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Military Industrial Complex
NATO tried to get its members to commit to spending at least 2% of GDP on war preparations. And if a nation got richer it would have to spend more -- not because of any particular supposed need, but just because military spending was to be seen as an end in itself. Well, Canada and Germany blocked the proposal. The U.S., Estonia, the United Kingdom, and Greece already spend over 2% of their GDP, but other NATO nations do not. Read more here.
By John Grant
I just thank God I’m out of this place.
- Henry Lee McCollum
First there was Ferguson, Missouri and the gunning down of an unarmed black youth and the ad-nauseum follow-up emphasizing over-and-over the shooting officer’s fear. Now it’s the release of two half brothers in North Carolina clearly railroaded into convictions and death sentences by a notoriously remorseless, good-'ol-boy district attorney.
by Johan Galtung, 1 Sep 2014 - TRANSCEND Media Service
Is the title of a book published by TRANSCEND University Press in 2009, now in second printing, and several translations including Chinese. There were two subtitles indicating answers: Successors, Regionalization or Globalization? – US Blossoming or US Fascism?
What is the situation today, five years later?
Successors? UK is militarily with USA to keep Anglo-America as a dominant world force even if a shadow of 50 years ago; France tries to keep its hold on former colonies in Africa; they use NATO-North Atlantic Treaty Organization for military and EU-European Union for political support. In empires the local elites line up to do the killing; yet the Western powers have mainly to do that themselves.
China is very active economically abroad, some of it structural violence; however, the military component has not been used aggressively.
Russia went into the “near abroad”, CIS-Commonwealth of Independent States, Ukraine; but for other reasons. The gift of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 was a mistake to be corrected as conditions changed; and Moscow, not Kiev, proposes federal solutions for “one country, two nations”. In short, no successors.
Regionalization? Yes. Islam and Latin America-Caribbean, as OIC-Organization of Islamic Cooperation and CELAC-Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños, slowly; EU struggling. African Unity suffered a major setback when Gaddafi was eliminated; but the Union is there even if under strong Anglo-American influence, e.g., to rout Al-Shabah. They have tried that before; maybe dialogue would be better than bombing?
Globalization? No. Fight between two economic blocs; USA-EU to keep the dollar as global currency, BRICS-Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa for several alternatives.
US Blossoming? None; the bottom 20, 70 or even 99% have too little or no increase in buying power, hence too low domestic demand.
US Fascism? Yes, indeed; if by fascism we mean use of massive violence for political goals. US fascism takes three forms: global with bombing, droning and sniping all over; domestic with military weapons used across race and class faultlines; and then NSA-National Security Agency spying on everybody.
A deeply tragic development. Such an innovative country and nothing better to offer than macro bombing, meso droning and micro sniping. We sense the military-industrial complex at work–the bomb industry upfront–but dubious intellectuals are also in it:
“Even as Mr. Obama presses Russia to stop fomenting a virtual civil war in Ukraine, he is trying to collaborate with Moscow in a diplomatic campaign to force Iran to scale back its nuclear program. Even as he pressures Iran over its nuclear program, he finds himself on the same side as Tehran in combating a rising Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Even as he sends special forces to help squelch those insurgents, he is trying to help their putative allies against the government in Syria next door.–While defending Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rockets, he sent Secretary of State John Kerry to work with Egypt to force a ceasefire–the same Egypt to which Mr. Obama cut financial aid for a while because it came to power after the military overthrew the previous government” (Peter Baker, “Crises cascade and converge, putting Obama to test”, INYT, 24 July 2014).
Good job, Mr. Baker. The answer by a former security aide to Obama, Gary Samore, from an autistic bubble, is less brilliant:
“You name it, the world is aflame. Foreign policy is always complicated. We always have a mix of complicated interests. That’s not unusual. What’s unusual is there’s this outbreak of violence and instability everywhere. It makes it hard for governments to cope–”.
Mr. Samore: all Made in the USA, a USA meeting itself in the door.
Washington wanted Ukraine into NATO to encircle Russia even more; USA-UK made the coup against democratically elected Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 ushering in 25 years of a brutal Shah dictatorship; the brutal IS-Islamic State is a highly predictable outcome of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 killing the Baath-Saddam alternative; the Syrian situation was always more complex than Assad against an opposition and much due to Israeli influence on US policy; Israeli bombing in Gaza up to genocide is partially of US making; the Muslim Brotherhood came into power to get Egypt out of the US-Israeli grip; the Egyptian military is bribed by the USA itself and both want it that way, dictatorship or not.
There are other factors, but the common denominator is us, US.
Change that policy and the world would be easier to cope with.
But, the problem is whether Washington is too autistic to think thoughts beyond its bombing-droning-sniping obsession.
The Guardian, 9 July 2014: “Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown. Social science is being militarized to develop social tools to target peaceful activists and protest movements.” The US military is turning inward, obviously to protect the white 1% who feeds them.
Furthermore, of course (28 August, Internet), the shocking, not exactly surprising, news: “Israel Police train U.S. police officers and have exchange offices in New York <> Tel Aviv–US police forces train in Israel and learn from how Palestinian resistance is subdued”.
And that is by the same military means that brought the two countries into being. The more militarized the more dehumanized and the more dehumanized the more lethal; fed psychologically by anti-Arab and anti-Black racism, and by exceptionalist claims from the ruling elites.
Militarized class and race war is the worst approach possible. What the USA needs is imitative, solidarity, cooperation for a better USA; they will reap fear, apathy, withdrawal, revenge, spiraling violence. Already hurting the US image abroad and far from halting the decline and fall of the US Empire, it will speed up the decline and fall of the USA itself. Will they trigger a world war as a cover-up?
Moreover, it comes on top of another sad phenomenon in the USA: the increasing collective shootings all over the country, geographically and socially, in addition to the usual homicides and suicides, bad enough. The standard analysis is to psychiatrize the murderer, searching for a profile and its likes in society to prevent more shootings.
Another approach would focus on the shootings as a collective, slow suicide of a US incapable of solving its countless problems, even addressing them, to the point that people simply give a damn, kill what they see as the problem including, often, themselves. General demoralization has such consequences, like the suicide epidemic at the end of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and beyond, lasting to our days.
Farewell, USA? Not at all. Pull yourself together, Stop It!
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
By Dave Lindorff
Flash! The US has re-invaded Iraq!
By Dave Lindorff
The US corporate media are awash in fevered articles and news stories about a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine, as though it was 1938, with German troops marching into Sedetenland and Austria. But let’s step back and look at what’s going on, calmly and rationally.
By Dave Lindorff
Kuopio -- Finland can be a shock to a visitor from America. The cities are clean, the highways and byways are smoothly paved and pothole-free despite the punishing winter climate faced by a country that straddles the Arctic Circle, schools look shiny and new, and it’s hard to see anyone who looks destitute.
Scene: A cafe. One table is occupied by a group of Vikings wearing horned helmets.
Whenever the word "war" is repeated, they begin singing and/or chanting.
A man and woman enter. The man is played by Eric Idle, the woman is played by Graham Chapman (in drag), and the Secretary of State is played by Terry Jones, also in drag.
Man: You sit here, dear.
Woman: All right.
Secretary of State: Morning!
Man: Well, what've you got?
Secretary of State: Well, there's sanctions and prosecutions; sanctions drone strikes and prosecutions; sanctions and war; sanctions prosecutions and war; sanctions prosecutions drone strikes and war; war prosecutions drone strikes and war; war sanctions war war prosecutions and war; war drone strikes war war prosecutions war cyber war and war;
Vikings: War war war war...
Secretary of State: ...war war war sanctions and war; war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war...
Vikings: War! Lovely war! Lovely war!
Secretary of State: ...or a United Nations resolution combined with infiltration, a USAID fake Twitter application, a CIA overthrow, trained enhanced interrogators and with crippling sanctions on top and war.
Woman: Have you got anything without war?
Secretary of State: Well, there's war sanctions drone strikes and war, that's not got much war in it.
Woman: I don't want ANY war!
Man: Why can't she have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes?
Woman: THAT'S got war in it!
Man: Hasn't got as much war in it as war sanctions drone strikes and war, has it?
Vikings: War war war war... (Crescendo through next few lines...)
Woman: Could you do the sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war then?
Secretary of State: Urgghh!
Woman: What do you mean 'Urgghh'? I don't like war!
Vikings: Lovely war! Wonderful war!
Secretary of State: Shut up!
Vikings: Lovely war! Wonderful war!
Secretary of State: Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can't have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war.
Woman: I don't like war!
Man: Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your war. I love it. I'm having war war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war and war!
Vikings: War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war!
Secretary of State: Shut up!! Targeted assassinations are off.
Man: Well could I have her war instead of the targeted assassinations then?
Secretary of State: You mean war war war war war war... (but it is too late and the Vikings drown her words)
Vikings: (Singing elaborately...) War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war! War w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war. Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! War war war war!
No actual diplomats were harmed in the making of this production.
By John Grant
Back in June 2011, James Foley gave an hour-long interview to an auditorium of students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he had graduated three years earlier with a Master’s degree in journalism. It was 15 days after he had been released from 45 rough days of captivity in Libya. He was a handsome young hero returning to his alma-mater.
What's the truth behind Malaysian Flight 17 downing?: CIA Analysts Won't Support White House Claims of Russian Culpability
By Dave Lindorff
With the US continuing to push its submissive European “allies” towards an ever more confrontational stance towards Russia over the crisis in Ukraine (a crisis initially provoked by the US itself through CIA and State Department actions that led to the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government), the world appears headed towards a dangerous renewed Cold War between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.
By John Grant
There was a moment during MSNBC's live coverage of Ferguson, Missouri, Monday night through 2AM Tuesday morning when Chris Hayes and one of his guests conceded the police (now augmented by National Guard troops said to be guarding a police command center) begrudgingly deserved a good grade because -- unlike riots in Newark and Los Angeles -- no one had been killed. This was after cops had "barked" at Hayes and threatened him with macing if he and his camera crew dared again venture "in front of" the police.
Why You Should Expect More Bombs to be Dropped Everywhere
By William J. Astore, TomDispatch.com
When you do something again and again, placing great faith in it, investing enormous amounts of money in it, only to see indifferent or even negative results, you wouldn’t be entirely surprised if a neutral observer questioned your sanity or asked you if you were part of some cult. Yet few Americans question the sanity or cult-like behavior of American presidents as they continue to seek solutions to complex issues by bombing Iraq (as well as numerous other countries across the globe).
By John Grant
On Monday, I decided to spend my evenings flipping back-and-forth between Fox News and MSNBC as the two cable channels dealt with the dueling stories of the United States tiptoeing into a third war in Iraq and the sudden appearance of what appeared to be a police state in a little town outside St Louis. From Monday to Friday, the Ferguson, Missouri story has gone from that of a bizarre and dangerous war zone to one of a relief-filled carnival in the streets.
The Discovery Channel has been doing a yeoman’s service in visually capturing day-to-day activities of dangerous animals and rare birds in forests untouched by human footfalls, animals living in depths of oceans and animals facing extinction threat.It has been winning laurels for reconstructing the life of tribals and the tribals living in dwellings built on trees, piercing into the areas unknown to the world and untouched by the sunny rays.
(By the way, we can set aside the criticism made by certain media that the channel is stage-managing such rare scenes in their studios and sets.)
However, the magnificence of such rare depictions of animals and tribals cannot camouflage the channel’s failure to speak about animal rights and analyse the reasons for the miseries of the tribals, political factors behind their woes and about the tribal rights.
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League and wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
In many US communities, cops are the ‘terrorists’: Police Need to Be Demilitarized and Remade as ‘Peace Officers’
By Dave Lindorff
The apparent murder by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black youth who was shot a number of times while he was allegedly on his knees with his hands up in the air, pleading “Don’t shoot, I’m not armed,” is exposing everything that is wrong with policing in the US today.
Mathias Paul Quackenbush is an organizer of http://BadHoneywell.org
What's so bad about Honeywell? Let us count the ways!
Quackenbush lives in San Francisco, where he works as a dual diagnosis Residential Counselor and spends most of his remaining time engaging in activism for peace, human rights, and campaign finance reform.
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By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
By Dave Lindorff
There’s an old adage that goes: “You can judge a man by the company he keeps.”
If that’s the case, then applying it to nations, the world has to judge the US to be a truly wretched and repugnant country, and should be steering clear of it.
By Alfredo Lopez
The recent news that Russian hackers have the usernames and passwords for over a billion users as well as a half billion email accounts wraps up a week of Internet craziness.
Killing Lt. Goldin...and 150 innocents: The IDF’s ‘Hannibal Protocol’ and Two Criminally Insane Governments
By Dave Lindorff
The sickness of present-day Israel, on display over the past horrible month of the one-sided slaughter of over 2000 Palestinians (including over 400 children) in the fenced-in ghetto of Gaza, has finally reached its nadir with the ugly case of the deliberate Israeli Defense Force murder of captured IDF 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin.
Democracy...going, going gone: Leaving Brennan as CIA Director Means the Triumph of Secret Government
By Dave Lindorff
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that John Brennan, the director of the CIA who has finally admitted that he lied when he angrily and repeatedly insisted that the agency did not spy on staff members of the Senate committee charged with oversight US intelligence agencies, “has a lot of work to do,” before she can forgive him for lying to and spying on her committee.
By John Grant
At a birthday dinner with friends last night, the Israeli assault on Gaza came up. One friend said having to helplessly watch the violence infuriated him and made him ill. Another said it made him want to cry.
Barbecuing the Palestinians: Once it was Nazis Leveling the Warsaw Ghetto, Now it’s Israel’s IDF Leveling Gaza
By Dave Lindorff
About six years ago, as part of his Bar Mitzvah, my son Jed did a project on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, producing his own graphic novel about the undergound fighters who used courage, creativity and the city’s sewer system to, in some small way, offer resistance to the murderous program of the Nazis to exterminate Poland’s Jews.
Kerry, Kerry pants on fire!: If You Believed the Secretary of State’s Poison Gas Lie, You’ll Love His Latest One
By Dave Lindorff
If the best the US can do to pin the blame for the Malaysia Flight 17 downing on Russia is to have Secretary of State John Kerry say that “circumstantial evidence” points to Moscow being behind it, we can be pretty certain it was not Russia at all.
Unbroken and out to expose US prison system: Exclusive Interview with Police Abuse Victim and Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan
By Dave Lindorff
In an exclusive intervew on the Progressive Radio Network’s “This Can’t Be Happening!” program, Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan, just released after two months of a three-month sentence to the Women’s Prison on Riker’s Island, talks about her conviction on a trumped-up charge of felony assault of a New York Police Officer.
By John Grant
In Spanish, the word hondura means “depth; profundity.” The related word hondomeans “deep, low; bottom.” Hondon means “dell, glen, deep hole.” An example given in my dictionary is meterse en honduras, “to go beyond one’s depth.”
What’s a little espionage among friends?: Station Chief Ousted as CIA Spies Found in German Parliament and Spy Agency
By Dave Lindorff
Munich -- You have to wonder how much more the German public will take of the country’s ongoing humiliation by the United States and its extensive program of secretly spying on what nominally is one of America’s most reliable allies.
By Gar Smith
Sometime this year -- with turmoil in the Middle East at a fever pitch -- the US Navy plans to deploy a new laser weapon aboard the USS Ponce, a naval vessel that has been assigned to engage in "war exercises" off the coast of Iran.
In videos released by the Pentagon, an invisible, yet powerful, beam of energy sets fire to an unmanned drone aircraft flying overhead at some distance. The flaming aircraft tumbles into the ocean. This is the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) at work. The current weapon is a low-power (15-50 kilowatt) prototype of a planned 100 kW "death ray" that could someday fry guided missiles in mid-trajectory.
According to Pentagon officials, the current low-power LaWS could prove useful against (1) slow-flying drones and (2) small boats. The current design is not effective against any target traveling at advanced speeds because the heat-effect builds up slowly – i.e., "it needs time to work."
The distinction is important: This means the laser has no use as a "defensive" weapon. It is an "offensive" weapon, plain and simple.
The Pentagon frequently stages US military exercises off the shores of distant nations as a way of "showing the flag" and "sending a message." The countries targeted for such unsolicited displays of naval might understandably view these intrusions as provocations. Conducting US "war games" in the Persian Gulf region is a dangerous stunt that is fraught with peril. Especially since it runs the risk of a face-off between the US and Iran.
Iran in known to monitor US warships in the waters near its borders and Tehran uses both pilotless drones and speedboats for this purpose. Were the US to use this new laser weapon against Iran's ships or aerial surveillance craft, it could be seen as an act of aggression — risking injury and death to Iranian sailors. If US "field tests" of the new LaWS system happened to bring down and Iranian drone or sink an Iranian patrol boat, that could trigger retaliation from Tehran, leading to further escalations.
Torching Speedboats and Drones
In a test off the California coast in April 2011, the Navy's experimental Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), a solid-state 15-kilowatt solid-state laser, was able to ignite the engines on a small targeted boat. In a matter of seconds, the vessel was set on fire.
In less than three years after Northrop Grumman won a $98 million Navy contract to design the MLD, the prototype – in its very first at-sea trial -- demonstrated its ability to cause "catastrophic failure" on a moving vessel in the open sea.
In an interview with Spencer Ackerman, then the host of Wired magazine's Danger Room blog, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr beamed, "I never thought we'd see this kind of progress this quickly, where we're approaching a decision of when we can put laser weapons on ships."
Solid-state lasers operating in the tens of kilowatts have shown they can be both accurate and deadly – as long as the targets are slow-moving or stationary. Before laser weapons are able to take down a supersonic jet or an incoming missile, it will be necessary to ramp up the weapon's power significantly – to at least 100 kilowatts.
While buoyed by the success of the MLD, Adm. Carr wasn't satisfied. While the MLD's destruction of a small speedboat was "an important data point," he noted, "I still want the Megawatt Death Ray."
The Megawatt Class Death Ray
In 2011, scientists at a weapons lab in Newport News, Virginia, were able to produce a 500kV blast from an electron gun. This success promised to accelerate the development and deployment of a "megawatt-class" laser capable of taking down a missile or slicing holes in an enemy vessel.
The Navy's goal is to perfect a Free Electron Laser (FEL), an energy-beam weapon with adjustable wavelengths that could bore through dust and sea spray to deliver a knockout blow -- burning through enemy vehicles and vessels at the rate of 2,000-feet-of-steel-per-second. (By comparison, the world's most powerful free-electron laser currently is capable of cutting through 20-feet-of-steel-per-second.)
According to Admiral Carr, the arrival of the FEL and the Navy's Mach-8 electromagnetic rail gun will enable the US to begin "fighting at the speed of light and hypersonics."
But for the moment, the Navy must make do with the solid-state MLD.
Death Rays in the Gulf
The timing of a joint US-South Korea "war game" in the waters near North Korea recently lead that country's leader to threaten to rain nuclear-tipped missiles on US holdings from Guam to Nebraska. Despite the rising tensions in the Gulf Region (where Israel's cross-border airstrikes into Syria raise the risks of a spreading regional war), the Pentagon scheduled a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) ran from May 6-30 and involved vessels and personnel from 30 countries.
Commodore Simon Ancona, the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, described the military show-of-force as a "multidisciplinary defense exercise" designed to protect oil tankers, oil terminals and oil and gas exporters in the region. In addition to placing a first-generation "death ray" on board a ship plowing through the waters near Iran, the Pentagon plans to launch drones to provide surveillance information to US-military forces in the region.
Drones are part of the tension equation in the Persian Gulf. On March 14, 2013, Iran scrambled a jet fighter to chase down a US Predator drone that strayed too close to Iranian airspace. The US had two military aircraft shadowing the drone in international waters and, according to CNN, the Iranian jet retreated after "a verbal warning." In November 2012, Iran shot down a US drone over the Persian Gulf.
In April 2013, the New York Times reflected that bolting a death ray to the deck of a US naval vessel "seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the Gulf." As if to drive the message home, the Navy released a video of a LaWS system being tested in the waters off San Diego. A laser beam was trained on a slow-flying drone. In less than five seconds, the aircraft burst into flame and plummeted into the sea.
The 14-kilovolt solid-state LaWS the Navy has installed on the USS Ponce is capable of burning holes in small boats and propeller-driven aircraft. The Navy notes the LaWS will allow US sailors in the Persian Gulf "to easily defeat small boat threats and aerial targets without using bullets." The term "aerial targets" refers to drones.
The Pentagon is well aware of the fact that Iran's favored response to US military activities in Persian Gulf waters is to dispatch small fleets of "fast boats" and swarms of aerial drones.
In the sanitized language of Washington, the depiction of "defeating small boat threats" intentionally ignores the fact that any boats (and aircraft) targeted for destruction will be manned by human beings who will not simply be "defeated," they will also be burned, scarred and incinerated by a new kind of weapon the likes of which the world has never known.
The Pentagon estimates it would take a laser with a power-punch in the 100-kilovolt range to offer any practical defense against an attack from an incoming artillery shell, fighter jet or missile. This underscores the fact that the LaWS can only be used as an offensive weapon, trained on non-threatening or low-threat "targets of opportunity."
Peter A. Morrison, an ONR program officer with the LaWS program, has praised these new laser weapons that the Pentagon is rushing to the battlefield. "The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords," Morrison observes.
But is it reasonable to characterize each new Pentagon weapon as an "advancement"? Especially since every military innovation – from flame-throwers to nuclear bombs – has eventually been duplicated and adopted by "enemy" nations. Instead of securing the threat of unique capacities of devastation in the hands of a single, unchallengeable Superpower, each new military breakthrough has led to new round of proliferation allowing new, ever-deadlier weapons of war to spread around the planet.
Electronic "death rays" pose such a unique danger that a growing chorus of voices are calling for a moratorium on deployment. Ultimately, critics insist, such weapons should be outlawed and banned from the battlefield – like chemical gases and anti-personal weapons.
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and author of Nuclear Roulette.