What We Know About The US Air Force’s Balloon Party So Far
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You know, everyone’s always talking about how the US military is only ever used to kill foreigners for resource control and generate profits for the military-industrial complex, but that’s not entirely true. Turns out the US military is also used for shooting down party balloons.
In an article titled “Object downed by US missile may have been amateur hobbyists’ $12 balloon,” The Guardian’s Richard Luscombe reports the following:
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade says one of its hobby craft went “missing in action” over Alaska on 11 February, the same day a US F-22 jet downed an unidentified airborne entity not far away above Canada’s Yukon territory.
In a blogpost, the group did not link the two events. But the trajectory of the pico balloon before its last recorded electronic check-in at 12.48am that day suggests a connection — as well as a fiery demise at the hands of a sidewinder missile on the 124th day of its journey, three days before it was set to complete its seventh circumnavigation.
If that is what happened, it would mean the US military expended a missile costing $439,000 (£365,000) to fell an innocuous hobby balloon worth about $12 (£10).
“The descriptions of all three unidentified objects shot down Feb. 10–12 match the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the small pico balloons, which can usually be purchased for $12–180 each, depending on the type,” writes Steve Trimble for Aviation Week, who first broke the Bottlecap Balloon Brigade story.
This information would put a bit of a wobble on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s comments to ABC’s This Week on Sunday that all three of the balloons shot down through the weekend were Chinese surveillance devices, saying “the Chinese were humiliated” by the US catching them in their sinister espionage plot. If the US air force did in fact just spent millions of dollars shooting down American party balloons, it wouldn’t be the Chinese who are humiliated.
And it looks like that is indeed what happened. On Tuesday the National Security Council’s John Kirby said the “leading explanation” for the three unidentified flying objects that were shot down is that they were “balloons tied to some commercial or benign purpose.” On Thursday President Biden told the press that “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”
US and Canadian authorities have reportedly given up searching for debris from two of the objects that were shot down, which would make sense given that one wouldn’t expect to find much debris from a small balloon that was exploded by an air-to-air missile designed to take out fighter planes.
And this all comes out after US officials told The Washington Post that the “Chinese spy balloon” which started this historically unprecedented multi-day frenzy of aerial kinetic warfare over North America was probably never intended for surveillance of the United States at all. Experts assess that the balloon was blown over the continent entirely by accident, trying to reconcile that narrative with the contradictory US government claims of intentional Chinese espionage by suggesting that perhaps the Chinese had intended for the balloon to be used for spying on US military forces in the Pacific or something.
So to recap, the US air force shot down a Chinese balloon which US officials have subsequently admitted was only blown over the US by accident, then went on a spree of shooting things out of the sky which it turns out were probably civilian party balloons. The entire American political/media class has been spending the month of February furiously demanding more militarism and more cold war escalations over what is in all probability four harmless balloons.
And what’s really crazy is that they’re probably going to get those increases in militarism and cold war escalations they’ve been calling for, despite the entire ordeal originating primarily in the overactive imaginations of the drivers of the US empire. The shrieking hysterical panic about “Chinese spy balloons” has dwarfed the coverage of the revelations contradicting that narrative, and China hawks have been using the occasion to argue for increases in military spending. The Atlantic’s Richard Fontaine got all excited and wrote a whole article about how the threat of Chinese spy balloons can be used “to rally public concern and build international solidarity” against China.
These are the people who rule our world. They are not wise. They are not insightful. They are not even particularly intelligent. The US empire is a Yosemite Sam cartoon character who at any time can just flip out and start firing Sidewinder missiles at random pieces of junk in the sky, screaming “I’ll blast yer head off ya varmint!” If the US war machine was a civilian human, their family would be quietly talking amongst themselves about the possibility of conservatorship.
These are the last people in the world who should be running things, and they are the last people in the world who should be armed with nuclear weapons. But that’s exactly where we find ourselves in this bizarre slice of spacetime. God help us all.
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