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Reports: Iran Shoots Downs US Drone over Nuke Site

July 23rd, 2011 - by admin

MSNBC & Fars News Agency & Hamsayeh Net & Wired – 2011-07-23 00:03:35


US Drone Shot Down over Iran Nuke Site

TEHERAN (July 20, 2011) — A US drone was shot down while flying over a nuclear facility in Iran, according to reports in the Iranian media. Iran’s Fars news agency reported that lawmaker Ali Aqazadeh Dafsari, a member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, had confirmed the unmanned spy plane was flying near the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom province when it was brought down by Revolutionary Guard soldiers. It did not say when the alleged incident happened.

Dafsari told Fars that the drone was trying to gather information about the nuclear facility for the CIA. Fars also said Iranian military officials had claimed to have shot down “several enemy drones” in January.

“We have experienced similar incidents many times in the past and there have even been drones belonging to the occupying Zionist regime (Israel), the United States and Britain which have been shot down in the Persian Gulf during the past 7 years,” Fars quoted a senior military official as saying at the time.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

US Spy Drone Shot Down by Iran
Fars News Agency

TEHRAN (July 19, 2011) — A senior Iranian legislator confirmed earlier reports saying that a US drone has been shot down by Iran over Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in the Central Qom province.

Member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Ali Aqazadeh Dafsari said on Tuesday that the unmanned spy plane was flying near the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom province when the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s Air Defense units brought it down. 

The official stated that the US drone was on a mission to identify the location of the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant and gather information about the nuclear facility for the CIA, Dafsari stated. 

Earlier this year, a senior Iranian military official had confirmed reports on the shooting down of several enemy drones over the Persian Gulf, and said Iran has targeted a large number of these pilotless planes during the last 7 years. 

“We have experienced similar incidents many times in the past and there have even been drones belonging to the occupying Zionist regime (Israel), the United States and Britain which have been shot down in the Persian Gulf during the past 7 years,” the senior military official told FNA in January. 

Also in January 2007, the Iranian military troops shot down a spy plane of the US army when trying to cross Iran-Iraq borders in the Southwestern city of Dasht-e-Azadegan, Khuzestan province. 

(c) 2006 Fars News Agency. All Rights Reserved

Iran Shot Down a US Spy Plane in Central Parts of the Country
Hamsayeh Net

(July 21, 2011) — Iranian air-defense units today brought down a highly sophisticated US spy drone in central parts near one of Iran’s newly constructed nuclear enrichment plants.

Iranian website Javanonline.ir quoted MP Ali Aqazadeh Dafsari as saying the country’s defense units shot down a US spy plane flying over Qom Province in central Iran.

“An unmanned US spy plane that was flying over the province of Qom, near the Fordo nuclear facility, was brought down by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ air defense units.” Dafsari told reporters.

The Iranian MP added that CIA spy plane was on a mission to gather information on Fardo nuclear complex near the holy city of Qom when it was brought down.

Last year Iran announced construction of several nuclear enrichment plants as part of its growing nuclear industry. Fardo enrichment plant has recently been completed and Tehran plans installing some of the newer models of centrifuge machines at this particular plant.

The oil-rich nation is currently undergoing expansion of its peaceful nuclear program within the NPT regulations by constructing several more enrichment plants throughout the country.

Did Iran Just Shoot Down a US Stealth Drone?
David Axe / Danger Room: Wired Magazine

(July 20, 2011) — For the third time this year, Iran is claiming it shot down an American robot warplane trying to snoop on TehranÂ’s nuclear facilities. “An unmanned US spy plane flying over the holy city of Qom near the uranium enrichment Fordu site was shot down by the Revolutionary GuardsÂ’ air-defense units,” lawmaker Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari told Iranian state television.

As with all “news” reports coming from Tehran’s official media apparatus, it’s wise to take Dafsari’s claim with a grain of salt. Notably, no one is showing off any fresh wreckage of an American robot — a popular pastime in other countries where drones have gone down.

That said, there’s reason to believe Dafsari — and reason to believe the drone in question is one of a small fleet of radar-evading ‘bots the Pentagon saves for the most important, and difficult, missions. That would make the latest US drone casualty the first stealth robot to be shot down, that we know of.

That’s a lot of “ifs,” to be sure. But in the world of secret aircraft, a little conjecture is sometimes all you’ve got.

Again if true, DafsariÂ’s tale of a downed US drone is further evidence of AmericaÂ’s escalating global drone campaign. While lethal strikes by US Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Afghanistan and Pakistan grab the most headlines, American drones are also busy tracking Somali insurgents and pirates, Yemeni terrorists, Latin American drug runners and the forces of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, among others, in addition to allegedly spying on Iran.

The Pentagon has been planning for years to eventually replace many, if not most, of its human-piloted planes with flying robots. But the mounting evidence of worldwide US drone operations means our unmanned future is here, today.

Iran claims its nuke program is strictly for peaceful purposes. Most foreign observers believe it’s aimed at producing nuclear weapons. While the Pentagon readies special nuke-busting weapons, satellites and human spies are surely hard at work gathering data on Iranian enrichment sites and other nuke facilities. There’s little reason to doubt US — and possibly Israeli — UAVs are on the job, too.

Indeed, thatÂ’s one possible role for the US Air ForceÂ’s secretive RQ-170 (pictured), a stealthy, flying-wing UAV first spotted in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2007. The Air Force copped to the RQ-170Â’s existence in 2009, making it the first acknowledged, operational stealth drone.

The “Beast of Kandahar,” as Bill Sweetman dubbed it, reportedly helped guide US Special Forces towards Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound back in May. The radar-evading ‘bot has also been sighted in South Korea, from where it possibly spied on North Korea’s nukes. Phil Finnegan, a UAV analyst at the Teal Group, told Air Force Times the RQ-170 could be doing the same thing over Iran, too.

So if it was a stealthy Beast that Iran shot down, why hasnÂ’t Tehran proudly showed off photos of the smoldering wreckage? ItÂ’s possible that the RQ-170 comes equipped with a self-destruct mechanism specifically intended to prevent just such a propaganda coup. We know some drones have these kill-switches, because occasionally robot operators accidentally flip them.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

NASA and Nukes — A Recipe for Disaster

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Karl Grossman / Long Island Politics – 2011-07-22 23:55:30


(July 22, 2011) — What is NASA’s future now that Atlantis has landed and the shuttle program is over? If NASA persists in using nuclear power in space, the agency’s future is threatened. Between November 25 and December 15 NASA plans to launch for use on Mars a rover fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium, more plutonium than ever used on a rover.

The mission has a huge cost: $2.5 billion. But if there is an accident before the rover is well on its way to Mars, and plutonium is released on Earth, its cost stands to be yet more gargantuan.

NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for what it calls its Mars Science Laboratory Mission says that if plutonium is released on Earth, the cost could be as high as $1.5 billion to decontaminate each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas” impacted.

What’s the probability of an accident releasing plutonium? The NASA document says “the probability of an accident with a release of plutonium” is 1-in-220 “overall.”

If you knew your chance of not surviving an airplane flight — or just a drive in a car — was 1 in 220, would you take that trip?

And is this enormous risk necessary? In two weeks, there’ll be a NASA mission demonstrating a clear alternative to atomic energy in space: solar power.

On August 5, NASA plans to launch a solar-powered space probe it’s named Juno to Jupiter. There’s no atomic energy involved, although NASA for decades has insisted that nuclear power is necessary for space devices beyond the orbit of Mars. With Juno, NASA will be showing it had that wrong.

“Juno will provide answers to critical science questions about Jupiter, as well as key information that will dramatically enhance present theories about the early formation of our own solar system,” says NASA on its website. “In 2016, the spinning, solar-powered Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter.” It will be equipped with “instruments that can sense the hidden world beneath Jupiter’s colorful clouds” and make 33 passes of Jupiter.

As notes Aviation Week and Space Technology: “The unique spacecraft will set a record by running on solar power rather than nuclear radioisotope thermoelectric generators previously used to operate spacecraft that far from the Sun.”

The Mars rover to be launched, named Curiosity by NASA, will be equipped with these radioisotope thermoelectric generators using plutonium, the deadliest radioactive substance.

Juno, a large craft — 66-feet wide — will be powered by solar panels built by a Boeing subsidiary, Spectrolab. The panels can convert 28 percent of the sunlight that them to electricity. They’ll also produce heat to keep Juno’s instruments warm. This mission’s cost is $1.1 billion.

In fact, Juno is not a wholly unique spacecraft. In 2004, the European Space Agency launched a space probe called Rosetta that is also solar-powered. Its mission is to orbit and land on a comet — beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

Moreover, there have been major developments in “solar sails” to propel spacecraft. Last year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its Ikaros spacecraft with solar sails taking it to Venus. In January, NASA itself launched its NanoSail-D spacecraft. The Planetary Society has been developing several spacecraft that will take advantage of photons emitted by the Sun to travel through the vacuum of space.

At no point will Juno (or the other solar spacecrafts) be a threat to life on Earth. This includes Juno posing no danger when in 2013 it makes a flyby of Earth. Such flybys making use of Earth’s gravity to increase a spacecraft’s velocity have constituted dangerous maneuvers when in recent years they’ve involved plutonium-powered space probes such as NASA’s Galileo and Cassini probes.

Curiosity is a return to nuclear danger.

NASA’s Final Environmental Impact statement admits that a large swath of Earth could be impacted by plutonium in an accident involving it. The document’s section on “Impacts of Radiological Releases” says “the affected environment” could include “the regional area near the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the global area.”

“Launch area accidents would initially release material into the regional area, defined … to be within … 62 miles of the launch pad,” says the document. This is an area from Cape Canaveral west to Orlando.

But “since some of the accidents result in the release of very fine particles less than a micron in diameter, a portion of such releases could be transported beyond… 62 miles,” it goes on. These particles could become “well-mixed in the troposphere” — the atmosphere five to nine miles high — “and have been assumed to potentially affect persons living within a latitude band from approximately 23-degrees north to 30-degrees north.” That’s a swath through the Caribbean, across North Africa and the Mideast, then India and China Hawaii and other Pacific islands, and Mexico and southern Texas.

Then, as the rocket carrying Curiosity up gains altitude, the impacts of an accident in which plutonium is released would be even broader. The plutonium could affect people “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude,” says the NASA document. That’s a band around the mid-section of the Earth including much of South America, Africa and Australia.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, has long emphasized that a pound of plutonium if uniformly distributed could hypothetically give a fatal dose of lung cancer to every person on Earth. A pound, even 10.6 pounds, could never be that uniformly distributed, of course.

But an accident in which plutonium is released by a space device as tiny particles falling to Earth maximizes its lethality. A millionth of a gram of plutonium can be a fatal dose. The pathway of greatest concern is the breathing in plutonium particle.

As the NASA Environmental Impact Statement puts it: “Particles smaller than about 5 microns would be transported to and remain in the trachea, bronchi, or deep lung regions.” The plutonium particles “would continuously irradiate lung tissue.”

“A small fraction would be transported over time directly to the blood or to lymph nodes and then to the blood,” it continues. Once plutonium “has entered the blood via ingestion or inhalation, it would circulate and be deposited primarily in the liver and skeletal system.” Also, says the document, some of the plutonium would migrate to the testes or ovaries.

The cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium could be, according to the NASA statement, $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”

The NASA document lists “secondary social costs associated with the decontamination and mitigation activities” as: “Temporary or longer term relocation of residents; temporary or longer term loss of employment; destruction or quarantine of agricultural products including citrus crops; land use restrictions which could affect real estate values, tourism and recreational activities; restriction or bands on commercial fishing; and public health effects and medical care.”

As to why the use of a plutonium-powered rover on Mars — considering that NASA has successfully used solar-powered rovers on Mars — the NASA Environmental Impact Statement says that a “solar-powered rover…would not be capable of operating over the full range of scientifically desirable landing site latitudes” on this mission.

There’s more to it. For many decades there has been a marriage of nuclear power and space at NASA. The use of nuclear power on space missions has been heavily promoted by the US Department of Energy and its predecessor agency, the US Atomic Energy Commission, and the many DOE (previously AEC) national laboratories including Los Alamos and Oak Ridge.

This provides work for these government entities. Also, the manufacturers of nuclear-powered space devices — General Electric was a pioneer in this — have pushed their products. Further, NAS has sought to coordinate its activities with the US military. The military for decades has planned for the deployment of nuclear-powered weapons in space.

Personifying the NASA-military connection now is NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former NASA astronaut and Marine Corps major general. Appointed by President Barack Obama, he is a booster of radioisotope thermoelectric generators as well as rockets using nuclear power for propulsion. The US has spent billions of dollars through the years on such rockets but none have ever taken off and the programs have all ended up cancelled largely out of concern about a nuclear-powered rocket blowing up on launch or falling back to Earth.

Accidents have happened in the US space nuclear program. Of the 26 space missions that have used plutonium which are listed in the NASA Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, three underwent accident, admits the document.

The worst occurred in 1964 and involved, it notes, the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to Earth, disintegrating as it fell. The 2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel dispersed widely over the Earth and Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long linked this accident to an increase in global lung cancer. With the SNAP-9A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites. Now all satellites — and the International Space Station — are solar-powered.

There was a near-miss involving a nuclear disaster and a space shuttle. The ill-fated Challenger’s next mission in 1986 was to loft a plutonium-powered space probe.

The NASA Environmental Impact Statement includes comments from people and organizations some highly critical of a plutonium-powered Mars Science Laboratory Mission.

Leah Karpen of Asheville, North Carolina says: “Every expansion of plutonium research, development and transportation of this deadly material increases the risk of nuclear accident or theft. In addition, plutonium production is expensive and diverts resources from the more important social needs of our society today, and in the future.” She urges NASA “to reconsider the use of nuclear” and go with solar instead.

Jeremy Maxand, executive director of the Idaho-based Snake River Alliance, calls on NASA and the Department of Energy to “take this opportunity to move space exploration in a sustainable direction with regard to power. Using solar rather than nuclear to power the Mars Science Laboratory Mission would keep the US safe, advance energy technologies that are cleaner and more secure, be more fiscally responsible, and set a responsible example to other countries as they make decisions about their energy future.”

Ace Hoffman of Carlsbad, California speaks of “today’s nuclear NASA” and a “closed society of dangerous, closed-minded ‘scientists’ who are hoodwinking the American public and who are guilty of premeditated random murder.” He adds: “The media has a duty to learn the truth rather than parrot NASA’s blanketly-false assertions.”

NASA, in response to the criticisms, repeatedly states in the document: “NASA and the DOE take very seriously the possibility that an action they take could potentially result in harm to humans or the environment. Therefore, both agencies maintain vigorous processes to reduce the potential for such events.”

Involved in challenging the mission is the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Maine-based organization, says that “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining their dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry. Both entities view space as a new market for the deadly plutonium fuel.”

Says Gagnon: “The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the life of all the people on the planet…. Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don’t need to be launching nukes into space. It’s not a gamble we can afford to take.”

With the return of Atlantis and end of the shuttle program, there are concerns about this being the “end” of the US space program.

An accident if NASA continues to insist on mixing atomic energy and space — a nuclear disaster overhead — that, indeed, could end the space program.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet (Common Courage Press) and wrote and presented the TV program Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens (www.envirovideo.com).

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Attacks Oil Pipeline; Considers More Drones for Libya

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Reuters – 2011-07-22 23:28:26


Libya Says Six Killed in Airstrike near Brega

TRIPOLI (July 22, 2011) — A Libyan official said six guards were killed in an airstrike on Friday on a pipeline production plant just south of Brega in eastern Libya.

“This will be a major setback to future projects and a great problem to the maintenance activity,” Abdul Hakim el-Shwehdi, managing director of Libya’s state al-Nahr company which runs the country’s giant irrigation project, told reporters in Tripoli.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Writing by Giles Elgoodl editing by Tim Pearce)

US Military Weighs more Predator Drones for Libya
Phil Stewart / Reuters

WASHINGTON (July 22, 2011) — As the war in Libya drags on, the U.S. military is weighing options that may deepen its involvement in the conflict and its alliance with rebels trying to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday that the United States is considering a NATO request to send more Predator drones to Libya, as well as other surveillance aircraft. It has also reopened a debate over arming the rebels, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The options were first reported by the Los Angeles Times, days after new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared on his first trip abroad as Pentagon chief that prevailing in Libya was one of his top priorities.

But Panetta has also warned that Washington might be asked to take on increased responsibilities as some NATO allies’ cash-strapped militaries start to run out of steam in the bombing campaign launched four months ago

“Within the next 90 days, a lot of these other countries could be exhausted in terms of their capabilities, and so the United States, you know, is going to be looked at to help fill the gap,” Panetta told U.S. forces in Baghdad earlier this month.

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on members of the alliance to provide more aircraft to bomb Gaddafi’s forces in order to protect Libyan civilians and to enforce a no-fly zone.

The internal U.S. government debate over Libya was renewed after rebel leaders on July 15 won recognition as the legitimate government of Libya from the United States and other world powers, the official said.

While sending more Predator drones may aid the Libya operation, U.S. commanders are sensitive about pulling assets away from other missions, particularly in Afghanistan.

Some U.S. military officials have also previously been wary about arming the rebels, with one senior commander warning that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has stated that it sought to aid Libya’s opposition.

So far, US military aid to Libya’s rebels has been limited to nonlethal support, providing things like food rations and uniforms.

Diplomatic efforts to find a solution have intensified as the fighting drags on.

Gaddafi on Thursday ruled out talks with the rebels seeking to end his 41-year-rule, casting doubt on a flurry of Western efforts to negotiate an end to the deepening civil conflict.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

EAW Wishes You a Productive and Peaceful Vacation

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

EAW – 2011-07-22 23:19:31


EAW’s Editor will be out of the country for two weeks exploring state-level alternative power projects in Europe. If time and circumstances (i.e., access to Internet cafes) permit, new stories may be filed in the interim. Otherwise, we look forward to resuming our reports on Hiroshima Day, August 6.

Public Support Waning for Defense Spending

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Leo Shane III / Stars and Stripes & Rowan Scarborough / The Washington Times – 2011-07-22 01:06:58


Public Support Waning for Defense Spending
Leo Shane III / Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2011) — Defense officials have been warning for months that they expect military spending to be reduced significantly in coming years as lawmakers struggle with the ballooning federal budget. Now, a new poll shows the American public might back even steeper cuts in the defense budget.

According to a Rasmussen survey conducted last week, nearly half of Americans polled believe that leaders can make major cuts in defense spending without putting the country in danger. Seventy-nine percent say the United States spends too much on defending other countries. And nearly half of those polled want to withdraw all US troops from Europe and Japan.

The ideas come at a time when US military leaders are looking for a way to trim more than $400 billion in defense spending in coming years, possibly even more. President Barack Obama has hinted that he’d like to see even steeper cuts in projected defense spending.

Only 49 percent of those surveyed see a need for the United States to remain in NATO, despite the group’s heavy involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Only four percent of those surveyed think the United States should spend more on “protecting its friends” overseas, and about 11 percent believe that America should be “chiefly responsible for peace and the establishment of democracy in the rest of the world.”

But despite the budding resentment for American military deployments overseas, 60 percent of the poll participants said they still believe US troops should stay in South Korea, working in close proximity to the potential North Korean threat.

Currently, the US military has more than 250,000 troops deployed in more than 100 foreign countries not counting Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberals See Opportunity for Big Cuts in Defense: Push for Troop, Arms Levels after Cold War
Rowan Scarborough / The Washington Times

WASHINGTON (July 18, 2011) — The political left is pressing the White House and Congress to inflict a wave of Pentagon budget cuts not seen since the post-Cold War 1990s.

Liberals are citing the debt crisis and troop drawdowns from Iraq and Afghanistan to argue that now is the time for the Defense Department to shed people, missions and weapons after a decade of doubling arms spending after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The proposals, including one from the Center for America Progress, go well beyond President Obama’s call in April for $400 billion in defense cuts over 12 years. The center — run by John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to President Clinton — wants that much in reductions over the next three years and $1 trillion from what had been projected increases over the next decade.

Some House Democrats, led by Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, also have called for $1 trillion in cuts.

“I think this is the time because of a combination of the deficit and the changing way in which we’re going to deal with threats from groups like al Qaeda,” said American Progress‘ Lawrence Korb, a longtime defense analyst in Washington.

The political left is pressing the White House and Congress to inflict a wave of Pentagon budget cuts not seen since the post-Cold War 1990s.

Liberals are citing the debt crisis and troop drawdowns from Iraq and Afghanistan to argue that now is the time for the Defense Department to shed people, missions and weapons after a decade of doubling arms spending after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The proposals, including one from the Center for America Progress, go well beyond President Obama’s call in April for $400 billion in defense cuts over 12 years. The center — run by John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to President Clinton — wants that much in reductions over the next three years and $1 trillion from what had been projected increases over the next decade.

The Navy’s 11 carriers — a key way America projects immediate air power overseas — would be trimmed to nine, and with it other surface ships. A full third of 150,000 troops in Europe and Asia would be ordered home.

“You may not be able to keep as many carriers forward-deployed,” said Mr. Korb. “You would have to surge them, but I don’t see any missions you could not do.”

However, reducing the number of active carriers to nine means only three typically would be deployed at one time, possibly leaving the Pacific without a surface ship strike force.

“If the Chinese are going to threaten Taiwan, they’re going to do it with short-legged stuff, short-range ballistic missiles, right from shore,” Mr. Korb said. “We can’t do it that way. If the threat were Mexico, not to worry. We build diesel submarines and short-range fighters, and we’d call it a day.”

Such drastic cuts would face strong Republican opposition. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the GOP would never approve cuts of $1 trillion.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, released a detailed budget plan that calls for modest defense drawdowns over five years. He argued that the Defense Department’s total budget share already has decreased from 25 percent to 20 percent.

A smattering of conservatives are advocating more shrinkage. Some Republicans on Mr. Obama’s deficit commission supported cuts above $400 million.

With all troops due to be pulled out of Iraq this year and Afghanistan by 2014, the Pentagon could save $100 billion annually on those two accounts alone. Mr. Gates instituted more than $100 billion in savings, although some of that money was redirected into other arms programs.

The next phase is likely to be revealed in Mr. Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget in February or in some grand deficit-reduction agreement between him and Congress.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this year: “We can’t hold ourselves exempt from the belt-tightening. Neither can we allow ourselves to contribute to the very debt that puts our long-term security at risk.”

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who proved a hawkish director of the CIA, vowed to Congress that he would not let the military go hollow as it did in the late 1970s.

On July 8, he urged the White House and Congress to base cuts on a strategy. He expressed his concern about negotiators who would just “just pick a number and throw it at the Defense Department without really looking at policy, without looking at what makes sense.”

(c) Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Restore Independent Science Advice to Congress! Vote Due Today! Call Washington!

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Michael Halpern / Union of Concerned Scientists – 2011-07-22 00:58:15


ACTION ALERT: Restore Independent Science Advice to Congress! Vote Due Today! Call Washington!
Michael Halpern / Union of Concerned Scientists

(July 21, 2011) — I just got word that tomorrow, Friday, the House of Representatives will vote on a proposal to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)—a bipartisan group of researchers who, until 1995, provided Congress with objective scientific analysis on issues from Alzheimer’s disease to mapping the human genome.

UCS has worked hard in previous years to bring back the OTA, and this might be our best chance yet. Last year, UCS Senior Scientist Francesca Grifo testified before Congress on this very issue, and UCS organized dozens of coalition partners in support of OTA.

That’s why I’m reaching out to you and other UCS members — our most committed supporters — to ask you to make a quick phone call asking your member of Congress to support the Holt amendment to the legislative branch appropriations bill.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Congress must ensure that it has a source of credible and timely advice on science and technology. Please take just two minutes to call today or tomorrow—and leave a message if there is no answer. When you’re done, please send me a quick email to let me know how the call went. Thanks in advance for your quick action.

Michael Halpern is Program Manager for UCS’ Scientific Integrity Program

Restoring the Office of Technology Assessment
Union of Concerned Scientists

The House is slated to vote to restore funding to the OTA on Friday, July 22. Help restore independent science advice to Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urging your representative to support the Holt amendment to the legislative branch appropriations bill.

What’s an OTA? Why Does Congress Need One?
Congress faces many complicated questions about issues such as nanotechnology, stem cell research, the effectiveness of airport and port security systems, the best armor and equipment to protect our soldiers, and how best to protect public health and safety.

From 1972 until funding was cut in 1995, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) helped Congress to assess complex issues and make wiser legislative choices. OTA reports addressed issues before almost every Congressional committee, and through those reports, legislators could better understand new technologies and their policy implications. The reports helped set the terms of debate and increased understanding of the risks and implications of policy options. Because these reports were designed to frame issues and assess multiple policy alternatives, they were often cited by both sides during the same Congressional debate.

Washington, D.C. is a city awash in reports, white papers, fact sheets and other bits of information. The challenge for Congress is to separate the valuable information from the spin. This process is time consuming and often requires time and a level of expertise that even the best and most well-trained congressional staff will not always have.

While the analysis produced by OTA did not always drive congressional decision making, it did set boundaries to the debate, rule out some scientifically incorrect arguments, and help to frame political decisions in technically defensible ways.

As OTA supporter Representative Amo Houghton (R-NY) said, “We are cutting off one of the most important arms of Congress when we cut off unbiased knowledge about science and technology.”

What OTA Accomplished
The Congressional environment is highly political and hence technical analysis for Congress is very different from research or analysis conducted in academic or other settings. The OTA’s unique value derived from its ability to frame problems, to distinguish topics of importance from non-issues, and to identify the important policy choices available. By leaving out the value judgments and prescriptive recommendations, OTA was able to be both authoritative and credible.

The OTA was overseen by a Technical Advisory Board, which was composed of six Senators and six representatives, evenly split between the two parties. The agency worked primarily on studies requested by Congressional committees. Because the OTA was a part of Congress it was adept at communicating with politicians but was also sufficiently insulated from politics.

When OTA was operational, it more than earned its keep by identifying wasteful and ineffective programs and suggesting improvements to others. For example:

* As far back as 1980, OTA recommended that the US improve its disaster preparedness by emphasizing self-help. Studies cited by OTA showed that people prefer “rebuilding advice and supplies to extensive mass shelter or temporary housing.”

Over two decades later, FEMA trailer contracts wasted tens of millions of dollars during the disaster response to Hurricane Katrina. A GAO report determined that FEMA wasted much as $30 million in poorly managed temporary trailer supply contracts, including “about $15 million spent on maintenance inspections even though there was no evidence that inspections occurred.”

* A 1988 OTA study, “Healthy Children: Investing in the Future” pointed out the vulnerability of low birthweight infants to a variety of physical and mental disabilities. Its research concluded that expanding Medicaid eligibility to all pregnant women living in poverty would cost much less than the cost of $14,000 to $30,000 to treat the health problems of each low birthweight infants. That study helped change Medicaid eligibility rules by expanding access to prenatal care to millions of women in poverty.

* A 1987 OTA study predicted that Medicare coverage of mammograms for senior women could cut breast cancer deaths by 22 percent by the year 2000. Likewise, a 1990 OTA study concluded that older women undergoing routine pap smears were much less likely to develop cervical cancer than unscreened women. Both of these reports were instrumental in expanding Medicare coverage to include routine mammograms and pap smears, thus saving both taxpayer dollars and lives.

OTA Could Help Congress Avoid Mistakes
In recent years, Congress has approved a number of expensive yet troubled programs that could have been identified and averted by a timely OTA assessment. For example, The Department of Homeland Security spent three years pushing for a costly radiation detection system for smuggled nuclear material that did not work as promised, while neglecting to upgrade existing equipment that could have improved security. DHS had already awarded billions of dollars in contracts for deployment of the detectors before critical Government Accountability Office reports and congressional protests caused it to reconsider.

Can’t Other Entities Fill The Vacuum?
The National Academies (NAS), the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are three other entities that are also in the business of providing information to Congress. These three organizations are all good at what they do, and they should continue to do it, but none of them satisfactorily fills the important role that OTA played.

* The NAS provides excellent consensus recommendations from groups of the nation’s most respected scientists and experts. But advising Congress is not its primary function and while it tries to be responsive to congressional requests, it can and does say no at times.

Furthermore, the NAS is not always attuned to the needs and timelines of legislators and its reports are very expensive to produce. As a non-governmental agency, the NAS lacks sufficient high-level access to other parts of the federal government.

* The CRS is highly respected for its rapid response, but it is not accustomed to working with stakeholders or outside experts. It does not have the necessary technological or analytical capacity of the OTA, nor does it have experience with peer review.

* The GAO has very recently begun to undertake technological assessments of the type formerly done by OTA, but that program is bound by the rules and culture of a financial auditing agency. While the GAO has extensive access to all parts of the federal government and has produced numerous reports that have proven extremely useful for oversight, it has little experience with forward-looking assessments. Given the GAO’s core mission, it is unlikely that technology assessment will find a permanent home at GAO.

How Do We Bring Back the OTA?
Fortunately, the office itself was not abolished, just deprived of resources. UCS is working with a broad coalition of organizations and experts to make the case to Congress that restoring the OTA is essential for the ability of Congress to make fully-informed decisions.


* Read Dr. Francesca Grifo’s testimony to Congress on the need to refund the OTA: Written testimony (pdf), Oral testimony (pdf).

* Read the organizational letter in support of restoring the OTA (pdf).

* For more background on the OTA, read Dr. Gerald Epstein’s article on restarting the OTA and visit the OTA Legacy website.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.
Union of Concerned Scientists
2 Brattle Square Cambridge, MA 02138-3780
phone: 800-666-8276 | Fax: 617-864-9405

GOP House Declares War on Environment

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Energy Action Coalition & Greenpeace USA – 2011-07-22 00:51:44


GOP House Declares War on Environment
Quantesa Roberts / Energy Action Coalition

(July 21, 2011) — Last week, the House of Representatives passed a number of anti-environment bills, including an amendment to 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act to repeal light bulb efficiency standards and a bill to roll-back the safeguards of Clean Water Act including a $967 million cut in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds, which help states and cities pay for sewage treatment and drinking water.

The current appropriations bill also continues the agenda to gut the EPA. Some of the cuts include an 18% reduction in the EPA budget and non-spending provisions, or riders, that will prevent the EPA from protecting our air and water and protect mountaintop removal and offshore drilling.

Cuts to environmental programs are also expected as a result of the debate over the debt ceiling.

In the Senate a group of bipartisan Senators have introduced legislation that would delay EPA regulations on industrial boilers. The Senators say that the regulations will impose higher cost on the facilities and result in a loss of jobs. However, according to the EPA the regulations “will prevent thousands of deaths and heart attacks at a reasonable cost to industry.”

Coincidentally (not really), the members of Congress voting for the anti-environment proposals have also received significant contributions from big oil.

On Monday, Greenpeace released a new report, “Polluting Democracy” naming 15 members of Congress who are doing more to protect the interests of big polluters instead of their voters.

The members have consistently prevented the EPA from improving pollution standards in coal-fired power plants. The list includes Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) who has received a staggering $655,547 since 2000 from the fossil fuel industry and presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who has taken in $131,980 since 2006.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urged Energy Secretary Steven Chu to launch a national climate-change-education campaign. Waxman said the public’s understanding of climate change is “diminishing” in part because there are “powerful vested interests in the oil and coal industries successfully fanning disbelief.”

One possible target for the campaign should be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who recently backtracked on his previous statement about the effects of greenhouse gases. At a town hall in New Hampshire, Romney said:

I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies…. My view is that the EPA getting into carbon and regulating carbon has gone beyond the original intent of the legislation. I do believe we should reduce the pollutants that harm our health.

Meanwhile… we are experiencing the effects of climate change as temperatures are reaching record extremes and many parts of the world are suffering from severe droughts and food crises.

I think Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) summed it up quite nicely, “some days it’s like watching a wrecking crew tear down a building, breaking the whole thing to pieces before anyone realizes what they’re up to.” These assaults on the environment will continue. The only way to put a stop to it is to keep up the pressure and make sure our voices heard, or perhaps we can just wait for Captain Planet to save us!

Polluting Democracy
Coal Plays Dirty on the Hill

Greenpeace USA

WASHINGTON (July 18, 2011) — This report provides a sampling of the actions of a bipartisan cadre of 15 politicians, who are among those in the House of Representatives working for America’s dirty and decrepit coal-fired power industry. These 15 members have tried to stop EPA from modernizing standards for pollutants that come predominantly from coal-fired power plants, including mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, greenhouse gases, and coal ash.

Except for the one fresh- man, these members of Congress are in the top 25% of those receiving money from the fossil fuel industry. Many are in leadership positions within Congress. The actions reviewed for these 15 politicians were opposed to the health of people in their own districts.

The majority of the ancient US coal fleet has not installed easily available technology that could reduce mercury pollution by 90%. Coal combustion is responsible for most US mercury pollution. Mercury contributes to thousands of deaths annually and may adversely affect the development of over 400,000 babies per year.

Mercury exposure is a serious problem for the lungs, brain, heart, stomach, kidneys, and immune system. Much airborne mercury often falls back to the ground and waterways within only 100 or so miles, but it can be re-emitted into the air, float down streams, and accumulate in animals since mercury cannot be digested.

Read Polluting Democracy here.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT:A National Parks to Celebrate the Atomic Bomb?

July 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Michael Mariotte / Nuclear Information and Resource Service & John McArdle / Greenwire – 2011-07-22 00:43:59



Michael Mariotte / Nuclear Information and Resource Service

(July 21, 2011 — It’s stupid season in Washington (but raise your hand if you think it’s always stupid season in Washington…). Most of the nation is suffering from 100+ degree weather, but Congress continues to deny the reality of the climate crisis.

Even the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission thinks we need some speedy safety improvements to US reactors (for example, yesterday he called the need to withstand longer station blackouts a “no-brainer”), but most of the Commission is far more interested in protecting the nuclear industry than protecting the American people — so they’re trying to delay the process.

And now we have the US Department of the Interior, backed by several in Congress, with the stupidest idea of all: creating a National Park over parts of three states to memoralize the Manhattan Project and the creation of the single most destructive invention in history: the atomic bomb!

We don’t think the history of the Manhattan project or nuclear weapons should be swept under the rug by any means. An appropriate museum might be warranted, although New Mexico alone already has the National Atomic Museum, the Bradbury Museum and the Los Alamos Historical Museum. A memorial to the victims of nuclear weapons in Japan and of nuclear testing in the U.S. and elsewhere would make a lot of sense.

But a National Park? Something more typically reserved for our great national treasures like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc? Can you imagine pitching your tent next to a replica of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima?

As we approach the August 6-9 anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, this kind of glorification of atomic power in its rawest form is particularly galling. And when there are so many critical issues being ignored in Washington, it’s distressing to see such a monstrous concept even being considered. This idea should have been put in the recycle bin when it was first contemplated.

So, please take this opportunity to tell your Congressmembers to drop this idea, and get to work on the real issues facing our nation and planet.

As always, please feel free to edit the sample letter. You must have a U.S. address to participate in this action. Please use the icons above to spread the word through your social networks.

We don’t think the history of the Manhattan project or nuclear weapons should be swept under the rug by any means. An appropriate museum might be warranted, although New Mexico alone already has the National Atomic Museum, the Bradbury Museum and the Los Alamos Historical Museum. A memorial to the victims of nuclear weapons in Japan and of nuclear testing in the US and elsewhere would make a lot of sense.

But a National Park? Something more typically reserved for our great national treasures like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc? Can you imagine pitching your tent next to a replica of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima?

As we approach the August 6-9 anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, this kind of glorification of atomic power in its rawest form is particularly galling. And when there are so many critical issues being ignored in Washington, it’s distressing to see such a monstrous concept even being considered. This idea should have been put in the recycle bin when it was first contemplated.

And now, please take a moment to tell Congress what you think of this plan to glorify the creation of weapons of mass destruction.

Michael Mariotte is Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service


Anti-Nuclear Groups Protest Proposed Manhattan Project Park
John McArdle / Greenwire & New York Times

(July 19, 2011) — A plan to create a multi-state national park dedicated to the top secret project to develop an atomic bomb during World War II has drawn the ire of anti-nuclear groups that believe the government shouldn’t be in the business of celebrating the creation of a weapon of mass destruction.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week offered his support for the establishment of a Manhattan Project National Park, and top leaders on Capitol Hill have already vowed to move a plan developed by the National Park Service through Congress in the coming months. But Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Maryland-based Nuclear Information Resource Service, said today that the effort runs contrary to the goals of the national park system.

“National parks are national treasurers, and glorifying a weapon of mass destruction is certainly not among the purposes of a national park,” Mariotte said.

Greg Mello, of the Los Alamos Study Group in New Mexico, shares those concerns.

“We have to bracket a healthy historical interest with our moral sensibilities and with common sense, and that’s what’s not happening here,” said Mello, whose group has been lobbying against the effort for several years as the National Park Service has conducted a feasibility study ahead of making its official recommendation.

“What we risk is harming the national park system as a whole and the idea of national parks just when we need to protect the environment the most,” Mello said.

Mello and Mariotte said honoring the atomic bomb with its own national park would set a poor precedent.

“Once you open the gate … a national park can be anything,” Mello said. “Why don’t we have a Disneyland national park or NASCAR national park; what’s the limit?”

In the Interior Department release last week, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the story of the creation of the atomic bomb is one that should be shared with future generations.

“There is no better place to tell a story than where it happened, and that’s what national parks do,” Jarvis said. “The National Park Service will be proud to interpret these Manhattan Project sites and unlock their stories in the years ahead.”

If approved by Congress and President Obama, the new park would be made up of sites and facilities located in Los Alamos; Hanford, Wash.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. The park would be run through a special partnership that would allow the Department of Energy to manage and operate the facilities, while the National Park Service would provide educational and interpretive services (Greenwire, July 13).

Yesterday, in an interview with the Associated Press, NPS spokesman David Barna responded to the concerns that have been raised by anti-nuclear groups in the week since NPS sent its proposal to Congress.

Barna said the NPS manages several parks that are “viewed by some people as not part of our glorious past,” such as Civil War battle and Native American battle sites.

Barna said facilities that would make up the new Manhattan Project parks “are significant parts of our national cultural history. And before they get bulldozed over, we are in favor of preserving these places so future generations can study these events, for good or bad.”

“I don’t have a problem with honoring people who served the country,” Mariotte said today. But “honoring an inanimate object that creates such so much destruction that we vowed to never use it again boggles my mind.”

Mello said his group intends to begin a lobbying effort on Capitol Hill to convince legislators to vote against creating the new park.

“We hope sanity will prevail and the tight federal budget will make it more difficult for truly bad ideas to grow,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Senate Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) — who co-sponsored a bill that allowed Interior to study the creation of a Manhattan Project park — said today that NPS has provided a strong argument for why the Manhattan Project deserves its own park and that “we’re taking their advice.”

Copyright 2011 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
For more news on energy and the environment, visit www.greenwire.com.
Greenwire is published by Environment & Energy Publishing.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Making Earth a Global Free-Fire Zone

July 21st, 2011 - by admin

Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch – 2011-07-21 01:06:23


Making Earth a Global Free-Fire Zone

Is the Obama National Security Team a Pilotless Drone?

(July 11, 2011) — George W. who? I mean, the guy is so over. He turned the big six-five the other day and it was barely a footnote in the news. And Dick Cheney, tick-tick-tick. Condoleezza Rice? She’s already onto her next memoir, and yet it’s as if she’s been wiped from history, too? As for Donald Rumsfeld, he published his memoir in February and it hit the bestseller lists, but a few months later, where is he?

And can anyone be surprised? They were wrong about Afghanistan. They were wrong about Iraq. They were wrong about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong about what the US military was capable of doing. The country imploded economically while they were at the helm. Geopolitically speaking, they headed the car of state for the nearest cliff. In fact, when it comes to pure wrongness, what weren’t they wrong about?

Americans do seem to have turned the page on Bush and his cronies. (President Obama called it looking forward, not backward.) Still, glance over your shoulder and, if you’re being honest, you’ll have to admit that one thing didn’t happen: they didn’t turn the page on us.

They may have disappeared from our lives, but the post-9/11 world they had such a mad hand in creating hasn’t. It’s not just the Department of Homeland Security or that un-American word “homeland,” both of which are undoubtedly embedded in our lives forever; or the Patriot Act, now as American as apple pie; or Guantanamo which, despite a presidential promise, may never close; or all the wild, overblown fears of terrorism and the new security world that goes with them, neither of which shows the slightest sign of abating; or the National Security Agency’s surveillance and spying on Americans which, as far as we can tell, is ongoing.

No, it’s scores of Bush policies and positions that will clearly be with us until hell freezes over. Among them all, consider the Obama administration’s updated version of that signature Bush invention, the Global War on Terror.

Yes, Obama’s national security officials threw that term to the dogs back in 2009, and now pursue a no-name global strategy that’s meant not to remind you of the Bush era. Recently, the White House released an unclassified summary of its 2011 “National Strategy for Counterterrorism,” a 19-page document in prose only a giant bureaucracy with a desire to be impenetrable could produce. (Don’t bother to read it. I read it for you.) If it makes a feeble attempt to put a little rhetorical space between Obama-style counterterrorism and what the Bush administration was doing, it still manages to send one overwhelming message: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al., are still striding amongst us, carrying big sticks and with that same crazed look in their eyes.

The Global War on Terror (or GWOT in acronym-crazed Washington) was the bastard spawn of the disorientation and soaring hubris of the days after the 9/11 attacks, which set afire the delusional geopolitical dreams of Bush, Cheney, their top national security officials, and their neocon supporters. And here’s the saddest thing: the Bush administration’s most extreme ideas when it comes to GWOT are now the humdrum norm of Obama administration policies — and hardly anyone thinks it’s worth a comment.

A History Lesson from Hell
It’s easy to forget just how quickly GWOT was upon us or how strange it really was. On the night of September 11, 2001, addressing the nation, President Bush first spoke of winning “the war against terrorism.” Nine days later, in an address to a joint session of Congress, the phrase “war on terror” was already being expanded. “Our war on terror,” Bush said, “begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”

In those early days, there were already clues aplenty as to which way the wind was gusting in Washington. Top administration officials immediately made it plain that a single yardstick was to measure planetary behavior from then on: Were you “with us or against us”? From the Gulf of Guinea to Central Asia, that question would reveal everything worth knowing, and terror would be its measure.

As the New York Times reported on September 14th, Bush’s top officials had “cast aside diplomatic niceties” and were giving Arab countries and “the nations of the world a stark choice: stand with us against terrorism or face the certain prospect of death and destruction.”

According to Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage took that message directly to his country’s intelligence director: either ally with Washington in the fight against al-Qaeda, or prepare to be bombed “back to the Stone Age,” as Armitage reportedly put it.

Global War on Terror? They weren’t exaggerating. These were people shocked by what had happened to iconic buildings in “the homeland” and overawed by what they imagined to be the all-conquering power of the US military. In their fever dreams, they thought that this was their moment and the apocalyptic winds of history were at their backs. And they weren’t hiding where they wanted it to blow them either. That was why they tried to come up with names to replace GWOT — World War IV (the third was the Cold War) and the Long War being two of them — that would be even blunter about their desire to plunge us into a situation from which none of us would emerge in our lifetimes. But to the extent anything stuck, GWOT did.

And if everything is in a name, then the significance of that one wasn’t hard to grasp. Bush’s national security folks focused on an area that they termed “the arc of instability.” It stretched from North Africa to the Chinese border, conveniently sweeping through the major oil lands of the planet. They would later dub it “The Greater Middle East.” In that vast region, they were ready to declare hunting season open and they would be the ones to hand out the hunting licenses.

Within weeks of 9/11, top administration officials like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz were speaking of this vast region as a global “swamp,” an earthly miasma that they were going to “drain” of terrorists. As the US military had declared whole areas of enemy-controled rural Vietnam “free-fire zones” in the 1960s, so they were going to turn much of the planet into such a zone, a region where no national boundary, no claim of sovereignty would stop them from taking out whomever (or whatever government) they cared to.

Within days of 9/11, administration officials let it be known that, in their war, they were preparing to target terrorist groups in at least 60 countries. And if they were that blunt in public, in private they were exuberantly extreme. Top officials spoke with gusto about “taking off the gloves” or “the shackles” (the ones, as they saw it, that Congress had placed on the executive branch and the intelligence community in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate affair).

As journalist Ron Suskind reported in his book The One Percent Doctrine, in a “Presidential Finding” on September 17, 2011, only six days after the World Trade Center towers went down, Bush granted the CIA an unprecedented license to wage war globally. By then, the CIA had presented him with a plan whose name was worthy of a sci-fi film: the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” According to Suskind, it already “detailed operations [to come] against terrorists in 80 countries.”

In other words, with less than 200 countries on the planet, the president had declared open season on nearly half of them. Of course, the Pentagon wasn’t about to be left out while the CIA was given the run of the globe. Soon enough, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld began building up an enormous CIA-style secret army of elite special operations forces within the military.

By the end of the Bush years, these had reportedly been deployed in — don’t be surprised — 60 countries. In the Obama era, that number expanded to 75 — mighty close to the 80 in the Worldwide Attack Matrix.

And one more thing, there was a new weapon in the world, the perfect weapon to make mincemeat of all boundaries and a mockery of national sovereignty and international law (with little obvious danger to us): the pilotless drone.

Surveillance drones already in existence were quickly armed with missiles and bombs and, in November 2002, one of these was sent out on the first CIA robot assassination mission — to Yemen, where six al-Qaeda suspects in a vehicle were obliterated without a by-your-leave to anyone.

CT to the Horizon
That CIA strike launched the drone wars, which are now a perfectly humdrum part of our American world of war. Only recently, the Obama administration leaked news that it was intensifying its military-run war against al-Qaeda in Yemen by bringing the CIA into the action.

The Agency is now to build a base for its drone air wing somewhere in the Middle East to hunt Yemeni terrorists (and assumedly those elsewhere in the region as well). Yemen functionally has no government to cooperate with, but in pure Bushian fashion, who cares?

Similarly, as June ended, unnamed American officials leaked the news that, for the first time, a US military drone had conducted a strike against al-Shabab militants in Somalia, with the implication that this was a “war” that would also be intensifying. At about the same time, curious reports emerged from Pakistan, where the CIA has been conducting an escalating drone war since 2004 (strikes viewed “negatively” by 97% of Pakistanis, according to a recent Pew poll).

Top Pakistani officials were threatening to shut down the Agency’s drone operations at Shamsi air base in Baluchistan. Shamsi is the biggest of the three borrowed Pakistani bases from which the CIA secretly launches its drones. The Obama administration responded bluntly. White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan insisted that, whatever happened, the U.S. would continue to “deliver precise and overwhelming force against al-Qaida” in the Pakistani tribal areas.

As Spencer Ackerman of Wired‘s Danger Room blog summed things up, “The harsh truth is that the Pakistanis can’t stop the drone war on their soil. But they can shift its launching points over the Afghan border. And the United States is already working on a backup plan for a long-term drone war, all without the Pakistanis’ help.” In other words, permission from a beleaguered local ally might be nice, but it isn’t a conceptual necessity. (And in any case, CIA flights from Shamsi still evidently continue uninterrupted.)

In other words, if Bush’s crew is long gone, the world they willed us is alive and well. After all, there are reasonable odds that, on the day you read this piece, somewhere in the free-fire zone of the Greater Middle East, a drone “piloted” from an air base in the western United States or perhaps a secret “suburban facility” near Langley, Virginia, will act as judge, jury, and executioner somewhere in the “arc of instability.”

It will take out a terrorist suspect or suspects, or a set of civilians mistaken for terrorists, or a “target” someone in Washington didn’t like, or that one of our allies-cum-intelligence-assets had it in for, or perhaps a mix of all of the above. We can’t be sure how many countries American drones, military or CIA, are patrolling, but in at least six of them — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq — they have launched strikes in recent years that have killed more “suspects” than ever died in the 9/11 attacks.

And there is more — possibly much more — to come. In late June, the Obama administration posted that unclassified summary of its 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism at the White House website. It’s a document that carefully avoids using the the term “war on terror,” even though counterterrorism advisor Brennan did admit that the document “tracked closely with the goals” of the Bush administration.

The document tries to argue that, when it comes to counterterrorism (or CT), the Obama administration has actually pulled back somewhat from the expansiveness of Bush-era GWOT thinking. We are now, it insists, only going after “al-Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents,” not every “terror group” on the planet. But here’s the curious thing: when you check out its “areas of focus,” other than “the Homeland” (always capitalized as if our country were the United States of Homeland), what you find is an expanded version of the Bush global target zone, including the Maghreb and Sahel (northern Africa), East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, South Asia, Central Asia, and — thrown in for good measure — Southeast Asia. In most of those areas, Bush-style hunting season is evidently still open.

If you consider deeds, not words, when it comes to drones the arc of instability is expanding; and based on the new counterterrorism document, the next place for our robotic assassins to cross borders in search of targets could be the Maghreb and Sahel. There, we’re told, al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), with roots in Algeria, but operatives in northern Mali, among other places, potentially threatens “US citizens and interests in the region.”

Here’s how the document puts the matter in its classically bureaucratese version of English:

“[W]e must therefore pursue near-term efforts and at times more targeted approaches that directly counter AQIM and its enabling elements. We must work actively to contain, disrupt, degrade, and dismantle AQIM as logical steps on the path to defeating the group. As appropriate, the United States will use its CT tools, weighing the costs and benefits of its approach in the context of regional dynamics and perceptions and the actions and capabilities of its partners in the region….”

That may not sound so ominous, but best guess: the Global War on Terror is soon likely to be on the march across North Africa, heading south. And recent Obama national security appointments only emphasize how much the drone wars are on Washington’s future agenda. After all, Leon Panetta, the man who, since 2009, ran the CIA’s drone wars, has moved over to the Pentagon as secretary of defense; while Bush’s favorite general, David Petraeus, the war commander who loosed American air power (including drone power) in a massive way in Afghanistan, is moving on to the CIA.

On his first visit to South Asia as secretary of defense, Panetta made the claim that Washington was “within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda.” Perhaps it won’t surprise you that such news signals not a winding down, but a ratcheting up, of the Global War on Terror. Panetta, as Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post reported, “hinted of more to come, saying he would redouble efforts by the military and the spy agency to work together on counterterrorism missions outside the traditional war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

More to come, as two men switching their “civilian” and military roles partner up. Count on drone-factory assembly lines to rev up as well, and the military’s special operations forces to be in expansion mode. And note that by the penultimate page of that CT strategy summary, the administration has left al-Qaeda behind and is muttering in bureau-speak about Hizballah and Hamas, Iran and Syria (“active sponsors of terrorism”), and even the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

On the Bush administration’s watch, the U.S. blew a gasket, American power went into decline, and the everyday security of everyday Americans took a major hit. Still, give them credit. They were successful on at least one count: they made sure that we’d never stop fighting their war on terror. In this sense, Obama and his top officials are a drone national security team, carrying out the dreams and fantasies of their predecessors, while Bush and his men (and woman) give lucrative speeches and write books, hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books).

Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The US and the New Middle East: Libya

July 21st, 2011 - by admin

Fault Lines / Al Jazeera – 2011-07-21 00:20:47


The US and the New Middle East: Libya
Fault Lines / Al Jazeera

(July 19, 2011) — In the first of a two-part series, Fault Lines examines how the Obama administration is reacting to the enormous changes taking place across the Middle East. The decision by the US to intervene in the Libyan conflict has a profound impact on the future of the country. But what are the driving forces behind America’s decision to get involved?

Fault Lines reporter Sebastian Walker travels to the frontlines of the war in Libya to look at what US policy looks like on the ground.

White House officials claim that they acted to prevent a humanitarian disaster — but was such a disaster imminent and what were the other factors involved? Did the US intervene to stabilise Libyan oil production for the global markets? Did the White House decide to depose Muammar Gaddafi to send a message to others in the region? And how does this open up the US to accusations of double standards in its foreign policy?

Through interviews with senior American diplomats and policy makers in Washington, Fault Lines examines the motivation behind the US decision to intervene in Libya. We take a look at what it means for the future of US foreign policy in the region and what impact it has on the people fighting along the frontlines.

‪Plumes of Smoke in Libya:
The Challenge of Filming in Libya

Al Jazeera Fault Lines

(July 13, 2011) — Cameraman Ben Foley describes the worst moment while filming Libyan rebels in this video extra from the upcoming episode of Al Jazeera Fault Lines. 

“It hasn’t hit yet, and you don’t know where it’s going.”

(July 15, 2011) — Producer Jeremy Young on the reality of filming in Libya near borders and oil facilities in this video extra from the upcoming episode of Al Jazeera Fault Lines.

“I can’t tell you how many times on this trip someone has taken their hand and put it over the lens of our camera. We’ve actually had material that was forcibly deleted off of our cameras…there hasn’t been a lot of freedom for us to operate.”

The new episode of Fault Lines, “The US and the New Middle East: Libya,” first aired on Al Jazeera English on July 18, 2011 at 2230 GMT.

Fault Lines airs each week at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.

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