The Left as the New Enemy Within: Domestic Wargaming Exercise Includes “Progressive” AntiGlobalist Baddies, Um, Terrorists

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Yves here. America has airbrushed out most of the history of savage violence against early labor leaders, but a reminder of the intensity of the sentiment came via McCarthy’s success in fanning fears of the Red Menace. Now that Marxism is no longer a dirty word and young voters on the whole are more sympathetic to socialism than capitalism, it should come as no surprise that a radical leftist group features prominently in a recent domestic wargaming exercise. As author Nick Turse points out, the record shows that radical right wing groups have been far more active and violent.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is Originally published at TomDispatch

For almost 20 years, U.S. drone warfare was largely one-sided. Unlike Afghans and Yemenis, Iraqis and Somalis, Americans never had to worry about lethal robots hovering overhead and raining down missiles. Until, that is, one appeared in the skies above Florida.

But that’s a story for later. For now, let’s focus on a 2017 executive order issued by President Trump, part of his second attempt at a travel ban directed primarily at citizens of Muslim-majority nations. It begins: “It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.”

That sentence would be repeated in a January report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Meant to strengthen the president’s case for the travel ban, it was panned for its methodological flaws, pilloried for its inaccuracies, and would even spur a lawsuit by the civil rights organization, Muslim Advocates, and the watchdog group, Democracy Forward Foundation. In their complaint, those groups contend that the report was “biased, misleading, and incomplete” and “manipulates information to support its anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim conclusions.”

To bolster the president’s arguments for restricting the entry of foreigners into the United States, the DOJ/DHS analysis contained a collection of case summaries. Examples included: the Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; the Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; the Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.

Such cases cited in the report, hardly spectacular terror incidents, were evidently calculated to sow fears by offering a list of convicted suspects with Muslim-sounding names. But the authors of the report simply looked in the wrong places. They could have found startling summaries of truly audacious attacks against the homeland in a collection of U.S. military documents from 2016 obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act. Those files detail a plethora of shocking acts of terrorism across the United States including mass poisonings, the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and that “People’s Armed Liberation (PAL) attack on U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, [by] a drone-launched missile.”

That’s right! A drone-launched missile attack! On CENTCOM’s Florida headquarters! By a terrorist group known as PAL!

Wondering how you missed the resulting 24/7 media bonanza, the screaming front page headlines in the New York Times, the hysterics on Fox & Friends, the president’s hurricane of tweets?

Well, there’s a simple explanation. That attack doesn’t actually happen until May 2020. Or so says the summary of the 33rd annual Joint Land, Air, and Sea Strategic Special Program (JLASS-SP), an elaborate war game carried out in 2016 by students and faculty from the U.S. military’s war colleges, the training grounds for its future generals and admirals.

PALing Around with Terrorists

The 2016 edition of JLASS-SP was played out remotely for weeks before culminating in a five-day on-site exercise at the Air Force Wargaming Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. It involved 148 students from the Air Force’s Air War College, the Army War College, the Marine Corps War College, the Naval War College, the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, the National War College, and the National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College. Those up-and-coming officers — some of whom will likely play significant roles in running America’s actual wars in the 2020s — confronted a future in which, as the script for the war game put it, “lingering jealousy and distrust of American power and national interests have made it politically and culturally difficult for the United States to act unilaterally.”

Here’s the scene as set in JLASS-SP: while the U.S. is still economically and militarily powerful into the next decade, anxieties abound about increasing constraints on the country’s ability to control, dictate, and dominate world affairs. “Even in the military realm… advances by others in science and technology, expanded adoption of irregular warfare tactics by both state and non-state actors, proliferation of nuclear weapons and long-range precision weapons, and growing use of cyber warfare attacks have increasingly constricted U.S. freedom of action,” reads the war game’s summary.

While the materials used are “not intended to be an actual prediction of events,” they are explicitly meant “to reflect a plausible depiction of major trends and influences in the world regions.” Indeed, what’s striking about the exercise is how — though scripted before the election of Donald Trump — it anticipated many of the fears articulated in the president’s December 2017 National Security Strategy. That document, for instance, bemoans the potential dangers not only of regional powers like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, but also of “transnational threats from jihadist terrorists and transnational criminal organizations,” undocumented immigrants, “drug traffickers, and criminal cartels [which] exploit porous borders and threaten U.S. security and public safety.”

The JLASS-SP scenario also prefigured themes from that 2018 DOJ/DHS report supporting the travel ban in the way it stoked fears of, above all, a major “foreign-born” — especially Muslim — terror threat in the United States. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report would, however, conclude that, of “the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right-wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).”

Two years after the war game was conducted, in a time of almost metronomic domestic mass killings, President Trump continues to spotlight the supposedly singular danger posed by “inadequately vetted people” in the U.S., although stovetops and ovens, hot air balloons, and burning pajamas are far more deadly to Americans. Indeed, since 9/11, terrorism has been a distinctly low-level risk to the American public — at least when compared to heart disease, cancer, car crashes, fires, or heat waves — but has had an outsized effect on the perceptions and actions of the government, not to mention its visions of tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Terror Today

An examination of the threats from international and domestic terror groups, as imagined in JLASS-SP, offers unique clues to the Pentagon’s fears for the future. “Increasingly,” reads the war game’s summary, “transnational organizations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and violent extremist organizations challenge the traditional notions of boundaries and sovereignty.”

That drone-launching terror group, PAL, for instance, is neither Islamist nor a right-wing terror group, but an organization supposedly formed in 2017 in hopes of defeating “globalism and capitalism throughout the world by rallying the proletariat to orchestrate the overthrow of capitalist governments and global conglomerates.” Its ideology, an amalgam of increasingly stale leftist social movements, belies its progressive ranks, a rainbow coalition consisting of “most of the globe’s ethnicities and cultures,” all of whom seem to be cyber-sophisticates skilled in fundraising, recruiting, as well as marketing their particular brand of radicalism.

As of 2020, the audacious drone strike on CENTCOM’s headquarters was PAL’s only terror attack in the tangible world. The rest of its actions have taken place in the digital realm, where the group is known for launching cyber-assaults and siphoning off “funds from large global corporations, banks, and capitalist governments around the world.”

Even though PAL went from a gleam in the eye of its founder, the Bond-villain-esquely named Otto Cyre, to terrorist power-player in just a few short years, the pace of its operations didn’t please its hardest core members who, the war game scenario says, broke away in late 2020 to form yet another organization devoted to even more rapidly eroding “confidence in governmental and institutional bodies by staging events that demonstrate the ‘impotency’ of the establishment.” That splinter group, United Patriots Against International Government (UPAIGO) — in this war game all terror groups have Pentagon-style acronyms — concentrates on “spectacular but deniable actions,” a scattershot campaign of often botched but sometimes lethal efforts that include:

* November 2021: a cyber-attack on the Angarsk Refinery in the Russian Federation, which resulted in a two-week shutdown causing a sharp rise in the price of oil and gas just prior to the 2021-2022 winter heating season.

* April 2022: a failed attempt to assassinate, by IED, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command. Two members of the commander’s security detail and the command’s political advisor were killed in the attack while others, including civilians, were injured.

* January 2022: a failed plot to detonate a dirty [radioactive] bomb, employing medical waste and homemade explosives, at Philadelphia International Airport.

* 2023 fire season: as fires raged in the western United States, UPAIGO established relief efforts designed to compete with the U.S. government’s response, in order to “undermine confidence in government agencies.”

* June 2024: an attack, in coordination with members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), on a U.S. flagged air carrier transporting U.S. military personnel at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Militants fired two surface-to-air missiles at the aircraft, which was damaged but managed to land successfully.”

PAL and UPAIGO are, however, hardly the only terror threats facing the United States in the 2020s, according to JLASS-SP 2016. PAL’s fellow travelers, for example, include the fictional versions of the real Irish National Liberation Army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). There’s also the Environmentalists Against Capitalists Organization, or EACO, “a lethal environmental anti-capitalist terrorist group with global connections.” Formed in 2010 (though not in our actual world), EACO, according to the war gamers, evolved into an increasingly violent organization in the 2020s, carrying out not just cyberattacks on corporations but also a full-scale bombing campaign “targeting executive board meetings of large corporations, particularly in industries such as oil, coal, natural gas, and logging.” The group even took to planting IEDs on logging roads and employing tainted food as a weapon. By 2025, EACO was implicated in more than 400 criminal acts in the U.S. resulting in 126 deaths and $862 million in damages.

Then there’s Anonymous. In the Pentagon’s fictional war-game, this real-world hacktivist group is characterized as a “loose organization of malicious black-hat hackers” that employs its digital prowess to “distribute bomb-making instructions, and conduct targeting for options other than planes, trains, and automobiles.” In the past created by the military’s imagineers, Anonymous was declared a terrorist organization after it conducted an August 2015 digital attack on Louisiana’s power grid with something akin to the Stuxnet worm that damaged nuclear centrifuges in Iran. That cyber-assault was meant to protest the state’s restrictions on online gambling — an affront, according to the fictional Anonymous, to Internet freedom. (In the real world, Louisiana lawmakers actually just deep-sixed online gambling without an apparent terrorist response.) Taking down that power grid “resulted in the death of 15 elderly patients trapped in a facility denied air conditioning as a result of the power outage.”

Also included among domestic terror groups is Mara Salvatrucha 13 or MS-13, the Los Angeles street gang, born of the American-fueled Central American civil wars of the 1980s, that was transplanted to El Salvador and has since returned to the United States. This violent American export — the product of deportations in the 1990s — has paradoxically become a key justification for President Trump’s crackdown on immigration. “MS-13 recruits through our broken immigration system, violating our borders. And it just comes right through — whenever they want to come through, they come through,” said Trump earlier this year during a White House roundtable focused on the gang. “We’ve really never seen anything quite like this — the level of ferocity, the level of violence, and the reforms we need from Congress to defeat it.”

In the real world, the U.S. branch of MS-13 operates in loose local cliques under a franchised name, dabbling in small-time drug dealing, gun-running, prostitution, and extortion (primarily of recent immigrants). Many of its crimes are committed against its own affiliates or members of other gangs. The president nonetheless baselessly claimed that MS-13 has “literally taken over towns and cities of the United States.” He also continues to portray the gang, which reportedly makes up less than 1% of the estimated 1.4 million gang members in the U.S., as a sophisticated international cartel.

And that’s precisely how MS-13 was also portrayed in the fantasy world of JLASS-SP. In that war game, Mara Salvatrucha has developed “the resources to wage full-scale insurgent campaigns in Central America and the capability to cause serious disruption in the United States and Canada,” while rumors swirl of contacts between its members and foreign militants. “If cooperation between foreign terrorist groups and MS-13 ever blossomed, the potential for terrorist attacks within the borders of the United States would increase significantly,” the war game scenario warns.

President Trump has been accused of conflating members of MS-13 with undocumented immigrants (and referring to both groups as “animals”). Regardless, there’s no question that he kicked off his presidential run in 2015 by disparaging Mexicans. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he infamously declared. The JLASS-SP documents reverse Trump’s formula by first noting that “most illegal immigrants crossing into the United States are just trying to make a better life for themselves,” only to suggest that the U.S.-Mexican border also “serves as an infiltration point for terrorists.”

Unlike in the real world, where such fears circulate primarily as a conspiracy theory, in the Pentagon’s future fantasy there is “substantial evidence… that terrorists from the Middle East and North Africa transit the Mexican-U.S. border.” Worse yet, radical Islamists even “camouflage themselves as Hispanics” to cross the border. The military’s fantasists point to “a flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels along the Texas border with Middle East and North Africa terrorism.”

That represents a Trumpian-style nightmare-cum-fantasy even the president hasn’t yet dreamed up — a Hispanic-surnamed, cartel-supported group of Islamist terrorists. But by the 2020s, according to the Pentagon’s futurists, such worries are well-founded. And this will occur at the same time that Mexican and South American drug gangs have grown so rich and powerful they can regularly buy protection from U.S. government officials.

“Popular opinion in the United States is beginning to believe the ‘Narco-corruption’ is affecting the ‘rule of law’ north of the border,” according to their scenario, with the cartels spending $20 billion in 2022 alone to buy off U.S. officials or get candidates of their choice elected. That same year, allegations of election tampering in mayoral races across the American South come to light and the number of corruption convictions of U.S. Border Patrol agents and law enforcement officials skyrockets. Perhaps most shocking is the discovery of a “vast irrigated grow site” (evidently a massive marijuana farm) tended by “a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s” in — wait for it! — “remote areas of Illinois.”

Mexican farmers, El Salvadoran gang members, Islamists masquerading as Hispanics, eco-terrorists, and anti-globalization militants aren’t the only threats foreseen by the military’s futurists. Much-ballyhooed reports of the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, like the much-hyped defeat of its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, turn out to be premature. In the 2020s, the re-re-branded group, now known as the Global Islamic Caliphate, or GIC, draws “support from Sunni-majority regions in Syria and Iraq; refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey; and internally displaced persons in Syria and Iraq,” while continuing to launch attacks in the region.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has grown in reach, size, and might. By 2021, the group has 38,000 members spread across Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger with bases reportedly located in Western Sahara. On May 23, 2023, AQIM carries out the most lethal terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11, detonating massive truck-bombs at both the New York and New Jersey ends of the Lincoln Tunnel, killing 435 people and injuring another 618. The bombing prompts President McGraw — you remember him, Karl Maxwell McGraw, the independent Arizona senator who rode his populist “America on the Move” campaign to victory in the 2020 election — to invade Mauritania and become mired in yet another American forever war that shows every indication of grinding on into the 2030s, if not beyond.

The Age of Terrorism

In the real world, the lifetime odds of an American dying from “walking” are one in 672. The chance of being killed by a foreign terrorist? One in 45,808. By an illegal immigrant terrorist? One in 138 million. And the odds of being killed by a “chain migration” immigrant sometime this year? One in 1.2 billion! In other words, you have a far greater chance of being killed by a dog, a shark, lightning, or the government via legal execution.

This is not to say terrorism isn’t a major threat to others around the world or that terror groups are not proliferating. Since 9/11, the number of terrorist organizations recognized by the U.S. State Department and battled by the Pentagon — from Africa to the Middle East to Asia — has grown markedly.

“States are the principal actors on the global stage, but non-state actors also threaten the security environment with increasingly sophisticated capabilities,” reads an unclassified synopsis of the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy. “Terrorists, trans-national criminal organizations, cyber hackers and other malicious non-state actors have transformed global affairs with increased capabilities of mass disruption.”

In the fictional future of the Pentagon’s JLASS-SP 2016, this menace only expands to include various hybrid threats and new homegrown groups with increasing capabilities for death and destruction.

While it may be “the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks,” as President Trump’s 2017 executive order declares, the Pentagon envisions a future in which such policies are increasingly ineffective. In their dystopian war-game future, more than two decades of fighting “them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America” (as former President George W. Bush put it in 2007) proves unequivocally futile. In this sense, the Pentagon’s fantasies bear an eerie resemblance to the actual present. In the dystopian scenario used by the Pentagon to train its future leaders, today’s forever wars have proven ineffective and future threats are to be met with new, similarly ineffective, forever wars.

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Trump declared that we’re living in the “age of terrorism.” His solution: wielding “unmatched power,” loosening the rules of engagement, and establishing an unfettered ability to detain, question, and “annihilate” terrorists.

All of these tactics have, however, been part of the Pentagon’s playbook since 2001 and, according to the military’s best guess at the future, will lead to an increase in terror groups and terror attacks while terror networks and terrorist ideologies will grow in strength, resilience, and appeal. Almost two decades in, it seems we’re still only in the opening days of the “age of terrorism” and, if the Pentagon’s war-gamers are to be believed, far worse is yet to come.

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  1. John Zelnicker

    Yves – Thank you for cross-posting this. I read it a few hours ago at another web site and almost sent it in for Links. This is better, it needs to be widely circulated.

    The scenarios used in the JLASS-SP 2016 are an incredibly scary look at the thinking of the military as to what the future holds. It looks like an attempt to scare the populace so they will accept, without question or protest, martial law and the further elimination of constitutional rights. (Not withstanding the elimination of habeus corpus and other rights since 9/11.)

    I’ve been thinking for a a couple of years, now that I’m in my late 60’s, I don’t have a long time left in this life (15 yrs at most), especially since I am a lifetime heavy smoker and drinker. And yet, I’m glad I will not be around (if I’m lucky) to see how this all collapses into chaos and violent anarchy.

    I grieve for my daughters and granddaughter who will have to live through whatever dystopia the future holds.

    1. cocomaan

      I agree that it’s kind of scary, but I wouldn’t overly despair about it. If you read right wing conspiracy theorists, Jade Helm in 2015 was going to be an attempt to take over Texas.

      The map that spawned the conspiracy theory calls Texas and Utah “hostile”. I mean, would it have been that hard for the military to write “SIMULATION” at the top of their stupid map?

      The New York Times called it “political paranoia” at the time.

      But paranoia implies that there’s no reason for fear.

      1. blennylips

        scary look at the thinking of the military as to what the future holds.

        If you read right wing conspiracy theorists,

        Future, conspiracies?

        Look at the past and the present: Operation Condor had lists of leftists ready to go as soon as the Chicago boys parachuted in. Assassins dispatched post-haste. In a great irony, IIRC, climate change recently uncovered the burial grounds in the Atacama desert. I’d bet willing to bet this was an off-the-shelf operation from the School of the Americas.

        Everyone loves to punch left, some harder than others. They know who the real enemies are.

        1. blennylips

          This is really a continuation of this thread:

          May 7, 2018 at 3:28 pm
          “AI will spell the end of capitalism”

          In which Lambert adds:

          See also Allende’s CyberSyn. No wonder the Chicago Boys acquiesced so happily to his murder.

          “Central Planning” was anathema and had to go – existential threat to cowboy capitalism. If only they’d realized where computer networks were actually heading…really they had no idea what they had found.

      2. Oregoncharles

        What bothered me about Jade Helm was that they were training for urban, counter-insurrection warfare, IN THE US. The silly panic attack from the Right (why would the government take over Texas? It already has it.) served mostly to conceal the real problem, in my opinion.

    2. D

      While it was and is scary, i doubt they gave any thought since they never expected to ever to see any of their testing materials. but i am surprised that the orange didnt use them, since the goal seems to be terrify us, of things that happen so infrequently, that we are much more at risk death by dog, and we have never thought of it,or the threat of death in a car accident!

  2. JBird

    Just about every negative social metric, mass shootings, suicides, all the homeless encampments, the increasing protests, and so on is due to the increasing poverty and state violence. The solution is being afraid, so very afraid of the commies. Okay. I’m a socialist, so I guess I am a threat, perhaps (to them) an actual terrorist? How nice. I also believe in the rule of law, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (All the rights. They are meant to protect us from the government after all.) That might make them really angry. Too many in positions of authority seem to think that the law only applies to the little people and not to their august selves.

    At least things are following the past’s patterns. I can’t wait for this time’s version of the Palmer Raids.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Those aren’t proper military scenarios. It’s just a grab-bag of stuff taken from newspapers over the past year or two. A high school student could do better. Also, lots of that stuff sounds like it was chosen to appease Trump’s ideas of what threats there are. Last I heard the Pentagon was also considering its chances of sending battalions of US soldiers in some of the world’s mega cities and winning. Maybe they should practice that one in a small city first, say, Mogadishu.
    They want a proper military scenario? OK, I have one. In the years to come the top 1% steal for themselves the last 7% or so of financial assets owned by 80% of Americans. They then make a move on the financial assets owned by the other 19% – America’s remaining middle class. Under threat of being pushed into poverty like the rest of America, the middle class allies themselves with the other 80% of Americans who have absolutely nothing left to lose anymore. The US military is tasked to defend Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons and Manhattan Island. Game on!

    1. Procopius

      Reminds me of Mark Blyth’s remark, “The Hamptons are not a defensible position.”

      1. The Rev Kev

        To be honest, it was something that came out of Clinton’s secret emails that made me put that bit in there. Someone looked for all mentions of place names in them to see which was most important to Hillary.
        Considering that Hillary was Secretary of State you would expect to see places like Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. but no, the place names that came up the most often were places like Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons. Whaaat!
        As for the Hamptons, Mark Blyth was right but if you look at a map, it gets even better. The Hamptons are on a peninsular so if any force come up from New York, there is literally nowhere to run to except at the end of the peninsular.

      2. Hepativore

        Actually, the remaining middle-class would probably try to ally themselves with the 1% to try and secure a better position for themselves, thanks to decades worth of neoliberalism indoctrination and Horatio Alger fantasies. After crushing the uprising of the 80% (Like a few militia groups with shotguns and assault weapons would stand a chance against being carpet-bombed by missiles and raids by armored vehicles?) the 1% would probably then finish off the remaining 19% as thanks to putting down the uprisings of the peasants. Jack London was probably spot on in the Iron Heel.

        1. Knute Rife

          Remember, there are no poor people in the US, just temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

    2. funemployed

      The docs this article are based off are from 2016. Written up and played out during the Obama admin – not the Trump one.

  4. notabanker

    “Indeed, since 9/11, terrorism has been a distinctly low-level risk to the American public — at least when compared to heart disease, cancer, car crashes, fires, or heat waves — but has had an outsized effect on the perceptions and actions of the government, not to mention its visions of tomorrow.”

    Mission accomplished!

    1. D

      I suspect its because there is very little politicians can do about those. but they can push lots of money into DOD. and there are jobs related to that, plus the corps in military gear sales will put money into their pacs/campaigns. so for them its a win/win

  5. David

    Two points:
    There’s nothing new about the “Left” being seen as a threat. Cold War exercise scenarios generally assumed that all armed groups of the day would cooperate with a Soviet attack. Even the poor British Communist Party was expected to take too the streets in demonstrations designed to bring down the government.
    That said, selective leaks of exercise scenarios like this are always misleading, because the point of the exercise is to practice for all possible scenarios, no matter how unlikely. There is a greater than zero chance, for example, of an ISIS-inspired attack on the US in the near future, as there has been in many other countries. A government that said “we’re not going to bother planning to cope with such a contingency because more people die in car accidents” would rightly be criticised. In real life you plan for both.

    1. HotFlash

      OK, the military can plan, budget, implement, and get funded for this sort of thing, that is their shtick. The rest of the government should be dealing with the other, and I would argue, more important, threats — planning, budgeting, implementing, and getting funded for them. Proportional to actual damage done. You know, measures such as universal health care, social security, properly-funded pensions, perhaps along the same lines as the USPS is required to have.

    2. funemployed

      There is also a greater than zero chance of a large asteroid hitting the world, or of a randomly-typing-monkey writing hamlet. These “games” take rather a lot of time and resources, so there is indeed a plausibility threshold, or at least an assumption that the things learned might be applicable to a reasonably plausible scenario. I’ll grant you, however, the argument that war “games” involve planning for a range of scenarios of various plausibility, and are not necessarily predictions of an assumed likely future.

      Respectfully though, your critique misses the point of what makes this exercise fundamentally disturbing.

      1) It is a war “game” to address problems that are fundamentally caused by violence and the dehumanization of certain “categories” of people with…you guessed it…escalating violence against and expanding dehumanization of more categories of humans. This is what systems analysts call a “reinforcing feedback loop.”

      2) Legitimate targets of such violence now citizens whose fundamental democratic rights the US military ostensibly exists to protect (i.e. U.S. citizens, e.g. those opposed to “globalization and capitalism”).

      3) The conflation of small groups of violent extremists with their beliefs/ideologies. Is it ok to fear all Muslims when the overwhelming majority are not violent? Is it ok to fear all immigrants when they are, on average, less violent than your typical American? Should we violently attack all people who express patriarchal sentiments because domestic violence against women is vastly more violent and harmful than domestic terrorism? Where are the white nationalists in this war game? (not that they subscribe to a violent ideology or engage in terrorism, of course; the ones who do that are just suffering from “mental illness.” /sarc)

      4) Most importantly, a fundamental assumption that the role of the US military is not to protect basic democratic rights and norms (which cannot, fundamentally be spread by violence – this is what distinguishes actual democracy from authoritarianism and imperialism), but existing and rapidly deteriorating ideologies and socioeconomic systems (e.g. globalization and capitalism).

      1. funemployed

        Oh yeah. The military is now preparing for domestic “threats.” There’s good reason to create a firewall between the military and domestic policing. Not doing that tends to result in coups. Don’t take my word for it though – there are many history books.

        1. D

          We have one there is a law that prohibits the military from doing much ‘policing’ can recall its name but it does come up from time time

          1. Hepativore

            Do you mean the Posse Comitatus Act?

            While in theory it prohibits US army or air force involvement in domestic uprisings, I am sure that it would be quickly ignored or gutted in a broad bipartisan effort should an actual rebellion arise. The US does not have the most stunning record when it comes to rule of law in recent decades.

      2. David

        Well, I imagine that somewhere or other there are scenario or exercise plans for national disasters of the type you mention, as well as other forms of violence. The issue is the role of the military in it, and in general, militaries do not plan for involvement in any domestic contingency unless there’s a plausible chance that its scale will be such that military help is required This may be in natural disasters, it may be in things like air crashes, or it may be circumstances where there is a level of violence beyond what the police can cope with, or where special assets (eg helicopters or engineer equipment) are needed. All countries do this as a matter of routine, and all major countries have, and exercise, procedures for deciding when and if to call in the military.
        These exercises exist to test procedures, not to make predictions, and in general the scenario element is nothing much more than an excuse for kicking the action off. After that, the concentration in the exercise itself is on what reaction should be and what kinds of problems the exercise throws up. In larger countries (and certainly in the US) these exercises are written by dedicated scenario authors, often fairly junior personnel, and not necessarily picked for originality or profundity of thought. NATO’s exercises in the Cold War, for example, were notoriously mocked by insiders for the unreality of their political assumptions. In this case, there must have been some level of political clearance of the scenario, but that wouldn’t amount to political endorsement of the assumptions. The article is a bit dishonest anyway in trying to conflate a 2016 technical exercise when Obama was President with public statements by politicians today. I don’t think the scenario, as printed, is calling for attacks on anybody, and of course it’s not policy. It’s the sort of clumsy and unimaginative thinking that those with experience of them have come to expect from the US military.
        But actually, there are some quite realistic elements. The number of people killed in terrorist attacks in France was zero for many years before 2015. Then suddenly it was about 200. Now it stands at around 250 (about double that for Europe as a whole) so past performance is not a guide etc. It’s clear that there are a number of groups that would like to do the same in the US (AQIM is mentioned but there are others). To do this they would need to smuggle people into the country. Most of the European attackers came back from Syria via Turkey and into the Balkans. (The French attackers came via Brussels). Obviously, the US is a more difficult target, and as far as I can see there are only two land borders that could be used. And Islamic groups have a history of merging in with genuine refugees, something that worries a lot of European countries at the moment. So the scenario is far from impossible, but then it is a scenario for an exercise, not a work of political analysis.

  6. Katsue

    The idea of the INLA raising itself from its state of torpor to launch rocket attacks on Shannon Airport is really something.

  7. allan

    “* 2023 fire season: as fires raged in the western United States, UPAIGO established relief efforts designed to compete with the U.S. government’s response, in order to “undermine confidence in government agencies.” ”

    I think the wargamers misspelled

    * 2011 hurricane season: as the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy raged in the eastern United States,
    Occupy Sandy established relief efforts designed to compete with the U.S. government
    and Red Cross’ inadequate and corrupt responses, in order to “help people”.

    Also, the fact that they also cooked up a name (UPAIGO) that sounds almost identical to PAYGO is hilarious, since many consider the enforced austerity of PAYGO as a form of domestic terrorism, brought to us by Peter Peterson and the culture of “fiscal responsibility” he spawned.

    1. Code Name D

      This is also how you dehuminize the “enimey”. The senario says that they are trying to discredit the US government by probiding humanitarian aid. In otherwords, providing food, water, and cloathing to disaster victems is reinterpreted as a threat.

      Kind of like how you are only voting for Jill Stine because you hate women.

  8. Doug Hillman

    For someone who’s several paces left of Bernie Sanders*, the left as a threat is a little bit funny. I imagine Bernie fighting his way out of a paper bag. How many cheeks does he have?

    Sorry, can’t we all just get along?

    * … and well to the right of Jesus Christ

  9. Indrid Cold

    From the vitriolic tenor of officially approved “news”, it soon won’t matter wether ones opposition to globalist neoliberalism comes from the right, left or some middle area, you’re going to be stifled, doxxed, labeled a conspiracy nut and surveilled.

    1. Synoia

      you’re going to be stifled, doxxed, labeled a conspiracy nut and surveilled.

      Form birth, until you join the 0.1%

      Your behavior is suspicious!
      Why, I haven’t done anything!!
      Precisely. Everybody else has.

  10. GF

    “culminating in a five-day on-site exercise at the Air Force Wargaming Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. It involved 148 students from the Air Force’s Air War College, the Army War College, the Marine Corps War College, the Naval War College, the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, the National War College, and the National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College. ”

    Are we a military state yet? How many war colleges do we need. Do they actually communicate with each other outside these sporadic war game exercises. Very scary stuff. Not mentioned in the above list are some of the coordinating units including – U.S. Army Intelligence Center and the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command located at Fort Huachuca AZ.

  11. tc10021

    Not sure of the belly-aching here, the folks authorizing these budgets were voted in by most of you. These systems take years to develop, so, Trump may not be your culprit.

    1. marku52

      Yup. Trump has almost nothing to do with this. It’s “Bipartisan”, like most bad stuff is these days.

  12. Colin Spenncer

    I totally agree with The Rev Kev. What this is about is squashing internal dissent regardless of how violent or pacific this dissent may become. The terrorist scenarios are just excuses for what they 1% really have in mind. Just think of what happened at Occupy Wall Street. That was just a prelude to the future.

    1. Wukchumni

      If you have a pressure cooker of a country like ours and never allow steam to vent off, the pressure building up must be enormous.

  13. kioseff

    This reminds me of an Adam Curtis blog post where he explored the possibility that spies and national security people are actually weirdo lunatics imposing on us their own paranoid, fantastical version of the world.

    I am filled with fear when I see evidence that our military minds don’t know very much about the world, are extremely ideological, or are guiding real policies through a dialogue with Hollywood instead of with the truth.

    Stanley Kubrick nailed all this long ago in Dr. Strangelove.

  14. Synoia

    It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.

    Would that include the Koch brothers’ attacks?

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