Archive | July 17th, 2020

EBRD, IFC and EU partner with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures to support first solar plant in Armenia

By Loretta  Martikian

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,  IFC, a member of the World Bank Group; and the European Union (EU) have today agreed to support the development of the first utility-scale solar power plant in Armenia, which is also the first for the Caucasus.

The 55 MW power plant facility, located in Mets Masrik municipality, Gegharkunik Province, will boost Armenia’s supply of renewable energy and will help the country reduce its reliance on imported fuels.

The plant is being developed by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), part of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, a global leader in utility-scale renewable energy projects. The company will receive a
US$ 35.4 million debt financing package consisting of two US$ 17.7 million long-term loans, one each from IFC and the EBRD. The project will also receive a €3 million investment grant from the European Union, mobilised by the EBRD. The IFC financing package includes a US$ 8.9 million loan from IFC’s own account and a US$ 8.9 million loan from the Finland-IFC Blended Finance for Climate Program.

The Masrik solar plant is expected to generate more than 128 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually at a competitive tariff of 4.19 cents per kilowatt-hour. The electricity will be sold under a power purchase agreement to Electricity Networks of Armenia, a utility responsible for distribution of electricity. The project will displace the release of 40,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Right now, nearly 70 per cent of Armenia’s electricity generation depends on imported fossil fuels. As the country’s demand for electricity grows, renewables are expected to provide a sustainable and low-cost alternative source of energy and the Masrik plant is designed to set an example for the rest of the Caucasus.

Aida Sitdikova, EBRD Director, Energy Eurasia, Sustainable Infrastructure Group, said: “The EBRD is delighted to support this landmark project, which builds on our active policy engagement and investments in the Armenian power sector since 1993. Following the EBRD’s financing of electricity networks, private generation and privatisations, we are pleased to provide financing for this first utility-scale solar project, as we are working with authorities on developing further renewable auctions in wind and solar. We are deeply grateful to our partner, the European Union, for co-financing this remarkable project with us.”

“Armenia has great potential when it comes to the development of renewable energy, in particular solar energy, and the country is a strategic priority for FRV,” said Mikel de Irala, Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, FRV. “The financial close of our first solar project in the Caucasus region is a milestone for FRV and it allows us to expand our reach and continue leading the utility-scale solar power industry worldwide. In connection with this project, we are extremely proud to contribute to the country’s sustainable economic growth, local generation of wealth and local employment, thus helping to build a more sustainable future.”

“The Masrik solar energy project will play a fundamental role in Armenia achieving its energy and climate objectives in line with the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. It also has the potential to provide a range of new jobs, create new industrial opportunities in the region and contribute to economic growth, just as the EU promotes with the new European Green Deal,” said Andrea Wiktorin, EU Ambassador, EU Delegation to Armenia.  

Cheryl Edleson Hanway, IFC’s Regional Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Natural Resources, said: “Energy security is critical to business activity, which is why supporting Armenia’s renewable energy plan is an important part of IFC’s mission. The Masrik solar project is an additional milestone in IFC’s support of Armenia’s efforts over the years to attract private sector investment to power generation. It is the first step in the country’s ambitious solar power plans and will serve as an example to be followed by many more projects in the years to come.”

The project—which includes the development, construction and operation of a 55 MW power plant and a 9 kilometre transmission line—is the first competitively tendered solar-photovoltaic project in Armenia. The World Bank helped the government prepare the project and provided transaction advisory support. The bidding process, backstopped by the Scaling up Renewable Energy Program and the World Bank, was highly competitive.

The Masrik project comes after 15 years of collaboration between the World Bank Group and Armenia that has helped implement sweeping reforms to deliver more efficient power supply to consumers. IFC, the EBRD and the EU have supported Armenia’s power sector through attracting private investment, bringing in global experience and supporting the newest technologies. The increase in renewable energy capacity represents an important objective under the EBRD’s and IFC’s country strategies for Armenia.  

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PLA’s Upgraded Type 052D Destroyer Makes Training Debut in E. China Sea

PLA’s Upgraded Type 052D Destroyer Makes Training Debut in E. China Sea

Amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Straits with the US military’s increasingly frequent operations in the region, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently held drills in the East China Sea, with the latest, more powerful, anti-stealth aircraft-capable version of the Type 052D destroyer making its first public appearance, according to military reports over the weekend.

In early July, a destroyer flotilla affiliated with the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy conducted training exercises at an undisclosed location in the East China Sea. The training subjects included air and missile defenses, attacks on surface vessels, and joint anti-submarine operations, the PLA Daily reported on Sunday.

According to more details released in a statement and photos posted by the PLA East China Sea Fleet on Friday, the drills featured the guided missile destroyer Zibo, which has the hull number 156, among several other warships.

Having entered military service on January 12, the Zibo is the PLA Navy’s first ship of the improved version of the Type 052D destroyer, which is dubbed the Type 052DL, reads an article on the website of the government of Zibo, the city in East China’s Shandong Province the destroyer is named after.

This is the first time the Zibo was seen in action according to a publicly available report, observers noted.

Compared to the original Type 052D, the Type 052DL has a longer helicopter deck, and is equipped with a new, meter wave long-range radar on its after-mast, the article said, noting the improvements enable the destroyer to carry China’s most advanced Z-20 ship-born helicopter, and to better cope with hostile stealth warplanes.

The exercises came at a time when tensions are rising across the Taiwan Straits, as the US not only approved a new arms sale to Taiwan on Thursday, but also sent a destroyer to waters north of the island of Taiwan and conducted close-up reconnaissance on the Chinese mainland on Friday, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank.

The US frequently sent military aircraft and vessels to and near Taiwan since June, and Taiwan is also set to hold its annual Han Kuang exercise on Monday.

The US military will likely play a part in Taiwan’s Han Kuang exercise, as it has secretly sent military personnel to participate in past occasions, and the US and Taiwan secessionists are planning to cooperate in resisting a potential Taiwan reunification-by-force operation by the PLA, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.

PLA naval drills can serve as a deterrent to US reconnaissance operations, and also send a warning to Taiwan secessionists, Li said, noting the PLA is prepared for all options.

Just like the US’ close-up reconnaissance on China, the PLA can also conduct similar operations on US bases in Asia-Pacific region, observers said.

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UK Orders First 3 Protector Drones in £65M Contract

UK Orders First 3 Protector Drones in £65M Contract

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has signed a £65 million contract to build the UK’s first three Protector aircraft – the first UK operated system capable of strike missions anywhere in the world.

After a successful development phase Protector is set to enter service by mid-2024, meaning that the Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) will deliver a step-change in capability for the RAF.

Protector is the world’s first certified RPAS, enabling it to fly in busy, unsegregated airspace, including civilian airspace, thanks to its ground-breaking ‘sense and avoid’ technology.

The contract was announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at the virtual 2020 Air and Space Power Conference. He said: “The UK is proving once again that we are a world leader in defence technology. Protector will provide the RAF with vast global reach, meeting the UK’s defence and security needs for decades to come, and provides another increase to the unmanned inventory for the Armed Forces.

“This aircraft will upgrade a whole range of lethal capabilities allowing us to control, protect and manage the battlespace from the air for hours on end.”

The cutting-edge aircraft, which will replace the current Reaper RPAS force, will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations from its base at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

Its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer the RAF vastly improved armed intelligence and reconnaissance sorties.

The innovative fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in extreme weather conditions.

Protector also comes with enhanced data links and will carry next-generation, low collateral, precision strike weapons – the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK).

The contract follows a successful development phase by manufacturers General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. which will build the first three Protector aircraft, plus three ground control stations and other associated support equipment.

It also includes an option to build 13 more aircraft and four ground control stations, which will complete the current planned fleet of 16 aircraft, more than doubling the capability currently provided by Reaper.

Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, said: “I am delighted to announce that we have got Protector production on contract. The DE&S team have demonstrated their remarkable resilience and overcome considerable challenges to ensure this significant programme remained on track.

“Their efforts and the collaborative commitment from industry means that the RAF can still look forward to the delivery of the cutting-edge Protector and the step-change in capability that it brings.”

Meeting stringent NATO and UK safety certification standards, the aircraft could, if requested, operate in civilian airspace to support civilian agencies in the UK, for example, in search and rescue and disaster response missions.

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Support the Tower Hamlets strikers!

The Labour-run council plans to sack thousands of workers and re-hire them on dodgy new contracts with worse pay and conditions.

Proletarian writers

For a year and a half Labour-run Tower Hamlets’ 4,000 council workers have been eager to resist plans by council bosses to impose dreadful new contracts on the entire workforce.

Back at the beginning of the lockdown, after staff had balloted in favour of industrial action over the matter, Unison announced that a strike planned to take place on 24 March would be suspended in light of the pandemic.

At first, council bosses appeared to be rewarding this act of dubious magnanimity when they announced that they in turn would put the imposition of new contracts on hold pending the health emergency. A union spokesman suggested in response that the new contracts “can be put on hold and discussed again when we have got through the Covid-19 crisis, when priorities may well look different”.

So the strike was duly called off, only for workers to find that the duplicitous council bosses had decided to impose the new contracts after all – in the middle of the pandemic and without any consultation on 6 July. Their means of achieving this has been to sacking all 4,000 workers, forcing them all to reapply for their jobs on hugely inferior terms of employment.

The new contracts will disproportionately affect the lowest-paid staff, since they involve cuts to travel allowances and out-of-hours pay, among other things. They also include big cuts to redundancy pay, making it perfectly clear to all that large-scale redundancies are to be expected before too long.

Among the council workers, of course, are many of those key workers who have been proving their vital importance in keeping society running during the pandemic, maintaining what little remains of Britain’s fraying social services, from environmental and public health bodies to children’s and disabled people’s services.

Fed up with the shabby treatment they are receiveing from their Labour council employers, staff walked out on 3, 6 and 7 July and are manning picket lines again this week from Wednesday to Friday (15, 16 and 17 July).

As the furlough scheme comes to an end, our rulers are seriously ramping up their attacks on jobs, pay and pensions, desperate to save their tottering system by shifting the burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of the poor.

Workers must recognise our common interest and stand together in the face of these attacks. Only a united working class will be capable of pushing back against the concerted efforts of the bosses to make us pay for the failings of the capitalist economic system.

Full support to all workers in struggle against lay-offs and pay cuts! Support the Tower Hamlets strikers!

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Ministry of Justice retreats on sick pay for cleaners

Victory for struggling cleaners after Emanuel Gomes’s death, who worked for a week with suspected covid and a raging fever.

Proletarian writers

Cleaners, security guards and other outsourced employees working at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), predominantly migrant workers, have won an important battle. They have now been promised that if they take any Covid-19 related sick leave they will receive full sick pay, backdated to April.

This concession, only granted after a two-year tooth-and-nail struggle led by their union UVW (United Voices of the World), including six days of strike action and two occupations of the MoJ’s headquarters, sadly has come too late to help Emanuel Gomes.

Emanuel, a man in his sixties, kept on working in near-empty offices for five days with suspected Covid-19 symptoms, so terrified was he that he would receive no sick pay if he failed to turn up.

In the end, one of his comrades was so alarmed about the fever he was running and his loss of appetite that he insisted on taking him home. On 24 April he passed away. Well-wishers clubbed together and raised over £25,000 to cover the expense of repatriating Emanuel’s body to his native Guinea Bissau.

Emanuel’s death was all the more tragic given the fact that most of the clerical staff had decamped to work from home, so that there was little for cleaning staff to do, but their employer insisted that they continued to attend anyway, even though this meant many workers having to travel to work on busy rush-hour trains.

Now that the bosses have reluctantly agreed to pay proper sick pay to those obliged to take covid-related leave of absence, the UVW is seeking to extend this to include a living wage and full sick pay from day one of any period of sick leave, no matter what the cause.

In addition, the union has started legal proceedings against the MoJ on the grounds that its policy of outsourcing the exclusively BAME cleaning and security staff without parity with civil servants’ terms and conditions (including sick pay) stands in breach of the 2010 Equality Act.

The outsourcing giant concerned, OCS, secured a five-year contract with the MoJ back in 2018. It is estimated to be worth £17.5m a year.

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P&O takes the money and runs

The shipping company is laying off a thousand workers on the very routes it is being paid public money to operate.

Proletarian writers

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Shipping companies responsible for bringing essential goods like medical and veterinary supplies into Britain are being given a state subsidy in the form of a critical freight grant payments.

Yet the company which has received the highest amount under this scheme, P&O Ferries, is presently planning to slash 1,100 jobs on the very same routes it is being paid to keep running.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash explained: “The government is supporting ferry companies to the tune of over £33m until mid-July. By that time, P&O Ferries will have put 1,100 workers – mostly seafarers in Dover and Hull – on the dole.” (RMT slams scandal of taxpayer support for P&O shareholders, RMT, 8 June 2020)

So far from being hailed as heroes for their role in safeguarding the passage of essential goods to Britain, these workers are being rewarded with the sack whilst their bosses dip freely into the public purse.

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US Supreme Court Ruling that Children of Asylum-Seekers Must be Released

US Supreme Court Ruling that Children of Asylum-Seekers Must be Released from Detention Lacks Necessary Provisions for Parents; Risks Further Family Separation

New York – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds today to a federal judge’s ruling that children of asylum-seekers in detention centers must be released by July 17, 2020 due to the outbreak of coronavirus in these facilities, but leaves the door open for the Administration to effectively separate families by releasing children to sponsors or transfer them to state custody while parents remain detained or are deported.

 This decision also leaves out potentially thousands of adult asylum-seekers and other immigrant groups at the mercy of the detention system to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among detainees. 72 percent of individuals in detention centers are expected to be infected by day 90 under an optimistic scenario, according to recent modeling

Olga Bryne, the Director of U.S. Immigration at the IRC said:

“While this decision will provide relief for the children of asylum-seekers, who were needlessly detained across 3 detention centers, it leaves it to the Trump Administration to decide whether the children will leave with their families or else be separated from them. The parents of the children, as well as asylum-seekers and immigrants, are at risk of continued or indefinite detention until their cases are heard. We urge that children and their parents are released together, and with urgency. The U.S. Government must not use this decision as a means to separate families.

“The policy to lock up people for seeking safe haven from danger was cruel at the point of ideation, but to keep them locked in during the most infectious pandemic in 100 years, is inhumane. As the U.S. deals with a new spike of COVID-19 cases breaking a record for daily cases, the risk to public health is exacerbated  for those waiting out their cases in detention centers.”

The IRC continues to provide emergency humanitarian programming to asylum-seekers on both sides of the U.S. southern border. In Phoenix, the IRC provides comprehensive assistance to asylum-seekers released from U.S. government detention through a collaborative shelter operation in Phoenix providing warm meals, clothing, transitional shelter, travel coordination to more than 8,000 asylum-seekers since June 2018. In California and Texas, we are working alongside partners to respond to asylum seekers’ urgent needs.

To protect the health and safety of all, the Department of Homeland Security should take immediate steps to maximize the use of humanitarian parole, release on recognizance, and community-based alternatives to detention, following medical screening and in a manner consistent with public health protocols. Public health experts universally agree that social distancing is one of the most important measures we can all take to combat the spread of COVID-19, something that is impossible in detention facilities.

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A New Anti-War Mobilization Must Topple Trump—and Challenge Biden

Building a new anti-war movement that is connected to the domestic anti-police struggle is the only thing that can rein in US militarism.

by: Medea BenjaminNicolas J.S. Davies

We will not rescue our country from the iron grip of the military-industrial complex by picking the lesser evil and hoping for the best. (Photo: CD/CC BY 2.0)

We will not rescue our country from the iron grip of the military-industrial complex by picking the lesser evil and hoping for the best. (Photo: CD/CC BY 2.0)

On June 13, President Donald Trump told the graduating class at West Point, “We are ending the era of endless wars.” That is what Trump has promised since 2016, but the “endless” wars have not ended. Trump has dropped more bombs and missiles than George W. Bush or Barack Obama did in their first terms, and there are still roughly as many US bases and troops overseas as when he was elected.

Trump routinely talks up both sides of every issue, and the corporate media still judge him more by what he says (and tweets) than by his actual policies. So it isn’t surprising that he is still trying to confuse the public about his aggressive war policy. But Trump has been in office for nearly three and a half years, and he now has a record on war and peace that we can examine.

Such an examination makes one thing very clear: Trump has come closer to starting new wars with North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran than to ending any of the wars he inherited from Obama. His first-term record shows Trump to be just another warmonger in chief.

A Bloody Inheritance

First, let’s look at what Trump inherited. At the end of the Cold War, US political leaders promised Americans a “peace dividend,” and the Senate Budget Committee embraced a proposal to cut the US military budget by 50 percent over the next ten years. Ten years later, only 22 percent in savings were realized, and the George W. Bush administration used the terrorist crimes of September 11 to justify illegal wars, systematic war crimes, and an extraordinary one-sided arms race in which the United States accounted for 45 percent of global military spending from 2003 to 2011. Only half this $2 trillion spending surge (in 2010 dollars) was related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the US Navy and Air Force quietly cashed in a trillion-dollar wish list of new warships, warplanes, and high-tech weapons.

President Barack Obama entered the White House with a pledge to bring home US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to shrink the US military footprint, but his presidency was a triumph of symbolism over substance. He won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize based on a few speeches, a lot of wishful thinking, and the world’s desperate hopes for peace and progress. But by the time Obama stepped down in 2017, he had dropped more bombs and missiles on more countries than Bush did, and had spent even more than Bush on weapons and war.

The major shift in US war policy under Obama was to reduce politically sensitive US troop casualties by transitioning from large-scale military occupations to mass bombing, shelling, and covert and proxy wars. While Republicans derisively dubbed Obama’s doctrine “leading from behind,” this was a transition that was already underway in Bush’s second term, when he committed the United States to completely withdrawing its occupation troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Obama’s defenders, like Trump’s today, were always ready to absolve him of responsibility for war crimes, even as he killed thousands of civilians in air strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria and drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, including the gratuitous assassination of an American teenager in Yemen. Obama launched a new war to destroy Libya, and the United States’ covert role in the war in Syria was similar to its role in Nicaragua in the 1980s, for which, despite its covert nature, the International Court of Justice convictedthe United States of aggression and ordered it to pay reparations.

Many senior US military and civilian officials deserve a share of the guilt for America’s systematic crimes of aggression and other war crimes since 2001, but the principle of command responsibility, recognized from the Nuremberg principles to the US Uniform Code of Military Justice, means that the commander in chief of the US armed forces, the president of the United States, bears the heaviest criminal responsibility for these crimes under US and international law.

Is Trump Different?

In January 2017, as Donald Trump prepared to take office, US forces in Iraq conducted their heaviest month of aerial bombardment since the “shock and awe” bombing during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This time, the enemy was the Islamic State (IS), a group spawned by the US invasion of Iraq and Obama’s covert support for Al Qaeda–linked groups in Syria. Iraqi forces captured East Mosul from the Islamic State on January 24, and in February, they began their assault on West Mosul, bombing and shelling it even more heavily until they captured the ruined city in July. A Kurdish Iraqi intelligence report recorded that more than forty thousand civilians were killed in the US-led destruction of Mosul.

Trump famously summed up his policy as “bomb the shit out of” the Islamic State. He appeared to give a green light to the military to murder women and children, saying, “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.” Iraqi troops described explicit orders to do exactly that in Mosul. Middle East Eye (MEE) reported that Iraqi forces massacred all the survivors in Mosul’s Old City.

“We killed them all,” an Iraqi soldier said. “Daesh (IS), men, women, children. We killed everyone.” An Iraqi major told MEE,After liberation was announced, the order was given to kill anything or anyone that moved . . . It was not the right thing to do . . . They gave themselves up and we just killed them . . . There is no law here now. Every day, I see that we are doing the same thing as Daesh. People went down to the river to get water because they were dying of thirst and we killed them.

By October 2017, Raqqa in Syria was even more totally destroyed than Mosul in Iraq. Under Obama and Trump, the United States and its allies have dropped more than 118,000 bombs and missiles on Iraq and Syria in their campaign against the Islamic State, while US HIMARS rockets and US, French, and Iraqi heavy artillery killed even more indiscriminately.

The wholesale destruction of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and other major cities in Iraq and Syria cannot be legally justified under the Hague and Geneva Conventions, any more than the destruction of entire cities in past wars, like Hiroshima or Dresden. Despite the total lack of accountability, it is clear that American bombs, rockets, and shells killed thousands of civilians in each city and town captured. Obama and Trump share responsibility for these terrible crimes, but they are an escalation of the systematic war crimes the United States has committed since 2001 under three presidents.

In Afghanistan, as the Taliban gradually takes control of more of the country, Trump has resisted the temptation to send in tens of thousands more US troops, as Obama did, but he instead approved a major escalation in US bombing that made 2018 and 2019 the heaviest and deadliest years of US bombing in Afghanistan since 2001.

Trump has shrouded his war-making in even greater secrecy than Obama. The US military has not published a monthly Airpower Summary since February 2020, nor official troop deployment numbers for Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria for nearly three years. But the United States has dropped at least twenty thousand bombs on Afghanistan since Trump came to power, and there is no evidence of a reduction in bombing under the peace agreement the administration signed with the Taliban in February. Some US troops have been withdrawn under that agreement, but the remaining 8,600 are still being replaced as their tours end, keeping US troop strength at about the same level as when Obama left office.

Trump made a great show of repositioning US troops in Syria in October 2019, leaving the United States’ Kurdish allies in Rojava to confront the Turkish invasion alone. But there are still at least 500 US troops in Syria, and Trump deployed 14,000 more US troops to the Middle East in 2019, including to a new base in Saudi Arabia.

Trump has vetoed every bill passed by Congress to disengage US forces from the Saudi war in Yemen and to halt the sales of US-made warplanes and bombs, which the Saudis use to systematically kill Yemeni civilians. He created a new conflict with Iran by pulling out of the nuclear deal, and in January 2020, he capriciously flirted with a full-scale war on Iran by ordering the assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Iraq.

Trump’s bizarre decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to a plot of land that is only partly within Israel’s internationally recognized borders—and partly on Palestinian territory that Israel is illegally occupying—quite literally took US international relations into uncharted territory. Then Trump unveiled a so-called peace plan based on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambition to annex the rest of Palestine into a “Greater Israel” with vastly expanded—but still unrecognized and illegal—international borders.

Trump has also backed a coup in Bolivia, staged several failed ones in Venezuela, and targeted even the United States’ closest allies with sanctions to try to prevent them from trading with US enemies. Trump’s brutal sanctions on Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba are not a peaceful alternative to war, but a form of economic warfare just as deadly as bombs, especially during a pandemic and its accompanying economic meltdown.

A Boon to the Merchants of Death

Once the large-scale US military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan ended under Obama, the US military budget fell to $621 billion by 2015. But since then, military spending for procurement, research and development (R&D), and base construction has risen by 39 percent. This has been a huge windfall for the Big Five US weapons makers—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics — whose arms sales revenues rose 30 percent between 2015 and 2019.

The 49 percent increase to more than $100 billion for R&D on new weapons systems in 2020, part of the enormous $718 billion Pentagon budget, is a down payment on trillions of dollars in future revenue for the merchants of death unless these programs are stopped.

Public outrage and activism are starting to take away the license to kill black and brown people with impunity from the militarized RoboCops on our streets. The same kind of collective political action can defund and disarm the US military and take away its license to kill black and brown people everywhere.

The pretext for Trump’s huge investment in big-ticket, high-tech weapons, including a new Space Force with a $15 billion price tag for 2021, is the New Cold War with Russia and China that he officially unveiled in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. Obama was already trying to shift away from the United States’ lost counterinsurgency wars in the greater Middle East through his “Pivot to Asia,” the US-backed coup in Ukraine, and the expansion of US land and naval forces encircling Russia and China.

But Trump has the same problem as Obama as he tries to wriggle out of the “forever wars”: how to bring US troops home without making it obvious to the whole world that this chronically weak imperial power and its extravagant multitrillion-dollar war machine has been defeated everywhere. Even the most expensive weapons still only kill people and break things. Establishing peace and stability require other kinds of power and legitimacy, which the United States does not possess and which cannot be bought.

Before President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961, he remarked, “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” Trump is obviously as dazzled by chests full of medals and whizz-bang technology as every other president since Eisenhower, so he will keep giving the Pentagon everything it wants to keep spreading violence and chaos around the world.

Just as Obama co-opted and muted liberal opposition to Bush’s wars and record arms spending, Trump has co-opted and muted conservative opposition to Obama’s wars. Now, with the outpouring of protests against domestic police repression and calls for defunding the police, there is a growing chorus to also defund the military. That is certainly not a call Trump would listen to, but would Joe Biden be more receptive to public calls for peace and disarmament than Obama and Trump?

Probably not, based on his long record in the Senate, his roles in authorizing war on Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, his close ties to Israel, and his failure to rein in US war-making as vice president, despite personally opposing Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan. Biden is also trying to outdo Trump in his opposition to China. Like Obama and Trump, Biden would be mainly a new manager and salesman in chief to sell the military-industrial complex’s latest strategy for war and global military occupation to the corporate media and the American public.

We will not rescue our country from the iron grip of the military-industrial complex by picking the lesser evil and hoping for the best. That has not worked for sixty years, since Eisenhower defined the problem so clearly in his farewell address.

On the other hand, a civil society coalition, led by the Poor People’s Campaign and including CODEPINK, is calling for a $350 billion cut in the military budget to fund human needs and public services, and representatives Barbara Lee, Pramila Jayapal, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have introduced a resolution in Congress to do just that.

At the margins, this campaign could have more impact on Biden than on Trump, but not if people sweep up the bunting on election night and think their job is done, as liberals did with Obama and anti-war conservatives did with Trump. Unless and until the American public applies overwhelming pressure to dismantle the US war machine and its futile bid for “full spectrum” global dominance, the US military will keep losing wars on its own terms, bleeding us dry (metaphorically), and bleeding our neighbors overseas dry (literally), until it loses a major war with mass US casualties or destroys us all in a nuclear war.

The US peace movement has always had huge passive public support, but it will take mass collective action, not just passive support, to secure a peaceful future for our children and grandchildren. Public outrage and activism are starting to take away the license to kill black and brown people with impunity from the militarized RoboCops on our streets. The same kind of collective political action can defund and disarm the US military and take away its license to kill black and brown people everywhere.

Building a new anti-war movement that is connected to the domestic anti-police struggle is the only thing that can rein in US militarism. Because reelecting a president with as much blood on his hands as Trump—or simply transferring the command of the war machine to Joe Biden—certainly won’t.

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The Police and the Pentagon Are Bringing Our Wars Home

We need to end systemic racism and the militarism that makes it even deadlier—from Kabul to Atlanta and Baghdad to Minneapolis.

by: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber IIPhyllis Bennis

This militarism at home is linked inextricably to U.S. militarism abroad. (Photo: Shutterstock)

This militarism at home is linked inextricably to U.S. militarism abroad. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Uniformed U.S. soldiers occupied the center of the city, where an armored personnel carrier was stationed at a major intersection. Was it Kabul or Atlanta?

A U.S. military helicopter hovered over crowds of unarmed civilians, its down-drafts whipping debris and broken glass into their faces. Was it Mogadishu or Washington, D.C.?

Armed, uniformed men surrounded unarmed civilians. One of them shouted “light ’em up” and began firing projectiles. Was it Baghdad or Minneapolis?

Armor-clad, armed U.S. officers targeted and fired on journalists. Was it Iraq or Louisville?

In every case, it was both. Thanks to years of hyper militarization, American police departments are recreating our global war zones here at home. With these weapons on our streets, our history of structural racism becomes that much deadlier.

In recent weeks, overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators protesting police killings and racism have been met by riot police, National Guard troops, and armed federal officers wielding tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber-coated metal bullets. Armored personnel carriers prowl the streets, turning U.S. cities and towns into war zones.

It’s shocking, but it’s not the first time. When a police officer killed 17-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, an armored personnel carrier stalked the agonized protesters who filled the streets.

Throughout U.S. history, policing has always been bound up with racism—and the military.

Organized police forces in the United States trace their roots to the slave patrols organized to capture and return enslaved people who managed to escape bondage.

Today’s “global war on terror” is less visible than in earlier years. But those wars continue—and it’s mostly black, brown and Muslim people who die

After reconstruction, when a pandemic of lynching spread across the country, police stood by and in many cases initiated or assisted the kidnapping, torture and murder of people in their custody.

In the 1950s and ’60s, brutal police attacks against civil rights activists and African Americans trying to register to vote continued the pattern. So did police and National Guard violence against antiwar protesters at Kent State, Jackson State, and the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

This militarism at home is linked inextricably to U.S. militarism abroad. The troops that Trump called in to deploy against protesters in Washington, for example, had just returned from duty in Iraq.

Today’s “global war on terror” is less visible than in earlier years. But those wars continue—and it’s mostly black, brown and Muslim people who die. Civilian casualties caused by U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, for instance, were higher last year than at any time in the 20-year-long war.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. linked systemic racism and militarism as two of the three evil “triplets” he was committed to end. Yet that linkage remains a hallmark of U.S. policy in general — and of the militarization of police in particular.

Just in 2014, as Black Lives Matter demonstrations spread across the country, more than 500 law enforcement agencies received MRAP armored personnel carriers, designed to withstand bomb blasts in war theaters like Afghanistan and Iraq. Police in North Little Rock, Arkansas (population: 62,000) got two MARCbots, armed robots designed for war in Afghanistan.

Local and state police departments across the country do not ordinarily include budget lines to buy armored personnel carriers. But under a once-invisible program known as 1033, the Pentagon offers “surplus military equipment” free to any police agency requesting it.

And if the good people of North Little Rock don’t really need armed robots, well, they’ve got them anyway.

Does all that military gear make police officers more likely to act like occupying armies? We can’t say for sure, but we do know the relatively small town had two officer-involved shooting cases during one two-week period this spring.

“When the government equips police departments like they’re equipping the military, we undermine healthy relationships between the police and the community,” explains Equal Justice Initiative director Bryan Stevenson. “We have created a culture where police officers think of themselves as warriors, not guardians.”

From the beginning, the Poor People’s Campaign—a national mobilization of poor and working-class Americans—has made ending the 1033 program a centerpiece of its demands.

Rather than tinkering around the margins, we need to end systemic racism and the militarism that makes it even deadlier—from Kabul to Atlanta and Baghdad to Minneapolis.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Police and the Pentagon Are Bringing Our Wars Home

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