ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

North Korea can’t destroy the world, but the US and Russia almost have

North Korea can’t destroy the world – the US and Russia almost have

echo

North Korean soldiers turn and look towards leader Kim Jong Un as they carry packs marked with the nuclear symbol as they parade during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2013. Photo AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

North Korean soldiers turn and look towards leader Kim Jong Un as they carry packs marked with the nuclear symbol as they parade during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2013. Photo AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

 

John Hallam

For all the bloviating going on about the growing North Korean nuclear arsenal –which for sure bodes no-one any good at all- one would think that the DPRK and its wacky regime had the capability to make the planet uninhabitable and to put a question mark over human survival in an hour and a half. In order to do that it would need to have thousands of megaton or half megaton – sized nuclear warheads poised for launch in a minute or less.

In fact the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal, while slowly growing, consists of less than 20, and most likely around a dozen, very small fission nuclear weapons.

While the DPRK has trumpeted that its test of Jan 6 is of a hydrogen bomb, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. The explosion seems to have been around 6 kilotons, compared to previous DPRK explosions of approx four kilotons. This is not remotely near the size of even a trigger for a hydrogen device, which would be around 40 kilotons. The Hiroshima blast was between 10 and 15 kilotons, while early US and Soviet hydrogen weapons were around megaton size. The US Castle bravo blat in the Marshall islands was 15 megatons, while the largest nuclear device ever, the Soviet Tsar Bomba was of 60 megaton size.

Picking up the most recent DPRK blast was quite an achievement for the CTBT global monitoring system. The Tsar Bomba made seismographs worldwide go off scale.

The US and Russia each have around 1000 missile-based, silo-based, nuclear warheads able to be launched within a minute or less. Those warheads vary in size from a smallish 150 kilotons to 800 kilotons to a megaton. Russian warheads are significantly bigger than US ones. They also have a number of thousands of submarine-based warheads able to be launched in a few minutes, plus bomber-based warheads and so – called ‘tactical nukes’ which are (relatively) small weapons mounted on shorter- range missiles for ‘war fighting’ and battlefield use. DPRK nukes would qualify as the extreme smallest end of the ‘tactical nuke’ category.

Most alarming however is the fact that US and Russian nuclear warheads are maintained in a state such that the silo-based weapons at least, can be launched in seconds, based on computerised, space-based, warning systems.

There have been at least a dozen occasions from the 1960s onwards in which the fate of the planet has been in the balance, with sirens in nuclear command centres wailing and secretaries of defence and national security advisers awoken in the small hours of the morning as computers in the US indicated thousands of incoming Soviet warheads….because of a faulty 40 cent microchip in Colorado. In Russia we owe our existence to Colonel Stanislav Petrov, who on 26 Sept (now the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons) as sirens wailed at the Serpukhov15 warning centre, decided NOT to take steps that would have resulted in the launch of over 10,000 up to megaton sized warheads at the US and its allies.

The risk of nuclear war NOW, in 2016, is not only still with us but has grown by orders of magnitude in the last few years. The doomsday clock stands as it did in 1983, at three minutes to midnight. Yesterdays nuclear test by the DPRK does not help, and certainly makes the world a more dangerous place. But the DPRKs piffling little nuclear arsenal can’t of itself, destroy the world. The danger is that the DPRK’s test will give other governments an excuse to say ‘see- the world is a dangerous place. We must keep our own nuclear weapons’, when the monster arsenals that the US and Russia continue to hold CAN still destroy the world, and the risk of THAT taking place is as great as it was in 1983 when Colonel Stan made his fateful and fortunate decision.

The DPRK’s test shows if we needed to be shown, that the time to eliminate nuclear weapons is now.

John Hallam is spokesperson for People for Nuclear Disarmament NSW.

Advertisements

Is Trump Really Turning Into Obama?

Trump shifts to echo key parts of Obama foreign policy

seattletime times

 

 

The Trump administration demands that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatens Iran with sanctions for its recent ballistic-missile tests.

President Trump, after promising a radical break with the foreign policy of Barack Obama, is embracing key pillars of the former administration’s strategy, including suggesting that Israel curb construction of settlements, demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatening Iran with sanctions for ballistic-missile tests.

In the most startling shift, the Trump White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, “may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.

At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley said the U.S. would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled its troops out of Crimea.

On Iran, the administration is preparing a set of economic sanctions similar to what the Obama administration imposed on Iran just over a year ago. The Trump administration has also shown no indication that it plans to rip up Obama’s landmark nuclear deal, despite Trump’s withering criticism of it during the presidential campaign.

New administrations often fail to change the foreign policies of their predecessors as radically as they promised, in large part because statecraft is so different from campaigning. And today’s positions could shift over time. There is no doubt the Trump administration has staked out new ground on trade and immigration, upending relations with Mexico and large parts of the Muslim world in the process.

But the Trump administration’s reversals were particularly stark because they came after days of tempestuous phone calls between Trump and foreign leaders, in which he gleefully challenged diplomatic orthodoxy and appeared to jeopardize one relationship after another.

Trump, for example, made warmer relations with Russia the centerpiece of his foreign policy during the campaign, and European leaders were steeling themselves for him to lift the sanctions that they and Obama imposed on President Vladimir Putin after he annexed Crimea. But Thursday, his U.N. ambassador, Haley, sounded a lot like her predecessor, Samantha Power.

“We do want to better our relations with Russia,” Haley said in her first remarks to an open session of the U.N. Security Council. “However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”

Similarly, Trump presented himself during the campaign as a stalwart supporter of Israel and sharply criticized the Obama administration for allowing the passage of a resolution in December at the Security Council that condemned Israel for its expansion of settlements.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace,” the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said in a statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.’’

The statement noted that the president “has not taken an official position on settlement activity.” It said Trump would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they meet Feb. 15, in effect telling him to wait until then.

Trump’s shift came after he met briefly with King Abdullah II of Jordan on the sidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, an encounter that put the king, one of the most respected leaders of the Arab world, before Netanyahu in seeing the new president. Jordan, with its large Palestinian population, has been steadfastly critical of settlements.

The administration’s abrupt shift also coincided with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first day at the State Department, and the arrival of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in South Korea on his first trip in that role.

Both men are viewed as potentially exerting a moderating influence on the president and his cadre of advisers.

With Iran, the administration has indisputably taken a harder line than its predecessor. While the Obama administration often looked for reasons to avoid confrontation with Iran in its last year in office, Trump seems equally eager to challenge what he has said is an Iranian expansion across the region, especially in Iraq and Yemen.

In an early morning tweet Thursday, Trump was bombastic on Iran. “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile,” he wrote. “Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!” In the second tweet, he said wrongly that “Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a lifeline in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion.”

Still, the administration has been careful not to specify what it meant when the national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, said Wednesday that Iran had been put “on notice” for its missile test and for the arming and training of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The new sanctions could be announced as soon as Friday. Most experts have said they will have little practical effect, because the companies that supply missile parts rarely have direct business with the U.S., and allies have been reluctant to reimpose sanctions after many were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear accord.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, replied, “This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran,” according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. “The American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless.”

Some analysts said they worried that the administration did not have tools, short of military action, to back up its warning to Iran. “Whether the Trump administration intended it or not, they have created their own red line,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The policy shifts came after a turbulent week, when Trump also clashed with the leaders of Australia and Mexico over one of the most fraught issues of his new presidency: immigration. He defended the tense exchanges as an overdue display of toughness by a United States that has been exploited “by every nation in the world, virtually.”

“They’re tough; we have to be tough. It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks,” Trump told the prayer breakfast Thursday. “It’s not going to happen anymore.”

A senior administration official disputed a report that Trump threatened to send troops to Mexico to deal with that country’s “bad hombres.” He insisted that Trump’s conversation last Friday with President Enrique Peña Nieto was “actually very friendly,” and that the president was speaking in jest.

What Happens When All We Have Left Is War?

 

 

 

(Photo: David B. Gleason)(Photo: David B. Gleason; Edited: LW / TO)

At over $600 billion a year and counting, the Pentagon already receives significantly more than its fair share of federal funds. If President Donald Trump has his way, though, that will prove a sum for pikers and misers. He and his team are now promising that spending on defense and homeland security will increase dramatically in the years to come, even as domestic programs are slashed and entire civilian agencies shuttered.

The new administration is reportedly considering a plan — modeled on proposals from the military-industrial-complex-backed Heritage Foundation — that would cut a staggering $10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade. The Departments of Energy, Commerce, Transportation, and State might see their budgets slashed to the bone; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized; and (though the money involved would amount to chicken feed) the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities would be eliminated altogether. In the meantime, the ranks of the Army and Marines would be expanded, a huge naval buildup would be launched, and a new Star Wars-style missile defense system would be developed — all at a combined cost of up to $1 trillion beyond the already munificent current Pentagon plans for that same decade.

The specifics won’t be known until Trump’s first budget becomes public in perhaps April or May, but as we wait for it, Republican Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has just taken the unusual step of releasing his own spending blueprint for the military. It suggests that a key senator and the president and his team are on the same page when it comes to military funding. At an extra $430 billion over the next five years, the numbers in McCain’s plan are similar to the potential Trump buildup.

One thing is already clear: this drastic tilt toward yet more Pentagon spending and away from investment in diplomacy abroad and civilian needs at home will only further militarize American society, accelerate inequality, and distort the country’s already highly questionable foreign policy. After all, if your military is the only well-funded, well-stocked arm of the government, it’s obvious whom you’re going to turn to in any crisis.

This process was already visibly underway even before Donald Trump took the oath of office. His gut decision to entrust national security policymaking only to military figures was particularly troubling. From National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Secretary of Defense James Mattis to head of the Department of Homeland Security John Kelly, retired generals and other ex-military types now abound in his administration. Defense analyst and former White House budget official Gordon Adams summed up the risks of this approach recently in this way:

“Putting military officers in charge of the entire architecture of national security reinforces the trend toward militarizing policy and risks cementing in place ‘the military-industrial complex’ that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of. To borrow the psychologist Abraham H. Maslow’s words, if all the men around President Trump are hammers, the temptation will be ‘to treat everything as if it were a nail.'”

How the Military Came to Dominate Foreign Policy

President Trump won’t, of course, be starting from scratch in his urge to further elevate the military in foreign and domestic affairs. He’s building on a process that’s already well under way. In the Obama years, for instance, there were a record number of drone strikes, especially outside official US war zones — 10 times the number launched by the Bush administration. Similarly, the Obama administration paved the way for various Trumpian urges by waging wars on multiple fronts and instituting a historic crackdown on whistleblowers in the military and the intelligence communities. It also approved record levels of US arms sales abroad, $278 billion worth of them, or more than double those of the Bush years. (In Trumpian terms: jobs!)

In addition, as part of his pledge to avoid large, “boots-on-the-ground” conflicts like the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, President Obama oversaw a sharp increase in the size of the US Special Operations forces, sending them abroad to arm, train, and fight alongside militaries in 138 countries in 2016. Think of this approach — having a “lighter footprint” while expanding the number of conflicts the United States is involved in — as a case of what I’ve called “politically sustainable warfare.” It seems cheaper, is far less visible, and involves fewer US casualties than full-scale invasions and occupations.

In these years, the Pentagon has also continued to encroach on turf previously occupied by the State Department and the Agency for International Development, including funding its own arms and training programs and engaging in economic development projects. Under the euphemistic term “building partner capacity,” the Pentagon now has the authority to arm and train foreign military forces through no less than 70 separate programs.

To be fair, the drift toward military dominance of foreign policy began well before Barack Obama took office. In her 2003 book The Mission, Dana Priest of the Washington Post described the increasing role of regional combatant commanders in shaping policymaking in Washington. They could leverage their greater resources and close connections to foreign leaders to outstrip US ambassadors in power and influence. And their growing role was just a symptom of a larger problem that Priest described at the time and that has only become more obvious in the years since: the urge of American leaders to turn to the military for solutions to problems “that are often, at their root, political and economic.” As retired General Anthony Zinni, former head of the US Central Command, noted for instance, “There is no military solution to terrorism.” That’s a conclusion shared by other American military leaders, but one that has had little effect on US efforts to use force as the primary tool for combatting terrorism in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, a process that has only led to more failed and failing states and the further spread of terror groups.

Donald Trump may indeed gut the diplomatic corps, but don’t forget that State Department funding was long ago overwhelmed by the largesse available to what the new president regularly refers to as our depleted” military. The Pentagon’s budget is today more than 12 times as large as the State Department’s, a disparity sure to grow in the years to come. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted some years ago, there are more military personnel stationed on one aircraft carrier task force than trained diplomats in the US Foreign Service. And keep in mind that the United States currently has 10 active aircraft carriers, which themselves will be just a small part of the Trump administration’s proposed 350-ship Navy.

Even the intelligence community is likely to be further militarized in the Trump years. While he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Advisor Michael Flynn tried to increase its influence at the expense of the CIA. Expect him to attempt to seize control of the nation’s intelligence apparatus and put it in service to his own distorted view of the world. From failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union to allowing itself to be used to put forward misleading information about Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, the US Intelligence Community has hardly covered itself in glory. Still, it does contain a cadre of professional analysts who can provide sitting presidents with actual information contradicting prevailing prejudices. This was even true in the case of Iraq, where a number of analysts dissented from the claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons, while others only acquiesced after being browbeaten by Vice President Dick Cheney and the band of neoconservatives in his office.

In the years to come, expect the Cheney model of intelligence manufacturing to be replicated, especially by Flynn, whose extreme views include a belief that Islam is not a real religion, that Iran is the “linchpin” of a global anti-American coalition of enemies extending from Cuba and Venezuela to North Korea, China, and Russia, and that Islamic “Sharia law” is actually being imposed in parts of our country. Flynn’s views on Islam would have been beyond the pale for a top adviser in any prior administration. Now, however, he’s positioned to regularly press his views on Donald Trump, who doesn’t read and seems inclined to believe the last person he talks to.

A Military-First Administration

To imagine how Flynn might wield his new power, consider his attempt, while still at the DIA, to get subordinates to prove that Iran was the “hidden hand” behind the 2012 attacks on the US compound in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens. As the New York Times reported, “Like many other investigations into Benghazi, theirs found no evidence of any links, and the general’s stubborn insistence reminded some officials at the agency of how the Bush administration had once relentlessly sought to connect Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

Trump and his men now seem poised to purge the CIA and other intelligence agencies of analysts who might have opinions contrary to their own fantasy view of the world. Expect Flynn, in particular, to try to shape the intelligence community’s products towards his ends while serving as interpreter of last resort for the president. Getting Trump to swallow intelligence assessments skewed toward his particular set of prejudices and inclinations should be an easy feat, given that he can’t even acknowledge the size of the crowd at his own inauguration or let go of the demonstrably false claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election.

The only likely obstacle to Flynn’s ambitions to impose his twisted view of the world on Trump is the other “big league” Islamophobe in the administration, White House counselor Steve Bannon. As a recent New York Times account noted, Bannon has already attempted to outmaneuver Flynn in the battle for access to the president on foreign policy issues and his elevation to the National Security Council at the expense of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence is just the latest indication of how influential he’s likely to be in shaping Trump’s foreign policy agenda. This is hardly good news, as on certain issues he may be even more extreme than Flynn, if that’s possible.

Trump’s predictably militarized approach to policymaking could have serious impacts on the domestic front as well. On his fifth day in office, for example, he threatened by tweet to “send in the Feds” to Chicago if the city government didn’t take steps to “end the carnage” there. It was unclear whether he meant federal law enforcement personnel or federal troops, a vagueness troubling in its own right. And don’t forget that his pledge to “build a wall” ensures a significant jump in funding for the further militarization of the US-Mexico border, already being patrolled by unarmed drones and growing numbers of armed federal agents. After all, it took him just days after his inauguration to announce a plan to add 5,000 personnel to the Border Patrol and 10,000 agents to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

As in all matters Trumpian, some will say we shouldn’t take him at his word, or that we should wait for his first budget proposal and other such documents to see what he’s really going to do. But the evidence is already abundant that the Trump administration is on a path toward undermining our democracy by pouring taxpayer dollars galore into the US military. This will happen despite the fact that, 15 years after 9/11, that military has won nothing and settled no conflicts to Washington’s advantage, even as terror groups have spread across the Greater Middle East and Africa. It’s a decade-and-a-half-long record that should lead to almost any other set of plans than the ones the Trump administration clearly has in mind. But don’t tell them. They could care less.

Frightening as it may be, it’s important to recognize that Trump’s impulse to further militarize American society is by no means a done deal. Democrats in the Senate are in a position to stop him by voting as a bloc against any proposal to dramatically ratchet up spending on the Pentagon, which would deprive Republicans of the 60 votes they need to move forward on a spending proposal. In addition, the new president’s plans to pump up the Pentagon, dramatically slash taxes, invest in expensive new programs like the border wall, and create a trillion dollar infrastructure plan could set the stage for massive deficits that will undoubtedly unnerve constituencies ranging from fiscal conservatives to important sectors of the business community.

And keep in mind that significant numbers of military and intelligence professionals truly believe in civilian control of the military and don’t want to take on tasks unrelated to traditional military missions. In addition, Trump has already pledged to target overpriced weapons systems like the F-35 and force the Pentagon to get its books in order so it can at last pass an audit. Whether or not he follows through on these promises, he will have put them on the public agenda, reinforcing one reality: the way so much of the money currently going to the Pentagon has more to do with lining the pockets of contractors than with defending the United States and its allies.

The military-first direction in which Trump is going to take his administration will predictably lead to yet more militarized policies in the world. It’s that hammer and nail again. He should take a lesson from history by listening to the speeches of the former Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a military man who also rose to the pinnacle of power in Washington. As president, Eisenhower not only spoke out against the dangers of the military-industrial complex but also stressed that America’s power is ultimately rooted in the strength of its economy and the health of its citizens, not in seeking magical military solutions or in overspending on the Pentagon. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is no Dwight D. Eisenhower.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

Confusing Facts and Fake News In Saudi Frigate Attack In Yemen Story

[Missile fired at Saudi frigate by Houthi rebels cursing Israel ]

Was Houthi attack on Saudi ship intended for US?

al arabiya

Two Saudi sailors were killed during the attack that was carried out by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea using three boats (File Photo: AP)

The suicide attack against a Saudi frigate off the Yemen coast, in which two sailors died, might have been intended for a US ship Fox News reported, citing two defense officials.

Two Saudi sailors were killed during the attack that was carried out by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea using three boats.

The Saudi warship “dealt with the boats”, but one of them “collided with the back of the ship and exploded and caused a fire” killing two and injuring three more.

But American intelligence officials say that after analyzing video footage of the attack a voice can be heard shouting in Arabic: “Allahu akbar [God is great], death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory for Islam.”

Now US defense analysts say they believe either the attacking forces thought the bombers were targeting an American navy warship, or they were carrying out a dress rehearsal Fox News reported.

The attack happened close to where US Navy warships came under missile attack in October last year.

The defense officials told Fox News they were concerned by the recent incident, but that they were confident American navy ships were capable of defending themselves.

President Donald Trump had spoken to Saudi’s King Salman the day before the most recent attack.

WATCH: How the attack was carried out

Video is in Arabic

Last
%d bloggers like this: