluded.