The Next American Civil War?

White Supremacist Militia

Charlottesville, VA, white supremacist rally

It Couldn’t Happen in America

Americans are living turbulent times, times when the last things you need are half the citizenry armed to the teeth and an unstable, egomaniacal, possibly psychotic at the helm. Is there the possibility of a 21st-century civil war breaking out in the USA? We have always confidently assumed that it couldn’t happen in the world’s greatest democracy. Or could it? The mighty Mississippi doesn’t start out as a great river. It begins as tiny rivulets struggling towards Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, from whose headwaters it flows 2,340 miles southwards, entering the Gulf of Mexico as a triumphant giant. It’s the same with social movements, both benign and malevolent. They start with just a few people concerned enough to do something. Formerly they would die out or grow vegetatively into mass movements. Today, with the Internet, they can propagate like flash fires. This fact, coupled with the hundreds of rivulets of intolerance, racial hatred, inequality, individualistic greed, and armed militants, rife in the country, does not bode well. Could they all join together in a very short time to form a mighty river of civil disobedience and martial solutions? That is to say, a civil war.

There is no shortage of factors pointing in that direction, starting with the inexorable erosion of civil rights in the USA. The Patriot Act has seen to that. The rights of assembly and free speech are increasingly conditioned. The cutbacks in social programs foment insecurity and inequality. The privatization of education tilts the scales in favor of schools with miraculous religious agendas, and the pauperization of public schools, resulting in the dumbing down of American young people in both cases. Not since the armed Catholicism of Ferdinand and Isabella’s reign in 15th and 16th-century Spain has a country been so conditioned by religious fanaticism.

Sacrosanct American traditions, regarded as exotic in other first-world countries, also exert a negative influence on civic harmony in America.  Infirm patriotism, predatory capitalism, cowboy-style rugged individualism and notions of American exceptionalism all contribute to irreconcilable divisions among individuals and groups within the country and misunderstandings abroad.

You Got Knives, You Got Forks, Gotta Cut Something

Thanks to the twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the United States is an armed camp. And not all of those millions of guns belong to lone locos; many of them are in the hands of well-organized locos, the right-wing militias. President Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy de Vos is a member of the Christian Reformed Church who attended a Christian Reformed college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She happens to be the sister of Eric Prince, founder of the Blackwater mercenary army (later renamed “Academi,” though any connection with academia is conspicuously lacking) that had a major (and controversial) role in the occupation of Iraq. Mercenary armed forces are the most sinister of all, as they are not held accountable by democratically-elected representatives. They are freebooters, and their loyalty is to the man who pays them. They would be a priceless asset to the organizers of a coup d’etat.

What about the American military services? If push came to shove would they, wholly or in part, come down on the side of constitutional democracy? Would their response be like that of the Portuguese Army in the 1994 Carnation Revolution coup to oust the dictator, restore democracy and end Portuguese colonialism?  Or would they take the “just following orders” route? We can only guess, but the stakes are high indeed.

Perverted institutions are taking huge bites out of the American well-being, institutions like reactionary courts (and here comes yet another retrograde Supreme Court Justice), Congress with its big-business financing (from banking, pharma, energy, insurance, arms, etc.)  and slavish adherence to the extreme right-wing Israeli Likud party’s truculent Middle-East agenda, the executive branch which has escalated the power grabs initiated since the Clinton administration… And let’s not forget the influence of the National Rifle Association, responsible in some degree for the gratuitous daily bloodletting on the streets of the United States. This is not the stuff a great country is made of.

“The Civil War Lies on Us like a Sleeping Dragon…”

From The Guardian, 20 August 2017
David Blight

For historians, Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving. His ignorance of American history, his flouting of political and constitutional traditions, his embrace of racist ideas and groups, his egregious uses of fear, his own party’s moral bankruptcy in its inability to confront him, have forced the media to endlessly ask historians for help. That moral cowardice by Republicans shows some glimmers of hope; Mitt Romney has just called out Trump, accusing him of “unraveling … our national fabric” by his coziness with white supremacists, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee charged Trump with putting the nation “in great peril” by his incompetence and racism.

Blight quotes Lincoln:

Lincoln did not fear foreign enemies. If “danger” would “ever reach us”, he said, “it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

How to Head Off a Civil War

It wouldn’t be easy in a country as polarized as the United States, where all sides are entrenched in their positions. People with opposing opinions are seen as enemies or idiots, not adversaries nor viable debaters. Compromise between enemies is unlikely, so dialogue is virtually impossible. This polarization has been incubating–and cultivated by those who want to divide and conquer– for decades and the result is a deterioration of good manners and common decency in public life. The question is further complicated by the fact that perhaps half the population of the country (perhaps the big half) perceives the issues through a deeply ingrained and immovable religious faith. This faith-based perception goes hand in hand with a reluctance to participate in any fact-based dialogue.

Some radical evangelical Christians adhere to the rapture tradition that maintains that the Apocalypse can be invoked by a holy war between the Israelites and the heathens, which would project the believers directly into heaven and condemn the rest of us (including the Israelites, interestingly enough) to hell’s fires. There are not a few of these cruel and unusual Christians. Credible sources estimate that approximately 50 million of them in the United States are registered voters, 95% of whom are in Trump’s corner. (That might explain his controversial decision to recognize the Israeli government’s suzerainty over Jerusalem by moving the US Embassy there.)

Part 2/2 coming Monday, July 23
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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Trump’s NATO Ploy in Brussels is Baseless

Nato_meeting_2018

Another Foundation Lie Exposed

At the same time the world’s media are expressing outrage at President Donald Trump’s gangster-style presentation at the NATO annual summit meeting in Brussels last Wednesday, they are also missing the point. As usual, Trump’s headline-grabbing antics smoked screened the most important issue. Everything the American President said at the meeting was grounded in a single great lie, that the principal objective of NATO is to “protect Europe.”

In fact, the principal purpose of NATO is first to control Europe and secondly to embroil the European countries in all of the United States’s nefarious military adventures. This involvement also lends a veneer of international legitimacy to any American aggression, no matter how heinous it may be. A third result for NATO members, one that is seldom mentioned, is the fact that NATO’s mutual defense obligations make them nuclear targets for any enemy of the United States.

European Heads of State as “Naughty Children”

Finian Cunningham, a Northern Irish journalist currently based in East Africa, wrote a cogent op-ed piece on the issue for RT.com yesterday, in which he fills in the background and points up the fallacies of American use of its NATO “partners.” He leads in Mickey-Spillane-style, pointing out the American President’s use of spurious accusations, blackmail and extortion:

President Trump wants the others to cough up more dough for the “protection” provided to them by the United States. The American leader berated European heads of state as if they were naughty children, accusing them of “freeloading” on US military power for their defense over many decades, and of giving nothing back.

Trump singled out Germany in particular for his sharpest dressing down. He accused the top European economic power of being “controlled by Russia” owing to its supposed dependence on Russian oil and gas. Trump used that claim as a form of blackmail, alleging that Germany has been giving billions of dollars to Moscow for energy supplies, while cheating on financial payments to NATO because it relies on US military defenses.

Cunningham quotes the President, who sounds as if he’s been dozing since 1949 when NATO was created:

On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!

The Europeans might have considered the Russians as a plausible threat in the late 40s and early 50s, but today they are much more concerned about the dangers of being in the same boat with a distrumpian United States. But who can sell them protection against that uncomfortable situation? Certainly not the Americans.

Cunningham cites Christopher Black, a Canadian-based lawyer and analyst, who describes the proceedings as:

…an American shakedown” of the other 28 NATO members. Every American president has complained that the US is fronting the bill while its allies get a free ride. But nothing could be further from the truth… NATO is an aggressive military alliance created to serve mainly US interests.

To underscore that point, this week the NATO summit agreed to expand military training programs in Afghanistan and Iraq. Britain and Canada are to send more forces to those countries to alleviate American troops who have been there for nearly two decades.

So America starts dubious, illegal wars overseas, but it is other countries that end up becoming embroiled, to give a political, quasi-legal cover for American imperialist adventures.

 

A Revealing Slip of NATO’s Tongue

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, attempting to run interference for the President, inadvertently revealed NATO’s real function. Stoltenberg said it played an important role to “help project US power in the Middle East and Africa”.

While the US military budget does make up about 70 per cent of NATO’s total expenditure, some $700 billion, compared with Germany’s contribution of $43 billion.
But to portray the discrepancy as being due to chivalrous American defense of allies is a self-serving distortion.

For a start, the United States’ gargantuan military spend is not out of an altruistic commitment to “defending allies”. The gross misallocation of resources is a function of American capitalism and how its economy is dominated by a grotesque military-industrial complex. What Trump is seeking is to get other NATO members, the Europeans and Germany in particular, to prop up the American economy by spending ever-increasing amounts of money on the military industry. The anticipated purchase of US missile systems and warplanes – like the overpriced and under-performing F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – will feed into the American economy as a de facto subsidy.

Anybody reluctant to doubt the United States’s cynical, self-serving use of NATO forces in Europe–all in the noble cause of rabid anti-Communism–might read my four-part article on NATO’s Secret Armies, published here last April.

“Pay Up or We Won’t Protect You”

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled Mr. Trump, NATO is an alliance, not a protection racket, the author, Michael McFaul, writes:

In his recent interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump warned that the United States would defend only NATO allies who have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” He made clear that he sees allies as business partners, and relationships with them in transactional terms: Pay up or we won’t protect you.

 

This framing of alliance relationships as protection-racket contracts misses the strategic value of allies to the United States. We want allies to keep the peace, fight alongside us in times of war and defend our common values — long-term strategic objectives that stretch well beyond any debate about national military budgets.

This is a civilized observer’s point of view–one that has nothing to do with President Trump’s own expressed interpretation which is undeniably a protection racket with no credible base in reality beyond the implied threats to his European “partners.”

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The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–3/3

 

The Case of the Half-Million-Dollar Hat

One example of such a revolutionary system is the F-35 pilot’s helmet, for which different sources allege a price tag of between $400 and $600 thousand. It’s a marvel of technology that was created specifically for the F-35. It integrates information from the plane’s many sensors, and even receives, analyzes and creates a visual summary of input from the other planes in the flight, projected on the helmet’s visor. All the information is right in front of the pilot at all times. It even has a rear-view-mirror feature that permits him actually to see to the rear, something that was previously impossible due to the plane’s massive headrest.

Dan Grazier writes in a long article for National Interest.org on May 18, 2018,

Another often-touted feature that is supposed to give the F-35 superior situational awareness is the Distributed Aperture System (DAS). The DAS is one of the primary sensors feeding the displays to the infamous $600,000 helmet system, and it is also failing to live up to the hype. The DAS sensors are six video cameras or “eyes” distributed around the fuselage of the F-35 that project onto the helmet visor the outside view in any direction the pilot wants to look, including downwards or to the rear. At the same time, the helmet visor displays the flight instruments and the target and threat symbols derived from the sensors and mission system. But because of problems with excessive false targets, unstable “jittered” images, and information overload, pilots are turning off some of the sensor and computer inputs and relying instead on simplified displays or the more traditional instrument panel.

Test pilots also had difficulty with the helmet during some of the important Weapon Delivery Accuracy tests. Several of the pilots described the displays in the helmet as “operationally unusable and potentially unsafe” because of “symbol clutter” obscuring ground targets. While attempting to test fire short-range AIM-9X air-to-air missiles against targets, pilots reported that their view of the target was blocked by the symbols displayed on their helmet visors. Pilots also reported that the symbols were unstable while they were attempting to track targets.

Meanwhile, if a defective helmet costs half a million dollars, what is the price of one that works?

Concurrency = Plain Foolishness

Then there’s concurrency, the theory of being able to save time and money by manufacturing the planes at the same time they were conducting ground and flight testing and before the planes were thoroughly proven. Nor can we overlook the fact that most aspects of the F-35, from its engines and flight control system to its software and autonomic logistics system, were still in early stages of development at the time. In short, that ill-conceived idea of concurrency caused untold recalling and retrofitting headaches. The fact that many of the aircraft were already finished made the process even more expensive.

What motivated such a bizarre production and delivery policy? Wasn’t it evident at the time that things could possibly go wrong? There must have been a compelling reason–or more than one–for acting so impulsively with so much at stake.

Shared Components: Another Empty Sales Claim

The same goes for the promise of shared components among the three versions of the F-35, a factor that was touted to keep costs down.  As the development of the three versions evolved the original estimate of 80% commonality of parts among the three versions descended considerably, with the corresponding leap in costs.

This headline is an eyecatcher:

The F-35 Stealth Fighter’s Dirty Little Secret Is Now Out in the Open

According to a May 16, 2016 article in National Interest.org., U.S. Air Force lieutenant general Christopher Bogdan, head of the JSF program office, told a seminar audience that the three F-35 models are currently only 20- to 25-percent common, mainly in their cockpits.

In June 2018 Popular Mechanics is still on the case of the F-35. Their headline is eloquent:

Pentagon Agrees to Fix the F-35’s Many Problems Before Full Production

The high-tech fighter has 966 “open deficiencies”—otherwise known as defects.

According to Popular Mechanics, the Joint Strike Fighter was declared operational by the Marine Corps in July 2015; the Air Force just declared initial operational capability this week and the Navy hopes to do so by February 2019. If the schedule holds, the F-35 will be baseline operational 18 years after it was selected over Boeing’s X-32, and 23 years after the program began.

But first there are a few kinks to iron out. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is on the verge of going into full production yet even now the jet has nearly a thousand “deficiencies.” In response to a General Accounting Office report, the Pentagon has promised to fix the most critical deficiencies plaguing the plane.

In its report on the F-35, the GAO warned, “In its rush to cross the finish line, the F-35 Joint Program Office has made some decisions that are likely to affect aircraft performance and reliability and maintainability for years to come.”

As Bloomberg explains:

“The GAO report broke down the shortfalls into two categories: Category 1 deficiencies are defined as ‘those that could jeopardize safety, security, or another critical requirement,’ while Category 2 deficiencies ‘are those that could impede or constrain successful mission accomplishment.’ The report cited 111 Category 1 and 855 Category 2 deficiencies.”

Bloomberg adds, “The U.S. and its international partners are anxious to declare the plane fully operational and reap the cost savings of ordering the F-35 in larger numbers.” Let’s see if I got this right: International partners are “anxious” to order “large numbers” of  the world’s most expensive fighter plane even though it has 966 defects, 111 of which “could jeopardize safety, security, or another critical requirement.” I can’t believe it; maybe it’s a typographical error.

At the Bottom of This Whole Mess Are Two Vital Questions:

  1. In the meantime, what was the competition up to?
    The Russians are poorer than the Americans and the Chinese got a late start. Even so, almost all of the reliable combat simulations run thus far have left the F-35 in a distant third place. The new fifth-generation Russian Sukhoi Su-57 is about to come online (rumors are that two were seen recently over Syria) and the Chinese have launched the Chengdu J-20 (Black Eagle), which went on active duty last February. It’s a fifth-generation stealth fighter designed to deliver precision airstrikes on enemy warships, aircraft and ground forces. We can only guess about these two planes’ potential performance against the F-35 but they certainly must be taken into consideration.
  2. Is the F-35 necessary at all?The time is coming when piloted fighter planes won’t be necessary and it looks as if that time is coming sooner than later. The rapid rate of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) development may change the whole ball game. In fact, the United States Air Force is betting on it. They are currently forming many more UAV operators than fighter pilots. A fully-functioning sixth-or-seventh generation fighter drone might well put the F-35 out of its misery.

So what was the $1.4-trillion-dollar fuss about?

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The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–2/3

F-35_Assembly2

International Partners Come and Go

Canada, which has had a checkered relationship with the F-35 program, looked towards Holland, who were ahead of them in the process. This clip from the August 29, 2017 issue of the Ottowa Citizen gives an insight into the incentives the F-35 program offers its partners.

Every F-35 contains components manufactured by Dutch companies, Lockheed Martin has noted. On Aug. 16, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the overseas warehouse and distribution centre for parts for F-35s in Europe would be located in the Netherlands.

Luyt said one of the other main attractions of the F-35 is that it will be constantly upgraded. “It will be state of the art for decades,” he added.

“Constantly upgraded…” does that mean they’ll constantly be tinkering with it in an effort to get it right? That’s the situation currently.

“Partners” in the F-35 program may not realize they’re being lured into a dense web woven of money (The UK paid $2.4 billion to become a Level 1 partner.) Newer clients choose between Level 2 and Level 3. The Level 2 partners are Italy and the Netherlands, and Level 3 includes Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey. Payments are incremental as the program advances. Long before delivery time the client country has spent so much money already that it’s not practical for them to back out of the deal. The nine major partner nations, including the U.S., plan to acquire over 3,100 F-35s through 2035, which, if delivered will make the F-35 one of the most numerous jet fighters. “If delivered,” indeed. This is what the Spanish call “la cuenta de la lechera,” “the tale of the milkmaid.” She is so concentrated on all the money she is going to make selling her milk in the marketplace that she drops her buckets and spills the milk.

One is tempted to ask, considering all the F-35’s bad press in most of the world’s media (search “F-35” on YouTube and Google and you’ll find the whole gamut of cheerleaders and detractors) why would any country’s military procurement experts opt for the overbloated, overpriced, can’t-turn-can’t-climb-can’t-run F-35? This is a major mystery and the answer is buried somewhere in “The Program.” Some countries like the boost that parts manufacture would give to their industry. Others, like the UK, want to stay on the good side of the Americans. That said, there is a discussion afoot in the Parliament regarding buying F-35C (with longer range and more space for ordnance) instead of the F-35B, but buying fewer planes. Others, not being aircraft experts, may be inclined to believe the hype. But there’s got to be more to it. A cynic might suggest a dabbling in the black arts of arm twisting. A lively F-35 controversy flowered in Canada and they actually took the decision to annul the contract. Then in May of 2018 they paid $54 million to return to The Program. The headline on globalnews.ca at the time said,

Canada adds another $54M to F-35 fighter jet project, bringing cost to $500M over 2 decades

What happened to turn the Canadians around? We will never know.

Twenty Years of Bumps and Cost Overruns

In the decade following 2003, the F-35 program faced more than a dozen major glitches. In 2004, the F-35B was more than 2,000 pounds overweight, unable to meet its performance goals. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned that, as a result of the policy of concurrent development, retrofitting aircraft with systems that were not fully functional could be expensive. By 2013, the cost of retrofitting was put at $1.7 billion.

Starting in 2007, suspected Chinese cyber intrusions resulted in the theft of several terabytes of data related to the F-35’s design and electronics systems. This attack and another 2012 hack of BAE Systems (which makes the F-35’s flight control software, electronic warfare systems, aft fuselage, as well as its horizontal and vertical tails) forced hardware and software redesigns, adding more cost and delays. From a troublesome helmet-mounted cueing system to inadequate ejection seats and logistics software, the F-35 has continued to face challenges.

The situation got so bad that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates removed JSF program manager Maj. Gen. David Heinz (USMC) in 2010, delaying development even more. Problems assembling the F-35’s four-piece wing and structural fatigue in one of the bulkheads supporting the wing on the F-35B, combined with a strike at Lockheed Martin, led to reduced initial production buys. The cascade of woes nearly resulted in the cancellation of the F-35B in 2010-11. To avoid further delays resulting from design changes, in 2012 the Pentagon accepted a reduced combat radius for the F-35A and a longer takeoff run for the F-35B. The F-35B’s estimated combat radius was reduced by 15 percent. F-35Bs had to refuel 15 times on the recent transatlantic flight. (We can only imagine the cost of 15 refuelings over the Atlantic.)

A RAND study the same year found the three F-35 variants had drifted so far apart during development that having a single base design may prove to be more expensive than if services had just built separate aircraft tailored to their own requirements from the outset.

“Price Tag Is the Only Thing Stealthy about the F-35”

In a March 2017 article in Business Insider, Alex Lockie reports that, “Cost estimates for the F-35 have changed yearly over the past 15 years. It’s safe to say, though, that the program is the most expensive in U.S. history, pegged at more than $320 billion in 2012. In 2014, the GAO found that the F-35 fleet would have operating costs 79 percent higher than the aircraft it was to replace.”

A 2015 Pentagon Selected Acquisition Report said that program costs had increased 43 percent from 2001, including unit cost (up 68 percent). The best guess at the current unit price is in the neighborhood of $120 million. But the price will depend upon the number of aircraft sold. The report added that the F-35A’s cost per flying hour is $32,500 while the F-16C/D is $25,500. Private analysts have called the F-35 a “money pit,” and argued that the purpose of Lockheed’s extensive national and global supplier base—which includes 1,300 suppliers in the United States and abroad—was not so much to realize logistics efficiency and security, but to make sure the Joint Strike Fighter was too big to fail.

The Fighter Plane that Came Out of a Pork Barrel

It’s not clear whether the Defense Department’s marketing geniuses went to Congress or  Congress got wind of the project and contacted the Pentagon. In any case, it was decided to contract the manufacturing process among companies in 45 states and nine foreign countries. What possible competitive advantage would this extravagant strategy contribute? The answer is simple, if hard to believe. This way almost all the members of the U.S. House of Representatives could boast of having created jobs and prosperity in their respective districts, thus contributing to their re-election possibilities. This clumsy and devious process has a long tradition in United States politics. It’s called the “pork barrel,” by which funds for projects are “earmarked” for specific Congressional districts. It’s great for the careers of incumbent Congress members but less so for everyone else. In the case of the F-35 the pork-barrel approach made the project infinitely more complicated and expensive. Many of the ill-fitting components of the aircraft from far-flung parts of the country and farther afield had to be redone and refitted, with the concomitant cost and schedule overruns.

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See Part 3 Tomorrow
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The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–1/3

 

japan_rollout
This was the F-35 rollout ceremony in Japan. No shortage of razzamatazz.

The Process of Military Purchasing in the Free World–Who Wins, Who Loses?

You may not be a big fan of military procurement scandals, nor even of supersonic fighter jets. But the case of  F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is massive–the largest government defense contract ever signed anywhere by anybody–and massively convoluted. It would be wonderfully amusing if it weren’t so utterly bizarre. By studying its ins and outs we can discover a lot about American government priorities and how their dubious values come into play. You will discover here just how smart they are–and how dumb they think we are.

What Exactly Is the F-35 Lightning II (aka the Joint Strike Fighter) Program?

In the mid-1990s, when the United States Department of Defense began to think about their next generation of fighter aircraft, they selected two prestigious manufacturers, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to present projects and prototypes for their versions of the new Joint Strike Fighter, “joint” because US government experts (“expert:” a stranger with a briefcase) had previously decided it would be more efficient to use a single airframe to create three “variants,” one each for the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force. According to most of the F-35’s many subsequent critics, it was this seemingly arbitrary decision to order a multi-purpose (“joint”) combat airplane that underlay all the problems that followed. They allege that it would have been cheaper and better to build three different aircraft, each one suited specifically to the unique needs of the respective services. At the time, however, before the inevitable compromises that had to be incorporated to satisfy three very different customers, government military procurement experts were immovable, though they were gravely mistaken. Aviation history had seen multi-purpose airplanes before and none of them had worked very well.

According to the F-35 official website, f-35.com, the F-35  is the United States’s “multi-variant, multirole fifth-generation fighter aircraft.” Is it a plane or a program? They’re pitching it as both, a fighter plane for the 21st century and curious program for developing and selling it. According to the Department of Defense’s description, the F-35 “combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.” As of this writing (June 2018) three variants of the F-35 are beginning to replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least ten other potential and actual client countries.”

This is the sales pitch. In fact, the F-35 is neither very fast nor very agile. As for “fully-fused sensor information” and “advanced sustainment,” those terms are about as specious as a “Gluten Free” guarantee on a can of tennis balls.

Seminal fighter pilot, strategist and tactician, John Boyd; defense analysts Tom Christie, Pierre Sprey, Chuck Myers; test pilot Col. Everest Riccioni and aeronautical engineer Harry Hillaker formed the core of the self-dubbed “Fighter Mafia” which worked behind the scenes in the late 1960s to pursue a lightweight fighter as an alternative to the F-15. (They had a hand in the creation of the F-15, the F-16 and the A-10.) Their assertions were that:

  • Air Force generals established the wrong criteria for combat effectiveness, ignoring combat history.
  • High technology and the focus on “higher, faster, and farther” increases costs and decreases effectiveness. The mafia argued for cheaper and better planes.
  • Air Force bureaucracies were corrupt as they did not conduct honest testing on weapons before buying them and deploying them in the field.
  • The focus should be on close air support and the use of combined arms to support maneuver warfare rather than interdiction bombing.
  • Multi-role and multi-mission capability compromises the plane.
  • Beyond-visual-range combat was a fantasy.

All of these Fighter Mafia reservations are still valid and some of these old timers are still activists. The most visible one, and perhaps the most engaging is Pierre Sprey. Sprey, one of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s whiz kids in the 60s and 70s and later a consultant on defense issues, is today one of the F-35’s leading critics. Sprey sums up briefly the F-35’s problems: “It can’t turn, can’t climb and can’t run. It’s a turkey.”

F-35 Believers and Non-Believers

What are its real objectives? Despite all the hoopla about its stunning combat qualities, the truth is that they still haven’t completed the final testing, so they don’t know if it’s going to work. What we do know is that the initial tests ran up against many problems, from cracks in the airframe to serious software problems. As for objectives, Pierre Sprey says, “The objective is clear. It’s a device to funnel many billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin.”

Who criticizes it? Any qualified person who examines the aircraft and its “program” with a clear, unbiased eye criticizes them. Who defends it?  Anybody who has his or her snout in the government financing trough defends it. It’s easy to discern which is which by reading just the first couple of paragraphs of any article on the subject.

What’s “The Program?”

Let’s take a look at the facts. (This facts-based approach sounds too obvious to even mention but, in the F-35 shell game, it’s essential that it be clearly stipulated.) Because most of the critically important information used in the procurement, development and sales of the F-35 in the early days–and even today–was not properly “information.” It was projections, more or less educated guesses, extrapolations from existing aircraft, suppression of uncomfortable actual facts and industrial quantities of good-old-fashioned institutional salesmanship. And if the Americans excel in anything it’s sales engineering.

An American friend of ours who had a long career as a tech sales manager said something I’ve never forgotten. “The secret of success in this business is to sell it, then build it.” Which is what Lockheed Martin and the Defense Department have done with the F-35 Lightning II. When they made their first sales presentations they didn’t even have a product. They had a mockup–a model airplane. It takes a lot of cheek to sell a papiermâché fighter plane. Their paper airplane was adorned, of course, with a lot of projections promises and patriotism.

At this point we have to take our hats off to the Americans’ characteristic creativity and chutzpah. Aware that their aircraft was nowhere close to being a reality they sold their potential clients on becoming “co-developers” of what was sure to become the world’s finest fighter plane, filled with high-tech features that other countries had not even dreamed of. The Americans themselves had dreamed of these jazzy new features but they had never built most of them, let alone test their validity up in the air.

Part 2 coming tomorrow
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Is America Headed Towards Fascism?

American_Fascism3

Fascism Is Not Just About Flag Waving and Making the Trains Run on Time

No, America is not “headed towards fascism.” It has been an essentially fascist country since August 6, 1945, when it dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. According to the Wikipedia, between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was nuked three days later, the death toll in the two cities totaled at least 127,000 people. Historians are in agreement that the war in the Pacific was already won when the atomic bombs were unleashed and that the real purpose for the attacks was to stun the Soviet Union into halting their advance on China and Japan and to lay the cornerstone in the edifice of American world domination.

Dictionary.com says “fascism” is:

…a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

This definition falls short for me, as it doesn’t mention the quintessential elements of violence, cruelty and racism, which have been at the center of all 20th-century fascism. As for “a dictator having complete power,” that wasn’t necessary for the United States at the time, as the country was already militarized, mentalized and mobilized thanks to the previous four years of World War II, during which Franklin D. Roosevelt had greatly extended the arbitrary powers of the President for making war. If he had known who was to follow him in the presidency and how they would misappropriate the powers he legitimized he might have been more prudent.

Roosevelt’s Death Was Providential

After Roosevelt died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage at his Warm Springs, Georgia, retreat on April 12, 1945, a weak and inexperienced vice president–a failed haberdasher–became President of the United States, responsible for the endgame of the Second World War. Harry S. Truman had been an underling in the Boss Tom Pendergast Democratic-party machine in Kansas City, Missouri, and in Washington was known as “the senator from Pendergast.” Confused and ineffectual, Truman had been vice president for just 82 days when Roosevelt died. According to the White House’s own website (whitehouse.gov):

During his few weeks as Vice President, Harry S. Truman scarcely saw President Roosevelt, and received no briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding difficulties with Soviet Russia. Suddenly these and a host of other wartime problems became Truman’s to solve when, on April 12, 1945, he became President. He told reporters, “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

When Truman became President he sought more experienced counsel. As luck would have it his principal advisor was his colleague and mentor from the Senate, James F. Byrnes, who was less expert than Truman supposed. Considered a relative lightweight by Washington insiders he was also a diehard anti-Soviet, this after Roosevelt had established a robust respect-based relationship with Stalin with prospects for postwar cooperation between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Byrnes was directly responsible for the firing of Henry Wallace, Roosevelt’s progressive Secretary of State and his earnest hope for the future of the United States.

With the new President firmly in the hands of hardline reactionaries like Byrnes and Averell Harriman, Ambassador to the Soviet Union since 1943, the collaborative postwar future foreseen by Roosevelt and Wallace, was quickly scrapped. Truman fired Wallace and dropped the bombs. Why two? Because war department wanted to see the effects of both models on densely-populated cities, the 16-kiloton, uranium-235-based “Little Boy” and the 21-kiloton plutonium device they called the “Fat Man.”

Immediately after the Second World War the Americans and the British turned their backs on their Soviet allies who had contributed massively more to winning the war than the US and UK combined. The comparative casualty figures are eloquent. According to the WW2 Museum, the total number of military and civilian dead, by country, were the following:

  • The United Kingdom–450,700
  • The United States–418,500
  • The Soviet Union–24,000,000

The level of betrayal was monumental. At the end of the war the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, actually goaded Truman and the president of the French provisional government, Charles DeGaulle, to turn their guns on the Soviet Union and get the Communists out of the way once and for all. That initiative didn’t prosper but other schemes to block and boycott the Soviet Union did. Truman, advised by the officers who created and ran Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the U.S. wartime intelligence service, oversaw the creation of the National Security Council and the CIA in 1947 and NATO in 1949. The stage was set for the Cold War, which was–and is–a classic, ongoing fascist response to any and all threats to American dominance worldwide.

The first steps in this fascist march on the future of the 20th century were taken by the British MI6 intelligence service even before World War II ended, with their creation of “stay behind” groups in almost all European countries. These were clandestine military units designed to offer resistance to possible Soviet invasions and were innocently accepted as such by their European “hosts.” Little did these welcoming countries suspect that the stay-behind units would soon morph into terrorist cells run by the CIA and MI6 and specialized in senseless, seemingly random false-flag attacks to instill fear of “communism” throughout Europe. The organization, commonly known as “Operation Gladio,” began operation in Italy near the end of the war and exercised a cruel and unusual influence there for decades. Gladio, partly financed by Marshall Plan funds, included right-wing elements and Nazi collaborators in most of the countries where it operated.  I have recently discussed Operation Gladio at some length in a four-part article that you can access here.

Italian Fascism as Role Model

New Yorker writer Robin Wright has this to say in a review of Madeleine Albright’s recent book, Fascism: A Warning, written with Bill Woodward, about the rise of Mussolini, the quintessential fascist, in the Italy of the 20s, 30s and 40s, until he was executed by a firing squad of Italian partisans on April 28, 1945 in the village of Giulino di Mezzegra in northern Italy.

Mussolini called on his followers to believe in an Italy that would be “prosperous because it was self-sufficient and respected because it was feared,” Albright writes. “This was how twentieth-century fascism began: with a magnetic leader exploiting widespread dissatisfaction by promising all things.” Il Duce, who was Italy’s Prime Minister from 1922 until 1943, said that his mission was “to break the bones of the democrats and the sooner the better.” He used the term “drenare la palude,” or “drain the swamp.” He had a talent for theatre, Albright notes, and was a poor listener who disliked hearing other people talk. He discouraged cabinet members from “proposing any idea that might cause him to doubt his instincts,” which, he insisted, were always right. He also promoted the idea of national self-sufficiency “without ever grasping how unrealistic that ambition had become.”

If this sounds eerily familiar it’s because it is almost too accurate to be true. Wright makes it crystal clear: “The elephant rampaging through these pages is, of course, Donald Trump.”

Let’s Look at Some Clear Examples of Current American Fascism

The best and most recent case is that of illegal immigrant children, including babies,  being forcibly separated from their parents at the US borders. Need I point out that this practice cries out to heaven? It’s still not clear what the future holds for these innocent young people. One European news medium summed it up: “The United States is the only country in the world with concentration camps for children.”

These heinous detention practices are not limited to immigrant children. They extend to both juvenile and adult prisoners all over the country. The Bradley (Chelsea) Manning case is the most high-profile example. He was submitted to almost seven years of a prison regime that amounted to torture. Just as horrific as the treatment of Manning was the Kids for Cash scandal in Pennsylvania, which saw kids “sold” by juvenile judges to private for-profit prisons. This case affected many more young people, most of whom will not go back to school nor be otherwise rehabilitated.

Is it not fascistic to punish the populations of whole countries over long periods for perceived affronts or egalitarian political leanings before the all-powerful USA, whether by means of embargoes, election tampering, assassination, regime change or outright invasion as in the cases of Cuba,  Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Greece, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Libya… Those peoples emphatically did not deserve the imposition of these gratuitous priorities of property rights over human rights. We’re not talking about idle ideology here; we’re talking about countless thousands–nay millions–of deaths of innocent people.

What Spawns a Fascist?

What spawns a fascist? What are the causes of this fascist degeneration of American society?  There can be many causes starting with good-old-fashioned greed and will to power. But we can’t discount individual personality disorders, limited intelligence, inherited wealth and privilege, mob psychology, indoctrination of false notions of exceptionalism, imperfect adaptation to school and society, or the atmosphere in which the young fascist is reared. The Spanish would sum this all up neatly in two words: mala leche. “Mala leche” is the “bad milk” that one suckles from his mother, nourishment that also transmits low character and ignoble inclinations. It’s a metaphor for a person’s whole biological, cultural and social heritage. Mala leche is perhaps the most serious insult in the Spanish language, not one to be taken lightly.  The operative question at this point is: what do you do when approximately half the country is afflicted with it.

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind

President Donald Trump arrives at Newark International airport
Washington’s illustrious company of Chicken Hawk Militarists, war-mongering politicians who didn’t actually do any military service, has a new Chicken Hawk in Chief, President Donald J. Trump. It’s a dubious honor.

The Chicken Hawk, the Most Ignominious Bird of All

The military service records–or lack thereof–of American war-mongering politicians are an excellent place to scrutinize their particular kinds of patriotism. The patriotic sentiments of those lacking in military experience are usually not of the Nathan Hale “I-only-regret-that-I-have-but-one-life-to-give- for-my-country” variety. The most common type of patriotism to be found among your non-combatant militarist politicians is of the vocal variety. Their mouths are admirably patriotic, the rest of their makeup not so much. These reluctant warriors who strongly support military action everywhere, all the time, yet went out of their way to avoid military service when of age are aptly referred to as “Chicken Hawks.” The term has a nice ring to it and an interesting set of connotations.

Note: Not all public figures who prefer sending other people to fight for their beliefs are politicians. There are also dozens of them in the right-wing media.

First and Foremost

The country’s foremost Chicken Hawk, until President Trump earned the crown, was President G.W. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, the rabidly pro-war, multi-deferment politico notorious for his bold “I had other priorities” pronouncement. As if those other 58,000 Americans–eight of whom were women–whose names are engraved on Washington’s black marble wall didn’t also have “other priorities.” Or perhaps they freely chose to die in the Vietnam war.

But Cheney is not alone. The majority of the leading neo-con lights also exempted themselves from national service. They, too, had other priorities. If you google “Chicken Hawks” you will find long lists of shirkers. Though the original best list, published by the New Hampshire Gazette, “The Nation’s Oldest Newspaper, and posted on the web for years as the “Chickenhawk Hall of Shame,” has somehow morphed into an error message. Currently the most complete list of Chicken Hawks, both in politics and the media, is at http://www.awolbush.com/whoserved.html. In fairness, this list looks a bit cherry picked, as virtually all of the Republicans are listed as “did not serve,” but nearly all the Democrats are veterans.

What do these Chicken Hawk dudes have to suffer in order to accede to positions of high responsibility–and privilege–in the American government, anyway? Essentially it’s just the exigencies of the campaign trail and countless town meetings, political debates, boring hotels and the occasional impertinent interviewer. Demanding, certainly, but nothing like the Ho Chi Minh Trail nor the Hanoi Hilton.

But let’s look on the bright side. There’s a rich vein of humor running through the Chicken Hawk saga. Here’s a comment from “eastvan” on The Daily Kos in 2007:

And lets not forget Bill Kristol… He managed to dodge one war so succesfully he has no problem encouraging others to die for his beliefs. As an NCO involved in recruit courses ( I’m teaching one now) there is nothing I would like more than to see a platoon full of Yellow Elephants show up. I keep waiting, but it never happens. Love to see Selective Service become so selective it only drafts out of gated communities.

There’s a New Chicken Hawk in Chief in Town

Now President Donald Trump, who evaded military service because of alleged “heel spurs,” has become the new highest-profile Chicken Hawk. It was James Fallows, veteran correspondent for The Atlantic, who first dubbed Trump in his 7 August 2017 article there, as “Chicken Hawk in Chief.” Fallows, who puts his finger on the least endearing trait of the Chicken Hawks–their facile willingness to criticize people who did go to war–  sums it up wryly:

Through the murk, though, one line shines bright and clear. Even as the United States becomes more and more a “chickenhawk nation”—always at war, but with only a tiny sliver of the country doing the fighting—it’s the line that individual chickenhawks should respect. No one wants to hear them criticizing others for their war decisions, not even via Twitter from the golf course.

Though he certainly didn’t want to be one of them President Trump has eloquent words for America’s “fallen heroes.” This is from his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018:

Our fallen heroes have not only written our history they have shaped our destiny. They saved the lives of the men and women with whom they served. They cared for their families more than anything in the world, they loved their families. They inspired their communities…

Trump being Trump, however, he follows this tender eulogy with an oafish  advertisement for himself:

Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!

How Low Can You Go?

Perhaps the most glaringly crass example of Chicken Hawk practice came from Donald Trump himself, in 2015 before he was President, when he attacked John McCain’s war record. McCain was a Navy pilot in Vietnam, was shot down, had both arms and a leg broken, was butt stroked and bayonetted and spent five and a half years in North Vietnamese prisoner of war camps being tortured regularly. When his Vietnamese captors learned his father was the commander of the US fleet they offered to release him. McCain refused to be released unless all the other American POWs were also sent home. Trump, who had spent his life, including the Vietnam war years, speculating, going bankrupt and “grabbing pussy,” was reported as boldly saying: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.”

The Guardian quoted former Texas governor Rick Perry at the time as saying this verbal attack on McCain was “a new low in US politics.” They also quoted other Republican notables:

South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a friend of McCain, has been a vociferous critic of Trump. On Twitter, he said: “If there was ever any doubt that Donald Trump should not be our commander in chief, this stupid statement should end all doubt.”

The most pointed response came from the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, who tweeted: “After Donald Trump spends six years in a POW camp, he can weigh in on John McCain’s service.”

The John McCain/Chicken Hawks saga has a lugubrious post script. Global News.ca reported on May 10, 2018 that a White House official mocked Sen. John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, a day after McCain voiced his opposition to President Donald Trump‘s decision to nominate Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” communications aide Kelly Sadler said during a closed-door meeting, The Hill reported first, citing a source familiar with the meeting.

Who Pays the Tab for Chicken Hawk Militarism?

The casualties pay the tab most directly. The militarists give no thought to the human cost of war, both on the side of their enemies and their own. Much emphasis is placed on civilian dead and wounded, and that’s fair enough. But let’s not forget that soldiers and sailors are also human beings, with all that implies. They’ve got mothers and fathers, wives and children, friends and neighbors, projects and aspirations. In short, they’ve got lives. Most of them participating in wars would rather not be there. Many were draftees, others are economic slaves to war. Some of them are in it to get an education; some of them get a flag-draped casket.

The most serious aspect of all this isn’t necessarily about non-veteran politicians voting for military solutions. It’s about them wrapping themselves in the flag and using “patriotism” as a blunt instrument against more valid opponents who have lived the realities of war in their own flesh and minds. It’s about arrogance, willful ignorance and infirm self satisfaction. It’s about their doubtful legitimacy. It’s about their style-yes, style is important–as truculent dwarves, relying on bluster and fear mongering instead of anything that might pass for thinking, working from dubious foregone conclusions, blind and deaf to human suffering. Of course, the civilian control of the military is an essential component of democracy. The question is, which civilians? Certainly not the mindless, flag-waving, know-nothing civilians who are in charge today.

 

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing