Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Pentagon’s Battle Bugs

March 31, 2008

We at Tomdispatch love anniversaries. So how could we have forgotten DARPA’s for so many months? This very year, the Pentagon’s research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), turns 50 old. Happy birthday, DARPA! You were born as a response to the Soviet Union’s launching of the first earth-girdling satellite, Sputnik, which gave Americans a mighty shock. To prevent another “technological surprise” by the Soviets — or anybody else, any time, ever — the agency has grown into the Pentagon’s good right arm, always there to reach into the future and grab another wild idea for weaponization. Each year, DARPA now spends about $3 billion on a two-fold mission: “to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries.”

Next month, the agency will celebrate its anniversary with a conference that aims to “reflect on [its] challenges and accomplishments… over the past 50 years and to consider the Agency’s goals for the next 50 years.” What a super idea! Think of that. The next 50! If only Tomdispatch is still around — my brain well preserved and renewed (thanks to some nifty cutting-edge science from the TD Advanced Research Projects Lab) — to see War 2058 arrive and blow out those 100-year anniversary candles on the planet.

In the meantime, the future is now and Pentagon expert Nick Turse is at work — see below — on the latest developments in DARPA’s plans to help an overstretched military by reaching into the insect kingdom for its newest well weaponized recruits. The first larval Marines, perhaps. Ten-HUT! Unlike Americans at present, they should simply swarm to the recruiting offices.

It’s a strange (not to say hair-raising) subject for a journalist who has lately been covering the air war in Iraq and elsewhere for Tomdispatch. But the Pentagon’s urge to weaponize the wild kingdom is a topic Turse has long been familiar with and that he deals with powerfully in his remarkable new book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives. It is — believe me — the single most powerful look yet at all the subtle and complicated ways American lives have been militarized during the last decades. (For a short video discussion I had with Turse, click here.)

Oh, and here’s a suggestion for DARPA from a New Yorker. When you’re recruiting those bugs, don’t forget the roaches in my kitchen. They’ve been idle too long. Tom

Weaponizing the Pentagon’s Cyborg Insects

A Futuristic Nightmare That Just Might Come True

By Nick Turse

Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality, if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: The Fate of the Bear Market

March 31, 2008

[Note to Tomdispatch readers: Here’s a small favor I haven’t asked in many months: In addition to everyone who bookmarks Tomdispatch, almost 19,000 of you now get emails letting you know whenever a new piece has been posted. (Many tens of thousands more read pieces from the site reposted elsewhere.) Most new readers sign up for those emails thanks to word of mouth, a formidable force in the on-line world. For those of you already hooked on TD, I’d like to ask you to lend the site a little more of that word-of-mouth power. I hope you’ll consider writing a few people you know who might benefit from getting Tomdispatch regularly, urging them to go to the “sign up” window at the upper right of the main screen, put in their e-mail addresses, answer the confirmation letter that will quickly arrive in their email boxes (or, fair warning, their spam folders), and so join the TD crew. Where else could you read writers like Chalmers Johnson, Rebecca Solnit, Nick Turse, Michael Klare, and Noam Chomsky, among so many others, offering takes on the world that are truly out of the ordinary — and out of the mainstream. For those of you with a few extra minutes and willing to spread the word, many thanks in advance.

Also: Welcome back Comcast readers. It’s been a long time. Comcast periodically blocks the TD server (as well as others), which is frustrating for all of us here. Tom]

The Little Administration That Couldn’t

Rebuilding the American Economy, Bush-style

By Tom Engelhardt

No one was prepared for the storm when it hit. The levees meant to protect us had long since been breached and key officials had already left town. The well-to-do were assured of rescue, but for everyone else trapped inside the Superdome in a fast-flooding region, there was no evacuation plan in sight. The Bush administration, of course, claimed that it was in control and the President was already assuring his key officials that they were doing a heck of a job.

No, I’m not talking about post-Katrina New Orleans. That was so then. I’m talking about the housing and credit crunches, as well as the Bear Stearns bailout, that have given the term “bear market” new meaning.

Now, don’t get me wrong — when it comes to the arcane science of economics, like most Americans, I’d benefit from an “Economics for Dummies” course. What I do know something about, though, is history, a subject that hasn’t been on the Bush administration’s course curriculum since the President turned out not to be Winston Churchill and conquered Iraq refused to morph into occupied Germany ‘n Japan 1945.

History may not repeat itself, but the administration’s repetitive acts these past seven years make an assessment of our economic situation possible, even if you are an economics dummy.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Access Denied: U.S. Law Will Limit Canadian Access toRADARSAT-2 Data if Sale of MDA’s Space Division Proceeds

March 28, 2008
Transmitted At: 2008-03-20 17:39

Attention News Editors:

Access Denied: U.S. Law Will Limit Canadian Access to RADARSAT-2 Data if Sale of MDA’s Space Division Proceeds


OTTAWA, March 20 /CNW Telbec/ – On the same day that Industry Minister Jim Prentice announced a 30-day delay on his decision whether to approve the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates’ (MDA) space division to U.S.-based Alliant Techsystems (ATK), the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) released a legal opinion that raised concerns about the proposed deal.

“Our legal opinion clearly shows that the sale of MDA’s space division to a U.S. arms manufacturer would hand Washington the power to deny Ottawa access to images from our own satellite,” said Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute.

“This legal opinion also underscores our view that the planned sale would be detrimental to our national sovereignty, the industry as a whole, and ultimately to good, highly specialized Canadian jobs such as at the robotics plant in Brampton, Ontario,” said Carol Phillips, Assistant to CAW President, Buzz Hargrove. “We need federal reinvestment not a wholesale sell off of our entire space sector.”

The legal opinion was written by Rideau Institute’s Legal Counsel, Steven Shrybman of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP. Among his conclusions, Mr. Shrybman notes that the proposed sale of MDA assets to ATK is entirely contrary to Canada’s interests and can not reasonably be approved under either the Investment Canada Act or the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act.

More particularly, it is our view that:

– Under U.S. regulations concerning remote sensing space systems such as RADARSAT-2, U.S. national interests take precedence and will supercede the authority Canada now exercises under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act over the operation of Radarsat-2, which includes the right to assert priority access to the information it gathers;

– Therefore, the sale of MDA assets to ATK will seriously weaken or defeat Canada’s ability to achieve the objectives of Remote Sensing Space Systems Act which are explicitly to “ensure national security, the defence of Canada, the safety of Canadian Forces, Canada’s conduct of international relations, and Canada’s international obligations” and “the competitiveness …of the Canadian remote sensing space industry

– Accordingly, there is no reasonable or lawful basis for approving the transfer of MDA’s satellite license to ATK under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act.

For further information: Steven Staples, Rideau Institute, (613) 565-9449 ext. 24, (613) 290-2695 (cell); Steven Shrybman, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, (613)858-6842 (cell); Carol Phillips, Canadian Auto Workers, (416) 561-7427 (cell);Download a copy of the legal opinion at

Toronto: university events this week

March 27, 2008

Even though it is approaching the end of the term, campuses are heating up with activism this week. Lots of REALLY important campus events to support…

1) York Rally: End the Siege on Gaza: THURS, MARCH 27th
2) IRAQ: 5 Years of War and Occupation: THURS, MARCH 27th
3) Confront Canadian War Profiteers: FRI, MARCH 28th


Over the course of this year and in past years, the overwhelming majority of students have repeatedly demonstrated their opposition to increasing fees. In
2005, 98% of students at UofT voted against fee increases. Thousands of students rallied on February 7, 2007 against fee increases. Students’ unions across Canada have advocated against fee increases. Despite all of this, and
the efforts of student representatives at UofT, the administration continues with fee increases, making education inaccessible.

On Thursday March 20, 2008, over forty students staged a sit-in at Simcoe Hall, which houses the offices of the President and Provost. The students’ main demand was to speak with President David Naylor in person or by telephone. Students also requested that proposed fee increases be removed from the March 25 University Affairs Board meeting and to be given 15 minutes at the meeting
for a presentation and discussion on broader issues of access to education.

The peaceful sit-in of the students was met by physical aggression by campus police on the orders of senior administrators. Students were not allowed to demonstrate their dissent, and were not to be heard at all. Administrators left before the end of their workday, escorted out of the building, literally walking on top of students begging to be heard. This was captured on video:


From U of T: SAIA is meeting up ahead of time to go to York together: Meet 11:45am at the North Borden Building (563 Spadina Ave – on the east side)

Join us in commemorating 60 years of Nakba, demanding an end to the siege of Gaza and an end to Israeli Apartheid.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, or the “Palestinian Catastrophe”, in which at least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled and displaced from their homes by Zionist militias. About 500 villages were destroyed and the land confiscated in order to establish the state of Israel.

Since 1948, Palestinian refugees, Palestinians living under Israeli military rule and Palestinian citizens of Israel have been subjected to policies of segregation that amount to Apartheid.

The recent Israeli siege of Gaza accompanied by military atrocities has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded. The majority of Palestinians living in Gaza are refugees exiled during the Nakba.


For more information:

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA): is a group of students and community members who are part of the growing global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the apartheid state of Israel.

2) On the anniversary of the invasion…

5 Years of destruction, war and occupation

Thursday, March 27th
University of Toronto
Medical Sciences Building, Room #3153
1 King’s College Circle
(see map:
Free Admission * Wheelchair AccessibleWith:
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi
Prof. Sabah Al Nasseri

After five years of occupation, the suffering of the Iraqi people continues. More than 1.2 million people have died since March 2003, and more than 5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. War profiteering and U.S. aggression have been driving the destruction of Iraq for far too long. For there to be justice for the Iraqi people, the occupation must end. Learn more about the realities of life in Iraq from Iraqi voices, and how you can get involved in resisting the war.

*Dr. Dahlia Wasfi was born in 1971 and spent her early childhood in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, until she returned with her family to the United States in 1977. Dr. Wasfi graduated from Swarthmore College in 1993 with a B.A. in Biology, and in 1997 graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In February/March of 2004, after years of separation, Wasfi visited Iraq to see her family in Basrah and Baghdad. She journeyed to Iraq again for a 3-month visit in 2006. Based on her experiences, she is speaking out against the negative impact of the U.S. invasion on the Iraqi people and the need to end the occupation. See Dr. Wasfi addressing Congress:

*Professor Sabah Al Nasseri, born in Basra, Iraq, studied political science at J.W.G-Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2006, he joined the department of political science at York University, Toronto. His most recent publication is “Understanding Iraq” in The Socialist Register

Presented by:

Independant Arabic Media:

OPIRG -Toronto
Ontario Public Interest Research Group @ U of T
Contact: 416-978-7770 /

Proudly Endorsed By:
Arts and Science Students Union @ U of T (ASSU)
Students Against Israeli Apartheid
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Canadian Arab Federation
Palestine House: Educational and Cultural Centre
Canada-El Salvador Action Network (CELSAN)
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War
and more to come….

Dedicated to the courageous and resilient Iraqi people.

Picket @ the Canada Commercial Corporation 151 Yonge Street

It has been five years since the US-led attack on Iraq, a war and occupation that was meant to ‘liberate’ a people. Instead, more than 1.2 million people have died and more than 5 million people have fled their homes and forced to live as refugees in desperate conditions. Under the guise of reconstruction, billions of dollars have been stolen from the much needed hands of Iraqis and put in the pockets of war profiteers. This year, the fifth anniversary will not pass quietly. Join Iraqis and activists throughout the city for Days of Action against the War on Iraq….

The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) is a Crown corporation of the Government of Canada and acts as Canada’s international contracting and procurement agency. CCC reports to Parliament through the Minister of International Trade. The role of the CCC in their own words is: “Bringing foreign government buyers and Canadian exporters together in defence markets.”. One of the many ‘success’ stories of the CCC was the contract that existed between SNC – Lavalin (a Canadian corporation) and the U.S Military for the exporting of bullets that were used in the U.S occupation of Iraq. Another example is that of CAE who provide military Helicopter technology and training for the Israeli Air Force use in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, and for the U.S Army use of Apache Helicopters in Iraq.

The Canadian government is responsible for the ongoing (and now extended) occupation of Afghanistan. And it is also complicit in the ongoing military occupation of Iraq and Palestine through openly enouraging military contracts with Canadian corporations and the U.S Army and Israeli Defense Forces.



Tomgram: Mark Danner, Generals Bin Laden and Bush

March 26, 2008

Today, in his usual remarkable way, Mark Danner takes stock of the President’s failed War on Terror abroad. One day, we will also need to take full stock of George W. Bush’s War on Terror at home. After all, conceptually speaking, the War on Terror lay at the heart of everything he and his top officials hoped for in an administration — in, as they called it, a “unitary executive” that would be unrestrained by the checks and balances of either Congress or the courts. The announcement (not declaration) of “war” was, in fact, a necessity for this administration, the only lever available with which to pry a commander-in-chief presidency out of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Without the President’s self-proclaimed War on Terror, there would have been no “war” at all, and so no “wartime” atmosphere or “wartime” presidency to be invoked to cow Congress into backing Bush’s future war of choice in Iraq. Without “war” and “wartime,” it would have been impossible to bring the American people along so readily and difficult to apply “war rules” from the Guantanamo prison complex in Cuba and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Otherwise, as Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris recently pointed out in the New Yorker, how could American officials and commanders have designated those prisoners seized by the U.S. military in Iraq as “‘security detainees,’ a label that had gained currency in the war on terror, to describe ‘unlawful combatants’ and other prisoners who had been denied P.O.W. status and could be held indefinitely, in isolation and secrecy, without judicial recourse.”

Every hope the Bush administration’s top officials had of future power hinged on the War on Terror that preceded actual war anywhere. True, in World War I, not 19 hijackers, but a single assassin triggered the mobilizing of the armies of all the Great Powers of Europe, which did indeed lead to global war. But after 9/11, on the provocation of 19 men (and the scattered bands behind them), only one power mobilized, which meant, by the standards of history, there was no war to be had. Only aggression.

On the domestic power grab that the President and his men (and a few women) believed would lead not just to a global Pax Americana, but to a Pax Republicana at home, the equivalent of a National Intelligence Estimate has yet to arrive. But the recent, little noted loss of the previously safe Illinois seat of former House of Representatives Majority Leader Dennis Hastert — a contest into which a strapped National Republican Congressional Committee poured $1.2 million (20% of the cash it had on hand) against a neophyte Democratic candidate — is a striking sign that Bush’s Pax Republicana may prove anything but generational. In the meantime, consider with Mark Danner, author most recently of The Secret Way to War, the fate of that global Pax Americana which the War on Terror was intended to bring about. Tom

Taking Stock of the War on Terror

A Defeat Only American Power Could Have Brought About

By Mark Danner

[This essay was adapted from an address first delivered in February at the Tenth Asia Security Conference at the Institute for Security and Defense Analysis in New Delhi.]

To contemplate a prewar map of Baghdad — as I do the one before me, with sectarian neighborhoods traced out in blue and red and yellow — is to look back on a lost Baghdad, a Baghdad of our dreams. My map of 2003 is colored mostly a rather neutral yellow, indicating the “mixed” neighborhoods of the city, predominant just five years ago. To take up a contemporary map after this is to be confronted by a riot of bright color: Shia blue has moved in irrevocably from the East of the Tigris; Sunni red has fled before it, as Shia militias pushed the Sunnis inexorably west toward Abu Ghraib and Anbar province, and nearly out of the capital itself. And everywhere, it seems, the pale yellow of those mixed neighborhoods is gone, obliterated in the months and years of sectarian war.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, How to Disintegrate a City

March 25, 2008

Once again last week, the President and his men surged into the headlines, announcing that we had just zipped past yet another of those Iraqi “turning points.” Or, as George W. Bush put it while speaking at the Pentagon (and perhaps dreaming of the days back in 2005 when he could still happily mention “victory” 15 times and “progress” 28 times in a speech about Iraq): “The surge is working. And as a return on our success in Iraq, we’ve begun bringing some of our troops home. The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around — it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.”

A few years ago, of course, the Bush administration was still “turning corners” (around which, invariably, would be an unexpected group of insurgents armed with RPGs and IEDs). Now, in a change of linguistic pace, the corners have vanished (perhaps because we haven’t liked who’s lurking there) and we’re opening doors instead. If history is any guide, behind the President’s “door” will prove to be not the lady but the tiger.

In the meantime, our surly Vice President has just surged past the American people. In an interview in Oman with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, there was this pungent exchange:

“Q: …Two-thirds of Americans say [the Iraq War]’s not worth fighting, and they’re looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.”THE VICE PRESIDENT: So?”

Perhaps the most revealing imagery of the week, however, came from the President’s candidate for the Oval Office in January 2009. On completing a visit to “Iraq,” Senator John McCain issued a ringing statement on the war that began this way: “Today in Iraq, America and our allies stand on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism.” The “precipice of victory” and, next perhaps, the “abyss of victory”?

Go back two years and that word “precipice” was a commonplace in Washington as a rattled Bush administration faced a sectarian civil war in Iraq. Now, as any independent or foreign journalist would tell you (though the American press has generally been more upbeat), the Iraqis are living in that abyss, down which Sen. McCain evidently stares and sees victory. They are living in a hell, a country so thoroughly dismantled that the brave British journalist Patrick Cockburn recently claimed “Iraq” was now little more than a “geographical expression.”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Ontario: The 14,000 MW nuclear gorilla

March 25, 2008

This latest info and action item from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance impacts all Ontario residents who are concerned about our energy sources and environment:

Thanks to the Ontario government’s recent decision to procure up to 14,000 megawatts (MW) of supply from new or refurbished nuclear power plants, nuclear power will have a stranglehold on the province’s electricity supply system. While the government talks about “balance” the real story is that 14,000 MW represents about 72% of the province’s current electricity demand. And that means that cleaner supply sources, such as renewables, conservation programs or combined heat and power, will be left fighting over mostly scraps. Given what we know about the high costs of nuclear power, these other sources will also have to fight for funds as nuclear takes up an equally disproportionate share of the province’s electricity budget.

Our new fact sheet, Ontario’s impending nuclear monopoly, cuts through the smoke to reveal just how dominant nuclear will be in Ontario’s electricity future if the government proceeds as planned. It also lays out recommendations for a fairer and more balanced electricity supply procurement process. You may download the fact sheet by visiting and order copies to distribute from

Please contact Ontario’s Energy Minister, Gerry Phillips, at, and ask him to establish a competitive procurement process for obtaining new electricity supplies.

Please pass this message on to your friends.

Thank you.

Jessica Fracassi, Communications & Membership Director
Ontario Clean Air Alliance
402-625 Church St, Toronto M4Y 2G1
Phone: 416-926-1907 ext. 245
Fax: 416-926-1601

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance is a coalition of health, environmental, and consumer organizations, faith communities, municipalities, utilities, unions, corporations and individuals working for cleaner air through a coal phase-out and the shift to a renewable electricity future. Our partner organizations represent more than six million Ontarians.