|Aides said Defense Secretary Robert Gates's decisions will be guided by what he learns while spending time with troops.|
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Gates to Dover AFB
Now, watch Gates' Emotional Reaction to His Visit to Dover AFB here.
Gates said: "...very difficult...I will add a sentence or two...I went to the back of the plane by myself, and spent time with each of the 'transfer cases'...I think I'll stop there."
The signals coming from the Obama administration as a "strategic review" of Afghan policy is nearing completion this week are, to say the least, confusing. While much new thinking on the Afghan War has been promised, early leaks about the review's proposals for the next "three to five years" largely seem to promise more of the same: a heightened CIA-run drone war in the Pakistani borderlands, more U.S. military and economic aid for Pakistan (and more strong-arming of the Pakistanis to support U.S. policy in the region), more training of and an expansion of the Afghan army, and of course more U.S. forces -- the president has already ordered 17,000 extra troops into the war.
It’s a macabre calculus computed by every military: how many dead civilians are an acceptable collateral cost when striking a militarily important target in an armed conflict.
According to Marc Garlasco, the former chief of high-value targeting for the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003, and Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the top Air Force commander during the war, the actual numerical answer to that question in the early months of the Iraq operation was 30.
As each target was weighed by U.S. military planners, said Mr. Garlasco, now a senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, commanders analyzed how many civilians were likely to be killed in the operation. If the number was under 30, military planners could go ahead without special clearance for a particular strike. If it was more than 30, they needed “special clearance from [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld or Bush,” he said.
As Michael Gordon reported in July, 2003 in an article in The New York Times, “an assessment prepared by General Moseley on the lessons of the war with Iraq,” for an internal briefing of senior American and allied generals, detailed how this policy was carried out:
Air war commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed, and all of them were approved.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today that the Pentagon would pay for families to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware if they want to be present when the body or remains of a loved one is returned from war.
Mr. Gates announced last month that the Pentagon was reversing its longstanding policy of barring media coverage during the repatriation of fallen soldiers at Dover. He said then, and reiterated today at a news conference, which the Pentagon’s Web site streamed live, that the decision about media coverage would be up to each family.
He said that if several bodies arrived at Dover together on the same flight, the media could record the repatriation ceremony only of those soldiers whose families had given permission. That decision reflects the sharp division in the views of military families about whether coverage should be allowed; some have said it is an extremely private moment and want to keep it that way, while others have said they want wider recognition of the sacrifice of their loved one.
In the past, the Pentagon has justified barring the media in part by saying that the presence of cameras might make some families feel obligated to travel to Dover, but that doing so would be a financial and emotional hardship. By saying today that the military would pay for that travel, Mr. Gates seemed to be trying to remove a barrier for the families; if they can be present at Dover, some may feel more open to allowing media coverage.
The Army this summer will start cutting back on use of the unpopular practice of holding troops beyond their enlistment dates and hopes to almost completely eliminate it in two years. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, though, it may never be possible to completely get rid of the policy called "stop-loss," under which some 13,000 soldiers whose time is already up are still being forced to continue serving.
"I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith," Gates told a Pentagon press conference.
By PAULINE JELINEK AND KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The Army will substantially reduce use of the unpopular practice of holding troops beyond their enlistment dates and will pay $500 to those still forced to stay in the service, defense and congressional officials said Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was expected to announce later Wednesday that he had approved the plan for cutting the use of so-called "stop-loss" except in extraordinary circumstances, The Associated Press has learned.
Some critics have called "stop-loss" a backdoor draft because it keeps troops in the military beyond their retirement or re-enlistment dates. But the military has said it's a necessary tool to keep unit cohesion in times of war and to keep soldiers with certain skills needed in those units.
Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases
American University, Washington, D.C.
Feb. 27–Mar. 2, 2009
Guahan: An American Colony and "Tip of the Spear", Lisa Natividad from I Nasion CHamoru
Security without Empire Gets a Hearing in
DC Trip Report, Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Veterans for Peace No Bases Report, Michael Uhl, Veterans for Peace
A decision to dismiss war crimes charges against a U.S. Marine commander in Iraq should stand, a military appeals court says.
The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeal agreed Tuesday in Washington to uphold the dismissal of charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the highest-ranking Marine charged in the 2005 slayings of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The court agreed with a military judge at Camp Pendleton, Calif., who ruled that war crimes charges against Chessani were tainted because a Marine lawyer who investigated the Haditha killings had sat in on meetings with the general who later decided to charge Chessani and seven other Marines in the case, the newspaper said.
The United States has always paid for its wars. For 200 years we paid for the Revolution, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, even LBJ's Great Society, and had yet to reach a national debt of $1 trillion -- until 1982. Now our government in the past eight years has borrowed, spent, and added to the national debt $5 trillion.
The Congressional Budget Office reported that in the first four years of the Bush term, deficits were caused by: 48% tax cuts, 37% wars, and 15% increased spending. We kept the government on steroids during the Bush years and household debt of $7 trillion joined the binge.
Battle looms with Congress
WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.
The United States "cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything," Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.
What Gates didn't know was that he would be that successor.
Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon's weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.
By Dave Lindorff
It may not be obvious today, and certainly it’s not how the corporate media reported it, but future historians are likely to look back at March 13, 2009 as the day that American imperialism began it’s inexorable decline. That’s the day that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that his country was “worried” about its holdings of over $1 trillion in US treasury securities, and warned that he wanted the US to assure China that it would maintain its good credit and “honor its promises” and “maintain the safety of China’s assets.”
There is no way that the US can accommodate Premier Wen and still finance and operate a global military system with over 1000 overseas bases, massive aircraft carrier battle groups, and with hundreds of thousands of men and women armed to the teeth with the latest high-tech military hardware, not to mention fight endless wars on the far side of the globe.
Obama's Serious About Taking an Axe to Corruption and Waste at the Pentagon
Obama has been devoting time to talk about defense spending reform, and has assembled a team to make sure it happens.
Of all Barack Obama’s promises of reform, perhaps the most audacious is his pledge to “restore honesty, openness, and commonsense to Pentagon contracting and procurement.” Washington is littered with the open-jawed skeletons of such efforts, and given the historic length of the White House to-do list, some might say taking on the defense establishment smacks of hubris. But a raft of recent statements, directives, and appointments indicate the administration fully intends to chaperone Pentagon shopping trips and hold defense contractors accountable in a way they never have been before.
An Army Reservist from Green Bay has agreed to report back to his unit in Iraq, after threatening to stay home to protest the war.
Army Spc. Kristoffer Walker is assigned to the 353rd Transportation Company based in Buffalo, Minn. He's now working with his unit to return overseas.
After a two-week leave last month, the 28-year-old declined to board a flight to go back. He said the war is illegal and immoral.
Rage at soldier's continued detention in embassy stretching diplomatic ties
By Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story
Late 2006, four US Marines were accused of rape and complicity in the assault of a 22-year-old girl. Today, one convicted rapist's pending appeal and continued detention in an American embassy has stretched to the breaking point American relations with a country it liberated during World War II.
Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was convicted of the rape and initially held in a local jail in Manila. Three other US servicemen were accused of complicity in the rape, but their charges were dropped.
Worldwide, people identify Woodstock with peace and music. We all know that the festival didn’t happen here. But now it turns out that Woodstock’s material contribution to war and peace in the world is weighted heavily on the side of war. We can change this.
Even as Woodstockers were dedicating our Peace Pole last year, just a mile away Woodstock’s largest employer, Ametek Rotron Military and Aerospace Products, was gearing up for another week’s production. According to the company itself, its 380 Woodstock employees make small but essential components of many major weapons systems – fighter and bomber aircraft, attack helicopters, tanks and military ships. These weapons systems have taken leading roles in wars, war crimes and human rights violations across the world.
We have just learned that the Czech Chamber of Deputies is likely to vote this coming week of March 16 on whether to accept the U.S. military radar base that was originally proposed by the Bush administration. The radar, along with Interceptor missiles in Poland, would create a European "missile defense" system. Two thirds of Czechs have consistently opposed the radar, and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy has been active in supporting the Czech anti-radar movement. The upcoming vote in the Chamber of Deputies is critical; a vote to defeat the radar could put an end to this dangerous escalation.
Please sign the open letter below TODAY; we will be sending it to Prague early in the week of March 16. To sign the letter, donate, or see the full list of signers, please go to the CPD website at www.cpdweb.org If for any reason you have difficulty signing on at the website, just send us an email at email@example.com
Thank you for your support,
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Here is the text of the open letter:
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CZECH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES:
It is our understanding that after much debate in your country, the Czech Chamber of Deputies will vote very soon on the proposed agreement to accept the U.S. military radar. We are writing to let you know that we deeply believe that the radar is not in the real interests of people in either the United States or the Czech Republic. We hope you will vote to reject it.
Millions of Americans, including ourselves, are eager for a new peaceful U.S. foreign policy that advances democracy and demilitarization around the world, rather than an escalation of the arms race. Moreover, the extremely expensive missile defense program is, like so much of our country's military budget, a vast waste of resources. We would much prefer to spend our nation's wealth on education, housing, healthcare and other human needs, both domestically and internationally.
We are inspired by the fact that more than two thirds of the Czech people have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the radar. We join with them in calling on President Obama to pull back from plans to install Interceptor missiles in Poland and a companion radar station in the Czech Republic.
An end to this dangerous "missile defense" program could form the basis for a very positive and constructive relationship between the people of our two countries, and could serve as an important first step in a broader process of global disarmament.
The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.
For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.
The Obama administration is trying to protect top Bush administration military officials from lawsuits brought by prisoners who say they were tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Justice Department argued in a filing Thursday with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that holding military officials liable for their treatment of prisoners could cause them to make future decisions based on fear of litigation rather than appropriate military policy.
Report: Russia may base bombers in Cuba | MSNBC
Venezuela also temporarily offers island site as Moscow eyes Caribbean
Russian strategic bombers may be based in Cuba in the future, a Russian Air Force chief told Interfax news agency on Saturday.
Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, chief of staff of Russia's long-range aviation, said Cuba had air bases with four or five suitable runways.
Interfax reported that he said Cuba could be used to base Russian bombers if the two countries "display a political will", adding "we are ready to fly there."
Zhikharev also said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for Russian planes.
Zhikharev said Chavez had offered "a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers," the agency reported. "If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island ... by the Russian Air Force is possible."
A History of War Crimes
By Peter Dyer | War Crimes Times
On June 13, 1899 one of the largest battles of the Philippine-American war took place on the southern outskirts of Manila. After several hours of fierce fighting at the Zapote River Bridge, 5000 poorly armed Philippine soldiers were outgunned and routed by 3000 Americans.
Including guerilla conflict and the Moro Rebellion this war dragged on for 14 years.
By 1913 between 4000 and 5000 American soldiers had died. Estimates of Philippine military deaths run from 12,000 to 20,000. There were massive civilian deaths from starvation and disease due to scorched earth campaigns and forced relocation. Estimates of civilian deaths in the Philippine-American war range from 200,000 to 1,400,000.
As the battle of Zapote Bridge raged, the world’s first international peace conference was in full swing 10,000 kms away at The Hague in Holland.
Don't Cut and Run, But Get Out of Iraq Now
Obama takes US closer to total ban on cluster bombs
By Peter Beaumont | The Guardian
The United States has stepped closer to a total ban on the use and export of cluster bombs with the signing by Barack Obama of a new permanent law that would make it almost impossible for the US to sell the controversial weapons.
The decision was hailed by opponents of the weapons as a "major turnaround in US policy" that overrode Pentagon calls to permit their continued export.
The new legislation, tacked on to a huge budget bill, was passed earlier this week by Congress and now sets such stringent rules for the bombs' use, including a ban on sales where they might be suspected of being used where civilians are present, that it seems unlikely the US could export them again.
Maj. Matt Hardman lost three men in an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in 2004. The memories of that IED continue to haunt him.
"The day after my guys were killed, one of my squad leaders comes up to me with a box, and it's a box of fingers and ears and just pieces of my soldiers," he said.
West Point is now recording war stories like these as part of an ambitious project to preserve the voices and experiences of thousands of American soldiers. It will launch the project this fall.
"We're really reaching back all the way to WW II," said Todd Brewster, director of the Center for Oral History at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. "Our approach is to take something like the war in Iraq and tell it in its totality through the voices of the soldiers. ... We need that raw experience in order to understand it more completely."
The reports of the Sept. 11 commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence missed the real problem facing the intelligence community, which is not organization or culture but something known as the "Team B" concept. And the real villains are the hard-liners who created the concept out of an unwillingness to accept the unbiased and balanced judgments of intelligence professionals.
Washington D.C. (March 12, 2009) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Armed Services, Mr. Ike Skelton and Mr. John McHugh respectively, requesting that the committee eliminate the budget authority for the Virtual Army Experience (VAE) in the defense authorization bill for the 2010 fiscal year.
“The VAE is a state-of-the-art, interactive recruiting tool used by the Army to give participants as young as 13 years old a naïve and unrealistic glimpse into the world of Soldiering… The VAE shields participants from the realities of killing while glorifying the taking of human life in a thinly veiled attempt to recruit new soldiers,” Kucinich wrote in the letter.
The full text of the letter follows:
March 12, 2009
The Honorable Ike Skelton The Honorable John McHugh
C-SPAN's Book TV is now presenting a video of the February 19 discussion by three authors of "America's Defense Meltdown." The presentations are by Winslow T. Wheeler, Thomas Christie, and Pierre Sprey. Mr. Wheeler is Director of the Center for Defense Information. Mr. Wheeler is joined by Pierre Sprey, co-designer of the F-16 and A-10 jets, and Thomas Christie, former adviser to the Secretary of Defense on weapons systems testing. They collectively have about 140 years of experience in defense budgets, hardware acquisition, and weapons design, among other things. The presentations and discussion that follows address the decay in America's armed forces (shrinking, aging, less ready to fight combat formations) at ever increasing cost (now at a post-World War II high).
Find Book TV's link to these presentations here. But, be prepared: the prognosis for turning it all around is not good. The square button on the right side of the player will enlarge the screen for viewing; press "Esc" on your keyboard to return to regular size.
If you want to peruse articles by the various authors of "America's Defense Meltdown," reviews of the book, and other materials, here