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Cautious Hope for Strong Draft Text Ahead of Peru Climate Summit on December 1

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Betwa Sharma / Al Jazeera America – 2014-11-29 23:10:52


(November 29, 2014) — The two-week United Nations climate conference in Peru, which begins Monday, is the final pit stop before Paris in 2015, where negotiators aim to strike a deal obligating, for the first time, all countries to combat climate change.

The Lima talks are expected to deliver a draft text to be negotiated and finalized in Paris next year. Nations aim to chart a course for unprecedented action on reducing carbon emissions, while ensuring that developing nations’ goals of economic growth to bring millions out of poverty are not derailed.

After years of shifting blame at such talks, China and the United States boosted the political momentum ahead of the Lima negotiations by announcing a major climate change agreement on Nov. 11.

The US pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2015 and China pledged to begin reducing its emissions by 2030. Separately, the European Union has decided to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2030.

But the emission reduction pledges by all major industrial nations are far short of the 40 to 70 percent cuts from 2010 levels by 2050 recommended by scientists to contain the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

Carbon dioxide emissions are set to reach a record high of 40 billion tons in 2014. The largest emitters are China at 29 percent, the United States at 15 percent, the European Union at 10 percent and India at 7.1 percent.

In March, scientists issued their starkest warning about the consequences of climate change if substantial and rapid reductions in carbon emissions are not made to contain the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius: longer heat waves, more intense rains, flooding, water scarcity, ecosystem-destroying acidification of oceans, mass species extinction and food insecurity, which can lead to economic upheavals and violent conflicts.

“Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” said the report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Scientists have warned that rising sea levels pose a threat to the very existence of some atoll nations. In September, Kathy Jetnil-Kijine, a poet from the Marshall Islands, recited a poem about protecting Matafele Peinam, her baby girl, from climate change. “No one’s drowning, baby, no one’s moving, no one’s losing their homeland, no one’s gonna become a climate change refugee,” she told world leaders at the United Nations climate change summit in New York.

The Philippines negotiator Yeb Sano broke down in tears at the United Nations climate change conference in Poland, in November 2013, a few days after his country was hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst storms in recorded history.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” he said.

Final Pit Stop
The talks will have to make progress on several issues, including financing the Green Climate Fund to the tune of $100 billion a year from 2020, the demand by poor countries that rich countries pay for the loss and damage caused by climate change and ending deforestation by 2030. The Green Climate Fund finances programs and policies to promote green technology in developing countries.

“I think that the world knows that we can’t fail like we failed in Copenhagen. I’m completely sure that we are going to have an agreement in Paris by the next year,” Peru’s environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said in October.

The 2009 Copenhagen conference collapsed after a group of powerful countries including the United States, China and India, brokered a weak agreement without involving the majority of the 180 parties participating in the talks. The move eroded the process of building consensus, and negotiations since have been crippled by distrust.

With all parties required to submit their “intended nationally determined contributions” to reduce emissions by March 2015, negotiators in Lima will have to tackle contentious question of what these contributions should include.

Some parties interpret the term “contributions” to mean reducing carbon dioxide emissions while others see it as going beyond mitigation targets to include adaptation, finance and technology. The emerging economies, Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC), which met in October, said that their investment in adaptation should be counted as a contribution.

“Overall, the developed country targets are uninspiring, not high enough and certainly not fair, and will mean a shifting of much of the burden on developing,” said Meena Raman, a negotiations expert from the Third World Network, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva advocating for developing countries. “The planet and the poor will suffer as a result of this.”

Benito Mueller, who heads the Oxford Climate Policy, a capacity building initiative for the UN climate change negotiations, said that Lima is the last chance to settle architectural issues like the process by which future targets or commitments are established and rules for monitoring compliance with the targets

“It is important that such a process provides some degree of certainty for the near term, but also indicates the direction of these targets in the longer term, with some flexibility to revise the direction so as to take into account what is needed in accordance to scientific evidence,” he said.

Negotiators have also not addressed the controversial issue of whether the contributions will be legally binding. “My guess is it will be punted, even in Paris, and we’ll emerge with something vague that tries to make countries sound good without committing them to much,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org global climate movement.

Disagreements between developed countries and emerging economies like China and India over sharing the responsibility of reducing carbon emissions have stalled climate change negotiations for several years. But activists say the real blow to the talks has been the failure of developed countries to commit to mitigation targets that would prevent the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

McKibben described the European Union’s pledge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 as “fairly weak with a lot of compromises.”

“I tend to look at actions more than promises, and the EU’s recent decision to boost the use of tar sands oil seems to me a sad forecast of their actual intent,” he said.

Last month, the European Commission dropped its effort to grade tar sand as highly polluting, allowing Canada to export oil from the tar sands to the EU.

Observers say that developed countries can set a positive tone for the talks by beefing up the Green Climate Fund. So far, donors have pledged $9.3 billion, shy of the minimum target of $10 billion set by the UN for this year, and short of the $15 billion demanded by developing nations.

Parting of Old Allies
As the Paris deadline draws near, developing countries will push to salvage what remains of the common but differentiated principle, which recognized that developed countries carried the burden of reducing emissions because they were historically responsible for pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

When the emerging economies of Brazil, South Africa, India and China came under pressure to combat climate change, they banded into the BASIC group to advocate their need to develop and fight poverty. Carbon emissions grew by 5.1 percent in India from 2012 to 2013, but it produces 1.9 tons of emissions per person compared to 16.4 tons per emissions in the US and 7.2 tons in China.

The IPCC report did not assign responsibilities for mitigation, but it said, “Mitigation and adaptation raise issues of equity, justice and fairness.”

The old BASIC alliance is unlikely to carry as much weight in Lima in the aftermath of the US-China secretly negotiated deal, which caught India by surprise and is likely to intensify the pressure on Delhi to commit more in Lima.

While China is talking of peaking its emissions, the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which came to power on a development agent, plans to focus on the issue of adaptation in Lima.

Mueller from the Oxford Climate Policy said the political alliance of the BASIC countries never made economic sense, with Brazil far less stressed by poverty than the economies of South Africa and China, which are still less stressed by poverty than India.

“India is not in the same category as China and what China has done should not be automatically expected from India,” said Mueller.

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

The Plots Behind the Pentagon Chief’s Resignation: Possible Motives for Ousting Hagel

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Robert Parry / Consortium News – 2014-11-29 23:05:00

Possible Motives for Ousting Hagel

(November 24, 2014) — The abrupt resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — along with the failure to reach a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program on the same day — does not augur well for the last quarter of Barack Obama’s presidency, reflecting his continuing tendency to let the neocons have their way.

Not that Hagel had distinguished himself as a sterling leader of the Pentagon — nor has all hope disappeared that a sensible resolution of the impasse with Iran might be achieved before the next “deadline” in June — but Obama still does not appear to have escaped the spell of the neocons who continue to dominate American geopolitical thought despite the bloody disasters that they helped cause in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Six years into his presidency, Obama still doesn’t seem to understand that just because some people have impressive credentials doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. Indeed, in a profoundly corrupted system — like the one that now controls Official Washington — rewards are handed out to people who serve the corrupt interests or at least don’t get in the way.

In a time of corruption, the countervailing forces of wisdom and courage will never be found among the credentialed, but rather among the outcasts of the establishment, those who were forced to the margins because they objected to the venality, because they stood up against misguided “group think.”

But Obama has been unwilling — or possibly unable — to come to grips with this reality. Despite his personal intelligence and rhetorical skills, Obama never has been willing to challenge people cloaked in credentials — those who went to the best schools, worked at big-name firms, won prestigious awards or held fellowships at famous think tanks.

The tragedy of Obama is that I’m told that he understands the stupidity of the modern US establishment and does sometimes consult with “realists” who offer practical advice for how he can resolve some of the most nettlesome problems facing the United States around the world. But he does so virtually in secret, with what politicians like to call “deniability.”

Obama operates one foreign policy above the table — pounding his fist along with the neocons against Syria, Iran and Russia — and another foreign policy below the table, dealing with adversaries in ways necessary to confront global challenges, such as collaborating with Iran to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and with Russia to address challenges with Iran, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

Yet, while keeping such pragmatic overtures under the table, Obama reaches out publicly to neocons who have been implicated in some of the worst disasters in the history of US foreign policy — but who have “credentials.” For instance, earlier this year, Obama was stung by criticism from neocon ideologue Robert Kagan, who had published a long essay in The New Republic promoting the need for more US interventionism around the world.

Obama could have dismissed Kagan’s New Republic article as the pretentious pontifications of a blowhard whose career began as a propagandist for Ronald Reagan’s Central American policies in the 1980s and included, in the 1990s, co-founding the Project for the New American Century, which called for invading Iraq, an illegal war that was launched in 2003, propelling America into the current catastrophes now swirling around the Middle East.

But Obama apparently couldn’t get past all of Kagan’s “credentials,” including his current work at the prestigious Brookings Institution and his writing for the oh-so-impressive New Republic. So, Obama invited Kagan to lunch at the White House, a cozy get-together that one observer described as a “meeting of equals.”

Yes, the twice-elected President of the United States and his “equal,” one of the co-founders of the neocon Project for the New American Century. The New York Times reported that Obama even shaped his foreign policy speech at the West Point graduation in May to address criticism from Kagan’s New Republic essay, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire.”

Off to The Hague
You might think that the only reason to invite one of the Iraq War architects to the White House would be as a “sting operation” to arrest him and trundle him off to The Hague for prosecution for war crimes. After all, the justices at the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunals deemed aggression — starting an unprovoked war — “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” And we have certainly seen that “accumulated evil” get unpacked.

Yet, Obama courted Kagan as a respected “equal,” according to one source familiar with the behavior of the two men at lunch. Although as a journalist I try not to react viscerally to what I hear, the phrase “a meeting of equals” brought the taste of vomit to the back of my throat.

I couldn’t help but recall the reported outburst by President Abraham Lincoln after his reelection as he struggled to secure the necessary votes for passing the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery: “I am the President of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes” (as recounted years later by Congressman James Alley).

However, after also winning the presidency a second time, President Obama couldn’t seem to find his inner Lincoln.

In trying to understand what makes Obama tick, I have often been struck by how he seems awed by credentials, perhaps because credentials were the key to his unlikely rise from an obscure and exotic background to edit the Harvard Law Review, to build an academic career, to gain a US Senate seat, and to win the presidency of the United States. Along the way, he got “blessed” by many of the “right” people and never strayed too far from the safety of the “establishment.”

Even as a twice-elected president, Obama seems captive to this high regard for people with credentials, even when the system awarding those credentials daily demonstrates its extraordinary levels of corruption, cruelty and outright stupidity.

Which brings us back to the apparently forced resignation of Chuck Hagel, who earned the enmity of Official Washington because he was an early Republican turning against the Iraq War and because he offered some mild criticism of the Israel Lobby.

On the surface, Obama’s abandonment of Hagel — while retaining the bombastic neocon-approved Secretary of State John Kerry and other war hawks like US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Kagan’s wife) — suggests that Obama may be again bending his foreign policy in directions favored by the neocons and their sidekicks, the “liberal interventionists.”

That could presage further disasters if Obama adopts the neocon strategy of ratcheting up tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and bombing the Syrian military in a move to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad — with both “regime change” goals high on the agenda of Israel’s right-wing government.

Yet, since Iran has been playing a key role in taking on the Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria — and since Assad’s army is the only force capable of holding back Islamic extremists inside Syria — the neocon “regime change” plan is reckless in the extreme. A very possible result from such a US intervention against Assad would be a military victory for Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front or the even more extreme Islamic State.

There’s also the neocon desire for a new Cold War with Russia over Ukraine. It’s possible that Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who understands the ugliness of war and has no fondness for the neocons, is being sidelined because he isn’t willing to throw more young American men and women into the blood and horror of more neocon-inspired adventures, not to mention wasting hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money.

But Hagel’s erratic performance as Defense Secretary — often coming across as inarticulate and imprecise — could represent a less consequential reason for the change at the Pentagon. Perhaps, Obama simply wants someone who is more skilled at the job.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is America’s Stolen Narrative.

[For more on the neocons and US foreign policy, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Delusional US ‘Group Think’ on Syria and Ukaine.”]

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

Disillusioned Soldiers in the US and Israel Are Refusing to Serve

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Travis Lupick / Al Jazeera America & Joseph Dana / Al Jazeera America – 2014-11-29 22:55:33


Marked for Deportation,
Iraq War Resisters Fight to Stay in Canada

Travis Lupick / Al Jazeera America

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (November 29, 2014) — For more than five years, former US soldier Rodney Watson has lived as a prisoner, confined to a church that serves a poor neighborhood here.

Wanted on charges of desertion in the United States and marked for deportation from Canada, he’s invoked the protection of sanctuary. Following a tradition established in medieval times, the Canada Border Services Agency officers have refrained from entering the church. Watson is safe from arrest as long as he stays within its walls.

There are as many as two-dozen men and women like Watson living in Canada today. Self-described conscientious objectors or resisters to the 2003 Iraq war, they have applied to Canadian refugee and immigration boards, but their applications have been stalled in courts for years. They remain in various states of legal limbo.

Most live with their families and are awaiting the outcome of immigration appeals. A few have work permits, while others are forced to sit idle. Some have exhausted legal options and have gone into hiding.

Watson’s lifestyle is among the most restrictive of any deserter from the 2003 war. He lives in a small room at the church; his wife, who is Canadian, and their 5-year-old son split their time between the church and relatives’ homes in a Vancouver suburb. The building doubles as a shelter that takes in upwards of 200 homeless people, many of whom struggle with mental illness and addiction. Border security officers maintain a strong interest in his case.

In his room on the church’s second floor, Watson said the extra scrutiny his immigration application has received stems from his anti-war views.

“I really believe that if I hadn’t spoken out before I came in this church, I would never have had a target painted on me,” he said. “But I came up here for a reason. I didn’t come up here to be quiet. I came up here to make a stand, and I’m still taking a stand, even though it’s been five years.”

After moving to Vancouver, Watson voiced his opposition to US military actions abroad in numerous interviews with Canadian media, but he’s grown quiet since the start of the year. Watson said he’s discouraged. He noted that during the time he has lived in the church, the United States has withdrawn from one war in Iraq and entered another.

Today US forces are again bombing in Iraq and more than 3,000 American soldiers are deployed on the ground. Canada is also launching air strikes targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, which began in early November.

“I lost a friend while I was deployed to Mosul, Iraq, and there’s not a day that I don’t think about why and for what?” Watson recently wrote on Facebook. “And here we go again.”

The Canadian government says that American deserters are not legitimate refugees. Officials have stated publicly that war resisters’ immigration applications are unlikely to be approved. In the United States, deserters who return from Canada face a higher risk of prosecution and jail time than if they’d never left, their lawyers say.

There is, however, a chance that war resisters’ circumstances could soon change. Canada is scheduled to hold a federal election in 2015. Watson and deserters across the country are placing their hopes on two opposition candidates who are sympathetic to their cause.

Watson originally supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But during a 12-month tour that began in 2005, he said he witnessed US soldiers acting in condescending ways toward Iraqi civilians.

“Midway through my deployment, after I witnessed other soldiers doing certain things — how they would take out their aggression on unarmed civilians — it reminded me of how the police do us [black Americans] in our own country.”

Watson’s family moved to Kansas when he was 5, and he recalled that some people in their new neighborhood didn’t take kindly to their arrival.

“We were just watching TV, me and my brothers and sisters,” he said. “And all of the sudden, this brick comes through the window. Glass hits my brother in the face. I got hit in the face. Scratches on me and everything. My mom came running in and scooped us up and brought us upstairs. And all I heard was, ‘N—–, n—–, n—–!’ ”

The war in Iraq brought back those memories, said Watson, except this time, as a soldier, he was a member of the group throwing bricks. “They would use the same word,” he explained. “Calling them ‘sand n——‘ when they would hit unarmed Iraqis.”

As Watson grew disillusioned, a friend employed by a private security contractor was killed in an Iraqi attack on a helicopter. “That was the tipping point for me,” he said.

He completed his tour. But when he was called for a second deployment to Iraq, in late 2006, Watson made the decision to desert. In November of that year, he moved to Vancouver.

One of the very first war resisters to move to Canada this century was Joshua Key, who entered the country in 2005. Today he lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with his wife, whom he met in Canada, and their three children. “From my time in Iraq, I know that we created a whole generation of terrorists,” Key said. “And now Canada is sending planes and advisers over.”

Dean Walcott, who deserted in 2006, has it better than most war resisters. He has a work permit and lives with his family in Peterborough, Ontario. But after eight years, he still hasn’t obtained permanent residency status. Like Watson, Walcott said his political activism has led Canadian authorities to stall his immigration application. He continues to speak his mind. “Once again, here we go,” he said about the US-led fight against ISIL and other armed groups in the region.

Regardless of their reasons for leaving the Army, the soldiers who moved to Canada face harsh penalties should they return to the United States.

Cliff Cornell, who lived in British Columbia from 2005 to 2009, was sentenced to one year in prison after he returned of his own accord. Robin Long, who lived in B.C. from 2005 to 2008 before he was deported, was found guilty of desertion and sentenced to 15 months.

Kimberly Rivera lived in Toronto with her American family from 2007 to 2013. When she returned voluntarily to the United States, she was court martialed and sentenced to 10 months in prison. Pregnant at the time, she was denied an early release and gave birth in jail.

According to statistics supplied by the US Army, only a fraction of deserters — 1,866 of 35,598 from 2001 to 2013 — are prosecuted. But when individuals are selected for prosecution, they are very likely to be found guilty: During that same period, the conviction rate was 99 percent.

US Army representatives declined interviews for this story. Lieut. Col. Ben Garrett, a media-relations officer, wrote in an email that decisions regarding prosecution and punishment are made on a case-by-case basis: “Commanders have discretion to retain and rehabilitate, administratively separate, or court-martial a Soldier who was AWOL or who deserted.”

James Branum, an Oklahoma City-based lawyer who has represented eight deserters, argued that politics is a factor. He said that roughly 50 percent of those who seek to emigrate are prosecuted. (The Army declined to comment).

“It depends a lot on the branch of service you’re from, it depends on how political you were, and it depends on if you applied for asylum in Canada,” he said. “Certainly, if you went to Canada, and the more politically you were in Canada, the more outspoken you were in the press, the more likely it is that they will get you.”

Alyssa Manning, a Toronto-based lawyer who represents Watson and other war resisters, said deserters also receive special attention from authorities north of the border. For example, in July 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued an operational bulletin that instructs lower-level staff to forward to superiors any refugee claim that involves a military deserter.

“It’s an unusual move for the minister to issue a directive that all cases of one particular type have to go to headquarters to be processed out of there,” she said.

Representatives with Citizenship and Immigration Canada declined repeated requests for an interview. In an email, Kevin Menard, an agency spokesman, wrote that each claim is assessed on its individual merits. However, the email also depicts a government position that is unsympathetic to deserters’ circumstances. “Military deserters from the United States are not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term,” it states. “These unfounded claims clog up our system for genuine refugees who are actually fleeing persecution.”

Shifting Politics?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party, which has led Canada since 2006, have maintained that uncompromising position. According to Menard, Canada’s immigration and refugee board has rejected all of the cases it has heard concerning Iraq-war resisters.

But the Harper administration is unpopular and could be on its way out. And there is a well-known precedent for the Canadian government to grant safe harbor to US soldiers who refuse to fight.

In the 1960s and 1970s, tens of thousands of recruits for the Vietnam War fled north and were given legal status in Canada by a government that had declared itself “officially non-belligerent” in the conflict.

The two main contenders for Harper’s job both oppose Canadian involvement in the fight against ISIL; war deserters hope that they will look more favorably on their cases. Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has not taken a stance on the war resister issue (and declined repeated requests for an interview on the topic). But it was Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, who, as prime minister, granted permanent residency to Vietnam deserters in the 1960s and ’70s.

The 2015 election could also bring to power Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party, which has been sympathetic to conscientious objectors. NDP’s Libby Davies, who represents the district in British Columbia where Watson lives, has befriended the Iraq-war veteran, even sharing Thanksgiving dinners with him and his family in years past.

Davies has tried to help war resisters obtain clemency in Canada. Her party has drafted and passed nonbinding resolutions to stop the deportation of war resisters. And Davies has repeatedly written every minister of immigration who has held power since deserters from the Iraq war began arriving in Canada.

“Whatever government it is, I want to see this young man be able to stay in this country with his wife and his son,” she said.

The Canada Border Services Agency appears to have a long attention span for Watson and his case. Watson entered the church in September 2009, and three years later, in January 2013, he was nearly apprehended by CBSA agents waiting in an alley behind the building.

Watson leaned out of a door to say goodbye to a friend and officers attempted to grab him. The friend intervened, positioning himself in between the officer and Watson, who was able to maneuver back inside the church to the protection it afforded him.

Watson said he simply doesn’t understand why war resisters like him are of such concern to the Canadian government. “We are here in Canada because of our conscience,” he said. “We are here because we didn’t agree with killing or dying for a lie. And look: Now we’re back at it again.”

The Lonely Path of
Israel’s Military Dissenters

Joseph Dana / Al Jazeera America

(July 31, 2014) — When 1st Sgt. A. received a second automated voice message from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) two weeks ago, he knew it was no longer possible to avoid the inevitable. The next day’s call was not automated: A soldier, speaking curtly, told him it was time to report for duty at an Israeli military base in the south of the country.

A., who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of courting further punishment by speaking to the media, told the caller he refuses to take part in the Israeli army’s current operation in the Gaza Strip. He questioned the ethics of an operation designed to root out Hamas infrastructure used to launch rockets on Israeli cities, citing the growing number of civilian casualties in Gaza.

“All I know is that you have to show up to the base tomorrow,” the caller told him. “Take it up with them.”

Israelis like 1st Sgt. A. are a rarity. After more than three weeks of fighting that has cost the lives of more than 1,300 Palestinians — mostly civilians — and over 50 Israeli soldiers, the Israeli public remains overwhelmingly supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

That’s despite mounting Israeli military casualties; the negative images of the destruction wrought by Israel in Gaza that dominate international media; and tensions with its key ally, the United States, over efforts to broker a cease-fire.

In order to facilitate Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli army has called up as many as 85,000 reserve soldiers. In Israel, mandatory military conscription requires three years of service for men, and two years for women, from the age of 18.

The backbone of Israel’s fighting force rests in the reserve of combat soldiers who are required to remain ready to serve when called up until the age of 45. For Israelis like 1st Sgt. A., when the country goes to war, life is put on hold and the fighting becomes an immediate reality.

Still, despite the public support for the war, a number of Israeli reservists have refused orders to serve in Gaza. Last week, more than 50 such soldiers publicly declared their refusal to join the war effort in an opinion piece in The Washington Post

“We found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service … to us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable,” the soldiers wrote.

Despite the military’s role as the central institution of national cohesion in Israel, the country has a long history of conscientious-objector movements such as Yesh Gvul (“There Is a Limit”) and New Profile. Founded by Israeli combat veterans at the outbreak of the Lebanon war in 1982, Yesh Gvul is an organization that provides support for reserve soldiers who refuse call-up orders.

Yesh Gvul’s activities have diminished since the 1980s, but New Profile, an organization that helps young Israelis avoid the draft, has filled the void. Breaking the Silence, a nonprofit that collects testimonies from Israeli combat veterans about their experiences but doesn’t encourage refusal, has also facilitated a new conversation about the exact practices of the Israeli military in the occupied territories.

These organizations have been vilified by more hawkish Israelis, who see their work as a threat to Israel’s national security. “These are not left-wing and human rights organizations, but terror groups and terror supporters,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in 2011 after the Israeli parliament debated setting up inquiry committees to probe a slew of left-wing groups, including New Profile and Breaking the Silence.

In April 2009, after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, six members of New Profile were detained by Israeli police after their homes were raided and their computers seized.

Since its creation on the heels of the Holocaust, the Israeli military has cast itself as the most moral army in the world, and the Israeli government insists that an individual soldier always has the right to refuse orders deemed unethical. But refusers dispute the reality of that claim.

“The thing that is overlooked about the Israeli army,” 1st Sgt. A. told Al Jazeera, “is the fact that you actually can’t go to jail for conscientious objection [when refusing reserve duty].” Instead, he said, “you go to jail for disobeying an order.”

So, when 1st Sgt. A. joined his unit at a southern IDF base more than two weeks ago, his commander was not pleased by his refusal to serve in Gaza. A.’s unit normally carries out reserve duties in the West Bank but also assists the national civilian defense.

“I had met with my commander before about refusing to serve a round of reserve duty in the West Bank,” A. said. “Even though he strongly believed in the morality of our unit’s mission there because of his strongly held Zionist beliefs, we worked out a situation in which I would serve a small sentence of two or three days for disobeying. But things have changed in the current war in Gaza.”

This time, A. was sentenced by his commander to the maximum punishment of 18 days in a military prison. A. said a large number of soldiers from his unit also failed to report, although for the most part they did not share his principled objection to fighting in Gaza.

“Many Tel Aviv–type people that preferred partying over fighting in Gaza showed up to the base a week late, and were also put in jail. But they were given three or four days. I was given 18 because my commander wanted to make an example out of me for refusing the premise of this war,” A. said.

The IDF was unable to answer Al Jazeera’s query about the number of soldiers who’d declined to serve in Gaza, and what consequences they had faced. “Unfortunately we do not have the information,” an IDF spokesperson said via email.

New Profile member Sahar Vardi said his organization’s counseling network had been contacted by more than 100 people seeking to avoid serving in the current Gaza operation.

“We don’t see a lot of people that want to publicly refuse this war at the moment,” Vardi said. “But war radicalizes people, and they begin to see the occupation [in the West Bank] in a new light. We expect that many people will come to us quietly after the war is over and start the process of refusing to serve.”

The zenith of Israel’s refusal movement came during the 1982 Lebanon war, particularly after the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps sparked widespread public revulsion at the conduct of the invasion. Still, the human toll and the vague and shifting military objectives of Protective Edge are spurring some among a new generation of Israeli soldiers to question orders.

A. could go back to jail at any moment for the same offense — refusing an order. But that prospect does not faze him.

“I see no alternative,” he said at the end of our conversation. “I can’t be a part of this cycle of blood and gore, where every two or three years we go into Gaza. I either refuse or I participate. There is no in-between.”

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

49,000 Homeless Veterans Need Your Help

Take Part Petition

Only 1 percent of the population engage in military service . . . . Despite this great sacrifice of the few on behalf of the many, we have allowed a disproportionate amount of veterans to live homeless, on the streets of America. Tonight more than 49,000 veterans will be homeless.

Over the past five years, through public-private partnerships catalyzed by federal policy, the United States has cut the veteran homeless problem by more than 60 percent, down from more than 120,000 at its peak.

HELP USA has been among the lead implementers of the federal policy and is encouraging everyone to take part now in our push to finish the mission of ending veteran homelessness. The prevention and housing policies are working, which is why now is the time to urge continued support for ending veteran homelessness by signing this petition. One is one too many. Act now.

To: Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader,
Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader

The federal policy of funding the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program combined with prevention outreach through the Support Services for Veteran Families program have helped us cut the homeless veteran problem by 60 percent.

Please act on our petition to extend these federal policies that are working. We must ensure, for the sake of justice and for our own future safety, that veterans are honored and cared for by those for whom they have sacrificed.
[Your name here]

HELP USA provides the housing and supportive services necessary to help the homeless and others in need to become and remain self-reliant. Since its founding, HELP USA has combined innovation with management excellence, becoming a national leader in both homeless prevention and a developer of permanent supportive housing for special needs population such as homeless families, veterans, and survivors of domestic violence.

How Western Intervention Fuels ‘Terrorism’

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Gwynne Dyer / Common Dreams – 2014-11-29 22:45:41


(November 28, 2014) — “We will not be cowed by these sick terrorists,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron after ISIS produced a grisly video of the mass beheading of Syrian captives by foreign jihadis who allegedly included British fighters. “We will not be intimidated,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the recent attacks in Montreal and Ottawa. As if the purpose of terrorist attacks in Western countries was to cow and intimidate them.

You hear this sort of rhetoric from Western leaders all the time, but Harper went further, and demonstrated exactly how they get it wrong. “[This] will lead us to… redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores. They will have no safe haven.” Sound familiar?

Sure enough, there are now half a dozen Canadian planes bombing ISIS jihadis in Iraq (although it’s unlikely that either of the Canadian attackers, both converts to radical Islam, had any contact with foreign terrorist organizations). But Harper has got the logic completely backwards.

The purpose of major terrorist activities directed at the West, from the 9/11 attacks to ISIS videos, is not to “cow” or “intimidate” Western countries. It is to get those countries to bomb Muslim countries or, better yet, invade them. The terrorists want to come to power in Muslim countries, not in Canada or Britain or the US. And the best way to establish your revolutionary credentials and recruit local supporters is to get the West to attack you.

That’s what Osama bin Laden wanted in 2001. (He hoped for an American invasion of Afghanistan, but he got an unexpected bonus in the US invasion of Iraq.) The ISIS videos of Western hostages being beheaded are intended to get Western countries involved in the fight against them, because that’s how you build local support. So far, the strategy is working just fine.

The “Global Terrorism Index,” published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace, reported last week that fatalities due to terrorism have risen fivefold in the 13 years since the 9/11 attacks, despite the US-led “war on terror” that has spent $4.4 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and anti-terrorist operations elsewhere. But it’s not really “despite” those wars. It’s largely because of them.

The invasions, the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa, the whole lumbering apparatus of the “global war on terrorism” have not killed the terrorist beast. They have fed it, and the beast has grown very large. 3,361 people were killed by terrorism in 2000; 17,958 were killed by it last year.

At least 80 percent of these people were Muslims, and the vast majority of those who killed them were also Muslims: the terrorists of Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al-Qaeda and its offspring in other parts of the world (like al-Shebab in north-east Africa).

That is not to say that terrorism is a particularly Muslim technique. Its historical roots lie in European struggles against oppressive regimes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it gained huge currency in liberation struggles against the European colonial empires after the Second World War. Even the Stern Gang in Israel and the Irish Republican Army can be seen as part of this wave.

Later waves of fashion in terrorism included the European, Latin American and Japanese “urban terrorist” movements of the 1970s and 80s — Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, Red Brigades in Italy, Montoneros in Argentina, Japanese Red Army and so on — none of which has any political success at all. Specifically “Islamic” terrorism really begins only in the 1990s, with the rise of radical, anachronistic forms of Sunni Islam.

Only about 5 percent of the victims of this latest wave of terrorism lived in developed countries, but it was their deaths, and their governments’ ignorant responses to them, that provided the fuel for the spectacular growth of jihadi extremism. So what can be done about it?

The Global Terrorism Index has some useful observations to offer about that, too. It points out that a great many terrorist organizations have actually gone out of business in the past 45 years. Only 10 percent of them actually won, took power, and disbanded their terrorist wings. And only 7 percent were eliminated by the direct application of military force.

Eighty percent of them were ended by a combination of better policing and the creation of a political process that addressed the grievances of those who supported the terrorism. You don’t fix the problem by fighting poverty or raising educational levels; that kind of thing has almost nothing to do with the rise of terrorism. You have to deal with the particular grievances that obsess specific ethnic, religious or political groups.

And above all, keep foreigners out of the process. Their interventions ALWAYS make matters worse. Which is why the terrorists love them so much.

Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as an historian. Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities. His latest book, “Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats”, was published in the United States by Oneworld.

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

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

Utah Police Shootings Outnumber Homicides From Gang Violence, Drug Deals and Child Abuse Combined

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Jen Hayden / Daily Kos & Erin Alberty / The Salt Lake Tribune – 2014-11-29 00:51:35


Utah Police Shootings Outnumber Homicides From Gang Violence, Drug Deals and Child Abuse
Jen Hayden / Daily Kos

(November 24, 2014) — The Salt Lake Tribune is out with some stunning facts about police shootings in Utah. [See story below — EAW] In the last five years, more people have been killed by police than homicides from gang violence, drug deals and child abuse:

A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahans kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence.

Wow. And all but one have been deemed “justified.”

“Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond,” wrote Ian Adams, a West Jordan police officer and spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police. “The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public. . . . Why do some in society continue to insist the problem lies with police officers?”

And least one former Utah police officer says it is time to re-evaluate what’s happening:

“The numbers reflect that there could be an issue, and it’s going to take a deeper understanding of these shootings,” said Chris Gebhardt, a former police lieutenant and sergeant who served in Washington, D.C., and in Utah, including six years on SWAT teams and several training duties. “It definitely can’t be written off as citizen groups being upset with law enforcement.”

What can be done? One state is revising how these shootings are investigated:

Wisconsin recently passed a law requiring all shootings by police to be investigated by an agency other than the one whose officer fired the shots, a policy some police watchdog groups in Utah are exploring in reaction to a spate of shootings by Utah officers — eight since the August shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., brought the national conversation on police use of force to a fever pitch.

Killings by Utah Police Outpacing
Gang, Drug, Child-abuse Homicides

Erin Alberty / The Salt Lake Tribune

(November 23 2014) — In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by police than by gang members. Or drug dealers. Or from child abuse.

And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13 (including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan) — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.

As the tally of fatal police shootings rises, law enforcement watchdogs say it is time to treat deadly force as a potentially serious public safety problem.

“The numbers reflect that there could be an issue, and it’s going to take a deeper understanding of these shootings,” said Chris Gebhardt, a former police lieutenant and sergeant who served in Washington, D.C., and in Utah, including six years on SWAT teams and several training duties. “It definitely can’t be written off as citizen groups being upset with law enforcement.”

Through October, 45 people had been killed by law enforcement officers in Utah since 2010, accounting for 15 percent of all homicides during that period. A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahns kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence.

Saturday’s shooting, which occurred after an officer responded to a trespassing call, remains under investigation.

Nearly all of the fatal shootings by police have been deemed by county prosecutors to be justified. Only one — the 2012 shooting of Danielle Willard by West Valley City police — was deemed unjustified, and the subsequent criminal charge was thrown out last month by a judge.

Does that mean such deaths should be treated as the inevitable cost of keeping police and the public safe?

“Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond,” wrote Ian Adams, a West Jordan police officer and spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police. “The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public. . . . Why do some in society continue to insist the problem lies with police officers?”

But Robert Wadman, a criminal justice professor at Weber State University and former chief of the Omaha, Neb., police department, said the factors leading up to the decision to shoot a subject are more subtle than what prosecutors consider when reviewing the legal justification. Under Utah law, an officer is justified if at the moment of the shooting the officer reasonably believes deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious injury.

“Sometimes the line between is it legal and is it necessary becomes difficult to distinguish,” Wadman said. “In the judgment of the officer, ‘Is my life in jeopardy? Yes.’ At that point in time, they’re legally grounded in using deadly force. But the question is, is it necessary? That’s something that needs to be firmly addressed, for example, in training.”

‘Officers may use any force available’
The Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) division of the Utah Department of Safety oversees, directly or indirectly, the basic training of all police recruits in Utah.

At its four-month academy, cadets are introduced to the use-of-force continuum, a diagram showing officer force options — simply showing up at the scene; verbal commands, touching or holding a subject, pepper spray, police dogs, baton, Taser, or deadly force — arrayed in a circle for the officer’s selection.

“Officers may use any force available provided they can justify the reasonableness of force used,” the manual states. Adams maintains that officers in Utah typically use less force than may be justified.

“In the vast majority of cases where lethal force was a possibility, the suspect was successfully arrested without the use of lethal force,” Adam said. “Of course, these cases do not garner much attention from the press, politicians, or the public.”

He pointed to FBI data showing Utah officers make about 125,000 arrests per year, versus an average of nine fatal shootings by police. “Those incidents where police were forced to take [deadly] action represent the truly abnormal,” Adams said.

Rare or not, Gebhardt said, each shooting demands a high level of scrutiny because the impact is so high. “There is an absolute time when you need to go hands on, need to Taser them, need to resort to deadly force,” Gebhardt said. “But there are really less times than what’s going on. There’s an opportunity to de-escalate more of these situations. Officers instead are escalating these situations themselves.”

Such cases are known as “police-created urgencies,” said Brian Buchner, president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). “[It’s] where force may be legally justified for an officer, who, but for their bad decisions and bad tactics, wouldn’t be in that position to begin with. There may be issues involving the officers’ decision-making that are worth noting and may be problematic,” Buchner said.

Scott Stephenson, director of POST, said cadets receive formal training in de-escalation, including a 12-hour class on conflict resolution, eight hours on mental illness response and a session on dealing with subjects with “excited delirium” from drug use. “We teach officers to use lower levels of force, if at all possible,” Stephenson said.

But that coursework gives way to continuing training that focuses almost exclusively on using force, Gebhardt said. “When they receive the verbal Judo class, it’s one time, done and over with,” Gebhardt said. “Baton training, OC spray, firearms are done on a quarterly, annual, or two-year basis. They should integrate that de-escalation training into it. When a situation deteriorates, the officer reverts to their training. . . . Departments really need to own, from the top down, de-escalation. They need to stress and emphasize de-escalation with the officers.”

Stephenson countered that officers are highly motivated to de-escalate where possible. “No officer wants to take somebody’s life. No officer wants to be involved in that situation,” Stephenson said. “Everyone dreads it. But it could happen in any moment in their shift. That alone creates stress when you come in contact with the public.”

‘This Cycle Has Got to Be Broken’
But that stress may be out of proportion to the actual risk posed by the public — and a catalyst for use of force, Wadman said.

“It’s my concern, both as a former police chief and an instructor, that we’ve lost touch with the communities that we serve,” Wadman said. “If they’re in their cars, going from call to call with their windows rolled up, it’s a much more fearful situation than if they are in the communities. This cycle has got to be broken, where police are becoming more and more afraid of the communities they serve. When you work closely with people, you don’t have that.”

Adams said police can’t know when they’ll be assaulted. Although Utah has one of the nation’s lowest violent crime rates, the five most recent years of FBI data show there are about 630 assaults annually on officers in Utah, making the state’s assault-per-officer rate the 10th highest in the country.

“Utah does not have a police force problem, it has a violent criminal problem,” said Adams, who this summer shot and wounded a man who pointed a fake gun at him during a foot chase.

“Is it too much to ask that society support officers who are violently attacked? Is it too much to ask that an officer, after sacrificing his mental and physical health for the community, can expect that the community then gather round and support him during one of the most devastating moments of his life?”

Scrutiny is the only way for police to learn from their most tragic encounters, Gebhardt said.

“Law enforcement gets very upset with Monday morning quarterbacking,” he said. “They shouldn’t. They should be embracing these events, debriefing these events. ‘What can we do better? What can we train on that needs to be a component of every use of force scenario?’ ”

Accountability also is critical for continued cooperation with the public, Wadman said.

“Police organizations should be in a posture where they’re doing everything they can to have a quality working relationship with the community, so there’s no question in a community’s mind that the officer’s actions were in line with the law and necessary.”

‘We Have People Who Really Want to See the Truth’
In most Utah police agencies, a shooting is investigated by county prosecutors to find whether it was legally justified, and also by the agency itself to determine whether the officer’s actions complied with department policies.

That exposes investigations to conflicts of interest, Gebhardt said. “You’ve got a very close relationship between officer, prosecutor and judge in this state,” he said.

Even if officers and prosecutors are able to separate their working relationships from police shooting investigations, the mere perception of conflict hurts the credibility of the findings, Wadman said.

“I don’t want to defame the quality of those investigations, but in that process there is a gap in the release of information that I think increases the mistrust between the community and police,” Wadman said.

The investigation into the already-controversial shooting of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt by Saratoga Springs police faced renewed criticism as additional information came to light in the weeks following the Utah County Attorney’s Office finding that the shooting was justified.

While police previously said they didn’t know whether the officers were wearing body cameras, an investigative report showed that one of the officers did have a camera but failed to turn it on.

Investigators did not review testimony of a witness whose initial statement indicated Hunt swung a sword at police before he was shot on Sept. 10, but who later told reporters that he saw no aggressive action by Hunt.

And Hunt’s aunt, Cindy Moss, said the family has obtained a photo of the shot-out windshield of a car parked at the scene, marked with a police evidence tag, countering prosecutors’ reports that the only stray-bullet impact was into the ground.

“There’s inconsistencies through the whole thing,” said Moss, who has called for legislation requiring civilian oversight boards and body cameras for police.

“By having a citizen review board, we have people who really want to see the truth — not to be covering it up and making it look like it’s fine. And that’s what it truly looks like at this point.”

But civilian oversight does not appear to be a priority outside of Salt Lake City and West Valley City, the only two cities in Utah that have independent review boards, Buchner said. NACOLE, which held its national conference last year in Salt Lake City, reached out to community leaders throughout the state to discuss options for oversight.

“We got mild interest by some,” Buchner said. “Most didn’t respond or express any interest in exploring the idea of [oversight] for local law enforcement.”

Adams said the Fraternal Order of Police is discussing civilian oversight measures but declined to comment further on the group’s position.

While civilian oversight mechanisms have been created in most major American cities, and are spreading to mid-sized cities and smaller towns, only Montana has a law requiring review commissions for every police agency of a certain size, Buchner said.

Wisconsin recently passed a law requiring all shootings by police to be investigated by an agency other than the one whose officer fired the shots, a policy some police watchdog groups in Utah are exploring in reaction to a spate of shootings by Utah officers — eight since the August shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., brought the national conversation on police use of force to a fever pitch.

“Civilian oversight is one way that a police department can actually be more effective,” Buchner said. “When a community trusts its police department, police can be more effective. We have decades of research that show that.”


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

Iraq War 4.0: The Global Failure of US Military Interventions

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch – 2014-11-29 00:50:04


Iraq War 4.0?
Russians Invade Afghanistan (Again!),
Chinese Fight Iraq War (Again!)
What If It Weren’t Us?

Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch

(November 27, 2014) — Let’s play a game, the kind that makes no sense on this single-superpower planet of ours. For a moment, do your best to suspend disbelief and imagine that there’s another superpower, great power, or even regional power somewhere that, between 2001 and 2003, launched two major wars in the Greater Middle East. We’re talking about full-scale invasions, long-term occupations, and nation-building programs, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

In both countries, that power quickly succeeded in its stated objective of “regime change,” only to find itself mired in deadly conflicts with modestly armed minority insurgencies that it simply couldn’t win.

In each country, to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, it built up a humongous army and allied “security” forces, poured money into “reconstruction” projects (most of which proved disasters of corruption and incompetence), and spent trillions of dollars of national treasure.

Having imagined that, ask yourself: How well did all of that turn out for this other power?

In Afghanistan, a recent news story highlights something of what was accomplished. Though that country took slot 175 out of 177 on Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, though its security forces continue to suffer grievous casualties, and though parts of the country are falling to a strengthening Taliban insurgency, it has for some years proudly held a firm grip on one record: Afghanistan is the leading narco-state on planet Earth.

In 2013, it upped its opium poppy cultivation by 36%, its opium production by almost 50%, and drug profits soared. Preliminary figures for this year, recently released by the U.N., indicate that opium cultivation has risen by another 7% and opium production by 17%, both to historic highs, as Afghanistan itself has become “one of the world’s most addicted societies.”

Meanwhile, where there once was Iraq (171st on that index of kleptocracies), there is now a Shiite government in Baghdad defended by a collapsed army and sectarian militias, a de facto Kurdish state to the north, and, in the third of the country in-between, a newly proclaimed “caliphate” run by a terror movement so brutal it’s establishing records for pure bloodiness.

It’s headed by men whose West Point was a military prison run by that same great power and its bloodthirstiness is funded in part by captured oil fields and refineries.

In other words, after 13 years of doing its damnedest, on one side of the Greater Middle East this power has somehow overseen the rise of the dominant narco-state on the planet with monopoly control over 80%-90% of the global opium supply and 75% of the heroin. On the other side of the region, it’s been complicit in the creation of the first terrorist mini-oil state in history, a post-al-Qaeda triumph of extreme jihadism.

A Fraudulent Election
And a Collapsed Army

Though I have no doubt that the fantasy of relocating Washington’s deeds to Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, or any other capital crumbled paragraphs ago, take a moment for one more experiment.

If this had been the work of any other power we thought less well of than we do of ourselves, imagine the blazing headlines right now. Conjure up — and it shouldn’t be hard — what the usual war hawks would be spouting in Congress, what the usual suspects on the Sunday morning talk shows might be saying, and what stories cable news networks from CNN to Fox would be carrying.

You know perfectly well that the denunciations of such global behavior would be blistering, that the assorted pundits and talking heads would be excoriating, that the fear and hysteria over that heroin and those terrorists crossing our border would be somewhere in the stratosphere. You would hear words like “evil” and “barbaric.”

It would be implied, or stated outright, that this avalanche of disaster was no happenstance but planned by that same grim power with its hand on the trigger these last 13 years, in part to harm the interests of the United States. We would never hear the end of it.

Instead, the recent reports about Afghanistan’s bumper crop of opium poppies slipped by in the media like a ship on a dark ocean. No blame was laid, no responsibility mentioned. There were neither blazing headlines, nor angry jeremiads, nor blistering comments — none of the things that would have been commonplace if the Russians, the Chinese, or the Iranians had been responsible.

Just about no one in the mainstream excoriates or blames Washington for the 13 years leading up to this. In fact, to the extent that Washington is blamed at all for the rise of the Islamic State, the focus has been on the Obama administration’s decision not to stay longer in Iraq in 2011 and do even more of the same. (Hence, President Obama’s recent decision to extend the US combat role in Afghanistan through at least 2015.)

All in all, we’ve experienced a remarkable performance here when it comes to not connecting the dots or feeling the need to assign responsibility or accountability for what’s happened in these years. In some fashion, we Americans continue to see ourselves, as we have since 9/11, as victims, not destabilizers, of the world we inhabit.

To add to this spectacle, the Obama administration spent endless weeks helping engineer a fraudulent Afghan presidential election — funded in part by the opium trade — into a new, extra-constitutional form of government. The actual vote count in that election is now, by mutual agreement of the two presidential candidates, never to be revealed.

All of this took place, in part, simply to have an Afghan president in place who could ink a new bilateral security agreement that would leave US troops and bases there for a further decade. If another country had meddled with an election in this fashion, can you imagine the headlines and commentary? While reported here, all of this again passed by without significant comment.

When it comes to a path “forward” in Iraq, it’s been ever deeper into Iraq War 3.0. Since a limited, “humanitarian” bombing campaign began in August, the Obama administration and the Pentagon have been on the up escalator: more air strikes, more advisers, more weaponry, more money.

Two and a half weeks ago, the president doubled the corps of American advisers (plus assorted other US personnel) there to 3,000-plus. Last week, the news came in that they were being hustled into the country faster than expected — specifically into dangerous, war-torn al-Anbar Province — to retrain the American-created, now thoroughly sectarian Iraqi army, reportedly in a state of remarkable disarray.

In the meantime, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, the Pentagon, and the White House continue to struggle over whether American boots can be put on the ground in a combat capacity, and if so, how many and in what roles in a “war” that essentially may have no legal basis in the American system of government. (Shades of Afghanistan!)

Of course, much of this internecine struggle in Washington is likely to be obviated the first time US advisers are attacked in Anbar Province or elsewhere and boots end up hitting the ground fast, weapons firing.

Vietnamizing Iraq,
Iraqicizing Vietnam

In the meantime, think about what we would have said if the Russians had acted as Washington did in Afghanistan, or if the Chinese had pursued an Iraq-like path in a country of their choosing for the third time with the same army, the same “unified” government, the same drones and weaponry, and in key cases, the same personnel! (Or, if you want to make the task easier for yourself, just check out US commentary these last months on Ukraine.)

For those of a certain age, the escalatory path the Obama administration has set us on in Iraq has a certain resonance and so, not surprisingly, at the edges of our world, familiar words like “quagmire” are again rising.

And who could deny that there’s something eerily familiar about it all? Keep in mind that it took less than three years for the Kennedy administration to transition from the first several hundred American advisers it sent to Vietnam to work with the South Vietnamese Army in 1961 to 16,000 armed “advisers” in November 1963 when the president was assassinated.

The Obama administration seems to be in the grips of a similar escalatory fever and on a somewhat similar schedule, even if ahead of the Vietnam timetable when it comes to loosing air power over Iraq and Syria. However, the comparison is, in a sense, unfair to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. After all, they were in the dark; they didn’t have a “Vietnam” to refer to.

For a more accurate equivalent, you would have to conjure up a Vietnam scenario that couldn’t have happened. You would have to imagine that, in May 1975, at the time of the Mayaguez Incident (in which the Cambodians seized an American ship), just two weeks after the South Vietnamese capital Saigon fell, or perhaps even more appropriately in terms of the dual chronologies of the two wars, in December 1978 when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia, President Gerald Ford had decided to send thousands of American troops back into Vietnam.

Inconceivable as that was then, only such an absurd scenario could catch the true eeriness of the escalatory path of our third Iraq war.

Four More Years! Four More Years!
Try to imagine the reaction here, if the Russians were suddenly to send their military back into conflict-ridden Afghanistan to refight the lost war of the 1980s more effectively, bringing old Red Army commanders out of retirement to do so.

As it happens, the present war in Iraq and Syria is so unnervingly déjà vu all over again that an equivalency of any sort is next to impossible to conjure up. However, since in the American imagination terrorism has taken over the bogeyman-like role that Communism once filled, the new Islamic State might in one sense at least be considered the equivalent of the North Vietnamese (and the rebel National Liberation Front, or Vietcong, in South Vietnam).

There is, for instance, some similarity in the inflamed fantasies Washington has attached to each: in the way both were conjured up here as larger-than-life phenomena capable of spreading across the globe. (Look up “domino theory” on the meaning of a Communist victory in South Vietnam if you doubt me.)

There is also at least some equivalency in the inability of American leaders and commanders to bring the nature, or even the numbers, of the enemy into sharp focus.

Only recently, for instance, General Dempsey, who has played a crucial role in the launching of this latest war, rushed off on just the sort of “surprise visit” to Baghdad that American officials often made to Saigon to proclaim “progress” or “light at the end of the tunnel” in the Vietnam War. He met with American Marines at the massive US embassy in that city and offered an assessment that seemed to capture some of Washington’s confusions about the nature of its newest war.

Keep in mind that, at the moment the war was launched, the Islamic State was being portrayed here as a monster movement engorging itself on the region, one that potentially imperiled just about every American interest on the planet. In Baghdad, Dempsey suddenly insisted that the monster was faltering, that the momentum of battle in Iraq was “starting to turn.”

He then labeled the militants of the Islamic State as “a bunch of midgets running around with a really radical ideology” and concluded that, despite the nature of those formerly giant, now-puny fellows and the changing momentum of the war, it might nonetheless take “years” to win.

On his return to Washington, he became more specific, claiming that the war could last up to four years and adding, “This is my third shot at Iraq, and that’s probably a poor choice of words.”

Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers recently offered a similar four-year estimate, but tagged an “or more” onto it. (Four more years! Four more years! Or more! Or more!)

Despite their sudden access to crystal balls some 11-and-a-half years after the initial invasion of Iraq, such estimates should be taken with a grain of salt. They reveal less a serious assessment of the Islamic State than just how shaky America’s top leadership, civilian and military, has become about what the US is capable of achieving in the wake of an era of dismal failure in the Greater Middle East.

In reality, unlike North Vietnam in 1963, the Islamic “State” is a wildly sectarian rebel movement that sits atop what is at best a shaky proto-state (despite recent laughable news reports about claims that it will soon mint gold or silver coins). It is not popular across the region.

Its growth is bound to be limited both by its extreme ideology and its Sunni sectarianism. It faces enemies galore. While its skill in puffing itself up — in Wizard of Oz fashion — to monstrous size and baiting the US into further involvement may be striking, it is neither a goliath nor a “midget.”

General Dempsey can’t know how long (or short) its lifespan in the region may be. One thing we do know, however: as long as the global giant, the United States, continues to escalate its fight against the Islamic State, it gains a credibility and increasing popularity in the world of jihadism that it would never otherwise garner.

As historian Stephen Kinzer wrote recently of the movement’s followers, “To face the mighty United States on Middle Eastern soil, and if possible to kill an American or die at American hands, is their dream. We are giving them a chance to realize it. Through its impressive mastery of social media, the Islamic State is already using our escalation as a recruiting tool.”

Awaiting Iraq War 4.0
Given all this, it should amaze us how seldom the dismal results of America’s actions in the Greater Middle East are mentioned in this country. Think of it this way: Washington entered Iraq War 3.0 with a military that, for 13 years, had proven itself incapable of making its way to victory.

It entered the latest battle with an air force that, from the “shock and awe” moment it launched 50 “decapitation” strikes against Saddam Hussein and his top officials and killed none of them but dozens of ordinary Iraqis, has brought none of its engagements to what might be called a positive conclusion.

It entered battle with an interlocking set of 17 intelligence agencies that have eaten the better part of a trillion taxpayer dollars in these years and yet, in an area where the US has fought three wars, still manages to be surprised by just about any development, an area that, in the words of an anonymous American official, remains a “black hole” of information.

It has entered battle with leaders who, under the strain of fast-moving events, make essentially the same decision again and again to ever worse results.

In the end, the American national security machinery seems incapable of dealing with the single thing it was built to destroy in the 9/11 period: Islamic terrorism. Instead its troops, special ops forces, drones, and intelligence operatives have destabilized and inflamed country after country, while turning a minor phenomenon on the planet into, as recent figures indicate, an increasing force for turmoil across the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Given the history of this last period, even if the Islamic State were to collapse tomorrow under American pressure, there would likely be worse to come. It might not look like that movement or anything else we’ve experienced thus far, but it will predictably shock American officials yet again. Whatever it may be, rest assured that there’s a solution for it brewing in Washington and you already know what it is. Call it Iraq War 4.0.

To put the present escalating disaster in the region in perspective, a final analogy to Vietnam might be in order. If, in 1975, you had suggested to Americans that, almost four decades later, the US and Vietnam would be de facto allies in a new Asia, no one would have believed you, and yet such is the case today.

The Vietnamese decisively won their war against Washington, though much of their country was destroyed and millions died in the process. In the US, the bitterness and sense of defeat took years to recede.

It’s worth remembering that the first president to launch a war in Iraq in 1990 was convinced that the singularly tonic effect of “victory” there was to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” Now, all of official Washington seems to have a post-modern, twenty-first-century version of the same syndrome.

In the meantime, the world changed in few of the ways anyone expected. Communism did not sweep the Third World and has since disappeared except in Vietnam, now a US ally, tiny Cuba, and that wreck of a country, North Korea, as well as the world’s leading state on the “capitalist road,” China. In other words, none of the inflamed fears of that era panned out.

Whatever the bloody horror, fragmentation, and chaos in the Middle East today, 40 years from now the fears and fantasies that led Washington into such repetitively destructive behavior will look no less foolish than the domino theory does today.

If only, in a final thought experiment, we could simply skip those decades and instantly look back upon the present nightmare from the clearer light of a future day, perhaps the next predictable escalatory steps might be avoided. But don’t hold your breath, not with Washington chanting “Four more years!,” “Four more years!”

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His new book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).

[Note: A deep bow to Nick Turse for help on this piece. His thought experiments sparked my imagination.Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

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

ACTION ALERT: Require All Armed Police to Wear Body Cameras

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Daily Kos Action & Robert Gammon / The East Bay Express – 2014-11-29 00:35:02


Require All Armed Police to Wear Body Cameras

Daily Kos Action

President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and law enforcement officials everywhere.

Michael Brown’s family has made a call to action in the aftermath of the heartbreaking decision in Ferguson:
“Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.”

Earlier this year, petitions asking for this same thing were delivered to the White House. They responded with some preliminary findings:
* Evidence that both officers and civilians acted in a more positive manner when they were aware that a camera was present;

* New opportunities for effective training of law enforcement officers presented by the use of cameras; and

* Useful evidence of interactions was often captured on video

Everyday that this policy is not in place, lives continue to be at risk.

ACTION ALERT: Here is a link to the White House/We the People petition:
Mike Brown Law. Requires all state, county, and local police to wear a camera.

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

The Case for Body Cameras
Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »


UN Report Criticizes US for Police Shootings, Torture

November 29th, 2014 - by admin

Michael Muskal / The Los Angeles Times & Ed Pilkington / The Guardian – 2014-11-29 00:08:17


UN Committee Against Torture Condemns US
For Police Killings, Gitmo Detentions, Death Penalty

Michael Muskal / The Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK (November 28, 2014) — A United Nations panel on Friday sharply criticized how the United States handles a variety of criminal justice-related issues, such as the police shooting of unarmed African Americans, the imprisonment of terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the application of the death penalty.

In a 16-page report, its first such review since 2006, the UN Committee Against Torture condemned US policies in handling how police dealt with issues of brutality against blacks and Latinos. It did not specifically mention events in Ferguson, Mo., but the parents of Michael Brown, fatally shot by a white police officer, spoke to the commission before the findings were released.

[Note: Committee Against Torture Report on US: Link to document here.]

The panel was told by the US delegation that 20 investigations had been opened by the US Justice Department since 2009 into systematic police abuses against minorities and that more than 330 police officers had been prosecuted for brutality.

The Justice Department is conducting a similar probe in Ferguson. It is also investigating whether to charge Wilson with violating federal civil rights law.

In comments after the grand jury decision was announced on Monday, President Obama acknowledged that there were problems in the relations between police and minority communities.

“The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” the president said at the White House. “Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”

“There are numerous areas in which certain things should be changed for the United States to comply fully with the convention,” Alessio Bruni of Italy, one of the panel’s chief investigators, said at a news conference in Geneva. He was referring to the UN Convention Against Torture, which took effect in 1987 and the United States ratified in 1994.

The committee’s 10 independent experts review the records of United Nations members and issue recommendations, which are non-binding.

Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown on Aug. 9, touching off weeks of often violent protests. A St. Louis County grand jury decided this week not to indict Wilson, and information was released that portrayed Brown as the aggressor in the incident. The announcement of the grand jury’s decision was met with looting, arson and arrests in Ferguson and with more peaceful demonstrations around the nation.

In all, hundreds of arrests have been made from New York to Los Angeles and throughout the St. Louis region, though the level of protest has decreased in recent days.

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., met with the committee in Geneva earlier this month and argued that their son was a victim of police brutality and that his death and other forms of police brutality were a violation of the UN treaty.

The next day in Chicago, the president said he has asked outgoing Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to “identify specific steps we can take together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust in our communities. And next week, we’ll bring together state and local officials, and law enforcement, and community leaders and faith leaders to start identifying very specific steps that we can take to make sure that law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in this country.”

The UN report also criticized the US record on military interrogations, maximum-security prisons, solitary confinement and migrants residing in the country illegally.

The report also called for tougher federal laws to define and outlaw torture, including how detainees are treated in Guantanamo Bay.

About 148 inmates are held at the base in Cuba, where the US practices a form of incarceration the report described as “a draconian system of secrecy surrounding high-value detainees that keeps their torture claims out of the public domain.”

Nine inmates have died, including seven by suicide, since 2006, the report added.

Obama has called for closing the Guantanamo Bay facility and bringing the inmates to face trial in the United States, moves that have been opposed by Congress. Since the first detainees arrived in 2002, there have been reports that inmates have been tortured during interrogation. Officials have been force-feeding inmates who have been on a hunger strike since last year to protest their imprisonment.

The UN committee also criticized a series of executions in the United States in which it took a long time for inmates to die, and they appeared to be suffering because of the quality of drugs used and how they were administered.

UN Torture Report Condemns Sleep
Deprivation among US Detainees

Ed Pilkington / The Guardian

NEW YORK (November 28, 2014) — The US military has retained the power to inflict prolonged sleep deprivation on detainees, despite moves by the Obama administration to eliminate interrogation techniques that amount to torture and ill-treatment, the United Nations warned on Friday.

In a review of the human rights record of the US, the first of its kind since 2006, the world body’s committee against torture has slammed the country for its ongoing violations of international treaties. The review’s many complaints address indefinite detention without trial; force-feeding of Guantanamo prisoners; the holding of asylum seekers in prison-like facilities; widespread use of solitary confinement; excessive use of force and brutality by police; shootings of unarmed black individuals; and cruel and inhumane executions.

The committee’s conclusions, released in Geneva on Friday, praise President Barack Obama for having banned excessive interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that were widely used under the previous Bush administration in the wake of 9/11. But it cautions that one important method that was central to Bush’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — sleep deprivation — continues to be approved for use.

The authorisation of the method is contained in an appendix of the Army Field Manual called Human Intelligence Collector Operations. Appendix M allows military interrogators to practice what is known as “physical separation” of detainees to prevent them communicating with each other and, by so doing, sharing information that would help them resist questioning.

Under Appendix M, interrogators are told to avoid exposing detainees to several of the most popular forms of abuse practiced during the Bush years, such as deafening noises, freezing cells or incessant light. However, the rulebook goes on to give permission for detainees to be kept awake for up to 20 hours a day. It says: “Use of separation must not preclude the detainee getting four hours of continuous sleep every 24 hours.”

The provision has set alarm bells ringing at the UN’s committee against torture. The body points out that the rule can be applied against a detainee for an initial period of 30 days that can then be renewed; the measure amounts to “authorising sleep deprivation — a form of ill-treatment”.

The committee calls on the US immediately to abolish the provision. The recommendation is just one of a slew of complaints and demands that the world body makes in its review of the US track record on torture.

Many of the harshest criticisms are reserved for the Bush administration’s excesses between 2001 and 2009. But the committee is critical of how the current US government has failed, in its view, to clean up the mess that was created in the wake of 9/11.

In particular, it wants to see the US acknowledge torture as a specific criminal offence at the federal level, thereby removing possible loopholes in the law. It also urges the US Senate select committee on intelligence to publish as quickly as possible its report into the CIA’s historic detention and interrogation programme that has been caught up in political wrangling for months.

Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union commended the UN panel for its insistence that the Obama administration matches its rhetoric with action by supporting full accountability for torture.

“As a start, that means allowing the release of the Senate’s torture report summary without redactions that would defeat report’s primary purpose, which is to expose the full extent of government abuse. It also means ensuring a top-to-bottom criminal investigation of the torture that occurred.”

As protests against the shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, continue to sweep the country, the UN criticizes the growing militarization of policing activities and expresses “deep concern” over “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals”.

Though it does not mention Ferguson or Darren Wilson, the police officer who this week was spared charges for killing Brown, it does note the “difficulties to hold police officers and their employers accountable for abuses.”

The committee also condemns 4,000 deaths of inmates in prisons and jails each year, particularly those caused by “extreme heat exposure while imprisoned in unbearably hot and poor ventilated prison facilities” in states such as Arizona and California.

It states that the widespread detention of super-maximum security prisoners in total isolation for up to 23 hours a day is unacceptable and laments recent executions of death row inmates that caused “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering.”

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

UK Female Jihadists Run ISIS Sex-slave Brothels

November 28th, 2014 - by admin

Al Arabiya English & Mail Online & Russell Myers / The Mirror & Khaleda Rahman / Mail Online – 2014-11-28 01:39:23

ISIS Sex-Slave Raping & Selling Girls (Full Documentary)
ABC News

UK Female Jihadists Run ISIS Sex-slave Brothels
Al Arabiya English

(September 25, 2014) — Startling details have surfaced of British female jihadists forcing captured Iraqi women into sexual slavery at brothels run by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), British media reported Thursday.

The Brothels, operated by the female “police force” called the al-Khanssaa Brigade, have been set up for the use of ISIS militants, according to the Daily Mirror.

Thousands of Iraqi women have already been forced into sex slavery at the brothels, with as many as 3,000 women and girls been taken captive from the Yazidi tribe in Iraq over the course of the militants’ offensive across the region, according to the daily.

“These women are using barbaric interpretations of the Islamic faith to justify their actions,” the Mirror quoted a source as saying. “They believe the militants can use these women as they please as they are non-Muslims. It is the British women who have risen to the top of the Islamic State’s Sharia police, and now they are in charge of this operation.”

ISIS chiefs have reportedly given British women such prominent roles in the ultra-religious all female militia because they see them as the most committed of the foreign female fighters.

A key figure among the female police force is Aqsa Mahmood, 20, of Glasgow. At least three other British females have been identified as members of the group, the Mirror reported.

‘Al-Khanssaa is a Sharia law police brigade. This is ISIS’ female law enforcement,” Melanie Smith, a research associate at King’s College’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, told The Sunday Telegraph. ‘We think it’s a mixture of British and French women but its social media accounts are run by the British and they are written in English.”

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, reported that more and more young British women are leaving the United Kingdom to join militants, and many have formed intense friendships with ISIS fighters.

They include twins Salma and Zahra Halane, 16, from Manchester, and mother Khadijah Dare, 22, who is married to a Swedish militant. “It is as bizarre as it is perverse,” the Mirror quoted a source as saying.

Experts have said ISIS is targeting women for recruitment, and fighters are being urged to marry British and European women.

ISIS, have been on a rampage across Iraq, killing and enslaving members of the country’s ancient religious minorities, including Assyrian Christians and the Yazidis.

Last month two UN officials issued a joint statement on the “barbaric acts” of sexual violence committed by ISIS fighters.

“We condemn, in the strongest terms, the explicit targeting of women and children and the barbaric acts the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ has perpetrated on minorities in areas under its control, and we remind all armed groups that acts of sexual violence are grave human rights violations that can be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Nickolay Mladenov, special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, special representative of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict.

The UN officials’ statement cited evidence of rape being used as weapons of war against women and teenage boys and girls belonging to the Yazidi, Christian, Turkomen and Shabak communities in Iraq.

Academic and Middle East expert Haleh Esfandiari has blogged for the Wall Street Journal that ISIS offers captured girls and women as a “reward” to its followers.

“ISIS has received considerable world attention for its savage beheadings, executions of captured soldiers and men in conquered towns and villages, violence against Christians and Shiites, and the destruction of non-Sunni shrines and places of worship,” she said.

“But its barbarity against women has been treated as a side issue. Arab and Muslim governments, vocal on the threat ISIS poses to regional stability, have been virtually silent on ISIS’s systemic degradation, abuse, and humiliation of women. . . . To the men of ISIS, women are an inferior race, to be enjoyed for sex and be discarded, or to be sold off as slaves.”

Members of the All-women al-Khanssaa Brigade in Raqqa, Syria, Are Running Brothels for Islamic State Murderers
Russell Myers / The Mirror

(September 10, 2014) — British female jihadis are running brothels full of women kidnapped and forced into sex slavery by Islamic State militants.

It is understood they are members of an ultra-religious IS ‘police’ force tasked with looking after girls captured from the Yazidi tribe in Iraq. As many as 3,000 Iraqi women have been taken captive in the last two weeks by the terror group.

Sources suggest that members of the all-women al-Khanssaa Brigade in Raqqa, Syria, are running brothels to satisfy the fighters’ desires. One said: “These women are using barbaric interpretations of the Islamic faith to justify their actions.

“They believe the militants can use these women as they please as they are non-Muslims. “The Yazidi people are being ethnically cleansed, and their women are being subjected to the most brutal treatment. “It is the British women who have risen to the top of the Islamic State’s sharia police and now they are in charge of this operation. It is as bizarre as it is perverse.”

A report obtained by the Daily Mirror from researchers at think tank MEMRI – the Middle East Media Research Institution – confirms ethnic sex slavery is taking place on a massive scale.

The report states: “During its takeover of large parts of northern Iraq the IS captured many Yazidi villages, and reportedly took many Yazidi women to be sold and used as sex slaves.”

Researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation suggest up to 60 British women have gone to Syria for jihad.

Sources have revealed some of these women have emerged as key figures in the al-Khanssaa brigade and are enticing dozens more to leave their families and join them.

Aspiring doctor Aqsa Mahmood, 20, who fled her Glasgow home last November, is understood to be part of the brigade. She said she wanted to behead Christians with a “blunt knife.”

Video Shows ISIS Fighters Bartering
For Women at ‘Slave Girl Market’

Khaleda Rahman / Mail Online

(November 3, 2014) — An unsettling video has emerged purporting to show Islamic State fighters bartering over Yazidi women at a slave girl ‘market’. The terror organisation recently boasted of enslaving women from the Iraqi ethnic minority, and the men appearing in the clip explain it is ‘slave market day’.

The clip shows the men negotiating the price of the women, with blue and green-eyed young girls fetching a higher price.

Exchange: The seller quickly reveals he is happy to part with his young slave girl for Glock pistol

Haggle: But the buyers want to know what the girl looks like before they name a price

It starts with one man saying to the camera: ‘Today is the slave market day. Today is the day where this verse applies: ‘Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess, – for (then) they are not too be blamed’. He added: ‘Today is distribution day God willing. Each one takes his share.’

Another then says: ‘I swear man I am searching for a girl. I hope I find one.’ The men laugh and another says: ‘Today is the day of (female) slaves and we should have our share.’

Bartering begins after a seller is found, who says he is happy to sell his slave for a Glock pistol. Sellers offer prices, with one going as high as five banknotes. Subtitles on the clip explain that one banknote is probably the equivalent of 100 dollars.

IS fighters talk about which female slaves to buy and sell
Picky: But the buyers explain the price depends on the young girl’s looks and they will need to check her teeth. But the buyers explain the price they are willing to pay depends on looks and they will need to verify the girl is to their liking. One says he would need to check the teeth of the 15-year-old being auctioned, and explains: ‘If she doesn’t have teeth, why would I want her?’

The video was shot in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was seized by ISIS in June, according to Al Aan TV – who translated the clip into English.

The group have been reported as saying that Yazidi women and children captured during the offensive in Sinjar town were divided among fighters ‘according to sharia law’.

Teeth: But negotiations later stall when it appears the girl, thought to be aged 15, may be missing some teeth

Last month, a young Yazidi woman forced into sex slavery by the Islamic State claimed militants raped her 30 times in just a few hours.

The unidentified woman is understood to have been kept as a prisoner of the jihadists somewhere in western Iraq having been captured by ISIS during the Sinjar massacre in early August.

She allegedly told the fighters she had been raped so frequently that she could no longer use the toilet, adding the ordeal has been so harrowing that she plans to commit suicide even if freed.

And a 15-year-old girl told how she escaped militants by drugging and shooting two husbands who bought her as a slave.

The teenager, who has been kept anonymous to protect her family, was one of hundreds of women from the Yazidi sect who extremists kidnapped after overrunning their homes on Iraq’s Mount Sinjar.

The UN have confirmed that thousands of Yazidis were slaughtered when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in August.

Researchers concluded that more than 5,000 Yazidi were gunned down in a series of massacres by jihadists.

Thousands of women are also being held in makeshift detention centres, where they either been taken away and sold into slavery or handed over to jihadists as concubines.

The clip begins with one man addressing the camera: Today is the slave market day. Today is the day where this verse applies: ‘Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess, – for (then) they are not too be blamed’.

Today is distribution day God willing. Each one takes his share.

Another then says: I swear man I am searching for a girl. I hope I find one.

Another adds: Today is the day of (female) slaves and we should have our share.

The bartering begins with the words: Who wants to sell?

The seller’s reply: I want to sell.


I pay three banknotes (Subtitles explain one banknote is probably 100 dollars)
I buy her for a pistol.
The price differs if she has blue eyes.

The seller replies: I will sell her for a Glock!
I pay five banknotes.
It depends on how she looks like.
If she is 15 years old, I have to check her… Check her teeth.
If she has green eyes…
If she doesn’t have teeth, why would I want her?

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

Chief Prosecutor Leaves Air Force for Nonprofit to Defend Victims of Military Rape

November 28th, 2014 - by admin

Nancy Parrish / Protect Our Defenders & Robert Draper / The New York Times – 2014-11-28 01:31:21

Protect Our Defenders

Chief Prosecutor Leaves Air Force for Nonprofit to Defend Victims of Military Rape
Nancy Parrish / Protect Our Defenders

(November 26, 2014) — Today, Robert Draper of the New York Times reported special news for our strong community of survivors, advocates, family members, and supporters. [See full story below – EAW.]

Mr. Draper reported that the former Chief Prosecutor of the U.S. Air Force, Col. Don Christensen has retired and is joining Protect Our Defenders as our new President in an article focusing on yet another story of the high price victims pay when they come forward.

I am extremely humbled that Col. Christensen will be joining our team. As the former Chief Prosecutor, he led a team of 18 prosecutors with a worldwide mission of trying the most serious cases in the Air Force. He supervised the prosecution of 300 sexual offenses and personally won convictions in some of the military’s largest cases. He has witnessed the lack of justice victims too often receive in the military.

Col. Christensen has dedicated his life to the military. He served as a trial counsel, defense counsel or military judge for every year of his 23-year career. And for over 150 years, his family has served our military.

On Sept 26, 2014, Christensen retired, leaving the Air Force he loves. He was convinced he could do more to speak out for victims and advocate for change – to fix the broken justice system from the outside.

Paula Coughlin, a member of POD’s Board of Directors shared:
“It is remarkable that Col. Christensen has chosen to give up his career to create a safer environment for all those who choose to serve. His motivations are consistent with the motivations of most members who have been victimized by the Chain of Command, in that they want this environment to change for the better so that others can serve safely.”

Your determination is why we have made the strides we have. I have no doubt under Col. Christensen’s leadership that we will fundamentally reform the military justice system. To create a system based on evidence and the rule of law, not one based on the personal opinion of the Convening Authority.

Going forward, I will continue to remain active and serve as Co-Chair and CEO. I am looking forward to working with Col. Christensen. He will bring strength to our team and to this movement. He is a person of deep conviction and is committed to fixing the broken justice system and ensuring justice for victims. Reforming the system is vital to improving unit cohesion, good order and discipline and thereby strengthening our military.

Nancy Parrish is Co-Chair and CEO, Protect Our Defenders.

Protect Our Defenders Foundation sends email to supporters who seeks to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country.

The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault
Robert Draper / The New York Times

(November 26, 2014) — Col. Don Christensen, the chief prosecutor of the United States Air Force, sat in economy class on a flight to Venice and studied the folder of the sexual-assault case that would ultimately end his career. It was August 2012, and he was en route to Aviano Air Base to try a court-martial. Looking over the case, he could see why the judge advocate general, or JAG, at the base had requested him.

Christensen had prosecuted more sexual-assault courts-martial than any other lawyer in the Air Force, and this case called for someone with experience. There would most likely be generals testifying. The accused himself was a senior officer. Even Christensen had seldom handled cases involving men of high rank.

There was a simple reason for this: Victims were reluctant to report such officers, who enjoyed their own set of rules in the military justice system.

The officer in question was Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, Aviano’s inspector general and a highly regarded F-16 fighter pilot. Five months before, following a USOconcert at the base, Wilkerson, who was 43, and his wife, Beth, hosted a small party at their house. One guest, a 48-year-old civilian named Kim Hanks, was stranded without a ride home. She accepted the Wilkersons’ offer to stay in their guest bedroom.

According to Hanks, she was dead asleep at 3 in the morning when she felt a sudden discomfort. Wilkerson was in bed with her, pawing at her body, digitally penetrating her. She was struggling with him when someone appeared in the doorway. It was Beth Wilkerson. “Get the hell out of my house,” the wife told the guest. Hanks scrambled out of the house and into the darkness without her shoes.

Thumbing through the folder’s contents, Christensen reviewed Hanks’s written statement. There didn’t appear to be anything obvious that would lead him to question her integrity. A physician assistant at the base, she had met the Wilkersons only that evening and had no reason to be defaming the pilot.

Christensen found her credible and suspected that Wilkerson and his wife had not told investigators the truth about what happened that night. The prosecutor studied the transcript of the pilot’s videotaped interview with Air Force investigators, in which he insisted he never left his own bedroom.

The prosecutor also had the results of Wilkerson’s polygraph, which he failed. As with most sexual assaults, there was no physical evidence to buttress the case against Wilkerson. Unlike most such cases, however, there was a witness: Wilkerson’s wife. Christensen read the statement Beth gave to the investigators. He knew that she would be the key to the case. After all, she had only one reason to be untruthful: to cover up her husband’s guilt.

Christensen was 51, very tall and bald, an intimidating presence with a raspy voice. But he possessed a shy, boyish smile and a soft handshake that suggested a self-consciousness about his own strength. He was a sixth-generation military man; his great-great-grandfather survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In 1991, Christensen began his own military career as a lawyer at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, 30 miles from where he grew up on a dairy farm.

Though strippers no longer entertained at the officers’ club — as had been the case when Christensen’s father served at Ellsworth — at the time Christensen began there, it was still legal in the military to rape your wife. That year, 1991, was also when dozens of women reported that they were sexually assaulted by more than 100 Marines and Navy men at the Tailhook Symposium in Las Vegas, but the airmen at Ellsworth ridiculed the allegations as a tale trumped up by a bunch of female complainers.

Christensen’s early experience in a military courtroom was primarily as a defense attorney, with most of his early cases involving drug possession or use. During that time, he also represented nine men accused of rape. He won acquittals for six of them — the other three cases were thrown out before trial. Christensen developed an expertise in unraveling a victim’s testimony by, among other things, questioning her demeanor before and after the assault.

He kept to himself how distasteful he found these moments — how he imagined taking the women aside after the whole thing was over and whispering, I believe you.

But his obligation was to his clients, and so he did what professional ethics demanded of him. The Air Force’s prosecutors and judges were inexperienced — moving on to other areas of the law after a few years — and seldom objected to Christensen’s line of questioning.

The jury members, usually men of senior rank, had little sense of the counterintuitive behavior that victims often display. How she might go back to the house where a man attacked her to retrieve her sunglasses, so that he could not hold onto something of hers. How she might still talk to her attacker on the base, even with a smile, so as not to damage her military career.

How her heart rate might have been normal during the medical examination following the assault, because, well, the body sometimes behaves strangely. Consistently he exploited the jurors’ ignorance on such matters to win acquittals of men he often suspected of being sexual predators.

Word began to spread: If you were caught assaulting a woman, your best hope was to request Don Christensen as your defense counsel. After one not-guilty verdict, the defendant, a huge man, wrapped Christensen in a bear hug and lifted the 6-foot-3 lawyer off the ground.

Another soldier he set free vowed on the spot that he would be sending Christensen a Christmas card every year. The lawyer preferred to view his courtroom victories as testaments to his technical and persuasive skills rather than as possible miscarriages of justice — though his wife, Debbie, would tweak his conscience by asking: “Good for you. But what about her?”

Christensen often dwelled on the same question, and when the opportunity came in 2000 to switch sides, he took it. As a prosecutor, at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait, Christensen immediately felt a weight on his conscience slip away.

Though his new job would include court-martialing thieves, drug dealers and murderers, he became especially drawn to cases involving men who had forced themselves on women (and occasionally men) they usually outranked without fear of retribution. Christensen proved to be an empathetic advocate for the women he once sought to defeat.

“You have to gain the trust of the victim in order for them to be comfortable telling you the facts of the case and retelling them on the stand,” an Air Force lawyer who has worked with Christensen (and insisted he not be identified, for fear that it might jeopardize his career) told me. “Any lawyer can know the forensics. What you can’t get out of a book is how you interact with a victim. I learned by watching how he treated them.”

Over the next 12 years, Christensen personally tried roughly 40 sexual-assault cases and supervised the prosecution of another 300. His decision to focus on sex crimes was unconventional in the military. A JAG was expected to be a generalist — to learn about environmental and labor law, about contracts and medical malpractice claims — and to spend only a few years trying cases. But Christensen liked the challenge of helping victims who had no one else in their corner.

He knew the base commanders often did not have their best interests at heart. Instead commanders worried that a court-martial could lead to the loss of a prized fighter pilot. It could create turmoil at the base and produce a blemish on their own records. These pressures, Christensen had come to learn, all conspired to upset the scales of justice.

Time after time, he witnessed commanders demonstrating their support for the accused by sitting behind him in the courtroom; in one case, after a pilot was found not guilty of rape, the commander leapt from his perch and yelled, “Yeah!”

Commanders selected the jury, which sometimes issued sentences far lighter than those meted out in civilian courtrooms. He saw one commander withdraw an airtight rape case days before trial, without explanation.

He saw another commander testify at sentencing that the noncommissioned officer who had just been convicted of sexually molesting his daughter, a 13-year-old with a developmental disability, was nonetheless of great value to the unit and should therefore be retained. The judge granted his request.

And now Don Christensen would be trying to persuade a jury that a popular lieutenant colonel had sexually assaulted a houseguest and that his wife was covering for him. Still, the prosecutor was confident. When it came down to it, someone had to be lying, and he believed he could show that it wasn’t Kim Hanks.

After arriving in Italy the next morning, Christensen met with Hanks at the legal office in Aviano. She was calm and poised. She had reported the crime immediately and would be satisfied to see Wilkerson dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. Because Hanks was a civilian — as fully half of all victims of military sexual assaults are — Christensen explained how the military legal process worked.

The case had already been referred for prosecution by Craig Franklin, a three-star general stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany who was the so-called convening authority over judicial matters at Aviano. In a couple of days, there would be a pretrial, called an Article 32 hearing, in which Hanks and others would testify and Christensen would make the case to the investigating officer that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a court-martial.

Assuming the investigating officer and then General Franklin concurred, the case would go to trial. At the court-martial, Colonel Wilkerson would be present with his military counsel and a civilian defense lawyer, if he had the money (which he did).

Hanks, who did not hire a civilian lawyer, was not entitled to military counsel — Christensen represented the government, not Hanks, and could not offer her legal advice. The jury members would be ranking officers selected by General Franklin. The court-martial itself would proceed more or less as a civilian trial would, but with two exceptions. First, the jurors were free to ask questions of the witnesses. And second, only two-thirds of their votes were needed for a conviction.

Christensen and his two deputies filed into the Aviano courtroom on Oct. 29, 2012, to begin their case. It was easy for him to pick out Wilkerson’s supporters. The aviators stood in the back, arms folded across their chests, glowering at the prosecutors and the victim.

Christensen proceeded through a litany of witnesses: other guests at Wilkerson’s house that night; individuals Hanks had called to try to get a ride home; and Hanks herself. After two days, the prosecutor rested his case. The defense then called Beth Wilkerson to the stand. She testified that her husband remained in his bed throughout that night. Two aspects of her testimony surprised Christensen.

Previously, the pilot’s wife said that she had thrown out Kim Hanks after being awakened by Hanks’s loud cellphone conversation. Her new story, created after Christensen handed over phone records showing no such call had been made, was that she had been awakened by Hanks’s pacing noisily around the room.

Additionally, she originally told investigators that Hanks was very drunk that evening — which would mean that the pilot’s wife, known for her charitable spirit, had thrown an intoxicated woman out into the streets in the dead of night. Now her testimony was that the houseguest was sober. Christensen knew then that he was going to win the case.

During cross-examination, he asked Beth Wilkerson whether she had changed her story about Hanks’s condition that evening. Yes, she acknowledged. Had she also changed her story about what sound compelled her to go into the guest bedroom? Yes, she said. Christensen led her through several other instances in which the wife’s testimony was inconsistent with either her previous statements or those of her husband.

The witness began to slouch in a posture of defeat, according to several people who were in the courtroom. The prosecutor concluded his 45-minute interrogation by standing over the pilot’s wife and asking, “Do you know of any reason Kim Hanks would have to falsely accuse your husband of having put his finger in her vagina?” Beth Wilkerson responded: “I don’t know.”

After three and a half hours of deliberations, the jury found Wilkerson guilty and sentenced him to a dishonorable discharge and a year’s imprisonment. Christensen saw the relief on Hanks’s face, even as groans of dismay pervaded the courtroom. This was not the place for the prosecution team to be celebrating. Christensen immediately ushered his deputies out of the courtroom.

Wilkerson was sent to jail in Mannheim, Germany, and Christensen returned to his family in Virginia. Over the next three months, the prosecutor began work on other cases while, unknown to him, dozens of letters — many from high-ranking officers — poured into the office of General Franklin, not only attesting to Wilkerson’s character but also claiming that Christensen had suppressed key evidence and that Hanks was a liar.

On the afternoon of Feb. 26, 2013, Christensen was returning from lunch with a deputy at Andrews Air Force Base when an email appeared on his BlackBerry. It took him a moment to comprehend what he was reading. General Franklin, the commander stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, had overturned the verdict: Wilkerson was to be released from prison and reinstated at full rank.

Christensen was stunned. He knew that the military justice system allowed Wilkerson to request clemency from Franklin, the convening authority. He’d seen cases in which sentences were reduced or benefits reinstated. And he knew that under Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the convening authority even had the power to dismiss the sentence entirely.

But he had never heard of that happening. It hadn’t occurred to him that a commander might simply ignore a jury’s verdict. But Franklin did. Amid Christensen’s astonishment, one thought took shape: The general’s brazenly autocratic decision would not pass unnoticed in Washington.

It took a day before the legal office at Aviano could locate Hanks and get her on the phone with Christensen. The normally composed woman sobbed as he delivered the bad news.

“Kim,” he grimly told her, “I have no explanation. The only thing I can tell you is that you’re about to become an agent for change. This will never happen again.”

A month later, the prosecutor met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at Hagel’s request. At that meeting, Christensen recommended that Article 60 be modified so that commanders could no longer overturn jury verdicts. Hagel — who recently announced that he was stepping down as Defense chief — urged Congress to do so, and a measure was signed into law by President Obama last December. (Wilkerson was subsequently forced to retire from the Air Force at reduced rank after another investigation revealed that years before, he had a child with another woman.)

Several other reforms passed as well during that time. Those who accuse someone of a sex crime would be given their own military lawyers, known as special victims counsels. Accusers could immediately request a transfer from the base after reporting a sexual assault. Convicted rapists would be either dismissed or dishonorably discharged from the military.

The looming question today is whether these changes have actually reduced the number of sexual assaults, encouraged victims to come forward and ensured justice when they did. In December the Pentagon will release to the president and Congress the 2014 gender-relations report — a biennial in-depth and anonymous survey that is supposed to capture true numbers of sexual assaults.

Military officials hope it will reflect significant improvement resulting from last year’s reforms. But several vocal skeptics on Capitol Hill doubt that these measures will prove sufficient.

Many of these lawmakers are women — Representatives Niki Tsongas and Jackie Speier and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Claire McCaskill and Barbara Boxer — who became engaged with the issue after viewing “The Invisible War,” a revealing 2012 documentary on the subject, as well as having numerous private meetings with women and men in uniform who had been sexually assaulted.

The stories the military officers have told tend to feature a common element — namely the favoritism that commanders exhibit toward the accused and a lack of sympathy toward those who report such offenses.

For this reason, Senator Gillibrand has led a legislative effort to remove prosecutorial authority from the military in sexual-assault cases and place it instead with an independent body. After consulting with Christensen, among many others, she wrote the Military Justice Improvement Act earlier this year; it came within five votes of passage in the Senate in March. Gillibrand expects that the new Pentagon statistics will persuade more senators to reconsider their trust in the military’s ability to police itself.

“For the past 25 years, going back to when Dick Cheney was defense secretary, we’ve had the military telling us that there’s zero tolerance for sexual assault,” Gillibrand said in October in her Washington office. “And all we’ve seen is zero accountability.” Gillibrand pointed out that the last gender-relations survey from 2012 indicated that there had been 26,000 cases of sexual assault, rapes and unwanted sexual contact in a year’s time.

Only 3,300 of them were actually reported, roughly one in eight. “And so when you speak to the survivors, they’ll tell you they won’t report because they don’t believe the chain of command will do anything or they fear witness retaliation.

Of the brave souls that did report these crimes, 62 percent were retaliated against. So you have a culture where rapists go free, there’s no accountability for sexual assault, there’s a climate where everything is shoved under the rug and people are actually punished for reporting sexual assault.”

Proposals like Gillibrand’s bill are viewed by military officials as intolerable, a subjugation of a commander’s authority, which they say would erode order and discipline within the ranks. The Pentagon has countered with an onslaught of new programs designed to lend comfort to victims, to discourage predation, to keep commanders better informed and, above all, to prove to lawmakers that the military understands there is a problem.

In May, Gen. James F. Amos of the Marine Corps vowed to a House subcommittee, “I’m determined to change our culture.” Earlier this year, Army Secretary John M. McHugh told an audience of military-sexual-assault experts that they were “changing the culture.” Not long after, the director of the Pentagon’s sexual-assault-prevention efforts known as Sapro, Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, also promised new programs that “will make a difference and change the culture.”

When I visited the prevention and medical facilities at Fort Bragg a few months ago, a senior officer involved in the sexual-assault-reform effort also assured me that things were different. “There is a change going on, quality and quantity — and soldiers are getting it,” the officer said. Fort Bragg happened to be the same Army base where Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair underwent a much-publicized court-martial earlier this year.

Sinclair acknowledged a three-year adulterous relationship with a female subordinate but denied her claims that he twice sexually assaulted her. The general also confessed to using his superior rank to direct two other young female officers to furnish him with naked photographs.

Ultimately Sinclair pleaded to lesser offenses and was allowed to retire at reduced rank. During roughly the same period, Defense Secretary Hagel ordered a systemwide “stand-down day” devoted to sexual-assault-prevention seminars. I later spoke with a seminar attendee, a female lieutenant who told me she was sexually assaulted on an Army base two years earlier.

“The presenters asked us if we felt things were improving,” she said. “We all laughed. Sinclair was happening then. He proved that it was a joke.”

Critics in Congress are skeptical too. In May 2013, two months after General Franklin dismissed Wilkerson’s verdict, Representative Jackie Speier complained to Hagel about a Facebook page apparently put up by Marines called “F’N Wook,” depicting women being tied up, beaten and shot. The Marines assured Speier that the situation was being investigated but would not say whether anyone had been disciplined.

In September, an Army drill sergeant pleaded guilty to sexually abusing several female trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, the same base where the Army was teaching its criminal investigators the latest techniques in identifying sexual predators.

Lawmakers like Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill expressed particular alarm at the allegation made by one trainee, who testified at the court-martial that the women were warned that they might not graduate if they reported any assaults. The Army responded that it had investigated the matter but would not disclose its findings.

Lack of transparency is not the only reason that the military’s promises of change have been hard to accept. It’s difficult to be sanguine when the supposed enforcers of change have themselves exhibited bad conduct. In June, the Army’s top sex-crimes prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, received a reprimand after molesting a female officer at a sexual-assault-prevention conference.

That same month, the Air Force’s sexual-assault-prevention director, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was also reprimanded for drunkenly fondling a woman in a bar against her will. When the civilian authorities declined to bring charges against Krusinski, Don Christensen strongly recommended to his superiors that he be court-martialed. The convening authority in the matter elected to keep Krusinski in the Air Force.

Christensen comes from a long line of blunt-talking men, going back to his great-great-grandfather, who openly accused some officers of having been drunk on the battlefield at Little Bighorn. But over the years, not everyone has appreciated such candor.

One superior who admired Christensen would warn him, “Don, when I do this” — dragging a finger across his throat — “you shut up.” Though younger lawyers have revered him for his acumen and frankness, those above him have been less appreciative of his direct assessments. Christensen has continued to make them anyway.

In February, on a flight from Frankfurt to Baltimore, Christensen noticed a familiar face on the airplane. It was Gen. Craig Franklin, the convening authority in the Wilkerson case. After his verdict reversal caused an uproar on Capitol Hill, Franklin was forced to retire as a two-star general rather than a three-star general, and he was now on his way home. Upon clearing customs in the airport, Christensen approached Franklin and asked if he could have a word with him.

“You blew it,” he told the former commander. “Wilkerson was guilty. Everything you wrote in your memo was wrong. I would have told you — you should have called me.” Christensen added that the victim, Kim Hanks, had been needlessly retraumatized by the ordeal.

Franklin, noticeably startled by this outburst, replied that the outcome had not been rosy for him either. “I lost a star,” he said.

Christensen left the airport and gave no thought to whether it had been imprudent to scold a general. Nor had he reflected on how his now-frequent visits to the Hill to discuss his views with legislators and their staff would be viewed by his superiors. And though he was surprised and offended to learn some months before that Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe, had condemned the prosecution of Wilkerson while addressing several hundred officers, Christensen did not worry that his career was in jeopardy.

But a month after his run-in with Franklin, Christensen says he received his annual performance review and found that he was downgraded for the first time. His superiors informed him that he would soon be assigned to be a judge on the appellate court. Christensen nearly laughed when he learned of this “promotion.” The appellate court was widely understood to be the Air Force’s dumping ground for JAG misfits.

The veteran prosecutor had no intention of submitting to such a fate. As he thought about what might come next, he threw himself into one last sexual-assault case — involving an incident near Ellsworth, the Air Force Base where Christensen began his military career.

On Friday, April 12, 2013, about two dozen male officers of the 37th Bomb Squadron gathered at a strip club just west of the base. After spending less than an hour there, they took a bus to Sally O’Malley’s and then to Joe’s Place. At Joe’s, an officer named Kris — the only woman in a squadron of 70 aviators — caught up with them.

She was a major, a lean and athletic B-1 weapon-systems officer in her mid-30s who had flown nearly 2,000 hours in combat zones, more than anyone else in the 37th. Often the others referred to Kris (who requested that her nickname be used to protect her privacy) as “one of the guys,” which she took as a point of pride, and it was only later that she would wonder whether, in simply rolling with the daily macho crudeness in the Air Force, she herself had been part of the problem.

Kris was just coming in that night from a nearly monthlong assignment at another air base. Her squadron greeted the major with high-fives and hugs, she said, and told her that she had some catching up to do. She drank two shots of tequila and put on a pub crawl T-shirt like the others were wearing. Then they left for another bar, and then another.

It was getting close to 2 in the morning when the bus headed back to the base, but four officers — Kris and three men — decided to close down one last bar. She was quite drunk by the time they hailed a cab. While she slept in the taxi, the other three determined that they had enough money among them for only two stops.

One airman, Capt. David Brooks, volunteered to take her back to his place and drive her home. Kris had flown sorties with him, and they were professionally cordial, though they rarely socialized. Without Kris noticing, Brooks snatched her iPhone and sent some crude texts to a squadron buddy who had left earlier, including one that used symbols to apparently replicate an erect penis.

According to Kris, she had not been inside Brooks’s apartment for more than a few minutes when he suddenly pushed her onto the couch. Stunned, she jumped back up, then promptly became sick. The reaction took Brooks aback. He cleaned up the mess while she staggered to the couch and fell asleep. Perhaps two hours later, she woke up, feeling not quite right. Her pants were undone. S

he felt hands groping inside her underwear, touching her vagina and her anus. It took her a while to understand what was happening. She could feel someone breathing heavily into her hair. The groping continued. Kris, now awake, reached down and pulled up her pants. Brooks stumbled away from the couch and retreated to his bedroom.

For hours she was alone. She had no cab money and didn’t know what address to give a dispatcher anyway. When Brooks finally emerged, late in the afternoon, she asked him to take her home. “See you at work,” she found herself saying as she got out of his car.

For weeks, Kris tried to get over it. She kept seeing Brooks at the unit. It seemed to her as if he were everywhere, bossing people around, strutting about as if nothing had changed, as if what he tried to do to her was a triviality, something he could repeat whenever he so chose and she would simply have to accept it. She could not.

Rage consumed her. Six weeks after the assault, she filed a report. The base investigators interviewed her and had her write a statement about what occurred. Then they asked Kris to call Brooks, and they listened in while she confronted him for the first time about what he did to her that night when she was passed out.

Brooks immediately apologized but said that he had been drunk himself and had no memory of doing such a thing. The investigators filed their report, which eventually made its way up to the Government Trial and Appellate Counsel Division at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington and landed on the desk of the division chief, Don Christensen, nearly a year after the incident.

What Kris encountered since reporting the assault was the same kind of cold-shouldered skepticism on the part of her commander that Christensen had seen in a vast majority of sexual-assault cases — behavior that was supposed to have changed with the military’s recent vows to support those who reported sex crimes.

After Kris reported Brooks, the commander, Lt. Col. Stuart Newberry, who also was there during the night of drinking, issued a no-contact order specifying that Brooks stay at least 300 feet away from Kris — a standard procedure, except that the commander also issued the same order to her, which was something Christensen had never seen happen.

Newberry agreed to move Brooks out of the squadron office where Kris worked, then decreed that out of fairness, Kris would have to be reassigned as well — though he backed down when she tearfully argued that this would be universally interpreted as punishment for having said that she had been assaulted. Still Brooks continued to show up in the office. “I need him here to do his job,” Kris said the commander told her.

More than once, Newberry told Kris that, just as in corporate America, his hands were tied. “If this were IBM, they wouldn’t be able to move him,” he said. When Kris told Christensen what Newberry said, he told her that Newberry’s analogy was wrong: It was hard to imagine a modern-day company in which someone accused of sexual assault would be permitted to continue to work alongside the woman he was said to have attacked.

Newberry, she said, also told her, “It’s illogical for you to think that there won’t be negative consequences to your reporting.” What the commander had not done was warn the rest of the 37th Bomb Squadron that he would not tolerate “negative consequences” for her.

Instead, during one meeting, Colonel Newberry volunteered that throughout his experience in the Air Force, he knew of only one report of sexual assault, and it turned out to be false. (Newberry declined to comment for this article.) From what Christensen had seen over the years, this behavior was depressingly common. As he put it, “Commanders would much rather believe they have a woman who’s lying and crying rape than that there’s a sex offender in their midst.”

The judicial proceedings at Ellsworth proved routine in ways both satisfying and dispiriting for Christensen. He exploited holes in Brooks’s story. Kris was persuasive. It took the jury less than two hours to find that Brooks sexually assaulted her. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail, along with forfeiture of two months’ pay and dismissal from the Air Force.

The case would, Christensen knew, be seen as a success story for the military — as proof that the system worked. A sexual-assault victim had displayed the confidence to come forward. During the court-martial, she had a special victims counsel by her side. Her attacker was tried and found guilty.

But Christensen knew that the story did not end for the victim even after a guilty verdict. In August he returned to South Dakota to attend a discharge-board hearing in which Brooks petitioned to be reinstated into the Air Force.

Several officers came to testify on his behalf. And though Colonel Newberry had recently left the unit to accept a one-year fellowship at Harvard, he testified by speakerphone on behalf of Brooks. Christensen’s disgust was evident. The prosecutor reminded the board that Brooks was now a felon who had lost his security clearance. Did the Air Force intend to keep him around as a mascot?

The board sided with Christensen and issued Brooks an other-than-honorable discharge — the maximum it could assign, because the court-martial jury declined to issue the more punitive dishonorable discharge.

Christensen stayed behind with Kris. She had just returned from deployment in Qatar, but her eyes conveyed a weariness deeper than jet lag. While Kris was gone, the wing commander visited Brooks in jail, as had several of his squadron buddies — a show of support that the victim herself had not once received.

Kris was told that there had been an “all-operators” meeting in her absence, in which the operations commander informed the squadron that Brooks was found guilty and sentenced to jail time. But, the commander added, there were two sides to every story, and people could continue to believe whatever they wanted, regardless of the jury’s verdict.

More important, Kris told Christensen that after years of glowing performance evaluations, she had recently been downgraded — Newberry wrote that she needed to keep her “emotions in check.” There was nothing Christensen could think to say. He had done his job. But this was not justice.

As he would later remark: “When the commander is so obviously supporting the accused over the victim, it sends a clear message that it’s O.K. not to believe her and to shun her. And so why would a woman come forward, knowing what Kris has gone through?”

That question invites a related question: Is there a remedy, legislative or otherwise, for an ingrained culture that reflexively punishes victims when they report sexual assaults?

When I asked Senator Gillibrand about this a few weeks ago, the author of the Military Justice Improvement Act acknowledged that removing prosecutorial authority from the chain of command “isn’t a silver bullet.” She added: “It’s just a step in the right direction. It’s the kind of tool you need to help people have faith in the system.”

Efforts like Gillibrand’s bill to reform the military judicial system, and the resistance by the military to those efforts, have produced sharply differing reactions in Congress.

One group of senators, consisting of pro-defense stalwarts like Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Carl Levin, the Armed Services Committee chairman, responds to each sex-related scandal with momentary dismay followed by strong words of support for the Pentagon’s efforts to self-police.

At the opposite end are hard-charging reformists like Gillibrand and Speier, who do not even pretend to trust the military on this issue; as Speier (who has sponsored a bill in the House similar to Gillibrand’s) puts it, “The Pentagon brass is really good at coming up to the Hill and saying, ‘Zero tolerance,’ which is completely meaningless when the conduct continues.”

In the middle are two other distinct factions. Senator Claire McCaskill, an early denouncer of General Franklin’s decision to overturn the Wilkerson verdict — but also a crafty Democratic survivor of electoral trench warfare in reddish Missouri — has staked out the moderate, cautiously optimistic position that, thanks to Congress’s vigilant oversight in the past two years, the once-intransigent military is now chastened and reform is already occurring.

She told me that the top levels of military leadership understand this. “Americans want to be proud of their military but can’t be when we allow these crimes to go unpunished,” she said. “I think they’ve come to the realization that they have to go after this a different way.”

McCaskill has emerged as the most vocal critic of Gillibrand’s approach to reform. Her alternative bill, the 2014 Victims Protection Act, keeps prosecutorial authority within the chain of command but establishes various review processes. It passed unanimously in the Senate just after the defeat of Gillibrand’s bill and was subsequently sent over to the House in March, where no action has yet been taken.

Above all, McCaskill and military leaders contend that commanders require such prosecutorial authority, both to maintain good order and discipline and to make sure that accusers will have their day in court, even in a losing cause. “Prosecutors are more interested in getting convictions than in cleaning house,” says McCaskill, a former county prosecutor.

That position is rejected by the fourth camp, led by the Republican senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who are more trusting of the military than Gillibrand and Speier but less confident about the reforms in place than McCaskill.

Cruz told me that he assumed the military was acting in good faith. “But what they’re doing hasn’t been working, and we need to take more serious steps. I approach this from the perspective of a father who has two young daughters — and I ask myself, When they come of age to join the military, what rule would I want in place to protect them from acts of violence from their fellow soldiers?”

Cruz is a sponsor of Gillibrand’s bill — one of the very few issues that the Texas conservative and the New York liberal agree on — and said that many of his colleagues who voted against it in March did so because they wanted to first see if the most recent reforms would have a significant impact. “I think all of us will be looking closely at the new Pentagon data to see what it says. But assuming the problem persists, several senators have expressed a willingness to reconsider their vote.”

Thus far the White House has appeared to be deferring to the Pentagon. When I spoke in August with Lynn Rosenthal, the White House adviser on violence against women who has been one of the president’s point people on this issue, her observations hewed closely to the Defense Department’s three main talking points.

She said it was “very positive” that in 2013, more women reported being sexually assaulted because it meant that victims are increasingly trusting the judicial process. But because the military does the gender-relations survey only every other year, there is no data on the total number of assaults last year, just on the number of those reported.

There is not yet any evidence that the actual rate of reporting has changed for the better. She extolled special victims counsels as “one of those landmark reforms” that “is really going to change things” — despite the fact that they have very limited standing in court proceedings, according to three victims counsels with whom I spoke.

And Rosenthal told me that from speaking with personnel throughout the armed forces, “we certainly hear that the climate has really changed and that the services have really taken this on.” The White House adviser might have come to a different conclusion had she learned how a victim fared in the climate at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

On Sept. 26, a month after Brooks’s discharge hearing, Christensen said farewell to the Air Force. That evening, several dozen protégés attended a reception for the veteran prosecutor, and a few of them shed tears as Christensen treated them to a slide show that included images of his forefathers in the military. “I come from a long line of troublemakers,” he told his colleagues.

The following Monday, Christensen reported to his new job. He is now the president of Protect Our Defenders, a three-year-old nonprofit organization that has quickly become the nation’s pre-eminent advocacy group on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the military, with an advisory board that includes Wesley Clark and several other retired generals, in addition to Magic Johnson, Sigourney Weaver and Garry Trudeau. He will be recruiting pro bono lawyers for victims, helping to write legislation and serving as the chief critic of the system in which he worked for the past 23 years.

When I met with Kris three weeks later, she told me that she thought the loss of Christensen as a prosecutor would be felt among the women in the military. “Meeting Colonel Christensen was my first experience seeing someone who outranked me and who was actually saying, ‘We don’t tolerate this stuff.’ ”

As we sat over coffee at a diner in Rapid City, S.D., Kris said she was still struggling in her unit. “I hate being called ‘the accuser,’ ” Kris said. “That’s what they called Satan in the Bible. Lieutenant Colonel Newberry told me, ‘You’ve accused Brooks of a very serious crime.’ I said: ‘I didn’t accuse. I reported a very serious crime. This is me coming forward, telling you: You have a criminal working for you, and he does not belong in this squadron. He does not belong in the Air Force.’ ”

It was October, two months after the conclusion of the major’s case. Capt. David Brooks was still at Ellsworth Air Force Base, awaiting the final approval of his discharge. Kris had seen him once, coming out of a building. His presence on the base no longer made her fearful the way it did in the months after she reported the assault.

Still, that a convicted criminal was allowed to linger on Air Force property infuriated her. Kris, meanwhile, wondered whether the Pentagon would even become aware of what happened to her.

As did thousands of servicemen and servicewomen, she received the biennial survey of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual contact. It was soliciting information only for sexual assaults that had taken place beginning September 2013, five months after Brooks attacked her. It had now become a literal truth that she did not count.

In the year since the assault, Kris had fallen into a kind of limbo. While most of her fellow aviators had been moved up to new positions, she was overlooked. She eventually requested a lateral move to another department to get away from her difficult situation. “I was put on a shelf,” she said, adding that she has been socially isolated. “Since this happened, no one in the squadron invites me to do anything. And I don’t think I ever will be invited.”

Her hurt was barely restrained as she continued in a jumble of thoughts: “They were my friends. We were family. It’s like parents with two kids — how do you choose? A parent can’t acknowledge that one of his kids did this. Doesn’t want to have a daughter who’s damaged goods. Doesn’t want to acknowledge a failure in the family.

“My having brought this up is less than optimal. But this is the way these things happen. It’s not going to be some stranger jumping out of the bushes. It’s going to be someone you know. And there won’t be witnesses and there won’t be DNA. But there’ll be a serious character flaw. And I’m the one who saw it. And I hate that this happened to me. I hate that it’s going to happen to other people.”

She mentioned that she had recently spoken to her new commander about being given a job in the base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office. The commander, she said, said he would see what he could do. “I’d like to be able to help others,” she told me. “I’d like to be part of the changes.”

Kris remained hopeful, in spite of what happened to her, that reform could occur. For the first time in her life, she was following events in Congress. She told her story to Senator Gillibrand on the phone and expressed her support for the senator’s legislation.

But she also clung to the belief that there was an innate goodness in the Air Force that validated her dedication to the service. The military had seen something in her, as a Southern girl recruited out of college, and more than a decade later, she still saw something in it.

She loved flying those 12-hour sorties over the desert, wedged into uncomfortable B-1 seats alongside three men, feeding intelligence and providing support to the soldiers on the ground. When they spoke back to her, she could hear in their voices that they felt safe with her overhead.

As the weapon-systems officer on her plane, she dropped so many bombs during one period that an aviator took to calling her Bombshell, which she knew was meant out of respect.

Just after the court-martial in April, she was deployed to Qatar for a couple of weeks. While at the base in al-Udeid, the wing commander held a briefing on sexual assault. As Colonel Newberry did the previous year, Gen. Roger Watkins placed a series of slides on a screen and read the required data word for word. But then he departed from the text.

In a stern voice, the general told his troops that this matter was not a trivial one. “These little blue figures you see on the screen are more than little blue figures. They represent airmen working with us, every day. And sexual assault is not just blue on blue. It is fratricide.”

A crime against family. The words meant something to her. Whether they meant anything to her brothers — the young men in uniform sitting around her — she could not tell.

Robert Draper is a contributing writer for the magazine. He is working on a book about race and murder in Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appears in print on November 30, 2014, on page MM27 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: “In the Company of Men.”

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

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