the cluster project

Militarization is Cute

How do you sell intensified militarization to a population that prizes peace and abhors war? If you’re Japan, you do it with adorable creatures, like this little fellah.

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While every other military in the world seem to use strength, macho, power, and grit for its war propaganda, the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) has chosen pure pop culture cuteness – kawaii.

Awww…look at that funny figure standing in front of the Patriot missile battery. And that Cobra helicopter is super cool!

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Kawaii, in various forms, is enormously popular among young people in Japan, and throughout the world. It is a part of anime, manga, video games, toys, bands, fashion…the list goes on. And now it is a part of the military, and remilitarization.

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Kids, do you like to play games on your smart phone? Sure you do! And here at the Self Defense Forces, we’ve got the funnest one yet — your mission is to protect your house with the most up-to-date weaponry on the planet.

In every case, the effect of this kawaii campaign is to soften the violence of military hardware, and signal that the Japanese self-defense forces are harmless and beneficial. Below please find the JSDF Okayama Provincial Cooperation Office’s gleeful military mascots. They’ve helped boost recruitment by 20%.


To get a sense of why Japan uses cute iconography to push the military, we have to consider its unique history. Less than a century ago, the Japanese Empire was fiercely militarized, conquering surrounding nations in a frenzy for control and expansion. Its power was marked by atrocities such as the Rape of Nanking in 1937, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Chinese capital were assaulted, raped, or killed.


By the end of World War II, the military aggression of the Japanese empire came full circle. Japanese civilians faced both war-time deprivations and ferocious bombing by the United States. 60 cities were hit with incendiary bombing raids and effectively burned to the ground. The firebombing of Tokyo alone killed over 100,000 civilians. Finally, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought radioactive devastation to the empire of the rising sun. War decimated the entire nation.


The post-war constitution of Japan brought an enduring commitment to peace. And so it has stood for almost 70 years. But the current government under Shinzo Abe wants to change all that. With the prodding of the USA, they want to manufacture popular consent for a more potent military force. Part of this campaign involves a systematic campaign to revise the past and give a makeover to the Empire’s past crimes.

The Abe government has denied accusations of an international campaign that the Imperial Military systematically used “comfort women” or sex slaves, during its historic reign. At home, it has revised textbooks to minimize war crimes, and legitimize war aims. The 1910 annexation of Korea with its thorough subjugation of the Korean people is described by new textbooks as “necessary to protect the security of Japan and its interests in Manchuria.” The Japanese military aggression of WW2 is glorified and depicted as honorable.


But it’s the cute characters of kawaii that make the most insidious propaganda for war. Former JSDF member and author Takumi Yanai wrote a fantasy series called Gate, where the JSDF travel through a portal to another world to team up with cute girls and take down monsters. It became a manga (illustrated) version, and more recently was made into an anime TV series. In style, the illustrations feature realistic JSDF hardware and soldiers — along with elves and dragons. The JSDF has made its own promotional posters that reference the fantasy series, and is almost indistinguishable from commercial publicity for the series itself.


Even the Japanese Defense Industry has used kawaii to highlight its deadly technology. Its neon pink and yellow poster, complete with sparkles and oversized cartoon eyes, announced its defense technology symposium, a showcase of industry military wares, organized by the government’s new department of military procurement.


Will Japan succeed in remilitarizing? It’s not clear. There is strong, popular opposition to this campaign. In July of 2015, 120,000 protested in Tokyo against removing pacifist passages from the constitution. Protests also occurred in over 200 more locations, making it the largest antiwar protest in decades. Nevertheless, in am middle-of-the-night vote, the ruling Abe government was later able to remove the constitutional prohibition on overseas military operations


Will the future of Japan be a cute figure in military fatigues?

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[This entry was sparked by Matthew Brummer’s excellent article Manga, the Japanese Military].

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Our American Church

Behold the giddy orgasmic moment before the opening NFL football game, complete with flags, roars, anthems, and the twisted appearance overhead of a B-2 bomber.

How much did it actually cost the American people to provide this holy vision of the glorious B-2? Well, the stealth bomber has a $2 billion price tag. Then it costs $170,000 an hour to fly. And of course, we’ve got to give the NFL a hefty financial cut for providing the sacred stage.


In short, it’s totally worth it.

God bless America!

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Pretty Good Deal


When candidate Bush visits a group made up of weapons manufacturers and their minions — naturally called Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security — he asserts that “taking out Saddam Hussain turned out to be a pretty good deal.”

A good deal indeed! The Iraqi War has given us the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, religious and ethnic stability has fallen to bitter and violent conflict, advanced health care, science, education, technology, and the professionals that provided them have disappeared, and museums, artifacts, and the history of ancient human civilizations have been looted and destroyed.

What more good deals are on the horizon?!!

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The Dream Made Real

One of the world’s most famous paintings generates a profound turbulence.

Black and white on a huge canvas, Picasso’s Guernica
imagines the frenzied destruction of an aerial bombing.

It has become an iconic image of the madness of war.


But while Guernica is an image of war, there are no soldiers to be seen.

Instead, the painting depicts a very particular kind of war.
A war against humanity.

The bombs that fell in 1937 on the small town of Guernica
in the Basque region of Spain fell on women and children
and old men and animals.

It was no accident. They were excellent targets.


Which reminds me, have you ever dreamed of flying?


In his masterful The History of Bombing, Sven Lindqvist shows us
that when man first began to dream of flight…

He began to dream of bombs.

Early popular fiction depicted bombers high in the sky,
safe and dedicated to their sacred mission:

the absolute decimation of entire cities and races below.


And then, the dream became real.

Man learned to fly, and quickly, very quickly,
he learned to bomb.

It proved an impressive way of keeping order.


Let’s say you had valuable colonies filled with inferior people
who possessed an entirely different skin color and religion than your own.

And say the colonies were disobedient. They opposed your occupation.
Or interrupted your removal of their resources.
Or gave comfort to your enemies.


You merely had to fly over the homes where their children
played and their wives cooked and their elders sat,
and drop your bombs.

The fiery transformation was considered most effective.


You had delivered a clear message on the law of civilization:

Never resist your superiors. Never think of resisting.
Submit and serve.


In this way, early aerial bombing massacred civilians
in the villages and cities of Morocco and India and
Iran and Ethiopia and many, many other countries.

Only you never heard of these bombings.
They had no Picasso to tell the tale of their devastation.

Their stories went up with the smoke.


Of course, the civilized powers dropping the bombs
did not endorse the brutal killing of innocents. They would never do that.

They were nations of laws and justice and religion.
They enacted strict international laws forbidding such actions.

Only these laws applied to humans like themselves.

Humans unlike themselves,
Africans or Arabs or Asians or Indians,
were naturally inferior and fell outside such legal constraints.
They could be slaughtered for their own good.


That’s what was interesting with Guernica.
Europeans bombed innocent Europeans.

That was new in 1937. And deeply unsettling.


Picasso began working on his masterpiece almost immediately
after hearing reports of the atrocity, and his Guernica painting
soon toured widely through Europe.

When viewers gazed upon it, did they sense
it was an image more from the future than the past?

No matter. A single painting, no matter how strong, no matter
how celebrated the artist, was not enough. Not enough at all.

Soon the people of the civilized nations would learn
what their darker-skinned brothers already knew.
Everyone was at risk from the sky.


In a few short years, civilians living in huge cities
would be incinerated by the tens of thousands.

Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo would be
decimated in a new kind of war where everyone
was a target and innocence was irrelevant.

Of course, that was another time, another world.
Nothing like that could happen today.


The important work of our greatest artists tell us so.

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Team America!

Like you, we’re in full patriotic bliss when the Super Bowl comes. It’s thrilling to watch the stirring tributes to the American warrior and our noble cause overseas.

It’s just a shame that the corporate makers of war machinery don’t air their own commercials on the big day. They’re the real heroes. But “defense companies” just don’t run multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads.

Until now. This year’s Superbowl features a commercial from Northrop Grumman, one of America’s most beloved weapons makers. Northrop is eying a contract that may eventually run tens of billions of dollars, all to make America’s next great bomber.

It will be awesome to behold.

Like God, any deadly emblem of global power must remain elusive. But you can bet that it will be futuristic, stealthy, and will defeat terrorism.

You may be surprised to know that Northrop Grumman has created a slew of advertisements in the last year. But why exactly? While you adore bombers and would gladly buy one of these babies — after all, Valentine’s Day is coming up — you can hardly afford one with its projected price tag of $600 million per unit.

But you can do the next best thing and invest in the corporation! And that means scoring some big cash. It’s a bull market for weapons, and Northrop Grumman’s stock is soaring. As Bloomberg News reports, “Military contractors have rallied on increasing global instability and the prospect for rising sales of missiles, drones and other weapons.”

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And you thought world murder and mayhem are bad things!

I can hear your concerns. Yes, I want to invest my money in the war and weapons market, but didn’t President Obama talk about cuts to the defense budget?

Hey, turns out he was just kidding!

The Pentagon is seeking an increase of $20.4 billion (13%) for weapons and research, and Obama will be removing defense budget caps that prevent these critical needs. So we can buy more weapons and be safer and safer. And you can rake in the dough! It’s a great game — shouldn’t you be on the winning team?


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Our Man on the Horse


Who is the man on the horse?

A hero, of course.

We had travelled to One World Trade Center and glimpsed,
through gaps in a high security fence, a monument featuring
the epic figure of a US Special Forces member, complete with
machine gun, riding nobly into battle upon his trusty steed.


A natural figure to grace Ground Zero.

All real American heroes are immortalized
atop a mighty horse. There’s no greater evidence that
a man is good and great and sacred and true.

Take George Washington. Father of our country.


Or General Robert E. Lee. His valiant defense of slavery
led to his continual veneration, as he remains displayed
prominently in Richmond, Virginia, and elsewhere.


And we will always honor General George Custer.
So handsome, so virile. He fought to exterminate
the Sioux and the Cheyenne, but alas, those tribes
managed to exterminate him first.


Even in the 20th century, age of the automobile and the jet,
our finest men were immortalized atop a horse.
Behold the great John Wayne, a fine actor and mighty patriot
who became the 40th president in American history.


Now the visual grandeur continues with this 9/11
statue of a Green Beret astride an Afghan stallion,
his M4 with attached grenade launcher close at hand.
Just where did artist Douwe Blumberg get the impulse to
use this form for his monument on the war on terror?

Did God himself inspire his creative vision?



It was this man.


Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a hero in his own
right, was giving a news conference on November 16th, 2001.
Blumberg was watching as Rumsfeld proudly presented a
photo of a man from our Special Forces riding a horse over
the fraught and treacherous Afghan landscape.

Yes, only 39 days after the slaughter of 3,000 Americans,
our heroes were in Afghanistan, in full gallop, launching
a historic crusade to annihilate the Taliban, destroy
Al Qaeda, and end terrorism once and for all.

These mounted troops became known as horse soldiers.
Years later, anonymous Wall Street bankers funded the
monument as the perfect symbol of America’s response.


Of course, a dozen Green Berets on horses didn’t quite win the war.
Nor did high-tech weaponry and thousand-pound bombs and foreign
troops and torture and assassination. Hundreds of thousands
of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis perished in these conflicts, tens
of thousands of our own troops were killed and injured, 4-6 trillion
dollars were spent on the massive efforts. And the result?
Jihadist terrorism has expanded and thrived, and we live in a
security state that spies on everyone for the good of us all.

But it’s nice to pretend otherwise.


In the age of drones, nukes, and other distant but devastating warfare,
we must continually resurrect the dream of brave, rugged men who
fearlessly ride out to fight tooth and nail to preserve our freedoms.

In the American Empire, it’s always payback time.

The myth is far more attractive than the reality.

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Two Great American Forces

Good old American know-how at its best!

Yesterday the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and Quicken Loans announced a 5-year, $453 million dollar agreement wherein JSOC will use Predator drones to track down rogue vehicles whose owners are behind on their car payments.


It’s a marriage made in heaven. For the last decade, JSOC’s track record of global drone assassinations has been the envy of terrorists everywhere. Their deadly strikes avoid the messy need of declaring war in the affected areas, or burdening Americans with any information at all. As we say in the U.S., leave your killing to JSOC and rest easy!

And now JSOC is teaming up with Quicken Loans to take out criminals in the homeland!


Quicken Loans, America’s most trusted provider of affordable home loans, recently added car loans to its product line. Committed to providing real options for Americans facing financial difficulties, Quicken offers car loans to those with good credit, bad credit, or even no credit. That’s a reflection of Quicken’s powerful dedication to cash-strapped Americans.

Until that is, a customer is late on his payments. Then — with its new partnership with JSOC — there will be hell to pay.


Quicken’s partnership with JSOC immediately enhances its asset recovery operations, with JSOC Predator drones able to loiter over poor urban areas for up to 20 hours to find and surveil targeted automobiles. But more impressive, its drones are equipped with the much-touted Hellfire-Mini, a more compact variant of the Hellfire missile, that brings a laser-guided, pinpoint accuracy to the problem, eliminating the driver completely (and his poor financial decisions) while leaving the vehicle absolutely unscathed.

News of this innovative improvement boosted Quicken Loan’s share price by 23% at close on Wednesday.

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Fun with Colors

Coming later this fall, The Cluster Project will publish its Drone Coloring Book. Patriotic, educational, and great fun for the whole family!

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A perfect Christmas gift for those you love.

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After Ferguson


Chicago artist Jeff Lassahn has been creating a series of images illustrating social injustice and economic decline in America. His latest lithograph takes a striking look at the war at home. (click to enlarge)


Go here to see more of his excellent stuff.

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Celebrating the noble slaughter

One might think the 100th anniversary of World War I would bring a careful consideration of why such a calamity happened. After all, some 16 million soldiers and civilians were killed in what was, at the time, an incomparably horrific breakdown of human civilization.


But no. The centennial has prompted a global celebration with former colonial empires promoting nationalism, patriotism, and the myth of military glory, while obscuring the real causes of the war – the fight of the Empires to redivide the world according to their insatiable economic and political appetites.

The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, stated that “there was a cause young men volunteered for and that was to stop the domination of Europe by one power and to go to the defence of a defenceless country, Belgium.” Curiously, the noble cause of defending Belgium also gave the British Empire postwar control of Palestine, Iraq, Transjordan, Tanganyika, and parts of Cameroon and Togo – a happy accident!

Only about a million men in the British Empire had to die for that to occur.


At the commemoration ceremony on August 4th in Liège, Belgium, where fighting started 100 years ago, royalty from England, Spain, Belgium, and Luxemburg were positioned on a platform above a small, select crowd amid tight security. Their pious concern for the war dead served as a reminder that 100 years later, victors get to keep their monarchies.

Meanwhile in France, where more than six million soldiers were killed or wounded during the conflict, the government took care to commemorate World War I with a military parade that showed off its “continued military might.”


The most stirring comments come from Australia, which let 60,000 men die in the European Theater in return for a few islands in the Pacific. It is spending $600 million to commemorate WWI, far more than any other country in the world.

On August 4th 2014, the day a century ago that Britain declared war on Germany, and Australia immediately responded with an offer of “20,000 men of any suggested composition,” Australia’s defense spokesman David Feeney and Opposition leader Bill Shorten made a joint statement to their nation. Their statement is so striking that we feel compelled to adorn it with the wartime images of celebrated German artist Otto Dix.

Dix fought in the “great war” and like other artists who survived the conflict, his representation of events seem at odds with the giddy heroism we now see trumpeted. Indeed, Dix’s images all but strip bare the grand illusions that governments continue to fabricate about their cherished wars. Feeney and Shorten write:

“At each remembering we will honour the values we hold so dear, the values of courage…”








“…and sacrifice….”

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“Values that have inspired us in all we do, and that have secured our freedom down the years.”

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