The photograph shows John Wayne with his two sons during a break in filming on the set of The Conqueror, a big budget blockbuster about Genghis Khan shot in the Utah desert in 1954. It was one of Hollywood’s most famous mis-castings. The duke could do many things but playing a 13th century Mongol warlord was not one of them. Film geeks consider it one of the great turkeys of Hollywood’s golden age.
There is another, darker reason it endures in film lore. The photograph hints at it. Wayne clutches a black metal box while another man appears to adjust the controls. Wayne’s two teenage sons, Patrick and Michael, gaze at it, clearly intrigued, perhaps a bit anxious. The actor himself appears relaxed, leaning on Patrick, his hat at a jaunty angle. The box, which rests on a patch of scrub, looks unremarkable. It is in fact a Geiger counter.
It is said to have crackled so loudly Wayne thought it was broken. Moving it to different clumps of rock and sand produced the same result. The star, by all accounts, shrugged it off. The government had detonated atomic bombs at a test site in Nevada but that was more than a hundred miles away. Officials said the canyons and dunes around St George, a remote, dusty town where the film was shooting, was completely safe.
Last week, half a century later, Rebecca Barlow, a nurse practitioner at the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP), which operates from the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St George, now a prosperous little city with an airport, leafed through her patient records. “More than 60% of this year’s patients are new,” she said. “Mostly breast and thyroid, also some leukaemia, colon, lung.”
This is a story about cancer. About how the United States turned swathes of the desert radioactive during the cold war and denied it, bequeathing a medical mystery which to this day haunts Hollywood and rural Mormon communities and raises a thorny question: how much should you trust the government?
RTFA and decide for yourself how much you should trust some parts of the government.
I haven’t yet become paranoid about the whole structure. After all, the Social Security Administration runs with a management staff one-fifth of its private-sector counterparts and cranks out the insurance benefits we paid for year-after-year. The only problem there is Congress persists in cutting off taxing anyone making more than most of us.
And then there’s the Pentagon and Congress.
What the Pentagon thinks Pacific islands should look like — Alex Walters/U.S.Marine Corps
The small Pacific islands of Pagan and Tinian are home to pristine beaches, majestic mountains and colorful sea life. They are also home to 2,800 American citizens, as they are part of the Marianas, a US territory. The US Navy has plans to bomb these islands as part of a training exercise, obliterating their rare coral ecosystems, wildlife, and important historic artifacts. The islands’ residents would be relocated, kicked off their ancestral land for the sake of bomb testing. We cannot let this happen…
We need the Secretary of Navy to cancel plans for Combined Joint Military Training exercises on Tinian and Pagan Islands.
The bombings would restrict the use of two-thirds of my island of Tinian, leaving only 10 square miles for its people, and rare and endangered wildlife. On the island of Pagan, the Navy wants to relocate the entire indigenous population so that they may bomb 100% of the island. Our pristine beaches would become theaters for elaborate live-ammunition military exercises, and our people’s traditions and culture would be all but extinguished.
The residents of Tinian and Pagan are citizens of the United States, just like you. But since we are so far from the mainland and have no representation in Congress, our voices are often not heard. Now, we are crying out to make sure our homes are not demolished, and our 4,000 years of history are not lost forever.
We only have one home. We can’t let it be destroyed. Please join us in asking the Secretary of Navy to cancel his plans to bomb Tinian and Pagan.
Signed by Arley Long, Tinian MP
You can sign up over here to send a petition to President Obama requesting a halt to Pentagon plans to use this ancient home for bombing practice.
The leading American professional group for psychologists secretly worked with the Bush administration to help justify the post-9/11 US detainee torture program, according to a watchdog analysis…
The report, written by six leading health professionals and human rights activists, is the first to examine the alleged complicity of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the “enhanced interrogation” program.
Based on an analysis of more than 600 newly disclosed emails, the report found that the APA coordinated with Bush-era government officials – namely in the CIA, White House and Department of Defense – to help ethically justify the interrogation policy in 2004 and 2005, when the program came under increased scrutiny for prisoner abuse by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
A series of clandestine meetings with US officials led to the creation of “an APA ethics policy in national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” the report’s authors found…
In secret opinions, the US Department of Justice argued that the torture program did not constitute torture and was therefore legal, since they were being monitored by medical professionals.
…The report says the APA passed “extraordinary policy recommendations”, in which the association reaffirmed that its members could be involved in the interrogation program, without violating APA ethical codes.
Additionally, the APA permitted research on “individuals involved in interrogation processes” without their consent; according to the report’s authors, such a policy turned against decades of medical ethics prohibitions…
Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights…an organization with which all of the report’s authors have been affiliated at some point, said in a statement issued on Thursday: “This calculated undermining of professional ethics is unprecedented in the history of US medical practice and shows how the CIA torture program corrupted other institutions in our society.”
An accomplishment in its own right. The United States as a nation, government institutions, corporate entities and banks in particular, has descended steadily in all global ranking for corruption. A process that probably started with the VietNam War, nudged along by the Reagan years, and put into high gear by the Bush Administration.
We’ve posted before about individual shrink-wrapped programs designed to aid and abet torture programs run by the United States government. This is the first wholesale exposure of professional bodies complicit in torture on behalf of the American government.
Not a surprise to me.
As April 30 approaches, marking 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, people in Vietnam with severe mental and physical disabilities still feel the lingering effects of Agent Orange.
Respiratory cancer and birth defects amongst both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to the defoliant. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange onto Vietnam’s jungles during the conflict to expose northern communist troops.
Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj travelled through Vietnam to meet the people affected, four decades on.
I would say, “Never again”; but, I haven’t that much trust in our government, our politicians.
The Pentagon’s internal watchdog has questioned the air force’s need for 46 armed Reaper drones, and suggested the flying service is wasting $8.8 billion on superfluous aircraft.
As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet…
During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1 billion to more than $11.4 billion, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8 billion…
Responding to heavy demand for additional aerial intelligence from troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, the former defense secretary Leon Panetta in 2011 ordered the air force to buy sufficient drones to perform 65 combat air patrols, missions that require up to four aircraft to observe a target for nearly 24 hours.
But the air force’s air combat command “did not conduct and maintain consistent, complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary MQ-9 procurement quantity”, the inspector general found. Combing through insufficient or incorrect air force analyses, Pentagon investigators found that the officials “could not provide the underlying support for aircraft quantity determinations” and sidestepped a bureaucratic process for determining needed capabilities…
Pentagon inspectors found that the air force’s inability to justify its continuing Reaper purchases risks wasting $2.5 billion for 13 mission-ready drones; $2.1 billion for 11 training drones; $958 million for five test drones; $766 million for four air national guard drones; and $1.7 billion for nine attrition-reserve drones.
The per-cost waste of the questionable drone purchases works out to roughly $192 million for each of the 46 Reapers the inspector general was unable to justify buying.
We all know what Congress’ response will be to this critical finding by the Inspector General. They – Republicans and Democrats alike – will double the purchase.
Keeping the military-industrial complex fat and happy is one of the primary requirements of holding federal elected office.
The Atlantic magazine has unveiled a new cover story bluntly titled “The Tragedy of the American Military.” Written by James Fallows, it explores the problems and culture of the U.S. military after more than 13 years of war, and what it might take to fix them.
In particular, Fallows targets the “chickenhawk nation” that has sent its troops into combat without clear strategies, weapons acquisition programs that are expensive and politically connected, and an American public that is largely disconnected from the wars. Fallows also reports on the findings of a commission that President Obama requested in 2011 to examine how the Pentagon could best be reformed.
The commission, headed by former Sen. Gary Hart (D.-Colo.), made a series of recommendations that will be familiar to those following defense policy in Washington. It sought the creation of another panel to assess the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, a separate effort to determine how the decision-making process for the use of military force should work in the future, and for the president himself to help bridge the gap between those who have served and the rest of American society…
The piece has created buzz on social media, in part because of the senior officials and famous academics quoted in it. But it’s the latest in a long line of journalism this year that grapples with how the military should reassess and reinvent itself following wars that have cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, without many clear victories…
Earlier this year, The Washington Post also published a series of stories titled “After the Wars.” Relying in part on a poll conducted along with the Kaiser Family Foundation, it found that 87 percent of the 2.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans feel proud of what they did during the wars, although more than half struggle with physical or mental issues and feel disconnected from civilians.
I wonder if our government, the Pentagon or even the Washington Post considered surveying the Iraqis, the Afghans, the civilian populations killed and maimed a hundred times more than our invading military?
All of these pieces expose the same basic issues: There will be no easy fixes for the military adjusting to life after a generation of intense sacrifice. The military is now shrinking and coping with budget cuts that would have been unheard of five or 10 years ago, increasing anxiety for many who want to serve at least 20 years and retire from the military honorably.
People write these articles as if they – and we – don’t discern any difference between war with an honorable task – fighting back against Fascist Imperialism, freeing nations from occupying foreign legions out to steal land and resources for a master race.
Sorry to hurt a few folks’ feelings; but, our military history since 1946 seems more and more like role reversal every decade since.
Mitch McConnell’s new intern
Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.
So, they may as well help it along. Right?
Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel announced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “military-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing…
The Pentagon plans to monopolize imminent “transformational advances” in nanotechnology, robotics, and energy…
Pointing out that “sensitive personal information” can now be easily mined from online sources and social media, they call for policies on “Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to determine the Department’s ability to make use of information from social media in domestic contingencies”—in other words, to determine under what conditions the Pentagon can use private information on American citizens obtained via data-mining of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and so on.
Just in case the NSA missed anything.
Yet the most direct military application of such technologies, the Pentagon study concludes, will be in “Command-Control-Communications, Computers and Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (C4ISR)”—a field led by “world-class organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA).”
RTFA for lots more scary crap from the government sector responsible for bringing us everything from Agent Orange to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.
Let me say it once again. Either takeover the Democrats and install a backbone or go the 3rd Party route to twist their arms and inspire the courageous action needed to forestall this version of the future. Because you know we ain’t gonna have any robots big enough to fight back against theirs.
In case the Pentagon didn’t make it clear enough that climate change is a real and dangerous thing in its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) earlier this year, perhaps the new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (PDF) will drive the point home. Some of the content is roughly the same, but that title sure makes it sound more desperate.
The gist is that the Pentagon’s futurists foresee a world where our changing climate has tremendous real-world effects, and they want to be ready. Lots of people know the climate is changing, but given the Pentagon’s budget, it’s nice to know they are preparing to protect us from things that might actually harm us …In the 2014 CCAR, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, writes that the Department of Defense will focus on just those sorts of threats:
A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.
Unless, of course, you’re a numbnut Republican or one of the remaining cowardly lions known as Blue Dog Democrats. No action is preferable to delayed action as far as they are concerned. Not that Hagel is much of an advocate when he prates about scientists “converging” towards consensus. Almost as stupid as saying we’re fairly certain astronomers are nearing the day when they can confirm the Earth ain’t flat. Since they’re afraid of offending folks worrying about falling off the edge.
The plan is laid out in some detail in the 20-page PDF that talks about how recurrent flooding is already affecting the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, “which houses the largest concentration of US military sites in the world” (page 2) and how “climate change will have serious implications for the Department’s ability to maintain both its built and natural infrastructure, and to ensure military readiness in the future” (page 8).
The Pentagon is also aware that it will likely need to conduct more humanitarian missions after natural disasters and it will need to have its weapons work no matter what the weather is like out there. We’ll see if the message is heard this time.
Thanks, Mike, great minds and etc.
A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it decided to destroy 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afgan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27J aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany…
The U.S. government spent $468 million to buy and refurbish 20 older C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA , but later canceled the program because a lack of spare parts was severely limiting their availability for military use.
Instead, the Pentagon decided to buy four larger C-130 planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp to do the work…
In an interview last year with NBC News, Sopko said it was unclear if the incident was criminal fraud or mismanagement, but the waste was not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s inspector general has also investigated the issue, which the non-profit group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) calls “a shining example of the billions wasted in Afghanistan.”
No immediate comment was available from the Air Force or the Pentagon.
You know, the definition of corruption in government isn’t limited to direct theft, stealing from the till – so to speak. When you have a bureaucracy with job descriptions based on interchangeability between the Pentagon and the military-indiustrial complex – there is a whole range of corruption that starts with ordering trials of hardware we don’t need, building the hardware we don’t need and ends with destroying the crap we never needed – instead of at a minimum trying to find other military idiots who will buy this useless crap.
It feels like the volume of waste, theft and corrupt use of taxpayer dollars didn’t decrease a jot between the neocon thieves in the Bush Administration and the vaguely liberal dunces in the Obama Administration.