Jason Ditz:”Jeff Bezos Puts the Pentagon on His Monopoly Board”

Speaking at the Wired 25th anniversary last month month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company will continue to accept Pentagon contracts. That includes a very controversial cloud-computing contract that Google and Microsoft have already backed out of due to vocal employee opposition to working with the U.S. military.

Amazon was long considered the front-runner for this contract, but Bezos’s rationale for taking it goes well beyond its being low-hanging fruit. He’s argued that the government’s job is to “make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular,” and that large tech companies should support those decisions irrespective of politics.

The $10 billion tied to the contract can’t hurt either. Whatever his motivation for sucking it up and taking one for team tech, Bezos’s public justification is a poor one, and it isn’t hard to see why. The Pentagon has a long history of immoral and reckless behavior, actions that objectively aren’t beneficial to the defense of the United States. Any company that blindly works with them does so at its own peril.

Employees at Google and Microsoft have already made a powerful case for why tech giants shouldn’t collaborate with the Defense Department. They don’t want to be responsible for developing technology that causes substantial harm, surveils others in violation of international norms, or contravenes human rights. The Pentagon can be counted on to do all three, and more.

Furthermore, the Pentagon’s growing interest in artificial intelligence (A.I.), particularly as it relates to warfighting, sounds out of the preamble for a dystopian novel. Hence why Google employees forced their company not to renew a controversial Pentagon contract in June involving A.I. While Amazon will be signing on to cloud computing, not A.I., it’s still more than a little concerning that Bezos was so adamant about the virtues of the DoD. (For what it’s worth, Amazon already works with the CIA.)

But Amazon has an interest that extends far beyond this single deal. The real prize is to become the military’s sole procurement source for off-the-shelf components. Disdainfully labeled Amazon.mil by critics, this initiative is a result of a congressional mandate that the Pentagon shift procurement to a single online marketplace.

The mandate is supposed to save the Pentagon money when buying run-of-the-mill items like bottled water. It would also give Amazon, the presumptive facilitator, a virtual monopoly on selling a vast array of items to a government department with nearly limitless money that’s notorious for overpaying for things.

Amazon is one of very few online companies that could even claim to provide this sort of service. In eagerly contracting with the Pentagon elsewhere, Bezos is laying the groundwork for this much bigger relationship.

Full Commentary by Jason Ditz @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/amazon-joins-the-military-to-further-its-dominance/

Daniel Larison on “Trump’s Nuclear Arms Race”

Trump just threatened to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal:

President Donald Trump told reporters Monday that the United States would increase its nuclear arsenal until other nations “come to their senses,” threatening an arms race days after he said he would withdraw the US from a Cold War nuclear treaty.

“Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump said from outside the White House.

The U.S. doesn’t need to build more nuclear weapons, and increasing the arsenal will not make America or the world the slightest bit safer. On the contrary, a new nuclear arms buildup would cause other nuclear weapons powers to increase their own arsenals. Building more nukes would be extremely expensive, and it would make the world less secure by heightening international tensions, casting aside decades of arms control and arms reduction work, and encouraging more states to develop nuclear weapons for their own protection. This wouldn’t cause other governments to “come to their senses,” but it would show the world that our government has completely lost its own.

Trump seems to think that other states will be intimidated by a new buildup of nuclear weapons, but it is much more likely that they will be terrified into responding in kind. There is no way that the U.S. will be able to make any progress with North Korea if our government is simultaneously developing new kinds of nuclear weapons and increasing the number of weapons that it possesses. Other would-be proliferators may take this as a cue to pursue their own weapons programs. If reneging on the JCPOA was a body blow to the cause of nonproliferation, a new arms race could prove to be a fatal blow.

The cost of what Trump is proposing would be exorbitant at a time when the U.S. already spends far too much on the military. There could nothing more senseless and gratuitously militaristic than expanding a nuclear arsenal for its own sake. The U.S. needs to be be building on the successes of existing arms control agreements to get the world’s largest nuclear weapons states to cut back on their arsenals. It won’t be able to do that if it is throwing countless billions of dollars down a black hole of wasteful spending on new weapons that the U.S. doesn’t need.

Source:The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/trumps-nuclear-arms-race/

Utley:”The Lies Behind America’s Interventions”

Official Washington and those associated with it have misrepresented the facts numerous times in the service of military actions that might not otherwise have taken place. In the Middle East, these interventions have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab civilians, brought chaos to Iraq and Libya, and led to the expulsion of a million Christians from communities where they have lived since biblical times.

The most famous of these episodes, of course, was the U.S. government’s assurance to the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which formed the basis for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The government also insisted Saddam had ties to al-Qaeda, bolstering the call to war. Of course neither was true.

But even before that there was the first Iraq war in 1991, justified in part by the story of Iraqi soldiers reportedly dumping babies out of incubators to die in a Kuwaiti hospital. The 15-year-old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador cleverly lied to a set-up congressional committee. The Christian Science Monitor detailed this bizarre episode in 2002.

There were also the lies about the Iraqi army being poised to invade Saudi Arabia. That was the ostensible reason for the U.S. sending troops to Kuwait—to defend Saudi Arabia. Writing in the the Los Angeles Times in 2003, Independent Institute fellow Victor Marshall pointed out that neither the CIA nor the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency viewed an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia as probable, and said the administration’s Iraqi troop estimates were “grossly exaggerated.” In fact, the administration’s claim that it had aerial photographs proving its assertions was never verified because, as we later learned, the photos never existed. The Christian Science Monitor also reported on this in 2002 ahead of the second Iraq war.

America attacked Iraq in 1991, bombing and destroying that nation’s irrigation, sanitation, and electricity plants. (See here regarding Washington’s knowledge of and planning for the horrific mass contamination of Iraqi drinking water.) Then we blockaded reconstruction supplies for nine years while some half-million children died of disease and starvation. We blamed it all on Saddam, although we controlled Iraq’s money flows through the UN food-for-oil program. Fortunately, we have a rare admission by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes about what was done.

full post by Jon Basil Utley@ The American Conservative http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-pretty-little-lies-behind-americas-interventions/

Sen. Rand Paul: Why I’ll Fight Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo Nominations

Since President Trump took office, our country finally seems to be heading in the right direction. In just the past year, the American people have seen enormous tax cuts, more judges appointed who take the Constitution seriously, relief from the massive regulatory state, and an economy rapidly gaining strength and offering greater opportunities for those seeking to turn their dreams into reality.

But when it comes to our place on the world stage, we are at a crossroads. We can continue to build on our recent successes by reaffirming America’s role as a trusted, powerful nation guided by principle. Or we can throw it all away by allowing neocon interventionists to infiltrate our leadership and make America the purveyor of destruction.

For decades, we have failed to bring about real peace thanks to a foreign policy guided by the idea that war and intervention are the answers. “Blow up and rebuild” has been the battle cry of those determined to keep us perpetually in conflict.

It was the battle cry of Hillary Clinton, who supported military intervention in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. I supported President Trump during his campaign because he advocated for less military intervention. He opposed the Iraq War. He acknowledged that nation-building doesn’t work. He understood the damage previous foreign policy missteps have caused, including helping to strengthen ISIS.

I want to continue making America great again. That won’t happen if we give power-hungry neocons the reins to our nation’s foreign policy.

People already distrust the CIA. So why on earth has this administration picked someone to run the Agency who was instrumental in running a place where people were tortured and then covered it up afterwards?

Multiple undisputed accounts have detailed how Gina Haspel not only ran a CIA “black site” in Thailand but also destroyed video evidence of torture.

Full Commentary by Sen. Rand Paul @ http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/rand-paul-why-ill-fight-gina-haspels-and-mike-pompeos-nominations/

RPI:”Five Democrat Votes Allow Trump’s Saudi Weapons Deal To Clear Senate”

Tyler Durden @ The Ron Paul Institute reports that 5 Democrat Senators joined with most Republicans to defeat a bill by Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Chris Murphy to stop US sales of high tech weapons to Saudi Arabia. Mr. Durden notes that 4 Republicans voted with most Democrats to block the sales, but the bill failed with 53 voting against it and 47 Senators supporting the ban on weapons sales.

Despite the failure, Politico notes that Paul and Murphy fared better on Tuesday than they did last year in a similar effort to block a Saudi arms sale under former President Barack Obama, thanks entirely to new Democratic supporters: it’s curious how ideology changes one’s outlook on lethal weaponry.

“Regardless of whether the number is 48 or 51 or 45” in favor of blocking the deals, Murphy told reporters before the vote, “this is an important message to the Saudis that we are all watching. And if they continue to target civilians and they continue to stop humanitarian aid from getting into Yemen, this vote will continue to go in the wrong direction for them.”

Paul said after the vote that he and Murphy would discuss possible future attempts to block Trump’s arms deals to Riyadh, warning that senators are growing more concerned about the civilian toll in a Yemen conflict that is pitting Saudi-backed government forces against rebel factions reportedly supported by Iran.

Full post by Tyler Durden @ Ron Paul Institute http://www.ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/peace-and-prosperity/2017/june/13/five-democrat-votes-allow-trumps-saudi-weapons-deal-to-clear-senate/

Politico:”Rand Paul to tee up vote on blocking Trump’s Saudi arms deal”

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul is expected to offer legislation as soon as Wednesday that would block President Donald Trump’s $110 billion weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Paul’s planned bill disapproving of the arms deal, confirmed by a Senate source familiar with the timeline, comes as Trump completes the first leg of an overseas trip that began with a warm welcome from the Saudi royal family in Riyadh. Paul recently joined three Democrats in proposing to make future arms sales contingent on reining in Saudi military involvement in Yemen’s civil war, and he is likely to take advantage of a 1976 law that allows any senator to force a vote on halting overseas arms sales.

Full report @ Politico http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/23/rand-paul-saudi-arabia-arms-sales-238730

Sullum:”Gary Johnson’s Refreshing Foreign Policy Skepticism”

One of the few appealing aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been his criticism of Hillary Clinton’s reckless interventionism. But the bellicose billionaire combines that criticism with promises of a gratuitous military buildup, a casual attitude toward the use of American weapons, and a disturbing tendency to view trade and immigration as acts of war.

To get a sense of what a more disciplined, consistent, and thoughtful critique of Clintonian warmongering sounds like, listen to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for president. Notwithstanding the popular portrayal of Johnson as a foreign policy ignoramus based on his embarrassing “Aleppo moments,” the former New Mexico governor offers a bracing alternative to Clinton’s supposedly sophisticated yet consistently careless embrace of violence as a tool for reshaping the world.

Again and again as first lady, senator, and secretary of state, from Serbia to Syria, Clinton has supported military interventions that had nothing to do with national defense. Mindful of the damage done by the promiscuous use of America’s armed forces, Johnson promises a different approach: When in doubt, stay out.

“As president,” Johnson said in a recent speech at the University of Chicago, “I would not need to be talked out of dropping bombs and sending young men and women into harm’s way. I would be the president who would have to be convinced it is absolutely necessary to protect the American people or clear U.S. interests. I will be the skeptic in the room.”

Full column by Jacob Sullum @ Reason http://reason.com/archives/2016/10/19/gary-johnsons-refreshing-foreign-policy