The First Amendment Award to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for issuing a new Law Of War manual that defines reporters as “unprivileged belligerents” who will lose their “privileged” status by “the relaying of information” which “could constitute taking a direct part in hostilities.” Translation? If you report you are in the same class as members of al-Qaeda.
A Pentagon spokesperson said that the
military “supports and respects the vital work that journalists
perform.” Just so long as they keep what they see, hear, and discover to
themselves? Professor of constitutional law Heidi Kitrosser called the
Runner-up is the U.S. Military College at West Point for hiring Assistant Professor of Law William C. Bradford,
who argues that the military should target “legal scholars” who are
critical of the “war on terrorism.” Such critics are “treasonous,” he
says. Bradford proposes going after “law school facilities, scholars’
home offices and media outlets where they give interviews.” Bradford
also favors attacking “Islamic holy sites,” even if that means “great
destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral
The Little Bo Peep Award for losing track of things goes to the U.S. Defense Department for being unable to account for $35 billion
in construction aid to Afghanistan, which is about $14 billion more
than the country’s GDP. The U.S. has spent $107.5 billion on
reconstruction in Afghanistan, more than the Marshall Plan. Most of it went to private contractors.
The Pentagon response to the report
by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan on the missing funds
was to declare that all such information was now classified, because it
might provide “sensitive information for those that threaten our forces
and Afghan forces.” It has since partially backed off that declaration.
While it is only pocket change compared to Afghanistan, the Pentagon also could not account for more than $500 million
in military aid to Yemen. The U.S. is currently aiding Saudi Arabia and
a number of other Gulf monarchies that are bombing Houthi rebels
battling the Yemeni government. Much of that aid was supposed to go for
fighting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), against which the
U.S. is also waging a drone war. The most effective foes of AQAP are
the Shiite Houthis. So we are supporting the Saudis and their allies
against the Houthis, while fighting Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia,
Afghanistan, and Iraq.
If the reader is confused, Dispatches (Conn Hallinan’s Dispatches from the Edge) suggests taking a strong painkiller and lying down.
The George Orwell Award for Language
goes to the intelligence gathering organizations of the “Five Eyes”
surveillance alliance — the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand — who changed the words “mass surveillance” to “bulk
collection.” The linguistic gymnastics allows the Five to claim that
they are not violating Article 8 of the European Convention on Human
Rights. In the 2000 decision of Amann v. Switzerland, the Court found that it was illegal to store information on an individual’s private life.
As investigative journalist Glen Greenwald
points out, the name switch is similar to replacing the world “torture”
with “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The first is illegal, the
second vague enough for interrogators to claim they are not violating
the International Convention Against Torture.
A runner-up is the U.S. Defense Department, which changed the scary title of “Air Sea Battle”
to describe the U.S.’s current military doctrine vis-à-vis China, to
“Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons.” The Air
Sea Battle doctrine calls for bottling up China’s navy, launching
missile attacks to destroy command centers, and landing troops on the
Chinese mainland. It includes scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons.
“Global Commons,” on the other hand, sounds like a picnic on the lawn.
The Lassie Come Home Award to the U.S. Marine Corps for creating a 160-pound robot dog
that will “enhance the Marine Corps war-fighting capabilities,”
according to Captain James Pineiro. Pineiro heads up the Corp’s
Warfighting Laboratory at Quantico, Virginia. “We see it as a great
potential for the future dismounted infantry.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also designing an autonomous fighting robot. Can the Terminator be far off?
The Golden Lemon Award goes to
Lockheed Martin, the biggest arms manufacturer in the world, which has
managed to produce two stunningly expensive weapons systems that don’t
The F-35 Lighting II is the single
most expensive weapons system in U.S. history: $1.5 trillion. It is
supposed to replace all other fighter-bomber aircraft in the American
arsenal, including the F-15, F-16 and F-18, and will begin deployment in
with the three decade-old F-16, the F-35 routinely lost. Because it is
heavy and underpowered, it is extremely difficult to turn the plane
during air-to-air combat. It has a fancy 25-MM Gatling gun that gets off
3,000 rounds a minute — but the plane can only carry 180 rounds. As one
Air Force official put it, “Hope you don’t miss.” Oh, and the software for the gun won’t be out until 2019.
And that’s not the only glitch.
The F-35 has stealth technology, but
its Identification Friend or Foe system is so bad that pilots are
required to get a visual confirmation of their target. Not a good idea
when the other guys have long-range air-to-air missiles. The $600,000
high-tech helmet the pilot uses to see everything around him often
doesn’t work very well, and there isn’t enough room in the cockpit to
turn your head. If the helmet goes out, there is no backup landing
system, so maybe you had better eject? Bad idea. The fatality rate for
small pilots (those under 139 pounds) at low speeds is 98 percent, not good odds. Larger pilots do better but the changes of a broken neck are still distressingly high.
But it is not just Lockheed Martin’s airplanes that don’t work, neither do its ships.
The company’s new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the Milwaukee, broke down
during its recent East Coast tour and had to be towed to Virginia
Beach. The LCSs are designed to fight in shallow waters, but a recent
Pentagon analysis says the ships would “not be survivable in a hostile
combat situation.” The LCSs have been plagued with engine problems and
spend more than 50 percent of their time in port being repaired. The
program costs $37 billion.
And Lockheed Martin, along with Northrop Grumman and Boeing, just got a $58.2 billion contract to build the next generation Long Range Strike Bomber. Sigh.
The Great Moments In Democracy Award goes to Jyrki Katainen,
Finnish vice-president of the European Commission, the executive arm of
the 28-nation European Union. When Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza Party
was elected, he commented, “We don’t change policies depending on
elections.” So, why is it that people have elections?
A close runner-up in this category is
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who denounced Athens’
government for not cracking down on Greeks who can’t pay their taxes.
The biggest tax dodger in Greece? That would be the huge German
construction company, Hochtief,
which has not paid the Value Added Tax for 20 years, nor made its
required contributions to social security. Estimates are that the
company owes Greece one billion Euros.
The Ty-D-Bol Cleanup Award to the U.S. State Department for finally agreeing to clean up plutonium contamination, the residue from three hydrogen bombs
that fell near the Andalusia town of Palomares in Southern Spain in
1966. The bombs were released when a B-52 collided with an air tanker.
While the bombs did not explode — Palomares and a significant section of
southern Spain would not exist if they had — they broke open, spreading
seven pounds highly toxic plutonium 239 over the area. Plutonium has a
half-life of 24,000 years.
While there was an initial cleanup,
Francisco Franco’s fascist government covered up the incident and played
down the dangers of plutonium. But recent studies indicate that there
is still contamination, and some of the radioactive materials are
degrading into americium, a producer of dangerous gamma radiation.
When Spain re-raised the issue in
2011, the U.S. stonewalled Madrid. So why is Washington coming to an
agreement now? Quid pro quo: the U.S. wants to base some of its navy at
Rota in Southern Spain, and the Marines are setting up a permanent base
at Moron de la Frontera.
As for nukes, the U.S. is deploying its new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb in Europe. At $11 billion it is the most expensive nuke
in the U.S. arsenal. The U.S. will base the B61-12 in Germany, the
Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, a violation of Articles I and II
of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Those two articles ban
transferring nukes from a nuclear weapon state to a non-nuclear weapon
Dispatches assumes they will also bring lots of mops and buckets.
Buyer Beware Award to the
purchasing arm of the U.S. Defense Department that sent dozens of MD-530
attack helicopters to Afghanistan to build up the Afghan Air Force.
Except the McDonnell Douglas-made choppers can’t operate above 8,000
feet, which means they can’t clear many of the mountains that ring
Kabul. The Afghan capital is at 6,000 feet. It also doesn’t have the
range to reach Taliban-controlled areas and, according to the pilots,
its guns jam all the time. The Pentagon also paid more than $400 million
to give Afghanistan 16 transport planes that were in such bad condition
they couldn’t fly. The planes ended up being sold as scrap for $32,000.
The Pogo Possum “We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us” Award
goes to Defense Intelligence Agency for warning Congress that “Chinese
and Russian military leaders…were developing capabilities to deny [the]
U.S. use of space in the event of a conflict.” Indeed, U.S. military
satellites were jammed 261 times in 2015 — by the United States. Asked
how many times China and Russia had jammed U.S. signals, Gen. John
Hyten, head of the Air Force Space Command replied, “I don’t really
know. My guess is zero.”
This piece was reprinted from Foreign Policy In Focus by RINF Alternative News with permission.