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Silent Night: The Christmas Truce of WWI

December 24th, 2013 - by admin

Gar Smith / Environmentalist Against War – 2013-12-24 18:45:15

http://www.envirosagainstwar.org/know/read.php?&itemid=14421

Christmas in the Trenches — written and performed by John McCutcheon

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago, the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here,
I fought for King and country I love dear.

Last December, songwriter John McCutcheon (the man the Oakland Tribune calls “the Bruce Springsteen of folk music”) approached a microphone at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage and announced a special song. Those who knew the song grew silent. Those who were hearing it for the first time were soon nodding their heads in quiet affirmation. Some were openly sobbing.

McCuthcheon’s soul-wrenching ballad, “Christmas in the Trenches,” retells a nearly forgotten incident from WW I that people in Europe still remember as the “Christmas Miracle.”

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.

It was Christmas Eve, 1914. After only four months of fighting, more than a million men had perished in bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of Europe, frozen in the snow. The battlefield had collapsed into a mud-mired frontline with Belgian, German, French, British and Canadian troops dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts.

Michael Jürgs’ book, Der Kleine Frieden im Grossen Krieg (The Small Peace in the Big War), based on rediscovered battlefield diaries, recounts how Lt. Kurt Zehmisch, a schoolteacher from Leipzig, was one of the German soldiers who blew a two-fingered whistle toward the British trenches on Christmas Eve.

To the delight of Zehmisch’s Saxon regiment, the Brits whistled back. Some of the Germans who had worked in England before the war shouted greetings across the battlefield in English.

On the Allied side, the British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear atop German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front.

Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment wrote in his diary: “From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me…. The grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist. It was all so strange… like being in another world — to which one had come through a nightmare.”

The cannon rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more, as Christmas brought us respite from the war….
The next they sang was Stille Nacht, “‘Tis Silent Night!” says I.
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

“They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way,” another British soldier wrote, “So we sang The First Noël and when we finished they all began clapping. And they struck up O Tannebaum and on it went… until we started up O Come All Ye Faithful [and] the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fidéles. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing — two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front-line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soldiers rose from their mud-drenched trenches. They greeted each other in No Man’s Land, wished each other a merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles the next day.

“Afterwards,” Zehmisch wrote, “we placed even more candles than before on our kilometer-long trench, as well as Christmas trees. It was the purest illumination — the British expressed their joy through whistles and clapping… It was a wonderful, if somewhat cold, night.”

The spontaneous cease-fire eventually embraced the entire 500-mile stretch of the Western Front, from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. On Christmas day, more than a million soldiers put down their guns, left their trenches and celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land.
With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well….

The soldiers exchanged handshakes, salutes and gifts of food. Some cut badges and buttons from their uniforms to exchange. Others passed around prized photos of their wives and children. Many exchanged addresses and promised to write after the war ended.

On that Christmas day, no bullets flew. Rifles lay at rest as soldiers from both sides swapped cigarettes and stories. German troops rolled out barrels of dark beer and the men from Liverpool and London reciprocated with offerings of British plum pudding.

Some soldiers produced soccer balls, while others improvised with balls fashioned from lumps of bundled straw or simply booted empty jam boxes. Belgians, French, Brits and Germans kicked their way across the icy fields for hours as fellow soldiers shouted encouragement.

Officers on both sides, aghast at the spectacle of peace breaking out between the lower ranks, responded with shouts of “treason” and threats of courts martial. But their threats were ignored. (One British officer, Ian Calhoun, a Scot, was subsequently court-martialed for “consorting with the enemy.” Only the intervention of King George V saved him from the gallows.)

Along some stretches of the Western Front, the truce lasted for several weeks. But, slowly, under threats from their officers, the troops returned to the trenches and rifles once more began to bark. (But many soldiers took care that their bullets flew well above the heads of the “enemy.”)

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.
With sad farewells, we each prepared to settle back to war.
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night:
“Whose family have I fixed within my sight?”

WW I lasted another two years. In that time, another 4.4 million men would die — an average of 6,000 each day.

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lesson well:
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame,

And on each end of the rifle, we’re the same.

Christmas in the Trenches

A tribute to our troops at Christmas and a memorial of the Christmas Truce of 1914. A project for Mr. Cutler’s grade 6 class.

John McCutcheon has recorded 24 albums and has received five Grammy nominations. “Christmas in the Trenches” appears on his 1984 album, “Winter Solstice.” McCutheon’s website is www.folkmusic.com.
Lyrics (c) John McCutcheon/Applesong Music. Reprinted by permission.

The US Is Sending a Nun to Prison to Die

December 23rd, 2013 - by admin

Lisa De Bode / Al Jazeera America – 2013-12-23 21:12:01

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/15/no-room-for-radicalnuninpopefrancischurch.html

Radical Nun Says Answering Her
Christian Calling Landed Her in Prison

Lisa De Bode / Al Jazeera America

OCILLA, Ga. (December 16, 2013) — — Sister Megan Rice presses the palm of her hand against the glass in greeting, her blue eyes welcoming her visitor in a cell opposite hers. Lamps illuminate her oval face framed by cropped hair like a white halo. Her uniform — a green-striped jumpsuit, sneakers and a gray blanket that covers her slender shoulders — is not the norm for a Roman Catholic nun, but she sees her presence in Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center as answering her Christian calling.

The 83-year-old Rice has chosen to spend the final chapter of her life behind bars.

She faces a possible 30-year prison sentence on charges of interfering with national security and damaging federal property, resulting from an act of civil disobedience she committed in July last year.

Exhausted after hiking through the woods adjacent to the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that once provided the enriched uranium for the Hiroshima bomb, Rice, along with Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed splashed blood against the walls, put up banners and beat hammers “into plowshares” — a biblical reference to Isaiah 2:4, “They shall beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Breaking into a sensitive nuclear facility to stage a protest, the three activists were prepared for the worst. “We were very aware that we could have died,” Rice said.

They were not killed but found themselves incarcerated. Now she spends her days answering letters from supporters and educating other detainees about the dangers of nuclear weapons — and the connections she draws between militarism and the poverty she believes has landed so many young women behind bars.

Rice accuses the US government of denying citizens such basic rights such as medical care and access to education because it invests so many billions of dollars in military equipment.

“Every day is a day to talk about it,” she told Al Jazeera, raising her voice a bit to be heard through the glass wall that separates her from the outside world. “It’s not time lost by any means.”

Citing backgrounds of poverty from towns “where there are hardly any other options,” she blames a capitalist economy for not investing more in social services available to the underclass and effortlessly connects nuclear weapons to the “prison-industrial complex.” They’re not bad people, she says of her fellow inmates, but were unfortunate enough to be born into a society that gave them few choices.

“They know that they are the human fallout and the victims of the profiteering by the elite and top leaders of the corporations that are contracted to make the nuclear weapons. It’s (the money) denied to human services that should be the priority of any government,” she said.

She coughs slightly, her nose running from the cold inside the jail. Every morning, she stands in line to receive her daily dose of antihistamines, but others receive pills for conditions far worse than what she has to endure, she said. “So many should not be here,” she sighed, edging closer to the glass wall in which a talking hole was partly blocked.

“I don’t see them as perpetrators but as the victims. People are being warehoused in detention centers all over the country.”

Walli, a 64-year-old Vietnam veteran, also spends long hours talking to inmates, veterans from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, whom he said should be getting proper treatment. “We try to do missionary work here,” he said. “We’re trying to instill the idea that human life is sacred.”

Mushroom Clouds in Nevada
Unlike most of her fellow inmates, Rice was born to an affluent family, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, whose next-door neighbor was a physicist secretly involved in the Manhattan Project, which created the world’s first nuclear weapons.

Her passion for social justice came early. She followed her parents to meetings of the Catholic Workers Movement with Dorothy Day, the social-justice activist currently on course for beatification. Her mother wrote her doctoral thesis at Columbia University on the Catholic view of slavery, and her father helped serve the city’s poor as an obstetrician. “I just happened to have very conscientious parents,” she said.

At 18, she joined the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and started teaching science to girls in rural Nigeria in 1962. During summer holidays, she visited her sister’s home in upstate New York, where she would ride a horse in her habit, looking “different, not a typical nun,” said her niece, who was named after her and is now 52.

Wherever Rice went, she inspired people to follow her example, such that six to eight letters reach her cell every day. “I just get this feeling that the action she did with Michael and Greg is a culmination of her life,” her niece said.

As malaria and typhoid began to take their toll, Rice permanently returned to the US in 2003 and took up a position with the Nevada Desert Experience, a nonprofit organization advocating against nuclear warfare at a former test site. Ghastly visions of giant mushroom-shaped clouds became tourist attractions from hotel rooftops in Las Vegas, near which about 1,000 nuclear weapons were detonated since the 1950s.

Rice’s uncle, a former Marine who watched Nagasaki being leveled, befriended a Jesuit bishop whose mother and sister were incinerated in Japan during a Mass. They were among the estimated 60,000 people immediately killed by the blast. He devoted the rest of his life to nuclear disarmament.

“That’s how close I’ve been in touch with the reality,” Rice said.

She was pleased to report that, nearly 70 years later, Japanese media reported on her arrest and lauded her action.

Hypocrisy in disarmament?
Rice and her friends were arrested for acts of civil disobedience they devoted to global nuclear disarmament at various stages of their lives. She feels a special responsibility to draw attention to the U.S nuclear arsenal, she said.

The logic of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty under which Iran is currently being held accountable, for example, requires that the existing nuclear-armed states take steps toward disarmament. Yet in 2008, for example, almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, the US was spending at least $52 billion a year on nuclear weapons, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And only 10 percent of that spending is devoted to disarmament.

“It’s extremely hypocritical to demand disarmament (from Iran),” Rice said, recalling an anecdote involving former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who reportedly honored the activist trio during a dinner in New York City last year, where he held a photo of them close to his heart. “It showed that he honored the effort to call the US to its legal obligations.”

The activists decided to stage a protest to draw attention to the US nuclear arsenal. Defunct cameras and fences couldn’t prevent the three elderly people from damaging what some call the country’s Fort Knox of uranium, raising questions about how they might restrain professional thieves with less idealistic intentions.

Some members of Congress even thanked Rice and her accomplices for bringing the Y-12 facility’s security problems to the nation’s attention — the latest in a series of nuclear security breaches in recent years.

The US nuclear weapons program has become the backwater of military services. In 2010 the Pentagon concluded that “the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.”

Paul Carroll, program director at the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that supports the elimination of nuclear weapons, said, “Sitting in a missile silo in the middle of the country, waiting for the day when the Soviets (attack) is a throwback. So they have morale problems. They’re rusty.”

Paul Magno, a fellow plowshares activist and loyal friend of Rice’s, said a generational disconnect pushed the nuclear issue into relative obscurity in recent years. A guest lecturer at a University of Tennessee sociology class, he said it’s become increasingly hard to impress his student audience with the gravity of nuclear warfare.

“For decades there was duck and cover and you would climb under your desk at school,” he said. “Kids today never had that moment. They don’t have any idea about nuclear winter.”

Occupy Church
Rice may see her actions as inspired by her faith, but she has had little support from within the Church establishment. Retired Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a renowned peace activist, laments the Church’s tepid stance on Rice’s detention and nuclear weapons. Citing official doctrine that explicitly condemns the use of weapons of mass destruction as “a crime against God and man himself,” he calls on colleagues to take up her cause as an exemplar of someone who stood up for what is right.

“They’re supposed to be leaders on something like this. There hasn’t been any kind of statement from Catholic bishops on what Megan has done,” he said. To be frank, Gumbleton added, “in the official church, I have to say most people don’t even know about her. And that’s really sad.”

Rice doesn’t expect much from the establishment — not even from the new pope, whose recent pronouncements have raised many eyebrows. She isn’t interested in institutions but swears instead by a grass-roots church. “The church is where the people are,” she said. The church matters only “on a local level.”

She is skeptical of Pope Francis but feels encouraged by his choice of a less extravagant lifestyle than those of his predecessors, who she said had been living like “princes in their palaces.”

Her order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, offered the lone voice of support from within the Catholic establishment.

“While we do not condone criminal activity, we would like to point out that Sister Megan has dedicated her life to ending nuclear proliferation. With the Catholic Church, she believes nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace so desperately needed throughout the world and therefore cannot be justified,” Mary Ann Buckley wrote in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.

Pope Francis certainly seems inclined to rebrand the Church as an institution that fights for social justice and is not afraid of protesting. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined,” Francis wrote in the mission statement for his papacy issued last month. That’s a message that has resonated with many young people in different parts of the world who have taken to the streets to protest austerity and vast economic inequalities.

“American Christians have been far too polite, too quiet and too accommodating of both the injustice and the blasphemous use of Jesus’ name in committing atrocities in our nation and our world,” wrote a group styling itself Protest Chaplains in a manifesto that coincided with the Occupy movement of which they formed a part. “That’s why we want to protest with all those who, like us, know in the deepest places of our souls that another world is indeed possible.”

Rice met with Occupy activists discussing nuclear issues in New York City, “when it began in September.” She described their work as “religion doing what it’s meant to be doing.”

“The church is where the people are,” she said. “It is the people.”

A similar message has been echoed in Barcelona, where street activists known as Indignados took their cues from Sister Theresa Forcades, a Roman Catholic nun and activist who believes the current economic policy consensus among governments of industrialized nations perpetuates inequality. And like Rice, Forcades has been skeptical of Francis’ pronouncements, arguing that the new pope should be judged by his attention to women’s rights, which so far has been lacking.

Still, Rice is confidence that “it will come,” referring to the ordination of women. Last year she attended the unofficial ordination — not recognized by the Vatican — of Diane Dougherty in Atlanta. “They are preparing the way and are receiving great acceptance from lay Catholics.”

Lessons from Prison
Her supporters say Rice’s life exemplifies the social activism needed to revive the church’s appeal among young people. Still, she’s reluctant to be cast as a hero. Her heroes, she said, are ordinary people who act “according to our conscience.”

As she awaits sentencing on Jan. 28 — facing a possible maximum term of 30 years — she borrowed phrases from Dr. Martin Luther King in a letter she sent to Al Jazeera. In it she reflected on her life, which may very well end in prison.

“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And vanity comes along and asks, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?'” she wrote.

“And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but one must do it because conscience tells one it is right.”

At a court hearing in May, she told the public prosecutor her only guilt is that she waited 70 years to break into the facility “to be able to speak what I knew in my conscience.” Seven months later she said, “This is a very positive experience. It’s getting better and better.”

She remains uncomfortable being in the spotlight, looking to deflect attention to others. She settles on her fellow inmates in this prison, the ones she is helping prepare for a life outside prison bars — a life to which she herself might not return.

With them in mind, she smiled, noting simply, “I’m not alone in being misjudged.”

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

Breaking the Silence: Men Sexually Assaulted in Military Speak Out

December 23rd, 2013 - by admin

Matthew Hay Brown / The Baltimore Sun & Stars and Stripes – 2013-12-23 20:59:46

http://www.stripes.com/breaking-the-silence-men-sexually-assaulted-in-military-speak-out-1.258721

BALTIMORE (December 21, 2013) — Brian Lewis figures he could have dealt with the rape. It’s the Navy’s response to the attack that still haunts the Baltimore native.

Lewis, the son of a Defense Department civilian who commanded his JROTC battalion in high school, sailed through three years in the Navy and three months aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable.

Then, one night on shore in Guam, he was taken out to dinner by a higher-ranking shipmate, a man who had a wife and children. After the meal, he says, his dinner partner pulled out a knife, threatened his life, and sodomized him.

A friend reported the attack, and Lewis was visited by a senior officer on the Cable. He says the officer ordered him not to cooperate with Navy investigators.

Lewis says he did as he was told. The investigation stopped dead. There was no court-martial. His attacker was never punished.

That outcome is typical for male victims of military sexual assault, a Baltimore Sun analysis of hundreds of cases found.

The outrage over sexual assault in the military has focused largely on female service members, and with reason: A woman in uniform is much likelier to be targeted than a man, Pentagon surveys indicate. But because male service members greatly outnumber females, officials believe the majority of sexual assault victims — 53 percent in 2012 — are men.

These men — an estimated 13,900 last year alone — are far less likely than women to report an attack. Only 13 percent of reports last year were filed by men, military data show.

But the disparities do not end there. The Sun found that when men do report a sexual assault, military authorities are less likely to identify a suspect, to refer charges to court-martial or to discharge the perpetrator than in cases in which the victim is a woman.

Critics blame those differences on a military culture they say has been slow to recognize the possibility that men can be raped — and that remains hostile to the victims.

“For young men, the military justice system is the last place they would seek remedy,” says Nancy J. Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington-based advocacy group for sexual assault victims of both genders. “Male victims face more obstacles, more prejudice against them, more disbelief, more efforts to silence and humiliate them.”

Military leaders, under pressure from Congress and the White House to eliminate rape from the ranks, acknowledge that there have been shortcomings in the handling of sexual assault cases over the years. But they say they are doing better. A special Pentagon office has been training troops and commanders in rape prevention, working with prosecutors and encouraging victims to come forward.

Creating conditions in which victims feel confident reporting assaults is key, they say, to punishing more perpetrators. But getting male victims to cooperate with investigators presents a particular challenge.

“You have an environment that values strength and values the warrior ethos,” says Nate Galbreath, the top civilian adviser to the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “And, of course, when any man is sexually assaulted, they really wonder whether or not they fit into this warrior culture. But what we’re trying to get across to men is that warriors not only know how to fight, they also know how to ask for help.”

The Sun spoke with seven former service members who say they were sexually assaulted while in uniform. Those attacks date from the 1970s to as recently as 2009. All described long-lasting impacts, including depression, anxiety, flashbacks, substance abuse and difficulty maintaining employment and relationships. Five said they had attempted suicide — some several times.

“It makes you do a complete about-face in the way that you view the world,” says Lewis, who was 20 when he was assaulted in 2000. “Really, it’s a day-to-night experience.”

Now 34, the large-framed Lewis still carries himself with the bearing of a sailor. He wears his dark hair closely cropped, and speaks in direct and precisely crafted sentences. He lives in Anne Arundel County with Andrew, his partner of five years.

In March, he became the first man to testify before Congress about being sexually assaulted in the military. He is one of a small group of male victims now breaking a decades-long silence.

Speaking out in documentaries, at news conferences and on Capitol Hill, the men say they want the same things that female survivors want: better services for victims, justice for perpetrators, and, ultimately, the elimination of rape from the ranks.

Many want to remove prosecutions for sexual assault from the chain of command — taking the authority to send suspects to court-martial away from commanders and giving it to trained lawyers.

But they also want something more: a change in the way sexual assault is viewed, both inside the military and out. It isn’t a women’s issue, the men say, but a problem that can affect anyone.

That shift in perspective, they say, would benefit male and female service members alike.
———

Michael F. Matthews, a 20-year veteran of the Air Force, says people have become “complacent” with the idea of a woman being raped. “A lot of times, they blow it off. They say, ‘Yeah, she might be lying, she might have changed her mind afterwards, was she drinking, what was she wearing?'”

Matthews, a victim of sexual assault, adds: “All those things get thrown out the window when you start talking about a heterosexual man. I’m not looking to have sex with a guy. It doesn’t matter what I was wearing.

“The public needs to know that. If people understand that this can happen to a guy, then we can dispel some of the myths about what rape is, for men and for women.”

Matthews was walking back from the chow hall at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri one evening in 1974, he says, when someone slipped behind him and knocked him unconscious. When he came to, he says, two airmen were holding him down. A third was sodomizing him.

If it could happen to him, the plain-spoken New Yorker says, it could happen to anyone.

“I did taekwondo and I boxed,” says Matthews, now 59, married and living in New Mexico. “And guess what? Everybody’s vulnerable. … They can slip something in your drink. They can knock you out from behind. They can jump you from in front — depends on how many guys they got. You can’t fend off three people.”

The accounts of Matthews, Lewis and the other men in this article could not be independently verified. Military officials said they could not comment on the individual allegations but acknowledge that such assaults have occurred. The military justice system has convicted perpetrators in similar attacks.

Greg Jeloudov’s mistake was being different. Born and raised in Russia, he lived for years in Ireland, which gave his English a distinctive hybrid accent. Before he joined the Army, he worked as an actor (he had a small role in the Mel Gibson film “Braveheart”). By the time he enlisted in 2009, he was older than many of his fellow recruits.

When Jeloudov arrived for basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he says, the taunting began immediately: “You commie fag, you Russian fag. You actors, you’re all faggots.”

And then, the chilling warning: “We’re going to teach you a lesson.”

Two weeks into basic training, Jeloudov says, he was gang-raped.

“I go and try to explain it to one of the commanders. He just said, ‘Why did you tell them about the acting? Why did you tell them anything about Russia? This would never have happened if you had kept your mouth shut.’ So I’m to blame.”

Jeloudov was asked if he knew the names of his attackers. He didn’t.

He says he was told the assault must not have happened.

“From that point on,” says Jeloudov, 39, now homeless in San Francisco, “there was no point in saying anything.”
———

When a man alleged a sexual assault, wrongful sexual contact and forcible sodomy were the charges most frequently investigated.

Military data show that the typical perpetrator is a man who has served longer in the military than his victim and holds a higher rank. In most cases, the assailant identifies as heterosexual.

Roger Canaff, who has trained Army lawyers in prosecuting sexual assault cases, says many attacks amount to a particularly violent form of hazing.

It “isn’t necessarily seen as a sexual act,” says Canaff, a former prosecutor in New York and Virginia. “It’s seen as a humiliating act. It’s the ultimate act of emasculation.

“You see that in fraternity life, sometimes. You see that in the civilian world. The military has it also.”

Heath Phillips endured months of such harassment. Seventeen when he entered the Navy from a small town in upstate New York, he was everyone’s little brother at boot camp in the Orlando Naval Training Center in Florida and at advanced training in Meridian, Miss.

But when he went to the ammunition ship USS Butte at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey in 1988, he drew a different kind of attention.

“My first night, there’s a group of men — ‘Hey, why don’t you come hang out with us?’ you know? And I thought, ‘Cool.’ ”

He says he went with them to a hotel in New York City. Phillips had two drinks — “I really wasn’t much of a drinker” — and passed out.

“I woke up with my clothes pulled down, guys doing stuff to me, guys masturbating on my face. Instant terror.”

Crying, he locked himself in the bathroom. His shipmates told him they were only kidding, it was an initiation, they all went through it.

Phillips says reporting the assault only brought more assaults. After returning to the Butte, he told a senior leader what had happened — and was told he was lying.

“Everything escalated from there,” he says. “It turned to ‘game on,’ you know? ‘Oh, look, we didn’t get in trouble, they didn’t believe him.’

“It was a constant harassment. These guys would terrorize me daily,” including pulling him out of bed and rubbing their genitals in his face. “And I was always called liar.”

Phillips, Jeloudov and Lewis were unusual in at least trying to report their assaults. Matthews, like most, didn’t bother.

“I knew nothing good was going to come of it,” he says. “I wanted to spend 20 years in the Air Force. I wasn’t going to be able to make a career out of it if I came forward.”
———

Men in the military outnumber women by more than 5 to 1. The Pentagon estimates that thousands of men experience unwanted sexual contact each year, but only 380 reported an assault in 2012.

Of those, just 247 sought a criminal investigation.

When there is an investigation, cases with male victims are less likely to be sent to court-martial, The Sun found. Of investigations completed in 2012 into assaults on men, 28 percent resulted in sex offense charges being sent to a court-martial. For women, the figure was 42 percent.

One reason for that disparity is the greater reluctance of male victims to cooperate with investigators, the data show.

Sexual assault survivors, advocates and military officials say victims of both genders confront several barriers to reporting and assisting with an investigation: embarrassment or shame, skepticism about whether their attackers will be punished, and concern about the impact on their own careers.

Terri Spahr Nelson, author of “For Love of Country: Confronting Rape and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military,” says male victims face an additional obstacle: gender expectations in a culture that celebrates the strong, stoic warrior.

“It’s definitely different for men,” says Nelson, a social worker and sometime Pentagon consultant who served in the Army during the early 1980s. “For men coming forward in the military and being able to report a sexual assault, they’re really having to cross that pretty heavy barrier of not being seen as weak — or even, in some cases, being accused of being homosexual.”
———

After Lewis was attacked, he returned to work on the Frank Cable. But everything had changed. Word of the incident had spread, he says, and he “quickly became the social outcast.”

“It’s almost like a virus people are afraid they’ll catch,” he says. “And they want to avoid it, because they see what’s happening to you.”

Lewis became paranoid. He took to carrying a knife. Commanders noted a decline in his performance and stripped him of the technical qualifications he needed to continue working on the ship.

Lewis likens sexual assault in the military to incest. In the early days, he had to continue seeing his perpetrator — “there’s only so many places to run inside a 600-foot ship” — as fellow sailors took sides.

“There were even some isolated pockets of ‘This guy has a family — why are you trying to wreck his life?’ ”

Eventually, Lewis was removed from the ship for medical treatment. A Navy psychiatrist in San Diego decided he was lying about the assault, he says, and sent him back to work on limited duty.

“I began a long downward spiral,” Lewis says. “I was walking the piers and looking at ships all day and wondering where the next attack would come from.”

Finally, the psychiatrist diagnosed him with a personality disorder. On the first anniversary of the attack, he was given a general discharge — a less-than-honorable designation that meant he could not receive tuition aid and other GI benefits.

Canaff says a commander confronted with allegations of an attack within his or her unit can face a conflict of interest.

The accused is often a higher-ranking, longer-serving, more experienced member with significant responsibilities within the command. The victim is often a newer, younger member with less training and less responsibility.

“You end up getting victims that are often perceived to be of less value to the military,” Canaff says.
———

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called sexual assault “a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force” that “must be stamped out.”

Hagel meets weekly with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, which officials say is working to prevent attacks on both men and women and to ensure that assailants are punished.

Galbreath, who joined the office in 2007, describes a sea change in the military’s efforts since then — particularly during the past two years under Hagel and his predecessor, Leon Panetta.

“I’ve heard Brian Lewis’ account and what he had to go through, and it just breaks my heart that in the years that he served, there just wasn’t this kind of program available for him,” says Galbreath, a criminal investigator turned clinical psychologist. “I would offer that if Brian had experienced sexual assault in the military today, his experience would be fundamentally different.”

Today, Galbreath says, a service member who is assaulted is assigned a victim advocate to guide him or her through the system, and, beginning this year, a special victims’ counsel — a trained attorney to represent him or her in any legal proceedings.

The Pentagon office is training enlisted personnel on recognizing and stopping rape, and teaching commanders how to respond to allegations. The office also has worked with prosecutors and stepped up outreach to victims.

Another key development: The 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Officials and advocates believe the ban on openly gay service members chilled reporting by male victims, gay and straight alike.

Galbreath says the Pentagon’s efforts have led to an increase in reports. More than 3,550 sexual assaults were reported during the first three quarters of the 2013 fiscal year, the Pentagon said last month, a jump of nearly 50 percent. Galbreath expects further gains from the special victims’ counsel program.

Victims and their advocates say that program and other steps are positive, but don’t go far enough. They say the small percentages of victims who report and convictions that result argue for comprehensive change.

“Things remain very bad,” says Baltimore attorney Susan Burke, who represents dozens of sexual assault victims, male and female, in actions against the military. “Until you create an impartial judicial system, you continue to empower the wrong people. The biases and corruption persist.”

Burke and others want Congress to take prosecutions out of the chain of command — where a commander has the sole authority to refer charges to court-martial or not, and to uphold the jury’s findings or ignore them.

“The system is rigged in favor of the assailant,” says Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. “So much so that you have the vast majority, a supermajority of the victims not reporting it, which means the assailants, sexual predators, continue to operate on other people.”

Speier has championed legislation that would give trained attorneys — not commanders — the authority to investigate alleged sexual assaults, pursue charges and order sanctions.

“Because the system is closed, commanders make the rules,” she says. “And men are supposed to be tough and suck it up, and there’s even less interest to provide services or take their cases seriously.”

The effort has run into opposition from military leaders and their supporters in Congress. The Democratic-controlled Senate declined to take up the issue last week.

Speier describes her campaign in the Republican-controlled House as “a marathon, not a sprint.” Military leaders say the authority to send troops under their command to court-martial is an essential tool for maintaining good order and discipline.

“We should try to fix this through the commander, and not around them,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in June.
———

After his discharge, Lewis returned home to Brooklyn Park and, in his words, “wasted my life away.” He let his hair grow, gained weight, cut himself.

“I just generally didn’t care whether I lived from one moment to the next,” he says.

Such feelings are common among sexual assault survivors of both genders, says Sara Nett, the military sexual trauma coordinator at Baltimore VA Medical Center. Male victims also struggle with questions about their strength, their control, their sexuality.

“Suddenly, they have this big conflict on their hands,” she says. “And they start to question their masculinity, the way they were presenting to other people, if people got the wrong impression.”

Nett, a clinical psychologist, started a group at the Baltimore VA this year for male sexual assault victims. Four or five participants meet twice a month. She sees patients suffering from anxiety, fear of being in unfamiliar places or around unfamiliar people, difficulties with relationships, substance abuse, thoughts of suicide.

“The lasting impacts can be really broad,” she says.
———

Peter J. Vouaux sees his assault as the hinge on which his life turned. The son of an Air Force officer, he joined the service in 1974 with a knack for working with his hands and a dream of becoming an engineer.

But at Edwards Air Force Base in California, he says, he ran afoul of a senior leader, and the trouble began. Fellow airmen harassed him; he found urine and feces in his belongings.

One night, he says, a group of airmen pulled him from a movie theater off base, dragged him out to the desert and raped him.

He says he spent the next 15 years drunk and high. He bounced from job to job. He suffered flashbacks from the attack. He abused cocaine, LSD, heroin.

Vouaux, now 57, eventually got help through the VA, he says, and has been sober since 1991. But he still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. He suffers flashbacks; he feels anxious in crowds.

He has worked intermittently, most recently cleaning the jetways at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport. He has a room in a boarding house near Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore.

There was a time, he says, when he believed he had control over his life. The assault put an end to that.

“It’s like, instead of running on all four cylinders, I’m running on one,” he says. “My family can’t figure it out. They see who I am, which is this talented, intelligent person, but they can’t put the two together. ‘Why does he end up in a homeless shelter? He can’t keep a job. He can’t do this. He can’t do that.’

“I’m not able to be the person I want to be.”

From Brooklyn Park, Lewis has emerged as a leading national voice on the sexual assault of men in the military.

Lewis was one of several former service members who testified before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel in support of taking prosecutions out of the chain of command.

He appeared in the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Invisible War,” about assaults of men and women, and “Justice Denied,” co-produced by Matthews’ wife, which focuses on men.

Lewis also serves as an advisory board member for Protect Our Defenders. This year he co-founded Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma, or Mr. MST — the first support and advocacy group specifically for male survivors.

And he has returned to school. He earned a master’s degree in forensic studies from Stevenson University this month and is set to begin law school next fall. Upon graduation, he says, he wants to work on behalf of service members and veterans.

“From 2001 to the beginning of 2008, I just wasted my life away because I just couldn’t get it through my head that there had to be something better waiting,” he says.

“This is better. Advocating is better.”

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

Inside Syria: Bombs, Displacement, Disease and Starvation

December 23rd, 2013 - by admin

Keir Simmons / NBC News – 2013-12-23 20:53:28

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3032619/#53886360

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

DAMASCUS (December 22, 2013) — In Syria, we have been reminded of the horrors of a nearly 3-year-old civil war with. chemical weapons, barrel bombs, a growing refugee crisis. tonight our correspondent in damascus tells us there is another deadly consequence of the war — starvation. we should tell you it’s hard to watch. [ screaming ]

Reporter: Starving children, images from the suburbs of damascus under siege, sending a desperate message. they are hungry for any meal. thirsty for clean water. in this neighborhood, 11 women and children reportedly died of hunger in one month. this activist lives here.

This is one of the main streets. the assad shelling and bombardment didn’t leave anything. we have over 8,000 civilians left living.

Reporter: in another suburb where hundreds died in a chemical attack last august, people are cut off and face hunger so bad they use rotten seeds to make bread.

The assad regime is using starvation as a weapon of war. this is something much, much worse than sarin and using chemical weapons.

Reporter: this mother says there is not enough food for her child. no sugar, no rice, nothing. an estimated quarter million of civilians are going hungry on both sides. communities in northern syria have been cut off by armed rebels.

Trying to persuade the government and the opposition groups to allows to go where the needs are. so far we have not been able to.

Reporter: they are desperate for bread. just miles away we saw bakeries filled with bread. markets full of fresh produce. controlled by president assad in this part of damascus, families are struggling. everything is more expensive. but at least they have food. in the suburbs under siege, people make the most of the little they have using a bike to recharge batteries, relying on firewood for heat. as the fighting drags on, leaving the innocent trapped, hungry, just trying to survive.

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

Amnesty International Report: US-Backed Bahrain Dictatorship Targets, Tortures Children

December 23rd, 2013 - by admin

John Glaser / AntiWar.com – 2013-12-23 20:44:21

US-Backed Bahrain Dictatorship Targets, Tortures Children: Amnesty Int’l Report

(December 16, 2013) — One of America’s best friends and allies is torturing children, even as they continue to receive US aid, weapons, training, and defense guarantees.

Amnesty International [1]:

Children are being routinely detained, ill-treated and tortured in Bahrain, said Amnesty International in a new briefing [2] published today.

Scores of children arrested on suspicion of participating in anti-government protests — including some as young as 13 — were blindfolded, beaten and tortured in detention over the past two years the organization said. Others were threatened with rape in order to extract forced confessions.

“By rounding up suspected under-age offenders and locking them up, Bahrain’s authorities are displaying an appalling disregard for its international human rights obligations,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

These are not the first revelations of Bahraini children being abused by the US backed regime. “Bahrain security forces routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture,” Human Rights Watch said in a report [3] last September.

“Rounding up kids, throwing them in jail and beating and threatening them is no way for a country to treat its children,” said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Bahraini authorities need to look into these allegations and immediately call a halt to any arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of children.”

And it’s not just the children. The regime continues to imprison political dissidents [4]. Protests have been outlawed, specifically “sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama.” It is also illegal to “incite hatred” against the security forces (whatever that means), and people can be thrown in prison for calling the king a “dictator” on Twitter (something that has happened to at least eleven people [5]).

Virtually anyone who dissents from the brutal authority of the Bahraini crown is labeled a “terrorist,” a buzzword fashionable among US allies.

None of this prompts the Obama administration to bat an eye, because Bahrain is a strategic asset. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is stationed in the tiny Persian Gulf island, giving Washington control over the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf, through which over 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil transits.

If anything, the Obama administration is worried about keeping the Bahraini regime happy and satisfied with the alliance — not the other way around. Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Bahrain [6], stood atop a Navy warship among US soldiers stationed in Bahrain, and promised Bahrain and its other Sunni Arab counterparts that the US would continue to defend them militarily, continue to pressure Iran, and continue to shower them with American money and weapons.

URLs in this post:

[1] Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/bahrain-halt-detention-abuse-and-torture-children-2013-12-13

[2] new briefing: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/057/2013/en

[3] report: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/15/bahrain-security-forces-detaining-children

[4] to imprison political dissidents: http://amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/LWM2013-Bahrain

[5] at least eleven people: https://bahrainwatch.org/blog/2013/07/31/bahrain-govt-using-fake-twitter-accounts-to-track-online-critics/

[6] Chuck Hagel visited Bahrain: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/07/world/middleeast/hagel-gulf-allies.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimesworld&_r=0

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

NSA Spying Was Never About Terrorism, It Is About Economic Spying

December 22nd, 2013 - by admin

Edward Snowden / Folha de S Paulo & Sonya Sandage / Ben Swann.com – 2013-12-22 20:33:15

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/17/edward-snowden-letter-brazilian-people

Edward Snowden’s ‘Open Letter to the Brazilian People’
Edward Snowden / Folha de S Paulo & The Guardian of London

(December 17, 2013) — Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say.

I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live.

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those.

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to become the greatest human rights challenge of our time.

The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own “safety” — for Dilma’s “safety,” for Petrobras’ “safety” — they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world.

When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target’s reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not “surveillance,” it’s “data collection.” They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement — where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever.

These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.

Many Brazilian senators agree, and have asked for my assistance with their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so — going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from travelling to Latin America! Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.

Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too. And the NSA doesn’t like what it’s hearing. The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to public debates and real investigations on every continent, is collapsing.

Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.

The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens.

Even the defenders of mass surveillance, those who may not be persuaded that our surveillance technologies have dangerously outpaced democratic controls, now agree that in democracies, surveillance of the public must be debated by the public.

My act of conscience began with a statement: “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under.”

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems.”


NSA Spying Was Never About Terrorism, It Is About Economic Spying
Sonya Sandage / Ben Swann.com

(December 22, 2013) — The Associated Press reported on Dec. 17th that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has released an “open letter to the people of Brazil.”

Since spring, Snowden has been releasing thousands of documents on the NSA program through journalists Barton Gellman at the Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian, and US filmmaker Laura Poitras.

In his newest letter, he made a bombshell declaration. “These programs were never about terrorism; they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

This is the smoking gun to previous allegations by political pundits. Several pundits have alleged that the program was set up to arm the largest and most powerful US corporations with patent information; competitor information including materials, financials, scientific research, and market data to help them maintain or gain control over markets.

Snowden’s statement also brings into sharp question the millions of dollars, lives lost, and intrusion of programs like TSA searches, the PATRIOT Act, the Afghan & Iraq wars, drone strikes, and all other actions taken by the US government to fight “terrorism.”

In Snowden’s letter he made it clear to Brazil that it was the prime target of surveillance in South America. Brazil is part of the formidable economic coalition entitled “BRICS” for member nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

German newspaper Spiegel reported that the NSA spying includes total surveillance of international financial flows. The program is called “FTM” for “Follow the Money.” The program collected 180 million records in 2011 alone — 84% of the data is credit card transactions.

In a more stunning revelation, the Dec. 12 “Report and Recommendations of The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology” stated the government is changing the amount in (presumably foreign) bank accounts.

Recommendations from page 221 of the report:

(1) Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry;

(2) Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts –or manipulate the financial systems.

The entire report to the President is here.

A 2008 paper by Arindrajit Dube, Ethan Kaplan, and Suresh Naidu found evidence that the CIA and/or members of the Executive branch either disclosed or acted on information about top-secret authorizations of coups.

Stocks in “highly-exposed” firms rose more in the pre-coup authorization phase than they did when the coup was actually launched. Basically they were saying the gathered intelligence is used to “front-run” markets.

Here’s how their dataset was developed:

“We selected our sample of coups on the following basis:
(1.) a CIA timeline of events or a secondary timeline based on an original CIA document existed,

(2.) the coup contained secret planning events including at least one covert authorization of a coup attempt by a national intelligence agency and/or head of state, and

(3.) the coup authorization was against a government which nationalized property of at least one (1) sufficiently exposed multinational firm with publicly traded shares.”

Now that Mr. Snowden has released his latest statement, the objectives of “economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation” will possibly be thwarted to some degree. Reaction from diplomatic partners is still forthcoming, as no Embassy or Ambassador has released a public statement in response to this latest Snowden revelation.

Sonya Sandage is a financial industry professional, and has worked for the nation’s largest banks and investment wirehouses for 12 years as Private Wealth Manager. Originally from Florida, and a graduate of UF, she now resides in Washington, DC. Her goal is to get more Americans interested and engaged in their nation’s governance.


Edward Snowden’s ‘Open Letter to the Brazilian People’
Edward Snowden / Folha de S Paulo & The Guardian of London

(December 17, 2013) — Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say.

I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live.

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those.

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to become the greatest human rights challenge of our time.

The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own “safety” — for Dilma’s “safety,” for Petrobras’ “safety” — they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world.

When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target’s reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not “surveillance,” it’s “data collection.” They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement — where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever.

These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.

Many Brazilian senators agree, and have asked for my assistance with their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so — going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from travelling to Latin America! Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.

Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too. And the NSA doesn’t like what it’s hearing. The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to public debates and real investigations on every continent, is collapsing.

Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.

The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens.

Even the defenders of mass surveillance, those who may not be persuaded that our surveillance technologies have dangerously outpaced democratic controls, now agree that in democracies, surveillance of the public must be debated by the public.

My act of conscience began with a statement: “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under.”

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems.”

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

How Divergent Views on Nuclear Disarmament Threaten the NPT

December 22nd, 2013 - by admin

Alexander Kmentt / Arms Control Association – 2013-12-22 18:48:35

http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2013_12/How-Divergent-Views-on-Nuclear-Disarmament-Threaten-the-NPT

WASHINGTON, DC (December 2013) — The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is facing several serious challenges. There are increasing doubts about its effectiveness in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The actions of North Korea are deeply worrying and significantly undermine the NPT edifice. The complex issue of the Iranian nuclear program and if and how it can be resolved will have serious repercussions for the treaty.

Universality is a key ingredient of the NPT’s credibility, but looks more and more distant. Without India, Israel, and Pakistan, which never were parties, and North Korea, which declared its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, the NPT’s value as a security and confidence-building instrument is increasingly put into question in the regional contexts of the Middle East and Asia.

Arguably its most serious challenge, however, is the extent to which it can still be considered as a framework in which to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Fundamentally different and even conflicting views are apparent among the NPT membership on key aspects, such as the priority of nuclear disarmament, the demands of Article VI, [1] the definition of credible progress, and the way forward. These differences threaten the integrity of the NPT.

When the 2010 NPT Review Conference adopted by consensus an action plan [2] that included 22 concrete nuclear disarmament actions, it was heralded as a significant achievement because it would make the implementation of Article VI measurable against a set of clear benchmarks.

The 2010 action plan, for the first time in the NPT context, declared a world free of nuclear weapons as the goal of nuclear disarmament. It contains recommitments to previous undertakings on nuclear disarmament and concrete steps on security assurances, nuclear testing, fissile material production, transparency, and other measures.

The action plan underscored that Article VI was a collective responsibility of all NPT states-parties — non-nuclear-weapon states as well as nuclear-weapon states. Action 1 commits all states-parties “to pursue policies that are fully compatible with the Treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

The plan calls on the nuclear-weapon states to report on their undertakings at next year’s NPT Preparatory Committee meeting, the third and last such meeting before the 2015 review conference. The conference will take stock and consider the next steps for the full implementation of Article VI. [3]

With these benchmarks looming, the reporting of nuclear-weapon states on their actions and the extent to which non-nuclear-weapon states will consider those actions to be sufficient progress will be a key issue, if not the most important issue, in the run-up to the 2015 conference and at the conference.

The argument probably will proceed along familiar lines: nuclear-weapon states will present the action plan as an endorsement of a gradual and incremental implementation of Article VI and will point to some steps they have taken as proof of their commitment to nuclear disarmament.

In contrast, the non-nuclear-weapon states are likely to express disappointment about the lack of significant progress, which they will cite as proof of procrastination on the part of nuclear-weapon states.

During past review conferences, the NPT parties have largely brushed over these conflicting views through consensus language. This approach may not work any longer. The NPT may be reaching the point where the contradictions, particular those pertaining to nuclear disarmament, place too much stress on the credibility and cohesion of the treaty.

It may be necessary to address these contradictions and differing perceptions openly in order to stop the slow but accelerating process of erosion of the NPT.

A Priority or Distant Objective?
The rhetoric in public statements and international forums would indicate a broadly shared view about the objective of nuclear disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons. In reality, there is a serious disconnect between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states on the issue.

Nuclear-weapon states’ declarations on disarmament focus on nuclear weapons reductions by bilateral agreements, such as between Russia and the United States, or through unilateral steps.

Yet, these statements still posit the deterrence value of nuclear weapons and continue to rely on those weapons as ultimate guarantors of security. Modernization programs are in place, and long-term investments in nuclear weapons and their infrastructure are being made or are foreseen in all nuclear-weapon states.

Consequently, nuclear-weapon states consider nuclear disarmament and the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons to be a long-term aspirational objective at best.

Thus, pending the achievement of perceived global preconditions for nuclear disarmament, these countries are prepared to take only limited and gradual disarmament steps without fundamentally reassessing the role of nuclear weapons or altering the nuclear strategic balance.

At the same time, nuclear-weapon states focus on the prevention of further proliferation of nuclear weapons, which they see as the only real challenge to the integrity of the NPT. This is not only their clear priority, but they argue it is a necessary precondition for more-substantial nuclear disarmament steps.

The perspectives of most non-nuclear-weapon states regarding the urgency of nuclear disarmament are quite different. Among these countries, nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence are widely seen as a high-risk approach to national and international security.

According to this view, humanity escaped unharmed during the Cold War period and thereafter as much by luck as by design. Moreover, the concepts of nuclear deterrence and the necessity of nuclear strategic stability, which were merely transferred to the 21st century with little change, look increasingly anachronistic 20 years after the end of the Cold War.

This lack of adaptation to new realities might be seen not only as a missed opportunity but also as a serious misjudgment and a key driver and incentive for proliferation. Arguably, there is a direct relation between the continued reliance on nuclear weapons by nuclear-weapon states and the quest for these weapons by other states. This link can only be broken by a collective and sincere move away from nuclear weapons.

Most non-nuclear-weapon states that are not part of “nuclear sharing arrangements” or “nuclear umbrellas” consider nuclear weapons to be highly dangerous in themselves. They view retention of and reliance on nuclear weapons as outdated, while seeing disarmament as an essential element of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The mere existence of nuclear weapons results in a permanent risk of devastating consequences for the entire planet. Such an existential threat to all humankind should no longer be handled by a few states as a national security matter to the detriment of the security interests of the vast majority of states.

Obligations or Commitments?
Another fundamental divergence of views between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states pertains to the status of NPT obligations and commitments to nuclear disarmament and the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.

Nuclear-weapon states look on such weapons primarily from a national security perspective. Decisions about nuclear weapons are considered to fall under strictly national prerogatives.

Nuclear-weapon states make a clear distinction between the NPT nonproliferation obligations that are legally binding and operationalized in detail on the one hand and the NPT nuclear disarmament commitments on the other hand. Article VI remains the only legally binding multilateral nuclear disarmament obligation, but it is formulated so vaguely, for obvious historical reasons, that “the pursuit of negotiations in good faith” is largely left open to interpretation and is implemented very loosely.

Moreover, the link between “nuclear disarmament” and “a treaty on general and complete disarmament” can be interpreted in a way that nuclear disarmament will be achievable only as part of a global security environment in the distant future, as a sort of end point of international relations. [4]

Nuclear-weapon states view the numerous nuclear disarmament commitments agreed by consensus at NPT review conferences as only political and therefore nonbinding. They make a clear distinction between compliance with nonproliferation obligations and implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments. They view the former as the fundamental measure of compliance with the NPT, but the latter is measured only against a set of nonbinding political commitments.

One could well conclude that nuclear-weapon states agreed to the disarmament commitments only because, in their interpretation, these provisions do not qualify as legally binding commitments.

Non-nuclear-weapon states look on the outcomes of past review conferences as a further development and operationalization of the NPT nuclear disarmament obligations of Article VI. They see a close conceptual connection between their agreement to be bound by the nonproliferation provisions and the implementation of the agreed disarmament undertakings and outcomes.

This is particularly the case with respect to the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. The non-nuclear-weapon states agreed to the extension on the condition that the nuclear-weapon states take certain nuclear disarmament steps and measures. The NPT membership collectively elaborated these steps at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences.

Today, non-nuclear-weapon states see those commitments as largely unfulfilled or not satisfactorily fulfilled. In their eyes, the body of agreed nuclear disarmament undertakings and outcomes in the NPT goes well beyond political declarations of intent. These states see the commitments as quasi-legally binding elements of a deal that has not been honored. In consequence, some non-nuclear-weapon states question the wisdom of the 1995 agreement for indefinite extension.

What Is Credible Progress?
Equally stark differences between nuclear-weapon states and many non-nuclear-weapon states are also evident with regard to the criteria for credible progress in implementing disarmament commitments and obligations. Nuclear-weapon states approach nuclear disarmament and the implementation of Article VI as a series of more or less modest, gradual steps.

These include reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons, unilateral moratoriums on the production of fissile material or on nuclear testing, and technical steps such as a glossary of nuclear terms being developed by nuclear-weapon states.

On the multilateral front, the first step would be the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), followed by a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material. These steps, however, are conditioned on being compatible with maintaining nuclear strategic stability and continued reliance on nuclear weapons until a time when the conditions for nuclear disarmament exist.

Nuclear-weapon states argue that there is no contradiction between the maintenance of nuclear strategic stability and their professed support for nuclear disarmament. Consequently, the continued reliance on nuclear weapons in military doctrines and the maintenance of, modernization of, and long-term investments in nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons infrastructure are compatible with Article VI.

Non-nuclear-weapon states recognize that nuclear disarmament is technically complex and will need time and a series of interconnected steps.

Nevertheless, credible progress on nuclear disarmament, in the eyes of these states, would require discernible changes in the policies of nuclear-weapon states and a clear direction toward nuclear disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons.

These changes have been promised in successive NPT review conferences, but have not happened and do not appear to be being pursued with determination. The continued reliance by nuclear-weapon states on nuclear weapons until an unspecified point in the future is seen as contradictory to the spirit and letter of agreed nuclear disarmament commitments and obligations.

Progress on the other multilateral steps remains equally elusive. The CTBT has not entered into force, and the multilateral forum tasked with negotiating a treaty on fissile material — the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva — has been dysfunctional for a decade and a half. Nearly 20 years after the extension of the NPT, the first foreseen multilateral step has not been completed, and the second is nowhere in sight.

As a consequence of this overall picture, there is widespread doubt that the nuclear-weapon states are acting on their nuclear disarmament rhetoric with a sense of urgency. Rather, many see a systematic approach that aims to maintain the nuclear status quo for as long as possible.

These different views and expectations regarding the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments and obligations clearly are very difficult to reconcile. The key question is the extent to which they are still reconcilable or whether the differences of views are such that reaching a broadly acceptable common understanding has become impossible.

Interestingly, it could be precisely the consensus agreement on the 2010 NPT action plan that clarifies that the NPT nuclear disarmament debate suffers from fundamental inherent contradictions and that new approaches may be required.

The action plan provides a tool for the NPT community to measure progress on nuclear disarmament. [5] In an interpretation widely shared among non-nuclear-weapon states, implementation of the action plan would require, in addition to further reductions in stockpiles, progress on the following key indicators:

• changes in nuclear doctrines to diminish the role of nuclear weapons;

• reduction of the operational readiness and lowering of the alert status of nuclear weapons;

• increases in the level of transparency;

• tangible progress toward entry into force of the CTBT; and

• overcoming the paralysis of the United Nations’ so-called disarmament machinery, especially in the CD.

Barring some unexpected developments in the nuclear-weapon states, it appears highly unlikely that the 2014 reporting by nuclear-weapon states will point to significant developments on any of these indicators. More than anything else, however, the plans for the modernization and upgrading of nuclear arsenals and the supporting infrastructure that are foreseen in nuclear-weapon states and the accompanying budgetary allocations will likely demonstrate the determination of these countries to rely on nuclear weapons for the long term.

The 2015 NPT Review Conference thus could become the moment when the constructive ambiguities, as some see them, on nuclear disarmament from previous review conferences’ final documents are replaced with clarity: that nuclear-weapon states are not prepared to accept the non-nuclear-weapon states’ view of the urgency and necessity of nuclear disarmament and will continue to argue for a so-called step-by-step approach, irrespective of how unpromising or implausible this approach may be.

The sluggish implementation of the nuclear disarmament commitments of the 1995, 2000, and, likely, the 2010 review conferences shows that this track record is a clear indicator of how far and fast nuclear-weapon states are willing to go in the framework of the NPT.

The Way Forward
The NPT debate has been based thus far on a broadly shared agreement among NPT parties that, in spite of all its flaws, the treaty is beneficial to the international community as a firm legal basis for nuclear nonproliferation, as the only multilateral nuclear disarmament framework, and as a means to facilitate access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This still holds true, and NPT parties continue to underscore this point in their public statements.

This agreement cannot be taken for granted. Ultimately, the value of legal frameworks is not cast in stone. It needs to be demonstrated continuously and be grounded in a core understanding of credibility and fairness that is shared among the entire membership. Most international treaties represent difficult compromises and have contradictions built into them. For every legal norm, however, there is only a finite level of inconsistencies or credibility deficits that can be absorbed before the fundamental equilibrium is disturbed.

On this front, the NPT is in serious trouble. For the reasons pointed out above, its credibility as a framework for nuclear disarmament is in jeopardy. If nuclear-weapon states want to halt an erosion of the treaty, they need to take the views and expectations of non-nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament much more seriously. The tactics of playing for time within the NPT and the other multilateral forums will not work for much longer. This NPT review cycle is crucially important.

There is also a race against time. The multilateral nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is at a crossroads. Some of the key parameters of the nuclear age, namely, that only a few states are in possession of nuclear weapons and have the required knowledge and technological capabilities, are fast losing their validity.

The nuclear technological threshold is still high, but it is falling rapidly. More and more states and perhaps nonstate actors will be in a position to reach or cross the line of nuclear weapons capability. The decision to do so will increasingly be based on political rather than technological considerations.

The potential consequences of this trend are an increasing risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and use. A focus on nonproliferation alone, as important as it is, is ultimately doomed to fail. With the technological threshold getting lower and the interest in nuclear technology getting higher, the only long-term approach is to build credible political and legal barriers against nuclear weapons.

As long as nuclear-weapon states and their allies regard nuclear weapons as a legitimate security hedge for themselves, efforts to counter nuclear proliferation will always suffer from a fundamental contradiction and credibility deficit. Both the possession of nuclear weapons and reliance on nuclear deterrence are drivers for proliferation.

Nuclear-weapon states may argue that proliferation is the only real challenge to the integrity of the NPT, whereas procrastination or slow progress on nuclear disarmament is not. This line of argument is self-serving and alarmingly shortsighted.

In order to maintain global support for the NPT and the entire nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime and to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear-weapon states need to add much more credibility to their own nuclear disarmament efforts. Through their own example, nuclear-weapon states have the prime responsibility to prevent proliferation, but they urgently need to realize that, in the final analysis, they cannot have it both ways.

The alternative would be an irreparable undermining of the NPT with the potential consequence of more and more actors seeking to develop nuclear weapons. The conclusion is clear: nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts can only be achieved in parallel.

In view of the mounting concerns about the value of the NPT as an instrument of nuclear disarmament, it is encouraging that non-nuclear-weapon states have focused on this issue with a renewed sense of urgency.

Several initiatives have been launched as a consequence of non-nuclear-weapon states’ commitment to facilitating a more focused implementation of Article VI in line with Action 1 of the 2010 action plan. One of these initiatives was UN General Assembly Resolution 67/56, [6] which established an open-ended working group that met successfully during 2013 and produced a substantive report [7] on proposals for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.

Another important manifestation by the international community of the shared wish to see progress was the convening on September 26 of a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on nuclear disarmament. [8]

The most remarkable development is the increased focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. This is an important shift in the discourse on nuclear weapons away from the traditional, narrow national security policy focus of possessor states.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.” [9] An important conference in Norway in March focused on this issue, and a follow-up conference will take place in Mexico next February. Recently in the UN General Assembly First Committee, 125 states delivered a joint statement underscoring their shared concern about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, building on several previous joint statements in different forums. [10]

As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use by design, miscalculation, accident, or madness remains real. Any use of nuclear weapons would cause unthinkable humanitarian emergencies and have catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development, and economy. The more the world understands about the global humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the stronger the case against them becomes.

Viewed against such a background, nuclear weapons are not reconcilable with a 21st-century understanding of international law and, in particular, international humanitarian law. In an age of globalization and in light of the uncontrollable destructive capability of nuclear weapons, such a broadening of the discourse was overdue.

These aspects should be at the core of the international community’s nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts. Given the increased global attention, it is now clear that the humanitarian dimension will play a central role in the NPT discourse and beyond.

Nuclear-weapon states have boycotted or rejected the above initiatives with the utterly unconvincing argument that they would distract from the NPT and the implementation of the 2010 action plan. In truth, these initiatives do not distract from anything, but rather focus the attention of governments and the wider public on the importance of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

Civil society will likely play an increasing role in a broader nuclear weapons debate, a tread that already is evident today. Pressure for greater transparency and scrutiny of governmental action and priorities will increase, further coupled with a trend of more global interaction and cooperation. Against the background of a broader societal debate, it will become more and more difficult to sustain the arguments in favor of retention of nuclear weapons.

Instead of resisting and acting to undermine efforts by non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society, nuclear-weapon states should start to embrace a different discourse on nuclear weapons themselves and move seriously toward their elimination. This would be the most sustainable and credible way of contributing to the integrity of the NPT and retaining it as a key instrument of collective security.

Alexander Kmentt is director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the ministry.

ENDNOTES
1. Article VI states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

2. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. 1), 2010, pp. 19-31 (hereinafter 2010 NPT action plan).

3. Ibid., p. 21 (Action 5).

4. The 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provided a strengthened and expanded interpretation of the obligation for nuclear disarmament under international law. It underscored that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.”
According to the ICJ, this obligation is universal, thereby going beyond the issue of NPT universality. Nevertheless, there remains scope for interpretation in the advisory opinion regarding what constitutes “pursuing nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith” in concrete terms.
Although advisory opinions carry a great deal of authority, they are not binding on states. “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons: Advisory Opinion,” I.C.J. Reports, 1996, http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7495.pdf.

5. See Ramesh Thakur and Gareth Evans, eds., “Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play,” Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2013, http://cnnd.anu.edu.au/files/2013/state-of-play-report/Nuclear-Weapons-The-State-of-Play.pdf; Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, “Implementation of the Conclusions and Recommendations for Follow-On Actions Adopted by the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, April 2012, http://cns.miis.edu/opapers/pdfs/120419_cns_npt_monitoring_report.pdf.

6. UN General Assembly, A/RES/67/56, January 4, 2013.

7. UN General Assembly, “Proposals to Take Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations for the Achievement and Maintenance of a World Without Nuclear Weapons,” A/68/514, October 9, 2013.

8. UN General Assembly, A/RES/67/39, January 4, 2013.

9. 2010 NPT action plan, pp. 19-31.

10. Dell Higgie, “Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons,” October 21, 2013, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com13/statements/21Oct_Joint.pdf.

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

US Nuclear Missiles Are a Force in Much Distress

December 22nd, 2013 - by admin

Robert Burns / The Associated Press – 2013-12-22 18:34:56

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/us-nuclear-missiles-are-force-much-distress

WASHINGTON (December 21, 2013) — The hundreds of nuclear missiles that have stood war-ready for decades in underground silos along remote stretches of America, silent and unseen, packed with almost unimaginable destructive power, are a force in distress, if not in decline.

They are still a fearsome superpower symbol, primed to unleash nuclear hell on a moment’s notice at any hour of any day, capable of obliterating people and places halfway around the globe if a president so orders.

But the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, is dwindling, their future defense role is in doubt, and missteps and leadership lapses documented by The Associated Press this year have raised questions about how the force is managed.

The AP revealed one missile officer’s lament of “rot” inside the force, and an independent assessment for the Air Force found signs of “burnout” among missile launch crews.

The AP also disclosed that four ICBM launch officers were disciplined this year for violating security rules by opening the blast door to their underground command post while one crew member was asleep.

After one of the Air Force’s three ICBM groups failed a safety and security inspection in August, GOP Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it was time for the Air Force to refocus on its ICBM responsibilities and to “recommit itself from the top down” to safe nuclear operations. Air Force leaders say the nuclear mission already is a priority and that the missiles are safe and secure.

Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s top officer, told the AP in November that since 2008, “the No. 1 focus area, the No. 1 priority for the US Air Force has been to restore and strengthen the nuclear enterprise.”

Once called America’s “ace in the hole,” the ICBM is the card never played. None has ever been fired in anger.

Some say that proves its enduring value as a deterrent to war. To others it suggests the weapon is a relic.

Its potential for mass destruction nonetheless demands that it be handled and maintained with enormous care and strict discipline for as long as US leaders keep it on launch-ready status.

Today it is the topic of a debate engaged by relatively few Americans: What role should ICBMs play in US defense, and at what financial cost, given a security scene dominated by terrorism, cyberthreats and the spread of nuclear technologies to Iran and North Korea?

The Congressional Budget Office on Friday estimated that strategic nuclear forces would cost the Pentagon $132 billion over the next 10 years, based on current plans. That would include $20 billion for the ICBM force alone. It does not include an estimated $56 billion for the 10-year cost of communications and other systems needed to command and control the whole nuclear force.

One prominent American who has questioned the future of ICBMs is Chuck Hagel, the current secretary of defense. As a private citizen in 2012 he endorsed a report that outlined a phased elimination of nuclear weapons, to include scrapping US ICBMs within 10 years. The report by a group called Global Zero said the ICBM “has lost its central utility” in nuclear deterrence.

Since becoming Pentagon chief in February, Hagel has not commented on the future of ICBMs. In remarks last month welcoming a new commander of US Strategic Command, he highlighted the enduring value of nuclear weapons but also cited “troubling lapses” in professionalism within the nuclear force. He was not specific, but aides said he was alluding to a range of recent breakdowns in discipline and training.

One of the most glaring examples of ill-discipline is the case of Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who was fired in October from his job as commander of the ICBM force. An Air Force investigation of Carey that was released Thursday said that while leading a US delegation on a three-day trip to Russia last summer, he drank heavily, partied with “suspect” local women, insulted his Russian hosts, complained about his bosses and lamented in public settings the low state of morale in the ICBM force.

At the core of the ICBM problem is the reality that the US sees less use for nuclear weapons and aims to one day eliminate them, possibly starting with the missiles. The trend is clear, advanced by President Barack Obama’s declared vision of a nuclear weapons-free world.

Last summer Obama directed the military to come up with new non-nuclear strike options, not as a substitute for the weapons but as a key to reducing their role.

Thus the nuclear mission, not just the number of weapons, is narrowing. So apparently is the attraction of being a nuclear warrior.

Pairs of young officers are assigned to ICBM launch centers for 24-hour shifts. They keep a computer-linked eye on the 10 missiles for which they are responsible, waiting for a potential launch order and fighting little but boredom. Some are on their first Air Force assignment. Most were “volunteered” for the duty. Many find it unsatisfying.

John Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense and now president and chief executive of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a centrist think tank, says young Air Force officers sense the mission is in decline.

“We are seeing a difficult time sustaining cutting-edge morale at a time when the overall signals coming from the top are that the nuclear deterrence force is no longer a priority,” Hamre said. “How do we recruit front-line talent into a field when senior civilian and military leadership never talks about the mission? Young professionals look up for signals. They are seeing the right words, but there isn’t energy behind them.”

Eugene Habiger, a retired Air Force four-star general who headed Strategic Command from 1996 to 1998, puts it this way:

“It’s a real problem to keep those young men and women interested in going on alert three or four times a month for 24 hours at a time when it’s hard to explain to them who the enemy is. It doesn’t have the allure that it did during the height of the Cold War when you felt like you were doing something.”

The current ICBM, known as Minuteman 3, has been in service since 1970. The Air Force operates 450 of them and has suggested cutting to 400 as part of adapting to the new strategic arms treaty with Russia by 2018.

ICBMs are one leg of a strategic “triad” of nuclear weapons delivered by long-range bomber aircraft, submarines hidden at sea and land-based missiles. Together they are said to form the backbone of deterrence, or the ability to convince any potential nuclear attacker that it would lose more than it might gain.

That was accepted orthodoxy during the Cold War, when the fear of nuclear Armageddon was ever-present.

But that day is past.

“The relative importance of the ICBM leg of the triad has diminished in recent years, and its utility for meeting future security challenges is up for debate,” Evan Braden Montgomery wrote in assessing the future of America’s strategic nuclear force.

His analysis, published Dec. 5 by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, questioned the “strategic relevance” of the ICBM force, noting that because the missiles would have to fly over Russia to reach most other potential targets in East Asia and the Middle East, Moscow could mistake such a strike for an American attack on its territory. Montgomery nonetheless concluded that the ICBM force should not be eliminated.

Tom Nichols, an author and professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, foresees the strategic nuclear arsenal possibly being cut to “low hundreds” of deployed warheads in coming years from its current total of nearly 1,700.

A firm believer in the value of ICBMs, Nichols says that whatever their number as part of a smaller force, the Pentagon should consider taking a portion of the missiles off high alert, meaning those would no longer be ready to launch quickly.

“It would reduce a lot of stress” on those who operate and manage them, he said.

Follow Robert Burns on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP

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

Iran Sanctions Bill to Skip Committee; Hawks Promise Veto-Proof Majority

December 22nd, 2013 - by admin

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Jim Lobe / Inter Press Service – 2013-12-22 18:27:07

Iran Sanctions Bill to Skip Committee; Hawks Promise Veto-Proof Majority

Iran Sanctions Bill to Skip Committee; Hawks Promise Veto-Proof Majority
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(December 20, 2013) — Yesterday’s open letter from Senate committee leaders warning against the Iran sanctions bill appears to have had the opposite effect, as Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D — NV) is said to have decided to bypass the committees outright and could bring the bill to a vote as soon as January.

The bill would impose yet more sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, violating the interim P5+1 deal with Iran and likely ruining ongoing diplomacy with the nation. President Obama has promised to veto the bill, warning it would sabotage the talks and might lead to a war.

Senate hawks like Lindsey Graham (R-SC), for whom that is the entire point, have promised to secure a veto-proof majority of 67 Senators for the bill, and early reports are that some 50 are now looking to be co-sponsors, suggesting that’s a real possibility.

In addition to imposing new sanctions on Iran, the bill also expresses Senate support for an Israeli attack on Iran at any time, pledging American support to such a war whenever it is launched.


Senate Committee Chairs Warn Iran Sanctions Bill Would Kill Talks
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(December 19, 2013) — Warnings that a new round of Iran sanctions would derail ongoing diplomacy appear to be a big part of the appeal for Senate hawks, who today introduced the new bill despite explicit promises from the president to veto it.

The bill has 26 co-sponsors, split equally from both parties, and are demanding to see it brought to a vote. The author, Sen. Mark Kirk (R — IL) is presenting it as a “pro-Israel” bill, and it has plenty of support from the Israeli lobbying groups.

Committee chairs are almost uniformly against it, however, with 10 of them issuing an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D — NV) waning that the bill threatens negotiations with Iran and urging “consultations” with them before it is brought to vote.

Sen. Reid has previously suggested no sanctions vote would take place until at least January, with the last nominations taking up what time remains before recess. Even then though, the recess will be full of lobbying on both sides, as the hawks seek a veto-proof majority to push forward a bill, and kill a treaty in doing so.


Iran Sanctions Bill a Big Test of Israel Lobby Power
Jim Lobe / Inter Press Service

(December 21, 2013) –This week’s introduction by a bipartisan group of 26 senators of a new sanctions bill against Iran could result in the biggest test of the political clout of the Israel lobby here in decades.

The White House, which says the bill could well derail ongoing negotiations between Iran and the US and five other powers over Tehran’s nuclear program and destroy the international coalition behind the existing sanctions regime, has already warned that it will veto the bill if it passes Congress in its present form.

The new bill, co-sponsored by two of Congress’s biggest beneficiaries of campaign contributions by political action committees closely linked to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), would impose sweeping new sanctions against Tehran if it fails either to comply with the interim deal it struck last month in Geneva with the P5+1 (US, Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany) or reach a comprehensive accord with the great powers within one year.

To be acceptable, however, such an accord, according to the bill, would require Iran to effectively dismantle virtually its entire nuclear program, including any enrichment of uranium on its own soil, as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani has warned repeatedly that such a demand is a deal-breaker, and even Secretary of State John Kerry has said that a zero-enrichment position is a nonstarter.

The bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, also calls for Washington to provide military and other support to Israel if its government “is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program.”

The introduction of the bill Thursday by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez followed unsuccessful efforts by both men to get some sanctions legislation passed since the Geneva accord was signed Nov. 24.

Kirk at first tried to move legislation that would have imposed new sanctions immediately in direct contradiction to a pledge by the P5+1 in the Geneva accord to forgo any new sanctions for the six-month life of the agreement in exchange for, among other things, enhanced international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and a freeze on most of its nuclear program.

Unable to make headway, Kirk then worked with Menendez to draw up the new bill which, because of its prospective application, would not, according to them, violate the agreement. They had initially planned to attach it to a defense bill before the holiday recess. But the Democratic leadership, which controls the calendar, refused to go along.

Their hope now is to pass it — either as a freestanding measure or as an amendment to another must-pass bill after Congress reconvenes Jan. 6.

To highlight its bipartisan support, the two sponsors gathered a dozen other senators from each party to co-sponsor it.

Republicans, many of whom reflexively oppose President Barack Obama’s positions on any issue and whose core constituencies include Christian Zionists, are almost certain to support the bill by an overwhelming margin. If the bill gets to the floor, the main battle will thus take place within the Democratic majority.

The latter find themselves torn between, on the one hand, their loyalty to Obama and their fear that new sanctions will indeed derail negotiations and thus make war more likely, and, on the other, their general antipathy for Iran and the influence exerted by AIPAC and associated groups as a result of the questionable perception that Israel’s security is uppermost in the minds of Jewish voters and campaign contributors (who, by some estimates, provide as much as 40 percent of political donations to Democrats in national campaigns).

The administration clearly hopes the Democratic leadership will prevent the bill from coming to a vote, but, if it does, persuading most of the Democrats who have already endorsed the bill to change their minds will be an uphill fight. If the bill passes, the administration will have to muster 34 senators of the 100 senators to sustain a veto — a difficult but not impossible task, according to Congressional sources.

That battle has already been joined. Against the 13 Democratic senators who signed onto the Kirk-Menendez bill, 10 Democratic Senate committee chairs urged Majority Leader Harry Reid, who controls the upper chamber’s calendar, to forestall any new sanctions legislation.

“As negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see negotiations fail,” wrote the 10, who included the chairs of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, respectively. They also noted that a new intelligence community assessment had concluded that “new sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”

Their letter was followed by the veto threat by White House spokesman Jay Carney and a strong denunciation of the bill by State Department spokesperson Marie Harf. She accused the sponsors of “directly contradict[ing] the administration work. … If Congress passes this bill, … it would be proactively taking an action that would undermine American diplomacy and make peaceful resolution to this issue less possible.”

But none of that has deterred key Israel lobby institutions. “Far from being a step which will make war more likely, as some claim, enhanced sanctions together with negotiations will sustain the utmost pressure on a regime that poses a threat to America and our closest allies in the Middle East,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argued Thursday.

And, in a slap at both the administration and the Senate chairs, the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations complained about criticisms of the bill’s proponents. “Some of the terminology and characterizations used in the latest days, including accusations of warmongering and sabotage, are inappropriate and counterproductive,” it said.

Since it lost a major battle with former President Ronald Reagan over a huge arms sale to Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, the Israel lobby has generally avoided directly confronting a sitting president, but, at this point, it appears determined to take on Obama over Iran.

For some observers, its opposition is difficult to understand, particularly because key members of the Israeli national security establishment have conspicuously declined to join Netanyahu in denouncing the Geneva deal.

“I’m amazed that they’ve taken it this far,” said Keith Weissman, a former AIPAC specialist on Iran. “Bottom line is that if the Iranians comply with the terms of the deal — which it seems like they are doing so far, despite some internal resistance — they are further from breakout capacity [to produce a nuclear weapon] than they were before the deal.”

But Douglas Bloomfield, a former senior AIPAC executive, suggested the motivation may be of a more practical nature. “It’s good for business,” he told IPS. “AIPAC has spent the last 20 years very, very effectively making a strong case against Iran, and Iran has been a great asset to them.”

“They want to show they’re not going to give up on this; they’ve built a huge financial and political base on it. … Most of the Jewish groups and all of Congress have been on autopilot on Iran; nobody ever thought you might actually get a deal… In AIPAC’s case, they’re terrified they’re going to lose their major fundraising appeal.”

Jim Lobe’s blog on US foreign policy can be read at Lobelog.com.

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

12 Years a Slave vs. 12 Years a Prisoner … in Guantanamo

December 22nd, 2013 - by admin

Ann Wright / Common Dreams – 2013-12-22 09:31:07

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/20-5

(December 20, 2013) — I hope the first African-American United State President has seen the movie 12 Years A Slave. It’s the story of Solomon Northup, a born-free, educated African-American carpenter and musician who lived in Saratoga, New York.

In 1841, during a trip to Washington, DC, Northup was kidnapped by slave traders. He was sold into the slave pens in the nation’s capitol, imprisoned in chains, beaten, and transported by paddle wheel steamer by slave traders to the American south. There he was sold to slave owners and began working as a slave on an American Southern plantation. He was savagely beaten and humiliated on the plantation and remained there for 12 years, unable to escape, except by suicide.

Finally, he was able to tell his story to a traveling Canadian builder who was hired to construct a building on the plantation. The Canadian, who was against slavery, at great personal risk, sent a letter to Northup’s friends and business acquaintances in New York describing Northup’s imprisonment as a slave.

One of Northup’s friends traveled from New York to the southern plantation with the papers that showed that Northup was a free man, not a slave, and with the help of the local sheriff, was able, after 12 years, to bring Northup back to New York where he became an abolitionist and helped those attempting to escape slavery. He sued the Washington, DC slave pen owners, but as a black was not permitted to testify in the Washington, DC courts and his attempt to sue in New York those who sold him to the slave pens was not successful.

I hope the movie reminds President Obama of the past 12 years of another American injustice — that toward prisoners in Guantanamo. Most Guantanamo prisoners were kidnapped for a bounty, beaten, tortured, some water boarded, sexually humiliated and transported from all over the world by extraordinary rendition to a prison in Cuba from which escape was impossible except by suicide.

For years, the names of prisoners were unknown to the world, but finally a Navy lawyer, Matthew Diaz, believed all prisoners should be able to have legal defense, at great personal risk, disclosed the names thereby allowing lawyers from around the world to volunteer to be the defense attorneys for the prisoners. Diaz lawyer was court-martialed, sentenced to six months in prison and given a dishonorable discharge.

After 12 years, of the 779 prisoners kidnapped and subjected to extraordinary rendition by the United States government, 693, or 89%, have been freed because there was no evidence against them. 79 more prisoners have been cleared for release years ago but are still being held.

12 years later, 158 prisoners are still imprisoned in Guantanamo: 7 have been convicted by a US military commission of criminal acts against the United States, 6 are facing trial by US military commission and 46 have been designated for indefinite detention, without charge or trial. After no releases of cleared prisoners for several years, 8 were released in the past three months — 4 to Algeria, 2 to Saudi Arabia and 2 to Sudan.

I hope President Obama remembers that one-half of those remaining in Guantanamo — 79 prisoners — have been cleared for release — and that he will issue an order for them to be released and that he also will finally order the infamous Guantanamo Prison to be closed… 12 years later.

Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December 2001, she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” (www.voicesofconscience.com)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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