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Posts tagged war

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Pentagon sets up new spy agency to eavesdrop on a changing world

Defense Clandestine Service will focus on global threats and emerging economic and military powers

The Pentagon is to create a new spy service to focus on global strategic threats and the challenges posed by countries including IranNorth Korea and China. The move will bring to 17 the total number of intelligence organisations in the US.

The Defense Clandestine Service is supposed to work closely with its counterpart in the CIA, the National Clandestine Service, recruiting spies from the ranks of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and deploying them globally to boost the flow of intelligence on perceived long-term threats to US national interests.

US military news website Insidedefense said the defence department had asked Congress for authority for spies to work undercover posing as businessmen when conducting covert operations abroad.

The move by the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, emerged in briefings to US journalists.

"You have to do global coverage," a senior defence official said, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new service would seek to “make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements”, the Washington Post quoted the official as saying.

The Pentagon argues that the new service is necessary because the DIA spends most of its time and manpower reporting tactical intelligence about battlefields such as Afghanistan, and not enough time looking at strategic issues.

Obama administration officials have said they want to switch US national security focus away from the Middle East to address long-term issues such as China’s rise and nuclear threats in North Korea and Iran. Pentagon sources suggested the new service would also focus on Africa, where al-Qaida affiliates are on the rise.

The new service will be relatively small, increasing in numbers “from several hundred to several more hundred” over the next few years, according to defence department officials.

The US already has 16 different intelligence organisations scattered around the defence, state, justice, homeland security and energy departments, as well as the armed services.

After the attacks of 11 September 2001 revealed a lack of co-operation and intelligence-sharing among them, the Bush administration restructured the “intelligence community”, putting it all under a director of national intelligence.

Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary for most of the Bush era, attempted to increase the Pentagon’s espionage capability dramatically but the attempt was rebuffed by the CIA, which was at loggerheads with Rumsfeld’s defence department over Iraq.

The Pentagon insisted that this time its new clandestine service would be set up in close collaboration with the CIA, which is led by the former military commander General David Petraeus. The fact that Panetta is a former CIA director is also said to have helped smooth co-operation.

Not all intelligence experts are convinced that the creation of a new organisation will help America’s espionage capacity, however. Some argue that the move reflects turf battles and empire-building.

"I’m not sure what they are supposed to achieve that the CIA doesn’t," Joshua Foust, a former DIA Middle East analyst told the LA Times. "This seems like a territorial thing: ‘Hey, the CIA has this – why don’t we have it, too?’ … I’m pretty sceptical that it’s necessary or good."

Filed under News War Pentagon Spying CIA Iran North Korea China Defense Clandestine Service

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Experts Agree: War On Terror Is A Racket, CIA And Wall Street Are Funded By Global Drug Trade

 Photo of American Troops Keeping America Safe From The Poppy Fields of Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has declared that the “War on Terror” is officially over, but this move only signifies a change in public terminology, not official U.S. policy.

Many of the war on terror’s secret objectives will be pursued regardless of the new public language that will be deployed by U.S. officials to sell the idea of perpetual warfare to the American people and the rest of the world.

One of the main objectives of the falsely advertised “War on Terror,” was to allow U.S. government agencies and international banks to reap the profits from the global drug trade while appearing noble and lawful. Despite the brand change, the war on terror will still be waged in order to preserve the global drug economy. The continuation of covert CIA and military operations in the heroin fields of Afghanistan is a certainty. 

As many experts on reality have noted, a sharp rise in heroin cultivation in Afghanistan occurred when America and NATO invaded the country illegally in 2001. U.S. officials, intelligence officers, and soldiers have been trafficking drugs out of Afghanistan under the radar for the last decade. Journalist Patrick Henningsenreported earlier this month that both the Army and the DEA are trafficking drugs into the United States.

The global trafficking of drugs by the U.S. government is not done to keep the government budget afloat and finance the banks. It is pure corruption. As Catherine Austin Fitts wrote in 2001, “New technology blesses us with the potential tools we can use to radically increase productivity in a way that can “jump the curve” on our narco dollar addiction.” 

In the past decade, the National Security State’s crimes such as drug trafficking and arms dealing were committed under the cover of War on Terror, but this label is being dropped in favour of more sophisticated and nuanced language.

The Obama administration is trying to maintain the corrupt status quo by adopting a new vocabulary to cover-up the criminal activities and policies of the U.S. security state and Wall Street/Federal Reserve Banksters.

So, contrary to the claims of the Obama propaganda machine, the evil transnational and secret financial-intelligence-political-security-media Empire has been strengthened and stimulated anew under the Obama administration.

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration is trying all kinds of tricks to regain popular credibility which it had lost because of its defense of the Wall Street bandits and Bush-era torturers. Whether provoking a race war, falsely declaring the end of U.S. wars abroad, or exploiting the grievances of the poor, the aim is the same: re-elect the puppet Obama. 

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Filed under News CIA Drugs Afghanistan Heroin NATO War War Crimes NSA United States Commentary Wall Street Israel

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'Huge' water resource exists under Africa

Side NoteIn the image below, please notice how much FRESH water that LIBYA is sitting on… then you’ll understand why the West launched an imperial “humanitarian” war against them.

By Matt McGrath

Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater.

They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface.

The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource.

Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they stress that large scale drilling might not be the best way of increasing water supplies.

Across Africa more than 300 million people are said not to have access to safe drinking water.

Demand for water is set to grow markedly in coming decades due to population growth and the need for irrigation to grow crops.

Freshwater rivers and lakes are subject to seasonal floods and droughts that can limit their availability for people and for agriculture. At present only 5% of arable land is irrigated.

Now scientists have for the first time been able to carry out a continent-wide analysis of the water that is hidden under the surface in aquifers. Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London (UCL) have mapped in detail the amount and potential yield of this groundwater resource across the continent.

Helen Bonsor from the BGS is one of the authors of the paper. She says that up until now groundwater was out of sight and out of mind. She hopes the new maps will open people’s eyes to the potential.

"Where there’s greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad," she said.

"The amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75m thickness of water across that area - it’s a huge amount."

Ancient events

Due to changes in climate that have turned the Sahara into a desert over centuries many of the aquifers underneath were last filled with water over 5,000 years ago.

The scientists collated their information from existing hydro-geological maps from national governments as well as 283 aquifer studies.

The researchers say their new maps indicate that many countries currently designated as “water scarce” have substantial groundwater reserves.

However, the scientists are cautious about the best way of accessing these hidden resources. They suggest that widespread drilling of large boreholes might not work.

Dr Alan MacDonald of the BGS, lead author of the study, told the BBC: “High-yielding boreholes should not be developed without a thorough understanding of the local groundwater conditions.

Africa aquifer map

"Appropriately sited and developed boreholes for low yielding rural water supply and hand pumps are likely to be successful."

With many aquifers not being filled due to a lack of rain, the scientists are worried that large-scale borehole developments could rapidly deplete the resource.

According to Helen Bonsor, sometimes the slower means of extraction can be more efficient.

"Much lower storage aquifers are present across much of sub-Saharan Africa," she explained.

"However, our work shows that with careful exploring and construction, there is sufficient groundwater under Africa to support low yielding water supplies for drinking and community irrigation."

The scientists say that there are sufficient reserves to be able to cope with the vagaries of climate change.

"Even in the lowest storage aquifers in semi arid areas with currently very little rainfall, ground water is indicated to have a residence time in the ground of 20 to 70 years." Dr Bonsor said.

"So at present extraction rates for drinking and small scale irrigation for agriculture groundwater will provide and will continue to provide a buffer to climate variability."

The publication of the new map was welcomed by the UK’s secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell.

"This is an important discovery," he said. "This research, which the British Government has funded, could have a profound effect on some of the world’s poorest people, helping them become less vulnerable to drought and to adapt to the impact of climate change."

Filed under News War Libya Africa Water Algeria Chad NATO

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The Prisoners in Gaza – Their Blackout Nightmare

by Ralph Nader

Have you heard much lately about the 1.5 million Palestinians illegally imprisoned by the Israeli government in the world’s largest open-air Gulag? Their dire living conditions, worsened by a selective Israeli siege limiting the importation of necessities of life – medical items, food, water, building materials, and fuel to list a few – has resulted in an 80 percent unemployment rate and widespread suffering from unlawful punishment, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment in Israeli jails.

The horrific conditions were a result of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in late 2008, ignited by Israel’s breaking of a truce with Gaza on November 4. Fourteen hundred people died, nearly three hundred of them children, and thousands were injured. The terror bombing of the Gazan population smashed into homes, hospitals, schools, ambulances, mosques, subsistence farms, UN facilities, and even the American International School. Israeli bombers destroyed over 30 members of one extended family in their home. That toll alone was three times the amount of Israeli fatalities, which included friendly fire.

The humanitarian crisis in crowded Gaza – about twice the size of the District of Columbia – “is now more dire than ever.” That is the judgment of Norwegian physician and professor of medicine, Dr. Mads Gilbert, who just finished a ten-day speaking tour in the U.S. Dr. Gilbert, returning from a recent visit to Gaza, was one of the only two foreign doctors inside Gaza during the massacre of December 2008 to January 2009.

He says: “During the Israeli attack, I saw the effects of new weapons including drones, phosphorous and also DIME [Dense Inert Metal Explosives], which leave no shrapnel, but I witnessed their capacity to cut a child in two; they also leave radioactive traces.”

Today, anemia and protein deficiency are widespread, reports Dr. Gilbert, especially among little children. UN and other relief supplies are inadequate, and UN humanitarian relief staff is often harassed by Israeli officials. Rebuilding pulverized Gaza is seriously obstructed by Israel blocking the imports of building materials.

Dr. Gilbert comments that he has “worked in other desperate situations in other places and Gaza is unique in a number of respects. It’s a captive population – usually if civilians are being attacked, there’s a safe place they can take refuge and then come back to their homes when the fighting has stopped. That doesn’t exist for the people in Gaza since they are effectively imprisoned by the Israeli siege.”

Writing in the prestigious British medical journal “The Lancet” in early 2009, Dr. Gilbert provided clinical details of the slaughter, including the destruction of ambulances and medical facilities that tend to the dying and the wounded.

He described a “shattered, attacked, and drained health-care system trying to help an overwhelming amount of casualties in a war between clearly unequal powers, where the attacker spares no civilian lives – be it man, woman, or child – not even the much-needed health workers of all professions.”

It is no wonder the Israelis banned all foreign reporters, including those from the U.S. – the very country that provided the weaponry – thereby preventing the world from seeing the carnage as it happened.

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary Palestine War War Crimes Apartheid Gaza Gaza Strip West bank Israel US Government

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Mads Gilbert, eyewitness to ‘Cast Lead’, says Gaza remains besieged and ‘shattered’

Alex Kane

Two years ago, Dr. Mads Gilbert (right) told me that his experience in Gaza during Israel’s assault in 2009 was the “most horrific experience” of his life, a grim honor previously held by Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which Gilbert also witnessed. Gilbert spent over two weeks as one of the only foreign doctors in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, and worked at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Currently a professor of medicine at the University of North Norway, Gilbert is the co-author of the book Eyes in Gaza, which chronicles what he witnessed during the Israeli assault and invasion.

Today, Gilbert says Gaza remains in ruins, betrayed by the international community. The blockade of Gaza remains, and Israeli air strikes continue to kill civilians.

Gilbert, who is known for his deeply personal and riveting presentations on the Gaza Strip, recently concluded a speaking tour in the United States.

I caught up with Gilbert before his talk at Columbia University. We discussed his recent impressions of Gaza, the decision by the International Criminal Court to reject a probe into war crimes committed during Cast Lead, and much more.

Alex Kane: So, what brings you back to New York?

Mads Gilbert: Actually, it’s my sixth invited speaking tour on Gaza since Operation Cast Lead. This time, it’s a speaking tour of ten days to Washington, obviously New York, up north, to Madison and a number of universities. The tour is organized by Jennifer Loewenstein and the Carol Chomsky Memorial Foundation. So they are the ones that invited me, actually. So I think it’s interesting that I’ve been here six times on speaking tours, speaking at a large number of universities, in church groups, at the Sabeel conference, and so forth, and I’ve been twice to Canada on a week-long stretch of tours and twice to the UK on week-long speaking tours. So it amounts to, all together, ten speaking tours on Gaza.

AK: And have you been back to Gaza since your time spent during Cast Lead?

MG: Yes. In fact in August 2009, with the manuscript for the families to review and to review the pictures. And I was back in January. I came the same route in and out as I did during Operation Cast Lead. So I traveled in through Rafah on New Year’s Eve, to follow the footsteps of the mission during Operation Cast Lead, and went up to Shifa Hospital, met with my colleagues, did some clinical work, had meetings, gave lectures, and most importantly, met many of the patients that I had treated.

AK: What are your most recent impressions of Gaza?

MG: My impressions as of 2012—that’s what I’m going to speak about tonight. The human rights abuses of the Israeli government, of the Israeli army, continues.

There is widespread lack of human security, ongoing killings, military attacks, week by week people are getting killed and injured. The siege is as brutal as it has been, resulting in lack of everything, from construction materials, to power—the power cuts are more extensive than they have been in a long time because of the lack of diesel and gasoline to fuel the generators. The lack of solid waste trucks makes it almost impossible to collect the solid waste. In Gaza City, they have contracted 280 donkey cart drivers to manually handle the solid waste. Many of the sewage cleaning installations are not working because they lack spare parts and maintenance, so sewage is pumped into the Mediterranean. And of course there is widespread deficiencies in nutrition. The malnutrition is well documented, and it causes anemia and stunting in children, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, but it’s more pronounced in Gaza.

The people of Gaza maintain their dignity and their humanity, I would say. I was well received with great hospitality. People don’t weep, they don’t beg, they don’t complain, but of course life is exceedingly difficult. Many are so tired and sick of the siege and the ongoing bombing, and they really want to see an end to that. Also, they want to see Palestinian unity. Many of the patients that participated in the treatment, they need follow-up, they need rehabilitation. Some of them need surgery. And of course the health care system in Gaza is quite overburdened by the number of people needing medical support, and the siege takes its tool on equipment, maintenance, spare parts, everything you can imagine. So, taken all together, the situation has not become easier. The attacks continue, but the people will not give up. The 600 tunnels are the lifelines of the influx of goods and animals to Gaza. The smuggler economy will increase the level of costs for all types of goods, so there is increasing poverty, and more and more people are living under the line as extreme poverty as defined by the UN.

AK: And obviously you’ve spent a lot of time dealing with the victims of Israeli airstrikes. Recently, there was a decision by the International Criminal Court that essentially said there will not be a war crimes tribunal for Operation Cast Lead. What’s your response to that?

MG: I very much regret the decision by the ICC. I’m saddened, and in fact, quite provoked by it, because I think the ICC had a golden opportunity to tell the world, and to tell Israel, that they are not exempt from international law and the laws of war. As it now stands, because of the lack of formalities—that is, an international recognition of Palestine as a state—they use this as an excuse to let Israel off the hook, which I very much regret because it sends a signal to the superpowers and the military forces of the world that, you can get away with it.

And Israel always gets away with its war crimes, which is really demoralizing, because the types of warfare that Israel is waging, with siege and collective punishment, with starvation and with the destruction of civilian infrastructure in occupied territories is really taking us back to medieval times, yet they claim to be one of the most moral armies in the world. And this contradiction does not fit together. So the only thing we could have hoped for was that all the reports on the table—the Goldstone report, the Arab League fact finding mission, the B’Tselem report (PDF), the Amnesty International report and our book—should have served as strong testimonies and documentation sources that there was no way that the ICC could not open a case against Israel. As it now stands, nobody will be held responsible for 1,400 killed and 5,400 injured, and nobody is accountable for the ongoing siege of Gaza. And this, of course, is a heavy burden of responsibility for President Obama and your government.

AK: When you recently went back to Gaza, did you speak with some of the patients you saw during Cast Lead?

Read more …

Filed under News Interview Gaza Palestine Cast Lead War War Crimes Israel ICC Columbia University USA Gaza Strip

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Problems of Empire

Another day, another war

by Justin Raimondo

"We’re within an inch of war almost every day," said Leon Panetta at a recent congressional hearing: he was talking about war with North Korea, but then went on to speak about other regions where the threat of conflict keeps him up at night, naming Iran, Syria, and indeed the entire Middle East as the source of his insomnia.

Which raises the question: what are we gaining from all this? What benefits do we derive from our troop presence in South Korea, and our interference in its internal affairs? What are we getting out of provoking Iran beyond the limits of human endurance? Why are we even thinking about intervening in Syria, when we can see the horrendous results of our support for the Libyan rebels – and the Iraqi exile groups who tricked us into supporting a disastrous invasion and occupation?

Even if we weren’t bankrupt, it is hard to see how a cost-benefit analysis can justify this level of US intervention abroad. We spend more on the military than all other nations on earth combined, and the only thing it’s gotten us has been some pretty consequential blowback and a mountain of unsustainable debt. So what’s the upside?

Well, there isn’t any – unless you’re a military contractor, or a politician on the takefrom the military-industrial complex. If you’re an “analyst” who works for one of the pro-militarist Washington thinktanks, you have a lot [.pdf] to gain from this “forward stance” foreign policy: however, if you’re an ordinary American – not so much.

Let’s look at the North Korean example, which provoked Panetta’s revealing comment in the first place. Here is a country that is still technically at war with the US and its South Korean neighbor, after more than sixty years, and can hardly feed its own people. The food aid we regularly ship to them has been cut off, in part due to the recent missile launch. Sure, the launch was a failure, but that doesn’t matter: the point being that only the US and its allies have the right to needlessly provoke the rest of the world by saber-rattling as loudly as possible. We still have to punish them – even though they have no capacity to attack the US mainland, and are unlikely to acquire the technology to do so. Sure, they can always attack South Korea, where we – still! – have some 20,000 troops stationed. Yet what is the real purpose of our troop presence there? These soldiers are for all intents and purposes being held hostage by the North Koreans, whose periodic antics cause Panetta so much heartburn. So why keep them there?

We have more troops in Western Europe, including nuclear weapons – to what purpose? Are we expecting Joe Stalin to rise from the grave and lead the Red Army in a ghostly attack on the Free World?

The US presence in these regions was originally justified on the grounds of “defense”: we had to defend South Korea against the North and the Chinese, who were supposedly intent on extending the Communist empire into the entire peninsula. Likewise in Europe, the threat of an ever-expanding Soviet empire, which has alreadyswallowed up Eastern Europe, cast its dark shadow over the Western half of the continent. Never mind that in both cases, we practically handed our enemies the means and the motivation to expand their fiefdoms: history buffs might recall that during the Second World War we were allied with the Communists, not only in the European theater but also in the Far East, where our diplomats were friendly to Maoand hostile to the Kuomintang. After getting rid of Japanese imperialism by means of a few well-placed nukes, we found ourselves confronted by another even more threatening menace from our former “allies,” the Chinese and the Russians. In Europe, no sooner had FDR handed over the Eastern half of the continent to Stalin at Yalta then his successor, a Kansas City haberdasher, launched an all-out effort to stop the threat we ourselves had unleashed.

Another fact to remember: all these supposedly “defensive” actions inevitably took on an offensive character. NATO, which still exists in spite of the non-existence of the Soviet enemy it was designed to fight, is not only fighting in Afghanistan, it is now trying to expand into Georgia, and the Caucasus region, with “partnerships” for the ex-Soviet “republics” deemed sufficiently anti-Russian. The US troop presence in South Korea is viewed not just as a check on the North but also on China, which looks askance at the presence of so many American troops so close to their homeland.

This is what it means to be an empire, as opposed to a republic: when the latter is forced to go to war in order to defend itself, it withdraws after the battle is over and the peace is won. Not so with the latter, which is always pushing the frontiers of empire outward.

Like all government programs, imperialism never lets go: it never retreats, not even to retrench. Ending the vast outlay of funds and other resources we dispatch to our overseas clients is just as impossible – unthinkable! – as ending, say, Social Security or the Export-Import Bank. Too many jobs, livelihoods, and careers are at stake, and the constituency for keeping the gravy train flowing is far louder and more militant than those few who point out that not only does the emperor have no clothes but his empire has no money.

A day hardly passes without the threat of war casting its dark shadow over Washington, D.C. But look at it this way: for the Beltway boys, war is not a threat butan opportunity – a means to expand the empire, line their pockets and the pockets of their friends, and bask in the momentary elation of a very short-lived “victory.”

Doesn’t that make it all worth it?

Filed under News Commentary Empire Imperialism War North Korea

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Leaked CIA Memo Shows Bush Was Warned Torture Methods Are War Crimes

Water boarding and stress positions… just two of the torture techniques used by the U.S. against terror suspects. Now, a secret memo has been leaked which brands them “war crimes”, and shows the Bush administration was warned against their use. As RT’s Marina Portnaya explains, many feel President Obama isn’t doing enough to make up for America’s past mistakes.

Filed under News Torture US Government CIA US Military War War Crimes

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On the War Porn We Don’t See

There is a trove of dark documentation of our wars’ worst moments

by Matthis Chiroux

Yet another example of “war porn” has leaked to the surface from Afghanistan, and once again we are reminded just how far our ‘boys’ have grown from us. Imagine, just a few years prior, some of these men were posing for prom photos. Now, from the looks of it, their courtships are with death.

Here again, we have something that looks outwardly atrocious, however to many in the military, the practice of photographing themselves with dead bodies is anything but. While war trophies taken by soldiers in Vietnam often were literal body parts removed from the dead to remember them by, such as the fingers, ears and tongues, in Iraq and Afghanistan, these trophies usually take the form of war porn, or photographs and video depicting the carnage of combat.

Many excuses are offered up by the military and the government every time another example of war porn goes public. Usually, the excuses involve combat stress, the austerity of conditions on the ground, grievances for a lost buddy or simply that some soldiers are bad soldiers and will be put out of the Army. What doesn’t often get acknowledged is how widespread the existence of war porn from Iraq and Afghanistan truly is.

After the video of U.S. Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan broke last January, I estimated in a longer expose on war porn that there could be perhaps hundreds of thousands of terabytes currently in existence, waiting to be discovered and released. I did not, however, say it would likely be initiated by U.S. servicemembers and veterans. I predicted that more likely, it will be hacked free or recovered from electronics recycling plants outside of the United States. 

However, these most recent images were exposed by an anonymous active duty soldier in Afghanistan moved by conscious and concern to speak out — an encouraging sign. Far better we take the burden of truth upon ourselves now, than have it thrust upon us by outside forces later (which I still suspect will more often be the case). However, this soldier’s actions demonstrate the power even low-ranking servicemembers have not just to inform the population about the truth of war, but to ignite policy discussions and spur concessions to be made at the highest levels of authority.

To soldiers and veterans in possession of war porn, I say you have an incredible power and responsibility to inform. Chances are if you feel ashamed, the public needs to see what happened, not just for our sake as veterans and those still on active duty, but for the sake of future generations who may repeat our mistakes if they are not made aware of them.

Let’s open the floodgates ourselves before they are opened for us, with the courage to build an honest history of this war using what we know and recorded. Society must see these images so its members will know how commonplace they are and how as Americans, they are also responsible. We cannot allow the military and the government to scapegoat a few specific troops, when the structured hell of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq has made us all complicit in their atrocities.

Release your war porn, veterans and servicemembers, release your war porn through whatever outlets you have. Initiate a movement right now. Set up anonymous accounts if you must. Youtube it, Tweet it, Facebook it, Blog it. Send it to me at Send it to the national networks and the local networks. Send it to the newspapers and the radio stations, even. Stand near the White House and hand out copies on the street, and tell everyone who takes it that their government is to blame.

But whatever you do, make sure the world sees it. Americans deserve no more opportunities to feign surprise about this war, especially after allowing their kids to fight it for more than a decade now.

Filed under Commentary War War Crimes Imperialism US Military War Porn Death Dead Troops

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Trolling for Kids: The Empire is Using Hard Times to Help it Recruit More Imperial Troops and Cannon Fodder

Dave Lindirff

In the militarist society in which we live in these latter days of American Empire, all soldiers are “noble heroes” who have signed up at “great personal sacrifice” to “defend our freedoms,” and we are all expected to pay homage and a great deal of our hard-earned money to support them, both in their brutal efforts to subjugate people in desperately poor parts of the world, and (when they leave the service, either to take jobs in the private sector or to live out broken lives if they were wounded) as veterans.

But let’s be honest about all this.

Most of the men and women in the military didn’t join the US armed forces out of any noble motives. They joined because there are no jobs to be had, and the military is taking pretty much anybody who’s willing to sign on the dotted line (they’re begging for recruits). Or they joined because of the promise that they would get trained for a better career, at government expense. Or, like one kid I know, they joined for the excitement.

Just today I got a phone call from a recruiter asking if I was “interested in learning more about the Army.” I don’t know if he was so hard up he was hoping to sign a 63-year-old war resister, or whether he thought he had my 18-year-old son on the phone.

But looking at a Navy recruiting flier that came in the mail the same day addressed to my son, it’s clear that the Pentagon is not trusting to patriotic fervor to lure its new cannon fodder.

Selling military recruitment as a jobs fair. Heroes for hire?Selling military recruitment as a jobs fair. Heroes for hire?

The recruiting flier starts out by telling my son that “In today’s Navy what you get out of your job can set you up for a lifetime of success.”

Signed by “Thomas Gelker, Commander, US Navy,” the glossy letter goes on to say, “Don’t take my word for it. Take inventory of what you want out of a career. Then compare your job prospects in the real world to the outstanding opportunities available in the Navy.”

The following list he provides includes:

* Hundreds of high-tech positions in over 60 highly competitive career fields

* Paid training to learn high-tech skills and work with the latest technology

* Potentially, full tuition for college

* Competitive salary with opportunities for promotions, plus potential specialty pay and retention bonuses

* 30 days’ vacation with pay earned every year and free or low-cost travel opportunities

* Generous retirement income after 20 years plus a 401(k)-like savings plan

* Tax-free allowances for housing and meals plus tax-free shopping privileges at military stores

* Complimentary/discounted recreational privileges, including golf, swimming , fitness centers and more

(As an aside, I find it instructive that the very things that America’s business and political leaders are complaining are costly job perks demanded by unions that are allegedly making America “uncompetitive in the global marketplace” are being offered to our soldiers and sailors as job inducements.)

Only at the end of the list does Gelker throw in:

* The pride of serving a greater cause and being the part of something bigger than yourself.

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary War Imperialism Resistance Empire US Military

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Falluja: The War Crime that refuses to be under rug swept

The Common Ills


Photo courtesy of “Birth defects in FGH” -

April 13, 2012

Karlos Zurutuza (IPS) has an important article entitled “Those Laboratory Mice Were Children:”

At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. “Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone,” says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. “It’s all too shameful for them.”
"We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more," says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.
Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, Hadidi says parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. “They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them. And it doesn’t help at all when some elder tells them it’s been ‘god’s punishment’.”
The pictures are difficult to look at. And, those responsible for all this have closed their eyes.
"In 2004 the Americans tested all kinds of chemicals and explosive devices on us: thermobaric weapons, white phosphorous, depleted uranium…we have all been laboratory mice for them," says Hadidi, turning off the projector.

Though little covered by Western media, the issue of the birth defects from the illegal war of ‘liberation’ never stops being a story in the Iraqi press. Little covered because they were War Crimes but also because they expose the lie that the US government was ever even remotely concerned about the Iraqi people. Last year, Gene Clancy’s “Evidence shows U.S. weapons cause birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq" (Workers World):

Dr. Bassem Allah, the senior obstetrician who is chief custodian of Fallujah’s newborns, finds the cases both perplexing and disturbing. During medical school he had to search Iraq for a case study of an infant with a birth defect. “It was almost impossible during the 80s,” he told the Guardian. “Now, every day in my clinic or elsewhere in the hospital, there are large numbers of congenital abnormalities or cases of chronic tumors. Now, believe me, it’s like we are treating patients immediately after Hiroshima.”
Birth defect rates in Fallujah have become increasingly alarming over the past two years. In the first half of 2010 the number of monthly cases of serious abnormalities rose to unprecedented levels. In Fallujah’s general hospital, 15 percent of the 547 babies born in May had a chronic deformity, such as a neural-tube defect — which affects the brain and lower limbs — cardiac or skeletal abnormalities or cancers. (Guardian, Dec. 30) In addition to these conditions, research has shown startling increases in children born with cleft palates, multiple fingers and toes, encephalitis and leukemia.
The Dec. 30 Guardian reports that no other city in Iraq has anywhere near the same levels of reported abnormalities. Fallujah sees at least 11 times as many major defects in newborns as world averages, research shows.

Martin Chulov was the reporter on the piece
 Workers World is noting. He alsocovered the story in 2009. Dahr Jamail has often covered the birth defects (and the destruction of Falluja). At the start of this year, he reported for Al Jazeera on babies born with congenital abnormalities:

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Drones to be shot down: Imran


KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has said he would never support any unconstitutional step and that even if an angel came in uniform he would not support him.

In an interview to Geo News programme ‘Lekin’, Khan said during his premiership if drone strikes were carried out, the unmanned aircrafts would be shot down.

Imran said drone attacks were being carried out with the consent Pakistani government.

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Do ‘Laws of War’ Simply Legitimize ‘War Crimes’?

Do the WikiLeaks War Logs Reveal War Crimes — Or the Poverty of International Law?

Anyone who would like to witness a vivid example of modern warfare that adheres to the laws of war — that corpus of regulations developed painstakingly over centuries by jurists, humanitarians, and soldiers, a body of rules that is now an essential, institutionalized part of the U.S. armed forces and indeed all modern militaries — should simply click hereand watch the video.

Wait a minute: that’s the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” video!  The gunsight view of an Apache helicopter opening fire from half a mile high on a crowd of Iraqis — a few armed men, but mostly unarmed civilians, including a couple of Reuters employees — as they unsuspectingly walked the streets of a Baghdad suburb one July day in 2007.

Watch, if you can bear it, as the helicopter crew blows people away, killing at least a dozen of them, and taking good care to wipe out the wounded as they try to crawl to safety.  (You can also hear the helicopter crew making wisecracks throughout.) When a van comes on the scene to tend to the survivors, the Apache gunship opens fire on it too, killing a few more and wounding two small children.

The slaughter captured in this short film, the most virally sensational of WikiLeaks’ disclosures, was widely condemned as an atrocity worldwide, and many pundits quickly labeled it a “war crime” for good measure.

But was this massacre really a “war crime” — or just plain-old regular war?  The question is anything but a word-game. It is, in fact, far from clear that this act, though plainly atrocious and horrific, was a violation of the laws of war.  Some have argued that the slaughter, if legal, was therefore justified and, though certainly unfortunate, no big deal. But it is possible to draw a starkly different conclusion: that the “legality” of this act is an indictment of the laws of war as we know them.

The reaction of professional humanitarians to the gun-sight video was muted, to say the least.  The big three human rights organizations — Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and Human Rights First — responded not with position papers and furious press releases but with silence.  HRW omitted any mention of it in its report on human rights and war crimes in Iraq, published nearly a year after the video’s release.  Amnesty also kept mum.  Gabor Rona, legal director of Human Rights First, told me there wasn’t enough evidence to ascertain whether the laws of war had been violated, and that his organization had no Freedom of Information Act requests underway to uncover new evidence on the matter.

This collective non-response, it should be stressed, is not because these humanitarian groups, which do much valuable work, are cowardly or “sell-outs.”  The reason is: all three human rights groups, like human rights doctrine itself, are primarily concerned with questions of legality.  And quite simply, as atrocious as the event was, there was no clear violation of the laws of war to provide a toehold for the professional humanitarians.

The human rights industry is hardly alone in finding the event disturbing but in conformance with the laws of war.  As Professor Gary Solis, a leading expert and author of a standard text on those laws, told Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine, “I believe it unlikely that a neutral and detached investigator would conclude that the helicopter personnel violated the laws of armed conflict.  Legal guilt does not always accompany innocent death.”  It bears noting that Gary Solis is no neocon ultra.  A scholar who has taught at the London School of Economics and Georgetown, he is the author of a standard textbook on the subject, and was an unflinching critic of the Bush-Cheney administration.

War and International “Humanitarian” Law

“International humanitarian law,” or IHL, is the trying-too-hard euphemism for the laws of war.  And as it happens, IHL turns out to be less concerned with restraining military violence than licensing it.  As applied to America’s recent wars, this body of law turns out to be wonderfully accommodating when it comes to the prerogatives of an occupying army.

Here’s another recent example of a wartime atrocity that is perfectly legal and not a war crime at all. Thanks to WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs, we now know about the commonplace torture practices employed by Iraqi jailers and interrogators during our invasion and occupation of that country.  We have clear U.S. military documentation of sexual torture, of amputated fingers and limbs, of beatings so severe they regularly resulted in death.

Surely standing by and taking careful notes while the Iraqi people you have supposedly liberated from tyranny are getting tortured, sometimes to death, is a violation of the laws of war.  After all, in 2005 General Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly contradicted his boss Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by commenting into a live mike that it is “absolutely the responsibility of every American soldier to stop torture whenever and wherever they see it.” (A young private working in Army Intelligence named Bradley Manning, learning that a group of Iraqi civilians handing out pamphlets alleging government corruption had been detained by the Iraqi federal police, raised his concern with his commanding officer about their possible torture.  He was reportedly told him to shut up and get back to work helping the authorities find more detainees.)

As it turned out, General Pace’s exhortation was at odds with both official policy and law: Fragmentary Order 242, issued by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, made it official policy for occupying U.S. troops not to interfere with ongoing Iraqi torture.  And this, according to some experts, is no violation of the laws of war either. Prolix on the limits imposed on the acts of non-state fighters who are not part of modern armies, the Geneva Conventions are remarkably reticent on the duties of occupying armies.  

As Gary Solis pointed out to me, Common Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention assigns only a vague obligation to “ensure respect” for prisoners handed over to a third party.  On the ground in either Iraq or Afghanistan, this string of words would prove a less-than-meaningful constraint.

Part of the problem is that the laws of war that aspire to restrain deadly force are often weakly enforced and routinely violated. Ethan McCord, the American soldier who saved the two wounded children from that van in the helicopter video, remembers one set of instructions he received from his battalion commander: “Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire.  You kill every [expletive] in the street!”  (“That order,” David Glazier, a jurist at the National Institute for Military Justice, told me, “is absolutely a war crime.”)  In other words, the rules of engagement that are supposed to constrain occupying troops in places like Afghanistan and Iraq are, according to many scholars and investigators, often belittled and ignored.

Legalized Atrocity

The real problem with the laws of war, however, is not what they fail to restrain but what they authorize.  The primary function of International Humanitarian Law is to legalize remarkable levels of “good” military violence that regularly kill and injure non-combatants.  IHL highlights a handful of key principles: the distinction between combatant and civilian, the obligation to use force only for military necessity, and the duty to jeopardize civilians only in proportion to the military value of a target.

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Israeli TV report shows air force gearing up for Iran attack, says moment of truth is near


A major Israel TV station on Sunday night broadcast a detailed report on how Israel will go about attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities in the event that diplomacy and sanctions fail and Israel decides to carry out a military strike.

The report, screened on the main evening news of Channel 10, was remarkable both in terms of the access granted to the reporter, who said he had spent weeks with the pilots and other personnel he interviewed, and in the fact that his assessments on a strike were cleared by the military censor.

No order to strike is likely to be given before the P5+1 talks with Iran resume in May, the reporter, Alon Ben-David, said. “But the coming summer will not only be hot but tense.”

In the event that negotiations fail and the order is given for Israel to carry out an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, “dozens if not more planes” will take part in the mission: attack and escort jets, tankers for mid-air refueling, electronic warfare planes and rescue helicopters, the report said.

Ben-David said the Israel Air Force “does not have the capacity to destroy the entire Iranian program.” There will be no replication of the decisive strikes on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 or on Syria in 2007, he said. “The result won’t be definitive.” But, a pilot quoted in the report said, the IAF will have to ensure that it emerges with the necessary result, with “a short and professional” assault.

Ben-David said that if negotiations break down, and Iran moves key parts of its nuclear program underground to its Qom facility, the IAF “is likely to get the order and to set out on the long journey to Iran.”

“Years of preparations are likely to come to realization,” he said, adding that “the moment of truth is near.”

Ben-David interviewed several squadron leaders, pilots and other officers. He noted that some of the IAF personnel, “it is likely, will not return from the mission.” An officer named Gilad said it would be “naive” to think there would be no losses.

The IAF is said to be worried about the advanced anti-aircraft systems that Russia has sold to countries in the region, the report said. Among those systems, the SA 17 and 22 in Syria and Iran present a challenge.

According to the report, it’s the older versions of the F-15 that can fly further than any other plane in Israel’s arsenal, and this puts them on the front line of any potential attack.

One pilot said in the report that the F-15 “is a plane with a very wide range of operation — a combination of relatively energy-efficient engines, and significant flightworthiness regarding weapons and fuel.”

The IAF has a full-sized unmanned plane, the “Eitan,” that is said to be able to fly to Iran, the report indicated. “This plane can do all that is required of it when the order is given,” a pilot said, without elaboration.

The attack, the report said, would presumably trigger a war in northern Israel, with missile attacks (presumably from the Iranian-proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon). “There will be no tranquility and peace anywhere in Israel,” Ben-David said.

This could be the first full-scale war the IAF has fought in nearly 30 years, the report stated.

Pilots had already been told where their families would be moved, away from their bases, for safety, the report said.

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Chicago Summit To Consolidate “Global NATO”: Hillary Clinton Promotes 22nd Century NATO Ahead Of Summit


On April 3, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the only North Atlantic Treaty Organization command in the United States, Allied Command Transformation, and the World Affairs Council of Greater Hampton Roads, both in Norfolk, Virginia, against the backdrop of the annual Norfolk NATO Festival. On the same day, one day before the 63rd anniversary of the founding of NATO, she also spoke at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

The first venue, known by its acronym ACT, is successor to the Cold War-era Allied Command Atlantic and was established as one of many post-September 11, 2001 initiatives of the George W. Bush administration and its then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Washington’s NATO allies dutifully ratified the decision for its creation at the military bloc’s summit in Prague, the Czech Republic in 2002.

The three sites chosen for her busy day speak volumes about the unique role of the U.S. in the world, as the country’s top diplomat’s topics were more suited to the nation’s defense secretary, the difference between the secretaries of state and defense, and for that matter the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee triumvirate of John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, becoming an increasingly narrow one – except that the first and third plan wars and the second executes them.

Clinton’s address at ACT headquarters was short and perfunctory, but that at the World Affairs Council 2012 NATO Conference was considerably more in-depth and revealing.

She stressed continuity and development between the last NATO summit in Lisbon in late 2010 and the upcoming one in Chicago in May.

Her first point was the now over ten-year war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), NATO’s first war in Asia and its first ground war, and the longest war in the history of the U.S.

While obligatorily speaking of an end to the mission two years from now, she also indicated that the Pentagon and its NATO allies don’t intend to ever fully leave the beleaguered country: “In Chicago we will discuss the form that NATO’s enduring relationship with Afghanistan will then take. We also hope that, by the time we meet in Chicago, the United States will have concluded our negotiations with Afghanistan on a long-term strategic partnership between our two nations.”

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