Sunday, November 22, 2015

Masterminds vs. Smart Bombs: Men Waging War | Mickey Z.

Black Ops Poster by Genius-MasterminD, DeviantArt (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)Black Ops Poster by Genius-MasterminD, DeviantArt (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

Nov. 22, 2015

Since the Paris attacks, I’ve noticed a predictable proliferation of the word “mastermind” in corporate media reports.

I say predictable because whenever the “good guys” take a hit, it’s essential to the narrative that their opponent be presented as some kind of evil genius who has dealt them a temporary setback that will only serve to bring out the best in them. In this case, of course, the masterminds are ISIS in general and was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in particular. 

This is how males do things (sports, business, war, etc.). Even when we’re clueless or merely engaging in violence for sheer pleasure (translation: almost always), we have to present the illusion that we’re in the midst of some kind of epic, noble mission. This clip from Gangs of New York helps illustrate what I’m trying to describe:

You see, bad guys are to be respected if for no other reason than to make the good guys even more impressive for having taken them on. For example, heroic war criminal George S. Patton studied the strategies of vile war criminal Erwin Rommel and thus found a rival worthy of the name. It makes for iconic Hollywood moments, for sure:

Such self-delusion and denial has financial value beyond the box office. When facing off against an evil genius, it takes a benevolent (well-armed) genius to prevail. Enter the precision myth, the widespread belief -- all across the political spectrum -- that U.S. technology allows for “surgical strikes” and “pinpoint” bombing, all in the name of good.

This is where profit margins come into play. With roughly half of U.S. Federal tax dollars used to fund a global killing spree known as the U.S. Department of Defense (sic), this expenditure must be justified in order make certain the next fiscal quarter pleases investors.

Since Americans want so badly to believe their tax dollars are being used to crush evil doers but also would (usually) prefer that such crushing doesn’t (if possible) involve the wanton slaughter of, say, children and other civilians, the smart bomb myth is promoted through a variety of spins, e.g. U.S. weapons are the most technologically advanced and precise the world has ever seen. 

Like all spin, evidence to the contrary is not hard to find. So, please allow me to take you through a very brief and recent history of the masterminds behind precision bombing.

Define “Precision”
Good (sic) War Fun Fact: During World War II, Allied bombing raids killed 672,000 Japanese civilians and 635,000 German civilians.

U.S. bombers in the European theater initially stuck to a policy of daylight “precision” bombing but the risks of daytime runs did not pay off in accuracy -- only 50 percent of U.S. bombs fell within a quarter of a mile of the target. America soon joined its English allies in the execution of nighttime area bombing campaigns of civilian targets in Germany and later, Japan.  

Day or night, the number of shells falling where they were not aimed easily debunked the myth of precision. "In order to invade the Continent," says historian Paul Fussell, "the Allies killed 12,000 innocent French and Belgian civilians who happened to live in the wrong part of town, that is, too near the railway tracks."

Subsequent technological “progress” has offered no relief for those in war zones. What is euphemistically known as "friendly fire" or "collateral damage" is still a mainstay of war. In fact, as war became more technologically advanced, civilian casualties did not decrease. 

Delay the news until it no longer matters
All throughout Operation Desert Storm, the Pentagon and an acquiescent media sold the American public on the accuracy and efficiency of U.S. weaponry. 

"Although influential media such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal kept promoting the illusion of a 'clean war,'" write media critics Martin A. Lee and Normon Solomon, "a different picture began to emerge after the United States stopped carpet-bombing Iraq. The pattern underscored what Napoleon meant when he said that it wasn't necessary to completely suppress the news; it was sufficient to delay the news until it no longer mattered." 

That delay lasted from February 1991 until July 1996 when the General Accounting Office released a study that found the claims made by the Pentagon and its principal weapons contractors concerning the pinpoint precision of the Stealth fighter jet, the Tomahawk land-attack missile, and laser-guided smart bombs "were overstated, misleading, inconsistent with the best available data, or unverifiable."

"The accounting office concluded," wrote Tim Weiner in the New York Times, "that new, costly 'smart' weapons systems did not necessarily perform better than old-fashioned, cheaper 'dumb' ones." 

"When laser-guided bombs miss, it means that something got screwed up in the control mechanism, so they can go 10 miles away; they can go anywhere," adds Noam Chomsky. "No high-technology works for very long, certainly not under complicated conditions." 

“The public and the Congress were misled”
On Jan. 22, 1991, ABC-TV reporter Sam Donaldson reported on an alleged Patriot Missile intercept. "A Scud missile is heading toward Dharan in eastern Saudi Arabia," Donaldson said as the screen showed a bright object rocketing across the sky. "And rising to intercept it, a U.S. Patriot missile." After a beat, Donaldson gleefully cheered, "Bullseye! No more Scud!" 

"But on the screen," says Jennifer Weeks, a defense analyst with the Congressional Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, "the Scud seems to continue right through an explosion on its path toward the ground."

The U.S. Army told Congress that Patriot missiles had intercepted 45 of the 47 Scuds at which they were fired. "Desert Storm provided gripping images of Patriots arcing across the night skies over Israel and Saudi Arabia to intercept Iraqi Scuds, and U.S. officials quickly claimed that the Patriot (originally designed to shoot down airplanes and slow-flying cruise missiles) was effective against ballistic missiles," says Weeks. 

President George H.W. Bush visited the Raytheon plant in Andover, Massachusetts, where the Patriot is made. "Patriot is proof positive that missile defense works," the president declared -- and the matter appeared to be settled.

Theodore A. Postol is professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The current National Missile Defense interceptor tries to identify warheads and decoys by 'looking at them' with infrared eyes," Postol wrote in a June 15, 2002, Boston Globe op-ed, explaining:

"Because the missile defense is essentially using vision to tell which objects are decoys and which are bombs, this technique is no more effective than trying to find suitcase bombs at an airport by studying the shape and color of each suitcase."

A 1992 report by a House of Representatives Operations of Government subcommittee concluded: 

"The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war."

Even then-Secretary of Defense (sic) William S. Cohen, in January 2001 eventually confessed, "The Patriot didn't work."

A Bridge Too Fake
This pattern held during the 78-day bombing campaign over Yugoslavia in 1999. During the assault, Defense Secretary William Cohen declared: "We severely crippled the (Serbian) military forces in Kosovo by destroying more than 50 percent of the artillery and one-third of the armored vehicles."
One year later, a U.S. Air Force report revealed a different story:
Original Claim: 120 tanks destroyed
Actual Number: 14 
Original Claim: 220 armored personnel carriers destroyed 
Actual Number: 20 
Original Claim: 450 artillery pieces destroyed 
Actual Number: 20 
Original Claim: 744 confirmed strikes by NATO pilots 
Actual Number: 58

The report also found that Serbian military fooled U.S. technology with simple tactics like constructing fake artillery pieces out of black logs and old truck wheels. One vital bridge avoided destruction when a phony was constructed out of polyethylene sheeting 300 yards upriver. NATO pilots bombed the fake bridge several times.

There are no masterminds here
In advertising campaigns not unlike those hawking SUVs or cell phones, alleged American military technical superiority (and the related benefit to avoiding civilian casualties) is packaged, marketed, and sold to a far-too-willing nation. 

Fighter jets perform flyovers at sporting events. Hollywood deifies weapons of war. Politicians from all sides support "defense" spending. War toys sanitize the impact of such spending and desensitize children to the cause and effect of military action. 

In the end, however, it’s men who manufacture these weapons and men who utilize them. Men collude to delude themselves about how smart they, how advanced their weapons and tactics are, and how noble their intentions are. Their behavior is, in a word: pathological.

“Leadership positions,” writes Kathleen Barry in Unmaking War, Remaking Men, “are feeding ground for psychopaths, attracting as they do those cunning leaders who are indifferent to human life and absent of remorse.”

The mastermind we revere appears decisive and strong simply because he doesn’t give a shit about outcomes other than ego, profit, and personal power. His smart bombs aren’t smart. His precision is imprecise. His honorable intentions are dishonorable. There simply are no masterminds within such a predatory paradigm.

There can be no peace in a society like this just as there can be no peace as long as patriarchy reigns and the relentless war on woman continues to rage. The only mastermind worthy of the title would be someone, anyone who conjures up ways to smash the hierarchies and end the violence. 

My educated guess is that such a mastermind would undoubtedly be female.

Mickey Z. is the author of 13 books, most recently Occupy these Photos: NYC Activism Through a Radical Lens. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, you can “like” his Facebook page here and follow his blog here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.
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    Sunday, 22 November 2015
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    Sunday, 22 November 2015

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