Category Archives: Military

The Phoenix Template, Part One, by Robert Gore

The American police state has been a work in progress for seventy years.

Part One of two parts.

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to what the government does in foreign nations, and even less attention to what it has done in the past. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this focus on the here-and-now, but contemplation beyond the usual horizons is well-advised. Not for the usual high-minded reasons offered by multiculturalist do-gooders, but because what the government—and those who pull its strings—have done in foreign lands for the past seventy years is their template for what they plan here at home.

The group that led the US through World War II was determined to preserve, perpetuate, and extend its global dominance. With the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), centralized, coordinated intelligence had come into its own. After the war President Truman dissolved the OSS, but signed the National Security Act of 1947, which established the CIA. With a secret executive order in 1952, he also established the NSA. Although the agencies were sold to Truman as necessary instruments for gathering and analyzing foreign intelligence, rather than operational assignments, they soon were engaging in both domestic and foreign operations. In 1963, a month after President Kennedy’s assassination, former president Truman’s letter to the Washington Post deplored what the CIA had become.

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

Later, Truman told biographer Merle Miller that setting up the CIA was “a mistake.”

Truman did not mention what the CIA’s disturbing operational and policy-making roles had been, or in what “explosive areas.” The CIA had sponsored coups in Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), the Dominican Republic (1960), and attempted coups in Indonesia (1958) and Cuba (1961, the Bay of Pigs). While the phrase “regime change” didn’t seep into the popular consciousness until the US’s second Iraq invasion in 2003, it had been standard CIA policy for over five decades. To the limited extent its involvements were acknowledged in the 1950s and 1960s, they were generally characterized as necessary efforts in the struggle against global communism.

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What has never been acknowledged is what would have been—if the CIA was involved—a domestic coup, President Kennedy’s assassination. The assassination and its aftermath illustrate the psychological obstacles among the public for those attempting to uncover and expose the intelligence community’s misdeeds. Notwithstanding gaping holes in the official story, and obvious questions about the motives of Lyndon Johnson and Alan Dulles, the former director of the CIA who had been fired by Kennedy and stage-managed the Warren Commission investigation, most Americans bought the story and asked no questions. For the few that did, the CIA coined the pejorative, “conspiracy theorist.”

The CIA has a chilling catalogue of countermeasures against the US government’s enemies, most developed during the Vietnam War. The heart of the CIA effort was Operation Phoenix, begun in 1965. Phoenix was designed, coordinated, and executed by the agency jointly with the US military and its intelligence units, the South Vietnamese military and its secret police, and Australian special operations forces. Its mission was to neutralize the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong) through infiltration, capture, counter-terrorism, interrogation, and assassination.

Identification of NLF cadres was problematic. Anyone with a score to settle could misidentify enemies as Viet Cong, who would then be captured or killed by US and South Vietnamese troops. Prisoners were taken to interrogation centers, indefinitely detained, tortured, and sometimes murdered. The interrogations were supposedly done by the South Vietnamese under the supervision of the military or CIA, but the torture was an open secret and often performed by US personnel. Prisoners were converted to the South Vietnamese cause and reinserted into the local population or turned into double agents. They had to produce intelligence about the NLF: their families, friends, and hamlets were essentially hostages securing their performance. Prisoners who produced no information or false information under torture were murdered. Undoubtedly some had no “worthwhile” information to give because they weren’t NLF, but innocence was not a recognized defense.

Phoenix terrorized both the North and South Vietnamese. It was essentially a CIA and US military-imposed police state (with the South Vietnamese government as a junior partner) employing standard police-state tactics: surveillance, informants, propaganda, repression, rubber-stamp judicial supervision, indefinite detention, interrogation, torture, and murder. Like all police states, Phoenix was rife with corruption. South Vietnamese officials, CIA agents and contractors, and US military officials made fortunes from blackmail, extortion, bribery, theft, murder-for-hire, black market arms sales, money laundering, drug running, and other illicit endeavors.

During the war the CIA maintained its usual shroud of plausible deniability, helped by the captive US media, which in many cases had been infiltrated by CIA operatives under the auspices of Operation Mockingbird. Many of Phoenix’s more sordid aspects were not revealed until after the US left Vietnam, and while nobody claims Phoenix wasn’t dirty (even an anodyne Wikileaks’ article acknowledges the misdeeds), the extent of the dirtiness remains—as so much of what the CIA does—murky. However, a string of CIA engagements after Vietnam retroactively confirmed the nefarious nature of Phoenix—the program was the template for that later criminality.

It should have raised eyebrows when Ronald Reagan nominated a former director of the CIA, George H.W. Bush, as his vice president, but it didn’t. The evolving Deep State saw Bush, and other “vetted” members of Reagan’s administration, as checks on some of Reagan’s more “radical” impulses and initiatives. CIA operatives had been involved in Watergate. Congressional committees had revealed CIA skullduggery in Vietnam, involvement in political assassination, and illegal domestic surveillance of the war’s critics by many of the intelligence agencies and the FBI. Yet most Americans still held a generally benign view of the intelligence complex.

The Iran-Contra affair should have been a wake-up call. The scandal’s many disturbing skeins and offshoots—the CIA’s subversion of governments and sponsorship of political assassination in Latin America, involvement in the drug trade and money laundering through a shadowy network of financial institutions, and covert weapons transactions—cried out for further investigation, which would have revealed a Phoenix program gone global. Instead, Reagan’s popularity and his begrudging acceptance of responsibility, the administration’s stonewalling of investigations and refusal to release documents on national security grounds, and George W. Bush’s pardons in the final days of his presidency for Reagan administration officials still under indictment managed to shove Iran-Contra down the American memory hole. Reagan and Bush served the Deep State well.

Next: Phoenix in the United States

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US Navy Prepares Decapitating Attack Against Russia, by Alex Gorka

SLL takes its shots at weapons contractors and the US military, but make no mistake, the military has weapons that are second to none. Disturbingly, that capability may lead some to think the US could actually win a first strike war with Russia. From Alex Gorka at strategic-culture.org:

The US preemptive nuclear strike capability has significantly grown. The strategic nuclear forces modernization program has implemented new revolutionary technologies to vastly increase the targeting capability of the US submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) arsenal.

The Bulletin of American Scientists reports that as a result of improvements in the killing power of US SLBMs, they carry more than three times the number of warheads needed to destroy the entire fleet of Russian land-based missiles. Since only part of the W76 force would be needed to eliminate Russia’s silo-based ICBMs, the United States will be left with a substantial number of higher-yield warheads that could be used for other missions.

The increase in the lethality comes from the Mk4A «super-fuze» device that since 2009 has been incorporated into the Navy’s W76-1/Mk4A warhead as part of a decade-long life-extension program.

The super-fuze capability is now operational on all nuclear warheads deployed on the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The new fuze has also been installed on British SLBMs.

It provides for an adjustable height-of-burst as it arrives. The fuze is designed to destroy fixed hard targets by detonating above and around a target in a much more effective way. Warheads that would otherwise overfly a target and land too far away will now, because of the new fuzing system, detonate above the target. Explosions that occur near and above the ground over a target can be lethal to it. This above-target area is known as a «lethal volume»; the detonation of a warhead of appropriate yield in this volume will result in the destruction of the target. The result of this fuzing scheme is a significant increase in the probability that a warhead will explode close enough to destroy the target even though the accuracy of the missile-warhead system has itself not improved. Thus, an enhanced fuze would allow the United States to reduce the number of warheads on its ballistic missile submarines, but increase the targeting effectiveness of the fleet.

To continue reading: US Navy Prepares Decapitating Attack Against Russia

 

Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault, by Sheldon Richman

The $54 billion increase in military spending President Trump requested is more than the entire military budget of every nation except Saudi Arabia and China. From Sheldon Richman at antiwar.com:

President Trump’s budget proposal would increase military spending $54 billion, not quite a 10 percent increase over the current level. According to Quartz, the increase alone is more than all but two countries – China and Saudi Arabia – spend on their militaries. (China spends $145 billion, Saudi Arabia $57 billion, Russia $47, and Iran $16 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports.)

Meanwhile, Trump implies that NATO members take advantage of America by not paying enough for own defense. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Washington recently, Trump tweeted: “Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

As we’ve come to expect, Trump gets it wrong. NATO members don’t pay dues to NATO, and they don’t pay the United States for defense. However, NATO requires members to budget at least 2 percent of their GDP for their own militaries. Some members haven’t spent that much, but that has changed in recent years.

Trump leaves the impression that Americans shoulder an unnecessarily large military burden because some NATO members underfund their military establishments. But that’s nonsense because that’s not how things work in Washington. Americans don’t pay more because Germans Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians pay less.

At other times Trump seems to acknowledge this. In his campaign he never said the U.S. military budget would be smaller if NATO members paid up. Rather, he said he wanted to make America “strong again” – so strong that no one would dare “mess with us.” His budget message said, “In these dangerous times, this public safety and national security Budget Blueprint is a message to the world—a message of American strength, security, and resolve.” His address to a joint session of Congress also did not justify greater military spending by pointing to how little the allies spend. It was all about making America “great again.”

To continue reading: Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault

Watch These Geopolitical Flashpoints Carefully, by Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith highlights the dangers ahead. From Smith at alt-market.com:

Anyone who has been involved in alternative geopolitical and economic analysis for a decent length of time understands that the establishment power structure thrives according to its ability to either exploit natural crises, or to engineer fabricated crises.

This is not that hard to comprehend, but for some reason there are a lot of people out there who simply assume that global sea-change events just happen “at random,” that the elites are stupid or oblivious, and that all outcomes are a matter of random chance rather than being directed or manipulated. I call these people “intellectual idiots,” because they believe they are applying logic to every scenario but they are sabotaged by an inherent bias which causes them to deny the potential for “conspiracy.”

To clarify, their logic folds in on itself and becomes faulty. They believe themselves objective, but they abandon objectivity when they staunchly refuse to consider the possibility of covert influence by organized special interests. When you internally dismiss the possibility of a thing, no amount of evidence will ever convince you of its reality. This is how the “smartest” people in the room can end up being the dumbest people in the room.

In the survivalist community there is a philosophy – there is no such thing as a crisis for those who are prepared. This is true for prepared individuals as much as it is true for prepared communities and prepared nations. The only way a society can fall is when it becomes willfully ignorant of potential outcomes and refuses to organize against them.

By extension, it would make sense that by being prepared for a particular crisis or outcome an individual or group could not only survive, but also profit. It is not crazy or outlandish to entertain the idea that there are groups in power (perhaps for many generations) that aggressively seek to predict or even force particular outcomes in geopolitics for their own profit. And, by profit, I do not necessarily mean material wealth. In many cases, the power of influence and psychological sway over the masses might be considered a far greater prize than money or property.

To continue reading: Watch These Geopolitical Flashpoints Carefully

Only a Fool Would Trust Rogue State USA, by Finian Cunningham

There is a long trail of roadkill, those who trusted the US government. From Finian Cunningham at sputniknews.com:

Only a fool would trust anything that comes out of Washington.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Chinese President Xi Jinping at the weekend, vowing greater cooperation to reduce tensions boiling up on the Korean Peninsula. Only a day before, however, Tillerson was threatening that the US would use pre-emptive military strikes against China’s ally North Korea if “we believe” it presented a threat “to us”.

So what’s it to be then? Cooperation or pre-emptive war?

At the same time that Tillerson was seemingly conveying a cordial tone to Beijing, President Trump was mouthing off at home that “North Korea was behaving badly” and that China had not done enough to contain it.
Trump’s comments angered China, with the latter responding it had in fact gone to great lengths over recent years to calm tensions on the Korean Peninsula between North Korea and the American ally in the South, by continually calling for dialogue, which the US has continually rebuffed, preferring to play hardball instead.

The weekend exchange is but one brief insight into why Washington cannot be trusted. The president and his top diplomat can’t even articulate a consistent policy for even a few hours. How could one possibly take them seriously?

But Trump and Tillerson’s mixed signals are a mere trifling matter. Why the US cannot be trusted has got much more to with decades of systematic misbehavior by Washington. North Korea “behaving badly,” says Trump. Typical American arrogance and ignorance do not admit the reality of the US behaving atrociously.

The whole specter of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula was created in the first place by the United States. Its decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was motivated by the Soviet Union’s imminent entry into the Pacific War. Washington did not want to see the Soviet Union taking Japanese or Korean territory.

To continue reading: Only a Fool Would Trust Rogue State USA

Prepare, Pursue, Prevail! Onward and Upward with U.S. Central Command, by Andrew J. Bacevich

Someone could write 10,000 pages and not run out of material for a black satire on the US military the past few decades. US Central Command would get several lengthy chapters. This article features vintage military bureaucrat-speak. From Andrew Bacevich at tomdispatch.com:

By way of explaining his eight failed marriages, the American bandleader Artie Shaw once remarked, “I am an incurable optimist.” In reality, Artie was an incurable narcissist. Utterly devoid of self-awareness, he never looked back, only forward.

So, too, with the incurable optimists who manage present-day American wars. What matters is not past mistakes but future opportunities. This describes the view of General Joseph Votel, current head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Since its creation in 1983, CENTCOM has emerged as the ne plus ultra of the Pentagon’s several regional commands, the place where the action is always hot and heavy. Votel is the latest in a long train of four-star generals to preside over that action.

The title of this essay (exclamation point included) captures in a single phrase the “strategic approach” that Votel has devised for CENTCOM. That approach, according to the command’s website, is “proactive in nature and endeavors to set in motion tangible actions in a purposeful, consistent, and continuous manner.”

This strategic approach forms but one element in General Votel’s multifaceted (if murky) “command narrative,” which he promulgated last year upon taking the helm at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Other components include a “culture,” a “vision,” a “mission,” and “priorities.” CENTCOM’s culture emphasizes “persistent excellence,” as the command “strives to understand and help others to comprehend, with granularity and clarity, the complexities of our region.” The vision, indistinguishable from the mission except perhaps for those possessing advanced degrees in hermeneutics, seeks to provide “a more stable and prosperous region with increasingly effective governance, improved security, and trans-regional cooperation.” Toward that estimable end, CENTCOM’s priorities include forging partnerships with other nations “based upon shared values,” “actively counter[ing] the malign influence” of hostile regimes, and “degrading and defeating violent extremist organizations and their networks.”

At present, CENTCOM is busily implementing the several components of Votel’s command narrative across an “area of responsibility” (AOR) consisting of 20 nations, among them Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. As the CENTCOM website puts it, without batting a digital eyelash, that AOR “spans more than 4 million square miles and is populated by more than 550 million people from 22 ethnic groups, speaking 18 languages with hundreds of dialects and confessing multiple religions which transect national borders.”

To continue reading: Prepare, Pursue, Prevail! Onward and Upward with U.S. Central Command

Inconsistencies in Trump’s National Security Policies, by Ivan Eland

You can’t have a cost conscious foreign policy that insists that allies pay for their own defense and proposes less US interventionism while at the same time expanding US interventionism and proposing a big increase in the US military budget. It’s one or the other (see “Start Dealing“). From Ivan Eland at antiwar.com:

The recent North Korean missile tests raise questions about contradictions in President Donald Trump’s national security policies. During his campaign Trump implied that the United States should fight fewer wars overseas and demanded that US dependents, Japan and South Korea, do more for their own defense, perhaps even getting nuclear weapons. Yet a recent article written by David Sanger, a national security reporter for the New York Times, noted that Trump had tweeted that North Korean acquisition of a long-range missile “won’t happen” and that his administration was considering preemptive military strikes on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs or reintroducing US tactical (short-range) nuclear missiles into South Korea, which were removed twenty-five years ago. So which is it – demanding US allies do more or ramping up America’s efforts to make them even more reliant on American power? And this is not the only Trump policy contradiction.

If Trump is demanding that wealthy allies – both East Asian and European – put out more of an effort for their own security and if Trump wants to fight fewer wars overseas, then why does the defense budget need to be increased by a whopping 10 percent? That proposed increase is roughly equivalent to the entire Russian annual defense budget. In fact, couldn’t U.S. defense spending be cut to help ameliorate the already humongous $20-trillion-dollar national debt?

Moreover, the Department of Defense is the worst run agency in the federal government, as demonstrated by its being the only department to repeatedly fail to pass an audit – thus not being able to pinpoint where many trillions of dollars over many years have been spent. In 2001, the departments comptroller admitted to me that the department’s broken accounting system would not be able to pass such an audit for a long time to come. Sixteen years later it still can’t.