The Free Gaza Movement & Al Jazeera – 2010-05-31 03:18:26
Al Jazeera’s report on board the Mavi Marmara before communications were cut
This is the website of the Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group that in August 2008 sent the first international boats to land in the port of Gaza in 41 years. We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation.
Civilians Under Attack by Israel Written by the Free Gaza Team
CYPRUS (June 1, 2010, 6:30 am) — Under darkness of night, Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck. They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep. According to the live video from the ship, two have been killed, and 31 injured. Al Jazeera has just confirmed the numbers.
Streaming video shows the Israeli soldiers shooting at civilians, and our last SPOT beacon said, “HELP, we are being contacted by the Israelis.”
We know nothing about the other five boats. Israel says they are taking over the boats.
The coalition of Free Gaza Movement (FG), European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), the Perdana Global Peace Organisation , Ship to Gaza Greece, Ship to Gaza Sweden, and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza appeal to the international community to demand that Israel stop their brutal attack on civilians delivering vitally needed aid to the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza and permit the ships to continue on their way.
The attack has happened in international waters, 75 miles off the coast of Israel, in direct violation of international law.
Greta Berlin – +357 99187275 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Hughes, +357 96 38 38 09 email@example.com
Audrey Bomse, +357 96489805 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Arafat Shoukri, Director, Council for European-Palestinian Relations (CEPR) Tel: +32 2503 5402 M:+44 7908 200 559 email@example.com
INTERNATIONAL WATERS (May 31, 2010) — Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country’s siege on Gaza.
More than 10 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, the Israeli military said.
The Israeli Army Radio had earlier said that up to 16 people had been killed.
The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.
Footage from the flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on board the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops had used live ammunition during the operation.
The Israeli military said four soldiers had been wounded, two of them moderately, and claimed troops opened fire after “demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.”
Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships.
Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.
Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels had flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance.
Organisers of the flotilla carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.
They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.
Al Jazeeraâ€™s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Israeli action was surprising.
“All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli police have been put on a heightened state of alert across the country to prevent any civil disturbances.
Condemnation has been quick to pour in after the Israeli action. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, officially declared a three-day state of mourning over Monday’s deaths.
Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke. The protesters shouted “Damn Israel” as police blocked them.
Turkey is also reported to have summoned the Israeli ambassador to lodge a protest.
“(The interception on the convoy) is unacceptable … Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behaviour,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has also dubbed the Israeli action as “barbaric”.
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, were with the flotilla, aiming to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo.
But Israel had said it would not allow the flotilla to reach the Gaza Strip and vowed to stop the six ships from reaching the coastal Palestinian territory.
The flotilla had set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach Gaza by Monday morning.
Israel said the boats were embarking on “an act of provocation” against the Israeli military, rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.
It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers rejected.
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Tension Builds as Flotilla Approaches Gaza Paul McGeouge / Sydney Morning Herald
ABOARD MV BLUE MARMARA, Mediterranean Sea (May 31, 2010) — The protest business requires patience — especially with a plan as audacious as crashing a fleet of ships through Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
Inevitably, the slowest boat sets the pace for all. Days at sea can be lost to mechanical failure or efforts to pressure governments into making it difficult for celebrity activists and supporters to get on board.
Organisers of the Free Gaza flotilla have experienced it all in the past few days. First three boats, then five, of a planned fleet of nine assembled in international waters south of Cyprus. Late yesterday they were expecting to be confronted by the Israeli navy some time today.
The government of Cyprus admitted that it was protecting its “vital interests” — including economic ties with Israel — when it blocked the ferrying of 19 European MPs to the flotilla from the Greek side of Cyprus. But an appeal by flotilla organisers to Istanbul resulted in the delegation exiting Cyprus through the Turkish-controlled north of the island.
At the same time the Free Gaza Movement hardened its language on sabotage as a possible cause of mechanical problems in two boats — even as it managed to have one of the damaged boats rejoin the flotilla early yesterday.
Greta Berlin, one of the organisers, told reporters that an Israeli official had suggested the boats be picked off, one at a time, before they joined the fleet. “As far as I’m concerned, there is a suspicion that this is what happened.”
So the plan had to be under constant review.
In what appeared to be its final form, a reduced fleet of six cargo and passenger vessels was due to head to Gaza late yesterday. Two of the stragglers had been abandoned and the third, the flagship, which was sailing from Ireland, was days behind schedule.
The flotilla remains an internationally backed and funded operation, put together despite great odds by a coalition of Palestinian support groups.
But the no-shows have significantly altered its complexion, shaving it back in appearance, at least, to a dramatic new flashpoint in the steadily deteriorating relationship between the erstwhile allies Turkey and Israel.
Originally the MV Rachel Corrie, named in honor of an American peace activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to halt the demolition of a Palestinian home, was to lead the fleet into Gazan waters. The small ship was bought with Malaysian funds, readied for sea by Irish support groups and backed by the Dublin government.
In its absence, the lead vessel will be the big Turkish registered and organised MV Blue Marmara, with next biggest the two Turkish-registered cargo vessels, funded by support groups in Algeria and Kuwait. Behind them two much smaller Greek-registered vessels, a cargo ship that is a joint venture between Swedish and Greek support groups and a Greek-sponsored passenger boat.
The baby of the fleet is the Malaysian-purchased, US-flagged MV Samoud, carrying about 20 activists. About half of the activists and supporters on board the ships are Turkish.
Subtle perhaps, but these changes make a “who’ll-blink-first” showdown between Ankara and Jerusalem seem inevitable.
Turkey has become a strident critic of Israel and of the Gaza blockade in particular. At the same time, it has argued that the flotilla is a private venture.
But if Israeli forces commandeer the ships and, as announced, detain all on board and force the unloading of their cargo of 10,000 tonnes of emergency supplies at the Israeli port of Ashdod, it seems likely that Turkey will respond.
When the president of the Turkish non-government organisation IHH, Bulent Yildirim, called a press conference aboard MV Blue Marmara there was an expectation that he might shed some light on what he expected to happen in the coming days. Instead he was tight-lipped, almost a tease.
But he got it right in his assessment of what was at stake for Israel — probably damned in some quarters internationally if it did seize the flotilla; almost certainly damned domestically if it did not.
One who does not care is His Grace Father Hilarion Capucci, a one-time Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem who has lived in exile for 32 years, after the Vatican struck a deal with Israel for his early release from a prison term for weapons smuggling.
He tried to return last year as a passenger on a single-boat effort to break the siege of Gaza which failed when all aboard the boat were arrested by Israeli forces.
“They warned if I tried to return again they would lock me up for the eight years of the jail sentence which I did not serve,” he told the Herald. “I would prefer to be in a small jail in Palestine than in the bigger prison of exile.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Israeli Forces Intercept Gaza-Bound Aid Ships, 10 Killed
Israeli Navy Commander Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom Briefs Forces Set to Intercept Gaza Flotilla
Israeli Forces Intercept Gaza-Bound Aid Ships, 10 Killed Forces board ship from helicopter, clash with activists Voice of America
(May 31, 2010) — Israel’s military says navy forces have intercepted an aid convoy carrying pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, killing more than 10 of the activists.
Israeli forces intercepted the flotilla of six ships early Monday, opening fire on at least one of the vessels. Some reports put the death toll as high as 16. Activists say at least 30 people were wounded.
Turkey’s NTV aired images of Israeli forces boarding a ship from helicopters and clashing with those on board. The Israeli military says activists attacked the Israeli commandos with knives, rocks and metal pipes. The military says the fighting escalated after protesters seized a weapon from one of the commandos. Several activists were shown bleeding after the confrontation, and the military says at least four soldiers were wounded.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry called the raid “unacceptable” and warned Israel it will face consequences. An Israeli Cabinet minister expressed regret concerning the deaths, the first official acknowledgment by Israel that the operation had turned fatal.
Israel has warned it will not allow the flotilla to reach Gaza, which has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007 after the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of the territory.
The aid ships, carrying more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists and 10,000 tons of supplies, left for Gaza Sunday and defied a radio warning from the Israeli navy not to approach the region.
Three Israeli missile boats left their base in Haifa late Sunday to prevent the ships from entering the 32-kilometer exclusion zone Israel enforces along Gaza’s Mediterranean Sea coast.
An Israeli official said the navy told the boats they were approaching a blockaded area and asked them to go to the Israeli port of Ashdod or turn back.
Organizers from the Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish human rights group say the convoy, which includes three cargo ships and three passenger boats, is carrying medical supplies as well as cement and other building materials, which Israel has banned from entering Gaza due to security concerns.
In Turkey, several dozen protesters crowded outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul Monday to demonstrate against the Israeli operation against the flotilla.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
Israeli Troops Attack Ship Carrying Aid to Gaza, Killing 16 Israeli commandos have stormed a flotilla of ships carrying activists and aid supplies to the blockaded Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing as many as 16 of those on board.
JERUSALEM (May 31, 2010) — Fighting broke out between the activists and the masked Israeli troops, who rappelled on to deck from helicopters before dawn.
A spokeswoman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin, said she had been told ten people had been killed and dozens wounded, accusing Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians.” But an Israeli radio station said that between 14 and 16 were dead in a continuing operation.
“How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?
“We have two other boats. This is not going to stop us.”
The Israeli government’s handling of the confrontation was under intense international pressure even as it continued. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, was summoned by the foreign ministry in Anakara, as the Israeli consulate in Istanbul came under attack.
One Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. “The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio. But he added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.
Israeli military sources said four of its men had been injured, one stabbed, and that they had been shot at.
“The flotilla’s participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces’ arrival,” they were quoted by a news website as saying.
The flotilla had set sail on Sunday from northern, or Turkish, Cyprus. Six boats were led by the Mavi Marmara, which carried 600 activists from around the world, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Northern Ireland peace protester who won a Nobel Prize in 1976.
It came under almost immediate monitoring from Israeli drones and the navy, with two vessels flanking it in international waters. The flotilla, which had been warned that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza, attempted to slow and change course, hoping to prevent a confrontation until daylight, when the Israeli military action could be better filmed. But in the early hours of this morning local time, commandos boarded from helicopters.
The activists were not carrying guns, but television footage shown by al-Jazeera and Turkish television channels show hand-to-hand fighting, with activists wearing life-jackets striking commandoes with sticks.
The Israeli army said its troops were assaulted with axes and knives.
The television footage did not show firing but shots could be heard in the background. One man was shown lying unconscious on the deck, while another man was helped away.
A woman wearing hijab, the Muslim headscarf, was seen carrying a stretcher covered in blood.
The al-Jazeera broadcast stopped with a voice shouting in Hebrew: “Everyone shut up.”
Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after the strip was taken over by the militant group Hamas in 2007. It has allowed some food and medical supplies through, but has prevented large-scale rebuilding following the bombardment and invasion of 2008-9.
The flotilla is the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break through the blockade. The boats were carrying food and building supplies.
Activists said at least two of the other boats, one Greek and one Turkish, had been boarded from Israeli naval vessels. Activists said two of the other boats in the flotilla were American-flagged.
The confrontation took place in international waters 80 miles off the Gaza coast.
It was attacked by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
“We call on the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza,” he said.
Turkish television meanwhile showed hundreds of protesters trying to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The incident will be particularly damaging for Israel’s relations with what had been seen as its closest ally in the Muslim world.
“By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said. “We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel.
“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations.”
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(May 20, 2010) — Debkafile’s military sources report a decision by the Obama administration to boost US military strength in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions in the short term with an extra air and naval strike forces and 6,000 Marine and sea combatants.
Carrier Strike Group 10, headed by the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, sails out of the US Navy base at Norfolk, Virginia Friday, May 21. On arrival, it will raise the number of US carriers off Iranian shores to two. Up until now, President Barack Obama kept just one aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of Iran, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea, in pursuit of his policy of diplomatic engagement with Tehran.
For the first time, too, the US force opposite Iran will be joined by a German warship, the frigate FGS Hessen, operating under American command.
It is also the first time that Obama, since taking office 14 months ago, is sending military reinforcements to the Persian Gulf. Our military sources have learned that the USS Truman is just the first element of the new buildup of US resources around Iran. It will take place over the next three months, reaching peak level in late July and early August. By then, the Pentagon plans to have at least 4 or 5 US aircraft carriers visible from Iranian shores.
The USS Truman’s accompanying Strike Group includes Carrier Air Wing Three (Battle Axe) – which has 7 squadrons — 4 of F/A-18 Super Hornet and F/A-18 Hornet bomber jets, as well as spy planes and early warning E-2 Hawkeyes that can operate in all weather conditions; the Electronic Attack Squadron 130 for disrupting enemy radar systems; and Squadron 7 of helicopters for anti-submarine combat (In its big naval exercise last week, Iran exhibited the Velayat 89 long-range missile for striking US aircraft carriers and Israel warships from Iranian submarines.)
Another four US warships will be making their way to the region to join the USS Truman and its Strike Group. They are the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and guided missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill, USS Oscar Austin and USS Ross.
Debkafile’s military sources disclose that the 6,000 Marines and sailors aboard the Truman Strike Group come from four months of extensive and thorough training to prepare them for anticipated missions in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(January 1, 2010) — On the eve of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, historian Chalmers Johnson observed in The Sorrows of Empire: “At this late date … it is difficult to imagine how Congress, much like the Roman senate in the last days of the republic, could be brought back to life and cleansed of its endemic corruption.”
Drawing striking analogies between the fall of the Roman republic and America’s decline as a global capitalist power, Johnson wrote: “Failing such a reform, Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us.” Judging by the fragile state of American sociopolitical life, that meeting may not be as far off as most of us think.
America’s Hackable Drones
In this light, it was hardly surprising to read in The Wall Street Journal last week that “Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from US Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor US military operations.”
The Journal revealed that the Pentagon’s “potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control.” Investigative journalists Siobhan Gorman, Yochi Dreazen and August Cole disclosed that the “US government has known about the flaw since the US campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s.”
But since feeding the corporatist beast, in this case General Atomics Inc., is priority number one for grifters in Congress, the problem was allowed to fester until the boil finally popped.
Considering that the Obama administration “has come to rely heavily on the unmanned drones” for imperial machinations across the entire Eurasian “Arc of Crisis” or any number of other “theaters” where the US military and the corporate masters they serve, steal other people’s resources (known as “Keeping America Safe” in our debased political lexicon), this news will probably come as quite a shock.
After all, we’ve been to led to believe that the heimat’s occupying armies, like ancient Roman legionnaires, are “invincible.”
But as the Journal reported “the stolen video feeds also indicate that US adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies.” (emphasis added)
Contemplate and savor that phrase, dear readers. While wags in the Pentagon Borg hive may believe “resistance is futile,” insurgent hackers using off-the-shelf software and cheap, easy to rig antennas were able to determine, in real-time no less, tactical information transmitted to US troops on the ground. As the Journal noted, unencrypted video feeds from drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan also “appear to have been compromised.”
Another surveillance drone deployed both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ScanEagle manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, is plagued by similar problems.
In a follow-up piece, the Journal reported that the ScanEagle “can stay aloft for 24 hours and carries electro-optical and infrared cameras up to an altitude of 16,000 feet.”
But as with the Predator and Reaper attack drones, the ScanEagle’s “video feed hasn’t been encrypted,” primarily “because military officials have long assumed no one would make the effort to try to intercept it.”
An Insitu spokesperson told the Journal that the firm was in the “advanced stages of development of a technical solution for video data encryption for ScanEagle.”
Writing in Wired For War, analyst P.W. Singer describes the “next generation of the Predator,” the MQ-9 Reaper as “four times bigger and nine times more powerful” than its predecessor. Claiming that the attack drone comes “close to flying itself,” Singer touts the ability of the aircraft to “recognize and categorize human and human-made objects. It can even make sense of the changes in the target it is watching, such as being able to interpret and retrace footprints or even lawn mover tracks.”
“As of 2008,” Singer informs us, “two Reaper prototypes were already deployed to Afghanistan” and we can presume Pakistan as well. Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill revealed last month in The Nation that the mercenary firm Blackwater is working on the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command’s “drone bombing program in Pakistan.”
According to Scahill’s military intelligence source, while CIA operations are subject to congressional oversight, “parallel JSOC bombing are not.” The source told Scahill, “Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don’t care. If there’s one person they’re going after and there’s thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That’s the mentality.”
What other “mentality” is operative here, particularly amongst journalists wowed by the technology but indifferent to the death and destruction they inflict on defenseless civilians? Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman told Singer when queried about Reaper deployments in the “Afpak” theater: “It may not be unreasonable to assume they are standing alert somewhere in case a certain high-priority target pops his head out of his cave.”
Leaving aside Sweetman’s dubious stab at humor, in light of last week’s revelations one must ask, why bother to pop your head out of a cave, when a small, commercially-available satellite dish and a cheap laptop will do the trick? But what make these reports so telling is that “the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it.” Where have we heard that before? Dien Bien Phu? The Bay of Pigs? The “cakewalk” In Iraq, perhaps?
While history doesn’t repeat, although tragedies and farces abound, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the giant defense firms who line their pockets upon retirement, as USA Today revealed last month, mix their whiskeys with net-centric kool-aid, and have staked their careers (and the lives of their economic conscripts and the victims of these indiscriminate drone attacks) on quixotic, dubious theories of robowar.
But with a US Defense Department budget that tops $685 billion for fiscal year 2010, and considering that drones will account for a whopping 36% of the Air Force’s acquisition budget, why would Pentagon policy planners assume otherwise? After all, how could a motley crew of shepherds, day laborers and “Saddam dead-enders” outfox America’s mighty imperial army? How, indeed!
According to Air Force Times, although the Pentagon knew that UAV feeds were being hacked since 2008 and probably earlier, top Air Force generals, acceding to the wishes of their political masters in the Defense Department, notably former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his coterie of neocon yes-men, did nothing to upset the high-tech apple cart and sought instead to hit the corporate “sweet spot.”
Former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne was fired in 2008 when it was revealed that a B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew some 1,500 miles from Minot Air Force base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles fixed to its wings. Compounding the scandal, for nearly six hours the Air Force was unable to account for the weapons. Commenting on the hacked UAV drone feeds, Air Force Times disclosed:
Wynne took part in meetings with the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2004 and 2005 about concerns with the links, but the consensus from the meetings was to field the UAVs as quickly as possible.
“I would say people were aware of it [the vulnerability], but it wasn’t disturbing,” Wynne said. “It wasn’t yet dangerous; it certainly didn’t disrupt an operation, so why make a huge deal of it?” (Michael Hoffman, John Reed and Joe Gould, “Fixes on the Way for Nonsecure UAV Links,” Air Force Times, December 20, 2009)
Meanwhile, former Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley, fired along with Wynne over the loose nuke incident, attended the same DoD conclave with his boss and capo tutti capo Rumsfeld. Moseley told the publication “his worry” was “about the security of the aircraft’s datalinks.”
“My question from the beginning was … ‘What is our confidence level that links are secure?’ Not just the imaging that comes off, but also the command and flying links. The answer was ‘We’re working that’ from the General Atomics folks,” Moseley said.
San Diego-based General Atomics Inc., No. 36 on Washington Technology’s “2009 Top 100 List of Prime Federal Contractors” is plush with revenue totaling $593,742,395. Major customers include the Navy, Air Force, Army, the Department of Homeland Security and NASA, and the bulk of their business these days comes from manufacturing the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones.
When queried by Journal reporters about the UAV’s vulnerabilities, a company spokeswoman told the journalists that for “security reasons,” the firm couldn’t comment on “specific data link capabilities and limitations.”
Could their lack of transparency have something to do perhaps with the fact that the Air Force plans to buy some 375 Reaper drones at a cost of some $10-12 million each? I guess they’re “working that” too!
Other Systems Vulnerable
But the problem is worse, far worse than the Pentagon has acknowledged. Wired reported that “tapping into drones’ video feeds was just the start.”
Investigative journalists Noah Shachtman and Nathan Hodge disclosed that the “US military’s primary system for bringing overhead surveillance down to soldiers and Marines on the ground is also vulnerable to electronic interception, multiple military sources tell Danger Room.” According to Wired, this means “militants have the ability to see through the eyes of all kinds of combat aircraft — from traditional fighters and bombers to unmanned spy planes.”
The military initially developed the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver, or ROVER, in 2002. The idea was let troops on the ground download footage from Predator drones and AC-130 gunships as it was being taken.
Since then, nearly every airplane in the American fleet — from F-16 and F/A-18 fighters to A-10 attack planes to Harrier jump jets to B-1B bombers has been outfitted with equipment that lets them transmit to ROVERs. Thousands of ROVER terminals have been distributed to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But those early units were “fielded so fast that it was done with an unencrypted signal. It could be both intercepted (e.g. hacked into) and jammed,” e-mails an Air Force officer with knowledge of the program. In a presentation last month before a conference of the Army Aviation Association of America, a military official noted that the current ROVER terminal “receives only unencrypted L, C, S, Ku [satellite] bands.” (Noah Shachtman and Nathan Hodge, “Not Just Drones: Militants Can Snoop on Most US Warplanes,” Wired, December 17, 2009)
The Pentagon discovered this “problem” late last year when a Shiite militant’s laptop “contained files of intercepted drone video feeds.”
And last summer, unnamed “senior officials” told the Journal that the military found “days and days and hours and hours of proof” that video feeds from Predator drones, but also from other US systems, including attack aircraft, were vulnerable to interception.
In a follow-up piece December 21, Shachtman reported that Air Force officers initially claimed the video intercepts “were no big deal.” Why? Because “without the metadata to go along with, the footage was extremely hard to interpret.”
“Well,” Shachtman writes, “now it turns out that intercepting the metadata isn’t much harder than tapping the video itself. Because ‘there is also mission control data carried inside the satellite signal to the ground control stations,’ according to an analysis carried by Wikileaks.”
The Wikileaks document avers: “It is theoretically possible to read off this mission control data both in the intercepted video feed and saved video data on harddisks.” This means that the “control and command link to communicate from a control station to the drone” and the “data link that sends mission control data and video feeds back to the ground control station,” for both “line-of-sight communication paths and beyond line-of-sight communication paths” are hackable by whomever might be listening.
Indeed, “line-of-sight links are critical for takeoffs and landings of the drone. These links utilize a C-Band communication path.” We are told that “beyond line-of-sight communication links operate in the Ku-Band satellite frequency. This allows the UAV to cover approx. 1500 miles of communication capability.”
“So this explains somewhat” the analyst continues, “why the insurgents were able to intercept the Predator video feeds when they were sent unencrypted to the ground station.” Therefore, “the only thing needed” by a savvy technoguerrilla “is a C-Band or Ku-Band antenna which can read traffic. Sending traffic to a satellite for example is not needed in this case.”
“An important note,” and what make Pentagon planners’ assumptions about their adversaries all the more ludicrous “is that our research shows that most if not all metadata inside the MPEG Stream is for its own not encrypted if the MPEG Stream itself is not encrypted.”
In other words Wired concludes, “everything, from target locations to drone headings to sensor angles can be pulled off of the satellite transmission, too.” Shachtman writes, “the more this security breach is examined, the bigger it becomes.”
And considering that an “unnamed senior official” told Journal reporters that the simple software package is “part of their kit now,” is it only a matter of time before militant groups figure out how to hijack a drone and crash it, or even launch a Hellfire missile or two at a US ground station?
We are told by military experts this is not possible; however, who would have thought that the Achilles heel of Pentagon robo warriors, blinded by their own arrogance and racist presumptions about the “Arab Mind” was something as simple as their own hubris.
The neocon Middle East Quarterly assures us that “Arab resentment of the West … particularly in terms of the technology invasion” is “at every level,” according to the absurdist meme of Raphael Patai, author of The Arab Mind, “a daily reminder of the inability of the Middle East to compete.”
Claiming that the “Arab view of technology” reflects an inherent “cultural weakness” that “has been amply supported over the last decades,” we are told that “Arabs” while “clearly enthusiastic users of technology, particularly in war weaponry … nevertheless remain a lagging producer of technology.”
Indeed, Patai’s book is assigned reading at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School. Col. Norvell B. De Atkine, an instructor in Middle East studies, informs us that in order “to begin a process of understanding the seemingly irrational hatred that motivated the World Trade Center attackers, one must understand the social and cultural environment in which they lived and the modal personality traits that make them susceptible to engaging in terrorist actions.”
Col. De Atkine avers “at the institution where I teach military officers, The Arab Mind forms the basis of my cultural instruction.”
Judging by the coverage in corporate media, endlessly repeating similar imperial tropes, this hilarious security breach, one I might add of the Pentagon’s own creation, has come as quite a shock. It shouldn’t have. After all, the same “hajis” who were able to grind the American military machine to a halt by their imaginative use of decades’ old ordnance, garage door openers (!) and cell phones fabricated into IEDs have created a “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) of their own.
Talk about unintended consequences!
Net-Centric Warfare, Meet the Countermeasures!
Dr. Andrew Marshall, the Director of the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment, defines RMA as “a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organizational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations.”
But as Durham University professor of geography Stephen Graham points out, in light of the Iraq debacle, RMA theorists sought to get a handle on complex urban geographies to attain what they believed would be “Persistent Area Dominance” through the use of satellites, drones and an array of sensors “networked” onto the battlefield. Graham writes:
The first involves programmes designed to saturate such cities with myriads of networked surveillance systems. …
This leads neatly to the second main area of defence research and development to help assert the dominance of US forces over global south cities: a shift towards robotic air and ground weapons. When linked to the persistent surveillance and target identification systems … these weapons will be deployed to continually and automatically destroy purported targets in potentially endless streams of state killing. Here, crucially, fantasies of military omniscience and omnipotence, which blur seamlessly into wider sci-fi and cyberpunk imaginations of future military technoscience, become indistinguishable from major US military research and development programmes.
The fantasies of linking sentient, automated and omnipotent surveillance — which bring God-like levels of ‘situational awareness’ to US forces attempting to control intrinsically devious global south megacities — to automated machines of killing, pervades the discourses of the urban turn in the RMA. (Stephen Graham, “Surveillance, urbanization, and the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’,” in David Lyon (ed) Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon and Beyond, London: Willan, 2006, pp. 251, 254-255)
This is no idle speculation, but rather a possible glimpse into the future of what has been called by military theorists “asymmetric warfare.” The classic examples of this type of uneven combat between states and insurgent forces are the various communist guerrilla armies that toppled colonial or neocolonial governments backed by the United States, e.g. China, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua.
Today however, the same “persistent surveillance and target identification systems” that have seemingly given the US military an edge over their adversaries, e.g. the development of robotic killing machines capable of “compressing the kill chain” as Airforce Magazine describes the process in near pornographic terms fail to mention that “in Iraq,” as Stephen Graham reminds us, “even rudimentary high-tech devices have routinely failed due to technical malfunctions or extreme operating conditions.”
As a result of Pentagon-sponsored research, contemporary military operations aim for “defined effects” through “kinetic” and “non-kinetic” means: leadership decapitation through preemptive strikes combined with psychological operations designed to pacify (terrorize) insurgent populations. This deadly combination of high- and low tech tactics is the dark heart of the Pentagon’s Unconventional Warfare doctrine.
But as Graham points out, the “often wild and fantastical discourses” of high-tech military theorists have run into a brick, not a silicon, wall: the will to resist. Graham writes: “The relatively high casualty rates of US forces–forced to come down from 40,000 ft, or withdraw from ceramic armour, to attempt to control and ‘pacify’ violent insurgencies within sprawling Iraqi cities–are a testament to the dangerous wishful thinking that pervades all military fantasies of ‘clean’, ‘automated’ or ‘cyborganized’ urban ‘battlespace’.”
Nevertheless, such fantasies persist and will continue to drive military spending and American strategies of conquest even as imperialism’s political project goes to ground.
And so we return to Chalmers Johnson’s warning. “We are on the cusp of losing our democracy” Johnson laments, “for the sake of keeping our empire.”
“Once a nation is started down that path” the historian cautions, “the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play — isolation, overstretch, the uniting of forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy.
Barring a dramatic transformation of American economic, political and social relations, not the ersatz “change” promised by the current regime, a rank mendacity that amounts to little more than a band-aid over gangrene, “Nemesis stalks our life as a free nation.”
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, Information Clearing House and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: US Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.
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US Drone Crew Blamed for
Afghan Civilian Deaths Robert Reid / Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (May 29, 2010) — US military investigators found that “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting by US operators of a Predator drone was responsible for a missile strike that killed 23 Afghan civilians in February, according to a report released Saturday.
Release of the scathing report is part of a US effort to counter rising public anger over civilian deaths, which threatens to undermine the campaign against the Taliban at a critical juncture in the nearly nine-year war. Twelve other civilians including a woman and three children were wounded in the missile strike, the report said.
Four American officers — two described as senior — received career-damaging reprimands, the US command said in a statement. The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, called on the Air Force to investigate the actions of the Predator crew.
“Our most important mission here is to protect the Afghan people,” said McChrystal, who had apologized to President Hamid Karzai shortly after the attack. “Inadvertently killing or injuring civilians is heartbreaking and undermines their trust and confidence in our mission. We will do all we can to regain that trust.”
The attack also underscores the risks of using unmanned aircraft to fire on insurgents, not only in Afghanistan but also in neighboring Pakistan. Drone strikes against insurgent sanctuaries in border areas of Pakistan have fueled anti-Americanism among the 175 million Pakistanis.
The deadly attack occurred Feb. 21 after the unmanned aircraft, controlled by a crew at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, spotted three vehicles on a main road in Uruzgan province about seven miles (12 kilometers) from where US Special Forces and Afghan soldiers were tracking insurgents, the US report said.
Suspecting the convoy contained fighters, the ground commander ordered an airstrike, and US helicopters fired missiles at the vehicles, the report said.
But the attack order was based on inaccurate information from the Predator crew and a flawed analysis of the situation by US commanders, according to the author of the report, Army Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale.
Poorly functioning command posts “failed to provide the ground force commander with the evidence and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat and the inaccurate and unprofessional reporting of the Predator crew … deprived the ground force commander of vital information,” McHale wrote.
“Information that the convoy was anything other than an attacking force was ignored or downplayed by the Predator crew,” it said.
After the first salvo, the helicopter crews stopped firing because they saw brightly colored clothing in the convoy — a strong indication that women were present. A video shot from the drone showed women and children present.
McHale criticized commanders for failing to report “ample evidence” of civilian casualties for nearly 12 hours after the attack, while they tried for confirmation.
A US Forces spokesman, Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, said the only people the drone operators could see in the convoy were in the back of a pickup truck. Smith said the Predator crew should have reported the possibility of civilians in the two cars.
“They did not report the ambiguity of what they were seeing,” Smith said. “They weren’t clearly seeing a heavily armed threat.”
Human rights activists welcomed the report as a sign that NATO was being more open about admitting mistakes.
“But transparency and public accountability for the conduct of troops are still the exception rather than the rule,” said Erica Gaston, a lawyer who works on civilian casualties issues for the New York-based Open Society Institute.
Accidental killing of civilians by NATO forces has become a major source of friction between the Afghan government and its international partners, even though the United Nations says the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths are caused by the Taliban and their allies.
The issue has taken on new urgency as NATO prepares for a major operation to secure Kandahar, the largest city in the south and the Taliban’s birthplace and stronghold. NATO commanders believe securing the city is key to turning back the Taliban in the south, the major theater of the war.
But opposition to the planned operation is running high in Kandahar. That has forced NATO commanders to plan the operation carefully to minimize civilian casualties — even if that adds risks facing US and allied forces.
The U.N. says at least 2,412 civilians were killed in 2009 — a 14 percent increase over the previous year. NATO and Afghan government forces were responsible for 25 percent of the deaths, the U.N. said in January report. Of those, about 60 percent were due to airstrikes, the U.N. said.
Since assuming command last year, McChrystal has sharply curbed the use of airpower if civilians are at risk. The new policy has reduced the number of civilian deaths attributed to the coalition but has not entirely assuaged public anger.
Also Saturday, the governor of the remote northeastern province of Nuristan said government forces abandoned the main town in the Barg-e-Matal district after a major assault by Taliban militants, many of them coming in from nearby Pakistan.
Gov. Jamaluddin Badar described the move as a “strategic withdrawal” to prevent civilian casualties after a nearly weeklong assault by hundreds of Taliban fighters.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a telephone message to reporters that insurgents had taken complete control of the district, captured three police vehicles and forced security forces to flee checkpoints along the main roads.
Taliban strength grew in the Nuristan area after US troops abandoned an outpost where eight American soldiers were killed in a fierce attack last October.
Associated Press writers Heidi Vogt, Rahim Faiez and Rohan Sullivan contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Flotilla Set for Final Leg of Gaza Blockade-busting Bid Agence France-Presse /Free Gaza Movement
NICOSIA (May 28, 2010) — An aid flotilla that had been due to sail for Gaza on Friday in defiance of an Israeli embargo was delayed by a day because of technical snags and fears Israel might seize one of the ships, organisers said.
“We won’t begin leaving until Saturday but the boats are still going,” Audrey Bomse of the Free Gaza Movement that organised the multi-national flotilla gathering off the coast of Cyprus told AFP on Friday.
“We’ve changed the coordinates twice because reportedly Israel has threatened to capture the Turkish ship so we decided to delay getting all the boats together,” she added.
“This has delayed everything by a day because changing coordinates takes time … There were also technical difficulties with one of the boats so we had to move passengers from it on to the Turkish one,” Bomse said.
Hundreds of activists were bracing for the final leg of their attempt to bust the Gaza Strip embargo, a bid Israel vowed to defeat, as each side accused the other of violating international law.
Two cargo ships and five smaller boats loaded with thousands of tonnes of supplies and hundreds of passengers steamed towards a rendezvous off Cyprus where they planned to group before setting out for the Palestinian territory.
Organisers said an eighth ship, the Rachel Corrie that had left from Ireland, was lagging behind and would travel towards Gaza separately.
The ships will meet in international waters, they said. “The Cypriot government does not want us to leave from Cyprus. I can only assume pressure was put on them,” Bomse said.
A Cypriot government official said of the flotilla that Nicosia had not received any formal request from the Palestinian Authority for humanitarian aid.
Bomse said a plan had been abandoned to ferry about 25 multi-national MPs from Cyprus to one of the ships and that an attempt would be made to take them from the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island, minus the MPs from Greece and Cyprus.
Cypriot Communications Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis denied that the decision to forbid the flotilla to sail from Cyprus was due to Israeli pressure. “This was a decision that the Cyprus Republic took by itself.”
Israel earlier said it “issued warrants that prohibit the entrance of the vessels to Gaza” and that the flotilla would be breaking international law.
It said it intends to halt the boats and detain the people aboard in the port of Ashdod before deporting them.
Israel has stepped up its warnings in recent days and readied naval forces, as organisers dismissed the claim that their blockade-busting bid is illegal.
“Most despicably of all, Israel claims that we are violating international law by sailing unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to a people desperately in need,” the FGM said.
Israel imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas — an Islamist movement committed to the destruction of Israel — seized power in the impoverished, overcrowded Palestinian territory.
Because of the blockade, only limited reconstruction has been possible in the wake of a devastating 22-day offensive Israel launched on December 27, 2008.
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for an immediate end to the embargo, which she said was “unacceptable and politically counterproductive.”
“We would like to reiterate the EU’s call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”
Activists have landed in Gaza five times, with another three attempts unsuccessful since their first such sea voyage in August 2008, all of them from Cyprus.
To date, the aid has been largely symbolic, but organisers say the flotilla now under way is laden with 10,000 tonnes of aid, ranging from pre-fabricated homes to pencils.
Cyprus Stops MPs from Joining Gaza Flotilla George Psyllides / Cyprus Mail
(May 29, 2010) — Cypriot authorities prevented pro-Palestinian activists, including 30 MPs from nine European countries, from leaving the island yesterday to join a flotilla in international waters, which is on its way to blockaded Gaza.
In addition to issuing an edict banning ships headed for Gaza to set sail from the island’s ports, or dock on the island on their way back, the authorities yesterday forbade any small vessels from leaving Cyprus in case they were on their way to the flotilla of eight ships carrying around 700 peace activists, and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
This is the eighth time activists have tried to break the Israeli embargo on Gaza. On the seven other occasions, the aid ships left from Cyprus’ ports.
What is unusual this time is not the actual ban on the Free Gaza ships docking at the island’s ports, but the governmentâ€™s refusal to allow small vessels to leave the island simply to drop people off at a ship in international waters.
“Anything related to the trip to Gaza is not permitted,” police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told Reuters yesterday.
A spokesman for the Free Gaza group said the activists, including 17 members of parliament from Ireland, Bulgaria and Sweden, would attempt to meet the flotilla by departing through the north. “We are bitterly disappointed with the Cypriot government,” Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for Free Gaza Movement told the news agency.
Cypriot MEP Kyriakos Triantafyllides told the Cyprus Mail that around 20 of the foreign MPs had earlier in the day decided to head north to try and sail from occupied Famagusta port, while their Greek and Cypriot counterparts stayed behind.
Triantafyllides said however that in the late afternoon he heard that those MEPs who crossed north were returning to the government-controlled areas, having failed to secure a way off the island through Famagusta.
Authorities in the north said yesterday evening they had no information about a group of MEPs wanting to use Famagusta port to join the Gaza convoy.
The government yesterday defended its decision. “It is well known that the Republic of Cyprus is fighting for survival and believes that any actions that cause difficulties, damage even, should be avoided,” deputy government spokesman Titos Christofides said.
The government also denied it bowed to pressure from Israel to put the ban in place.
“It was the result of a decision which the Republic of Cyprus took on its own, taking into consideration all the data, all the factors, all the dangers and threats to its national interests,” Transport Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis told reporters.
The minister stressed that Cyprus had time and time again supported the rights of the Palestinian people and the relation between the two peoples was “very close and brotherly.” She added that relations with Israel were also good in all areas, financial, political and others.
Regarding the dangers Cyprus currently faces, Marcoullis referred to efforts to advance the direct trade regulation with the occupied areas and “the continuous effort â€¦ for the daily (sea) link between Haifa and Famagusta.”
Triantafyllides who heads the Cyprus initiative, said he was only concerned with the group reaching Gaza and delivering the pharmaceutical and other material on board.
“We want to give the message to the international community that we are in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle; that Israel cannot continue this inhumane treatment of women, children and the elderly and the international community remaining indifferent,” Triantafyllides said.
The Gaza flotilla, which is off the east coast of Cyprus, is poised to reach Gaza over the weekend. Israel has urged convoy to turn back, saying its navy was prepared to intercept it.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas — an Islamist resistance movement came to power in the impoverished Palestinian territory.
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UNITED NATIONS (May 27, 2010) — United States President Barack Obama presented his 52-page long National Security Strategy expressing the need to reassert US leadership in shaping a new “international order.” So where does the United Nations fit in this new world order? There’s no mention of it in the president’s preface.
But if you keep reading all the way through to page 46 you’ll find the sole paragraph devoted exclusively to the United Nations. The section — entitled Enhance Cooperation and Strengthen the United Nations and containing calls for improving — is concise enough to include here in full without disrupting the flow of this blog post.
We are enhancing our coordination with the UN and its agencies. We need a UN capable of fulfilling its founding purpose-maintaining international peace and security, promoting global cooperation, and advancing human rights. To this end, we are paying our bills. We are intensifying efforts with partners on and outside the UN Security Council to ensure timely, robust, and credible Council action to address threats to peace and security.
We favor Security Council reform that enhances the UN’s overall performance, credibility, and legitimacy. Across the broader UN system we support reforms that promote effective and efficient leadership and management of the UN’s international civil service, and we are working with UN personnel and member states to strengthen the UN’s leadership and operational capacity in peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, post-disaster recovery, development assistance, and the promotion of human rights. And we are supporting new UN frameworks and capacities for combating transnational threats like proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, infectious disease, drug-trafficking, and counterterrorism.
The US mission to the United Nations challenged the notion that the UN got short shrift in the strategy paper. “The United Nations, and multilateralism more broadly, is fundamental to our ability to deal with the complex and shared threats that we face,” said Mark Kornblau, the United States’ top spokesman at the mission. “This national security strategy recognizes that and includes the important notion that we need to work to improve those institutions so they can more capably deal with those threats.”
Susan E. Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, assured representatives of the UN community today that the US does appreciate the UN’s contributions to world security, and recognizes that “no nations can meet global challenges alone.”
In fairness, the strategy paper does highlight the importance of numerous UN activities, including peacekeeping and a passing reference to the impact of UN war crimes on Yugoslavia and Liberia, whose former President Charles Taylor, is defending himself before a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. And it makes the standard references to reinvigorating the international institutions that have helped define international institutions since the 1940s.
But the United Nations isn’t even mentioned in sections dealing with global issues like climate change or the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it sometimes refers to the United Nations in the way one might talk about a wonderful old relative who has passed his prime but doesn’t deserve to be thrown out into the cold, and may even still have some useful contributions to make. To wit:
Today, we need to be clear eyed about the strengths and shortcomings of international institutions that were developed to deal with the challenges of an earlier times and the shortage of political well that has at times stymied the enforcement of international norms. Yet it would be destructive to both American national security and global security if the United States used the emergence of new challenges and the shortcomings of the international system as a reason to walk away from it.
This is precisely the sort of tone that may have uneasy UN officials wondering, â€˜who mentioned walking away from the international system?’
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UN Nuclear Conference Gets Last-minute Draft Statement Michael Adler / Agence France-Presse
UNITED NATIONS (May 28, 2010) — A month-long UN nuclear conference took up a new draft final document in its final 24 hours in a last-ditch bid to resolve a stalemate that has blocked moves on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for a decade.
Conference president Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines presented the draft to a plenary session on Thursday, reviewing the 189-nation NPT at United Nations headquarters. “The document before you is the best that can be offered” amid conflicting national demands, he said.
At stake is a reaffirmation of the validity of the NPT treaty, which since 1970 has set the global agenda for fighting the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT is in crisis over how to monitor suspect nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and how to get nuclear weapons states to honor their treaty promise on disarmament.
The NPT bargain is that weapon states move to disarm while others forgo seeking the bomb in return for getting help to develop peaceful nuclear programs.
Nuclear powers and non-nuclear-weapon states, represented by the non-aligned movement, clashed here Wednesday over how to get rid of atomic arms. Non-aligned states suggested some 200 amendments to an earlier draft statement, particularly to get nuclear weapon states to accept the principle of putting a time limit on achieving disarmament, diplomats told AFP.
Nuclear powers Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States reject this.
Approval of a final text, which must be by consensus, would not be a cure-all for the world’s nuclear proliferation problems, but it would mark a new tone of cooperation.
It also would be a success for US President Barack Obama’s ambitious non-proliferation agenda which favors multilateral diplomacy and is a marked departure from the confrontational tactics of his predecessor George W. Bush.
A solution of the diplomatic battles that have set the world’s nuclear haves against the have-nots may come in the carefully crafted new draft that lays out action plans for disarmament, for verifying nuclear programs to keep them peaceful, for promoting the civilian use of atomic energy and for creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
The action plans take up 11 pages of the 28-page new draft. The remaining review, which is full of controversial items, is expected not to be adopted since there is not enough time for debate. It will be expressed in a presidential summary, diplomats told AFP.
The plenary must approve the action plans within 24 hours since the conference is due to end at 6:00 pm (2200 GMT) Friday. The conference has been deadlocked, raising fears of a repeat of the disaster of the previous NPT gathering in 2005 when there was no agreement and no final text. Reviews are held every five years.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” a Western official cautioned, but he and others expressed confidence the conference was on track to a positive conclusion.
Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, however, told reporters that Iran could not accept the text unless the date of 2025 was set “to eliminate all nuclear weapons,” something which is not in the disarmament action plan.
Perhaps the most contentious issue is the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, first proposed at the 1995 conference. The United States and Egypt have spearheaded talks between nuclear powers and non-aligneds to find a way forward on this matter.
Israel — widely understood to be the region’s lone if undeclared nuclear power — opposes a zone until there is peace in the Middle East but might agree to a non-binding conference, diplomats said.
The draft calls for a conference in 2012 “to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishmentÂ¨ of a zone. Iran was not named in this part of the draft despite being in defiance of UN resolutions for it to prove its civil nuclear work does not hide bomb development. Western states had wanted Iran singled out but do not want to sabotage the chance of a consensus.
(May 24, 2010) — The drama over the nuclear deal signed by Brazil, Turkey and Iran demonstrates one thing above all: The bankruptcy of the current non-proliferation regime dominated by the nuclear weapons states.
Last Monday’s announcement of Iran’s agreement to ship roughly half of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for 20 per cent enriched uranium fuel rods suitable for Tehran’s research reactor came as an unwelcome surprise in the P-5 capitals — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — despite the agreement’s resemblance to one negotiated last October by those very nations.
The great powers’ response was not long in coming. The following day, word emerged that the P-5, including the Russians and Chinese, had agreed on a draft Security Council resolution tightening, at least marginally, existing nuclear-related international sanctions on Iran.
The two processes were not necessarily in conflict. But lest anyone miss the point, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, was quick to release a statement: “This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could have taken.”
The message from Clinton and the US could hardly have been clearer: ‘We like the current P-5-led global non-proliferation regime just fine, thank you, and we don’t need any credulous mid-level powers messing about with it.’
Rather than addressing the substance of what Brazil and Turkey were attempting to achieve, Washington — and by limited extension the rest of the P-5 — were implicitly suggesting that the fruit of their efforts was in fact due to effective manipulation on the part of Iran to avoid the looming specter of enhanced UN sanctions.
To be sure, the Tehran agreement is of limited utility.
It does not address the fundamentals of Iran’s nuclear programme, nor does it do anything to enhance long-term international safeguards over Iranian nuclear activities consistent with its obligations under the 1970 Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — of paramount concern given Tehran’s past pattern of duplicitous behaviour.
The agreement is best considered a confidence-building measure, and one which would help buy further time for a more effective negotiated agreement; but that is precisely what could be said of the original swap agreement negotiated last year, before the Iranians decided to back out. The deal is a confidence-building measure that buys time for more negotiations [Reuters]
Far more significant than the details of Monday’s agreement are the sentiments and principles which stand behind them — views which do not reside solely in Turkey and Brazil, but which are strongly shared by other emerging powers whose acceptance of, and complicity with, international non-proliferation efforts is critical to their long-term success.
Prominent among these non-aligned leaders are Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa.
It is worth noting that both Turkey and Egypt, in particular, have strong reasons to fear Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, which could threaten them directly and which would certainly have the effect of upsetting the power balance in their region.
Those fears are largely nullified, however, by the countervailing fear that efforts led by the US and the Western members of the nuclear weapons club ostensibly aimed at containing Iran would have the effect, whether intended or not, of creating precedents which would constrain their freedom to develop an independent nuclear power capability, albeit one under strict international inspections.
Indeed, the current tone and tenor of US-led efforts to strengthen international sanctions on Iran is increasing these fears among the nuclear have-nots.
By focusing almost exclusively on enforcement of current UN resolutions demanding the suspension of Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities, Washington is exacerbating international fears that its real intent is to permanently proscribe nuclear enrichment in Iran under any and all circumstances.
In fact, the only justification for those UN resolutions is that they are designed to keep Iran from developing a complete nuclear fuel cycle capability in the absence of effective safeguards.
Washington would be doing itself and its allies a great favour if it would keep its eye on the ball: That is Iranian acceptance and full implementation of the Additional Protocol of the NPT — something all concerned and responsible powers could accept and work effectively for in the Iranian context.
I have long said that the primary problem with the current effort to impose and enforce effective safeguards on Iran’s nuclear programme is not with its goals, but with who leads it: The P-5, plus Germany.
Why should those nations have an interest in policing Iran more compelling than that of the countries in the region — particularly those who, unlike Israel, lack a nuclear deterrent of their own?
In the view of many countries, their compulsion — albeit only partially shared by Russia and China — is based on their perceived interest in preserving their own nuclear weapons monopoly, a monopoly which permits them to dictate to others, and which therefore fundamentally undermines the credibility of the international non-proliferation regime they purport to champion.
Rather than seeking to thwart the efforts of the Brazils and Turkeys of the world, the US and the rest of the P-5 should seek to reassure them of their rights under the NPT and to engage them effectively in international negotiating efforts.
The emerging powers will not support the non-proliferation regime if they believe it works against their interests.
On the other hand, their solidarity in legitimate international efforts to control nuclear weapons — including a credible process of nuclear weapons reductions among the current weapons states — would confront the Iranians with a far more effective international coalition and, thus, a far more compelling rationale for responsible behaviour.
Robert Grenier was the CIA’s chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
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Cobras Are Coming:
You Can Run But You Can’t Hide
“And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honour and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand.”
— George Bernard Shaw, Caesar’s Monologue, “Caesar and Cleopatra,” 1898
(May 25, 2010) — War has always been a turn-on, its thrill as old as mankind itself. It is intense; it is raw; it is primal. It reaches into every nerve, so carnal it borders on the sexually erotic. And many who cannot participate want to watch.
It’s called war porn.
As a way to bypass blockages placed against credit card purchases placed from Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers swap their own footage of enemy kills with sexual pornography sites, in exchange for X-rated videos. Military personnel regularly submit thousands of these “snuff videos” enhanced with heavy metal rock music; the more graphic the footage the higher the rating attributed by website viewers.
When the pictures from Abu Ghraib were published, the Pentagon worked overtime to claimthe abuse of prisoners as isolated incidents carried out by a handful of aberrant military personnel.
Whilst clearly apparent that the majority of military personnel do not find pleasure in killing, it is nevertheless indisputable that the demand for war porn photographs and videos prove an endemic euphoria from the humiliation, degradation, and death of the enemy.
With Abu Ghraib came an onslaught of personal videos to YouTube and war porn websites such as www.gotwarporn.com. Millions of hits by viewers anxious for more merely reinforce their popularity. In 2004, 30,000 soldiers had registered with one website alone. The US military has done nothing to close the sites, brushing the videos aside as impossible to trace, despite specific GPS co-ordinates, times, and tracking data clearly visible on the tapes.
Only one website, www.nowthatsfuckedup.com, was shut down by the local Sheriff of Polk Country, Florida, who prosecuted the site’s owner for obscenity. The Pentagon has otherwise seen fit to let the sites stand, evidence of “boys will be boys.” Centcom spokesman Matt McLaughlin said that although the Geneva Conventions prohibit photographs of detainees or mutilated bodies, the military “has no specific policy on taking pictures of the deceased as long as those pictures do not violate the aforementioned prohibitions.”
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress nor White House has stepped in to put a stop to these explicit videos, and not a single troop has been disciplined for disseminating the materials.
The phenomenon serves a valuable dual purpose. Trading war footage for sexual footage contains desire. On the ground far from home, computer sex means that troops are less compelled to seduce — or worse attack — young village girls for relief, historically a norm in battle. Now it is all available online, straight to their personal computers in the desert.
It is also useful propaganda, support of US troops essential to the ongoing occupation. Whereas in wars past it remained the role of government ministries and media platforms, propaganda is now conveniently dispensed by those directly involved in the fight.
War porn enables voyeurs to not only sense the gratification should they enlist to the cause, but enforces a hoped for success in a war against terror. War sells, war porn really sells, and peace is not good for the defence industry business.
If not to guarantee perpetual retaliation upon American targets, either at home or abroad, why else are the videos permitted to remain in the public domain?
Just as the slaughter of civilians can be viewed in the comfort of an armchair in America, the videos are just as readily accessible by the very enemy the US military seeks to eradicate. It is a world wide web, after all. The Iraqi who has witnessed his entire family blown to pieces by an American bomb, the Afghan who has experienced nothing but war since his birth, the Pakistani who suffers US drones dropping missiles on his land: they are each able to watch the same scenes in their own homes. They too hear the thrilling cries of a soldier as he relishes dropping explosives upon families’ homes, on a mother and child walking along a road, or on a group of men returning from a dayâ€™s work.
They too can see the macabre mauling and mutilation by dogs as they tear into the remains of an Iraqi soldier, or view compilation videos of ‘identify the internal body parts’ lay strewn across the ground, audible cheers in the background byte soldiers as they engage. Watching war porn, the enemy also feels a burning rush. Not of the electric bolt of adrenalin surging through his body when a trigger is pulled, but from the passion for revenge.
Twenty-first century warfare is more complex than the argument of an inherent desensitisation of the computer-game generation, of soldiers who view targets merely as pinpricks on a screen — the higher the number hit the higher their score. It is well known that those who learn aggression from video games are likelier to engage in aggressive behaviour.
Once upon a time, a creaking door in the night, a bloody knife lifted in a 60s horror film, a window suddenly thrashing open in a storm were enough to terrify a man to nightmares. Today’s soldiers laugh when seeing heads explode and limbs torn off, having been raised on a steady diet of the same on celluloid, television, and digitalised death games such as Mortal Kombat and God of War.
If kindness begets kindness, if healthy eating begets good health, if reading improves academic achievement, how can violence not beget violence?
Tactical fighting methodology has drastically changed in modern warfare, systems operators in America carrying out much of the killing. Driving to work with coffee and doughnut in hand, military technicians they can read their emails, enter their command centre stations, drop a few missiles thousands of miles from the zone of conflict, have lunch, fire a more weapons killing a few more Afghans and Iraqis, call their husbands or wives to check on what they ought to pick up at the supermarket on the way home before their children’s baseball game, only to calmly do it all again the following day after a good night’s sleep. Innocent men, women and children of a different religion and culture are irrelevant. There is no emotion to the result; they are numb to the consequences.
War gives authority and control, another’s life entirely dependent upon whether a trigger or switch is pulled. Nevertheless, we do not label it as terrorism or violence when mandated by divine righteousness in the name of God and country; violence and terrorism is reserved only for an enemy defending his land from foreign occupation. Only martyrdom in a uniform is honourable.
War porn cannot be equated to news war footage, as reported by al-Jazeera or other regional television channels, the carnage caused by foreign troops aired nightly. Neither can it be likened to the horrific videos of foreign captives who were beheaded: those incidents were not for sport, pleasure and enjoyment. They were clear messages of retaliation for the torture witnessed at Abu Ghraib, and warnings to the West to stay out of Muslim lands. By contrast, war porn brags about the hunt and the kill, the body count, and the slaughter.
Because it is a computer driven war, the adrenalin rush is short-lived. When a soldier is far from his target, thousands of feet in the air or thousands of miles away in a control room, it is only a quick fix. It needs feeding repeatedly to secure the same rush.
It used to be that a soldier engaged in battle face-to-face with his enemy, the whites of his opponent’s eyes clearly visible. The adrenalin from a kill lasted long, the final moments of the enemy relived eternally. As life left one, the other returned home with the image burnt on his brain, never to discuss, never to forget.
The despicable atrocities committed during the Crusades or the Middle Ages were not revealed until hundreds of years later, Latin documents dusted off and analysed. Veterans of World War I & II came home from the frontlines, their privacy and experiences respected. When newsreels played, the Germans and whether or not Allied troops rejoiced in fresh bodies. Vietnam permanently altered the perception of war, Michael Herr’s 1977 Dispatches revealing the visceral conflicts within the souls of men who fought. His book brought the unspoken hell of war to the fore of television and prompting a new genre of shocking movies.
War porn is generally defined as a fascination with super-sized weapons and glinting uniforms, hi-tech tanks and guided missiles, “a panoply of images as the aseptic substitute of sexual pornography.” Or as Linda Williams, professor of film studies and rhetoric at UC Berkley explained, “It’s narcissistic; boys getting together admiring their toys. It is about us proudly displaying our weapons and there is something sexual about that.”
It is more than a metaphor.
War intensifies appetites. It stops time, and amplifies the senses to a terrible ecstasy. The love of war is “so intenseâ€¦that it had no limits, not even death.” 
Thus was the brutal honesty as to the excitement men could feel from killing when sanctioned by governments, according to William Broyles, Jr. in 1984, in one of the most candid essays on war ever written. In Vietnam, Marines called it ‘eye fucking.’ Broyles wrote that most men who have been to war remember how, “never in their lives did they have so heightened a sexuality.” The “soft, seductive touch of the trigger,” the “intense beauty” of white phosphorous billowing its white smoke whilst wiping out a population: these were the rushes that war junkies lived for, who “couldn’t get an erection unless they were cutting in the afterburners on their F-4s.”
And because most men who had been to war had to admit that somewhere deep down they loved it as much as anything that has happened to them before or since, “how do you explain that to your wife, your children, your parents, or your friends?”
The depravity of death for a sexual rush is not unique to troops. There are those who have an “obsessive voyeurism that draws us to 9/11 videos.”
Even the destruction of the World Trade Centres have some watching the footage over and over again, not because of the ghastliness of the attacks but because they experience a sick pleasure from watching so many jump to their deaths, burnt alive, or crushed in the collapses.
“I doubt that I’m the only person in the world who derived sexual gratification from watching two of America’s tallest buildings being destroyed,” said Chris Korda, leader of the ‘Church of Euthanasia.' “The endless replays of the plane penetrating the tower were unmistakably pornographic, complete with flames and debris spurting out in slow motionâ€¦The towers were blatantly phallic, and their collapses resembled post-ejaculatory loss of erection.”
Korda’s video, “I Like to Watch” not only represents the basest form of society, but morphs war and sexual pornography with images of 9/11 in pursuit of a grotesque delight from death. It is hard to argue a valid case for any daylight between voyeurs of these videos and those viewing war porn. Both sadistically experience the same ecstatic charge from watching them, with only the victims remaining far apart.
War porn videos feed the enemy. They virtually guarantee that Americans will be under continual attacks from aggrieved Muslims long after any planned countdown or withdrawal of troops in the Middle East and Asia. As long as any singular Iraqi, Afghan or Pakistani is afforded the opportunity of watching grotesque footage of his family and neighbours being chewed up and spit out to amuse others a continent away, there is little breathing space for a peaceful conclusion. At best, there can only be a lull. The availability of war porn presents no traditional pause for a ceasefire, no acceptable negotiation, and no effective diplomacy. The war of terrorism goes on, a cat and mouse of who shot first and last ensuring the Long War so often publicly denied.
“The power of war, like the power of life, springs from man’s heart. The one yields death, the other life,” Broyles believed. “It is no accident that men love war, as love and war are at the core of man.” To turn that love into peace, the love of life must be greater than possibly imagined.
If the enemy is well aware of the extent to which Americans love and embrace deathâ€¦what possible motive does he have to remain silently passive, and not attack them?
1 Jean Baudrillard, “The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos, Texts, Interviews,” (MIT Press: Boston) 2005, p.205
2 “Carnage.com,” Jessica Ramirez, Newsweek, May 10th, 2010; online at http://www.newsweek.com/id/237182
3 Polk Country Sheriffâ€™s Office, News Room, Notice of URL maintenance under Chapter 847: Florida State Statutes, Bartow, Florida
4 “The Porn of War,” George Zornick, The Nation, September 22nd, 2005; online at http://www.thenation.com/article/porn-war
5 Craig Anderson, PhD, Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions, Psychological Science Agenda, American Psychological Association, October 2003; online at http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2003/10/anderson.aspx
6Mattei Pasquinelli,”Warporn Warpunk! Autonomous Videopoesis in Wartime,” (Saria Reader: Delhi) 2005 p.496; online at http://www.sarai.net/publications/readers/05-bare-acts/03_matteo.pdf
7 “War porn,” Emma Brockes, The Guardian, March 26th 2003; online at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/mar/26/military.iraqandthemedia
8 William Broyles Jr., “Why Men Love War,” Esquire, November 1984; online at http://www.wsu.edu/~hughesc/why_men_love_war.htm
10 Mattei Pasquinelli,”Warporn Warpunk! Autonomous Videopoesis in Wartime,” (Saria Reader: Delhi) 2005 p.492; online at http://www.sarai.net/publications/readers/05-bare-acts/03_matteo.pdf
11 â€œRev. Korda on “I Like to Watch,” Marshall Dury, The Maine Campus, University of Maine; accessed online at http://www.churchofeuthanasia.org/catalog/iltow_int1.html