FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraq War as Arms Expo

Arms manufacturers and military publicists invariably use new conflicts to showcase their latest wares. With fawning descriptions of weapons systems now continually available on 24-hour cable news stations, the current war in Iraq may prove to be the largest arms expo yet.

But if we are to learn anything from the first Gulf War, it is that wartime PR spin produces a fundamentally misleading view of arms build-up and fosters bad security policy.

With the new invasion, Patriot Missiles are back in the news. Night-time video footage of the missiles launching to intercept Iraqi Scuds provided a defining image of the first Gulf War for the American viewing public. A symbol U.S. technological prowess, Patriots stood at the fore of an array of new weapons that wowed the pundits.

Claims about the Patriot Missile system’s success, however, turned out to be propaganda. After Desert Storm had passed and most people stopped paying attention, Congressional investigations revealed that the missiles weren’t necessarily destroying any enemy Scuds when they exploded in midair.

In a 1992 report reviewing the issue, the House Committee on Government Operations concluded that “The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements.”

Boston Magazine reports that when negative coverage first hit the press, the Patriots’ manufacturer, Raytheon, investigated possibilities for revoking the security clearance of a leading critic, MIT’s Theodore Postal.

Today, arms dealers are not so concerned with hiding the truth about the older weaponry. They are busy touting the improved performance of a “new generation” of anti-missile technology. Tragically, it appears that target recognition failure in one of the new Patriot missiles was responsible for the death of two British airmen returning to a base near the border of Kuwait, an incident announced on March 23.

The World Trade Center disaster proved that pricey weaponry does not necessarily make for effective security. Now is the time for smarter defense policy, not an ever-escalating build-up of superpower stockpiles.

Yet it is likely that the Iraq War will only lead to the creation of a larger pile. Bush’s proposed budged for 2003 earmarks $380 billion for the Pentagon-an increase of $15 billion over last year’s historically large allocation. And this does not include funding for the current conflict.

“Star Wars” missile defense, slated to receive nine billion dollars in funding for next year alone, stands as perhaps most offensive piece of gadetry in development. As with the Patriot Missile, the heart of the system is complicated in-flight targeting technology that, despite Pentagon boosterism, had been plagued with failure. Critics charge that in both the “successful” trials, as well as in the failed attempts, decoys were carefully selected for their dissimilarity from the targeted mock warheads, making successful interception much easier than in “real world” conditions.

Another reason to be skeptical of a new arms expo is that even when technological innovations work, they do not make war more humane. “Smarter” bombs, outfitted with sophisticated targeting devices, provide a key example. As the Christian Science Monitor reported recently, “In the Gulf War, just 3 percent of bombs were precision-guided. That figure jumped to 30 percent in the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, and to nearly 70 percent during the Afghan air campaign last year. Yet in each case, the ratio of civilian casualties to bombs dropped has grown.”

“Smarter” bombs can breed overconfidence, leading officers to order attacks that would have been considered too risky in the past-such as “surgical strikes” within cities. The numbers indicate that civilians bear the brunt of this shift.

War is still war, however sophisticated the weaponry. To prevent its tragedies from being compounded, we need a critical press corps more than ever. As the new war proceeds, reporters should challenge military spin and ask, “What will be the next Patriot hoax?”

MARK ENGLER,a writer based in New York City, has previously worked with the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in San José, Costa Rica. He can be reached at engler@eudoramail.com.

Research assistance for this article provided by Katie Griffiths.

Today’s Features

Uri Avnery
A Crooked Mirror: Presstitution and the Theater of Operations

David Vest
Can You Hear the Silence?

Anthony Gancarski
Colin Powell Telemarketer

David Lindorff
Takoma: the Dolphin Who Refused to Fight

Michael Roberts
War, Debts and Deficits

Ramzy Baroud
Now That Iraqis Are Being Killed Is Israel Any More Secure?

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad with Tears

Anton Antonowicz
Cluster Bombs on Babylon

Alison Weir
Israel, We Won’t Forget Rachel Corrie

Bruce Jackson
Hating Wolf Blitzer’s Voice

Eliot Katz
War’s First Week

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/03

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

MARK ENGLER is author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, April 2008). He can be reached via the web site http://www.DemocracyUprising.com

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Are Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail