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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
President Obama has recently threatened to rescind the "blank check" the Bush administration offered to big defense contractors. So now is the time when all that planning by Lockheed Martin and the other major arms manufacturers comes into play. One of that company's major weapons systems, the F-22 Raptor, is potentially on the chopping block. How convenient then that, in the midst of an economic meltdown, Lockheed just happens to have more than 1,000 parts suppliers for that jet carefully scattered across 44 states, all of which, as far as I know, have representatives in Congress. This is pretty typical.
Private military companies (PMCs) have become rather popular nowadays in terms of providing specialized expertise or services of a military nature. These units can compete with special services and regular armies. There are such companies in Russia, although they are not so widely spread in the country in comparison with their prototypes in the West. As experience shows, the PMCs will prevail in the future.
The history of private military companies started on June 24, 1997, when experts of the US Intelligence Department proclaimed the PMCs as a major tool in the implementation of the military security policy of the United States and its allies in other countries.
The milk frother screams as a couple of young soldiers in camouflaged combat uniforms peruse the lit table. All around them are the familiar surroundings of a coffeehouse: posters on the wall, tables and chairs, and shelves stuffed with used books. Yet this café, just across the street from the sprawling Ft. Lewis Army Base in Washington, is not your ordinary coffeehouse. "Support War Resisters: Iraq Veterans Against the War," reads a huge banner on the wall. GI Rights handcards sit next to the cash register and manuals about "getting out" cover the lit table. Social movement history books fill the bookshelves, and a picture on the wall shows a soldier throwing a grenade with a caption that reads, "What am I doing here?" The sign on the front window declares "COFFEE STRONG. Veteran Owned and Operated."
Human rights advocates dismayed at U.S. military funding to Mexico | Press Release
NEW YORK, NY - Human rights organizers in New York City are disappointed by
the U.S. House of Representatives February 25, 2009 vote to approve $300
million in military aid to Mexico under the Merida Initiative, also known as
"Plan Mexico is a disaster for human rights in Mexico, Central America and
the Caribbean," says Robert Jereski, a member of Friends of Brad Will. "It
means further aid to armies and police forces that have been widely
implicated in grave human rights violations. But it further energizes our
networks for our upcoming Day of Action on March 11 in Washington, D.C."
A Falcon of Peace - Who Wants to Be a Dove? (They Always Lose.)
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch
How come they get to be the hawks? And we get to be the doves? A hawk is a noble bird. A dove. Well, basically it's a pigeon. The sort of bird that, in New York City anyway, messes your building's window sills, is always underfoot, and, along with the city's rats, makes a hearty lunch for the red-tailed hawks which now populate our parks.
Even a turkey would be less of a turkey than a dove. We get to carry that olive twig -- okay, they call it a "branch" -- around in our beaks, but you can bet your bippy that they get the olives, or, more likely, the opportunity to trample the olive groves into oil.
A newly leaked military document appears to show the Pentagon knowingly exposed US troops to toxic chemicals that cause cancer, while publicly downplaying the risks exposure might cause.
The document, written by an environmental engineering flight commander in December of 2006 and posted on Wikileaks (PDF) on Tuesday, details the risks posed to US troops in Iraq by burning garbage at a US airbase. It enumerates myriad risks posed by the practice and identifies various carcinogens released by incinerating waste in open-air pits.
"Angler": The Rise and (Finally!) Fall of Dick Cheney
By Bernard Weiner | The Crisis Papers
Reading Barton Gellman's "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency" (Penguin Press, 2008) is yet another reminder that all too often those who were right early on about the massive dangers facing American society under the CheneyBush Administration were ignored, marginalized, reviled, often punished.
There were scores of us in the media, most on the internet but a healthy handful inside corporate mainstream journalism, who from the very beginning were warning of a power-hungry Administration out of control, with terrible consequences to our foreign/military policy and to the integrity of the Constitution. (See this one, for example, from December 2001.) Eight long years were lost to this catastrophically wrong turn in American politics, while the corporate mass-media in the main served as an effective lapdog for the neo-conservative madness.
But Bart Gellman's voluminously-researched volume, along with recent revelations by Obama's Department of Justice about the run-amok legal philosophy in the Bush White House has demonstrated the incontrovertible truth that no longer can be ignored:
CIA Confirms 12 of 92 Videotapes Destroyed Showed Prisoners Tortured
By Jason Leopold | Truthout
Heavily redacted government documents filed in a New York federal court Friday afternoon say the CIA destroyed 12 videotapes that specifically showed two detainees being tortured.
The documents were filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending.
On Monday, the Justice Department revealed in court documents that the CIA destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes, which is now the subject of a criminal probe. According to Friday's court documents, 90 tapes relate to one detainee and two tapes relate to another detainee.
In a letter filed Friday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Acting US Attorney Lev Dassin said a complete list of summaries, transcripts or memoranda related to the videotapes would be filed with the court by March 20.
"The government is needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture - including waterboarding - is no secret," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. "This new information only underscores the need for full and immediate disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods. The time has come for the CIA to be held accountable for flouting the rule of law."
The soldiers worried about Saddam Hussein loyalists, not the dust.
Dust coated the Oregon Army National Guardsmen's combat boots and caked their skin as they protected Halliburton KBR contractors restoring oil flow in Iraq in 2003. Dust poofed from the soldiers' uniforms as they crowded into vans at the end of the day and shared tents at night.
When the dust blew onto Spc. Larry Roberta's ready-to-eat meal, he rinsed the chicken patty with his canteen water and ate it.
Six months later, doctors discovered the flap into Roberta's stomach had disintegrated. Six years later, the Marine and former police officer can no longer walk to the mailbox or work.
Another Oregon soldier, Sgt. Nicholas Thomas, died of complications of leukemia at age 21. Three others have reported lung problems to headquarters. Five more told The Oregonian they suffer chronic coughs, rashes and immune system disorders.
The same Oregon Guard soldiers who went into Iraq without adequate body armor or up-armored Humvees face another dubious first: exposure to hexavalent chromium, which greatly increases their risk of cancer and other diseases. It was in the orange and yellow dust spread over half the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant by fleeing Saddam supporters.
Scientists call the carcinogen a Trojan horse because the damage may not be immediately obvious. Over time, people can develop different cancers, breathing problems, stomach ulcers or damage to the digestive tract.
"This is our Agent Orange," says Scott Ashby, who served in the Oregon Guard.
The military is harmed more by having second-class citizens in its ranks than by any imagined ill effects on unit cohesion. The military will adapt to gays and lesbians just as it adapted to African-Americans.
Shortly after Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he attempted to push the U.S. military to openly accept the reality that it had gays and lesbians in its ranks. Colin Powell, then Clinton’s top general, and Sam Nunn, the powerful Democratic Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, nixed the effort by arguing that coming out of the closet on this not-so-secret secret would undermine “unit cohesion” in the armed forces. By courageously taking up this hot button issue soon after taking office, Clinton, already having incurred the scorn of the military for avoiding being shanghaied into the fruitless Vietnam quagmire, was criticized for being naïve and going down to an early defeat—thus quickly piercing the aura of invincibility that new presidents covet.
By David Vine, Foreign Policy in Focus
In the midst of an economic crisis that's getting scarier by the day, it's time to ask whether the nation can really afford some 1,000 military bases overseas. For those unfamiliar with the issue, you read that number correctly. One thousand. One thousand U.S. military bases outside the 50 states and Washington, DC, representing the largest collection of bases in world history.
Russian advice: More troops won't help in Afghanistan
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
The old diplomat sighed as he recalled his years in Afghanistan, and then leaned forward and said in a booming voice that no escalation of troops would bring lasting peace.
As the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan from 1979 to 1986, Fikryat Tabeyev saw the numbers rise to more than 100,000 troops without any possibility of victory against a growing insurgency.
In a California federal court, President Obama's Justice Department is defending former Bush official John Yoo, author of the so-called "torture memo."
Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, currently serving 17 years in prison for conspiring to provide support to Islamist extremists. Padilla's lawyers say that Yoo's memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture.
The Obama Justice Department moved to dismiss the case before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.
Army captain charged with stealing $690,000 | MSNBC
28-year-old entrusted with money for Iraq relief allegedly mailed it home
An Army captain accused of stealing nearly $700,000 from the U.S. government while serving in Iraq pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges including theft of government property and money laundering.
Capt. Michael Dung Nguyen, 28, is accused of stealing more than $690,000 entrusted to him as the battalion civil affairs officer in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, between April 2007 and Feb. 24. A federal grand jury indictment alleges Nguyen used some of the money to buy two new vehicles, along with computers, electronics and furniture.
Prosecutors said the funds were designated for commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan for urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction needs.
New Orleans Police Illegally Confiscating Guns After Katrina
ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: The Army has had another bad month for suicides within its ranks with 18 suspected suicides during the month of February. That is a decrease from January's record-high of 24 suspected suicides, but one Army official said Wednesday the number still remains high and "very disturbing."
The Army's in the midst of a month-long training stand-down to help soldiers identify suicidal behavior among their colleagues. That stand-down was prompted by last year's record number of 143 suspected suicides in the ranks, 138 of those have been confirmed as suicides and five remain under investigation as possible suicides. Still, last year's 143 possible suicides were substantially higher than the 115 suicides that occurred in 2007, and the fourth straight year that suicides had increased Army-wide.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office reported that cost overruns on the Pentagon's 95 largest weapons acquisitions system totaled about $300 billion, even though the government cut quantities and reduced performance expectations. "A train wreck is coming," McCain said at a hearing yesterday on the bill.
A bill to end cost overruns in major weapons systems would create a powerful new Pentagon position -- director of independent cost assessments -- to review cost analyses and estimates, separately from the military branch requesting the program.
President Obama wants, quite reasonably, to "reset" relations with Russia. He also said, quite reasonably, he would "go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don't work, we cut."
Our relations with Colombia also need to be reset. "Plan Colombia," which was supposedly going to cut the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S., doesn't work, neither to reduce the flow of illegal drugs, nor to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Colombia. Since Plan Colombia doesn't work, it should be cut.
An October report from the Government Accountability Office found that coca-leaf production in Colombia had increased by 15% and cocaine production had increased by 4% between 2000 and 2006, and recommended cutting funding. Plan Colombia has cost U.S. taxpayers over $6 billion.
The number of U.S. troops who have suffered wartime brain injuries may be as high as 360,000 and could cast more attention on such injuries among civilians, Defense Department doctors said Wednesday.
The estimate of the number injured — the vast majority of them suffering concussions — represents 20 percent of the roughly 1.8 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where blast injuries are common from roadside bombs and other explosives, the doctors said.