Category Archives: Defense Budget and Procurement

How We Fight

Voltaire once said “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Sadly, the number of examples throughout history to support his claim fill entire libraries. The most recent, Iraq and Afghanistan (and associated mayhem), are still burning through the fabric of humanity like the Alien’s acid-like blood burnt through the decks of the spaceship Nostromo. Yet where is the outcry? Where are the forces in society with enough clout to expose and blunt the absurdities- the Press and protestors in the streets?

We are in the midst of another election season and absurdities abound in the rhetoric. The saber rattling, while always present in a militaristic society like ours, has begun to escalate. Recently two exiting Generals claimed in their goodbye speeches that Russia is the biggest threat facing America– Russia? Really? I guess there ain’t no money in ISIS and Al Qaeda folks. You don’t need strategic bombers, huge mechanized armies and aircraft carriers to fight them. Guess where those two guys are likely heading next for work?

The presidential candidates appear to cover the gamut with regard to the projection of US military strength internationally– Trump is called a loose cannon and supposedly dangerous because of his unpredictability, Clinton is called a hawk and supposedly dangerous because of her predicability and Sanders is called a dove and supposedly dangerous because his idealism ignores realism. We hear little about ending the war on terror though. We even had one extremely belligerent candidate, Ted Cruz (thankfully banished, a positive outcome of Trump’s success), who proposed carpet bombing an entire country into submission, even though we have empirical evidence going all the way back to Dresden that this never has and presumably never will work!. Was he challenged on this madness? Superficially at best. Again, where are our gatekeepers whose job it is to check the facts, challenge the claims and expose the absurdities? Why are we the people so silent?

Another famous French author once summed it up pretty well:

“A poor man in the world can be done to death in two main ways, by the absolute indifference of his fellows in peacetime or by their homicidal mania when there’s a war. When other people start thinking about you, it’s to figure out how to torture you. The bastards want to see you bleeding, otherwise they’re not interested! The patriots kept clamoring: Guns! Men! Ammunition! They never seemed to get tired. It was an obsession which prevented the best of our fellow citizens from breathing, eating, or copulating. But it didn’t seem to prevent them from swinging business deals. Morale was doing all right on the home front” — Louis-Ferdinand Celine Journey to The End Of The Night (1934)

If you know about Celine then you know that even he was taken in by an absurdity later in his life. Yet his quote remembering his experiences in WWI is as relevant today as it was back then.

There was one moment in our history when the barricades were stridently manned and the constitutional tools at our disposal were put to good use in the battle against the purveyors of absurdity. It was a short moment to be sure, from about 1960 -1973, but during that period we saw important social strides made through the Civil Rights, Free Speech and anti-Vietnam War movements. It was a time before the rise of today’s corporate dominated mass-news media that values the interests of its owners and sponsors above its critical responsibility as the peoples’ watch dog against corporate and governmental over-reach. In the sixties the advent of television news, with its immediate images beamed into living rooms before being sanitized for docile consumption, caught the elites completely by surprise. Suddenly they had lost control of the frame and it cost them. Of course it was good for society, we haven’t seen accelerated social change like that ever since, but it seriously damaged ruling class interests at the time. They learned the lesson– think about embedded reporters for example, now they can only report what their keepers let them see. No more Morley Safers or Malcolm Brownes. A tamed sycophantic news media eagerly goes along with it.

We the people would do well to study those lofty days when people took the law into their own hands and took to the streets to force change. Take heed of the tactics used by those regular folks who spoke up and put their hands on the gears of the machine and follow in their footsteps:

RIP Morley Safer…

Click here for more information and media on those who spoke up against the Vietnam War

NY Times Missing Headlines of the Week

imagesWhat is not there is frequently more important than what is….

 

Missing: $45 Billion In Tax Dollars Goes Missing in Afghanistan

Interestingly, one headline that did not appear anywhere in the NY Times this week as far as I can tell concerned the issuance of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) top-level analysis of Department of Defense (DoD) reconstruction spending in Afghanistan. It turns out that of the $104 billion US taxpayer dollars appropriated for Afghan reconstruction between 2002 and 2014 (more than we laid out for the Marshall Plan adjusted for inflation), $66 billion went to the Department of Defense. And surprise– they can’t, or won’t, account for $45 billion of it! To make matters worse, the military has decided they don’t want to be bothered anymore with the meddling inconvenience of oversight, so they have decided to classify the bulk of the data. On what grounds? well because it gives aid and comfort to enemy of course. So kiss any hope of knowing where our $45 billion went goodbye. Not to mention the $500 million in weapons that have gone missing in Yemen reported this week in the Wash Post.

$45 Billion in Tax Dollars Goes Missing in Afghanistan

Watchdog Scrutinizes Pentagon Spending in Afghanistan

$100 Billion In Aid Squandered in Afghanistan

Sequestration: The Real Enemy of DoD

sucking-money-vacuum-cleaner-13399508McHugh: America’s Army Facing Sequestration ‘Enemy’ at Home

“Not only does the U.S. Army face rapid, unpredictable changes in the geopolitical landscape, but also the uncertainty of an adversary — sequestration — here at home, Army Secretary John M. McHugh said before a Senate subcommittee…”

But not to worry Jedi Knights, it seems that the fix is already in for you. Here is what Rep. Rob Wittman, R-VA., the chairman of the House Armed Services had to say about it last month:

“Congress will likely act to repeal the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration during the budgeting process… the area where Congress can agree is on the Defense Department sequestration cuts, while lawmakers would have to figure out how to juggle non-defense spending by civilian agencies [author’s italics]… At least the defense spending sequester will be set aside. I think with all the dangers we see around the world it has to be.” — Notice that everyone else still needs to take the cuts!

So why the big deal? Well, if your beloved war machine, million $$ mansion, private plane and Ivy league placement for your kids was on the line, plus your future entitlements as a defense industry lobbyist, you’d try to hedge your bets too, wouldn’t you? Besides, who can trust politicians (or the American public) to do the right thing without a little cajoling, right?

So do what you do best– plan a covert mission:

Strategy: trump up the existential threats loud enough, and distribute troops broadly enough, to make it darn near impossible, both logistically and politically, to do anything but keep feeding the beast.

Tactic: work through the mainstream media to “familiarize” the public with the magnitude of the threats. Remember we are on the verge of all-out war at all times, hyper-vigilance being the only answer. Afghanistan (Taliban), Iraq (ISIL), Somalia (al-Shabaab), Yemen (Al-Qaeda), Iran (Death to America), Russia (Putin), Nigeria (Boko Haram), Al-Qaeda is everywhere, ISIS (same as ISIL, but to the less-informed it appears to be two different groups). Notice that Pakistan never seems to make the existential threat list?  And the poor old Communists must feel like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, no one pays any attention to them anymore!

Then send troops to as many of those places as possible, as discretely as possible, so when the time comes you can cry “You can’t cut our budget, you’ll be putting our boys (and girls) in greater harm.”

And let us not fool ourselves– the civilians (Executive and Congress alike) plus the CIA and NSA and Homeland Security etc…all take their places at the rampart to defend against the Philistines.

At any rate….

While you slept this weekend we received this news from the Pentagon:

US To Abandon Plan For Troop Reduction In Afghanistan

Notice how this announcement comes on a Saturday night, outside of the prime news cycle. Are we to believe that they didn’t know this during the week?

And last week our new defender of the realm, “Ash” Carter, had this to say to a Senate committee:

US War on ISIS May Expand to Include Boko Haram in Nigeria

Now this idea has not yet been properly “massaged” for US public consumption, so even though it seems like a pretty big deal it took the UK Guardian to print it. You can bet that if they want to go there, the mainstream media will dutifully play its role in convincing us that it is a good idea, or at the very least a necessary evil.

Does it make anyone else uncomfortable that our Defense Chief goes by the name “Ash”? Isn’t that all that’s left after a major conflagration? Maybe it’s just me?

If you want to get a sense for how mobilized the armed forces already are to win the battle for hearts and minds against the “enemy at home” check out the DoD’s “Sequestration” web site

Happy Trails….

Previous variations on a similar theme on ParallelNarratives:

Misleading Headline of the Week

SOUTHCOM Chief: Sequestration Will Bring “Defeat.” 

SOUTHCOM chief: Sequestration will bring ‘defeat’

sucking-money-vacuum-cleaner-13399508

From MilitaryTimes.com March 12.2015:

The offensive launched by defense leaders against the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration continued Thursday, with the four-star chief of U.S. Southern Command predicting “defeat” in his missions if the budget trims go into effect later this year….Read entire article

In response to the article the following:

ParallelNarratives: This is the same tired line used by our proxies against us for decades– Rhee, Diem, Thieu, Karzai etc…”If you don’t continue to escalate $$ and weapons we’ll fall like a house of cards.” Basically extortion. Our generals haven’t learned (or have just plain ignored) many lessons over the years from these wars, but they have grasped, and in fact have embraced, this one.

Some may counter that ultimately Congress and the President drive the agenda, it’s their call on what we do and how we do it. And the General’s complaint in the article is merely a reflection back at national leadership – if  you want to bid at Christie’s then you have to pay the price, and sequestration will cause failure, just laying out the facts….

In theory of course this is true. It’s supposedly a hallmark of our democracy, civilian control of the military. Congress and the Executive do have the ability to drill down into the most minute matters of how the military operates. And yes they can fire military leadership (Truman for example) and they can make changes to the very fundamentals about how the military operates (Goldwater-Nichols for example). And by doing so they are reflecting the will of the government over the desires of the armed forces. According to the theory it’s the politicians who set the foreign and military policy and the Generals just dutifully carry out orders. And they can’t do that unless they get what they need/want. After all, they are the experts in war craft, right?

In practice the lines aren’t quite so tidy, in fact it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to state that the fix is in for the military elites….

Korea: There is a strong argument that the military desperately needed the Korean War after years of reduced funding, especially in Asia, in the post war period. When the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel the elites were presented with an opportunity to revive the Pacific force, and escalate funding for it to massive levels. And maybe, they might even get a chance to invade China and resurrect their beloved Chiang.

They got the funding, but the second part of the equation was shattered in the passes and along the roads of the snow covered mountains of North Korea when repeated warnings by Mao to turn back were ignored, primarily on the advice of MacArthur. Truman was forced to fire MacArthur. But only after he lost the nerve to stop him at Pyongyang, leading to a major military and political disaster at the Yalu. Even with that Truman backed down to MacArthur’s flagrant disregard for his leadership for a period of time after the debacle. It wasn’t until Mac’s public rhetoric about invading (and possibly nuking) China became unbearable for his standing as Commander in Chief that Truman took the ultimate action. But one can easily argue that MacArthur’s actions had a greater influence than did Truman’s on the outcome of not only that war, but also on escalating the Cold War and the resultant decades of massive funding for the military industrial complex.

Indochina/Vietnam: FDR had made it clear via the Atlantic Charter and comments at Yalta that he in no way supported France’s claim to Vietnam after the war, but alas he died a year too soon and a green Truman was led by his fervent anti-Communist advisors, civilian and military, to support the French reconquest in Indochina. The chickens came home to roost at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

At the time, the US Joint Chief Chairman Admiral Radford was advocating for operation Vulture, which had a nuclear component, to save the French and inject the US in to the war. Thankfully that was indirectly stopped by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at the behest of his deputy Anthony Eden, because Congress would not go along without British support. Eisenhower was largely on board with Radford and was disappointed in the outcome. This can be extrapolated by the fact that he sent Dulles on a whirlwind world tour to try to pressure the British to sign-on, and to drum up support from other nations for American intervention. This set the stage for American involvement in Vietnam.

It was Eisenhower (the most famous former General in the world) who began the doomed relationship with South Vietnam by helping bring Diem to power at Geneva, then by assisting him in holding power in his first major challenge against his rivals in Saigon in 1955. The primary American surrogate in the drama was Air Force officer Edward Lansdale. There was steady flow of American money and military expertise to Vietnam thereafter.

In the early 1960s, it was generals Maxwell Taylor (also a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) and Earl Wheeler (another Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) who made the early pushes for escalation of US involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy, and LBJ after him, could not abandon Vietnam to the Communists, that would have been political suicide. So the military and their right wing benefactors had them by the balls. Clearly the Americans, civilian and military alike, had not learned much from the French experience. As Bernard Fall famously said: “The Americans are dreaming different dreams than the French, but they walk in the same footsteps.” And of course, there was a massive funding escalation in it for the military.

Goldwater-Nichols basically increased substantially the powers of the Joint Chiefs Chairman, thus concentrating power in one person. As we have seen already maybe not such a good idea. MacArthur and Radford were itching for a fight with the ChiComs and both were ready to use nukes to that end. Taylor and Wheeler were vocal cheerleaders for what turned out to be America’s greatest political and military failure. And to add insult to injury, it was Colin Powell, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who led the famous dog and pony show on WMDs to legitimize the invasion of Iraq…

So it’s not so cut and dried as firing rogues and shifting the concentrations of power to “reflect the will of the government over the desires of the armed forces.” It’s a much closer thing than that. Whether overt, covert or implicit, the military establishment has a great deal of influence over national agenda setting. And they have strong incentive to keep the $$ pouring in. Remember what happened when Truman fired MacArthur, some say it’s the closest the country ever came to a military coup in the aftermath. Don’t think every president since doesn’t know it.

Further Reading: Truth Stranger Than Strangelove

Note: almost invariably it’s the nation’s establishment news media outlets that provide some of the best cover for these double dealings. The New York Times was one of the most vocal advocates for the Iraq War and its current ISIS coverage frequently refers to the existential threat it somehow poses. This Op-Ed piece appeared at the Washington Post yesterday :

War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option

NBC has a portion of it’s website devoted to “ISIS Terror” that keeps a count of the number of stories in the archive boldly displayed on the header. The tally stands at 788 stories at this writing. Here’s a new story introducing chemical weapons use for the first time:

ISIS Used Chemical Weapons in Suicide Attack, Kurds Say

And lets not forget the CIA:

CIA Director Calls Fight Against ISIL Long-Term Struggle

This just in:

US To Abandon Plan For Troop Reduction In Afghanistan

Doesn’t sound like they are bracing for big budget cuts. Maybe they know something we don’t? The best line from this article: “military officials want to maintain troops in order to protect America’s investment” I bet they do. America’s investment in them.

Notice how this announcement comes on a Saturday night, outside of the prime news cycle. Are we to believe that they didn’t know this during the week? But you can be sure they have mobilized the army of TV Generals, who are likely waiting at their phones right now, eager to accept those last minute requests to appear on the Sunday talk shows.