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Italians Occupy Site of Proposed U.S. Military Base in Vicenza

From Stephanie Wesbrook

Editor's note: Opposition to what would be a major new hub for the U.S. military in Europe is not new. Protest marches have filled Vicenza's streets. The Italian Prime Minister has lost his job. But now construction has neared, and protesters have occupied the site to prevent it. See background here.

This morning around 10 a.m. the movement opposing the new U.S. base in Vicenza, Italy, entered and occupied the site. The police were caught completely off guard and the activists were able to cut the fence and gates and occupy the area. Once the police arrived, they were planning to forcibly remove the protesters. However, the protesters are occupying an area that was the airport Dal Molin, which is technically under control of the Italian civilian
aviation authority, ENAC, who has said the protest is legitimate. So far the police have backed off. Tonight there will be a public assembly followed by a dinner and concert. Monday, Feb 2, had been announced by the movement as the start of a week of initiatives to protest the demolition work that is being carried out in preparation for the construction of the base, but it looks like the activists got off to an early start!

State Department To Blackwater: You're Fired, Leave Iraq by May

State Department To Blackwater: You're Fired, Leave Iraq by May
$1.2 Billion Contract Won't Be Renewed Following Iraqi Refusal to License U.S. Firm
By Brian Ross and Kirit Radia | ABCNews.com

Blackwater has been fired by the State Department from its job protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

Executives of the controversial U.S. security company were notified today by the State Department that its five-year, $1.2 billion contract for services in Iraq will not be renewed in May, U.S. officials tell ABC News. The contract provides yearly options for cancellations.

In a statement, company spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, "The company has always said that the security services we provide in Iraq would be temporary."

The Economic Cost of the Military Industrial Complex

The Economic Cost of the Military Industrial Complex | Seeking Alpha

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children."

These must be the words of some liberal Democratic Senator running for President in 2008. But no, these are the words of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, five decades ago.

The United States, the only superpower remaining on earth, currently spends more on military than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined. The U.S. accounts for 48% of the world’s total military spending. Where did the peace dividend from winning the Cold War go?

The Audacity of Empire

By Cindy Sheehan

Webster's Dictionary defines empire as: a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority; especially: one having an emperor as chief of state.

Even though most of us do not call our "chief of state" Emperor, the USA is most certainly an empire. We have all the trappings of empire (military parades, glorious coronation balls, an elite few ruling the empire) but the Oligarchs (rule by the few) call it a "democracy" so the plebes must buy into the myth that our nation is in any way democratic. Our military is used for spreading colonial capitalism all over the world. Even in the heyday of the Roman Empire, most conquered local governments retained some autonomy, unless, of course, the will of the people conflicted with the will of the Emperor.

Unemployed? Gay? Lesbian? Willing to Kill People? Group Wants Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell to Give Way for Afghanistan Escalation

Admiral Mullen: U.S. Troops in Afghanistan to Increase by 20,000 in '09
Lifting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Ban Would Provide Thousands of New Service Members
From This Group Which Believes Gay People Can Be Just As Good War Criminals

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In his appearance this Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the President-elect, indicated the U.S. would be doubling the number of troops in Afghanistan during the first 12 to 18 months of the Obama Administration.

"We're going to add forces to Afghanistan... The exact number isn't known. I [have] talked [before] about a range between 20,000 and 30,000," Admiral Mullen told CBS News correspondent David Martin.

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,710

US Iraq casualties rise to 70,710
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

In the first reporting period on Obama's watch, US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 20 combat casualties in the five days ending Jan. 27, 2009 as the official total rose to at least 70,710. The total includes 34,410 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,300 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 3, 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 traumatic brain injury (TBI) from explosions diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**

The Ugly Truth: America's Economy is Not Coming Back

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama and his economic team are being careful to couch all their talk about economic stimulus programs and bank bailout programs in warnings that the economic downturn is serious and that it will take considerable time to bounce back.

I’m reminded of an experience I had with Chinese medicine when I was living in Shanghai back in 1992. I had come down with a nasty case of the flu while teaching journalism at Fudan University on a Fulbright Scholar program.

North America’s Tamest Tiger

By Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports

Among the many quirky, independent movie stars and suave entertainment icons appearing at the pre-inaugural Lincoln Memorial concert for Barack Obama, Tiger Woods stood out like George Will in the West Village. Talk about change. Normally, Woods sees the political world the way Dick Cheney sees the Bill of Rights: frightening and to be avoided at all costs. He's probably never even been to the nation's capital without a golf club in hand or a Nike swoosh on his clothing. His presence at the inauguration--while bracing--was, in a bizarre way, all too fitting.

A Way to Mark Robinson’s 90th Birthday

A Way to Mark Robinson’s 90th Birthday
By William C. Rhoden | NYTimes.com | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

In July 1949, Robinson, with other prominent African-Americans, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to rebuke the actor-singer Paul Robeson, who had said that African-Americans would not fight against the Soviet Union in a war.

According to an Associated Press account from the days before his testimony, Robinson said he would tell the committee, “Paul speaks only for himself.” Referring to his Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Roy Campanella, Robinson said: “Campy and I would fight any aggressor — the Russians or any other nation. Anybody who wants to take away the things I’ve gained will have to fight for it.”

Just before his death in 1972 Robinson, writing in his autobiography, “I Never Had It Made,” looked back on his decision to testify in 1949 and said he had been naïve.

“In those days, I had much more faith in the ultimate justice of the American white man than I have today,” he wrote. “I would reject such an invitation if offered now. I have grown wiser and closer to the painful truth about America’s destructiveness and I do have increased respect for Paul Robeson who, over a span of 20 years, sacrificed his career and the wealth and comfort he once enjoyed because, I believe, he was sincerely trying to help his people.”

Obama Supports Space Weapons Ban

Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
By Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's pledge to seek a worldwide ban on weapons in space marks a dramatic shift in U.S. policy while posing the tricky issue of defining whether a satellite can be a weapon.

Moments after Obama's inauguration last week, the White House website was updated to include policy statements on a range of issues, including a pledge to restore U.S. leadership on space issues and seek a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites.

It also promised to look at threats to U.S. satellites, contingency plans to keep information flowing from them, and what steps are needed to protect spacecraft against attack.

The issue is being closely watched by Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, the biggest U.S. defense contractors, and other companies involved in military and civilian space contracts.

McConnell: Stimulus Could Include Military Equipment Buys

By JOHN T. BENNETT, Defense News

Lawmakers may insert earmarks to buy new military equipment into a massive economic stimulus plan being pushed by the Obama White House, said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader.

"There has been talk of a military equipment portion of the economic stimulus bill," McConnell said during a Jan. 23 appearance at the National Press Club in Washington.

The Obama administration and leaders in both chambers of Congress are working to find agreement on an $850 billion economic stimulus.

Some economists, like Martin Feldstein, who was
chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under
former President Ronald Reagan and is now a Harvard
University professor, argue that using the stimulus
plan to buy more military items from now until about
2011 would give the economy a needed - but temporary -
shot in the arm. By the end of that span, the economy

To Understand War Criminals We Must Learn to Respect the Irrational Mind

To understand war criminals we must learn to respect the irrational mind
by Greg Felton | Media Monitors

"The psychopath, in this case the pro-Israel apologist, feels no compunction about lying to justify the torture and mass murder of a defenceless civilian population because in his dissociative mental state he sees no connection between himself and his victim."

(THE SCENE: A graduate seminar in political psychology at a Canadian University. The professor enters and takes his place at the end of a medium-sized oblong table)

Professor: “Good morning, and welcome to Aberrant Political Psychology. I’m Professor Langston. Before we begin, a show of hands—how many of you are taking this course because you want to know what makes people become evil? (A few hands go up.) Hmm. You’ll save yourself and this class a lot of aggravation if you leave right now and sign up for a Bible study course. ‘Evil’ is a moral absolute found only in the simplistic, zero-sum world of religion and American movies. It has no place in a rational investigation of the human mind.”

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,685

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,685
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 25 combat casualties in the eight days ending Jan. 23, 2009 (some the first on Obama's watch) as the official total rose to at least 70,685. The total includes 34,390 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,295 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 3, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*

The actual total is over 90,000 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..**

U.S. Settles Lawsuit With Parents of Iraq War Vet Who Committed Suicide

U.S. Settles Lawsuit With Parents of Iraq War Vet Who Committed Suicide
By Jason Leopold | The Public Record

The federal government has settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of an Iraq war veteran who hung himself in his parents’ basement in June 2005 after being turned away by doctors at a Veterans Administration hospital in Massachusetts where he sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kevin and Joyce Lucey sued the U.S. government in federal court in Springfield, Mass in July 2007. It was the first wrongful death lawsuit filed against the U.S. government for failing to properly treat and diagnose veterans’ who suffered from mental health problems associated with the Iraq war.

Army Investigator Said Green Beret's Death Was 'Negligent Homicide' by KBR

Army investigator said Green Beret's death was 'negligent homicide' by KBR
By Peter Spiegel | LATimes.com

An Army criminal investigator told the family of a Green Beret who was electrocuted while taking a shower at his base in Baghdad that the soldier's death was a case of "negligent homicide" by military contractor KBR and two of its supervisors.

The report last month to the family of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth said Houston-based KBR failed to make certain that qualified electricians and plumbers were working on the barracks where Maseth was killed a year ago, according to a U.S. government official who has seen the correspondence.

US Reaches Deal on Afghan Supply Routes to Troops

US reaches deal on Afghan supply routes to troops
By Chris Brummitt | Yahoo!News | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations have agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to American soldiers in Afghanistan, lessening Washington's dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday.

Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan has taken on added urgency this year as the United States prepares to double troop numbers there to 60,000 to battle a resurgent Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Canadian Officials: No AWOL Deportations

Canadian officials: No AWOL deportations
By Michael Oliveira | Army Times

Liberal and New Democrat parliamentarians said Wednesday that U.S. war resisters would not be deported under a coalition government.

Five Americans could face deportation by the end of the month unless there’s a last-minute court reprieve or an unexpected policy change by the federal government.

Liberal Mario Silva and New Democrat Olivia Chow said their parties would protect war resisters if Stephen Harper’s government were to fall after next week’s budget.

Silva invoked the words of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who during the Vietnam War said “Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”

On the heels of the U.S. Army's announced goal of 65,000 additional recruits

National Priorities Project (NPP) finds significant gap in Army's 2008 quantity and quality goals

Online Tool Allows the Public to Analyze Army Data by State, County, Zip Code, Education Level, “Quality of Recruit”

NORTHAMPTON, MA – A new NPP analysis highlights a significant gap in the Army's 2008 quantity and quality goals. Using census material, combined with data on 2008 Army enlistment obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, NPP research also uncovers a continued trend of disproportionate recruits from southern states.

This work is a result of an expanded NPP initiative, which now includes a database of 2004-2008 military recruitment numbers broken down by zip code, county and state. A snapshot analysis and overview of current military recruitment data, which includes a ranking of counties by recruits per thousand youth, charts and tables on a particular county, zip code or state is available at www.nationalpriorities.org.

Petraeus on Afghan Visit After Supply Routes Deal

Petraeus on Afghan visit after supply routes deal | Reuters.com

U.S. General David Petraeus met Afghan President Hamid Karzai overnight, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, after the regional military chief said deals had been made on new transport routes into Afghanistan from Central Asia.

The U.S. military has had to look at new ways to help supply its troops in the landlocked country from the north after Taliban militants have attacked and torched dozens of trucks carrying supplies on the main route through Pakistan.

That need to supplement the Pakistan route is even more great now as the President Barack Obama is expected to soon approve plans to almost double the 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of his pledge to make the war one of his top priorities.

Letter to Obama from Japan

An Open Letter to U.S. President Barack Obama

The "Change" You Promised Should Include the Official
Dismantling of the Bush-Rumsfeld Neoconservative
Military Strategy
*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

President Barack Obama The White House Washington D.C.
20500

January 16, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

First, we would like to extend our congratulations on
your election as President of the United States of
America.

The Bush administration, by conducting wars forbidden
under international law, and by taking other
unilateralist actions during its eight years in office,
has brought immense suffering to the people of the
world. We welcome your election as President, as you
clearly promised to change what had been done by your
predecessor and his administration. We believe that
your call for change won the hearts and minds of the
American people, particularly the young, inspired them
with hope, and rekindled idealism, undoubtedly a great

Peace Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Peace Is in the Eye of the Beholder
by Chris Hedges | Truthdig

I do not like Hamas. I detest religious fundamentalism and the use of suicide bombers. I find the group's anti-Semitism and ruthless silencing of internal Palestinian opponents repugnant. The rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are a war crime. But this does not negate the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to the long Israeli siege and occupation of Gaza.

The moral scum of any society rises to the surface in war. Those who have a penchant for violence and an access to weapons dominate the landscape. It was the criminal class and gangsters who first organized the defense of Sarajevo. It was the thugs of Gaza who took control to confront the Israeli army. This is nothing new in wartime. Violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause. But there are moments when a people face the terrible tragedy of resistance or obliteration. This was true in Sarajevo. It is true for the Palestinians. It does not make it pretty or good. It is what happens.

More Americans Joining Military as Jobs Dwindle

More Americans Joining Military as Jobs Dwindle
By Lizette Alvarez | NYTimes.com

As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.

The last fiscal year was a banner one for the military, with all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, the year that violence in Iraq intensified drastically, Pentagon officials said.

And the trend seems to be accelerating. The Army exceeded its targets each month for October, November and December — the first quarter of the new fiscal year — bringing in 21,443 new soldiers on active duty and in the reserves. December figures were released last week.

Pentagon Cleared of Propaganda Violations

Pentagon cleared of propaganda violations | Sydney Morning Herald

An internal investigation has cleared the Pentagon of violating a ban on domestic propaganda by using retired military officers to comment positively about the war in Iraq in the US media.

In a report posted on its website, the Pentagon's inspector general said "we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA (retired military analysts) outreach activities were improper".

The report said the controversy, which erupted in April following an expose in the New York Times, warranted no further investigation.

Dime Bombs: 'Tungsten Bombs' Leave Israel's Victims with Mystery Wounds

'Tungsten bombs' leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds
As it declares a unilateral ceasefire, Jerusalem faces a UN call for a war crimes investigation
By Raymond Whitaker | Independent UK

According to military databases, Dime bombs are intended for use where conventional weapons might kill or injure bystanders – to kill combatants in a house, for example, without harming people next door. Instead of being made from metal, which sprays shrapnel across a wide area, the casing is carbon fibre. Part of the motive for developing the bombs was to replace the use of depleted uranium, but Dr Fosse said the cancer risk from tungsten powde was well known. "These patients should be followed up to see if there are any carcinogenic effects," he said.

While the loudest controversy has been over accusations that white phosphorus was illegally used, other foreign doctors working in Gaza have reported injuries they cannot explain. Professor Mohammed Sayed Khalifa, a cardiac consultant from Sudan, said that two of his patients had had uncontrollable bleeding. "One had a chest operation, and continued bleeding even after having been given large quantities of plasma," he said. "The other had what seemed to be a minor leg injury, but collapsed with profuse bleeding. Something was interfering with the clotting process. I have never seen such a thing before."

Rangel to Reintroduce Military Draft Measure

Rangel to Reintroduce Military Draft Measure
By Susan Crabtree | The Hill.com

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) likely will introduce his controversial legislation to reinstate the draft again this year, but he will wait until after the economic stimulus package is passed.

Asked if he plans to introduce the legislation again in 2009, Rangel last week said, “Probably … yes. I don’t want to do anything this early to distract from the issue of the economic stimulus.”

Rangel’s military draft bill did create a distraction for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) soon after Democrats won control of Congress after the 2006 election.

In the wake of that historic victory, Pelosi said publicly that she did not support the draft and that the Democratic leadership would not back Rangel’s legislation. She also said Rangel’s legislation was not about reinstating the draft but was instead “a way to make a point” about social inequality.

Tomgram: Andy Kroll, Will Public Education Be Militarized?

Tomgram: Andy Kroll, Will Public Education Be Militarized? | TomDispatch.com

Just as the Bush administration is handing off a host of foreign policy debacles to Barack Obama (including seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), a woefully mismanaged economic bailout, and possibly a second Great Depression, so the outgoing president is leaving the new administration with a public education mess. There's the much maligned and underfunded No Child Left Behind Act which is up for reauthorization this year. The cost of going to college is also rapidly spiraling out of control, as evidenced in a recent report in which every state except California received an "F" for college affordability. And at the same time, student loans are drying up as lenders, fearing economic disaster, scale back their programs.

War on Terror Is Over (if you want it)

A Phrase That Launched A Thousand Bombs
By Christiane Brown
 
One phrase can divide an entire country, one phrase can circumvent 800 years of law, one phrase can justify the horrific, condone the illegal, and bankrupt a nation, both financially and morally. One phrase can kill.
 
Of the thousands of nefarious actions to emerge from the Bush administration, it is astounding to realize that at the root of the abuse of power, at the very embryo of the fires of destruction – was a deceptively simple enabler, a basic four word slogan that opened all doors before it and paved the way for the misery and misconduct that followed:  The War on Terror.
 
This vague, and yet all encompassing phrase, was first used by President Bush on September 20th 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, and from that moment forward it became root force behind the staggering orgy of lawbreaking that followed.
 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence

Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one.

Pentagon lawyer asks an end to Guantanamo trials now

By Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Citing politics and torture, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for war crimes issued an urgent appeal on Friday to a top Bush administration official to withdraw all charges against alleged terrorists here.

"The perception of pervasive torture now saddles the incoming Administration and its efforts to set these proceedings on a just course," Air Force Col. Peter Masciola wrote a former military appeals judge, Susan J. Crawford, known as the Convening Authority for Military Commissions.

Masciola noted that the Obama administration intends to revise the Guantanamo war court and urged Crawford to halt next week's hearings before the Pentagon put dozens of witnesses, judges, reporters, attorneys and other court personnel onto a flight from Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday.

Next week, two military judges have scheduled hearings.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Are the Army's Days of the Future Past?

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Are the Army's Days of the Future Past? | TomDispatch.com

Note for TomDispatch Readers:

The Pentagon pours vast sums of money into many things -- and it isn't only what you imagine. It's not just weapons and equipment, nor even technological and scientific research. Don't forget, for instance, the military money that goes into conferences to talk about carrying out more technological and scientific research to create more weapons and equipment. Just recently, Wired Magazine's Danger Room blog reported that "[l]ast August, the U.S. Army held a three-day conference in Portsmouth, Virginia, to look at new developments in military science and hardware." And what was it called? The "2008 Mad Scientist Future Technology Seminar." Seriously! You can't claim the Pentagon doesn't have a sense of humor.

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