Thursday, December 29, 2016

The US is responsible for half of all global arms trade

Excerpted from a report in The Guardian, Dec. 26 (with emphases added):

The sale of global arms dropped slightly last year to $80bn from 2014’s $89bn, according to a new congressional study, with the US maintaining its position as the world’s dominant supplier.

But at $40bn the US market share of weapons sales amounted to about half of all arms agreements in 2015, and more than double the orders recorded by France, its nearest rival with $15bn in sales. The US and France both grew their market shares, by around $4bn and $9bn respectively.

Russia recorded a slight decline in arms orders, dropping to $11.1bn in sales from its $11.2bn total in 2014, while China reached $6bn, double the previous year’s estimates.

The latest figures were released last week by the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, and are considered one of the most reliable measures of the global arms trade.
US arms exports in 2016 looks set to remain broadly in line with the previous year’s sales. ...

The report’s findings conform to a study released in November that found that the Obama administration has approved more than $278bn in foreign arms sales in its eight years, more than double the total of the Bush administration, which approved $128.6bn.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

That's Not Cool

from The Indypendent

By Jesse Rubin
WOODSTOCK, NY — On the 12th annual Woodstock Volunteers Day, residents gather in the Andy Lee Field for home-cooked food, folk songs and recognition of “what is good about [their] community.”
Two volunteers tabling for the environmental group Scenic Hudson ask for signatures and email addresses at the park entrance.
Tarak Kauff, a member of the antiwar group Veterans For Peace, lends his name to the environmentalist cause.
When Kauff presents the volunteers with his own petition, they hesitate. The petition, written by a group of local activists known as Woodstock Peace Economy, asks aerospace and military contractor Ametek Rotron to switch over all its production to civilian use. The 70-year-old company is the largest employer in this town of about 6,000 residents.
The two volunteers seem to hide behind their table. “Rotron?” one asks. “I thought they only made fans.”
Kauff tells them about the campaign and about the fans’ essential role in the functioning of F-16 fighter jets, cluster bombs and predator drones.
They decline and continue asking for signatures, some of which likely come from Rotron employees.
Military Contracts
In 2015 Ametek Rotron landed $2.6 million in Pentagon contracts. Compared to Lockheed Martin — one of the largest defense companies in the world with declared revenues of $46.1 billion the same year— this number is negligible.
But for a town that came to prominence as a haven for artists and later became synonymous with ’60s-era idealism and whose council declared it “drone free” in 2014 — any Pentagon dollars are incongruous.
So say activists affiliated with Woodstock Peace Economy who have recently renewed a long-running campaign against Rotron’s manufacture of weapons parts that dates back to the 1980s.
“Located in buildings just out of sight, off Rte. 375, Ametek Rotron makes high-tech fans, balls bearings and other essential parts for weapons used to terrorize and kill people the world over,” reads the group’s latest petition. “As most of us in Woodstock support peace and not war, the signers below request that Ametek Rotron explore how to convert its manufacturing facilities to support peace and not war.”
Route 375 is a main road into Woodstock — but before reaching the downtown, which trades on its image of a hippie haven — visitors must pass an inconspicuous white sign announcing the Rotron factory. While well established, it is unknown outside of the nearby Hudson Valley towns.
Founded in 1946 by Dutch engineer J. Constant van Rijn, the Rotron Manufacturing Company patented and developed high-intensity electronics cooling fans, which soon became critical for the burgeoning aerospace market of the 1950s.
By 1958 Rotron had developed the industry standard muffin fan, a powerful but quiet electronic cooling system. In tangent with his company’s success, Rijn became known as an arts patron in Woodstock. He is known for having contributed a heating plant to the Hudson Valley Repertory Theater so the famous playhouse could operate all year long.
He even “dedicated a statue of the buddha,” Woodstock Peace Economy activist, professor and longtime Woodstock resident Laurie Kirby told The Indypendent. “It’s the largest Buddha statue in North America.”
In 1961, the same year U.S. air and ground forces officially became active in Vietnam, Rotron developed and released the Mil-B-23071 standard for AC fans — the company’s first product strictly for military use.
The U.S. military uses an updated version of this fan to this day.
In the intervening years, as the United States has consolidated its position as arms merchant to the world, Woodstock’s largest employer has steadily increased its military business.
In 2015, Rotron secured 79 Pentagon contracts, its highest number ever, and logged record profits. On the whole, the U.S. armaments industry maintained its status as the largest in the world, accounting last year for 33 percent of global military exports, or $455 billion, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the financial branch of the Defense Department.
Meanwhile, the company is reluctant to admit its weapons industry involvement, instead insisting that it is merely a supplier of nonlethal technology. But research conducted by The Indypendent and activists confirms the inextricable link.
According to public Pentagon contracts, Rotron produces centrifugal fans for F-16s, Milstar satellite systems, CV-22 Osprey helicopters, long-range navy radar and M1A1 tanks.
Ametek Rotron, in addition, is the main supplier of the fuel density probe, a critical component in the operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) aircraft including the Predator Drone.
A leaked contract dated October 1, 2009, confirms Rotron supplied 50 fans to the Israeli Air Force that year.
The final destination of the fans remains unclear, but it is likely they operate in F-16s. In addition, a recently published Pentagon contract shows that Rotron provides a $7,365 motor to the Israeli Defense Ministry, confirming the company’s ongoing direct business with that country’s government. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Day In The Life

    On September 27, Woodstock’s largest employer signed a new $7,365 weapons contract with Israel’s Defense Ministry, for delivery to its Avionic Armaments division. This happened to be the day before the death of Shimon Peres, the father of Israel’s nuclear bomb program, but otherwise it was a typical day in the life of the territories illegally occupied by Israel, so we thought it might be interesting to look at some other news items from that ordinary day.

    On that day Israeli authorities demolished 33 residential, school and livelihood-related buildings in nine Palestinian communities, making dozens of people homeless including children, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. These incidents brought the total number of houses destroyed or confiscated by the Israeli forces in the West Bank so far this year to 878, a 60% increase over the figure for the whole of 2015.

    The OCHA adds: “Due to discriminatory and unlawful planning processes, it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in the vast majority of Area C and East Jerusalem. The systematic destruction of property in this context, along with other factors, contributes to the generation of a coercive environment pressuring residents to leave.”

    On that same day, in another piece of this campaign, Israeli forces destroyed four water wells in a village near Hebron, three of which had been built with funds from the YMCA.

    On that same day, the Israeli human rights group Adalah criticized Israel’s plan to expand the settlement of Gilo onto wide swaths of land belonging to the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, calling it “an infringement on the rights of the land owners in addition to being a breach of international law.”

    On the following day, Amnesty International reported that “Israeli forces continue to display an appalling disregard for human life by using reckless and unlawful lethal force against Palestinians,” adding that the Israeli military justice system “repeatedly fails to deliver justice for Palestinian victims of unlawful killings and their families.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Protesting the Manufacture of Components for Military Drones in Woodstock

Local activists on Woodstock's Village Green calling for the local war economy to be converted to a peace economy. Investment for peaceful purposes creates more jobs than investment in war!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

End the Manufacture of Weapons for War in Woodstock

Sign this petition

To: Ametek Rotron
Convert production in their Woodstock, NY, plant from parts for military drones, nuclear missiles, cluster bombs and other weapons of war to peaceful production

Why is this important?

Ametek Rotron is Woodstock’s largest employer. Located in buildings just out of sight, off Rte 375, Ametek Rotron makes high-tech fans, ball bearings and other essential parts for weapons used to terrorize and kill people the world over. Here in Woodstock Ametek Rotron is the sole supplier of such crucial parts as the fuel density probe for Predator drones. Ametek Rotron makes parts for missiles, nuclear weapons and many other weapons of death and destruction. In 2015 Ametek Rotron had $2,603,158 in Pentagon contracts. As most of us in Woodstock support peace and not war, the signers below request that Ametek Rotron explore how to convert its manufacturing facilities to support peace and not war.

Sign this petition at RootsAction

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tell Senator Reed to Stop Justifying Cluster Bomb Sales to Saudi Arabia!

From Code Pink
Last week, the House of Representatives failed to pass an amendment that would have halted the sale of U.S. made cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, which has used the munitions as part of their devastating military campaign against Yemen. Now as our hopes turn to the Senate, we’ve discovered it’s Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed who is leading the charge to keep the flow of weapons going – weapons manufactured in his own state by a company that donates to his political campaigns!
Tell Senator Reed to stop putting the interests of war profiteers over human rights, and end cluster bomb sales to Saudi Arabia!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

12 arrested calling for peaceful production instead of $4 billion destroyers

Twelve protesters were arrested last Saturday outside Bath Iron Works (Maine) before a ceremony began at the shipyard christening the Michael Monsoor, a guided missile destroyer.

The Global Network says: “We continue to call for the conversion of BIW to build rail, solar, wind and tidal power systems so the future generations can have a life. We need more help projecting this demand into the public consciousness.”

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Pentagon Excess Has Fueled a Civil-Military Crisis

How Civilian Control of the Military Has Become a Fantasy
By Gregory D. Foster

Published by TomDispatch

Item: Two U.S. Navy patrol boats, with 10 sailors aboard, “stray” into Iranian territorial waters, and are apprehended and held by Iranian revolutionary guards, precipitating a 24-hour international incident involving negotiations at the highest levels of government to secure their release. The Pentagon offers conflicting reports on why this happened: navigational error, mechanical breakdown, fuel depletion -- but not intelligence-gathering, intentional provocation, or hormonally induced hot-dogging.
Item: The Pentagon, according to a Reuters exposé, has been consciously and systematically engaged in thwarting White House efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and release cleared detainees. Pentagon officials have repeatedly refused to provide basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take those detainees and have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantanamo to assess them. Ninety-one of the 779 detainees held there over the years remain, 34 of whom have been cleared for release.
Item: The Pentagon elects not to reduce General David Petraeus in rank, thereby ensuring that he receives full, four-star retirement pay, after previously being sentenced on misdemeanor charges to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine for illegally passing highly classified material (a criminal offense) to his mistress (adultery, ordinarily punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and lying to FBI officials (a criminal offense). Meanwhile, Private Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning continues to serve a 35-year prison sentence, having been reduced to the Army’s lowest rank and given a dishonorable discharge for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks that included incriminating on-board videos of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed up to 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounded two children, and of a 2009 massacre in Afghanistan in which a B-1 bomber killed as many as 147 civilians, reportedly including some 93 children.

What do these episodes have in common? In their own way, they’re all symptomatic of an enduring crisis in civil-military relations that afflicts the United States.

Hyperbolic though it may sound, it is a crisis, though not like the Flint water crisis, or the international refugee crisis, or the ISIS crisis, or the Zika crisis.  It’s more like the climate crisis, or a lymphoma or termite infestation that destroys from within, unrecognized and unattended.  And yes, it’s an enduring crisis, a state of affairs that has been with us, unbeknownst to the public and barely acknowledged by purported experts on the subject of civil-military relations, for the past two decades or more. 
The essence of the situation begins, but doesn’t end, with civilian control of the military, where direction, oversight, and final decision-making authority reside with duly elected and appointed civil officials. That’s a minimalist precondition for democracy. A more ideal version of the relationship would be civilian supremacy, where there is civically engaged public oversight of strategically competent legislative oversight of strategically competent executive oversight of a willingly accountable, self-policing military. 
What we have today, instead, is the polar opposite: not civilian supremacy over, nor even civilian control of the military, but what could be characterized as civilian subjugation to the military, where civilian officials are largely militarily illiterate, more militaristic than the military itself, advocates for -- rather than overseers of -- the institution, and running scared politically (lest they be labeled weak on defense and security). 
That, then, is our lot today. Civilian authorities are almost unequivocally deferential to established military preferences, practices, and ways of thinking.  The military itself, as the three “items” above suggest, sets its own standards, makes and produces its own news, and appropriates policy and policymaking for its own ends, whatever civilian leadership may think or want. It is a demonstrably massive, self-propelled institution increasingly central to American life, and what it says and wants and does matters in striking ways. We would do well to consider the many faces of civil-military relations today, especially in light of the role the military has arrogated to itself. 
A Crisis Appears and Disappears 
University of North Carolina historian Richard Kohn raised the specter of a civil-military crisis in a 1994 National Interest article titled “Out of Control: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations.” He focused on the ill-disguised disdain of many in uniform for Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton, highlighting the particularly politicized behavior of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, who had spoken out in opposition to two prime items on the Clinton agenda: intervention in the Balkans and gays in the military. Typical of how the bounds of propriety had been crossed, Kohn also alluded to the example of the Air Force major general who, at a military gathering, contemptuously characterized the president as “gay-loving,” “pot-smoking,” “draft-dodging,” and “womanizing.” 
Too alarmist for many pundits, Kohn’s claim of a growing crisis gave way to the milder thought, advocated most forcefully by journalist Tom Ricks, that there was simply an increasing cultural, experiential, and ideological “gap” between the military and society, a thesis that itself then went dormant when George W. Bush entered office.
Those who profess expertise on civil-military relations have tended to focus almost exclusively on civilian control and the associated issue of the military’s political “neutrality.” That’s why so much attention and controversy were generated over President Obama’s highly publicized firing of General Stanley McChrystal for the climate he created that led to the disparagement of senior Obama officials by his subordinates (as reported in the 2010 Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General”). Yet far bigger and more fundamental matters have gone largely unnoticed. 
Civil-military relations are built on a tacit but binding social contract of mutual rights, obligations, and expectations among the military, its civilian overseers (executive and legislative), and society. Four things are expected of the military as part of this compact: operational competence, sound advice, political neutrality, and social responsibility. Operational competence and social responsibility are rarely even part of the discussion and yet they go to the heart of the crisis that exists, pointing both to the outsized presence of the military in American life and statecraft, and to a disturbingly pervasive pattern of misconduct over time among those in uniform. 
The Failure of Operational Competence 
If we enjoyed a truly healthy state of civil-military relations, it would be characterized by a strategically -- not just a militarily -- effective force. By implication, such a military would be capable of successfully accomplishing whatever it is called upon to do. The military we have today is, arguably, ineffective not only militarily but demonstrably strategically as well. It doesn’t prevent wars; it doesn’t win wars; and it certainly doesn’t secure and preserve the peace. 
No, the military doesn’t prevent wars. At any given time over the past quarter century, on average roughly 40 violent conflicts a year have been underway around the world. The U.S. military has had virtually no discernible influence on lessening the outbreak of such conflicts. It isn’t even clear that its size, configuration, and positioning, no less the staggering sums invested in it, have had any appreciable deterrent effect on the warring propensities of our so-called peer competitors (Russia and China). That they have not sought war with us is due far less to simplistic Washington assumptions about deterrence than to factors we don’t even grasp. 
And no, the military doesn’t win wars anymore. It hasn’t won one of note in 70 years. The dirty wars in the shadows it now regularly fights are intrinsically unwinnable, especially given our preferred American Way of War: killing people and breaking things as lethally, destructively, and overwhelmingly as possible. It’s an approach -- a state of mind -- still largely geared to a different type of conflict from an era now long since past and to those classic generals who are always preparing for the last war. That’s why today’s principal adversaries have been so uniformly effective in employing asymmetric methods as a form of strategic jujitsu to turn our presumed strengths into crippling weaknesses. 
Instead of a strategically effective military, what we have is quite the opposite: heavy, disproportionately destructive, indiscriminately lethal, single-mindedly combat-oriented, technology-dominant, exorbitantly expensive, unsustainably consumptive, and increasingly alienated from the rest of society. Just as important, wherever it goes, it provokes and antagonizes where it should reassure and thereby invariably fathers the mirror image of itself in others. 
Not surprisingly, the military today doesn’t secure and preserve peace, a concept no longer evident in Washington’s store of know-how. Those in uniform and in positions of civilian authority who employ the military subscribe almost universally and uncritically to the inherently illogical maxim that if you want peace, you had best prepare for war. The result is that the force being prepared (even engorged) feeds and nurtures pervasive militarism -- the primacy of, preference for, and deference to military solutions in the conduct of statecraft. Where it should provide security, it instead produces only self-defeating insecurity.  
Consider just five key areas where military preferences override civilian ones and accentuate all manner of insecurity in the process. 
Rapacious defense spending: The U.S. military budget exceeds that of the next 10 countries combined, as well as of the gross domestic products of all but 20 countries. At 54% of federal discretionary spending, it surpasses all other discretionary accounts combined, including government, education, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, housing, international affairs, energy and the environment, transportation, and agriculture. Thanks to the calculations of the National Priorities Project, we know that the total cost of American war since 2001 -- $1.6 trillion -- would have gotten us 19.5 million Head Start slots for 10 years or paid for 2.2 million elementary school teachers for a decade. A mere 1% of the defense budget for one year -- just over $5 billion -- would pay for 152,000 four-year university scholarships or 6,342 police officers for 10 years. What we spend on nuclear weapons alone each year -- $19.3 billion -- would cover a decade of low-income healthcare for 825,000 children or 549,000 adults. 
Promiscuous arms sales: The United States remains by far the world’s leading proliferator of conventional arms, accounting for some 50% of all global sales and 48% of all sales to the developing world. During the 2011-2014 period alone, U.S. weapons deliveries included a wide array of advanced weapons technologies: 104 tanks and self-propelled guns, 230 artillery pieces, 419 armored personnel vehicles, 48 supersonic aircraft and 58 other aircraft, 835 surface-to-air missiles, and 144 anti-ship missiles, much of that to the volatile Middle East. Skeptics would say that such transactions are motivated less by an urge to enable recipient countries to defend themselves than by the desire to buy influence abroad while aiding and abetting arms manufacturers at home. The result of such massive sales is, of course, the creation of yet more instability where stability should be.  ...
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