Category Archives: Warfare

Trump, the most dangerous man in the world


And the reason isn’t the obvious one.

No, it’s not his vanity, and it’s only partly related to his arrogance.

No, what makes Donald Trump the most dangerous man in the world is that he is utterly untrustworthy, a man whose word means nothing and who will say anything to get his way.

In other words, he’s a unprincipled liar.

And that’s what makes him dangerous.

To Trump, the art of the deal is say whatever works toward his end, and when the deal is done he will brag about the lies he told to get there.

From the Daily Show:

Trump Lets the Truth Come Out Post-Election

Program notes:

While out on his “Thank You Tour,” President-elect Trump smugly admits to lying about his campaign promises to lock up Hillary Clinton and “drain the swamp.”

No foreign leader will be able to trust anything Donald Trump says, and for that reason they will always assume the worst.

And when the stakes are high and the folks on the other side of the table are armed with nuclear weapons, we can only expect the worst.

Scary, ain’t it?

Trump talk sparks threat of arms race with China


Donald Trump’s increasingly belligerent attitude towards China has sparked a state media call for the Asian nation to ramp up its nuclear arsenal, rasining the specter of Cold War II.

From United Press International:

China’s state tabloid is calling for the expansion of defense spending on nuclear weaponry in response to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s critical stance toward Beijing.

The editorial published Wednesday in the Global Times comes at a time when China is imposing a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior. The state newspaper suggested Beijing should not be pushed out by a militarily powerful United States.

“China’s defense spending and defense capabilities cannot threaten the United States at all, and Trump’s declaration in relation to the ‘one-China’ policy has amply demonstrated U.S. arrogance,” the Global Times stated. “This kind of arrogant position originates from the military superiority of the United States.”

China spends less than the United States on the military. According to IHS Janes, the United States is the No. 1 acquirer of military goods and services, having spent $622 billion, while China spent $192 billion.

Mexican general: Stop using army in drug war


In Mexico, the war of drugs has become more than a metaphor, as military troops have been ordered into the field, engaging in armed conflict with troops from the cartels, a policy which has lead to growing body counts on both sides.

In a short, fierce fight Monday, Mexican marines killed at least 14 cartel soldiers who had ambushed a patrol,  and in June 2014, soldiers killed at least 22 people, 12 of them innocent civilians, when they engaged in a killing spree ordered by superiors.

And then there was the involvement of soldiers in the events leading up to the 26 September 2014 abduction of the still missing 23 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa.

The drug war, in short, has tarnished the military’s reputation.

And now, says the country’s top general and defense secretary, it’s time to pull the troops out.

From teleSUR English:

Mexico’s defense secretary has called for all troops fighting the drug cartels across the violence-ravaged country to return to their military headquarters and quit fighting a battle that should be handled by law enforcement.

“We did not ask to be here, we do not feel comfortable here, we did not train to pursue criminals, our role is another and it has been distorted,” said General Salvador Cienfuegos. “We would love the police forces to do their job. . .but they don’t.”

The Mexican army has been fighting a war with drug traffickers since December 2006 when then President Felipe Calderon declared a “war on drugs.” This period accounts for some of the bloodiest years that has left close to 200,000 people dead, at least 28,000 disappeared, and at least 8,000 cases of torture documented since 2007.

This militarized drug war policy has been continued by current President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“Ten years ago it was decided that the police should be rebuilt, and we still haven’t seen that reconstruction,” Cienfuegos said. “To sum it up, there are a large number of deaths that shouldn’t be happening. . .This isn’t something that can be solved with bullets; it takes other measures and there hasn’t been decisive action on budgets to make that happen.”

Within the framework of international law, human rights organizations have accused the Mexican government of committing crimes against humanity due to the number of documented cases of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture. These crimes have been committed repeatedly since the Mexican government began its war with drug cartels.

The general is right.

Using the military against a country’s own citizens, even citizens who are criminals, is a really bad idea.

Using the military is like using a hammer to perform brain surgery when a scalpel is called for, and soldiers are trained to annihilate an enemy, not arrest them.

Did Hanoi just follow up Trump’s China play?


Donald Trump has been pulling the tail of the Chinese dragon for more than a year, stirring up voters with fears of China’s economic strength, and by openly siding with Japan and the Philippines in the Games of Zones, the struggle for control of the resource-rich waters of the China Seas.

In the contest over the Asian waters, four nations have been staking claims and planting bases, but most of the attention has been focused China’s expansion of reefs into air bases, and starting with a campaign speech fifteen months ago, Trump indicated he opposed China’s policy, while making no mention of the roles played by the other nations.

Barack Obama had added this own fuel to the fire, as American jet fighters skirted air space claimed by China, while in September the administration hinted at stronger measures to come.

But Trump’s anti-China rhetoric has been far more provocative, hinting at both economic warfare and a more aggressive military stance.

And with his phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking four decades of precedent, he further angered Beijing.

And now, it seems, Vietnam is stepping up the pressure.

From Reuters:

Vietnam has begun dredging work on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, satellite imagery shows, the latest move by the Communist state to bolster its claims in the strategic waterway.

Activity visible on Ladd Reef in the Spratly Islands could anger Hanoi’s main South China Sea rival, Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the group and most of the resource-rich sea.

Ladd Reef, on the south-western fringe of the Spratlys, is completely submerged at high tide but has a lighthouse and an outpost housing a small contingent of Vietnamese soldiers. The reef is also claimed by Taiwan.

In an image taken on Nov. 30 and provided by U.S.-based satellite firm Planet Labs, several vessels can be seen in a newly dug channel between the lagoon and open sea.

While the purpose of the activity cannot be determined for certain, analysts say similar dredging work has been the precursor to more extensive construction on other reefs.

The game is heating up, and with an unpredictable buffoon in the White House, the fire next time could be nuclear.

Chomsky warns: Trump may incinerate us all


Either through nuclear war or global warming, the election of President Littlefingers present the gravest threat of the 21st Century, warns America’s foremost intellectual and dissident.

From teleSUR English:

Prominent U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky warned Monday about the possibility of a nuclear war and the further risks linked to global warming as a result of a Donald Trump presidency, during a speech for the 20th anniversary of Democracy Now!.

Commenting on the concrete implications of the Republican candidate’s win, Chomsky said that the Iran nuclear deal could be reversed.

“Other countries who are parties to the deal might well continue,” he said. “That means ignoring U.S. sanctions. That will extend U.S. isolation, even from Europe.”

“Brexit may assist with (U.S. isolation) because Britain was the voice of the United States in NATO, the harshest voice,” he added.

“The threats and dangers are very real,” he said. Namely, the positions that Trump has taken in regards to climate change and the Iran deal pose a threat to the future of the country and the world.”

“The threats that we now face are the most severe that have ever arisen in human history,” he added. “They are literal threats to survival: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe.”

“They became more urgent on Nov. 8, for the reasons you know and that I mentioned. They have to be faced directly, and soon if the human experiment is not to prove to be a disastrous failure,” he warned.

Uncle Sam remains globe’s biggest arms peddler


Share of arms sales of the world’s 100 companies for 2015, by country The Top 100 classifies companies according to the country in which they are headquartered, so sales by an overseas subsidiary will be counted towards the total for the parent company’s country. The Top 100 does not include the entire arms industry in each country covered, only the largest companies. The category ‘Other’ consists of countries whose companies’ arms sales comprise less than 1% of the total: Australia, Brazil, Finland, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Share of arms sales of the world’s 100 companies for 2015, by country
The Top 100 classifies companies according to the country in which they are headquartered, so sales by an overseas subsidiary will be counted towards the total for the parent company’s country. The Top 100 does not include the entire arms industry in each country covered, only the largest companies. The category ‘Other’ consists of countries whose companies’ arms sales comprise less than 1% of the total: Australia, Brazil, Finland, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:

Sales of arms and military services by the largest arms-producing and military services companies—the SIPRI Top 100—totalled $370.7 billion in 2015 according to new data on the international arms industry released today by SIPRI.

The sales of arms and military services companies in the SIPRI Top 100 have fallen for the fifth consecutive year. However, at only a 0.6 per cent decline, the slight decrease may signal a possible reversal of the downward sales trend observed since 2011.

US companies still way ahead despite falling revenues

Companies based in the United States continue to dominate the Top 100 with total arms sales amounting to $209.7 billion for 2015. Arms sales by US companies in the Top 100 decreased by 2.9 per cent compared with 2014—the fifth consecutive year of decline.

‘Lockheed Martin remains the largest arms producer in the world,’ says Aude Fleurant, Director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘However, US companies’ arms sales are constrained by caps on US military spending, delays in deliveries of major weapon systems and the strength of the US dollar, which has negatively affected export sales.’

Many of the larger US arms-producing companies divested their military services activities after 2010 due to falling demand. A number of the new, smaller companies created by this process have consolidated and have built up sufficient revenue to rank in the Top 100 for 2015; three such companies are CSRA, Engility and Pacific Architects and Engineers.

 West European arms sales up in 2015 after falls in 2014

Arms sales by companies in Western Europe listed in the SIPRI Top 100 for 2015 rose by 6.6 per cent in real terms compared with 2014, with total combined revenues from arms sales amounting to $95.7 billion. This increase contrasts with the notable drop in West European companies’ revenues from arms sales recorded between 2013 and 2014.

The combined arms sales of the six French companies listed in the Top 100 totalled $21.4 billion in 2015, a rise of 13.1 per cent compared with 2014, when most of those companies recorded a fall in arms sales. The increase in French companies’ arms sales has acted as an important driver for the recent growth in arms sales in Western Europe.

‘Major arms export deals in 2015, such as those to Egypt and Qatar, have increased French arms companies’ sales,’ says Fleurant. ‘A 67.5 per cent surge in arms sales by Dassault Aviation Group seems to be mainly the result of such exports.’

The three German companies listed in the Top 100 continued to increase their combined sales (by 7.4 per cent) in 2015. Companies in the Top 100 based in the United Kingdom reversed the downward trend recorded in 2014 with a 2.8 per cent rise in their combined arms sales in 2015.

Continue reading

Images, flags, burning desires, and Vietnam


Following up on our previous post about Donald Trump’s to criminalize and deport folks who burn flags as a means of protesting malignant policies of the American government, we are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the American government’s failed effort to cement a regime in then-South Vietnam that would dance to a tune orchestrated in Washington.

At the start of World War II, Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina, and during the war, Japan invaded and seized control of the region, and a powerful guerilla movement spring up under Ho Chi Minh — who was provided with arms and advisors by the Allies.

Nine years after the war’s end, Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai, who had grown increasingly unpopular, Ho’s forces, meanwhile had turned against the French, inflicting a disastrous and decisive defeat of a trapped French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954.

As a result, the nation was partitioned at, with the north governed by Ho and his allies, and Bao Dai ruling in the South, with an election to be held in 1956 to decide on reunification and the leadership of a united Vietnam.

But with U.S. back, Ngô Ðình Diêm defeated Bao Dai in a 1954 election in the south, and the U.S. began pouring in military aid while cutting off the north from sorely needed access to resources.

That same year, as the Pentagon Papers noted, “President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai.”

Since neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese governed had signed the treaty calling for the elections, the vote was never held [talk about yer foreign interference in an election. . .].

The stage was thus set for war, and events in Vietnam were elevated into a major Cold War confrontation, with the Soviet Union backing Ho and the U.S. backing Diem.

The U.S. spent lavishly supporting Diem’s military, while Soviewt aid to the North was less extensive, although it did include the war’s decisive weapon, tjhe virtually indestructible AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a weapon more durable than any then used by the U.S., and still in use among guerilla forces around the world.

The North supported guerilla forces in the south, the famous Viet Cong, and they steadily eroded the Diem military.

Under John F. Kennedy, American military “advisers” were dispatched to the South, quickly assuming combat roles before becoming the dominant force supporting the Diem regime.

But Diem, a member of the country’s small Catholic community, was immensely unpopular among the country’s majority Buddhists, and the first and most dramatic instance of protest involving fire occurred on 11 June 1963, when in protest of Diem’s repression of the country’s Buddhists, a monk named Thích Quang Duc immolated himself at an intersection just a few short blocks from the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Images of the act prompted a wave of outrage against Diem that swept around the world:

blog-fire-monk

As the war intensified, the draft began to loom larger in the lives of young American men, many of whom could see no valid reason for killing and being killed in a nation many had never heard of before the war flared into a raging conflagration.

One young man who received his draft notice announced he would not servem declaring:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . .Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

A year later he would declare:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”

And thus Muhammad Ali earned a federal prison sentence, emerging from behind bars to prove himself the greatest pugilist America has ever produced.

Organized protests began to arise [some of which we participated in], and on 15 October 1969, more than two million Americans marched against the war.

One emblematic action of protests throughout the Vietnam war was flag-burning, here illustrated by protesters demonstrating at the 20 January 1969 presidential inaugural of Richard M. Nixon:

blog-fire-flag

Needless to say, the flag-burnings outraged Republicans of the day.

But the most potent and iconic symbol of the war was the result of the American military’s use of fire bombs during the conflict, delivered sometimes by U.S. jets and, in this instance, by American-supplied South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.

It happened on 8 June 1972, when the village of Trang Bang was targeted with napalm bombs because of intelligence suggested that it harbored Viet Cong guerillas.

One of those burned by the napalm was a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and the image s of her flight from the devastation captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut burned their way into the American conscience, revealing the ruthless strategy employed by the United States to win at all costs:

blog-fire-vn

But a second photo, showing her grandmother carrying the seared corpse of one of her cousins is perhaps ever more devastating:

blog-fire-vn-2

Perhaps no one better captured the hypocrisy of criminalized flag-burning with the burning of human bodies by a detestable weapon of war that did esnl’s favorite alternative press cartoonist of the 1960’s, R. Cobb, in this brilliant 1967 graphic for the Los Angeles Free Press:

blog-fire-cobb

As for the legality of burning the American flag, here’s the bottom line from Texas v. Johnson, the 21 June 1989 Supreme Court ruling that is currently the law of the land:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved.

But with Republicans in full control of the White House and national legislature and poised to gain control over the Supreme Court, we expect that Trump will get his wish, one way or another.

Finally, back to Vietnam

The Vietnam War taught the American government two important lessons.

First was an end to the draft.

While virtually unreported by the American media, the real reason Richard Nixon realized he had to end the war was the rebellion of U.S. troops along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] separating the two halves of Vietnam.

That’s what happens when you draft young men to fight for a cause for which they see no valid reason to sacrifice their own lives.

Ripping unwilling combatants away from their homes, families, and jobs is a sure-fire way to foster resentment and rebellion, nowhere better shown that in Daniel Zeiger’s brilliant 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir!, recorded here from a broadcast on BBC:

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The GI Movement Against The War In Vietnam

America turns to mercenaries, embedded reporters

Since Vietnam, America has fought its war with mercenaries, soldiers recruited often from the nation’s poorest regions, where youths facing bleak prospects at home are drawn to the military by promises of job training, education funds, and a position they are assured will imbue them with self-dignity and respect.

No more unwilling combatants; rather, a military filled with those who see no other alternative than lives filled with misery.

The second lesson the Vietnam war taught Americans military and political elites was that free-roving reporters could capture images and stories threatening to their interests by revealing powerful counter-narratives to the official line.

Hence the evolution of the embedded reporter, carefully contained and controlled.

And by criminalizing flag-burning, Donald Trump would deprive protest movements of one of their most powerful symbolic acts.