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Drones of Love

 

By Gary Lindorff

 

Let us bomb your neighborhood,

Let us target your neighbor

Out of our love and concern –

 

Not you, not your children.

Drones of love!

 

Won’t you love us

After the dust settles?

After the evil has been exploded?

After the crater in the market-place

Has been filled in and paved

We will explode our way into your hearts!

 

We might miss our intended target;

Sardinia: Militarization, Contamination and Cancer in Paradise

By Helen Jaccard, WarIsACrime.org

Need to test some new weapons?  Bomb paradise!
The sound of bombs, missiles, and other explosions; massive attacks from the sea onto the beach; an epidemic of cancers and birth defects; soil, air, food and water contaminated with heavy metals, jet fuel and other poisons; and national and company secrets that prevent the residents from learning the truth:  Is this a modern war zone?  No – Sardinia is the victim of weapons manufacturers, polluting military activities and a political system that cares about power and money over the health of people and the environment. 

Sardinia and it’s People
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea – a paradise with diverse wildlife and beautiful beaches.  Alice Scanu, a Sardinian environmental engineer and activist said, “We are peaceful people, poor ones maybe, but very welcoming. That's how I'd like Sardinians to be remembered, not as people involved in wars and power games.”  In the rural areas are shepherds and farmers who make magnificent wine, honey, and cheese. 

Military Use of Sardinia
For over 50 years Sardinia has been used by militaries and arms manufacturers to:

·       test new bullets, bombs, missiles and drones
·       train soldiers and pilots
·       practice war scenarios
·       explode, burn and bury old weapons and dangerous chemicals
·       launch bombing sorties

Seventy percent of Italian military bases are located here, and Italian, NATO, and U.S. bases occupy about 1/3 of the area of the island’s land and sea. During military practice drills, the area closed to navigation and fishing increases to about 7200 square miles, almost 2 times the island surface. 

Quirra, Teulada and Capo Frasca testing and firing ranges
The worst of the pollution, cancer, and birth deformities is in the firing ranges.  In these huge areas in Southern Sardinia, militaries and weapons manufacturers:

·       test-fire artillery rockets, drones, and laser-guided precision bombs, including at least one depleted uranium weapon and missiles that release asbestos and white phosphorus
·       test the effects of explosions and fires on armor and pipelines
·       dispose of tons of old weapons and chemicals, by explosion or burial   
·       perform air and naval “exercises”, holding mock attacks of the coast

Contamination:

·       large quantities of buried waste containing cadmium, lead, antimony, and napalm
·       high levels of lead on several beaches and in the water
·       explosions of waste and weapons from past wars affecting areas up to 2000 square meters each that no longer support vegetation – each explosion produces as much pollution as an incinerator of municipal solid waste during one year - exposing communities, shepherds, base personnel and animals to toxic dust containing thorium, lead, cerium and cadmium
·       Thorium, a radioactive and highly carcinogenic heavy metal used in military targeting systems has been found in Sardinian honey, milk, and other areas of the food chain.
·       Pieces of bombs, missiles, and bullets are lying on the ground and in the sea.
·       Unexploded ordnance lies in and around the restricted areas, including both land and sea. 

Health effects:

·       Birth Defects: Between 1988 and 2002 fourteen children were born with severe malformations in Escalaplano, a small village of 2400 people bordering the Quirra base.
·        Malformed animals: two-headed lambs, calves with deformed legs, a pig with one huge grotesque eye – problems not normally seen here.  A tissue sample from a malformed lamb was found to contain depleted uranium.
·       Cancer:  In a village with 150 inhabitants, 12 people died from leukemia in 2002, with 63 in the past decade. In the previous decade (1990 – 2000), there had been no cases of leukemia or lymphoma among this same population. 65% of workers on seven of twelve farms located near the Quirra base are suffering from serious cancer.  Rates of lymphoma, thyroid cancerand autoimmune diseases are also unexpectedly high.

John Madeddu worked in the Capo Frasca base from 1968 to 1987.  He has diffuse large cell lymphoma.  He remembers an area where a large number of bullets accumulated in a clearing.  When it rained it created a marsh and the

water seeped into the ground.  The artesian wells provide water for both the base and the nearby farms.  This kind of contamination has continued to build over the years with no clean-up effort undertaken.  Animal deformities are common near the bases.  Cattle still graze here and even if directly hit and killed by weapons containing heavy metals these animals are being butchered and eaten.

Francesco Piras died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 27 in 2007 after serving for 10 months at Capo Teulada.  At the hospital, doctors asked him if he had been in contact with radioactive materials. Dr. Antonietta Gatti, Experimental Physicist at the University of Bologna, took biopsies of Francesco’s tissues and discovered high quantities of nanoparticles of industrial heavy metals.

A shepherd analyzed the situation with clear, shocking realism: "I have leukemia, I have only a few months or years of life, I accepted it. Nobody cares about us, and we just do not count for anything.  They are powerful; it is better for them if there are fewer of us.”

The sheep are still grazing on contaminated land and the local people sell sheep cheese and grapes for a living.

Investigation and Prosecution:

On May 12, 2011, State Prosecutor Domenico Fiordalisi opened a court case to stop all military use of the Quirra base. Hundreds of shepherds and farmers demonstrated against the case because they might lose use of their land.  They do not want a handout for unemployment; they just want their land to be uncontaminated and available. 

The nuclear physicist Evandro Lodi Rizzini of Brescia University and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) found elevated levels of radioactive thorium 232 and cerium (proving that the thorium was man-made) in the tissues of 15 of 18 bodies of Quirra-area shepherds who died of cancer between 1995 and 2000. 

On March 24, 2012 Fiordalisi indicted twenty people on charges of "willful omission of precautions against injury and aggravated disasters or because they falsely certified the absence of pollution with the aim to "hide the environmental disaster.”  The documents from Fiordalisi’s investigation have now been turned over to a tribunal for prosecution.

Decimomannu, the largest NATO air base contaminating the water supply
Decimomannu in Southwest Sardinia has the largest NATO air base in the world, used since 1954 as collaboration between Italy, Germany, Canada, the United States and NATO. From here they support transport aircraft of the Military Airlift Command from the United States to the Middle East and Africa.  A total of 4 F-18s, along with a single Boeing 707 refueling aircraft was deployed to Decimomannu Air Base on the island of Sardinia for operations over Libya.

The military base of Decimomannu has been contaminating the environment with jet fuel and other poisons. Jet fuel contains xylene, benzene and lead, highly dangerous and carcinogenic substances.  Mayor Louis Porceddu in February 2011 prohibited the use of the local wells.  The authorities deny responsibility and expertise. An alleged reclamation has already cost 900,000 Euros, although no problem has been solved.  Monica Pisano of the Decimomannu Civic Committee “Su Sentidu” said, “It is absolutely ineffective, since it is useless to reclaim the territory if the spill continues!”

La Maddalena / Santo Stefano islands
La Maddalena is an archipelago located 2 km Northeast of Sardinia.  The population of 17,000 swells to 75,000 during the summer, when the tourists come to enjoy the campgrounds, beautiful beaches and lovely hiking trails.

From 1972 to 2008 a U.S. / NATO base on Santo Stefano Island served as the home port for nuclear submarines.  In 2003 the nuclear powered submarine U.S.S. Hartford struck a rock and damaged its rudders, sonar and electronics. However, residents suspect that even greater damage was done.

Massimo Zucchetti, Professor at the Department of Energy at the Torino Polytechnic and his team analyzed algae in the archipelago.  The presence of radioactive alpha particles and plutonium traces were found, sometimes in high concentrations.  This contamination is due to either a continuous loss of pollutant from the submarine base, or to environmental releases that took place during the USS Hartford accident.On January 20, 2004, the “schwäbische Zeitung”newspaper reported that there was an alarming high amount of radioactivity in the waternear La Maddalena Island.

Cause of Cancers
Dr. Antonietta Gatti, Experimental Physicist at the University of Bologna, found nano-particles of iron, lead, tungsten, and copper in the tissues of citizens and sheep. She said, “Rain leads to the contamination of the soil. Through air pollution, other areas that are not involved in the testing are contaminated as well… The sea is polluted. Local governments do not warn people when there are testing activities; they do testing even at night.”

Fernando Codenesu, Professor at the Department of Energy at the Torino Polytechnic, explained that Sardinia has rocks that are very fragile and contain heavy metals.  An explosion breaks the rocks into micro and nano-particles containing these heavy metals.  These in turn are blown in the wind, contaminate the groundwater; people and animals breathe them into their bodies.

Health Effects of Depleted Uranium and Thorium
What are effects of depleted uranium and thorium - elements that emit alpha particles on the body?

Dr. Rizzini said, “One micro-gram, that is, one millionth of a gram is sufficient to kill a person.   It causes a rise in atomic disintegrations; with a production of 2000 alpha rays a day, nuclear radiation is most damaging.”

The organizations International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and Mother Earth have good information about depleted uranium.

Demands of the people

·       Transparency and truth – reveal what chemicals and metals have been used.
·       Close all of the bases and radar facilities – completely de-militarize the island.
·       Clean and decontaminate the bases and land, aquifers and sea around them.
·       Provide health care to all people affected by military activity on the island
·       Provide financial assistance and clean land and sea to farmers and fishers

Political Action

Cagliari – Monthly Rally with Cancer Victims and their Families
There is a monthly rally against the bases on the 15th of each month in Cagliari.  It is organized by victims of cancer and their families and those opposed to military use of Sardinia.

Committee of Parents of Fallen Soldiers in Times of Peace
Parents of deceased children (who had done their military service in Sardinia and in the Balkans) founded the organization “Comitato Genitori Vittime uranio impoverito” (Committee of Parents of Fallen soldiers in times of peace).  Giancarlo Piras (father of Francesco) says,   “Here in Sardinia, we are confronted with war victims but in a peaceful area. We like to call this area the zone for preparing new wars”.  He points out that existing law is that the government needs to know what kind of weapons/materials have been tested in the bases. The reality is that none of the armies give information about the tests and hide under the umbrella of ‘military secrecy’.  

Protests Prevent New Radar Installations
There are about 15 radar stations on the island, on the top of the mountains surrounding the bases.   Many fear that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by them is dangerous and want their use stopped. 

People are now demonstrating against construction of several more radar sites.  Local officials and the Italian Party Partito Democratico have now spoken against some of the proposed radar sites as well.    As a result, plans for four of them have been abandoned.

Fishermen Bring Naval Exercises to a Halt
Since the 1990s fishermen have been pushed out of their profession by NATO naval exercises and have become activists for their right to use the sea.  There were acts of civil disobedience at the port, the base entrances, and at sea.  Stubbornly, daily, when the wind allowed it, the fishermen challenged the restrictions and the bombs, directing up to 42 boats into the heart of the war game area and threw their fishing nets in a prohibited sea saturated by war ships.    Fortunately, it only takes one civilian boat to stop a naval exercise.

Their demands are simple: the right to safe work, to have the stolen sea back, and to have a clean sea and environment.

2005 was the last year of protest.  The fishermen are now paid to stay out of the water and many have abandoned their profession.

Italian Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) calls for closure or conversion of bases
In an encouraging new development in March 2012, Senator Gian Piero Scanu called for closing the bases in Capo Frasca and Capo Teulada, and for changing the Quirra base back to its previous designation as a technical-scientific research center.  This letter was signed by over 100 Senators of many political parties.

Media coverage
The Sardinian newspapers have published articles about the deformities and high rates of cancer, so everyone on the island is aware of this problem.  L’Union Sardo has been particularly good about publishing articles regarding the cancer, birth defects, contamination, and military use of Sardinia.

What can you do?

·       Spread the word about Sardinia.  More information is available here where the original 7500-word research document is stored. Also here as a PDF.
·       Contact your congressional representatives and demand the closure of the Sardinia NATO bases.
·       Carry signs or flyers at demonstrations demanding that NATO stop bombing Sardinia.
·       Contact Helen Jaccard at Helen.Jaccard@gmail.com to discuss ideas.

The Vietnam War and the Struggle For Truth

 

By John Grant


Vietnam, a story of virtually unmitigated disasters that we have inflicted on ourselves and even more on others.

           -Bernard Brodie, 1973
 

Talk Nation Radio: Bruce Gagnon on U.S. Aggression Toward Russia and China

Bruce Gagnon describes U.S. and NATO plans in the works to militarily surround and threaten both Russia and China.  Gagnon is co-founder and coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space at http://space4peace.org.  He blogs at http://space4peace.blogspot.com He's the author of Come Together Right Now, and of a chapter in The Military Industrial Complex at 50.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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U.S. Sets Another Record on Weapons Sales, Already



IPS

A U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tank on a mission in Iraq in 2004. Credit: Public Domain

A U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tank on a mission in Iraq in 2004. Credit: Public Domain

WASHINGTON, Jun 15 2012 (IPS) - The United States is set to far surpass previous records for defence sales this year, according to U.S. officials.

“Despite the global economic strain, demand for U.S. defence products and services is stronger than ever,” Andrew J. Shapiro, an assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department, said on Thursday.

He confirmed that the U.S., long the world’s largest weapons exporter, has already seen more than 50 billion dollars in government-to-government military sales this fiscal year.

“This represents at least a 20-billion-dollar increase over fiscal year 2011, and we still have more than a quarter of the fiscal year left,” Shapiro said, speaking with reporters. The current fiscal year will end in September.

“To put this in context, fiscal year 2011 was a record-setting year at just over 30 billion. This fiscal year will be at least 70 percent greater.”

Observers noted the administration’s evident pride at the high numbers.

“An Obama arms bazaar is going on – this is further evidence of that,” Jeff Abramson, director of Control Arms, an international civil-society alliance based in Washington, told IPS.

“This administration has made defence trade an economic rather than just a security issue – part of the agenda in terms of keeping the U.S. economy going. I think human rights issues should trump those concerns. Selling to countries such as Saudi Arabia, people need to ask whether the U.S. is living up to its promises on rights obligations.”

Shapiro, who noted that the U.S. only allows a sale “after we carefully examine issues like human rights”, spoke a week after the launch of the newest edition of the 655 Report, an annual compilation of defence products and services authorised for export.

Many have cautioned that the U.S. defence trade is notoriously difficult to estimate, given the numerous ways available to calculate the figure. Several point to a lower number of 30 billion dollars worth of actual transfers, rather than the larger sales number, not all of which may ultimately take place.

The latest figures are particularly buoyed by two contracts, with Saudi Arabia and Japan. The former was particularly significant, accounting for 29.4 billion dollars and including up to 84 advanced fighter aircraft. The Japanese sale, also for fighter aircraft, is worth around 10 billion dollars.

In a major priority for the U.S. government today, Shapiro noted that the Saudi Arabia deal alone would support more than 50,000 jobs.

The United States also recently concluded a first-of-its-kind military trade agreement with the United Kingdom, aimed at easing the bureaucratic red tape that typically surrounds U.S. military deals.

A similar agreement is in the offing with Australia, while new export plans being pushed by President Barack Obama’s administration could facilitate weapons sales to a host of other countries.

Carl Levin Says Cutting 0.05% of a Military Budget That Has Doubled This Decade Will Endanger Us All

Dear Friend,

Carl Levin

Last summer, during the crisis over raising the debt limit, Congress passed the Budget Control Act. That legislation established a so-called "supercommittee" to try to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

Because the supercommittee could not reach agreement, at the beginning of next year, automatic spending cuts called sequestration will kick in, divided equally between defense and domestic spending, cutting programs and activities across the board.

These automatic cuts are large, across-the-board cuts that set no priorities. They will do tremendous harm if we don't avoid them.

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I'm concerned about the impact sequestration could have on our national security. Men and women in uniform could lose their jobs. Training would be curtailed. Acquisition programs would be disrupted.

But when I look beyond defense, I'm also concerned. These cuts could leave us not just with a hollowed-out military, but a hollowed-out economy.

Sequestration threatens our ability to continue the economic recovery, to educate our children, to care for the sick, to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, to protect the environment, to invest in new technologies.

Our only option to avoid the economic train wreck from sequestration is to produce a balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction package. Balance requires three things. First, we need additional spending cuts -- but prudent, prioritized cuts. Second, we have to consider reforms of our entitlement programs. And third, we must include additional revenue.

Historically, federal tax revenue has been about 19-20 percent of our economic output. Today it's closer to 15 percent. Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all reached deficit deals that got at least one-third of their deficit reduction from revenue.

Our tax code is full of loopholes, including offshore tax havens to help wealthy Americans avoid paying their taxes. Closing them down would restore billions of dollars in revenue.

We also must consider reversing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, who have prospered in recent years even as middle-class incomes have stagnated.

Most Republicans in Congress have signed a pledge they will oppose any attempt to add new revenue to reduce the deficit and protect vital programs. Those opponents have to choose: Will they continue to defend tax breaks and loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans, which is the only group that has done well in the recession? Or will they choose to protect national security, students, seniors, and workers?

Ultimately, I think we will reach a balanced deficit reduction agreement. But if it comes too late -- during the lame duck session in December, for example -- much of the economic damage will already be done.

We know the way out. The way out is compromise. And if we know the path, we shouldn't wait to take it.

Sincerely,

Carl signature

Carl Levin

War Profiteers Threaten Layoffs to Extort More Money From Congress

Never mind that military spending produces fewer jobs than any other spending or even tax cuts for working people.

War profiteering companies know how to force Congress critters to do their bidding.


ht Digby

From Politico:

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor and a bellwether of the industry, already has started preparing for the possibility of staff reductions. The company, which is dependent on government contracts for the bulk of its revenue, recently has seen its stock price slide.

At a March aerospace luncheon, Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens acknowledged the company has a legal responsibility to provide notice of layoffs. “How do we start positioning our businesses in different locales to be able to advise our employees of the consequences of sequestration?” he said. “These are not easy problems for businesses to wrestle with.”


A.P. Scare Report: A 'Brutal' Socialist Future Facing France

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Reading, watching and listening to the mainstream media in America, it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between journalism and rank propaganda. Consider the coverage of the French parliamentary election currently underway.

 

Most Americans who read newspapers probably learned about this via the Associated Press report that went out on the weekend for Monday’s papers (AP is the de facto “foreign correspondent” for almost every newspaper in America now that all but a few papers have eliminated their foreign reporting staffs). It stated that recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party “stands positioned to take control of the lower house of parliament.” 

 

Bipartisan Agreement Possible: Raising Taxes to Pay for Wars

From the New York Times:

Senator Lindsey Graham rode last week like Paul Revere from South Carolina's wooded upstate to its gracious Lowcountry to its sweltering midsection, offering a bureaucratic rallying cry for his military-heavy state - the defense cuts are coming.

On Jan. 2, national security is set to receive a heavy blow if Congress fails to intervene. That is when a 10-year, $600 billion, across-the-board spending cut is to hit the Pentagon, equal to roughly 8 percent of its current budget.
...

"The soft underbelly that I'm trying to exploit is, 'What does this mean to your state?' " he said.

The audience for that appeal could be forgiven for greeting it with a yawn. So far, at least, Congress is acting as if the constraints it imposed on itself last August will simply be ignored. The House in May approved an annual defense policy bill that authorized Pentagon spending $8 billion higher than spending caps approved in the Budget Control Act - without the automatic spending caps. The Senate Armed Services Committee stuck largely to those caps but included nothing to prepare for sequestration beyond ordering up a study of its potential impacts.

Military leaders in South Carolina came to the microphones of Mr. Graham's events, speaking of "insidious" impacts and "devastating blows." But pressed privately, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., South Carolina's elected National Guard adjutant general, conceded: "We don't know what sequestration looks like. There hasn't been a whole lot of planning."

For now, Democrats and Republicans are waiting for the other side to blink. And the pressure may be working. Mr. Graham said the sentiment for raising revenues by closing tax loopholes or imposing higher fees on items like federal oil leases is expanding in his party.

Asked about the "no new taxes" pledge almost all Republicans have signed, he shrugged: "I've crossed the Rubicon on that."

A Killer In the White House

 

By John Grant


“No, Charlotte, I’m the jury now. I sentence you to death.”
The roar of the .45 shook the room. Charlotte staggered back a step.
“How c-could you?” she gasped.
“It was easy.”
- Mickey Spillane, I, The Jury


Mitt's Military and Misleading Media

According to Mitt Romney, the world is not safe.  Presumably someone somewhere says the world is perfectly safe, and to that person we can all bellow: "Ha! Mitt's right, and you are wrong!"  Except that what Mitt seems to mean is all wrong.  He declares in the next breath that Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation and share nuclear weapons with terrorist groups.  According to the Secretary of "Defense" and the rest of the gang with access to the government's secrets, or at least the list of whom Obama plans to murder, Iran has no nuclear weapons program. 


Next Romney lumps together as U.S. enemies Pakistan, China, Russia, and Venezuela.  Does that make us more or less safe?  Or does it just help sell weaponry?  According to Mitt the U.S. should have the world's biggest military.  According to reality, the United States could cut its military by two-thirds and have the world's biggest military.  Military spending has increased every year that Bush or Obama has been president.


Romney says a bigger military means fewer wars.  Eisenhower's prediction of 51 years ago, and the past 51 years worth of evidence, says the opposite: the military creates momentum for wars, planning for wars, and neglect of alternatives to war. 


According to Mother Jones, "Mitt Romney Wants the Biggest Military Ever, Regardless of Cost."  What can we say but "Mission Accomplished"?  We've got the biggest military ever, and the financial cost has damaged our economy while requiring tragic trade-offs from human needs spending, not to mention devastating the environment, slashing our civil liberties, and making us less safe.


Mother Jones cheers for Obama's murder program and his illegal war on Libya.  Less "liberal" groups and outlets love Obama's militarism even more, promoting it as politically advantageous.  Yet, veterans, white males, and warmongers in general will vote heavily for Romney even if Obama commits to savaging Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect weapons spending and untaxed wealth.  Why?  The same reason poor deluded well-meaning people will vote for Obama: Because Romney will always promise worse.

This Memorial Day Let’s Start Caring for Our Nation’s Veterans: No More Ducking the Real Cost of US Wars!

 

By Dave Lindorff


Whether he ever said it or not, I’m going to borrow from a quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln and alter it a bit to say: “American politicians must love war veterans -- they keep making so many more of them.”


Missile-Defense: Is it Working?

By Bruce Gagnon
Securing the Peaceful Use of Space for Future Generations
Waterloo, Canada

 

One of the biggest questions in the space technology world today is will "missile defense" (MD) really work?  Recently we've seen articles making a case that it does not work and never will.  I would suggest that depending on where you are standing, a strong case could be made that MD is working quite well.  It's all a matter of perception and definition.

When looked at from the point of view of the Russians or Chinese one might consider that they view it very differently than some of the critics.  Critics see scripted Missile Defense Agency tests while Russia and China see a hyperactive deployment program, which is directly connected to a larger U.S./NATO military expansion ultimately leading to their encirclement.

Critics might see the MD system today largely as a corporate boondoggle while the Russians and Chinese are looking toward 2020 and beyond when new generations of a well funded research and development program (now committed to by NATO's 28 members) has delivered faster, more accurate and longer range interceptor missiles.

Critics in a sense can help demobilize opposition to the program. Some peace activists think it would be a waste of their valuable time and meager organizing resources to spend energy working against a program that has been labeled by experts as unworkable and an exaggeration.  But viewed from a wider perspective, that includes U.S. and NATO military encirclement of Russia as well as the Obama administration's "pivot" of military operations into the Asia-Pacific, one may see an entirely different picture.

Turnabout is Fair Play: Proud to Be an Extortionist!

 

By Yasmeen Ali

Lahore -- US Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the chair and ranking minority member respectively of the Senate Armed Services Committee, say the US must not pay $5000 per truck as demanded by Pakistan, for supplies being shipped through this country to American troops in Afghanistan. McCain went further, calling the Pakistni demand “extortion.”

Afghanistan Good Enough: When All Else Fails, Lower Your Standards

 

By John Grant

 

If all else fails, lower your standards.

 

This has been my philosophy for years. My wife likes to joke it’s how she picked me; instead of prince charming, I’m “prince somewhat-charming.” So you can imagine how delighted I am that the United States of America and its NATO military allies have decided to apply that philosophy to US foreign policy in Afghanistan.

They're calling their version “Afghanistan Good Enough.”

On Military Spending and Spiritual Death

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicolas-j-s-davies/military-spending_b_1540376.html   

As Martin Luther King told us 45 years ago, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

The record military budget that was rubber-stamped by the U.S. House of Representatives last week surely proves Dr. King's point. In inflation-adjusted dollars, this budget is at least 25% higher than the one he assailed at the height of the Vietnam War. At about 60% of discretionary spending, our military budget outstrips not just programs of social uplift, but the entire non-military federal budget.

"Spiritual death" implies a failure of the human spirit: a death of both humanity and imagination. When President Bush launched a "global war on terror" and a massive military build-up following the crimes of September 11th, few Americans questioned his response. Congressperson Barbara Lee was a lonely voice and the sole vote against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Last Thursday, Barbara Lee no longer stood alone, as 112 of her colleagues voted for her amendment to immediately and safely withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Planting Evidence to Sow Fear: Chicago Cops are the Terrorists

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

It seems pretty clear by now that the three young “domestic terrorists” arrested by Chicago police in a warrantless house invasion reminiscent of what US military forces are doing on a daily basis in Afghanistan, are the victims of planted evidence -- part of the police-state-style crackdown on anti-NATO protesters in Chicago last week. 

 

No Country for Young Men as Old Men Play for Time: The End in Afghanistan is Totally Predictable

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

John Kerry, back before he was a pompous windsurfing Senate apologist for American empire, back when he wore his hair long and was part of a movement of returned US military veterans speaking out against the continuation of the Vietnam War, famously asked the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing, “How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?”

 

That was 1971, and the Vietnam War continued to drag on for two more years, with more Americans dying, and with many more Vietnamese being killed, until finally the last US combat troops were gone. But even then the fighting continued, with the Army of South Vietnam armed and financed by the United States, until April 30, 1975, when the last resistance ended and Vietnam was liberated and reunified and finally at peace.

Debunking the Missile-Defense Myth

By Yousaf Butt, The National Interest

A report by the Pentagon's own Defense Science Board (DSB) has poured cold water on U.S. missile-defense plans. It basically backs up what independent scientists and engineers have been saying for decades: a dedicated adversary easily could defeat the planned system by using simple decoy warheads and other countermeasures. So while missile defense will create incentives for U.S. adversaries and competitors to up their ballistic-missile stockpiles, it won't provide any combat capability to counteract these enlarged arsenals.

The simplest countermeasures to the planned missile defense are cheap inflatable balloons. Because the missile-defense interceptors try to strike ICBM warheads in the vacuum of space, any such balloons and the warhead would travel together, making it impossible to tell the decoys from the real thing. An enemy bent on delivering a nuclear payload to the United States could inflate many such balloons nearby the warhead and overwhelm the defense system by swamping it with fake signals.

The DSB report says that “the importance of achieving reliable . . . discrimination [between the warhead and decoys] cannot be overemphasized.” It underlined that missile defense is “predicated on the ability to discriminate” real warheads from other targets, “such as rocket bodies, miscellaneous hardware, and intentional countermeasures.” One way around this challenge is to attempt to intercept the missile before it releases the warhead and decoys. But intercepting missiles in their boost phase, while the rocket booster is still firing, is “currently not feasible,” according to the DSB.

There is a short interval between the time the missile stops burning and when the payload is released, assumed to be about one hundred seconds by the DSB. But, again, intercepting the missile in this window “requires Herculean effort and is not realistically achievable, even under the most optimistic set of deployment, sensor capability, and missile technology assumptions.” The main problem the DSB found is that missile-defense interceptors would not be able to reach the target quickly enough: “in most cases 100 seconds is too late” to prevent the release of decoys. And if “the defense should find itself in a situation where it is shooting at missile junk or decoys, the impact on the regional interceptor inventory would be dramatic and devastating.” In short, the interceptor inventory would be exhausted in chasing decoy warheads.

The latest tests of both the ground-based and sea-based missile-defense systems have failed—and these are rigged tests, where the intercept team knows the timing and trajectory of the incoming missile, and the missile has no decoys. There are no such luxuries in the real world, where adversaries launch surprise attacks and use countermeasures and decoys. And on the very few occasions that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has tested countermeasures, even these carefully rigged tests have never succeeded. The sea-based missile-defense system also has never been tested in really rough sea conditions and is known to be unreliable.

How did such an untested and unworkable technology make it so far in the DoD procurement process? Another recent government report, this one from the GAO, explains that instead of flying before buying, the MDA has been doing the exact opposite. Its cart-before-the-horse methodology has resulted in “unexpected cost increases, schedule delays, test problems, and performance shortfalls.”

All told, the missile-defense program has cost more than the entire Apollo program without providing any credible combat capability against enemy ballistic missiles hosting simple countermeasures.

White House & Dems Back Banks over Protests: Newly Discovered Homeland Security Files Show Feds Central to Occupy Crackdown

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

A new trove of heavily redacted documents provided by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild makes it increasingly evident that there was and is a nationally coordinated campaign to disrupt and crush the Occupy Movement.

 

What Would the Military Budget Be if the Public Had Any Say in Our Government?

Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation; Matthew Leatherman, analyst, Stimson's Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense project; and R. Jeffrey Smith, managing editor for national security, Center for Public Integrity discuss the findings of their defense spending poll on May 10, 2012, at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.

What would average Americans do if they were informed about the level and purposes of US defense spending and had a chance to weigh the arguments that experts make? Would they boost overall funding, or cut it? Would they spend more on air power or sea power? How much would they say the US should spend on nuclear arms? On major ground forces? On special forces?

Most polls simply ask whether defense spending should be cut or not. But three organizations ­ the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), Stimson, and the Center for Public Integrity ­ collaborated on a more useful survey. They provided a representative sample of the American public neutral information about how funds are currently being spent, and exposed them to the various arguments made by advocates in the contemporary debate on whether defense should be cut. The respondents then said what they wished to spend in key areas.

The results of this innovative survey are now in, and Stimson recently hosted a discussion of the study, which shed new light on the linkages ­ and gaps ­ between decisions being made in Washington and what average Americans want. The results also help to clarify which arguments in favor of or opposed to current defense spending have the most resonance with members of the public.

Reprinted by permission from iWatch News

Even Star Spangled War Is Hell

Originally published in the Indypendent Reader

In this bicentennial year of the War of 1812, the StarSpangledBaltimore.com website tells us:
Star-Spangled Banner Sheet Music
"The War of 1812 represents what many see as the definitive end of the American Revolution. A new nation, widely regarded as an upstart, successfully defended itself against the largest, most powerful navy in the world during the maritime assault on Baltimore and Maryland. America's victory over Great Britain confirmed the legitimacy of the Revolution."
 
But the revolution had ended three decades before 1812, and the choice to launch a new war was made by the U.S. government in Washington, D.C.
 
In the lead-up to the War of 1812, the British and Americans exchanged attacks along the Canadian border and in the open seas. Native Americans also exchanged attacks with U.S. settlers, although who was invading whom is a question we've never wanted to face.  But the choice to launch a full-scale war was not made by the "largest, most powerful navy in the world"; it was made by the national government that we now depict as fighting defensively in Baltimore.
 
Maritime offenses, skirmishes, and trade disagreements can be resolved diplomatically, continued at the same low level, or expanded into much more massive killing and destruction.  These are options our government still faces today.  In 1812, the choice of war resulted in the burning of our national capital, the death in action of some 3,800 U.S. and British fighters, and the death of 20,000 U.S. and British from all causes, including disease.  About 76 were killed in the Battle of Baltimore, plus another 450 wounded.  Nowadays an incident in Baltimore that resulted in that kind of carnage would be described with words other than "exciting," "glorious," and "successful."
 
And what was gained that could balance out the damage done?  Absolutely nothing.

Americans Love a Good Killer

 

 

By John Grant

 

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.
- D.H. Lawrence

The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations … where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket … where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing.
- Raymond Chandler
 
 
American pop culture is certainly not unique in having a love affair with killers. Since the first cave man cracked his neighbor’s head open to control a water hole, eliminating others has been top on the list of problem-solving techniques.

NATO to Debate Protesters, Bet G8 Won't Do That, Bet Obama Won't Do That, Bet Pentagon Won't Do That

NATO representatives will meet with members of the largest anti-NATO protest group next week for an unprecedented one-hour public debate, NBC Chicago has exclusively learned.

Word of the strategic gesture toward the protesters came Wednesday afternoon from NATO's secretary-general following his meeting with the president at the White House.

"Our public diplomacy people are reaching out to these groups," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "They will organize some meetings where there will be a possibility to exchange views.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 17 at -- in a bit of irony -- the Pritzker Military Library.

"We get to have a public forum where we are able to convince our fellow residents of this city just how bad and nasty an institution NATO is," said Andy Thayer, an organizer of the Coalition Against the NATO / G8 War & Poverty Agenda.

Thayer and other protesters take issue with the money spent on NATO operations and its occupations in sovereign lands, and he said he hopes the public demonstrations and next week's dialogue will enlighten more people to NATO's actions.

"I would argue that most people in this country, when they get to know the facts about what NATO is ... and what NATO does to places like Afghanistan, they would agree that this is not something that should be supported, that our city should not be supporting the NATO Summit," Thayer said.

During "Chicago Week" at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in March, there may have been a preview of how NATO representatives will respond.

Upon being told of the protest slogan that "NATO is the war machine of the one percent," U.S. Ambassador Ivo Daalder rejected the notion, saying he believes NATO's true mission is sometimes misunderstood.

"I wouldn't regard NATO as a war machine for any percent," he said at the time. "What NATO is is an organization that brings together 28 countries."

The summit is May 20 and 21.

Drones in U.S. Flight Paths: What Could Go Wrong?

On March 9th the Federal Aviation Administration requested comments from the public on drone test sites.  On May 8th, lengthy comments were submitted by Not 1 More Acre! and Purgatoire, Apishapa & Comanche Grassland Trust.  The FAA asked all the wrong questions, but still got a lot of the right answers.  When the drone accidents start, and you're told "Nobody could have known," refer them here: PDF.

I would have asked "Should weaponized drones be permitted to exist on earth?" and "How can surveillance drones possibly comply with the Fourth Amendment?"  The FAA asked:

"The Congressional language asks the FAA to consult with and leverage the resources of the Department of Defense and NASA in this effort.  Since many public operators already have access to test ranges and control the management and use of those ranges, should the management of these new test ranges be held by local governments or should private entity [sic] schedule and manage the airspace?"

Not 1 More Acre! replied:

"Neither.  Although the pilot UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] program is a Congressional mandate, and the timelines are accelerated, the complexities and potential dangers of integration of UAS into civilian airspace must not be delegated to local governments or private organizations in the name of expediency, entrepreneurship, or profit. . . . The wording of Question A suggests that the FAA is contemplating abdicating its inherent authority to manage the NAS [National Airspace System] by ceding broad discretion over UAS flight operations. . . .

". . . The primary driver of the move to integration has clearly been contractors funded by the DOD, working in concert with the secretive Joint Special Forces Operation Command, the Department of Homeland Security, and the CIA, among others. . . . Private defense [sic] contractors increasingly woo local law enforcement agencies and other community groups with grants to help fund the purchase of new UAS.  The FAA should not allow any other federal agency to usurp its authority over the NAS or circumvent the pre-decisional public disclosure requirements of NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] including agencies like the CIA, NASA, and JSOC which are not transparent or accountable to the public."

Of course, there's a catch.  Even the accountable agency has, naturally, ceased to be accountable:

"However, the FAA has never conducted any NEPA review related to UAS.  The agency has never prepared an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment to disclose the potential impacts of UAS to the public and agency officials, despite issuing hundreds of Certificates of Waiver and Authorization to some 60 public agencies."

Have you heard about the 51st State for Armed Robotic Drones?

The 63 drone sites in the U.S.?

The 30,000 drones planned for U.S. skies?

The habit drones have of crashing even on their own?

While initially cheaper than manned planes, unmanned drones of the sort used now tend to require many more personnel: 168 people to keep a Predator drone in the air for 24 hours, plus 19 analysts to process the videos created by a drone.  Drones and their related technologies are increasing in price rapidly.  And to make matters worse, they tend to crash.  They even "go rogue," lose contact with their "pilots" and fly off on their own.  The U.S. Navy has a drone that self-destructs if you accidentally touch the space bar on the computer keyboard.  Drones also tend to supply so-called enemies with information, including the endless hours of video they record, and to infect U.S. military computers with viruses.  But these are the sorts of SNAFUs that come with any project lacking oversight, accountability, or cost controls.  The companies with the biggest drone contracts did not invest in developing the best technologies but in paying off the most Congress members.

What could go wrong?

What the Super Committee Couldn't Do, the Full Congress (and President) Will Now Attempt


http://www.c-span.org/Events/House-Budget-Cmte-Markup-of-Bills-to-Replace-Automatic-Budget-Cuts/10737430474/

House Budget Cmte. Markup of Bills to Replace Automatic Budget Cuts

 

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) heads a markup hearing on a bill that will replace the automatic budget cuts that were set out in last year's Budget Control Act.

The House Budget Committee will be marking up HR 4966, the Sequester Replacement Act of 2012 Monday. Under the bill introduced by Chairman Ryan, language in the 2011 Budget Control Act requiring a sequester or automatic cuts of around $600 billion to defense would be eliminated.

Actually two bills, the first will replace language in the Budget Control Act that require the sequester.  The second will replace the automatic cuts with budget reduction recommendations from the Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means committees.

The sequester was triggered under the Budget Control Act after the Congressional Joint Deficit Reduction Committee failed to find an additional $1.2T in cuts.

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