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Charlottesville City Council Peace Resolution Faces Challenge Tonight

The Charlottesville City Council in Charlottesville, Va., is set to vote on a resolution this evening urging Congress to reduce military spending and not to launch a new war on Iran.  Four members of the five-member council publicly expressed their support for such a measure at the last meeting two weeks ago: Dave Norris, Dede Smith, Kristin Szakos, and Satyandra Huja. The City manager asked the councilors to submit any proposed changes by the following Friday, a process that resulted in this text for the resolution.

Now the fifth council member, Kathy Galvin, together with Satyendra Huja, has proposed an alternative resolution (Word doc) that omits any reference to war on Iran or to the existence of both ground and drone wars, claims the military is protecting our rights despite the erosion of our rights facilitated by war, inaccurately describes the powers the Constitution gives the President, expresses support for the office of the President less than a month after the power to imprison people without trial was made a part of that office, asks the President and Congress to "continue" working to redirect military spending to domestic priorities which falsely implies that such work is already underway, eliminates a paragraph pointing to the tradeoffs our wealthy nation makes in comparison with other countries by funding the military so heavily, and claims that reducing military spending might endanger the safety of troops.

Galvin also questions some assertions made in the existing draft resolution.  She adds "it has been estimated" to the second paragraph despite the clear evidence: (PDF).  Again, in the seventh paragraph, the evidence is clear here and here.

All that is necessary for the City Council to reject this last-minute altered resolution and pass the version that is already on the agenda is for Norris, Smith, and Szakos, a three-member majority, not to alter their positions.

Charlottesville has a chance to make a real difference in the world by speaking against both excessive military spending and a war on Iran.  Doing so will be noticed in Iran, where tensions are very high.  It will also be noticed in the United States.  People in cities around the country are asking how they can follow Charlottesville's lead.  They can only do so if Charlottesville does lead.

Charlottesville City Council spoke against attacking Iraq in 2003.  Because of that kind of effort there are now more ears prepared to hear a similar warning this time. The danger of a much larger, and potentially nuclear, war, and the case against it are very clear.

Our lives begin to end, Martin Luther King Jr. said, the day we become silent about things that matter.

Does the danger of senseless slaughter in a nation of 75 million not matter?

Does the potential of wider war among a number of nations not matter?

Does the $100 million that Charlottesville City tax payers hand over to military spending every year not matter when our schools and health and transportation and energy systems are falling behind?

I for one am very grateful that we have at least three courageous members of City Council who are about to honor Dr. Martin Luther King in a very meaningful way.

King opposed the war in Vietnam for the last three years of his life.  He said:

"A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.' This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

 

Radio on the Military Industrial Complex at 50

On Charlottesville Right Now: Listen.

On Radio Or Not: Listen.

 

The Military Industrial Complex at 50

MIC50 Front Cover

Published today, MLK Day 2012: The Military Industrial Complex at 50 is the most comprehensive collection available explaining what the military industrial complex (MIC) is, where it comes from, what damage it does, what further destruction it threatens, and what can be done and is being done to chart a different course.

Get your copy: http://MIC50.org

The authors (from within and without the MIC) include: Ellen Brown - Paul Chappell - Helena Cobban - Ben Davis - Jeff Fogel - Bunny Greenhouse - Bruce Gagnon - Clare Hanrahan - John Heuer - Steve Horn - Robert Jensen - Karen Kwiatkowski - Judith Le Blanc - Bruce Levine - Ray McGovern - Wally Myers - Robert Naiman - Gareth Porter - Chris Rodda - Allen Ruff - Mia Austin Scoggins - Tony Russell - Lisa Savage - Mary Beth Sullivan - Coleman Smith - Dave Shreve - David Swanson - Pat Elder - Jonathan Williams - Ann Wright.

Short bios of the authors are available here http://davidswanson.org/node/3511

The book is available at MIC50.org in paperback, bulk discount, audio, PDF, kindle, Epub, and iPad/iPhone.

The MIC, this book expertly argues, kills large numbers of people, endangers us, hollows out our economy, transfers our wealth to a tiny elite, devastates the natural environment, and threatens civil liberties, the rule of law, and representative government.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower found the nerve in his farewell speech in 1961 to articulate one of the most prescient, potentially valuable, and tragically as yet unheeded warnings of human history:

    "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous ris e of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

This collection shows that the "total influence" of the MIC has increased, the disastrous rise of misplaced power is no longer merely a potential event, our liberties and democratic processes are in a state of collapse, and that Ike himself disastrously misinformed the citizenry when he claimed that the very monster he warned of had been "compelled" by the need for "defense."

Get your copy: http://MIC50.org

Hugo Chavez, Drugs, Guantanamo Bay and Vultures

 

By John Grant

 

Hugo Chavez is at it again, sticking his thumb into the eye of the overbearing United States of America. And, true to imperial historical form, the US is playing the outraged hemispherical nanny and blustering back.

 

Chavez is currently playing a round of the game my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend and is hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Caracas. The Iranian president is on a tour of friendly leftist regimes in Latin America, while the leaders of our great nation whistle and look at the ceiling when Israeli agents murder Iranian scientists in broad daylight.

 

The Budgies are Listless

 

By Charles M. Young

 

On Thursday, January 5, I was waiting for the elevator in the lobby of my building when I was joined by a woman who lives up the hall from me. She was carrying a grocery bag with The New York Times poking out the top. “Why did you buy it?” I asked. “They just raised the price to $2.50. Who can afford that for a daily newspaper?”

“I have a very large birdcage,” she said. “It’s the only newspaper that fits the bottom of my birdcage.”

My neighbor is a classical musician who makes a living at it. She pays attention to politics and votes. She buys things. She’s a little older than the actors playing obedient yuppies in the NYT commercials that beg for subscriptions, but is otherwise their ideal reader.

Another Day, Another Proposal from Panetta to Cut the Military Budget By Not Cutting It

From Bloomberg:

Defense spending in 2013 would be reduced 1 percent from this year’s initial $525.3 billion request before growing annually 1.8 percent in 2014, 2.3 percent in 2015, dropping to 1.9 percent in 2016 and increasing 2.2 percent in 2017, according to a Nov. 29 Office of Management and Budget document.  The administration plans $82.54 billion in funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars for 2013, according to OMB.

White House and State Department are in No Position to Issue Credible Denials Regarding Spying Charges

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

I wouldn’t want to be Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the 28-year-old former US Marine just recently sentenced to death by a court in Iran after being convicted of being an American spy.

 

Hekmati, who was born in Arizona to Iranian exile parents, and who grew up in Michigan, is being defended by President Obama, whose White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, declared, “Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false.” The White House, not content with that denial, went on to trash the Iranian government and legal system, with Vietor adding, “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”

 

Defense Budgets and Cavemen

by Gwynne Dyer

If you’re not allowed to enslave people any more, or even loot their resources, then what is the point of being a traditional great power?

The United States kept an army of over 100,000 soldiers in Iraq for eight years, at a cost that will probably end up around a trillion dollars. Yet it didn’t enslave a single Iraqi (though it killed quite a lot), and throughout the occupation it paid full market price for Iraqi oil. So what American purpose did the entire enterprise serve?

Oh, silly me. I forgot. It was about “security”. And here it comes again, on an even bigger scale.

Obama's Pentagon Strategy: A Leaner, More Efficient Empire

By Charles Davis and Medea Benjamin

In an age when U.S. power can be projected through private mercenary armies and unmanned Predator drones, the U.S. military need no longer rely on massive, conventional ground forces to pursue its imperial agenda, a fact President Barack Obama is now acknowledging. But make no mistake: while the tactics may be changing, the U.S. taxpayer – and poor foreigners abroad – will still be saddled with overblown military budgets and militaristic policies.

Speaking January 5 alongside his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the president announced a shift in strategy for the American military, one that emphasizes aerial campaigns and proxy wars as opposed to “long-term nation-building with large military footprints.” This, to some pundits and politicians, is considered a tectonic shift.

They're Still "Cutting" the Military By Increasing It

From Miriam Pemberton:

The glaring question is, in this portrait of a smaller, leaner military, what happened to the idea of saving money? The speech Obama gave when he presented the plan was contradictory on this point. He first referred to necessary reductions in military spending, and then promised that the Pentagon's budget "will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership."

How can he have it both ways? A look at the approximately $523-billion military budget proposal that experts expect him to release after the upcoming State of the Union address provides the answer. That proposed military budget, which excludes the hundreds of billions of dollars Washington spends on nuclear weapons, the wars we're actually fighting, and subsidies for foreign arms sales, would be bigger than last year's. It would be smaller than what the administration had said last year it had in mind for 2013.

Killer Cops Aren't Heroes: We Need Police Who Think Like Firefighters, Not Like Soldiers in a War Zone

By Dave Lindorff

 

The sad slaying of troubled eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez in Brownsville by trigger-happy local police illustrates the sad an dangerous state we have arrived at as we turn our local police forces into SWAT team soldiers up-armed with assault rifles, black facemasks and stun grenades.

The reason Gonzalez, who had no hostages and was just armed with a pellet gun, was killed by police bullets was because the primary concern of the officers confronting him was to eliminate the threat to themselves, not to rescue a troubled kid.

Pentagon Plan: More Drones, Increased Presence in Asia

Here's the new plan that was announced today. Check out the play by play on my twitter feed.

This is from Common Dreams using Institute for Public Accuracy:

US stoking fears for public to support "the next wild burgeoning arms race in the Pacific."

At a news briefing at the Pentagon today, President Obama revealed today his strategy for a new defense strategy.

“This ‘slimmed down’ plan continues the trend to rely increasingly on fighting the two wars with technology (drones) and ‘precision’ strategic bombing," stated Beau Grosscup, professor of international relations at California State University in Chico. In the preamble to the new plan, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, Obama writes:

As we end today's wars and reshape our Armed Forces, we will ensure that our miltary is agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies. In particular, we will continue to invest in the capabilities critical to future success, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; counterterrorism; countering weapons of mass destruction; operating in anti-access environments; and prevailing in all domains, including cyber.

While media has focused on fiscal tightening creating defense budget cuts, some experts question whether austerity measures have really hit the military.

Catherine Lutz, chair of the department of anthropology at Brown University, stated:

[T]he new proposal for Department of Defense base budget reductions over the next five years represents only a 4 percent decline in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, according to the Project on Defense Alternatives. And the Pentagon’s budget will remain far larger than it was ten years ago. On top of this, all of these calculations exclude, as they should not, billions in funding for the current wars.

The new defense plan also calls for an increased presence in Asia/Pacific region. From the plan:

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Alice Slater, the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and member of the coordinating committee of Abolition 2000, a disarmament coalition, stated today:

On a recent trip to Australia, Obama opened a new military base there that will grow to 2,500 troops and promised that ‘we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.’ A Pentagon report warned Congress that China was increasing its naval power and investing in high-tech weaponry to extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond. What did we expect? And now having provoked China to beef up its military assets the warmongers in the U.S. can frighten the public into supporting the next wild burgeoning arms race in the Pacific and what appears to be the threat of endless war.

The strategy outlined also entails an increase in the use of drones. “This ‘slimmed down’ plan continues the trend to rely increasingly on fighting the two wars with technology (drones) and ‘precision’ strategic bombing," stated Beau Grosscup, professor of international relations at California State University in Chico.

Slater also stated:

It seems that we are moving to a more mechanized war-fighting posture cutting out military forces below the previously planned cuts from 570,000 to 520,000 to an Army of 490,000 troops. However we will be increasing our reliance on drone attacks, that have now been used by Obama in several countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina writing for the Arms Control Association note that the strategy says nothing about the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.  They write:

Panetta said that the plan will maintain a “safe and effective nuclear deterrent,” but did not explain how many nuclear weapons will be required for deterrence or how much we can afford to keep spending to maintain and modernize that force.

However, the strategy document “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense” clearly says that “It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.”

Obama Arms Dealer

From Robert Scheer:

Not only has Obama been a savior of the banking conglomerates that so generously financed his campaign, but he also has proved to be equally as solicitous of the needs of the military-industrial complex. He entered his re-election year by signing a $662 billion defense authorization bill that strips away some of our most fundamental liberties and keeps military spending at Cold War levels, and by approving a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Actually higher than Cold War levels.

Killing Kids is So American

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

According to news reports, 15-year-old  eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez, who was shot and killed yesterday by police in his middle school in Brownsville, TX, was hit three times: twice in the chest and once “from the back of the head.” 

 

Police say they were called by school authorities because Gonzalez was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a realistic-looking pellet gun, a weapon that uses compressed air to fire a metal pellet which, while perhaps a threat to the eye, does not pose a serious threat to life.

 

AP Covers Upcoming Announcement Today from Obama and Panetta of Proposals for Minor Military Cuts That Could Get Us Back to 2007 Levels

WASHINGTON (AP)President Obama is putting his personal stamp on a rejiggered Pentagon strategy for absorbing hundreds of billions of dollars in defense budget cuts, marking a turning point in U.S. security policy after a decade of war.

Obama planned to make a rare appearance in the Pentagon press briefing room Thursday to announce results of a strategy review that he ordered last spring. The aim was twofold: Streamline the military in an era of tighter budgets and reassess defense priorities in light of China's rise and other global changes.

Iraq's Military Brass Coming to Las Vegas So YOU Can Sell Them WMDs - Then in 20 Years We'll KNOW They've Got Them and: War Time!

Be a part of this fabulous plan that's NEVER EVER been tried before.  Here's how:

Sixth Iraq Aviation and Defense Summit

                              February 16-17, 2012 Las Vegas, Nevada                             

Dear Colleague,

Our Brave Drones Are Taking Over Colorado — At Our Expense

Not 1 More Acre!
PO Box 773
Trinidad, Colorado  81082
 
Visit our website: www.not1moreacre.net
Email us:  news@not1moreacre.net

 
  
Under cover of another sham environmental analysis and public disclosure document, the Pentagon made clear today its decision to waste nearly $5 billion taxpayer dollars to establish drone warfare training across southeastern Colorado. 
 
$5 billion taxpayer dollars are being spent to build a new
Combat Aviation Brigade complete with Grey Eagles and other drones.
 
Their decision flies in the face of reality: 
  • our national security doesn't need it; 
  • taxpayers strongly oppose it;
  • for six years Congress has said "no" to military expansion across the last intact shortgrass prairie;
  • the federal court said "no" to expanded military training at Piñon Canyon.  
The Combat Aviation Brigade is an unprecedented escalation of military expansion prohibited across southeastern Colorado.
 
Call Senator Mark Udall, the politician pushing the new Combat Aviation Brigade and $5 billion for it.
 
202.224.5941
 
Tell him to stop. 
 
Democracy doesn't work without us.  
 
Please call now.
 
202.225.5941
 

Time Cheers the Drone War

By Peter Hart, FAIR

The new issue of  Time magazine promises on its cover "Essential Info for the Year Ahead." One apparently essential report: U.S. drones are awesome.

The report--written by Mark Thompson, available to subscribers only explains that a "hot military trend" this way:

Today's generals and admirals want weapons that are smaller, remote-controlled and bristling with intelligence. In short, more drones that can tightly target terrorists, deliver larger payloads and are some of the best spies the U.S. has ever produced, even if they occasionally get captured in Iran or crash on landing at secret bases.

And also, you know, kill innocent civilians.

There's no time to dwell on that, because there are too many good things to say about our remote-control war. "Drones had a big year in 2011," Thompson writes, and 2012 will be even bigger. As Time readers learn, "Unlike humans, these weapons don't need sleep."

And best of all, apparently, the military aren't the only ones doing the killing:

America's arsenal has become so small and lethal, you don't need the U.S. Army--or any military service at all, in fact--to field and wield them. The CIA, which used to be limited to derringers and exploding cigars, is now not very secretly flying drones. With little public acknowledgment and minimal congressional oversight, these clandestine warriors have killed some 2,000 people identified as terrorists lurking in shadows around the globe since 9/11.

The British Bureau of Investigative Journalism's investigation of the CIA drone program in Pakistan (8/10/11) stressed less of the gee-whiz and more the real-life consequences of the attacks. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 390 to 780-- including almost 200 children. U.S. officials, for the record, were once making absurd claims that no innocents were killed.

As for the apparent enthusiasm for waging a war where "you don't need the U.S. Army" at all--that is precisely one of the criticisms of the drone program; some legal experts argue that non-military personnel are not legal combatants, and therefore killing every one of those 2,000 "people identified as terrorists" was a war crime. Others point out that employing drones outside an active combat zone could also violate international law. But none of that is "Essential Info" for 2012.

Charlottesville City Council Prepares to Support Peace

At the first meeting of the new Charlottesville, Va., City Council Tuesday evening, four of the five city council members publicly expressed their intention to support a resolution asking Congress to reduce military spending, a resolution likely to be discussed and voted on at the council's next meeting on the evening of January 16th, Martin Luther King Day. The fifth member expressed no view, so the possibility exists for unanimous support.  One of the four members who expressed support for the draft resolution that we had proposed added that he would like to see it amended to also oppose the launching of a war against Iran.  Another member also expressed an interest in revising the draft in some unspecified way prior to the next meeting.

The City of Charlottesville posts videos of its meetings online, but the video that can be downloaded and edited includes no audio, so I'm unable to show you just the relevant bits of the meeting.  However, you can find them with the handy-dandy guide below this video:

Get Microsoft Silverlight

First come 3-minute public comments from some of us in support of the resolution.  Scroll ahead to . . . 17:07 for Brandon Collins, immediately followed at 20:43 by David Swanson.  Jump ahead to 34:36 for Kirk Bowers, and to 38:30 for Nancy Carpenter.  Then at 47:20 Stratton speaks on another issue but connects it very well to this one.

Following public comments, each of the five city council members replied briefly. First new member Kathy Galvin spoke on other topics and did not mention the resolution at all.  Next, at 53:28 new member Dede Smith spoke in support of the resolution, and at 54:22 Kristin Szakos did so as well but suggested that it should be voted on at the next meeting on MLK Day, while at 55:10 Dave Norris spoke in support of the resolution and of adding to it opposition to attacking Iran.  Norris's term as mayor ended at this meeting, but as mayor in 2011 he had been an early supporter of the resolution passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors asking Congress to reduce military spending.  Brand new mayor Satyendra Huja spoke last and did not touch the topic at that point.

Now, enjoy lots of unrelated discussion or jump way ahead to 2:35:30 for Pat Lloyd, another member of the public who speaks up for the resolution. Then skip ahead to 2:49:48 at which point Mayor Huja says that he too supports the resolution, and Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones asks the five members to submit any proposed edits to the resolution to him (or to "staff") by the end of this week.

The book that I present to the Mayor in the video can be found at http://MIC50.org

Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice is supporting this resolution.

UPDATE: Meeting will be on 17th, not 16th.

Cut the Military Budget on the NY Times Website

Sanity invades the NYTimes website.  You can cut the US military budget here. Hint: just scroll down past all the benefits for troops and veterans that the Times leads with, check everything else, and you'll cut well over $1 trillion / 10 years.

Military Budget Cuts Through the Looking Glass of the New York Times

NYT:

There is broad agreement on the left, right and center that $450 billion in cuts over a decade — the amount that the White House and Pentagon agreed to last summer — is acceptable. That is about 8 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget. But there is intense debate about an additional $500 billion in cuts that may have to be made if Congress follows through with deeper reductions.

Mr. Panetta and defense hawks say a reduction of $1 trillion, about 17 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget, would be ruinous to national security. Democrats and a few Republicans say that it would be painful but manageable; they add that there were steeper military cuts after the Cold War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

“Even at a trillion dollars, this is a shallower build-down than any of the last three we’ve done,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “It would still be the world’s most dominant military. We would be in an arms race with ourselves.”

... If, say, the Pentagon saves $7 billion over a decade by reducing the number of aircraft carriers to 10 from 11, would there be sufficient forces in the Pacific to counter an increasingly bold China? If the Pentagon saves nearly $150 billion in the next 10 years by shrinking the Army to, say, 483,000 troops from 570,000, would America be prepared for a grinding, lengthy ground war in Asia?

... Even after the winding down of the wars and the potential $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade, the Pentagon’s annual budget, now $530 billion, would shrink to $472 billion in 2013, or about the size of the budget in 2007.

In reality, of course, no other nation spends anything remotely like this, and we will not stand for a grinding, lengthy ground war in Asia. Get some facts.

Iran and Historical Forgetting

 

By John Grant

 

Ever since George W. Bush lost the popular vote by 500,000 souls and was selected President by a right-leaning Supreme Court, the United States has seemed to me devoted to a twisted fate of slow-motion Armageddon.

What seems to guarantee this is one of our most characteristic American traits: We don’t learn from the past; instead, we choose to officially forget embarrassing history so we can move on from our debacles without losing an ounce of glory. We all know how it goes: Sure, mistakes were made, but we need to keep our eye on the ball and move forward. The costs are paid in slow motion and out of sight.

Is Huntsville becoming a 'Pentagon of the South'?

Kenneth Kesner, The Huntsville Times
von braun complex.jpgPhase III of the new Von Braun Complex at Redstone Arsenal is seen from the courtyard. Growth in commands and programs at the installation, which has spurred growth outside the gates, has led some to call this area a "Pentagon of the South."

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Huntsville, long known as "Rocket City," lately also is saluted as a "Pentagon of the South."

The title sneaks into conversations and even into print every once in a while as a shorthand way of referring to the growth of commands, programs and influence at Redstone Arsenal and, by extension, area defense contractors and businesses.

"That phrase is a bit over the top," said Dr. Jess Brown, a political science professor at Athens State University and longtime observer of the region.

He points out that, after all, we are mostly Army here - HOOAH! - while the Pentagon is headquarters for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and all the services. The famous five-sided facility is also where the U.S. military's ultimate geopolitical strategy is formed in consultation with civilian leadership in the nation's capital.

"I actually don't have a problem with 'Pentagon of the South,' " said former Col. John Olshefski, now Huntsville's District 3 City Councilman. He spent 27 years in the Army - including "a year of penance in the Pentagon" - and served as Redstone Arsenal Garrison Commander before retiring in 2008.

He said that, other than the Pentagon itself and really big installations such as Fort Bragg - also often called the Pentagon of the South - there aren't many places with more generals on post than Redstone Arsenal.

And Olshefski doesn't think anywhere else except the real Pentagon has as many members of the Senior Executive Service, which are Department of the Army civilian counterparts to generals.

Mini-Pentagon

And not many places can, like Huntsville, boast of having more than 100 retired generals living and working in their cities.

"We send our general officers to the Pentagon to get trained and then let them retire here and produce more and more for this community," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, only half joking.

Calling this area a mini-Pentagon is meant as a compliment, Battle said. But it doesn't reflect the fact that we actually do things.

"We are more of a technological hub than the Pentagon is," Battle said. "The Pentagon is a management agency."

Plenty of program management goes on here, too. And perhaps the hundreds of billions of dollars that is handled by arsenal-based commands and agencies is itself enough to justify comparison with the Pentagon.

But there is also aviation, missile defense, software, energy and other research, development and engineering work that goes on in our laboratories, hangars and offices, he said.

"We have to stand on the quality of the programs that we produce on a day-to-day basis. I think we can do that," Battle said. "Some days I think you can say we're better than a 'Pentagon of the South.' "

READ THE REST.

Contractors' role grows in drone missions

By David S. Cloud | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON — After a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed at least 15 Afghans in 2010, the Army officer investigating the accident was surprised to discover that an American civilian had played a central role: analyzing video feeds from a Predator drone keeping watch from above. The contractor had overseen other analysts at Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida as the drone tracked suspected insurgents near a small unit of U.S. soldiers in rugged hills in central Afghanistan. Based partly on her analysis, an Army captain ordered an airstrike on a convoy that turned out to be carrying innocent men, women and children. "What company do you work for?" Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale demanded of the contractor after he learned that she was not in the military, according to a transcript obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. "SAIC," she answered. Her employer, SAIC Inc., is a publicly traded Virginia-based corporation with a multiyear $49 million contract to help the Air Force analyze drone video and other intelligence from Afghanistan.

READ THE REST.

Selective Sympathy: War’s Mayhem and Murder is Somehow Less Hard to Bear than the Humane Termination of an Injured Animal

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The officer rested his arm holding the stock of the assault rifle on the top of a log pile, and aimed directly between the target’s eyes. She was looking directly at him, unblinking, from 30 feet away, and exhibited no fear. “I hate doing this,” he muttered, before finally pulling the trigger.

 

A sharp “bang!” rang out, her head jerked up and then her whole body sagged to the ground, followed by some muscle jerks, and it was over.

 

The officer went over and checked the body, decided no second shot was needed to finish the job, and then walked back to his squad car, took out his phone, and called in the serial number of his rifle, reporting his firing of one round, as required by regulations.

 

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