Category: Military

The Humvee’s replacement — the Oshkosh L-ATV

…The US Army has picked its replacement for the aging vehicle originally designed as a Cold War replacement for the Jeep—and it comes from Wisconsin. Eventually, the Army and Marine Corps could buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles over the next 25 years, spending over $30 billion.

In a move that will undoubtedly spur a spate of protests and political backlash from a heavily lobbied Congress, the US Army has awarded the Defense Department’s multibillion dollar Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program contract to the contender from Oshkosh Defense, beating out the other finalists in the program, which started in November of 2006 — Lockheed Martin and the Humvee’s manufacturer, American General. The initial “low rate” order for 16,901 vehicles for both the Army and Marine Corps is worth $6.7 billion.

That’s a touch over $396K per copy!

Oshkosh’s winning design is called the L-ATV (for “Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle”). It includes innovations that were added to the Humvee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including remote-operated weapons turrets (with heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles), and electronic warfare gear to jam remote controls for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It will also be a rolling network unto itself, equipped to generate up to 10 kilowatts of “exportable” power for Army and Marine Corps communication and computer gear, with HF, VHF, UHF, and SATCOM onboard as well as a vehicle intercom system. There’s also a centralized onboard computer system powering “smart displays” for the soldiers or Marines it carries. The L-ATV will also be equipped with a variety of surveillance and threat sensors—including a shot locator system, long-range surveillance cameras, and low-light and infrared camera systems.

The L-ATV can be transported by heavy-lift helicopter or by the Marine Corps’ landing craft, but it’s a much bigger payload than the Hummer, with a curb weight nearly three times that of the older vehicle: about 14,000 pounds, compared to the Humvee’s 5,900 pounds. That extra mass is a combination of armor, electrical power and additional horsepower. Oshkosh won partially because of the proven performance of its M-ATV, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle it sold to the military as an urgent replacement for Humvees and trucks damaged by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the L-ATV also has better fuel efficiency than the Humvee, and its suspension system allows for 70 percent faster off-road speeds.

I’m still a motorhead. Of course, that extends to every kind of motor vehicle including all terrain monsters like this. Though I’m pleased to see Oshkosh beat out the corporate dangerous duo who’ve been in bed with our military-industrial complex since before it was so named — no doubt I will have differences with specification, intent and design.

Some other time.

Pentagon’s views on the Free Press in wartime


Credit Brian Stauffer

The Defense Department earlier this summer released a comprehensive manual outlining its interpretation of the law of war. The 1,176-page document, the first of its kind, includes guidelines on the treatment of journalists covering armed conflicts that would make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship. Those should be repealed immediately.

Journalists, the manual says, are generally regarded as civilians, but may in some instances be deemed “unprivileged belligerents,” a legal term that applies to fighters that are afforded fewer protections than the declared combatants in a war. In some instances, the document says, “the relaying of information (such as providing information of immediate use in combat operations) could constitute taking a direct part in hostilities.”

The manual warns that “Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying,” so it calls on journalists to “act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities.” It says that governments “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.”

Allowing this document to stand as guidance for commanders, government lawyers and officials of other nations would do severe damage to press freedoms. Authoritarian leaders around the world could point to it to show that their despotic treatment of journalists — including Americans — is broadly in line with the standards set by the United States government.

Nice to see the NY TIMES stand up for a Free Press. Even in wartime. Finally.

RTFA for a more detailed albeit brief exposition. The editorial originally had a link to a .pdf of the relevant portion of the manual. That seems to have disappeared. But, we all know nothing ever really disappears from the Web.

Hee, hee, hee!

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music

This was a slogan during the resistance to the US War in VietNam: Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. We all recognized rigidity, reactionary, out-of-date definitions corrupting any sense of being modern or useful.

The song remains the same. Chelsea Manning faces solitary confinement for having the Jenner Vanity Fair issue in her cell.

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier serving a 35-year military prison sentence for leaking official secrets, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for having an expired tube of toothpaste in her cell and being found in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair issue…

Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.

The maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.

The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.

The “prohibited property” charge relates to a number of books and magazines that were found in her cell and confiscated. They included the memoir I Am Malala by Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, a novel featuring trans women called A Safe Girl to Love, the LGBT publication Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and a copy of Cosmopolitan that included an interview with Manning.

Also confiscated was the US Senate report on torture. It is not clear why any of these publications were considered violations of prison rules – a request by the Guardian to the army public affairs team for an explanation of the charges received no immediate response.

RTFA for more details of the crap we expect from the United States. Not just for political prisoners, of course. If you try to learn and think, perhaps voice some level of dissent from the Dark Ages mentality of most American jailers – you’re in trouble.

How the Army designed the world’s weirdest meat

Can the United States Army claim credit for the McRib?

That bizarre fast-food creation has long been the subject of cultish adoration and surprisingly credible conspiracy theories (like the one that speculates its mysterious appearances are timed to low pork prices).

But the best speculation about the McRib may be a new theory about its origins: that it’s part of our lives thanks to the United States Army’s quietly revolutionary food lab, located in Natick, Massachusetts…

“What the Army develops is the backbone,” Anastacia Marx de Salcedo says. “The private companies make it more palatable for the consumer.”

She’s the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, a new book that tracks Army food research’s wide influence on the culture at large. It’s a rollicking, yet encyclopedic, look at the Army’s role in everything from industrialized meats to energy bars. And that includes the restructured-meat masterpiece known as the McRib.

So, who gets credited for developing restructured meat?

…Marx de Salcedo identifies Dr. Roger Mandigo as one contender, who told Marx de Salcedo that in 1970, “the project was funded by the National Pork Council with the pork producers check-off fund … our original restructured pork was shaped like chops; McDonald’s adapted them for their McRibs.” Marx de Salcedo also notes the work of Dr. Dale Huffman, a professor who developed a restructured pork chop in 1969 that he originally tried to sell to Burger King.

But the most interesting contender might be…John Secrist, a food scientist at the Natick Soldier Center for Research and Development. That’s the place where the US Army develops its groundbreaking food for the troops as part of its Combat Feeding Program…Secrist told Marx de Salcedo that in the ’60s, Natick asked him and his team to develop a cheaper version of steaks and chops.

The Army then partnered with a meat flaking company in Ohio in order to break down meat and reassemble it into the meatlike blobs that are familiar today in the form of the McRib. Natick enlisted many meatpackers to do trial runs to see if the technology was viable, and as a result, it made its way to the private sector. “Denny’s used our restructured beefsteak in their restaurant,” Secrist said, “and McDonald’s McRib is as close to our product as you can get.”

The Army didn’t sit in McDonald’s kitchen and tell the chefs how to season their gloriously weird ribs. But Marx de Salcedo argues that they did provide the driving force to make restructured meat a commercial reality. Even Mandigo, the food scientist often credited with the McRib’s technology, told Salcedo that “the military allowed us to use the processes they developed.”

At least we can forget any stories about the McRib being developed at Area 51 from extraterrestrial technology, alien animals.

Or is that what we’re supposed to do?

Military contractor wants court help extorting money from sick vets

Private military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root is suing 12 National Guard veterans for $850,000 in legal fees that the company has incurred through defending a suit brought by the 12 for damages related to service on behalf of the company while in Iraq.

Early in 2003, the Department of Defense ordered members of the Oregon National Guard to protect supply convoys and repair facilities operated by KBR. The DoD had hired KBR to restore the flow of Iraqi oil to pipelines supplying the West and Europe. At the Qarmat Ali water treatment facility, severely damaged by American attacks and fleeing Iraqis, members of the Guard were exposed to hexavalent chromium, a cancer agent.

After developing health problems consistent with hexavalent chromium exposure, the veterans sued KBR for negligence in Federal Court in Portland. After a month long trial, the jury awarded the veterans $85 Million in 2012. KBR appealed, and sought $30 Million in legal fees and damages from the veterans for initiating the lawsuit.

The soldiers, residents of Oregon and under orders from the Department of Defense, placed on loan to a private entity contracted by the DoD, sued in their home state in federal court, not state court. They argued that a chemical used at the Qarmat Ali treatment facility had, to the knowledge of KBR, contaminated the site. Remaining at the site without being informed of the presence of the cancer agent by DoD or KBR constituted negligence. The Oregon jury agreed.

In May of this year, however, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling. The Court, persuaded by KBR lawyers, determined that an Oregon court, even if a federal circuit court, was not the proper jurisdiction for the case. Rocky Bixby, Ronald Bjerklund, Charles Ellis, Matthew Hadley, Colt Campredon, Vito Pacheco, Brian Hedin, Charles Seamon, Aaron St. Clair, Byron Greer, Jason Arnold and Larry Roberta must now take their case to Houston, Texas, where KBR is located.

A magnanimous KBR was pleased that the 9th Circuit ruled that the Oregon court did not have “personal jurisdiction” over the Texas based company. KBR executive vice president and general counsel Eileen Akerson said, “This ruling is another major step in resolving the few remaining legacy tort claims related to KBR’s work supporting the U.S. military in Iraq. We look forward to bringing closure to all of those matters.” Closure for KBR includes hiding behind its military contractor indemnification clause, and suing the Oregon soldiers for fees and damages incurred through the long course of this trial.

Creeps who should have been indicted as co-conspirators in the lawsuits should have included all the Republicans who profited from the war – starting with Dick Cheney with his ties to Halliburton. Yes, KBR was a subsidiary of Halliburton while Cheney’s firm was getting all those juicy no-bid contracts from the War Department.

Then, we get to confront our less-than-equal rights before American courts. Of course, we must move the retrial into KBR’s backyard. Makes it easier for lawyers, judges and politicians to discuss the case over cocktails.

Meanwhile, the Oregon soldiers contemplate zero compensation for their abuse and ill health in the Bush-Cheney War.

What good are foreign military bases?

iranwar
Click to enlarge

If you’re like most people in the United States, you have a vague awareness that the U.S. military keeps lots of troops permanently stationed on foreign bases around the world. But have you ever wondered and really investigated to find out how many, and where exactly, and at what cost, and to what purpose, and in terms of what relationship with the host nations?

A wonderfully researched new book, six years in the works, answers these questions in a manner you’ll find engaging whether you’ve ever asked them or not. It’s called Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Harm America and the World, by David Vine.

Some 800 bases with hundreds of thousands of troops in some 70 nations, plus all kinds of other “trainers” and “non-permanent” exercises that last indefinitely, maintain an ongoing U.S. military presence around the world for a price tag of at least $100 billion a year.

Even if you think there is some reason to be able to quickly deploy thousands of U.S. troops to any spot on earth, airplanes now make that as easily done from the United States as from Korea or Japan or Germany or Italy.

It costs dramatically more to keep troops in those other countries, and while some base defenders make a case for economic philanthropy, the evidence is that local economies actually benefit little — and suffer little when a base leaves. Neither does the U.S. economy benefit, of course. Rather, certain privileged contractors benefit, along with those politicians whose campaigns they fund. And if you think military spending is unaccountable at home, you should check out bases abroad where it’s none too rare to have security guards employed purely to guard cooks whose sole job is to feed the security guards. The military has a term for any common SNAFU, and the term for this one is “self-licking ice cream.”…

Bases around the borders of Russia and China are generating new hostility and arms races, and even proposals by Russia and China to open foreign bases of their own. Currently all non-U.S. foreign bases in the world total no more than 30, with most of those belonging to close U.S. allies, and not a single one of them being in or anywhere near the United States, which would of course be considered an outrage.

Remember – we have about 800.

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Washington think tank says cute little nukes are just what America needs

Normally, when you hear the term “think tank” you assume that the people within the organization are there to actually think. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. During the course of trying to find “outside the box” solutions to national and international problems, sometimes think tanks come up with ideas that are patently absurd. Such is the case with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and their plan to arm America with numerous small, tactical nukes.

The United States should develop new low–yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter countries from seeking nuclear weapons of their own, a new think-tank report says. It also argues that the U.S. should base more nuclear weapons around the world to better deter attacks.

“Forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options conveys the message that the United States will ‘respond in kind’ and proportionately to nuclear attacks on its allies,” wrote Clark Murdock, a former Pentagon policy official who is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies…

Boy, where I do start? First off, since when did building nuclear missiles prevent other countries from doing the same? Doesn’t it have the opposite effect? I thought that was the Cold War in a nutshell. We built a few, then they built a few, and then we kept going back and forth with the Russians like that, until they went bankrupt. Now the planet is littered with thousands of these weapons in several different countries. Also, haven’t the war hawks in Washington been telling us for years that the Iranians want to build nuclear weapons, in part because they want to counter Israel’s nukes?…

…And finally, arming ourselves with small yield nuclear weapons is just an all around terrible idea. In fact, we’ve done it before. Meet the Davy Crockett:

2,100 of these nukes were produced in the late 50’s, and they were deployed to conventional forces between 1961 and 1971. There were several different versions that had an explosive yield of between 10 tons, and 1 kiloton. Franz Josef Strauss, the former defense minister of West Germany, was obsessed with this weapon and desperately wanted the Americans to give them to the German Army. His request was repeatedly denied.

Why? Because it practically guaranteed that any ground war with the Soviets would inevitably escalate into a nuclear war. If you considered using high yield strategic nukes, you’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. But these tiny devices don’t carry the same psychological weight. It’s easier to pull the trigger on something that would only level a few acres.

So all in all, this think tank’s plan for maintaining America’s military dominance, is probably one of the worst ideas anyone has ever come up with. It reads like a how-to guide for starting a nuclear war.

Joshua Krause at The Daily Sheeple has it wired.

And I fall apart every time, any time, someone reminds me of the Davy Crockett rocket. Because I did a little bit of work on that silly-ass piece of crap. I made it clear at the time it was one of the dumbest ideas in military history.

Krause doesn’t wander into details; but, the damned thing never sent a warhead far enough away to keep from frying the troops using it in their own radiation-whoopee. A portable death trap. Anyone who survived the testing phase was a walking lawsuit for stupid WMDs.

NO, even BITD no one let me near the part that went BOOM! I was involved with other portions of the launch.

A brave American soldier who testified against war crimes


Jess Cunningham tried to stop the murder of Iraqi detaineesPhotograph/Jonas Fredwall Karlsson

Cunningham was now a pariah.

He says warnings spread through Alpha Company to be careful about what was said around him. Thirteen men had been present at the killings at the canal site, and Cunningham was the one who could take them all down. For Cunningham it was a dangerous position to be in.

Critics later blamed him for not coming forward at once, but the army has no mechanisms in place that would have whisked him away and protected him. For precisely that reason, war crimes are more common than is generally supposed: they are simply too dangerous to report. A related truth is that some number of soldier suicides in combat zones are not suicides at all—they are murders committed to cover up crimes.

At the highest level, American military leaders must be aware of the pattern. They could begin to remedy the problem if they chose to—just as they have in the case of sexual assaults within the ranks, where immediate protections are offered to accusers. But war crimes are different. The United States takes a serious hit every time one is reported. It seems that the leadership would rather not know about them than have to deal with every one that takes place. The consequence, however unintentional, is that soldiers who report war crimes are put in harm’s way.

Had Cunningham come forward in Baghdad, he would have been exposed to a battlefield where there were a hundred ways to die. Even silent dissent was tricky for him now.

RTFA from the beginning. Long – and worth every word. Once again VANITY FAIR does the world journalistic service.

The tale is too real. Ignorant blind patriotism taken down to the gangbanger level. A command structure, military incompetence from the grunt level up to a White House that rejected global treaties and standards of conflict that respected the value of human life.

Jess Cunningham deserves the gratitude of the portion of this nation that stands for justice and honor. The remainder hate people like Cunningham for supporting justice over gang pride.

“A deaf whale is a dead whale”


Click to enlargeJosh Edelson/AFP

Six whales have washed ashore in northern California in the past two months, prompting headlines around the world and attracting droves of tourists, curious about the massive mammals so suddenly out of their natural element.

According to a California Academy of Sciences (CAS) necropsy one of those whales, a 32ft female humpback that washed ashore in Pacifica, a 20-minute drive from San Francisco, had “signs of trauma consistent with blunt force”.

Suggested causes of death have included being hit by a ship and an attack by an orca. But while those might have been the final blows for the whales, other issues are being raised by environmental groups…These issues include the US navy’s use of sonar.

Moe Flannery, a stranded marine mammal responder and manager of the CAS Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy, declined to give a cause of death shortly after conducting the necropsy on the first Pacifica whale. But she did say the whale showed signs of muscle hemorrhaging, an injury which research has shown to be consistent with sonar-related deaths.

Other researchers who participated in the necropsy, including those from the Marine Mammal Center, corroborated such findings and pointed out that hemorrhaging does not necessarily mean blunt force trauma from a ship…

In March, a US district court in Hawaii found that the National Marine Fisheries Services improperly gave approval to the navy’s use of sonar in the Pacific, an issue long-contested by environmental groups that allege sonar is causing damage to marine animals’ migration patterns, feeding locations, breeding and ability to hear and communicate. The navy uses sonar for training, to simulate real-life situations in the ocean. Thousands of sonar devices remain in the coastal waters of the Pacific as Earthjustice and other environmental organizations negotiate with the navy on how and where it should use sonar for drills…

The navy is not being forced to stop using sonar, says Earthjustice attorney David Henkin – it is only a matter of where and how. The navy requires authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The navy’s current five-year permit expires this year…

In a May 2012 report on sonar use, the navy said acoustic sources and sonar more than 2.5 million times annually exposed marine animals to sounds considered “disturbing”, while around 500 times a year marine animals were exposed to sound levels that were considered to result in injury…

Even when stranding does not result, military sonar can cause hearing loss and internal injuries to marine mammals that results in death, even if the animal does not end up on shore,” Henkin said.

Our military, like most commercial users of global waters, considers the death of countless denizens inconsequential. Just as they feel above the law when it comes to pollution, they are equally unconcerned over turning this planet’s oceans into a charnel reservoir strewn with the unburied dead.