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One hundred political, military, business and civic leaders from across the globe launched a new initiative in Paris on Tuesday aiming eliminate all nuclear weapons.
The "Global Zero" declaration, endorsed by a "Who's Who" of the world's foreign policy aristocracy from the past 30 years, calls for a binding and verifiable agreement to dismantle all nuclear weapons by a specified date.
"The threat of proliferation and nuclear terrorism has led to a growing chorus of government leaders ... calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and US President-elect Barack Obama," said a statement issued after many of the signatories met here.
"This new and unprecedented political support for getting to zero nuclear weapons from key governments around the world has made this goal -- while still difficult -- possible," it said.
A consultant to the head of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces has said that a simulated anti-missile test by the U.S. [Dec 5] was not aimed at stopping a North Korean threat as Washington had claimed.
Colonel-general Viktor Yesin said last Friday’s test had China and Russia in mind.
He said: “To avoid agitating public opinion, U.S. Missile Defense Agency officials say the test was aimed at intercepting North Korean and Iranian rockets. But we missile specialists understand that it was in fact aimed at stopping Russian and Chinese intercontinental missiles.”
During the test last Friday an interceptor rocket was launched from California to knock down a missile launched from Alaska.
By Dave Lindorff
One impact of this deepening recession which is largely hidden because it is spread out and distributed across the land is a wave of budget crises swamping nearly every state government and every municipal government in the country.
State governments, according to the Center for Budget Priorities, are facing a $77-billion revenue shortfall for the 2009 fiscal year. Municipal governments are probably facing a total revenue shortfall of even more than that—perhaps closer to $100 billion. New York City, for example, is reportedly facing a budget shortfall of $1.5 billion over the next two years and Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, a shortfall of $1 billion over the next five years.
would make good reading for the new transformed Robert Gates.
Dear President-Elect Obama:
We the undersigned, members and supporters of the Global Network, write to congratulate you on your recent election as President of the U.S. We want to help you in every way possible to promote peace around the world so that our national resources could be used for the tremendous needs we have here at home like health care, education, job creation, dealing with climate change and more.
We specifically write to urge you to reject the Bush administration plan to deploy "missile defense" interceptors in Poland and a Star Wars radar system in the Czech Republic. We know you are aware of Russia's deep concern that these deployments are really aimed at them in spite of Pentagon assurances they are only directed at Iran.
Tour of Duty
By Gary Corseri
He wants a new language!
The old one’s full of homonyms
That sound too much like war:
"Bombs bursting in air";
"Predator”; “duty ... honor ... country. ..."
US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered eight combat casualties casualties in the five days ending Nov. 25 as the official casualty total rose to at least 69,664. The total includes 34,233 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 35,431 dead and medically evacuated (as of Nov. 1) from "non-hostile" causes.*
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama intends to ask Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to remain at the Pentagon when his new administration takes office, a senior Democratic source said on Tuesday.
"He intends to ask Gates to stay," the Democrat said, adding that he believed it was likely he would. He said the talks had advanced to a point where Gates was discussing which of his team to keep in place under the Obama administration.
Politico had earlier reported on its website that Gates would stay on in his job and that Obama would appoint retired Marine Gen. James Jones as his national security adviser.
[Note for Readers: With this post, TomDispatch closes for the Thanksgiving holiday. We'll be back next Monday. By the way, to listen to an audio interview about Obama and the Pentagon with today's author, arms expert Frida Berrigan, click here. ]
The Obama national security "team" -- part of that much-hailed "team of rivals" -- does not yet exist, but it does seem to be heaving into view. And so far, its views seem anything but rivalrous. Mainstream reporters and pundits lovingly refer to them as "centrist," but, in a Democratic context, they are distinctly right of center. The next secretary of state looks to be Hillary Clinton, a hawk on the Middle East. During the campaign, she spoke of our ability to "totally obliterate" Iran, should that country carry out a nuclear strike against Israel. She will evidently be allowed to bring her own (hawkish) subordinates into the State Department with her. Her prospective appointment is now being praised by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Henry Kissinger.
By Dave Lindorff
I was listening to Robert Reich, once the left end of the spectrum in the Clinton cabinet, talking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer a few days ago, and Reich, who has in the past sometimes made sense, was talking about how Americans’ incomes had fallen over the last eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration and that it was necessary to get their incomes back on an upward trend, so that they could “start shopping again.”
Now I understand Reich was trying to make the case that the bailout so far has been focused on the banks and the insurance industry, and that none of this will help unless ordinary people start getting some relief, but still, there’s something completely twisted and out of whack when the best we can come up with is that we need to get Americans back into the malls.
In fact, that is a good part of what’s wrong with the US economy: Fully 75 percent of GDP in America is consumer spending.
By October 2005, when American casualties in Iraq had not yet reached 2,000 dead or 15,000 wounded, and our casualties in Afghanistan were still modest indeed, informal "walls" had already begun springing up online to honor the fallen. At that time, I suggested that "the particular dishonor this administration has brought down on our country calls out for other 'walls' as well." I imagined, then, walls of shame for Bush administration figures and their cronies -- and even produced one (in words) that November. By now, of course, any such wall would be full to bursting with names that will live in infamy.
Russia has evidence that citizens from NATO member states including the United States and Turkey fought for Georgia in the five-day August war, Russia's top investigator said on Monday.
A senior security official in Tbilisi dismissed the statement and said by law only Georgian nationals could serve in the country's armed forces.
Asked to list the nationalities of the foreign fighters it believes were involved, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Prosecutor-General's investigative committee said: "America, the Czech Republic, Chechnya, the Baltic States, Ukraine and Turkey."
"It was a fairly small number of people. They mainly fulfilled support roles", Bastrykin told reporters in Russia's second city of St Petersburg.
Contractors in Iraq could face charges in earlier incidents
By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers
Private security contractors operating in Iraq could face Iraqi prosecution for acts committed when they supposedly had immunity from Iraqi law, U.S. officials said Thursday.
A new U.S.-Iraq security agreement doesn't specifically prevent Iraqi officials from bringing criminal charges retroactively in cases such as the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians by contractors protecting a State Department convoy, officials told security company officials during meetings in Washington Thursday.
The news caught company officials by surprise.
Unofficial Translation of U.S. - Iraq Troop Agreement from the Arabic Text
By McClatchy Newspapers | McClatchy Newspapers | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Translated from the Arabic by Sahar Issa, Jenan Hussein and Hussein Kadhim of the McClatchy Baghdad Bureau.
An Agreement between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America regarding the Withdrawal of the American Forces from Iraq and Regulating their Activities During their Temporary Presence in it
Based on a letter that will be sent from the President of the United States to the Prime Minister of Iraq, the United States will remain committed to helping Iraq in regard to the demand it submitted to the Security Council to extend the protection and other arrangements regarding petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas produced in Iraq and the resources and commitments that stem from these sales and the Development Fund of Iraq, these are the arrangements defined in the two resolutions of the Security Council (1483)(2003) and (1546)(2003).
by Amitai Etzioni, Huffington Post
My original timetable called for President Obama to retire Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest ranking uniformed military commander) on Jan 20 at 12:01 pm -- as quickly as possible after the new president took his oath of office. I then considered that one must first find a suitable replacement. President Obama should make it clear that he will not tolerate military officers publicly denouncing his policies, not to mention undermining an agreement the United States and the Iraqi government just worked out of after agonizing negotiations.
By Dave Lindorff
The ongoing and deepening global economic crisis, to which Barack Obama owes his presidential election victory, is no small thing, to be sure. It also presents us on the left with a lot of openings to press for progressive change.
By Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation
Last month, Congressman Barney Frank called for a 25 percent cut in the defense budget--approximately $150 billion in annual spending--saying, "We don't need all these fancy new weapons. I think there needs to be additional review."
Predictably, the Republican backlash was swift. House Minority Leader John Boehner called Frank "incredibly irresponsible." House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee ranking member John McHugh (R-NY) labeled the proposed reduction "unconscionable." Democrats--especially those on the House Armed Services Committee --didn't exactly embrace Frank's target, either.
NOTE How the possibility of cutting military and war spending is making it into discussions like this one:
Obama Spelled Out Goals in Letters to Federal Employees
Pre-Election Missives Addressed Staff At Seven Agencies, Provided Specifics
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008; A01
In wooing federal employee votes on the eve of the election, Barack Obama wrote a series of letters to workers that offer detailed descriptions of how he intends to add muscle to specific government programs, give new power to bureaucrats and roll back some Bush administration policies.
Barack Obama’s aides reached out to the aerospace industry last month to ease fears that massive cuts were headed its way, according to numerous sources within the defense industry.
“There have been waves of, ‘The world is going to fall apart,’” said F. Whitten Peters, a former Air Force secretary who advised Obama’s Democratic presidential campaign on defense industrial base issues. “That was not the view of the campaign.”
By ANGELA CHARLTON
NICE, France (AP) — France's U.S.-friendly president sent a clear message Friday to the next American administration: Plans for a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe are misguided, and won't make the continent a safer place.
Nicolas Sarkozy also warned Russian President Dmitry Medvedev against upping tensions by deploying missiles on the borders of the European Union in response to the U.S. planned missile defense system. Medvedev urged all sides to refrain from "unilateral" moves.
Sarkozy's comments, at a summit with Medvedev, were the strongest to date by an American ally against the missile-defense plans — and undercut the rationale behind U.S. President George W. Bush's European security strategy.
The plans for using sites in Poland and the Czech Republic have infuriated Russia despite the Bush administration's insistence that they are aimed at protecting Europe from Iran.
"An indictment would send the message that the Justice Department believes U.S. contractors do not operate with legal impunity in war zones. It's an untested legal theory, since the law is murky on whether contractors could be charged in U.S. courts, or anywhere, for crimes committed overseas."
Federal prosecutors have drafted an indictment against six Blackwater Worldwide security guards in last year's deadly Baghdad shootings of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.
New Blackwater Iraq Scandal: Guns, Silencers and Dog Food
Ex-employees Tell ABC News the Firm Used Dog Food Sacks to Smuggle Unauthorized Weapons to Iraq
By Brian Ross and Jason Ryan | ABCNews.com
A federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating allegations the controversial private security firm Blackwater illegally shipped assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in large sacks of dog food, ABCNews.com has learned.
Under State Department rules, Blackwater is prohibited from using certain assault weapons and silencers in Iraq because they are considered "offensive" weapons inappropriate for Blackwater's role as a private security firm protecting US diplomatic missions.
"The only reason you need a silencer is if you want to assassinate someone," said former CIA intelligence officer John Kiriakou, an ABC News consultant.
Staff Sgt. Nils Aron Andersson was a newlywed of just a few hours and had completed his first counseling session when he shot himself atop a parking garage.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Henderson had made plans with his wife and stepson to go fishing the night he hanged himself in his shed.
Now their friends and family members are speaking out against the job they say led the men to kill themselves -- recruiting for the Army.
The families have said high-pressure, sometimes abusive tactics used on recruiters combined with lingering combat-related mental health problems drove the soldiers to suicide. There have been four suicides in the Houston Recruiting Battalion alone, including three in the past 18 months.
Remarks to the State Association of County Retirement Systems
By Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.), Costa Mesa, California, November 13, 2008
Last week Americans voted in record numbers for a new president. However you felt about the outcome, you must have been moved, as I was, by how the two candidates reacted to the election results. In defeat, Senator McCain was gracious, sincere, and – as always – put our country ahead of himself. His patriotic call for all of us to "help our new president lead us through the many challenges we face" reminded us why he deserves our respect both as a man and as a public figure.
President-elect Obama's remarks at his victory celebration in Chicago were eloquent and inspiring. Two-and-a third centuries ago, our founders pledged that we would be a nation in which "all men are created equal." We have finally made that proposition an unrefutable reality.
After the parades: A veterans’ call to action
From the Florida Chapters of Veterans For Peace
After the parades, the flyovers, and the politicians’ glad-handing and speeches of Veterans Day 2008 are over, we veterans are left with a very important question to answer … the answer to which could indeed determine the survival of the very freedoms which we and those who came before us and after were willing to die for to protect. Those freedoms are secured for us in the U.S. Constitution, which we as former members of the military took an oath of enlistment or commission to “support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. We must remember that our oath was to the defense of the U.S. Constitution and not an oath of loyalty or allegiance to a political party or any individual in our servant government.
Members of Military Families Speak Out are condemning comments by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs suggesting that the dramatic increase in the suicide rate among young veterans is not connected to the war in Iraq. The suicide rate among male veterans under the age of 29 is now twice that of the general population.
In an interview aired Monday November 10th on PBS's NewsHour, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake said that Veterans' suicides are the result of:
"the same kinds of issues that have to do with suicide in the general population. It is issues of failed relationships, senses of hopelessness, transitions in life, that are at the root cause . . . we're not making a direct correlation with combat."
Specialist Scott Eiswert committed suicide in May after being told by a friend that his unit of the Tennessee National Guard would be returning to Iraq. His widow, Tracy Eiswert, a member of Military Families Speak Out, expressed outrage at Secretary Peake's comments:
By Dave Lindorff
A CBS/Associated Press story yesterday reported that the man who runs the Pentagon’s anti-missile program, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, had warned incoming President-elect Barack Obama that any reversal of Bush/Cheney administration plans to install anti-ballistic missile missiles in Poland would “severely hurt” American interests.
It was a classic “stupid” story of the type that we now expect to get from our corporate media—basically a regurgitation of the statement of one self-interested official, backed up by a few supporting quotes from other government officials, and the usual “anonymous” official sources, and lacking any context or opposing viewpoints.
US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 21 combat casualties casualties in the period ending Nov. 12 as the official casualty total jumped to at least 69,607 because the Pentagon revealed its "non combat" casualties for the first time since Aug. 2. The total includes 34,183 dead and wounded by what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 35,424 dead and medically evacuated (as of Nov. 1) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 89,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 20,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions--were diagnosed only after they had left Iraq..**
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted KBR to provide power during emergency or disaster situations.
U.S. company KBR was awarded a $75 million deal from the Army Corps or Engineers for disaster relief services. Under the contract, KBR will supply emergency power for the Western region of the United States in case of a natural or manmade disaster.