Category: Global Arms Control

The Obama Arms Bazaar

Counterpunch, By William D. Hartung, April 3-5

With the end of the Obama presidency just around the corner, discussions of his administration’s foreign policy legacy are already well under way. But one central element of that policy has received little attention: the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons exports.

The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.
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‘David Against Nuclear Goliaths’: Nation Wages Legal Fight ‘for All Humanity’

Marshall Islands, still plagued by U.S. nuclear bomb testing, says 9 nuclear nations must abide by non-proliferation, disarm.

Common Dreams, April 24

In an unprecedented legal action, the small Pacific nation and former U.S. nuclear testing site of the Marshall Islands has filed lawsuits “on behalf of all humanity” at the International Court of Justice against the U.S. and 8 other nations for their “flagrant denial of human justice” by failing to work towards nuclear disarmament.

The nations cited by the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China — all parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as nuclear-armed Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — which are not parties to the NPT but which the challenge says are “bound by customary international law.”

In addition to the suits filed Thursday in The Hague against the 9 nations, an additional suit specifically calling out the United States was filed in U.S. Federal District Court.

A campaign site launched with the suits to garner support for the action explains that the RMI “knows firsthand the horror and consequences of living in a world with nuclear weapons.”

The Secret War


Wired Threat Level, June 12

Inside Fort Meade, Maryland, a top-secret city bustles. Tens of thousands of people move through more than 50 buildings—the city has its own post office, fire department, and police force. But as if designed by Kafka, it sits among a forest of trees, surrounded by electrified fences and heavily armed guards, protected by antitank barriers, monitored by sensitive motion detectors, and watched by rotating cameras. To block any telltale electromagnetic signals from escaping, the inner walls of the buildings are wrapped in protective copper shielding and the one-way windows are embedded with a fine copper mesh.

This is the undisputed domain of General Keith Alexander, a man few even in Washington would likely recognize. Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.
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Obama accused of nuclear U-turn as guided weapons plan emerges

(The Guardian) – Plan to spend $10bn on updating nuclear bombs goes against 2010 pledge not to deploy new weapons, say critics

Barack Obama has been accused of reneging on his disarmament pledges after it emerged the administration was planning to spend billions on upgrading nuclear bombs stored in Europe to make the weapons more reliable and accurate.

Under the plan, nearly 200 B61 gravity bombs stockpiled in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey would be given new tail fins that would turn them into guided weapons that could be delivered by stealth F35 fighter-bombers.

“This will be a significant upgrade of the US nuclear capability in Europe,” said Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of Nuclear Scientists. “It flies directly in the face of the pledges Obama made in 2010 that he would not deploy new weapons.”

In its Nuclear Posture Review in 2010, the US undertook to do reduce the role and numbers of its nuclear weapons, in part by not developing new nuclear warheads, and pledging it would not “support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities”.

According to newly published budget figures, the US will spend about $10bn (£6.5bn) on a life extension programme for the B61 bombs, and another $1bn on adding controllable tail fins. Kristensen said the tail kit would give it a new mission and new capabilities, once some of the upgraded weapons were deployed as scheduled in Europe in 2019 or 2020. more

President Obama Needs to Tell the Truth

truthThe word truth often signifies an expression of profound belief.  Opponent of higher taxes insist that low tax rates promote new jobs and an expanding gross domestic product.  Proponents of higher taxes insist that historical data shows just the opposite.  Who knows the truth of these assertions or if there is any true answer?  The foundations for these assertions of truth are often strongly held fixed beliefs based on a sense of justice or personal interest with empirical data and analysis playing a secondary role.   However, some issues are amenable to truth.

Is the United States providing arms to the Syrian rebels? 

The question is important for two reasons.  The armed conflict between Syrian rebels and the Syrian government is dismembering the nation and killing tens of thousands of its citizens.  The current estimate is 70,000 dead with a total of 150,000 anticipated should the conflict continue another six months.  In addition, any military interference in Syria was strongly opposed by the public in a poll of March 2012 in which 64% of respondents said No to the question – “Does the U.S. have a responsibility to do something about fighting in Syria?”  Morality and the responsiveness of leaders to their employers, the people, are at issue.

There is a true answer to the question about the U.S. provision of arms thanks to a March 24 investigative journalism article in the New York Times by C. J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt:  Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.

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It’s Still Five Minutes To Midnight


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board recently announced its decision to keep the Doomsday Clock at five minutes to midnight. Today, the Bulletin reprinted the Board’s open letter to President Obama explaining why and calling upon him to take concrete steps to address the three big problems that kept the clock unchanged: nuclear weapons, unsecured nuclear material and – of course – climate change.

Dear President Obama,

2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the US elections the focus was “the economy, stupid,” with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population’s well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world’s energy sources. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, marked by devastating drought and brutal storms. These extreme events are exactly what climate models predict for an atmosphere overburdened with greenhouse gases. 2012 was a year of unrealized opportunity to reduce nuclear stockpiles, to lower the immediacy of destruction from missiles on alert, and to control the spread of fissile materials and keep nuclear terrorism at bay. 2012 was a year in which — one year after the partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station — the Japanese nation continued to be at the earliest stages of what will be a costly and long recovery.

The stasis of 2012 convinces us, the Science and Security Board, to keep the hands of the Doomsday Clock in place. Mr. President, we see 2013 as a year for vision and engagement. We know that decisive action can make the world safer. Humanity awaits the US leadership that can secure a future free of nuclear weapons. US action can induce the world’s nations to negotiate international agreements to avert the worst calamities of climate change. We turn to you, Mr. President, to lead us toward a safer world and to help us turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock.

It remains five minutes to midnight.

Read the whole thing here.

A Schmear With Your Hagel?

OK, now that things have settled down a bit, I’m ready to take on what I think will be the key issue over the next few weeks: filling Obama’s Cabinet.
John Kerry should be a slam-dunk for Secretary of State. Yes, the Swift Boaters are rearing their ugly heads again, but now that John Corsi has been not only thoroughly discredited with his treasonous slanders against President Obama, they will barely be a pebble under Kerry’s halftrack.
Chuck Hagel should be a slamdunk for Secretary of Defense and I believe, despite the brouhaha being raised by the small-penis caucus, he will be. But let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon and its evolution.


Reuters Analysis: U.S. arms sales to Asia set to boom on Pacific “pivot”.

The pivot “will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends,” said Fred Downey, vice president for national security at the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that includes top U.S. arms makers.

Demand for big-ticket U.S. weapons is expected to stay strong for at least the next few years, the trade group said in a 2012 year-end review and forecast released in December.

Fears resulting from China’s growing military spending should lead to enough U.S. sales in South and East Asia to more than offset a slowdown in European arms-buying, according to the forecast.

The trade group, whose members include Pentagon suppliers Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Northrop Grumman Corp, did not put numbers to its 2013 forecast. Nor did the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which has overseen a boom in worldwide deals under President Barack Obama.

The security agency, in response to a Reuters request, said sales agreements with countries in the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of activity rose to $13.7 billion in fiscal 2012, up 5.4 percent from a year before. Such pacts represent orders for future delivery.

In 2012 there were about 65 notifications to Congress of proposed government-brokered foreign military sales with a combined potential value of more than $63 billion. In addition, the State Department office that regulates direct commercial sales was on track to receive more than 85,000 license requests in 2012, a new record.

Fear will continue to be stoked by scarifying position papers from the usual D.C. think tanks, the people paid to think by those who make tanks.

“Meaningful Contributions”

What an interesting turn of phrase the NRA has resorted to, after nearly five days of utter silence with regard to the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter:

After days of silence, the National Rifle Association released a statement Tuesday on the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., saying it will make “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

In the release, the organization begins to explain its silence, saying: “Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.”

Now, this could be read as anything from pumping gobs of money into advocating more gun rights to finally making significant changes to its pro-gun manufacturing stances.

After all, isn’t it the hardcore gun owners who are saying “If the teachers had been armed…” fully neglecting the fact that there have been mass killing on military bases where there are arms aplenty. If trained military officers and soldiers can’t react quickly enough to a slaughter by automatic weaponry, how in the heck is a principal supposed to a) hear gun fire, b) recognize it as gun fire, c) run to the gun safe, d) open it while emotionally compromised, e) pull out a weapon, f) load it (because presumably you wouldn’t want loaded weapons in a school, and g) run back down the hall and steady herself (since most principals are women) and shoot a gunman, all without sacrificing another student?

A “meaningful contribution” could be interpreted as to offer gun training to teachers for free, you see.

In thirty years, not one mass shooting has been stopped by a civilian with a gun, unless you count the killers who have shot themselves on the scene. Apocryphal stories abound of armed citizens staring down a gunman, but those sound more like bar-boasts than anything else and are not backed up by trials where evidence has been submitted.

The NRA is scheduled to hold a press conference in Washington, DC on Friday. That it has not decided to rub people’s noses in it by holding an ad hoc convention in Hartford instead can be taken as a sign of progress.

Maybe, just maybe, its dawned on them that people matter more than guns.


North Korea Rocket Launch: Long-Range Missile Fired

Reuters – North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to its opponents.

The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labelled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States. continues @

Beltway Wonkdom: Where Clever Words Disguise Odious Arguments

Dr. Christopher A. Ford is a Senior Fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, and regarded by the Beltway set as something of a conservative expert on matters nuclear and on nonproliferation. He and i have locked horns a few times – on one occasion he called me an “opportunistic listserve dilletante”, a badge I wear with pride. I acknowedge that Ford is a massively bright guy, and knows his subject matter very well – it’s just that the loops he ties in the facts to justify his neocon ideology in big Beltway confabs turns my stomach. In that, he’s representative of what the Beltway accepts as “serious analysis” because it is dressed up in the approved way, while they scorn as “ideological rhetoric” more plainspoken forms of argument. There’s something seriously broken in the decision-makers’ system, in my opinion.

To illustrate, after the jump there’s an excerpt from Chris’ latest talk at a wonk event, a link to the whole thing, and my own plain analysis.
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In-depth series: The global race to bear arms

Global Post, December 3

From Mexico’s drug violence to conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, the global trade in small arms is helping fuel violence around the world. Legal sales alone have more than doubled in the past six years to an annual $8.5 billion, according to one study. GlobalPost looks at the sources and effects of the booming weapons business.

*In America, guns are a boom, regulation a bust

*US weapons help fuel Mexican gang violence

*China supplying Africa with guns

*Jobs ease Europe’s bad conscience over arms sales

More at the link