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Military Industrial Complex
Early this winter, the PBS "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" interviewed the medical director at a community clinic in Northern California. He recalled the sight of military equipment moving along railroad tracks next to his office. "I've joked with my colleagues," Dr. David Katz said, "if we could just get one of those Abrams tanks we could probably fund all the primary care clinics for a year."
The comment didn't make it on the air - it was only included in video on a PBS Web site - and that was unfortunate. We need more public focus on what our tax dollars are buying.
By Miriam Pemberton and Suzanne Smith
In December, The New York Times reported that Obama’s Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Defense Secretary had all “embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena…a rebalancing of America’s security portfolio after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.”
The budget released today does show signs of a modest course correction. A “sweeping shift” will have to wait. The main cause: while the new administration has slowed the rate of increase in the base military budget, it has still requested more money for the Pentagon than the Bush administration ever did. Its request of $534 billion is $20 billion more than the amount Congress appropriated for FY 2009.
Afghanistan's Complex Nature of Fighting
Anti-war protesters take cause to churches
Since October 2007, a small group of demonstrators has visited 20 Westchester churches during Sunday morning services, silently unfurled banners of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and waited for a reaction.
They have received scattered applause in a few churches and have been invited to stay for coffee in several.
But they have been thrown out of other churches - often with anger and sometimes with a touch of force - and have been called communists, narcissists, morons, pinkos, wackos, fools and words that can't be printed.
Some church pastors support the group's anti-war stance, if not their methods of protest, while others condemn the unannounced visits as tactless intrusions on worship.
The group of six main demonstrators has no name and is not affiliated with any larger organization or movement. But word has spread in the church community that they are out there - and could be coming your way.
In fact, the protesters plan on visiting at least one church a month until American troops are out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We usually don't get the greatest response," said Nora Freeman, 53, of Port Chester.
"Most of the time it's dead silence at first, which is kind of eerie," said Debbie Kair, 52, of Hartsdale.
In the Wall Street Journal of January 24, the loathsome McCarthyite neocon David Horowitz gazed approvingly on the inauguration of Barack Obama. To Horowitz it meant the removal of an obstacle to war. Thus he wrote:
Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions
by Stephen Lendman
Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.
In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."
By Nick Baumann, Mother Jones
Representative Barney Frank is one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Financial Services Committee, he's overseeing the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to bailout Wall Street and stave off the mortgage crisis. The White House needs him, and he's been a dependable ally so far. Now he's leaning on President Barack Obama to cut the Pentagon budget.
By Dave Lindorff
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.
The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.
Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.
The Center for Defense Information wrote:
At a Feb. 19 discussion of the new anthology "America's Defense Meltdown," a veteran of five decades of experience with the Department of Defense acquisition system described just how broken the system has become. Pointedly, Thomas Christie made it clear in his presentation that some of the worst practices were developed during the Clinton administration, and now many of those responsible for that are now back haunting the halls of the Pentagon. People who think that nothing could get worse than the incompetence of the Bush-Rumsfeld years might want to wait a bit before they claim that any corner has been turned in the Obama-Gates Pentagon.
Department of Defense officials who are involved in preparation of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget request are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement pledging not to divulge budget-related information to unauthorized persons.
A copy of the non-disclosure agreement, which was obtained by Defense News, is available here (pdf).
In President Obama's January 20, 2009 inaugural address, he promised a new degree of transparency specifically on budget matters: "And those of use who manage the public's dollars will held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."
But the light of day evidently does not extend to the budget development process, and perhaps it should not.
Strategy, Plans, Requirements, Challenges and Opportunities
Date : 27 Apr 2009 - 28 Apr 2009
Location : Washington, DC, United States
Venue : Sheraton National Hotel Arlington
Organisation : TTC - Technology Training Corporation
Type event : Conference
Category : Defence / Security
Tags : IED; Soldier Modernisation
22 Leading Experts from: JFCOM, SOCOM, Navy IWO, Army AWO, USMC CIW, USAF IWO, AFSOC, PA&E, TRADOC, Joint Staff, ONR, USMC SVG, OUSD-SOLIC, JNLWP, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, CNAS, CNA, CSIS, and Kroll examine:
* IW – A New Paradigm for Future Warfighting
* Implications of DoDD 3000.07 and the Joint IW Roadmap
* Potential Impact on Strategy, Doctrine, Procurement and Operations
* OSD and Service Plans, Needs and Initiatives
* IW vs. Conventional Warfighting — Future Hybrid Threats
By Steve Cobble, MilitaryBudgetCutsNow
Congressman Barney Frank yesterday called a meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss his proposal to cut 25% from the military budget. He specifically invited grassroots activists and organizations interested in a less expensive, saner, less warlike military budget to come meet with him, to get the ball rolling towards reform.
Frank pushed the need for organizations and coalitions interested in domestic social needs to join the military budget cuts fight--otherwise, he said, they would not have the money for their own needed projects. He also handed out his excellent Nation essay.
But the fallout from attacking yet another country on false pretexts is unfathomable. This is why Americans observing mainstream pundits and assorted ideologues trumpeting the current course of the long-delayed AIPAC espionage trial as a victory for freedom of the press should ponder this: is it really in our best interests that Israel and its American lobby be empowered to classify or declassify American secrets at their whim?
On Feb. 17, Judge T.S. Ellis added a new twist in the case of two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) executives indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act. In what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Secrecy News describe as a major blow to the prosecution, Judge Ellis ruled [.pdf] that J. William Leonard can testify on behalf of the defendants when they go to trial on April 21, 2009.
Former British resident Binyam Mohamed arrives back in Britain tomorrow after his release from Guantanamo Bay. British and US lawyers claim that sustained beatings - which have only recently stopped - have left him with severe psychological and physical problems....Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this."
Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.
The death of an American arms dealer in Iraq has led to one of the most intricate and far-reaching inquiries into corruption among US military officers in Iraq. Some suspect that he was killed because he was a whistleblower who knew too much.
When Dale Stoffel, 43, was gunned down on his way into Baghdad at the height of the insurgency in Iraq, his murder appeared all too predictable. He was an adventurer who seemed to have met his end at the hands of jihadists while engaged in one of the riskiest businesses on the planet.
A new report released just hours ago reveals that U.S.-made white phosphorus artillery shells among other U.S. weapons were found throughout Gaza. When white phosphorus munitions are used in densely-populated civilian areas as Israel has, it violates international humanitarian law’s prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and amounts to a war crime.
In light of this new finding, we are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately call for:
* an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza
* a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel and
* to urge the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict
Samia Salman Al-Manay'a, 16 years old, was asleep in her home in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, when a phosphorus shell landed on the first floor of the house on January10th. Ten days later, from her hospital bed, she spoke to our delegation.
"The pain is piercing. It's as though a fire is burning in my body. It's too much for me to bear. In spite of all the medicine they are giving me the pain is still so strong."
U.S. soldiers forced to return to active duty haven't received the pay bonuses they were promised five months ago, advocates say.
The 13,000 soldiers, who were made to remain on active duty beyond their enlistment period by so-called stop-loss orders, are entitled to monthly bonuses of up to $500 under a plan approved last year by Congress and was set to take effect Oct. 1. But the soldiers are still waiting to see the bonuses, USA Today reported Monday.
BY TIM RINNE, Omaha World-Herald
The writer, of Lincoln, is state coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace.
Nearly 500 miles above Earth, the calm was suddenly disrupted Feb. 10 when a U.S. satellite collided with a derelict Russian orbiter at 26,000 mph. The impact created two expanding clouds of debris with hundreds of orbital fragments.
Initial reports indicated that the debris clouds posed no immediate threat to the International Space Station. But the space station is hardly the only thing up there that we need to worry about.
Iridium, the U.S. corporation that owned the now-pulverized satellite, operates a constellation of 66 such craft providing global telecommunications services. And Iridium is just one corporation in one industry in one country.
Space is now home to almost a thousand commercial and military satellites with a dozen different sponsors such as Russia, China, the United States, the European Union, Japan, India and — just this past month — Iran.
By JEFF DONN, AP National Writer, Jeff Donn, Ap National Writer
FORT BLISS, Texas – As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.
By Stephanie Westbrook, U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice – Rome
At a press conference on Friday, February 20, Italian Special Commissioner Paola Costa and U.S. Consul General from Milan, Daniel Weygandt, announced final approval for a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy. The project, approved by a joint Italian-US Military Construction Committee working under the still-classified 1954 Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement, includes 25 new buildings with lodging for 1200 soldiers and multi-story car parks for over 800 vehicles.
Weygandt noted his satisfaction “that the entire process had been developed in full compliance and that we were able to arrive at this final result.” Costa said that while no environmental impact assessment would be carried out, he assured everyone that “this project is the best possible and based on the most stringent regulations in effect in Italy and the United States.”
Obama to seek large cuts in US, Russian warheads
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe
WASHINGTON - President Obama is preparing to move ahead with the most ambitious arms-control agenda in decades, calling for dramatic cuts in US and Russian arsenals, a halt to the Bush administration's plan for a more advanced nuclear warhead, and the ratification of a global treaty banning underground nuclear tests.
Obama's agenda, posted on the White House website shortly after his inauguration and outlined by several top officials, also includes a worldwide ban on the production of nuclear weapons material - leading to what the administration calls "a world without nuclear weapons."
On February 12, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told Congress that the global economic crisis was the most serious security challenge facing the United States and that it could topple governments and trigger waves of refugees, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said.
The convoys — carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items — mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years.
It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials told The Associated Press.
Montana Model for Assessing Returning Vets for PTSD and TBI
By Eric Newhouse | Truthout
Montana is becoming a model state for assessing its returning combat vets for PTSD and TBI.
Following the suicide two years ago of a recently deployed combat vet, Montana has become a model for accessing and assisting veterans who show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). While the plan doesn't go nearly far enough, it's one that I understand the Obama administration is seriously considering for nationwide implementation - and it would be an excellent first step.
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander in Chief Obama suffered 22 combat casualties in the eight days ending Feb 18, 2009, as the official total rose to at least 71,142. The total includes 34,465 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,677 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
...the executive director of The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, "In recent weeks...Defense Secretary Robert Gates "turned the old way of doing things on its head." "Instead of immediately denying civilian deaths, which deeply angers Afghans and with good reason, he said the U.S. will instead immediately investigate, make apologies and provide amends where appropriate," she said. ...The report said U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians, or 39 percent of the 2008 total. Of those, 552 deaths were blamed on airstrikes. Militants were blamed for 55 percent of the deaths, or 1,160.
The name search took a year, while the company became persona non grata in Iraq, but now it's a reality. The notorious Blackwater Worldwide has officially rebranded itself Xe. According to a company memo, "Xe will be a one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics."
Green Bay soldier: War is immoral and I won't go back to Iraq
Army spokesman said Spc. Kristoffer Walker has not filed conscientious objector paperwork
By Tony Walter | Green Bay Press Gazette
A Green Bay soldier told the Army today that he won’t go back to Iraq because he believes the war is immoral.
Spc. Kristoffer Walker, 28, was scheduled to board a flight at Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon this morning to return to Atlanta, where he was scheduled to rejoin the 353rd Transportation Unit deployed to Iraq in October. Walker has been home on leave the past two weeks.
Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Walker did not follow military procedure by filling out paperwork to list himself as a conscientious objector.
“His unit is counting on him,” Banks said. “He’s actually turning his back on his battle buddies. By just not reporting, you’re letting down your teammates. When you raise your right hand to defend the country, you knew there was a time you could possibly be deployed.”
Canadian Government Continues Ouster of US War Resisters
America's neighbor to the north is erecting barriers to Iraq War resisters seeking asylum
by Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams
In the past weeks, the Harper Administration has moved swiftly to push U.S. Iraq War resisters out of Canada, issuing removal orders to five more resisters who had resettled up north. Two have recently been forced out of the country, and the rest continue their appeals through the Canadian Courts. This adds to the growing number of U.S. war resisters in Canada who are being threatened with deportation and eventually U.S. military court martials and imprisonment.
Once You See What Truly Happened in Gaza, It Will Change You Forever
By Medea Benjamin | Alternet
What I saw was like a form of collective punishment, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.
When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.