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Ballooning Rhetoric: Aliens, Escalation and Airborne Surveillance

Things are getting rather bizarre at the US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Its increasingly prominent commanding chief, one General Glen VanHerck, has abandoned any initial sense of frankness in discussing the destruction of an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon on February 4.

Since that disproportionately violent event, more public relations than sense, three other objects have also been destroyed. “We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason,” the general said cryptically in remarks made on February 12. The briefing came in the aftermath of the downing of an octagonal-shaped object over Lake Huron on the US-Canada border.

Cultures of paranoia and suspicion approach such statements the way crops take to manure. The line between extraterrestrial fantasies and human-made balloons can become grainy. Tinfoil hats become charged; fear finds a funnel to travel through. The suggestion from the general that “the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out” signalled an avalanche of speculation. This was given further impetus by VanHerck’s assertion that he “hadn’t ruled out anything” to a question on whether aliens featured in the mix. “At this point, we continue to assess every threat or potential threat unknown that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it.”

On February 13, the White House was left to deal with the excitement caused by the Pentagon’s speculations. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was given the bucket to dampen the enthusiasm. “I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no sign, again no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.”

John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council in the White House, was also adamant in his briefing: “I don’t think the American people need to worry about aliens with respect to these crafts, period.” Hardly reassuring to those glued to such reports as that from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in June 2021, which refused to rule out the possibility that 144 unidentified aerial phenomena might have extraterrestrial provenance.

The bafflement over these objects has added some zest to the already exaggerated China threat. It is a throwback to the Cold War, which was characterised by ill-educated second guesses about performance, capability, and awareness about an inscrutable enemy. Foes, drunk with threat inflation, jousted in the dark and groped in the wilderness, finding a mirage of reality.

With the latest belligerent undertakings by the US government, an escalation is being encouraged by the hawks in Congress. Kirby, wishing to add a sting to the China effort, told the press that Biden, on coming to office, directed the US intelligence community to conduct a broad assessment of Chinese intelligence capabilities. “We know that these [Chinese] surveillance balloons have crossed over dozens of countries on multiple continents around the world, including some of our closest allies and partners.”

This is hardly a unilateral game. Having accused Beijing of such airborne surveillance present and past, the Biden administration is now facing accusations of its own. According to the PRC, the US has conducted its own exercises in flying high-altitude balloons in its airspace – no fewer than 10 times last year. To that can be added hundreds of reconnaissance missions. “It’s very common that the US intrudes [into] others’ airspace,” remarked Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, citing 657 sorties made by Washington in 2022 and 64 aircraft flights in January “over the South China Sea alone.”

Kirby was cocksure in denying such claims, even those alleged missions that might apply to Taiwan or the South China Sea. “There is [sic] no US surveillance aircraft over Chinese – in Chinese airspace.”

The Balloon Affair has also tickled the interest of Washington’s allies. Object fever is catching. The United Kingdom, that reliably unquestioning transatlantic appendage of US power, is hopping on the bandwagon. The country’s transport minister, Richard Holden, did not even care to cite any evidence of “Chinese spy balloons” making their way through British airspace. What mattered was that it was “possible” and “that there will be people from the Chinese government trying to act as a hostile state.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace further suggested, with forced graveness, that, “The UK and her allies will review what these aerospace intrusions mean for our security. This development is another sign of how the global threat picture is changing for the worse.” Blame it on those objects.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also reminded the good people of Britain that the country is ever vigilant to any incursions from hot air objects or anything similar to them. “We have something called the quick reaction alert force which involves Typhoon planes, which are kept on 24/7 readiness to police our airspace, which is incredibly important.”

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chairman of the Commons defence select committee, swallowed the suggestion that those sneaky Orientals were “exploiting the West’s weakness” with their mysterious aerial instruments. At least there was no mention of aliens, but that is increasingly becoming a distinction without a difference.


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  1. Harry Lime

    While Hollywood rules the minds of the gullible,both within and outside the ruling class,the greed driven Fossil fuel wallahs continue to destroy the planet.They own our governments,despite the feeble attempts at denial .Some of us were hoping for Real change here in OZ,but it turns out the current mob are almost as pissweak as the last lot.Nothing short of cataclysm is going to change anything.Jostling for a rails run is the
    Military Industrial Complex,where apparently,lunacy is a much admired trait,judging by their spokesfreaks.

  2. GL


    If the weapons manufacturers can see a new way to extort even bigger wads of money, all in the name of freedom and defence of course, then they will be all over this latest nonsense sweeping the US like flies on shit.

  3. Canguro

    I note that there’s also been speculation that the Yanks have been using ‘regular’ balloons for their target practice; the first one aside, suggestions were floated that the subsequent shootdowns may have been home-grown weather data gatherers or elsewise balloons carrying scientific instruments for legitimate, i.e., not spying, purposes. Trust the military, always a hotbed of fear, paranoia & suspicion, to scramble the jets and fire off a few missiles – some of which apparently missed their targets, which says something about the level of skill of the pilots – in their misguided efforts to ‘keep America safe’. Hah! An oxymoron, to be sure. As if anyone’s safe in that lunatic asylum, given that bedlam reigns.

    Personally, I would have been delighted to learn that it was an Area 51 repeat, given the recent credence given to the existence of alien visitations in the 2020 documentary The Phenomenon, where 62 pupils at the Ariel School outside of Ruwa in Zimbabwe witnessed spacecraft and extraterrestrials, only if to give me hope that the Yanks might actually get a bloodied nose as a function of their willingness to shoot first and ask questions later, given that clearly the ET’s are a helluva lot more advanced than we are.

  4. Harry Lime

    GL, rumour has it that the flies aren’t innocent shit eaters,they are actually miniature Chinese drones, controlled by’sleeper’ spies,who dwell in unsuspecting American ‘burbs.Won’t be long before the movie’s out.And why not? Reality fled the States years ago.Besides ,there could be a buck in it.

  5. paul walter

    Definitely the Martians.

  6. GL


    The “sleeper” spies from what I’ve heard are covert dung beetles who hide in the poo.

  7. Anthony Judge

    The possibity of ETs (aliens) would be much more fun — reframing the current simplistic logic of strategic games — especially if galactic law entitles them to claim that Earth is Terra Nullius (since humanity has not registered its claim on some distant planet — and has no Voice). More realistic is that one (rogue / deep state) agency is launching “clay pigeon” UFOs to see whether NORAD responses are adequate — and to up the public paranoia. Red Team does the launching and Blue Team has to destroy them. But what fun if the “benign” UFOs have been launched by a secret bunch of space nerds. Of course the “hot air” importance of balloons is also of symbolic importance in the current political climate in which many “trial balloons” are launched

  8. Roswell

    They’re definitely not from another planet.

    The Americans have been trying to shoot UFOs down for 80 years. Can’t see them shooting down 3 in a week.

  9. Douglas Pritchard

    If the balloons are seeking intelligence they have been over the wrong country.

  10. Clakka

    Maybe China, having reportedly gained all the detailed specs of the F35, in response developed and launched the big balloon with its dangling 5 buses sized tech basket …. canny.

  11. Harry Lime

    Clakka,the Chinese already know the F35 is a lemon…like everything else we are coerced into buying from the yanks.No wonder they love us so much..they get to dump all their shitters here.The Chinese will be laughing their oriental arses off at the latest farrago of wierd theories emanating from our ‘staunch allies’.

  12. Douglas Pritchard

    I cant help thinking that the Chinese show a more mature reaction to balloons travelling overhead.
    While the incredibly frightened Americans show the childish reaction that when they dont fully understand the situation, then they simply kill it, blow it up, destroy it……. whatever, simply due to their collective paranoid view.
    And we persist in positioning ourselves as their little buddy.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Biden announced today that the latest three to be shot down were not Chinese.

    My guess is that they’re from an enemy state far more dangerous than China, Russia or North Korea: the GOP. 😁

  14. Canguro

    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.

    If that is what happened, it would mean the US military expended a missile costing $439,000 to fell an innocuous hobby balloon worth about $12.

    That’s what’s to love about the Americans, they get the job done, whatever the cost.

  15. Harry Lime

    Canguro, at least there’s no cost to their credibility,they have none.

  16. Canguro

    Poor widdle Antony, he’s tewwibly miffed because the Chinese didn’t say sorry to him over their balloon floating on the winds into American airspace.

    Clearly, he’s not up to speed on this, not even up to the speed of a balloon drifting across the upper reaches of the earth’s atmosphere. If he’d been appropriately briefed, he would have known that the Chinese had already expressed regret, but such is his arrogance and hubris that he expected Wang Yi to curtsy and perhaps even kiss his ring at their meeting in Munich.

    ‘Just say sorry, dammit, you yellow-skinned heathen’, he might have hissed. ‘You’re dealing with a goddamned American here, son, don’tcha know your place?’ ‘We run this goddamned planet, and don’t you forget it,’ he might also have added.

    What is it about Americans and their politics that they consistently put to the forefront people who if not actual imbeciles do their best to act like them? Blinken is just the latest iteration in imbecilic Secretaries of State, his recent predecessors include the obnoxious criminal Mike Pompeo, the distinctly undiplomatic energy executive Rex Tillerson, the war-mongering sociopath Hillary Clinton, the triply war-mongering war criminal Condoleezza Rice, the lying Colin Powell, who brought death & mayhem to the Middle East, and Madeleine Albright, who thought it was a fair price to pay that half a million children died under USA no-fly sanctions against Saddam Hussein.

    The likes of China’s Wang Yi and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov stand head and shoulders above these puffed-up impersonators of decent human beings. And the Americans know that, and that’s why they hate them.

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