Tear gas fired by Ferguson police comes from company supplies Israel, Bahrain and Egypt

“When tear-gas was first fired into the streets of Ferguson, Missouri at people angry at the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Palestinian activists sent out messages on Twitter giving people tips for how to deal with tear gas’ effects. And there was another direct connection between events in Missouri and the West Bank, as Palestinian activist Mariam Barghouti noted: the company that supplies the Israeli army with tear gas is the same company supplying the police in Ferguson. […]”

(Read full article at Mondoweiss.net)

tear gas canisters from egypt, palestine, ferguson - and the headquarters of cts

“Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) calls Jamestown, Pennsylvania home. Often marketed and produced under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) – they provide tear gas to the governments of Israel and Egypt as well as many others. In fact, until recently, Combined Systems used to fly the Israeli flag at its headquarters. According to its own advertising, its ‘OC Vapor System is ideal for forcing subjects from small rooms, attics, crawl spaces, prison cells,’ and is used against prisoners in the US. CSI is owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlye Group. Point lookout Capitol, which holds a controlling number of shares, says glowingly of CSI: ‘The company’s CTS branded product line is the premiere less-lethal line in the industry today.’ Point Lookout Capital is headquartered in New York City. Nearly every week Combined Systems Inc. holds trainings across the US for law enforcement and security personnel, in using their ‘chemical munitions’ and other weaponry. Combined Systems tear gas was exported into Egypt via Israel during the January 2011 Egyptian uprising and is one of the largest suppliers of tear gas used to repress uprisings globally.

Combined Systems has aggressively propagandized its products. On May 18, 2011, the Chilean government announced— in the wake of a study by the University of Chile which demonstrated that CS exposure may lead to miscarriages— that they would temporarily suspend the use of tear gas throughout the country. Latin America News Dispatch quotes then-Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter as saying: ‘[I]t seems reasonable to suspend the use of tear gas until new medical reports dispel any doubts about the appropriateness of employing these gases to confront situations of public disorder and vandalism.’ Fortunately for the Chilean government— and unfortunately for Chilean protesters, such as the 30,000 protesters who, a week earlier, had gathered to demonstrate against the HidroAysén hydroelectric project and been faced with tear gas— the Chilean government was able to put together a report, three days later, citing Combined Systems, arguing that tear gas was safe. The report, and the lifting of the ban on tear gas, came just in time for the state to use tear gas against the next round of HidroAysén protests.

In the West Bank, many protesters have died or been seriously injured as a result of being shot at close range by Combined Systems tear gas canisters, including 28 year old Mustafa Tamimi of Nabi Saleh who died in 2011 after half of his face was shot off by a Combined Systems tear gas canister. In 2009 Bassem Abu Rahmah, from Bil’in, was killed by a Combined Systems canister, and in 2010, his sister Jawaher was as well. The number of deaths as well as serious injuries as a result of teargas cannisters has drastically increased since 2008, when Israel began using Combined Systems’ ‘extended range’ 40mm cartridges, sold under the brand name ‘Indoor Barricade Penetrator,’ and which travel at a velocity of 122 meters per second and are designed to penetrate buildings. Although the manufacturers’ labels clearly indicate that the teargas grenades are not to be used at short range and are not to be fired people, this has not stopped the Israeli military from doing so— effectively turning these canisters into large bullets. (For more info, check out the B’Tselem report, page 8. To see the manufacturer’s website for the Indoor Barricade Penetrator, click here.) Combined Systems canisters have also been used to kill protesters in Guatemala.”

(Source: Facing Tear Gas)

UK activists shut down Israeli arms factory

Via Mondoweiss.net:

“A group of activists from the London Palestine Action network have today [August 5, 2014] chained the doors shut of an Israeli weapons factory based near Birmingham in the UK and are now occupying the roof. As part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) and in response to calls for action from Palestinian movements, we are demanding the permanent closure of the factory and an end to all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel.[…]

Elbit Systems markets its drones as ‘field tested’ – by which it means that their drones have been proven to be effective at killing Palestinians. The UK government is importing technology that has been developed during the course of Israeli massacres.
Activists occupying rooftop of weapons factory, pink smoke and banners that say "UK Stop Arming Israel"

UK prime minister David Cameron and the UK government have Palestinian blood on their hands. In order to end their deep complicity with Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against Palestinians, they must take steps to impose a full military embargo on Israel and close the Elbit Systems factory immediately.

It is more important than ever that the solidarity we build with the Palestinian struggle is effective and impactful. Israel does not act alone but is supported by governments and corporations across the world that have names and addresses. It is time for the international solidarity movement to escalate its direct actions against those that support and profit from Israeli apartheid to take action that can lead to a genuine isolation of Israel.”

Read full article and see more photos here.

 

Statist “gun control”: promoting an elite monopoly on armed violence

The most common solution put forth (by the corporate media) to address the high levels of gun violence in the United States is “gun control” —  that is, asking the state to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of firearms. Gun violence is a problem, and something needs to be done about it  But federal/state “gun control” legislation is not the solution.

"Photo of victims killed in drone strike on wedding convoy from Yemeni journalist & being circulated widely on social media."
Photo of victims killed in a U.S. drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen (December 2013) … The oligarchs who ordered and oversaw this act of mass murder will also oversee “gun control”. Do you trust them to make good decisions about who should and should not be armed?

There are several problems with asking the U.S. government to stop gun violence by controlling who has access to firearms and ammunition. The most obvious of these is that the US government is the single largest perpetrator of gun violence on the planet. It spends over $500 billion per year on military, police, and intelligence forces. The military has killed far (i.e. millions) more people than civilians with guns. They are also the world’s largest arms dealer — giving billions of dollars worth of weaponry to foreign dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), paramilitary death squads, and domestic police forces. They oversee the largest prison system in the world (something that can only be maintained through the constant employment of violence). Why would we rely on these people to stop armed violence? When bureaucrats like Diane Feinstein (whose top campaign donors included several weapons manufacturers, and who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee which has overseen the torture and assassination of thousands of people) get up and talk about “gun control”, what they really mean is that they want to be in control of all of the guns, so they can continue using them to murder people who threaten corporate profits.

The second problem is that “gun control” does nothing to address the social causes of violence in our society — racism, militarism, sexism, economic exploitation, etc. Yes, it is true that firearms are frequently used by abusive men to murder their partners. However, when police are twice as likely to be domestic abusers as the general population, why would we expect that granting police a monopoly on firearms would protect women from gun violence? When we send millions of young men and women overseas to murder people in the name of the U.S. military, why do we act surprised when they come home and commit gun violence here? … The point is that we need to work towards social changes that address the root causes of violence, if we want it to stop.

Gun violence is a real problem (as we all were reminded of by the tragedy today), which we desperately need to come up with solutions as a community (working towards the ultimate goal of peaceful coexistence and universal disarmament). But the “gun control” debate (promoted by the corporate media) is totally backwards. If we really want to gain control of gun violence, we need to go after the largest perpetrator (the US government) first. The people need to disarm the police and military, rather than the other way around. Only after the people have disarmed the state, and replaced the police and military with community self-defense groups, could we safely start working on a local level towards voluntary disarmament (i.e. once arms are no longer necessary to defend our communities against violence).

Rahmatullah, 19, a victim of a NATO air strike, tries to sit up on his bed in a hospital in KabulPhoto: Ramatullah, a 19-year old Afghan boy who was the victim of a NATO airstrike

From the Pentagon to the Private Sector: Boston Globe Analysis Finds Large Numbers of Retiring Generals Entering Defense Industry

(via Democracy Now!)

A new investigation by the Boston Globe finds that retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest. We speak with Bryan Bender, national security reporter for the Globe.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re turning now, though, from the Pentagon to the private sector. That’s the title of a new investigation by the Boston Globe that exposes how retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest.

The Globe analyzed the career paths of 750 of the highest-ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades. The results are staggering. From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives. That compares with less than half who followed that path a decade earlier.

The Globe analysis found that in many cases the generals are recruited for private-sector roles well before they retire, raising questions about their independence and judgment while still in uniform. What’s more, the Pentagon is aware and even supports this practice.

Bryan Bender is the national security reporter for the Boston Globe. He’s joining us from Washington, D.C.

Bryan, thanks so much for joining us on this very snowy day. The East Coast is blanketed. Talk about this research you have done, which is really a stunning exposé.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, what we did is, as you mentioned, went back and looked at the most senior military officers who have retired in the last 20 years to see where they went and what they did in their post-military careers. And the growth in the share of the three- and four-star generals and admirals who have gone into private defense work has increased quite substantially.

But what we found was not just the numbers. I think some would suggest that the nation has been at war for nearly a decade, so that explains, at least partially, why the rise. But more interesting was the sort of blurred lines between the role of these senior officers in the defense industry and their continuing role as official or unofficial advisers to the military.

AMY GOODMAN: Go through —- well -—

BRYAN BENDER: In other words —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

BRYAN BENDER: I was going to say, in other words, they’re leaving the military and very quickly taking jobs at defense companies or, increasingly, as private consultants either in business for themselves or in these consulting firms that specialize in what people call the “rent a general” phenomenon. But while they’re doing this private defense work, they’re still shaping, in a very real way, what the Pentagon’s priorities are, where they’re investing money. And so, in any other world, that would seem a pretty clear conflict of interest.

In one example, we found a retired four-star general from the Air Force who had been in charge of weapons programs, including the B-2 bomber, retires and then, within — literally within hours, is hired by Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the B-2, as a consultant, and then, very soon after, is called back by the Air Force to help oversee a study of what’s going to replace the B-2 bomber. So, that’s just one example of, again, these blurred lines between a private defense company official or consultant and an adviser to the Pentagon.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the man you started your piece “From the Pentagon to the Private Sector” with. “An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory ‘Speedy’ Martin returned to his quarters…” And you went from there saying, “almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman.”

So, explain then — as you make your bullet points, you say, “When a general-turned-businessman arrives at the Pentagon, he is often treated with extraordinary deference — as if still in uniform — which can greatly increase his effectiveness as a rainmaker for industry. The military even has name for it — the ‘bobblehead effect.'” Explain that.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, that’s one of the things that’s most concerning to observers of this, including some retired generals and admirals themselves, who we interviewed. And that is that it’s quite well known that there’s a revolving door in Washington. If you leave Congress, if you leave an executive department, you go be a lobbyist or a consultant to the very industry that you had a responsibility to oversee while you were in the government.

Where the military is different, people suggest, is this very rigid, ingrained system of hierarchy and deference to seniority. And the old adage, I think, applies: once a general, always a general. When you talk to some of the people who sit in some of these meetings of advisory panels and the sort of mind-numbing number of these commissions and other bodies that advise the military, if there’s a retired four-star general in the room, he’s going to get a level of respect. People are going to hear him out in a very real way, as if he’s still a general and he didn’t leave the military.

And the bobblehead effect is a term that a few people used, which refers to those bobblehead toys where the head goes up and down. You get a retired general or admiral in many of these settings, and everybody sitting around the table, particularly military officers who may have worked for that general when he was in uniform — he or she was in uniform — or, you know, certainly knew of him, knew the command that he or she had had, they will sit around the table and nod their head as the general speaks. So, the bobblehead effect really is something that is sort of specific to the military. You have this deference to seniority, in a way that you don’t elsewhere, that doesn’t go away when a general or an admiral takes off their uniform.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the meeting that took place on the National Defense University’s campus on the banks of the Potomac River in June of 2009, Bryan Bender.

BRYAN BENDER: This was a meeting that the Army convened, the vice chief of staff of the Army convened. And the purpose was to lay out a strategy for the Army’s future combat vehicle, something — a program called the ground combat vehicle, or GCV, which is a new program that is potentially worth billions of dollars for the defense contractors that will build it. And at this meeting, the Army invited about a hundred mostly government officials, military officers, congressional staffers. There were a few scholars there from think tanks or academia. Defense companies were not invited, because this was a very initial meeting laying out what some of the specifications might be for this new vehicle. They had not awarded a request for companies to respond to yet. But at the meeting were a bunch of retired Army generals. And it turns out that many of them are private industry consultants, including for the companies that later bid on the ground combat vehicle contract when it came out. And it was just one example that we came across of, again, this blurring of the lines. Here, you know, are a bunch of retired Army generals who are brought in because clearly they have a lot of expertise in military affairs — many of them were responsible for overseeing some very similar programs when they were in uniform — the Army seeking their advice, seeking their input, as they craft this new major weapons program.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about, Bryan —

BRYAN BENDER: At the same time —

AMY GOODMAN: Bryan? Let’s talk about who was there.

BRYAN BENDER: Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Retired Army Lieutenant General William H. Campbell, who oversaw all the Army’s information systems before leaving the service in 2000. Since 2002, he’s been employed as a senior vice president at BAE Systems, one of the Army’s primary weapons suppliers and a major bidder for the new ground combat vehicle. You emailed him. He wrote back it’s not a conflict of interest because he’s in the electronics division of BAE, not the ground combat division. Campbell, you say, and BAE declined to say how much, if any, of the electronics system in the new tank might be produced by Campbell’s division at BAE. But Campbell suggested other generals at the meeting may have been skating closer to the edge. Like who, Bryan Bender?

BRYAN BENDER: Well, there’s a retired Army three-star general, Joseph Yakovac, who specialized in developing weapon systems just like this one when he was in the Army. And he’s a consultant for the same company, BAE Systems, but specifically on this ground combat vehicle program.

And this gets to the issue of disclosure. A lot of these generals will say, “Well, you know, when I was invited to this meeting, I had to fill out an ethics questionnaire.” And many of them, if not all of them, did so, as far as I can tell, but that’s where some people will come in and say, “Well, you know what? Yes, they filled out an ethics questionnaire, and presumably they told the truth, that they have a variety of defense industry clients or they plan to consult in the future on this very program that they’re advising the Army on, but I cannot find an example where anyone in a situation like that has been precluded from participating in a panel like that.” And that’s where some of the critics will say the process is broken. There’s a lot of paperwork these generals have to fill out. They file to the Army ethics questionnaires and nondisclosure agreements. But from what I can tell, in most cases, those documents get stuck in a drawer somewhere or on a computer hard drive and basically disappear. No one ever reviews them. No one ever says, “You know what? General Jack Smith, or whatever his name is, has these industry consulting clients and he’s advising us on some very similar technologies. Maybe we shouldn’t include him in this example.” So, that’s where public disclosure comes in.

And I think most people will say the problem with these disclosure forms is that there’s no way for the public to know who’s working for whom, particularly if they’re a consultant, and that, in the minds of some, there should be more disclosure, because at least there would be some sunlight on this process from the outside that might lead the Army and the other military services to do a better job of policing who is advising the military while they’re also being paid by the very companies who could benefit from that advice.

AMY GOODMAN: You mention retired General William S. Wallace, who ran the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command before retiring in 2008, who said he wasn’t representing one of the prospective bidders at the time of the meeting. Like the other participants, however, one of the ethics questions he was asked to answer, according to a blank copy, was whether he intended to consult in the future for a client that may have a direct interest in bidding on the new tank. Wallace didn’t say how he answered that question. But explain what his job is now, Bryan Bender.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, General Wallace, who, as you mention, ran the Training and Doctrine Command, which is basically the senior Army headquarters for determining what weapons and equipment the military — the Army should buy, he’s now a private consultant. And one of his clients now is General Dynamics Land Systems Division, which is directly bidding on the ground combat vehicle program that he was brought to the National Defense University to advise on. And it gets to my earlier point. I have no reason to believe that General Wallace was, you know, untruthful in his ethics questionnaire. So when the question came up — “Do you have any plans or intention to consult for a company in the future that might have a stake in this program?” — it really doesn’t matter what he said, whether he said yes or no, because obviously, in the end, it really didn’t matter, because he soon thereafter went to work for General Dynamics Land Systems.

And, you know, General Wallace and others I talked to will say, “Well, we signed a nondisclosure agreement before we went to this meeting, so, you know, we promised that whatever we learn here, whatever we find out, whatever this meeting is about, we will not share that with anyone else.” But that gets to this other issue, which some others raised, which is, the policing mechanism basically is inside the brain of the general or admiral. As one put it, you have to have a firewall in your head. So you know some inside information, perhaps, that you got from a meeting like this or a variety of others in the Pentagon, but when you go to the boardroom or when you go meet with your client, you basically have to make sure that you don’t download from one side of your brain to the other the information that you learned that you’re not supposed to share with your client. And I think many will say that that’s a minefield that is very difficult to walk. And that’s why many people think that the generals shouldn’t be in that position to begin with.

And maybe one point I’ll make, which is sort of a broader point: even the most concerned critics of this phenomenon and how it’s grown, no one will say that, “Oh, the generals should just retire and go off to the golf course or sit in their rocking chair and smoke a corncob pipe.” You know, many of them retire at 55, they’re in great health, they’ve spent an enormous amount of years in the military, they certainly have an expertise that is valued. Everyone agrees that they’re going to go do something, like in any other industry, which is their expertise. Where the real concern is is, again, the blurring of the lines. No one’s saying they shouldn’t go work for defense companies. But they probably shouldn’t be also, in so many cases, advising the Pentagon on some of the very same issues that they’re working on in the private sector.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian, I want to —

BRYAN BENDER: And that particularly goes for the consulting arena. Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a related issue: David Barstow, the twice Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, who exposed how dozens of retired generals working as radio and television analysts had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to military contractors that benefited from policies they defended. This is David Barstow on Democracy Now! in May of 2009 explaining how Pentagon officials developed this program during the lead-up to the Iraq war.

DAVID BARSTOW: The way to really influence the American public was to try and find people who were viewed as independent of both government and the media, people who were considered authoritative and expert, and people who would have an ability to cut through the spin.

And the group that they began zeroing in on were all the military analysts who were being hired in droves after 9/11 by all the major TV networks. In the view of Torie Clarke and her staff, these guys were sort of the ultimate key influencers. They were seen as, most of them, retired decorated war heroes. They were, many of them, retired generals, some three- and four-star generals. They came from an institution that traditionally is extremely trusted by the American public. And they were seen by the public not really as of the media, but not of the government either.

And so, in the fall of 2002, Torie Clarke and her aides, with the strong support from the White House and from her bosses, set out to target this group and to make them, really, one of the main vehicles for reaching the American public and building support for the war on terror. So that’s how it sort of began, was with this idea that they could take this thing, this thing called the military analyst, which is a creature that’s been around for a long time — going back to the first Gulf War, we remember some of the retired generals first coming on air — and they could take this and the fact of 9/11 and the fact of how prevalent they were on air, sometimes appearing segment after segment after segment, getting more air time than many correspondents were getting, holding forth, not just on the issues of where the airplanes are flying and where the tanks are moving, but weighing more heavily on even the strategic issues of what should we do next and how should the war on terror unfold, what should be the next targets.

And they looked at them as effectively what they were doing was writing the op-ed on air for the networks and for the cables. And they noticed the way the relationships between the anchors and their sort of in-house generals, there was a sort of bond between anchor and general. And you didn’t see the kind of challenging questioning that would go on if you had sent, for example, a representative of the Pentagon to the TV station. It was a much more — almost fawning, in some cases, kind of relationship between anchor and general. So they saw this group, and they saw in this group a way of taking the media filter, which politicians are always so fond of complaining about, and turning the media filter into more of a media megaphone.

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