Three months ago we introduced China’s “silent hunter” experimental laser gun, and now, as CNN reports, in the waters of the Persian Gulf looms the US Navy’s first – in fact, the world’s first – active laser weapon. *** The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. CNN was granted exclusive access to a live-fire test of the laser. For the test, the USS Ponce crew launched the target — a drone aircraft. Immediately, the weapons team zeroed in. “We don’t have to lead a target,” Hughes explained. “We’re doing that engagement at the speed of light so it really is a point and shoot — we see it, we focus on it, and we can negate that target.” In an instant, the drone’s wing lit up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea. The strike comes silently and invisibly.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 18, 2017.
Another Trump nominee for a critical government role has decided to withdraw. After two prior Trump nominees, Army Secretary choice Vincent Viola and Labor nominee Andy Puzder, both removed themselves from consideration for their appointed role in recent weeks citing insurmountable opposition or conflicts, moments ago financier Philip Bilden, a senior advisor at HarbourVest Asia and President Trump’s pick to lead the Navy, was said to become the third Trump appointee to withdraw his nomination. “Philip Bilden has informed me that he has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from consideration to be secretary of the Navy,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement Sunday evening. He added that “this was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.” Bilden’s vast financial holdings, many of which he earned in Hong Kong, would have made it difficult for him to survive the scrutiny of the Office of Government Ethics, USNI News reported. Bilden, who built his career in Hong Kong with the investment firm HarbourVest, was a surprise pick for the Navy post but had been Mattis’ preferred candidate. Yet like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the sources said.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 26, 2017.
The growth of US military power has rarely, if ever, been the result of legitimate concerns about defensive strategy, let alone about the national welfare. Instead, it’s more often a consequence of a waste, corruption, and imperial ambition that together have produced the modern military-industrial complex. This history receives some well-deserved attention in Paul Pedisich’s book Congress Buys a Navy: Politics, Economics, and the Rise of American Naval Power, 1881-1921, which offers an in-depth look at the history of Congressional involvement with the US Navy. I’ve written a more general review of the book for those interested (here), but in this post I want to focus on some of the economic implications of US naval history over these four decades. The main emphasis of the book is on a series of Congressional battles over appropriations for the Navy, and how these disputes influenced its growth and change. This process, Pedisich argues, was not driven by strategic questions of national security, but by a wide range of political interests. Pedisich provides a wealth of information about Congressional voting blocs and committees, as well and the personal and professional ties between politicians, the Navy, and the war industries. These consisted most often of conventional rent-seeking: members of Congress wanted appropriations channelled to their own constituencies, and the Navy’s budget provided an excellent opportunity for those states that stood to gain from the Congressional spoils system (pp. 28-29, and throughout).
Donald Trump is erratic. We all know that. It is insulting to assert, in the words of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, the erratic Boris Johnson, that he is frankly unfit to hold the office of President of the United States, but he’s certainly unpredictable and says some things that are, to put it mildly, intriguing. The fact remains that he could be next president of the United States, which makes it important to look at what he might do if that comes about, especially in the light of America’s military catastrophes so far this century. Obama followed his predecessors in expanding America’s iron fist as self-appointed global policeman. He vastly increased the US military presence around the world and intensified the Pentagon’s aggressive confrontations with China and Russia. In China’s case this was effected by sending US Naval E-P3 electronic surveillance aircraft on missions close to the mainland, deploying EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, ordering B-52 nuclear bombers to overfly the South China Sea where the US Navy also carried out extended manoeuvres by massive strike groups of nuclear-armed aircraft carriers and guided missile cruisers. All this in a region where the US has not the slightest territorial interest or claim. China’s Sea is 12,000 kilometres, 7,000 miles, from the American mainland, yet Washington considers it the sacred right and duty of the United States to act as a global gendarme and give orders to China about its posture in its own back yard, where there has not been one instance of interference with commercial shipping passing through that region.
Battle of Wits BALTIMORE – On Wednesday, the Dow rose over 18,000, for the first time since April. Hillary is riding high, too. She is a pro. She has the entire Deep State behind her – including almost every crony and zombie in the country – and a political machine that can turn out more claptrap than any in history. *** While her opponent rambles incoherently and mindlessly, every phrase from Hillary’s mouth is a carefully polished imbecility. Still believe in democracy? We have on our desk an unremarkable book by an unremarkable man. The Confessions of Congressman X is a slim volume of slim insights and thin commentary from a coward. Not that we have anything against cowards. We duck and dodge along with everyone else. In the Vietnam War, we had a student deferment…and a decent lottery number… along with millions of others. Despite our best efforts, we did get the benefit of a short, all-expense-paid ocean cruise, and more than enough beach time at Coronado Island, San Diego, courtesy of the U. S. Navy. Did we fail as a coward? Or fail as a hero? Like most people, it’s probably a little of both. But we can confidently report that, although we may have run over an innocent fishing boat or two, on our watch at the radar screen, we never posed any real risk to the Viet Cong.
This post was published at Acting-Man on June 13, 2016.
As Americans swarmed theatres on Friday, setting record-breaking sales to watch Captain America; Civil War, without warning or fanfare – much less, debate – the Pentagon announced ground troops have already been deployed in Yemen, ostensibly to reinforce the ongoing battle against al-Qaeda in the war-ravaged country. In fact, as typical for modern undeclared ‘warfare,’ Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Friday that to back Saudi and Emirati forces, U. S. troops have been on the ground for two weeks now. ‘We view this short term,’ the Washington Post said Davis told reporters. According to the Wall Street Journal, officials claimed ‘about a dozen or so’ special operations forces had been deployed over the two-week period to assist the United Arab Emirates fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and had helped Saudi forces reclaim the port city of Mukalla. ‘This is specifically about routing AQAP from Mukalla, and that has largely occurred, Davis said, noting that the mission isn’t one of ‘advise and assist,’ but would instead ‘fall into the category of intelligence support.’ AQAP, Davis insisted from the Pentagon, ‘remains a significant security threat to the United States and to our regional partners, and we welcome this effort to specifically remove AQAP from Mukalla and to degrade, disrupt and destroy AQAP in Yemen.’
This week, SU-24 fighter-bombers buzzed a U. S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. The Russian planes carried no missiles or bombs. Message: What are you Americans doing here? In the South China Sea, U. S. planes overfly, and U. S. warships sail inside, the territorial limits of islets claimed by Beijing. In South Korea, U. S. forces conduct annual military exercises as warnings to a North Korea that is testing nuclear warheads and long-range missiles that can reach the United States. U. S. warships based in Bahrain confront Iranian subs and missile boats in the Gulf. In January, a U. S. Navy skiff ran aground on an Iranian island. Iran let the 10 U. S. sailors go within 24 hours. But bellicose demands for U. S. retaliation had already begun. Yet, in each of these regions, it is not U. S. vital interests that are threatened, but the interests of allies who will not man up to their own defense duties, preferring to lay them off on Uncle Sam. And America is beginning to buckle under the weight of its global obligations.
In the mid-1950s, neurophysiologist Carl Wilhelm Sem-Jacobsen built his own EEG lab at Gaustad psychiatric hospital in Norway with copious funding from the Rockefeller, Ford, and other ‘charitable’ foundations. He soon took on multiple US government contracts from the Air Force, the Navy, and NASA for research using electrodes implanted in the brains of psych patients to carry out what many have said was unethical research on them. It is widely believed today that Sem-Jacobsen was really doing his brain research, which continued for years, under the auspices of MKUltra.
Summary: Iran’s arrest of US sailors in their waters provides opportunity for our hawks to wave a fake bloody shirt, hoping to make the US public fear and despise Iran. That this daft jingoism is considered acceptable, even routine, fare in our newspapers shows how much we’ve adopted Imperial thinking – and abandoned common sense. Today’s output from the war-monger industry: ‘At the Pentagon, General Chaos is in Charge’ by Ray Starmann at US Defense Watch (‘News, Opinion and Analysis on US Defense issues and politics with a conservative viewpoint’), 26 January 2016 – Opening… The surrender of two US Navy vessels of war and their crews to the Iranians without firing so much as a shot and the subsequent and sickening apology by the commanding officer, speaks volumes about the current fighting spirit, training and state of readiness of the US military in 2016.
This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979. Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain. Then on Saturday, the Iranians released four Iranian-Americans from prison, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On the US side, seven Iranians held in US prisons, including six who were dual citizens, were granted clemency. The seven were in prison for seeking to trade with Iran in violation of the decades-old US economic sanctions. This mutual release came just hours before the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear treaty signed last summer and that, accordingly, US and international sanctions would be lifted against the country.