August 31st, 2010 - by admin
The Economist – 2010-08-31 22:22:55
The chronic problem of exorbitantly expensive weapons is becoming acute
FARNBOROUGH AND WASHINGTON, DC (August 26, 2010) â€“ There were the starlings: aerobatic teams with mesmerizing group displays. There were the albatrosses: Boeingâ€™s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus’s A380, heavy airliners that still manage long, effortless flight. And there were the buzzing propeller-driven military transporters, including the latest, the Airbus A400M. But the star turn was reserved for the birds of prey — the jet fighters.
At this summer’s Farnborough air show, outside London, America’s most advanced fighter, the F-22 Raptor, announced its power with a thunderous roar. Many think of fighters in terms of speed, altitude and agility. But even more impressive is to see the Raptor at low speed, hovering almost stationary in the air, its nose pointing upwards, like a child’s toy strung up to the sky. In mock battles, its stealth and sensors allow a lone Raptor to kill a flock of any other kind of aircraft.
But the fighter is an endangered species. One threat comes from success: in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western forces have been uncontested in the air, if not on the ground, so sophisticated fighters seem less relevant. Another comes from technology: the advance of robotic warfare may, at some point, make the pilot in the cockpit redundant.
The aircraft that American field commanders most clamor for is not the F-22 but helicopters and the Predator, an unmanned drone able to stay aloft for a day. The fighter pilot seems to be losing his dash. Farewell Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.” Goodbye Biggles, the British adventure-book hero. In their place, welcome the faceless drone operator sitting in a windowless container in the Nevada desert.
Well, eventually perhaps. The extent to which unmanned aircraft could or should supplant piloted ones will be debated for decades. For the moment, though, a third danger is more immediate: the economic crisis, which is forcing Western countries to cut expensive military equipment.
Robert Gates, America’s defence secretary, has ordered that production of the F-22 should end this year, capping the fleet at 187â€”a final cull for the Raptor, whose numbers were once supposed to reach about 750. In Europe orders for the Typhoon — a fighter made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain — will fall. And on both sides of the Atlantic the rising cost of the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter means its order book could shrink sharply.
On August 9th Mr Gates announced a new set of money-saving measures: among them cutting at least 50 of the 900-plus generals and admirals; eliminating the joint-forces command, which promotes integration among the services; cutting funds for contractors; and reducing staff in Mr Gatesâ€™s own office.
There are sound military reasons for this internal cost-cutting, especially the need to redirect money to the war in Afghanistan. But Mr Gates knows that after a decade of ever-rising defence spending, “the gusher has been turned off”; now his greatest fear is that defense spending will be cut to curb the budget deficit.
His dread is already reality for many European colleagues. This week Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s defence minister, said he favored suspending conscription, with the option of resuming it later, in order to create a “smaller but better and more operational” army that would shrink by a third, to about 165,000. The move is part of Germany’s plan to cut â‚¬8.3 billion ($10.5 billion) from the defence budget by 2014.
Even Britain, which has the largest European force in Afghanistan, is likely to cut defense spending by 10-20% over the next five years, following an overdue defense review in the autumn. Spain cut defence spending by 9% this year; Italy will chop by 10% next. Less drastically, France is freezing defense expenditure.
To Americans, it all looks like a dis-arms race. NATO’s longstanding call for allies to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense has been lost in the clamor over wider public-spending cuts.
Is the constraint on military spending evidence of a general decline of the West? Critics of Mr Gates argue that he is hollowing out the armed forces and accepting a diminished position for America in the world. In a seminal book of 1987, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” Paul Kennedy of Yale University popularized the notion that a country’s military power flows from its economic strength; the global pecking order is determined as much by economic performance in peacetime as by martial abilities in wartime. By this measure, Chinaâ€™s economic strength should give the West cause for concern. China is also fast building up its naval power.
Instead of Strategy
Andrew Krepinevich, director of the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think-tank in Washington, DC, argues that America is at a crossroads of the sort that faced imperial Britain at the turn of the 20th century, as it contended with a rising America, an expansionist Russia and fast-industrializing Germany and Japan.
Britain’s choice, then, was to surrender its interests in Latin America to the United States, support Japan to check Russia in the East and make up with France so as to confront Germany. “Strategy is what you need when you don’t have any more money,” says Mr Krepinevich. “Britain was a declining power but it managed to hang on for quite a long time with intelligent strategy.”
The beginnings of a sound policy today, he argues, might be for America to withdraw from a costly war in Afghanistan and pull forces out of Europe. Such a move would shock Europeans who hope that the impact of their own defence cuts will be softened by American help in times of need. For the moment, though, America is not giving up any of its commitments.
Mr Gates wants his forces to become better at fighting insurgencies; to preserve enough might to protect allies from, say, North Korean aggression or Chinese hegemony; and also to maintain â€œall optionsâ€ for dealing with Iranâ€™s nuclear program. That means finding new money within constrained budgets.
Mr Gates is grappling with the conundrum faced by many of his predecessors: the rising costs of military manpower and equipment, which strain even Americaâ€™s gargantuan $700 billion defense budget (almost as much as the defense spending of the rest of the world put together). Just to keep up Americaâ€™s existing combat units, he notes, costs 2-3% more each year. But the annual budget is rising by only 1-2%.
Mr Gates wants the Pentagon to save 1-2% a year in overheads. A study of defense bureaucracies by McKinsey, a global management consultancy, suggests that American forces, though the most potent in the world, are among the least efficient, at least in terms of the “tooth-to-tail” ratio, the proportion of fighting forces to support personnel (the best were Norway, Kuwait and the Netherlands). American forces deploy and fight globally, so need more support than those only defending national borders. Nevertheless, the study suggests there is flab to be trimmed.
Manpower in all-volunteer armies, as most Western ones are these days, is expensive. Pay has to be competitive. In America, moreover, a big burden is the cost of health-care programs for current and former servicemen, and their families. “Health-care costs are eating the defense department alive,” complains Mr Gates. Yet he has a hard time restraining Congress’s generosity to soldiers and veterans.
One response to high manpower costs is to rely on technology. But that does not come cheap. Study after study shows that the price of combat aircraft has been rising substantially faster than inflation, often faster than GDP. The same is true of warships.
In a book published in 1983, Norman Augustine, a luminary of the aerospace industry, drafted a series of lighthearted “laws.” In one aphorism, he plotted the exponential growth of unit cost for fighter aircraft since 1910 (see chart 2), and extrapolated it to its absurd conclusion:
“In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 31/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.”
Nearly three decades on, Mr Augustine says, “we are right on target. Unfortunately nothing has changed.” These days Raptors go for $160m apiece ($350m including the cost of developing the jet), compared with $50m-60m for the venerable F-16. In the long run, high unit costs must limit numbers. Since 1970 Americaâ€™s fleets of combat aircraft and major warships have shrunk, even as defence spending rose (see chart 3).
Much of the performance of modern weapons lies in their computing power and software. So why do weapons not follow Mooreâ€™s Law, which predicts the rapid fall in the cost of computing power? For one thing, military equipment lacks the huge scale of consumer electronics, which drives down unit costs. Military software is often bespoke. The need to keep it secure makes it hard to upgrade and to develop the “plug and play” functionality of PCs.
Instead of choosing products in the open market, big countries develop weapons from scratch. And instead of negotiating fixed-price contracts, governments typically bear the risk of designing advanced systems in â€œcost-plusâ€ arrangements.
Even aerospace giants such as Boeing and Europeâ€™s EADS, which compete to produce expensive civil airliners, are wary of developing a military jet on their own.
The rising cost of military equipment is an old curse. Philip Pugh, author of “The Cost of Seapower,” a 1986 study of shipbuilding costs since the end of the Napoleonic wars, argues that the industrial revolution made the problem more acute: the rapid pace of technological change set off a race to build bigger, more powerful, more heavily armed and better-protected battleships.
At some point, as unit prices rise, one of two things must happen: countries must either scale back their ambition, or seek game-changing technology, as they did when the battleship gave way to the submarine and aircraft-carrier.
Mr Pugh also identified another intriguing trend: the race for bigger, better weapons is fiercest in peacetime but tends to fall once war actually breaks out. At that point, he argues, quantity takes precedence over quality. So the fact that the cold war never turned hot may help explain why Western ministries of defence got into the habit of developing weapons slowly and expensively. “You cannot optimise cost, performance and development-time at the same time,” says Mr Krepinevich. “In the cold war everything was sacrificed to performance.” Cost was secondary, and time was least important of all, given that there was no shooting war. The F-22 began development before the end of the cold war; so did the Typhoon.
Few would disagree with another of Mr Augustineâ€™s laws, that “the last 10% of performance generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems.” Moreover, the quest for the best is often allied to a “conspiracy of optimism,” whereby bureaucrats and contractors underestimate the likely cost of weapons, wittingly or unwittingly. Once approved, military projects are hard to kill.
Such are the ingredients for a spiral of cost and delay: technological stumbles hold up development; delay raises costs; governments postpone work further to avoid busting yearly budgets, incurring greater long-term costs.
With time, technology becomes outdated, so weapons must be redesigned, giving the top brass a chance to tinker endlessly with requirements. In the end, governments cut the size of the purchase, so driving up unit costs further. There were supposed to be 132 stealthy B-2 bombers but only 20 were built. They cost $2 billion each.
Repeated reforms have failed to break this dire cycle. According to the last full report by Americaâ€™s Government Accountability Office (GAO), the cost of 96 of America’s biggest weapons programs in 2008 had risen on average by 25%, incurring an average delay of 22 months.
It’s Even Worse in Europe
This is not just an American affliction. France is down to one aircraft-carrier. Britain has two pint-sized ones, and they often sail without aircraft. It has ordered two big new carriers, but no sooner had work started than the government slowed down construction. The National Audit Office says this case of â€œsave now, spend laterâ€ would save about Â£450m ($695m) in the first four years, but add Â£1.1 billion overall.
European countries in any case struggle to generate much bang for their money. European states have more troops than America but only a fraction of Americaâ€™s fighting power. Their budgets are divided among more than two dozen air forces, navies and armies; and many have defence industries to preserve.
As a result, their choices are agonising. America may debate how many nuclear weapons it should have, but in Britain even some among the top brass think that nukes are too expensive; Mr Gates wonders whether America needs 11 aircraft-carrier groups; some people in Britain and France ask whether they can buy new ones at all. The Netherlands has given up maritime reconnaissance; Denmark has abandoned submarines. The Baltic states have no air force to speak of, relying instead on NATO allies to police their skies.
Plainly, Europe needs economies of scale. But how to achieve them, short of an implausible single European army? One option would be for Europeans to specialise. But the bigger military powers do not want to depend too much on others, so they try to keep a bit of everything. Some NATO allies are sharing the cost of new C-17 military transporters but such examples of pooling are few and far between.
Jointly developing weapons carries considerable costs: decisions are arduous and work has to be shared out. Reconciling the needs of each can result in building countless variants, or in piling multiple requirements on a single aircraft.
This happened to the A400M, which suffered a cost overrun of more than â‚¬11 billion. Germany wanted it to skim over treetops, Britain needed it to lift (now-scrapped) new armored vehicles. Both Britain and France said it had to operate from rough airfields. One Airbus insider calls the A400M an eierlegende Wollmilchsau, or “egg-producing wool-milk-sow.”
Perhaps Europeans should just buy American kit off the shelf. But those with their own military industries want to preserve high-tech manufacturing and software skills, protect an important export industry and maintain some independence.
So is there any way of developing weapons more cheaply? More transatlantic co-operation would help. The F-35 fighter, despite disputes over rising costs, still looks less expensive than Augustineâ€™s law would predict. It inherits technology from the F-22, and three variants are being built for the American air force, navy and marine corps. Several countries have joined the program. It would also help to use more off-the-shelf technology — as has been done with the mine-resistant vehicles rushed to the battlefield in recent years. In general, countries need to take smaller technological steps, build quickly to minimize disruption and upgrade when technology is ready.
One might argue that the mounting price of weapons does not matter given that modern equipment is so much more effective than older kit. Maybe, but in a disordered world of diffuse threats, having a widespread presence is valuable.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, numbers matter more than firepower. The same applies to warships fighting pirates off the cost of Somalia; a ship cannot be in two places at the same time. As Stalin reputedly said, quantity has a quality all of its own.
Quantity, Quality or Technology?
At Farnborough this year, the big aerospace companies still enjoyed the best chalets. But they were looking over their shoulder at an insurgent: Neal Blue, CEO of General Atomics. Better known for its work in nuclear physics, General Atomics stole a march on the big firms by producing the Predator drone.
Early models were powered by snowmobile engines. The first flying cameras evolved into armed versions that could strike targets at short notice, then into a bigger plane, the Reaper, able to carry more weapons. Now Mr Blue is showing off a jet-powered, stealthier version, called the Avenger.
Getting the pilot out of the cockpit, he says, is the best way to keep prices down. He claims the cost of an Avenger is about a tenth of a new “hyper-expensive” manned jet. The future, he reckons, lies in cheaper, expendable drones that can swarm or spread out as circumstance requires.
Mr Blue’s critics argue that drones only fill a niche. Pilotless planes require more people on the ground, are slow and vulnerable, and hungry for satellite bandwidth. “If your data links are jammed, do you really want to be without an air force?” asks Steve Oâ€™Brien of Lockheed Martin.
Developing drones able to fight autonomously in high-end combat will make them much more expensive and much less expendable. Mr Blue thinks technology will provide both quality and quantity. But if history is any guide, Augustineâ€™s law will one day strike the drones as surely as it has already done with Biggles.
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August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Agence France-Presse – 2010-08-31 22:06:58
“The entire territory of the former Soviet Union is awash in radioactive material.”
— Russian military analyst Alexander Golts, commenting on the perceived widespread availability and vulnerability to theft of “dirty bomb” ingredients in former Soviet republics
MOSCOW (August 27, 2010) — It has been of one of Europe’s worst nightmares: traffickers obtaining highly-radioactive materials on the loose in the former Soviet Union with the help of corrupt officials and passing them on to rogue groups looking to make a dirty bomb.
The seizure this month of two kilograms of uranium in Moldova, an impoverished ex-Soviet nation bordering the EU member Romania, is a stark reminder of just how available and poorly guarded nuclear materials can be, analysts said.
Moldovan police said this week they had seized a container with 1.8 kilograms of highly-radioactive Uranium-238 and arrested a group of suspected traffickers who had sought to sell it for nine million euros (11 million dollars).
The United States has said it provided technical assistance to Moldova in the case, which the US State Department described as a “serious smuggling attempt.”
“Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of uranium lie in storage at industrial sites, one can take bagfuls of them,” independent Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer told AFP. “There are people who try to sell them at a high price and most often they fall into the hands of security services,” he said.
The SBU security service in Ukraine, site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, have recently reported three cases of seizing radioactive materials.
Nine people were arrested in March as they tried to sell 2.5 kilogrammes of uranium 235 and 238 and strontium in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, their radioactivity levels 100 times higher than acceptable norms.
A container “with radioactive materials” was seized in December 2009 in the western region of Lviv, while in April that year, three Ukrainians were arrested in the nearby Ternopil region with four kilograms of plutonium which could be used to make a dirty bomb. The plutonium container’s radiation levels were 250 times higher than the norm, officials said.
In 2006, a suspected Russian trafficker was busted in Georgia as he attempted to sell “100 grams of 90-percent-enriched uranium” to a Georgian policeman who passed himself off as a member of a radical Islamic group. The case drew concern from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The entire territory of the former Soviet Union is awash in radioactive material which was used in Soviet times for some 30 various ministries and services, in medicine or agriculture,” independent Russian military expert Alexander Golts said.
“Most often those materials are enriched to just three to five percent, which cannot be used to make nuclear weapons,” he said.
However the radioactive matter still presents a danger because potential traffickers while searching for clients may keep it in close proximity to people, for example in garages and unwitting passers-by can find themselves within 100 meters of the storage area, Golts said. As for highly-enriched substances, “they are under a very different level of protection,” he said.
The uranium intercepted in Moldova, Golts said, “could be used to make a dirty bomb that could cause contamination and panic.” Levels of radiation emanating from the uranium were 60 times higher than is safe for humans, authorities said.
Officials said Thursday talks were underway to send the uranium to Germany to pinpoint its origin and degree of enrichment because Moldova does not have laboratories to do the required analysis itself. But some experts are not convinced that the poorly guarded nuclear materials are dangerous, even if they end up in the wrong hands.
“There is no real black market for nuclear materials, there is trafficking in radioactive substances,” said Bruno Tertrais, expert at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). “In most cases of sales — or attempted sales — of nuclear substances, there are only a few grams being sold, too little by far to make a bomb,” Tertrais said.
A Vienna-based Western expert, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said: “If the material is as reported, then there is no immediate danger from the material itself.”
“Of greater concern is whether this represents a larger smuggling effort and where the material came from.”
Copyright Â© 2010 AFP
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August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Kohei Okada / Chugoku Shimbun & Hiroshima Peace Media – 2010-08-31 22:01:24
UN Disarmament Conference Closes
Kohei Okada / Chugoku Shimbun
JAPAN(August 28, 2010) — The 22nd United Nations on Conference on Disarmament Issues, organized by the UN Disarmament Affairs and other entities at a hotel in Saitama Prefecture under the theme of “A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Making Steady Progress from Vision to Action,” completed its three-day schedule on August 27 with a summary of its discussion.
The rapporteur of each of four sessions reported on that meeting’s discussion. With regard to the outcome of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, the Session I discussion, Nobumasa Akiyama, the rapporteur of the session and an associate professor at Hitotsubashi University, argued for implementing the action plan included in the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. He said that a nuclear-free world cannot be realized until all parties to the NPT are willing to set aside political differences in favor of cooperation.
Roman Hunger, rapporteur of Session II regarding the role of civil society and special coordinator at the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, touched on the fact that efforts for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation education are sluggish worldwide. He called for strengthening coordinated efforts to advance this cause among governments, NGOs, and civil society.
In the general exchange of views at the end of the conference,
Akira Kawasaki, executive committee member of Peace Boat, a Tokyo-based NGO, and Zenpei Kunimoto, permanent director at the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, requested that a nuclear weapons convention be included as an agenda item at the next disarmament conference.
Commentary: Act Promptly for Nuclear Abolition
Kohei Okada / Hiroshima Peace Media
At the 22nd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, discussion to create a solid road map toward a nuclear-free world was made largely in response to the NPT Review Conference held this past May. That said, there is no magic wand for producing a dramatic advance in this effort, and deeply-rooted quarrels continue to exist among nations. The wall that must be climbed is high indeed.
In the sessions that took place on the first day (Sessions I and II), some claimed victory over the outcome of May’s NPT Review Conference. Since the final document was adopted after many twists and turns at the review conference, held every five years, an environment was prepared in which positive discussion toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation can now be made.
The central player behind that effort was Libran Cabactulan, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who served as the president of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
He spoke about the pains he undertook to realize the adoption of the final document, and repeatedly called for steady progress in advancing the 64-item action plan which appeared in the document.
Meanwhile, no immediate solutions to the challenges discussed over the course of many years, including the realization of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the start of negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, can be seen. Dialogue involving the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and a nuclear weapons convention, both of which were clearly stated in the final document of the NPT Review Conference, was not deepened at the disarmament conference.
Of gravest concern are the nuclear issues vexing Northeast Asia and the Middle East. In the closing session of the final day, government officials from the United States and Iran were at loggerheads over Israel. The former is a staunch supporter of Israel, while the latter is disapproving of its neighbor.
Jurg Lauber, head of the Swiss delegation to the conference, said that he cannot claim victory when there is unfinished business. Nobuyasu Abe, former UN undersecretary general and now director of the Centre for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-proliferation, pointed out that prospects for the action plan will depend on the strength of the commitment that the NPT signatories make. The only way to advance the effort for nuclear abolition is for states and citizens to act promptly.
UN Disarmament Conference Discusses Denuclearization in North Korea and the Middle East
Kohei Okada / Hiroshima Peace Media
(August 30, 2010)) — The 22nd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues to discuss actions toward a nuclear-weapon-free world continued on August 26 at a hotel in Saitama Prefecture. Discussion was held on regional nuclear issues in such areas as the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.
Ji-ah Paik, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea, criticized North Korea’s nuclear test last year. She said that nuclear development is an anachronistic and ill-advised idea and that North Korea needs to make efforts for its denuclearization without reverting to the path of nuclear development. Li Hong, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, proposed a comprehensive solution of economic involvement and the establishment of a new security system.
With regard to the denuclearization of Northeast Asia, Li Hong and Ji-ah Paik expressed differing views. Li Hong shared strong support for the idea, saying that the denuclearization of Northeast Asia could be discussed alongside the nuclear issue of North Korea. Meanwhile, Ji-ah Park argued that immediate challenges should be addressed first.
Seyed Abbas Araguchi, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Japan, leveled criticism against the de facto nuclear weapon state of Israel while repeatedly asserting that Iran does not possess nuclear weapons and that it continues to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace responded to the assertion. He contended that Iran has not been fully cooperative with the inspections conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing comments made by the nuclear watchdog.
UN Disarmament Conference opens in Saitama
Kohei Okada, / Hiroshima Peace Media
(August 27, 2010)) — The 22nd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues to discuss actions towards a nuclear-weapon-free world opened at a hotel in Saitama Prefecture on August 25.
The conference was organized by the UN Disarmament Affairs and UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific. During the three-day conference, until August 27, nearly 80 government officials, scholars, NGO representatives, and journalists from 18 countries will exchange views with regard to nuclear abolition.
Libran Cabactulan, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who served as the president of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference held this past May, spoke at a session to assess the review conference and future challenges. After outlining the background behind the inclusion of the item “consideration of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention” in the final document of the review conference, he stressed that it is time for discussion of the convention’s working plan to commence.
With regard to a conference for creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, Mr. Cabactulan proposed that the host nation and arbiters be decided as soon as possible in order to open the conference in 2012. He appealed for steady progress in advancing the 64-item Action Plan, which appeared in the final document.
Meanwhile, Scott Davis, deputy director of the US Department of State, conveyed that ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed between the United States and Russia will be debated by Congress next month. Danil Shcherban, second secretary of the Russian embassy in Japan, called on other nuclear weapon states to make efforts in the wake of the new treaty.
James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pointed to the role Japan and other non-nuclear weapon states should play, saying that the voices of such states will have a significant impact on the disarmament efforts of the nuclear powers.
At the opening ceremony prior to the session, Asako Toyoda, the deputy mayor of Hiroshima, appealed for the importance of political will in advancing toward nuclear abolition by 2020, stressing the significance of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s presence at the Peace Memorial Ceremony held August 6 in Hiroshima.
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August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Severin Carrell and Bibi van der Zee / The Guardian – 2010-08-31 21:55:10
Environmental campaigners slip through security boats to scale Cairn Energy oil rig in dawn raid
LONDON (, August 31, 2010) — Greenpeace claims to have shut down offshore drilling by a British oil company at a controversial site in the Arctic after four climbers began an occupation of the rig just after dawn.
Cairn Energy’s Stena Don oil rig is scaled by Greenpeace campaigners to prevent it from drilling off the coast of Greenland. (Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace)
The environment campaigners said the four protesters evaded a small flotilla of armed Danish navy and police boats which have been guarding the rigs in Baffin Bay off Greenland since the Greenpeace protest ship Esperanza arrived last week.
The rigs are operated by the Edinburgh-based oil exploration company Cairn Energy, which last week prompted world-wide alarm among environmentalists after disclosing it had found the first evidence of oil or gas deposits under the Arctic.
Several multinational oil companies, including Exxon. Chevron and Shell, are waiting for permission from Greenland to begin deep sea drilling in the Arctic’s pristine waters.
Campaigners claim this led to a dangerous rush to exploit one of the world’s last major untapped reserves in one of its most fragile locations. The US Geological Survey last year estimated there may be 90 billion barrels of oil and 50 tons cubic metres of gas across the Arctic.
The campaign group said: “At dawn this morning our expert climbers in inflatable speed boats dodged Danish Navy commandos before climbing up the inside of the rig and hanging from it in tents suspended from ropes, halting its drilling operation.
“The climbers have enough supplies to occupy the hanging tents for several days. If they succeed in stopping drilling for just a short time then the operators, Britain’s Cairn Energy, will struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice conditions force it to abandon the search for oil off Greenland until next year.”
The occupation comes after a nine-day stand-off between Greenpeace and the Danish navy, which has sent its frigate Vaedderen to the area, deploying elite Danish commandos on high-speed boats to patrol a 500m exclusion zone around the rigs.
Last week the Danes warned the Esperanza it would be forcibly boarded and its captain arrested if it breached the security zone. After Greenpeace launched its helicopter to take photographs, the security area was extended to include a 1,800m high air exclusion zone.
Greenpeace argues that the Arctic drilling programme is extremely perilous because of the sea ice and intense weather conditions in the region, and claims it is one of the 10 most dangerous drilling sites in the world. The Baffin Bay area is known as “iceberg alley”. Last week, it filmed a support vessel trying to break up an iceberg using high pressure hoses.
It says the risks posed by this operation go “far beyond” the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico; in the Arctic an oil spill would destroy the region’s vulnerable and untouched habitats, while the cold water would prevent any oil from quickly breaking up. Any emergency operation to tackle a disaster would encounter huge technical and logistical problems in such a remote area.
Cairn Energy was targeted by climate protesters who occupied the grounds of the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters near Edinburgh last week. Cairn’s offices in the city centre were smeared with molasses to symbolise oil.
The company argues it is there at Greenland’s invitation, to help bolster and strengthen the island’s economy. It also insisted its drilling operations obeyed some of the world’s strictest environmental and safety regulations. “We’ve put procedures in place to give the highest possible priority to safety and environmental protection,” it said.
It emerged last week that BP had withdrawn from applying to join in the Greenland oil exploration programme, a direct consequence of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Sim McKenna, one of the Greenpeace climbers on board the Cairn rig, said: “We’ve got to keep the energy companies out of the Arctic and kick our addiction to oil, that’s why we’re going to stop this rig from drilling for as long as we can.
“The BP Gulf oil disaster showed us it’s time to go beyond oil. The drilling rig we’re hanging off could spark an Arctic oil rush, one that would pose a huge threat to the climate and put this fragile environment at risk.”
Morten Nielsen, deputy head of Greenland police, said the four protesters would be arrested and prosecuted. “The position of the Greenlandic police is that this is a clear violation of the law, the penal code of Greenland. The perpetrators will be prosecuted by the Greenlandic authorities,” he said.
“But what we intend to do, how and when, is an operational detail it wouldn’t be smart to advise Greenpeace about.”
Speaking from the island’s capital, Nuuk, Nielsen confirmed that the police had rescue vessels close by the protesters in case any fell into the water, which was only a few degrees above freezing. He denied the police and navy had been outwitted by the protesters setting off at dawn.
“We have to evaluate the downside of any interception,” he said. “The highest value we have to preserve is life and if the result of intercepting the Greenpeace activists would bring the police or for that matter the activists’ lives in jeopardy, we are not going to intercept right now.”
In a separate development, two protesters on trial in Copenhagen for terrorism-related offences during the UN climate summit last December have been cleared. Of the nearly 2,000 people arrested, a small number which includes 13 Greenpeace activists, are still awaiting trial.
The original charges facing Natasha Verco and Noah Weiss included organising violence and significant damage to property and carried a maximum 12-and-a-half-year sentence. Those charges were subsequently reduced to less serious offences, but today a court in Copenhagen cleared the pair entirely.
Verco, who was arrested while riding her bike near the Copenhagen lakes and held in prison for three weeks, said: “I’m so happy, it’s so wonderful… The whole experience has been appalling, terrifying, something I never expected. To be imprisoned for three weeks on the most ridiculous accusations, and then to have to wait for nine months to be acquitted, it’s made me see Denmark very differently.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Ellen Nakashimaâ€¨ / Washington Post – 2010-08-31 00:32:38
Pentagon Considers Preemptive Strikes
As Part of Cyber-defense Strategy
Ellen Nakashimaâ€¨ / Washington Post
WASHINGTON (August 28, 2010) — The Pentagon is contemplating an aggressive approach to defending its computer systems that includes preemptive actions such as knocking out parts of an adversary’s computer network overseas — but it is still wrestling with how to pursue the strategy legally.
The department is developing a range of weapons capabilities, including tools that would allow “attack and exploitation of adversary information systems” and that can “deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade and destroy” information and information systems, according to Defense Department budget documents.
But officials are reluctant to use the tools until questions of international law and technical feasibility are resolved, and that has proved to be a major challenge for policymakers. Government lawyers and some officials question whether the Pentagon could take such action without violating international law or other countries’ sovereignty.
Some officials and experts say they doubt the technology exists to use such capabilities effectively, and they question the need for such measures when, they say, traditional defensive steps such as updating firewalls, protecting computer ports and changing passwords are not always taken.
Still, the deployment of such hardware and software would be the next logical step in a cyber strategy outlined last week by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III. The strategy turns on the “active defense” of military computer systems, what he called a “fundamental shift in the US approach to network defense.”
Though officials have not clearly defined the term and no consensus exists on what it means, Lynn has said the approach includes “reaching out” to block malicious software “before they arrive at the door” of military networks. Blocking bad code at the border of its networks is considered to be within the Pentagon’s authority.
On the other hand, destroying it in an adversary’s network in another country may cross a line, and officials are trying to articulate a clear policy for such preemptive cyber activity.
“We have to have offensive capabilities, to, in real time, shut down somebody trying to attack us,” Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command, told an audience in Tampa this month.
The command — made up of 1,000 elite military hackers and spies under one four-star general — is the linchpin of the Pentagon’s new strategy and is slated to become fully operational Oct. 1.
Military officials have declared that cyberspace is the fifth domain — along with land, air, sea and space — and is crucial to battlefield success.
“We need to be able to protect our networks,” Lynn said in a May interview. “And we need to be able to retain our freedom of movement on the worldwide networks.”
Another senior defense official said, “I think we understand that in order for us to ensure integrity within the military networks, we’ve got to be able to reach out as far as we can — once we know where the threat is coming from — and try to eliminate that threat where we can.”
One senior defense official said that active defense is akin to being in a battle zone when someone is firing a machine gun at you, detecting the bullets, putting up a shield and knocking down the bullets. “Wouldn’t it be a far better idea to get the machine gun? So that’s an extension of a real-time defense — just shut the threat down.”
Perhaps the most difficult issues are technological and operational. Because the precise configuration of an adversary’s computer is difficult to discern through the Internet, it can be very difficult to, for example, disrupt that computer’s ability to attack without affecting other computers that might be connected to it. The military’s dismantling in 2008 of a Saudi Web site that US officials suspected of facilitating suicide bombers in Iraq also inadvertently disrupted more than 300 servers in Saudi Arabia, Germany and Texas, for example, and the Obama administration put a moratorium on such network warfare actions until clear rules could be established.
“Why are you talking yourself into this massive debate when no one has said this works 100 percent of the time and it’s worth the fight?” said an industry official who formerly worked at the Pentagon.
But a senior defense official familiar with state-of-the-art technology said, “I would tend to say that we can be much more precise than people could imagine.” The official, like others quoted for this story, was not authorized to speak on the record.
Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency, which was set up in 1952 to spy electronically overseas, acknowledged in Tampa that offensive capabilities must be based on “the rule of law,” according to the Military Tech blog Cnet News.
And that is the crux of the debate. For the better part of a year, defense officials have been discussing the options with the White House, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Congress. “I have seen clearly changes in the last two or three months where there’s willingness of the senior leaders to start thinking through those scenarios, and that’s something I don’t think we were seeing a year ago,” said a military official who was not authorized to speak for the record.
Still, taking action against an attacker’s computer in another country may well violate a country’s sovereignty, experts said. And government lawyers have questioned whether the Pentagon has the legal authority to take certain actions — such as shutting down a network in a country with which the United States is not at war. The CIA has argued that doing so constitutes a “covert” action that only it has the authority to carry out, and only with a presidential order.
Policymakers also are grappling with questions of international law. “We are having a big debate about what constitutes the use of force or an armed attack in cyberspace,” said Herbert S. Lin, a cyber expert with the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. “We need to know where those lines are so that we don’t cross them ourselves when we conduct offensive actions in cyberspace against other nations.”
The senior defense official who spoke about the military’s capabilities said if cyber operators detected that some attacker was about to issue a network command to a device installed somewhere in the United States that would have “a disastrous effect” causing mass destruction, “I’m hard pressed to imagine that anyone would argue you shouldn’t preempt that — even if it was sitting on neutral territory.”
But short of that, noted a military official, “there’s a lot of reluctance to go into foreign cyberspace and take actions that are preemptive.”
Officials have noted they can use other non-cyber options, including diplomatic action, to respond to threats. The United States might approach a foreign government for help in blocking a threat, using the appeal that “it might be aimed at us now, it could be aimed at you later, it might be aimed at us collectively” in terms of the instability it induces in the global networks, said the senior defense official. “That’s an approach that is often ignored.”
The industry official said his concern is “the militarization” of the international dialogue. “Any time Pentagon leaders start using the terms ‘active defense,’ ” he said, “then my concern is that foreign countries use that as a basis for their doctrine, starting a cycle of tit for tat.”
The Pentagon has standing rules of engagement for network defense, such as the right of self-defense. But the line between self-defense and offensive action can be difficult to discern.
“This is a big, big problem,” said one former intelligence official who noted that it took years to develop nuclear deterrence doctrine. “We are just at the beginning of figuring this out.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code for noncommercial, educational purposes.
August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Victoria Fine / Al Jazeera – 2010-08-31 00:27:51
BAGHDAD (August 29, 2010) — In the August heat, the waiting room of the Sulaimany Centre for Heart Disease was packed with worried parents. Some had been waiting for this day for months. Others just showed up. They had heard on TV that for 11 days an international team would be fixing children’s hearts for free. They dressed their sick children in suits and taffeta dresses and came, prepared to beg.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, an estimated 4,000 children are waiting for heart surgeries. Decades of malnutrition, intra-family marriage and, many believe, the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons [not to mention, chemical an radiological contamination from US military activities â€“ EAW] deformed their hearts at birth. The deformities are exquisitely complex — a challenge for even the best pediatric surgeons. But Kurdistan has none.
Though Iraqi Kurdistan’s economy has blossomed since the fall of Saddam in 2003, healthcare has not seen the rapid changes and improvements of other sectors. Instead, parents are forced to rely on a loose network of NGOs to heal their children of their heart problems.
On the other side of the double doors into the cardiac ward, the team was assembling. The group of surgeons and medical staff were from the International Children’s Heart Foundation. They were ebullient because the first child they operated on was already walking around the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), less than 24 hours after surgery. It seemed to bode well for their trip.
At the head of the group was Dr. William M. Novick, the organization’s founder. Novick is a giant. At well over 6 feet tall and known for his cigars and searing intellect, he could convince you of just about anything. The Memphis, Tennessee native has spent the last 20 years jumping from one underserved community to the next, building sustainable cardiac programs where governments and communities have few options.
Coming from him, the future of Iraq’s young hearts seems particularly desperate. “This is a hideous problem,” he explained. “I’ve covered every possible place for heart surgery in this country. All six of them put together are not operating on 400 kids a year. This country has a population of 30 million. With a birth rate of 35 per thousand, they are generating in excess, by conservative estimates, 6,000 new children a year that need surgery.”
On this trip, his 16-person team planned to help up to 28 children, with the hope that continued training of local surgeons will eventually lead to the treatment of more.
They wrote each child’s name on a whiteboard in the corner of a conference-cum-examination room, trying to sort out which families had arrived and which cases are were urgent.
Most children on the list were patients of Dr. Aso Faeq, northern Iraq’s only pediatric cardiologist. Faeq visits two cities and 150 children each week, trying to keep up with his growing list of patients. He can only diagnose these children’s hearts – hearts with holes, or no hole where there should be one; hearts that grow upside down or twice as large as they should; hearts that need immediate care, or they will stop beating all together.
Then there is the backlog. “For the last decades, there was no treatment for congenital heart disease in this region,” Faeq explained. “The patients here are either previously undiagnosed cases or the families who couldn’t pay for the travel and treatment in Baghdad. So many patients are collected over years here.”
In all of Iraq, the waiting list for pediatric heart surgery is well above 20,000.
Next to Faeq, Jeremy Courtney, the executive director of the Preemptive Love Coalition, flipped through a stack of papers with dozens of children’s names. He was the only one in the group wearing a suit. Of anyone in the room, he had the most to gain from these surgeries. He and his wife moved to Kurdistan three years ago from the US with a few friends. They had a vague notion of trying to help people in the region.
Not long after, they stumbled across Kurdistan’s pediatric heart surgery problem and formed a small nonprofit organisation to send these children to neighbouring countries for surgery at reduced costs. His organisation contacted Novick almost two years ago for help. By arranging surgeries inside Iraq, Courtney could help fix more hearts in a matter of days than his organisation facilitated in its first year – and for one-fifth of the cost.
In the hospital, he was trying to stay on top of every detail and looked up from his list with surprise. “Where is Samal?”
Samal Sirwan Hussein was one of the first children scheduled for surgery. Five months after she was born, her parents took her to the doctor with a simple case of flu. They were told she had a congenital heart defect and would die without surgery within the next year.
The diagnosis kept her father, Sirwan Hussein, up at night. Other people in his family had heart problems. He knew this kind of diagnosis could be a death sentence for his daughter.
“My cousin had a heart problem, she wasn’t well. They didn’t find anyone to do surgery for her and after six or seven years she had a heart attack and died,” he said. “I don’t know what I do. All day, all time, all hours, I see her, she has a problem and I can’t do anything for her.”
Jeremy found Hussein and his wife Parween cradling their daughter in a corner of the waiting room. They had driven for five-and-a-half hours from the mountain town of Rwandz to the hospital, just three days after Samal’s first birthday. But there were so many mothers jostling to meet the American doctors that they could not get past the door.
As Hussein’s wife carried the baby into the examination room, she began to quietly cry. Her daughter reclined on the examination table, unfazed. Her huge brown eyes focused on an episode of Winnie the Pooh that Courtney held up on his laptop as a cardiologist performed her pre-surgery examination. With her stubby pigtails and near-constant smile, it was hard to imagine this child was sick. But when she waved her hands toward the screen, her fingertips were blue.
Decimated Healthcare System
The visiting cardiologist was getting frustrated. The local doctors tapped to assist and learn from his team kept disappearing into their offices as patients came through.
Cardiology and other high-impact medical professions are not popular in Iraq, explained Dr. Rekawt H. Rashid Karim, the general director of health in Sulaymaniyah.
“Our people are not interested. They all go to the simple branches, like dermatology, like ultrasound; they go to branches that don’t have much responsibility,” Karim said. “These branches are more comfortable and have more money, because we have a bad system.”
Healthcare is officially free in Iraq. In reality, there are both public and private sectors and all the country’s doctors work in both branches. Doctors are paid the same flat salary in the public system no matter what their area of expertise.
Doctors who deal in complicated or urgent medical problems, like pediatric cardiac surgeons, are often required to stay longer or work harder at public hospitals. Meanwhile, doctors like dermatologists maintain dependably set hours and have more time to serve paying patients in private sector clinics.
Because of this, there are not enough trained doctors to fill the new hospitals being built to address Kurdistan’s heart problems and other urgent needs, Karim explained.
To make the situation even more pressing, Kurdistan’s hospitals do not only service northern Iraq. The rest of the country’s healthcare system has been decimated since the US invasion, leaving thousands to seek help in functional hospitals in the north.
Karim estimates that 40 per cent of the regional hospitals’ patients are from southern Iraq, but only 17 per cent of central and southern Iraq’s budget goes to the north, stretching their resources thin.
For the children who do not receive help from Novick’s team, their options are unclear, even to Karim. “There is no fixed program. That is the problem,” he said.
Some children might be helped by other visiting teams, shipped out of the country for care through the Preemptive Love Coalition or taken to Sudan or India through emergency aid groups. The government will sometimes give families a few thousand dollars for their care. But Karim admits that there is no long-term plan to address the new cases of deadly heart defects that crop up each year.
For the NGOs who try to fill the gap in Iraqi Kurdistan, the political and cultural obstacles are intense.
“There are days when it comes to a head and there’s a family that doesn’t want to go to Turkey, to go to the ‘enemy Turks’. To have the ‘enemy Turks who are bombing northern Iraqi villages’ help their child,” Courtney explained.
“Occasionally there are funding disputes or there’s a kid from this part of the country who is a constituent of that political party and if we’re appealing for money from another political party, then we run into problems.”
“If we get to, on any level, help overcome some of the petty politics inside northern Iraq to help save a child’s life, that’s meaningful for us,” Courtney said.
For Novick, politics are more of a sticking point than an opportunity. “I’m not interested in becoming a political ping pong ball,” he said.
But the nature of his work demands that Novick work on a high governmental level to ensure sustainable care once he leaves. He knows that in order for a long-term program to work in Iraq, he must have both of Kurdistan’s political parties behind him, as well as some level of agreement between northern and southern Iraq.
“One of my obstacles, if not the major obstacle, is figuring out the political landscape,” he explained. “I don’t want to step on toes and defeat the purpose of the program before it ever starts.”
As his daughter was prepped for her operation, Sirwan Hussein fidgeted in an empty bed in the cardiac ward. Samal’s blood type, A negative, was hard to find, so he donated about a litre of blood in case his daughter needed it. He passed out after all of Samal’s tests were finished and she was snugly awaiting her operation.
It took more than five hours before they received word from the doctors that Samal had made it through the surgery but the outlook was not good. Her heart had stopped even before the operation was underway and she was extremely weak. Less than 24 hours later, Samal died in the ICU.
For the Hussein family, Samal’s death was bittersweet. An estimated 7 million children worldwide need heart surgery but have not received it. Samal had beat immense odds, but it had not been enough to save her.
In the basement of the Sulaimany Centre for Heart Disease, four more children’s names were written on the surgery board for the following day. In the waiting room outside, families continued to gather, hoping to be one of the thousands put on the surgical team’s waiting list.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Fort Hood Disobeys – 2010-08-31 00:25:00
War Veterans/Military Family Members
Successfully Blockade Fort Hood
Deployment to Iraq
Fort Hood Disobeys
KILLEEN, Texas (August 23, 2010) — Five peace activists successfully blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq outside Fort Hood’s Clarke gate this morning at around 4 a.m. While the activists took the width of Clarke Rd. and slowed the buses to a halt, police made no arrests, but instead beat the activists out of the streets using automatic weapons and police dogs so the deploying Soldiers could proceed.
Among those blockading were three veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and one military spouse. (See attached bios) The action, organized by a group calling themselves “Fort Hood Disobeys,” was aimed at preventing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Soldiers to what the veterans termed an illegal and immoral occupation.
While standing in the street, the activists held banners reading “Occupation is a Crime” and “Please Don’t Make the Same Mistake We Did. RESIST NOW.”
From the TX HW-190 overpass, additional supporters attempted to hang larger banners that read, “Tell the Brass: `KISS MY ASS’ Your family needs you more” “Sick of Fighting Your Wars” and “Col. Allen [3 ACR Commander]: Do not deploy wounded Soldiers.”
This latest deployment comes less than two weeks after President Obama announced the second end to combat operations in Iraq. FHD organizers denounced this as a lie, and pointed to the deployment of the 3rd ACR, a combat regiment, to Iraq as clear proof. They have stated they will continue to organize direct action in the Fort Hood community to oppose the wars as long as troops continue to deploy.
The action organizers have established a website at http://forthooddisobeys.blogspot.com/  where they will be posting statements, photographs and video from the actions as they become available during the next 48 hours. As well, for the length of the day, FHD ran live webcasts updating their supporters and depicting portions of the direct action. All live broadcasts from the day are archived at http://bit.ly/b1WEyv .
For more information or to arrange coverage of today’s events, call 347-613-8964 or write to email@example.com .
See attached bios for more information on those who participated in today’s action.
I am Bobby Whittenberg-James, a Marine veteran of the war against the people of Iraq, a Purple Heart recipient and a third generation military service member. I joined the Marines in June of 2003, believing the lies about weapons of mass destruction and an imminent threat to our safety. I have since come to learn that these wars and occupations do not keep the people of the United States or the Middle East safe, but instead serve the interests of politicians, capitalists and corporations; the ruling elite.
These unjust wars and occupations rob the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen of their dignity and their right to self-determination and serve to make the people of both the Middle East and the United States less safe. They also serve to further destabilize a region that has suffered under the boot-heel of western colonialism for over a century.
The US Empire also supports both financially and militarily the brutal apartheid regime that occupies Palestine. All of this is done in our name with our money, and I am here to say “Not in my name!”
The recent information leaks about the US Empire’s wars lay bare their war crimes and crimes against humanity. We must face the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable or shows us something about ourselves that we don’t want to see. When we find the truth, we must respond accordingly. I will not be complicit in the killing of people. Since I do not believe that the government or the capitalists will end these wars, I will vote with my body.
Bobby Whittenberg-James Disobedient
I am Crystal Colon. I was a sergeant in the Army for five years, stationed at Fort Hood the entire time, save two deployments to Iraq totaling 26 months. I was a Signal Support Systems Noncommissioned Officer, coordinating communications for various commands. I was honorably discharged in Jan., 2010, and have been organizing in the veterans peace movement ever since.
I first began to question the war in Iraq during my first deployment in `05-’06. After my friend Robbie was killed, I was very deeply affected. I started questioning why we were in Iraq. It felt like he had died for nothing. After returning from Iraq, I planned to leave the military. I was stop-lossed and forced to return to Iraq for 15 months, in total held beyond the length of my enlistment more than 450 days. Since leaving the military, I have been active with the veterans peace movement, speaking out about my experiences and supporting troops who refuse to fight.
I am doing this today because I can’t allow this war in which I have fought to continue. I can’t allow other Soldiers to make the same mistake I did, deploying in support of a war crime. As a veteran of Iraq, how could I not do this today? For the people I helped occupy, for the friends I lost and stilI have over there, for the Soldiers on those buses. How could I not do this today? I should have disobeyed. I should have never boarded those buses to Iraq. I wish someone had tried to stop me.
Crystal Colon Disobedient
I am Matthis Chiroux, former Army sergeant and War Resister. I was press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile “Justice” System in 2002. While in the military, I occupied the nations of Japan and Germany for more than four years, with shorter tours in the Philippines and Afghanistan. I was a Public Affairs Noncommissioned Officer specializing in strategic communications. In reality, I was a propaganda artist. I was discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.
While I have always been against the war in Iraq, I began resisting it actively in 2008, after I received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I refused those orders in Congress in May of 2008, calling my orders illegal and unconstitutional. I believed appealing to Congress would end the war. When 13 Members signed a letter of support for my decision and sent it to Bush, I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.
Today, I am blocking the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with my fellow vets and military family members because the wars will continue to victimize our communities until we halt this bloody machine from within.
I am putting my body on the line in solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been shot, burned, tortured, raped and violated by our men and women in and out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime. We are here because we have a responsibility to ourselves as veterans and as humans of the world. I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.
In Struggle and Solidarity, Matthis Chiroux Disobedient
I am Cynthia Thomas, and I have been an Army Wife for 18 years. My husband has been deployed three times since the wars began. During his second deployment, he was severely wounded and medevaced to Walter Reed Army Hospital on Life Support. Even though he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, suffered three fractures in his back, three fractures on his pelvis and countless other injuries, the Army deployed him a third time. This was devastating to our two daughters, our step-son and to me.
Three months after my husband deployed for the third time, our step-son called to inform me he was joining the Marines. That was the exact moment I realized that our children would be fighting these endless wars. I decided that I needed to start resisting.
The reason I am doing this today is because for the past 3 years that I have been speaking out and advocating for Soldiers, things have only gotten worse. I have heard countless stories from Vets and Active Duty Soldiers that give people nightmares. I have heard stories from family members that would shock people awake if they would just listen! Our military community is being destroyed!
If these wars are destroying our Soldiers and military families with 12 to 15-month, often repeat deployments, how do you think the Iraqi and Afghan people doing? They have been living these wars 24/7, 365 days a year for nearly a decade! My youngest daughter is an Operation Iraqi Freedom baby. She was less than one-year-old when her father left to invade Iraq. I look at her, and I see an Iraqi or Afghan child having to live in constant fear with no end in sight! I am doing this for our community, for my girls, for my husband and our Marine. I am doing this for the Iraqi and Afghan People. Enough is enough. If Soldiers really want to go fight, they’ll have to go through me.
Cynthia Thomas Disobedient
CONTACT: War Veterans/Military Family Members
347-613-8964 or firstname.lastname@example.org
August 31st, 2010 - by admin
Center for Constitutional Rights – 2010-08-31 00:16:52
Rights Groups File Challenge To Targeted Killing By US
Vincent Warren / Center for Constitutional Rights
Will the US government get away with the power to target and kill individuals, including US citizens, far from any armed conflict and without charge, trial, or judicial process? This is the central question in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, a lawsuit CCR and the ACLU filed today in federal court.
We recently had a small victory in our efforts to contest the legality of a kill-list maintained by the US government. On August 3, 2010, we wrote to tell you that we filed a lawsuit against the US Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to dispute the constitutionality of a licensing scheme that requires lawyers to seek government permission to represent individuals the same government intends to kill.
The government put US citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi on a kill-list, then added him to an OFAC list last month, making it a crime for CCR and the ACLU to challenge the government’s authority to kill him. On August 4, the day after we filed our lawsuit against OFAC, OFAC granted CCR and the ACLU a license to provide pro bono legal services to Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s father Nasser Al-Aulaqi as representative of his interests.
Although we obtained a license, we will continue to pursue our challenge to the OFAC regulations because it is unconstitutional to require lawyers to ask the government for permission to challenge the legality of its conduct.
Today, CCR and ACLU have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The lawsuit aims to stop the US government from carrying out a “targeted killing” far away from any armed conflict, without due process, and where there is not an imminent threat and lethal force is not necessary. Anwar Al-Aulaqi has not been charged with any crime, but has reportedly been the target of several strikes in Yemen, a country in which the US is not engaged in war but where air strikes have caused civilian casualties and popular protests, and where he is believed to be in hiding.
Outside the context of armed conflict (Yemen is almost 2000 miles away from Iraq and Afghanistan), targeted killing is permissible under international law only as a last resort and in the face of a truly imminent threat – and then only because the imminence of the threat makes judicial process infeasible. Outside these narrow circumstances, targeted killing amounts to the imposition of a death sentence without charge or trial.
The government’s authorization to kill US citizen Al-Aulaqi far from any armed conflict violates his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force and his Fifth Amendment right to due process before being deprived of life and to have notice of the criteria that make a person targetable for death. It also constitutes an extrajudicial killing in violation of international law.
Regardless of the government’s allegations against Anwar al-Aulaqi or any person suspected of wrongdoing, authorizing the death of individuals on secret standards, far from any conflict zone, and outside of any legal process not only violates the Constitution and international law, but seriously undermines our collective safety.
The executive should not be able to act as judge, jury, and executioner, substituting its own bureaucratic process for the due process required by law. The US government should not be able to claim the sweeping authority to carry out extrajudicial killings of US citizens or other individuals far from any actual battlefield, nor make the dangerous contention that the entire world is now a battlefield.
Such assertions of power will inevitably target innocent people — the US government has a long and well-documented history of wrongly accusing both citizens and foreigners of terrorism and of being a threat to national security-and kill scores of innocent bystanders, undermining the rule of law and effectively creating a war without boundaries or end.
If the government suspects individuals of criminal activity, they should be charged and tried in a court of law, not put to death on the government’s say-so.
We will keep you updated on this important case. To read more, visit our case page.
Thank you for your continued support.
Vincent Warren is Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights
For more information on the case, including fact sheets and legal papers, visit: www.aclu.org/targetedkillings and ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings.
The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. Visit www.aclu.org.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
Targeted Assassinations – The Case Details from Center for Constitutional Rights on Vimeo.
CCR and the ACLU v. OFAC & Al-Aulaqi v. Obama
On August 3, 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the US Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to challenge the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme that requires them to obtain a license in order to file a lawsuit concerning the governmentâ€™s asserted authority to carry out targeted killings of individuals, including US citizens, far from any battlefield.
On August 30, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Dr. Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, CIA Director Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, challenging their decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, US citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, in violation of the Constitution and international law.
CCR and the ACLU filed suit against the Department of Treasury and OFAC on August 3, 2010 and filed suit on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, CIA Director Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, on August 30, 2010. Both cases are pending in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
In early July 2010, CCR and the ACLU were retained by Nasser al-Aulaqi, the father of US citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, to bring a lawsuit in connection with the governmentâ€™s decision to authorize the death of his son, who was placed on kill lists maintained by the CIA and the US militaryâ€™s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) earlier this year.
On July 16, 2010, however, the Secretary of the Treasury labeled Anwar al-Aulaqi a â€œspecially designated global terrorist,â€ which makes it a crime for lawyers to provide representation for his benefit without first seeking a license from OFAC. CCR and the ACLU sought a license, but after the governmentâ€™s failure to grant one despite the urgency created by an outstanding authorization for Al-Aulaqiâ€™s death, CCR and ACLU brought suit challenging the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme as applied to the representation they seek to provide. CCR and the ACLU have not had contact with Anwar Al-Aulaqi.
The OFAC requirements generally make it illegal to provide any service, including legal representation, to or for the benefit of a designated individual. A lawyer who provides legal representation for the benefit of a designated person without getting special permission is subject to criminal and civil penalties.
In their lawsuit, CCR and the ACLU charge that OFAC has exceeded its authority by subjecting uncompensated legal services to a licensing requirement, and that OFACâ€™s regulations violate the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the principle of separation of powers. The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the regulations and to make clear that lawyers can provide representation for the benefit of designated individuals without first seeking the governmentâ€™s consent.
The underlying representation that CCR and the ACLU seek to provide Nasser Al-Aulaqi would challenge the governmentâ€™s decision authorizing the CIA and JSOC to target and kill his son, who is currently hiding in Yemen, without charge, trial or any form of due process.
While the government can legitimately use lethal force against civilians in certain circumstances outside of a judicial process, the authority contemplated by senior Obama administration officials is far broader than what the Constitution and international law allow.
Under international human rights law, lethal force may be used in peacetime only when there is an imminent threat of deadly attack and when lethal force is a last resort. A program in which names are added to a list though a secret bureaucratic process and remain there for months at a timeplainly goes beyond the use of lethal force as a last resort to address imminent threats, and accordingly goes beyond what the Constitution and international law permit.
Moreover, targeting individuals for killing who are suspected of crimes but have not been convicted — without oversight, due process or disclosed standards for being placed on the kill list — also poses the risk that the government will erroneously target the wrong people. Since 9/11, the US government has detained thousands men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong or unreliable and release them.
For additional information see:
â€¢ CCR Press Release
o Rights Groups File Challenge To Targeted Killing By US
â€¢ CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley
o Why We Sued to Represent Muslim Cleric Aulaqi
On July 23, 2010, CCR and the ACLU submitted an urgent request to OFAC for a license authorizing them to continue to provide pro bono legal services to Nasser Al-Aulaqi as representative of the interests of Anwar Al-Aulaqi.
On August 3, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit against the Department of Treasury and OFAC challenging the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme requiring them to obtain a license to continue their representation of Nasser Al-Aulaqi as representative of the interests of Anwar Al-Aulaqi.
On August 4, 2010, OFAC granted CCR and the ACLU a license to represent Nasser Al-Aulaqi.
On August 30, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Dr. Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, CIA Director Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, challenging their decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, US citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, in violation of the Constitution and international law.
On August 30, 2010, CCR and the ACLU also filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction asking the court to declare that it is illegal for the government to kill Anwar Al-Aulaqi, unless he is found to present a concrete, imminent threat, and there are no other means besides lethal force that could be used to stop the threat.
o Al-Aulaqi v. Obama
o PI Motion
o Wizner Declaration with Exhibits
o Declaration of Dr. Nasser Al-Aulaqi
o CCR and the ACLU v. OFAC
o TRO Application_8-3-10
o PI Motion_8-3-10
o TRO & PI Memo in Support_8-3-10
o Wizner Decl_8-3-10
August 29th, 2010 - by admin
BBC News and WikiLeaks – 2010-08-29 23:36:41
Wikileaks Releases CIA
‘Exporter of Terrorism’ Report
The report cites attacks by US-based or financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists
(August 25, 2010) — Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has published a CIA memo examining the implications of the US being perceived as an “exporter of terrorism”.
The three-page report from February 2010 says the participation of US-based individuals in terrorism is “not a recent phenomenon.”
The memo cites several cases of alleged terrorist acts by US residents.
An official played down the report from the CIA’s so-called Red Cell, saying it was “not exactly a blockbuster paper”.
The Red Cell was set up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to offer an “out-of-the-box” approach and “produce memos intended to provoke thought rather than to provide authoritative assessment”, the CIA website says. CIA spokesman George Little said: “These sorts of analytic products — clearly identified as coming from the Agency’s ‘Red Cell’ — are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view.”
The report, which highlights attacks by US-based or US-financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-American terrorists, questions how foreign perceptions of the US could change with continued attacks.
“Much attention has been paid recently to the increasing occurrence of American-grown Islamic terrorists conducting attacks against US targets, primarily in the homeland. Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non-US persons,” the report says.
The memo, titled “What If Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism’?”, concludes that if the US is perceived by other nations as an “exporter of terrorism”, those countries may be less willing to co-operate with the US in the detention, transfer and interrogation of future suspects.
Wikileaks on 23 July published 76,000 secret US military logs detailing military actions in Afghanistan, an act the US authorities described as highly irresponsible.
The website now says it will release 15,000 further sensitive documents, once it has completed a review aimed at minimizing the risk that their publication could put people’s lives in danger.
CIA Red Cell special memorandum on “What If Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism'”
WikiLeaks Staff (email@example.com)
WikiLeaks release: August 25, 2010
restraint: date: group: author: link: pages:
WikiLeaks, U.S. Intelligence, U.S. Army, National Ground Intelligence Center, NGIC, classified, SE- CRET, NOFORN, Red Cell Classified SECRET//NOFORN (US) February 2, 2010
CIA Red Cell
A Red Cell Special Memorandum
5 February 2010
What If Foreigners See the United States
As an “Exporter of Terrorism”? (S//NF)
This memo was prepared by the CIA Red Cell, which has been charged by the Director of Intelligence with taking a pronounced “out-of-the-box” approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues. Comments and queries are welcome and may be directed to the CIA Red Cell at (703) 482-6918 / 482-0169 or 44462/50127, secure. (C)
CL BY: 0711195 CL REASON: 1.4 (d) DECL ON: 20350204 DRV FRM: FOR S-06
Much attention has been paid recently to the increasing occurrence of American-grown Islamic terrorists conducting attacks against US targets, primarily in the homeland. Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non-US persons.
This report examines the implications of what it would mean for the US to be seen increasingly as an incubator and “exporter of terrorism.”(S//NF)
Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.
+ Late last year five young Muslim American men traveled from northern Virginia to Pakistan allegedly to join the Pakistani Taliban and to engage in jihad. Their relatives contacted the FBI after they disappeared without telling anyone, and then Pakistani authorities arrested them as they allegedly attempted to gain access to al-Qa’ida training facilities.
+ In November 2008, Pakistani-American David Headley conducted surveillance in support of the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba (LT) attack in Mumbai, India that killed more than 160 people. LT induced him to change his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley to facilitate his movement between the US, Pakistan, and India.
+ Some American Jews have supported and even engaged in violent acts against perceived enemies of Israel. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish doctor from New York, emigrated to Israel, joined the extremist group Kach, and killed 29 Palestinians during their prayers in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron which helped to trigger a wave of bus bombings by HAMAS in early 1995.
+ Some Irish-Americans have long provided financial and material support for violent efforts to compel the United Kingdom to relinquish control of Northern Ireland. In the 1880s, Irish-American members of Clan na Gael dynamited Britain’s Scotland Yard, Parliament, and the Tower of London, and detonated bombs at several stations in the London underground.
In the twentieth century, Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support sent to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases.
Only after repeated high-level British requests and then London’s support for our bombing of Libya in the 1980s did the US Government crack down on Irish-American support for the IRA. (S//NF)
American Freedoms Facilitate Terrorist Recruitment and Operations (S//NF)
Primarily we have been concerned about Al-Qa’ida infiltrating operatives into the United States to conduct terrorist attacks, but AQ may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas.
Undoubtedly Al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups recognize that Americans can be great assets in terrorist operations overseas because they carry US passports, don’t fit the typical Arab-Muslim profile, and can easily communicate with radical leaders through their unfettered access to the internet and other modes of communication.
+Terrorist groups such as Al-Qa’ida have surely noticed the ease with which Headley was able to travel multiple times on a US visa between the US, Pakistan, and India without arousing suspicion from officials.
+Al-Qa’ida and other extremist groups have also probably noticed that the US Government has been more concerned with preventing attacks on the US by homegrown terrorists or foreigners than with Americans going overseas to carry out attacks in other countries. Most foreign governments do not suspect that American citizens would plot or perpetrate attacks against their citizens within their borders.
Foreign terrorists have recruited homegrown US extremists for attacks abroad and are likely to increase the use of this method because so far it has slipped below the radar of the governments of the US and other countries.
+The ubiquity of internet services around the world and the widespread use of English on popular websites such as Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and various blogs enable radical clerics and terrorist recruiters to bypass America’s physical borders and influence US citizens.
For example, a self-proclaimed recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban reportedly contacted the five men in northern Virginian via YouTube and then exchanged coded emails with the group. Terrorists apparently know that detection is especially difficult in cases where the potential US recruit is not affiliated with any known terrorist group. (S//NF)
Impact on Foreign Relations if US Seen as “Exporter of Terrorism” (S//NF)
If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries.
As a recent victim of high-profile terrorism originating from abroad, the US Government has had significant leverage to press foreign regimes to acquiesce to requests for extraditing terrorist suspects from their soil. However, if the US were seen as an “exporter of terrorism,” foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty.
+Foreign regimes could request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens. US failure to cooperate could result in those governments refusing to allow the US to extract terrorist suspects from their soil, straining alliances and bilateral relations.
+In extreme cases, US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil.
Foreign intelligence operations on US soil to neutralize or even assassinate individuals in the US deemed to be a threat are not without precedent. Before the US entered World War II, British intelligence carried out information operations against prominent US citizens deemed to be isolationists or sympathetic to the Nazis. Some historians who have examined relevant archives even suspect that British intelligence officers assassinated Nazi agents on US soil. (S//NF)
Foreign perception of the US as an “exporter of terrorism” also raises difficult legal issues for the US, its foreign allies, and international institutions. To date, the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and instead, has pursued Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) with other countries to ensure immunity for US nationals from ICC prosecution. The US has threatened to terminate economic aid and withdraw military assistance with countries that do not accede to BIAs.
+If foreign regimes believe the US position on rendition is too one-sided, favoring the US, but not them, they could obstruct US efforts to detain terrorism suspects.
For example, in 2005 Italy issued criminal arrest warrants for US agents involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric and his rendition to Egypt. The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge US bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts.
+If foreign leaders see the US refusing to provide intelligence on American terrorism suspects or to allow witnesses to testify in their courts, they might respond by denying the same to the US. In 2005 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted by a German court because the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify. More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the US or abroad, or result in the release of suspects. (S//NF)
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
August 29th, 2010 - by admin
Juan Gonzales & Amy Goodman / Democracy Now! – 2010-08-29 23:29:11
Obama Admin Claims End to Combat Operations in Iraq, But Iraqis See Same War Under a Different Name
The Obama administration says the last combat brigades have left Iraq. Is this the end of the Iraq war or just a rebranding of the US occupation? More than 50,000 troops remain in Iraq as well as 4,500 special operations forces and tens of thousands of private contractors. The US embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world — the size of eighty football fields.
We get a perspective on the so-called withdrawal rarely heard in the US media: that of two Iraqis, Raed Jarrar of Peace Action and Yanar Mohammed of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today’s show on Iraq. If you happened to have tuned into the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night, you might have been led to believe the Iraq war was all but over. NBC news anchor Brian Williams led the evening’s broadcast with an exclusive story on the war.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who’s covered this war for so many years for us, with us from a moving convoy in the Iraqi desert tonight. And Richard, I understand your reporting of this at this hour tonight constitutes the official Pentagon announcement, correct?â€¨â€¨
RICHARD ENGEL: Yes, it is. Right now we are with the last American combat troops, and they are in the process of leaving this country right now. We are with the 4/2 Stryker Brigade. I’m broadcasting right now live from the top of a Stryker fighting vehicle. There are 440 American troops in this convoy. As soon as they cross border into Kuwait — and it is not far to the border, just about thirty miles from here — as soon as all these soldiers leave Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the combat mission in Iraq, will be over.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was NBC’s Richard Engel in Iraq near the Kuwaiti border with his exclusive report that NBC described as, quote, the “official Pentagon announcement” of the withdrawal.
Although the withdrawal has been hailed as a major milestone in the Iraq war and an end to combat operations, 50,000 US troops will remain in Iraq after the end of this month to help with training and logistics.
In addition, the US is keeping 4,500 special operations forces in Iraq to carry out counterterrroism operations. Tens of thousands of private contractors will also remain in the country.
State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley acknowledged earlier this week that the withdrawal of the combat brigades would lead to a doubling in the number of private contractors employed by the State Department.
P.J. CROWLEY:Where the military has provided security in the past, we now have to provide that security. This is a case where contractors actually — for what we think is a transitory requirement, this is where contractors actually are fruitful. We’re able to ramp up an effort for a temporary period of time and then reduce that effort as the security situation improves.
REPORTER: So you’ve begun contacting them — DynCorp or Xi security?
â€¨â€¨P.J. CROWLEY: Yeah, we have — we have very specific plans to increase our security, you know, because — as the military is leaving. This will be expensive.
AMY GOODMAN: The State Department will use private contractors to guard the massive US embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the world, as well as US consulates in Basra and Erbil and embassy branch offices in Kirkuk and Mosul.
The withdrawal of the US combat brigades also comes at a pivotal moment for Iraq. Elections were held in March, but a new government still hasn’t been formed. And Baghdad is still reeling from Monday’s suicide bombing outside an army recruitment center that killed at least sixty recruits. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq this year.
To talk more about the situation, we’re joined by two Iraqis. Raed Jarrar is in Washington. He is Iraq consultant for American Friends Service Committee and a senior fellow at Peace Action. Yanar Mohammed is joining us from Toronto. She’s president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.
Raed, let’s begin with you. Can you assess what the situation on the ground is right now?
RAED JARRAR: I don’t think what happened this week or what will be happening by the end of this month will have any real implications on the situation on the ground, because most of the US troops, the combat forces, have left Iraqi cities and towns and villages last June. So there are no real implications of what is happening now on the situation.
The situation in Iraq is extremely bad. It’s very bad. The services that the Iraqi public are receiving are dysfunctional. People don’t have access to very basic services like water, electricity, sewage, education and healthcare.
The political situation is deteriorating. It’s very bad. Iraq does not have a government almost after six months of the election. And the security situation is extremely bad, as well.
But these are two different tracks, though. From an Iraqi perspective, although a majority of Iraqis, maybe a national consensus, would agree that the situation is extremely bad in Iraq, that Iraq is still broken, there is still a majority of Iraqis who want this occupation to end. So it’s not like Iraqis believe that prolonging the occupation would fix what this occupation has broken.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Raed Jarrar, what about this issue of the seeming paralysis of the government in being able to, following elections — months have passed without a clear agreement on who will continue to run the government in Iraq?
RAED JARRAR: There are a number of reasons that have led to this delay. I mean, first of all, the election itself was a very important and positive development in Iraq, because the Iraqi public did vote for parties that has more nationalist tendencies, parties that are for ending the occupation, parties that are for ending sectarian divisions and sectarian allocationism in the government. So the election itself was good news.
Now, the reasons why the election has taken a long time to form the government, we’ve been having around — it’s been almost six months now. There are some external reasons — the fact that some regional governments, including the Iranian government, have been interfering in the process negatively. Some other interventions have been slowing down the process. And there are some domestic reasons — the inability of some Iraqi leaders to put their differences aside and move forward.
But the main reason why we have this deadlock now is the fact that Iraq does not have a functional democracy. We cannot expect to have a functional democracy from Iraq that was imposed by a foreign occupation. That is why millions of Iraqis, including myself, said from the beginning this occupation should not have started, should not start, from the beginning, because there is no such thing as implanting a functional democracy from outside.
It’s a broken system. It has many problems. But although, you know, the situation is very bad, I still have hope that Iraqi political leaders will manage to create a new government within the upcoming weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: On this issue, Raed, of Iraq’s failure to form a new government after the March election, this is what the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said earlier this month.
PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI: [translated] I’m sure that if the next prime minister is weak and not supported by the majority of political blocs, entities and Parliament, the big danger is that it will affect the unity of Iraq and the security situation. Militias and gangs will return. Al-Qaeda will return. There will be conflicts. There are many people lurking who are waiting to seize any gap. We need a man who knows the map of existing challenges, diplomatic, external and internal relations, national unity, national reconciliation, and the unity of Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month. Raed, your response?
RAED JARRAR: I think this is a very destructive way of dealing with the situation by Mr. al-Maliki. Choosing the next prime minister is not like hiring a new employee, and they’re putting, you know, some requirements for the new prime minister. There are existing regulations and constitutional articles that show us how to choose the next prime minister.
The prime minister should be chosen in accordance to the election results. Whomever won the — whomever is the head of the largest bloc in the Parliament gets to become the prime minister. Unfortunately, many Iraqi politicians, including Mr. al-Maliki, are trying to circumvent the results of the election and trying to make it an issue of, you know, who to choose based on their qualifications, rather than going back to the election results and abiding by what the Iraqi people have said.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.
Yanar, usually you’re in Iraq, but right now you’re in Toronto. Your thoughts on this moment, how important it is? What is happening on the ground with women?
YANAR MOHAMMED: To tell you the truth, if I wouldn’t have seen it on CNN, I wouldn’t have been aware of it at all. And it’s only two weeks since I’ve left Baghdad, and I’m going back in a few days. You don’t see the US troops on the streets anymore. They are in their bases. They are running the politics totally on their own terms, for their own interests. But they don’t have — they don’t need to have their troops on the ground. They have trained the Iraqi army to do the same oppressive acts that they do to the people on the ground.
The number of detainments, the oppression against people everywhere, the Iraqi army is doing a very good job at that. They are representing the same tactics, so the US troops don’t need to be there, as long as the US politics have been put in place.
So, what do we feel about that? Well, we have heard in the report earlier that it was called Operation Iraqi Liberation or Iraq Freedom. In our opinion, we are back to point zero now. At this point, organizing — freedom of organizing does not exist, because as — I don’t know how many people in the US have heard that workers are not allowed to organize. Unions have been banned to organize in some of the ministries in Iraq.
Civil society organizations are also being harassed by some facilities put in place by the government. And the democracy that has been imposed on Iraq by this occupation has brought forward a prime minister who runs prisons. Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison, and everybody knows that.
The Human Rights Watch has written a report about it. He runs a prison where hundreds of men have been tortured. And I’m not speaking five years ago, six years ago; this was found out in April 2010. Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where hundreds of men have been tortured Abu Ghraib-style. And we all know where those lessons have come from.
So, the fact that the troops are leaving is good, by itself, if you look at it as a separate fact of what’s happening on the ground. But what’s happening on the ground, there are no freedoms. We are back to the same dictatorship that we had in Saddam’s time.
No freedom to organize for workers. Women are afraid to speak out. We are being harassed by some facilities of the government. And when we go back home to hide, trying to get some security, we don’t find electricity. We get water a few hours a day.
And to tell you the truth, I ran from the heat in Baghdad, because I couldn’t tolerate it anymore. And that’s why I’m here in Toronto now. And it’s very hard to live an ordinary life if you are in Iraq now.
All stories of democracy — excuse me, we do not feel them in Iraq. And we are working in organizations. We are sometimes speaking politics.
We are not ordinary people. We are a good gauge for these things. We don’t feel any of this. The Prime Minister, when he is the head of a prison, this is not a democracy to have. And the deadlock that’s on the dysfunctional government, it was expected.
Nouri al-Maliki, having been prepared for — to take over in the last four years, would not let go of his chair easily. And what he said over the interview, there was a part that was missed in the translation. He says that a weak man cannot take over. When he says a weak man cannot take over, he means he is the strong man, because he is supported by the US policies. That’s the message in there. That’s his message to his colleague, Allawi–
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar Mohammed?
YANAR MOHAMMED: — that he is the one who’s chosen.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar Mohammed, I’d like to ask you — here in the United States, obviously, the media coverage is suggesting this is the end of the Iraq war that began with the invasion of 2003. But obviously you are aware, as millions of Iraqis are, that the conflict between the US and Iraq now is almost twenty years old from those days in ’90, ’91, with the — Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Your sense now, twenty years later, of the overall impact of the US hostilities — the bombing campaigns, the sanctions and then the invasion — on life in Iraq?
YANAR MOHAMMED: You need to have a cameraman visit Baghdad and see how destroyed the city still is. All the buildings look like they are thirty years old. And the streets are — the way I go from my house to my work, all the streets are bumpy, and none of them is fixed. The corruption, the level of corruption in Iraq is one of the highest in the world. The amounts of money that have been lost, meanwhile, in the last seven years and a half, I cannot even say the number. I cannot imagine it.
So, using false words of democracy are good for the media in the US, but in reality, in our lives in Baghdad, level of unemployment is so high. And if CNN says it’s something around 60 percent level of employment, well, most of those are in the army, are in the police — young men who have to get some kind of job and later on get bombed while standing in a lineup. Level of unemployment among women is, I would say, 80 percent. How are we living? Scarce electricity, services, and everything is so expensive.
AMY GOODMAN: When you say “scarce electricity,” Yanar, what do you mean by “scarce electricity”? How much electricity do you have a day in Baghdad?
YANAR MOHAMMED: In my home, which is central Baghdad, I get almost three hours of electricity a day, and I have to pay somewhere between $150 and $250 for the guy who sells electricity next door. It means that the government finds herself not responsible of providing me with electricity.
In the time when the temperature is 55 Celsius, you cannot stand in the street, you cannot sit in a room. You’re sweating. And the levels of deaths that happen with this high temperature is no concern of the Minister of Electricity, who is busy oppressing the workers who work in his ministry.
He has banned unionizing, and he has been put on — he has two ministries. So, to make a long story short, our lives are so difficult in Iraq. And the confrontation with the US policies, for us, are getting harsher every — day after day.
And we find out that we have to buy the oil that comes out of our own ground in a very high price that is not our — that isn’t proportional with the level of pay that we have. Unemployment is so high.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, just for the record —
YANAR MOHAMMED: And the other thing, as a women’s organization —
AMY GOODMAN: — for the US audience — just for the record, for the US audience, when you talked about 55 degrees Celsius, that’s, what, about 131 degrees Fahrenheit, is what Yanar Mohammed is talking about.
The presence of the US, the embassy — eighty (80) football fields — the private security, the private companies. You know, Erik Prince, who’s the head of Blackwater, just moved to the United Arab Emirates. They don’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, as Blackwater is embroiled in various charges about its involvement in murder and torture.
Can you talk about what the presence of the private security firms mean — they’re going to be doubling — and what this massive, the largest US embassy in the world means still in Iraq?
YANAR MOHAMMED: In what used to be called in Iraq the presidential palace, now there is a zone that none of us regular people can reach to. It is surrounded by almost five high concrete walls. And among these concrete walls, you have to be searched almost five times before you go inside. And if you don’t have three IDs on you, you will not reach into that zone. So the American embassy is something that we have not seen. I’ve just read about it in the magazines. You may know more about it than I do, while it is in our country.
As for what the — what we call — you call them the private contractors. We call them faraq al-qadera [phon.], which means the dirty gangs or dirty mobs, who are giving — I think most of them are working as bodyguards for the parliamentarians and for the VIPs in Iraq.
And you have to be real careful when you see one of those convoys in front of you, because they have no problem shooting anybody in their way or hitting your car or jeopardizing your life. They are the ones that you need to be careful from. And you cannot stop them and ask them, “What’ss your ID? Are you American, or are you Iraqi?” because they have employed a big number of Iraqi young men who cannot find any other jobs, and they have taught them their same ways, unfortunately.
This point brings me to another conclusion. After seven-and-a-half years, we have a big population of young men who can work only as military. They are very good at killing. And after seven-and-a-half years, we are very aware who are the Sunni and who are the Shia. We are very aware who are the Arabs, the Kurds and the Turkmens and the rest of the ethnicities. We are very aware of all the reasons that could fight — that could start a civil war at any point. We have been given very strong lessons in the so-called democracy. They have very good reasons to kill each other for no reason at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, I want to thank you for being with us, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. And, of course, we’ll speak to you when you’re in Iraq, as well.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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