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Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews

January 31st, 2018 - by admin

Nat Parry / Consortium News & Robert Parry / Consortium News – 2018-01-31 01:03:15

www://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/48170-focus-robert-parrys-legacy-and-the-future-of-Consortiumnews

Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews
Nat Parry / Consortium News

To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism;
it was a commitment to the American people and the world
to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could;
not to slant the “facts” to “get” some “bad” political leader or
“guide” the public in some desired direction.

— Robert Parry

(January 29, 2018) — It is with a heavy heart that we inform Consortiumnews readers that Editor Robert Parry has passed away.

As regular readers know, Robert (or Bob, as he was known to friends and family) suffered a stroke in December, which — despite his own speculation that it may have been brought on by the stress of covering Washington politics — was the result of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer that he had been unknowingly living with for the past 4-5 years.

He unfortunately suffered two more debilitating strokes in recent weeks and after the last one, was moved to hospice care on Tuesday. He passed away peacefully Saturday evening. He was 68.

Those of us close to him wish to sincerely thank readers for the kind comments and words of support posted on recent articles regarding Bob’s health issues. We read aloud many of these comments to him during his final days to let him know how much his work has meant to so many people and how much concern there was for his well-being.

I am sure that these kindnesses meant a lot to him. They also mean a lot to us as family members, as we all know how devoted he was to the mission of independent journalism and this website which has been publishing articles since the earliest days of the internet, launching all the way back in 1995.

With my dad, professional work has always been deeply personal, and his career as a journalist was thoroughly intertwined with his family life. I can recall kitchen table conversations in my early childhood that focused on the US-backed wars in Central America and complaints about how his editors at The Associated Press were too timid to run articles of his that — no matter how well-documented — cast the Reagan administration in a bad light.

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, “Kids like me?” He replied, “Yes, kids just like you.”

Bob was deeply impacted by the dirty wars of Central America in the 1980s and in many ways these conflicts — and the US involvement in them — came to define the rest of his life and career. With grisly stories emerging from Nicaragua (thanks partly to journalists like him), Congress passed the Boland Amendments from 1982 to 1984, which placed limits on US military assistance to the contras who were attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government through a variety of terrorist tactics.

The Reagan administration immediately began exploring ways to circumvent those legal restrictions, which led to a scheme to send secret arms shipments to the revolutionary and vehemently anti-American government of Iran and divert the profits to the contras. In 1985, Bob wrote the first stories describing this operation, which later became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Contra-Cocaine and October Surprise
Parallel to the illegal arms shipments to Iran during those days was a cocaine trafficking operation by the Nicaraguan contras and a willingness by the Reagan administration and the CIA to turn a blind eye to these activities. This, despite the fact that cocaine was flooding into the United States while Ronald Reagan was proclaiming a “war on drugs,” and a crack cocaine epidemic was devastating communities across the country.

Bob and his colleague Brian Barger were the first journalists to report on this story in late 1985, which became known as the contra-cocaine scandal, and became the subject of a congressional investigation led by then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 1986.

Continuing to pursue leads relating to Iran-Contra during a period in the late 80s when most of Washington was moving on from the scandal, Bob discovered that there was more to the story than commonly understood. He learned that the roots of the illegal arm shipments to Iran stretched back further than previously known — all the way back to the 1980 presidential campaign.

That electoral contest between incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan had come to be largely dominated by the hostage crisis in Iran, with 52 Americans being held at the US embassy in Tehran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Iranian hostage crisis, along with the ailing economy, came to define a perception of an America in decline, with former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan promising a new start for the country, a restoration of its status as a “shining city on a hill.”

The hostages were released in Tehran moments after Reagan was sworn in as president in Washington on January 20, 1981. Despite suspicions for years that there had been some sort of quid pro quo between the Reagan campaign and the Iranians, it wasn’t until Bob uncovered a trove of documents in a House office building basement in 1994 that the evidence became overwhelming that the Reagan campaign had interfered with the Carter administration’s efforts to free the hostages prior to the 1980 election. Their release sooner — what Carter hoped would be his “October Surprise” — could have given him the boost needed to win.

Examining these documents and being already well-versed on this story — having previously travelled three continents pursuing the investigation for a PBS Frontlinedocumentary — Bob became increasingly convinced that the Reagan campaign had in fact sabotaged Carter’s hostage negotiations, possibly committing an act of treason in an effort to make sure that 52 American citizens continued to be held in a harrowing hostage situation until after Reagan secured the election.

Needless to say, this was an inconvenient story at a time — in the mid-1990s — when The National media had long since moved on from the Reagan scandals and were obsessing over new scandals, mostly related to President Bill Clinton’s sex life and failed real estate deals. Washington also wasn’t particularly interested in challenging the Reagan legacy, which at that time was beginning to solidify into a kind of mythology, with campaigns underway to name buildings and airports after the former president.

At times, Bob had doubts about his career decisions and the stories he was pursuing. As he wrote in Trick or Treason, a book outlining his investigation into the October Surprise Mystery, this search for historical truth can be painful and seemingly thankless.

“Many times,” he wrote, “I had regretted accepting Frontline’s assignment in 1990. I faulted myself for risking my future in mainstream journalism. After all, that is where the decent-paying jobs are. I had jeopardized my ability to support my four children out of an old-fashioned sense of duty, a regard for an unwritten code that expects reporters to take almost any assignment.”

Nevertheless, Bob continued his efforts to tell the full story behind both the Iran-Contra scandal and the origins of the Reagan-Bush era, ultimately leading to two things: him being pushed out of the mainstream media, and the launching of Consortiumnews.com.

I remember when he started the website, together with my older brother Sam, back in 1995. At the time, in spite of talk we were all hearing about something called “the information superhighway” and “electronic mail,” I had never visited a website and didn’t even know how to get “on line.” My dad called me in Richmond, where I was a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, and told me I should check out this new “Internet site” he and Sam had just launched.

He explained over the phone how to open a browser and instructed me how to type in the URL, starting, he said, with “http,” then a colon and two forward slashes, then “www,” then “dot,” then this long address with one or two more forward slashes if I recall. (It wasn’t until years later that the website got its own domain and a simpler address.)

I went to the computer lab at the university and asked for some assistance on how to get online, dutifully typed in the URL, and opened this website — the first one I had ever visited. It was interesting, but a bit hard to read on the computer screen, so I printed out some articles to read back in my dorm room.

I quickly became a fan of “The Consortium,” as it was called back then, and continued reading articles on the October Surprise Mystery as Bob and Sam posted them on this new and exciting tool called “the Internet.” Sam had to learn HTML coding from scratch to launch this online news service, billed as “the Internet’s First Investigative ‘Zine.” For his efforts, Sam was honored with the Consortium for Independent Journalism’s first Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award in 2015.

X-Files and Contra-Crack
At some point along the way, Bob decided that in addition to the website, where he was not only posting original articles but also providing the source documents that he had uncovered in the House office building basement, he would also take a stab at traditional publishing. He compiled the “October Surprise X-Files” into a booklet and self-published it in January 1996.

He was also publishing a newsletter to complement the website, knowing that at that time, there were still plenty of people who didn’t know how to turn a computer on, much less navigate the World Wide Web. I transferred from Virginia Commonwealth University to George Mason University in the DC suburbs and started working part-time with my dad and Sam on the newsletter and website.

We worked together on the content, editing and laying it out with graphics often culled from books at our local library. We built a subscriber base through networking and purchasing mailing lists from progressive magazines. Every two weeks we would get a thousand copies printed from Sir Speedy and would spend Friday evening collating these newsletters and sending them out to our subscribers.

The launching of the website and newsletter, and later an even-more ambitious project called I.F. Magazine, happened to coincide with the publication in 1996 of Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series at the San Jose Mercury-News. Webb’s series reopened the contra-cocaine controversy with a detailed examination of the drug trafficking networks in Nicaragua and Los Angeles that had helped to spread highly addictive crack cocaine across the United States.

The African-American community, in particular, was rightly outraged over this story, which offered confirmation of many long-standing suspicions that the government was complicit in the drug trade devastating their communities. African Americans had been deeply and disproportionately affected by the crack epidemic, both in terms of the direct impact of the drug and the draconian drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences that came to define the government’s approach to “the war on drugs.”

For a moment in the summer of 1996, it appeared that the renewed interest in the contra-cocaine story might offer an opportunity to revisit the crimes and misdeeds of the Reagan-Bush era, but those hopes were dashed when the “the Big Media” decided to double down on its earlier failures to cover this story properly.

Big Papers Pile On
The Los Angeles Times launched the attack on Gary Webb and his reporting at the San Jose Mercury-News, followed by equally dismissive stories at the Washington Postand New York Times. The piling on from these newspapers eventually led Mercury-News editor Jerry Ceppos to denounce Webb’s reporting and offer a mea culpa for publishing the articles.

The onslaught of hostile reporting from the big papers failed to address the basic premises of Webb’s series and did not debunk the underlying allegations of contra-cocaine smuggling or the fact that much of this cocaine ended up on American streets in the form of crack. Instead, it raised doubts by poking holes in certain details and casting the story as a “conspiracy theory.”

Some of the reporting attempted to debunk claims that Webb never actually made — such as the idea that the contra-cocaine trafficking was part of a government plot to intentionally decimate the African-American community.

Gary Webb and Bob were in close contact during those days. Bob offered him professional and personal support, having spent his time also on the receiving end of attacks by journalistic colleagues and editors who rejected certain stories — no matter how factual — as fanciful conspiracy theories.

Articles at The Consortium website and newsletter, as well as I.F. Magazine, offered details on the historical context for the “Dark Alliance” series and pushed back against the mainstream media’s onslaught of hostile and disingenuous reporting.

Bob also published the book, Lost History, which provided extensive details on the background for the “Dark Alliance” series, explaining that far from a baseless “conspiracy theory,” the facts and evidence strongly supported the conclusion that the Reagan-Bush administrations had colluded with drug traffickers to fund their illegal war against Nicaragua.

But sadly, the damage to Gary Webb was done. With his professional and personal life in tatters because of his courageous reporting on the contra-cocaine story, he committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 49. Speaking about this suicide later on Democracy Now, Bob noted how painful it is to be ridiculed and unfairly criticized by colleagues, as his friend had experienced.

“There’s a special pain when your colleagues in your profession turn on you, especially when you’ve done something that they should admire and should understand,” he said. “To do all that work and then have the New York Times and the Washington Postand the Los Angeles Times attack you and try to destroy your life, there’s a special pain in that.”

In consultation with his family, Bob and the Board of Directors for the Consortium for Independent Journalism launched the Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award in 2015.

The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush
The presidency of George W. Bush was surreal for many of us, and no one more so than my dad.

In covering Washington politics for decades, Bob had traced many stories to “Dubya’s” father, George H.W. Bush, who had been implicated in a variety of questionable activities, including the October Surprise Mystery and Iran-Contra. He had also launched a war against Iraq in 1991 that seemed to be motivated, at least in part, to help kick “the Vietnam Syndrome,” i.e. the reluctance that the American people had felt since the Vietnam War to support military action abroad.

As Bob noted in his 1992 book, Fooling America, after US forces routed the Iraqi military in 1991, President Bush’s first public comment about the victory expressed his delight that it would finally put to rest the American reflex against committing troops to far-off conflicts. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” he exulted.

The fact that Bush-41’s son could run for president largely on name recognition confirmed to Bob the failure of the mainstream media to cover important stories properly and the need to continue building an independent media infrastructure. This conviction solidified through Campaign 2000 and the election’s ultimate outcome, when Bush assumed the White House as the first popular-vote loser in more than a century.

Despite the fact that the US Supreme Court had halted the counting of votes in Florida, thus preventing an accurate determination of the rightful winner, most of The National media moved on from the story after Bush was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001. Consortiumnews.com continued to examine the documentary record, however, and ultimately concluded that Al Gore would have been declared the winner of that election if all the legally cast ballots were counted.

At Consortiumnews, there was an unwritten editorial policy that the title “President” should never precede George W. Bush’s name, based on our view that he was not legitimately elected. But beyond those editorial decisions, we also understood the gravity of the fact that had Election 2000 been allowed to play out with all votes counted, many of the disasters of the Bush years — notably the 9/11 tragedy and the Iraq War, as well as decisions to withdraw from international agreements on arms control and climate change — might have been averted.

As all of us who lived through the post-9/11 era will recall, it was a challenging time all around, especially if you were someone critical of George W. Bush. The atmosphere in that period did not allow for much dissent. Those who stood up against the juggernaut for war — such as Phil Donahue at MSNBC, Chris Hedges at the New York Times, or even the Dixie Chicks — had their careers damaged and found themselves on the receiving end of death threats and hate mail.

While Bob’s magazine and newsletter projects had been discontinued, the website was still publishing articles, providing a home for dissenting voices that questioned the case for invading Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003.

Around this time, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and some of his colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a long-running relationship with Consortiumnews was established. Several former intelligence veterans began contributing to the website, motivated by the same independent spirit of truth-telling that compelled Bob to invest so much in this project.

At a time when almost the entire mainstream media was going along with the Bush administration’s dubious case for war, this and a few other like-minded websites pushed back with well-researched articles calling into question the rationale. Although at times it might have felt as though we were just voices in the wilderness, a major groundswell of opposition to war emerged in the country, with historic marches of hundreds of thousands taking place to reject Bush’s push for war.

Of course, these antiwar voices were ultimately vindicated by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the fact that the war and occupation proved to be a far costlier and deadlier enterprise than we had been told that it would be. Earlier assurances that it would be a “cakewalk” proved as false as the WMD claims, but as had been so often the case in Washington, there was little to no accountability from the mainstream media, the think tanks or government officials for being so spectacularly wrong.

In an effort to document the true history of that era, Bob, Sam and I co-wrote the book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, which was published in late 2007. The book traced the work of Consortiumnews, juxtaposing it against the backdrop of mainstream media coverage during the Bush era, in an effort to not only correct the record, but also demonstrate that not all of us got things so wrong.

We felt it was important to remind readers — as well as future historians — that some of us knew and reported in real time the mistakes that were being made on everything from withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol to invading Iraq to implementing a policy of torture to bungling the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Obama Era
By the Obama presidency, Consortiumnews.com had become a home to a growing number of writers who brought new perspectives to the website’s content. While for years, the writing staff had been limited primarily to Bob, Sam and me, suddenly, Consortiumnews was receiving contributions from journalists, activists and former intelligence analysts who offered a wide range of expertise — on international law, economics, human rights, foreign policy, national security, and even religion and philosophy.

One recurring theme of articles at the website during the Obama era was the enduring effect of unchallenged narratives, how they shaped national politics and dictated government policy. Bob observed that even a supposedly left-of-center president like Obama seemed beholden to the false narratives and national mythologies dating back to the Reagan era. He pointed out that this could be at least partially attributed to the failure to establish a strong foundation for independent journalism.

In a 2010 piece called “Obama’s Fear of the Reagan Narrative,” Bob noted that Obama had defended his deal with Republicans on tax cuts for the rich because there was such a strong lingering effect of Reagan’s messaging from 30 years earlier. “He felt handcuffed by the Right’s ability to rally Americans on behalf of Reagan’s ‘government-is-the-problem’ message,” Bob wrote.

He traced Obama’s complaints about his powerlessness in the face of this dynamic to the reluctance of American progressives to invest sufficiently in media and think tanks, as conservatives had been doing for decades in waging their “the war of ideas.” As he had been arguing since the early 1990s, Robert insisted that the limits that had been placed on Obama — whether real or perceived — continued to demonstrate the power of propaganda and the need for greater investment in alternative media.

He also observed that much of the nuttiness surrounding the so-called Tea Party movement resulted from fundamental misunderstandings of American history and constitutional principles. “Democrats and progressives should be under no illusion about the new flood of know-nothingism that is about to inundate the United States in the guise of a return to ‘first principles’ and a deep respect for the US Constitution,” Bob warned.

He pointed out that despite the Tea Partiers’ claimed reverence for the Constitution, they actually had very little understanding of the document, as revealed by their ahistorical claims that federal taxes are unconstitutional. In fact, as Bob observed, the Constitution represented “a major power grab by the federal government, when compared to the loosely drawn Articles of Confederation, which lacked federal taxing authority and other national powers.”

Motivated by a desire to correct falsified historical narratives spanning more than two centuries, Bob published his sixth and final book, America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama, in 2012.

Along with revenues from book sales, growing donations from readers enabled Bob to not only pay writers but also to hire an assistant, Chelsea Gilmour, who began working for Consortiumnews in 2014. In addition to providing invaluable administrative support, Chelsea also performed duties including research, writing and fact-checking.

Political Realignment and the New McCarthyism
Although at the beginning of the Obama era — and indeed since the 1980s — the name Robert Parry had been closely associated with exposing wrongdoing by Republicans, and hence had a strong following among Democratic Party loyalists, by the end of Obama’s presidency there seemed to be a realignment taking place among some of Consortiumnews.com’s readership, which reflected more generally the shifting politics of the country.

In particular, the US media’s approach to Russia and related issues, such as the violent ouster in 2014 of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, became “virtually 100 percent propaganda,” Bob said.

He noted that the full story was never told when it came to issues such as the Sergei Magnitsky case, which led to the first round of US sanctions against Russia, nor the inconvenient facts related to the Euromaidan protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster — including the reality of strong neo-Nazi influence in those protests — nor the subsequent conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Bob’s stories on Ukraine were widely cited and disseminated, and he became an important voice in presenting a fuller picture of the conflict than was possible by reading and watching only mainstream news outlets. Bob was featured prominently in Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary Ukraine on Fire, where he explained how US-funded political NGOs and media companies have worked with the CIA and foreign policy establishment since the 1980s to promote the US geopolitical agenda.

Bob regretted that, increasingly, “the American people and the West in general are carefully shielded from hearing the ‘other side of the story.'” Indeed, he said that to even suggest that there might be another side to the story is enough to get someone branded as an apologist for Vladimir Putin or a “Kremlin stooge.”

This culminated in late 2016 in the blacklisting of Consortiumnews.com on a dubious website called “PropOrNot,” which was claiming to serve as a watchdog against undue “Russian influence” in the United States. The PropOrNot blacklist, including Consortiumnews and about 200 other websites deemed “Russian propaganda,” was elevated by the Washington Post as a credible source, despite the fact that the neo-McCarthyites who published the list hid behind a cloak of anonymity.

“The Post’s article by Craig Timberg,” Bob wrote on Nov. 27, 2016, “described PropOrNot simply as ‘a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds [who] planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.'”

As Bob explained in an article called “Washington Post‘s Fake News Guilt,” the paper granted PropOrNot anonymity “to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth.”

The Post even provided an unattributed quote from the head of the shadowy website. “The way that this propaganda apparatus supported [Donald] Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” the anonymous smear merchant said. The Post claimed that the PropOrNot “executive director” had spoken on the condition of anonymity “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

To be clear, neither Consortiumnews nor Robert Parry ever “supported Trump,” as the above anonymous quote claims. Something interesting, however, did seem to be happening in terms of Consortiumnews‘ readership in the early days of the Trump presidency, as could be gleaned from some of the comments left on articles and social media activity.

It did appear for some time at least that a good number of Trump supporters were reading Consortiumnews, which could probably attributed to the fact that the website was one of the few outlets pushing back against both the “New Cold War” with Russia and the related story of “Russiagate,” which Bob didn’t even like referring to as a “scandal.” (As an editor, he preferred to use the word “controversy” on the website, because as far as he was concerned, the allegations against Trump and his supposed “collusion” with Russia did not rise to the level of actual scandals such as Watergate or Iran-Contra.)

In his view, the perhaps understandable hatred of Trump felt by many Americans — both inside and outside the Beltway — had led to an abandonment of old-fashioned rules of journalism and standards of fairness, which should be applied even to someone like Donald Trump.

“On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump ‘Resistance,'” Bob wrote in his final article for Consortiumnews.

“The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster,” he said. “Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.”

He marveled that even senior editors in the mainstream media treated the unproven Russiagate allegations as flat fact.

“No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the US government’s institutions,” Bob wrote. “Anti-Trump ‘progressives’ were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

An Untimely End and the Future of Consortiumnews
My dad’s untimely passing has come as a shock to us all, especially since up until a month ago, there was no indication whatsoever that he was sick in any way. He took good care of himself, never smoked, got regular check-ups, exercised, and ate well. The unexpected health issues starting with a mild stroke Christmas Eve and culminating with his admission into hospice care several days ago offer a stark reminder that nothing should be taken for granted.

And as many Consortiumnews readers have eloquently pointed out in comments left on recent articles regarding Bob’s health, it also reminds us that his brand of journalism is needed today more than ever.

“We need free will thinkers like you who value the truth based on the evidence and look past the group think in Washington to report on the real reasons for our government’s and our media’s actions which attempt to deceive us all,” wrote, for example, “FreeThinker.”

“Common sense and integrity are the hallmarks of Robert Parry’s journalism. May you get better soon for you are needed more now then ever before,” wrote “T.J.”

“We need a new generation of reporters, journalists, writers, and someone always being tenacious to follow up on the story,” added “Tina.”

As someone who has been involved with this website since its inception — as a writer, an editor and a reader — I concur with these sentiments. Readers should rest assured that despite my dad’s death, every effort will be made to ensure that the website will continue going strong.

Indeed, I think that everyone involved with this project wants to uphold the same commitment to truth-telling without fear or favor that inspired Bob and his heroes like George Seldes, I.F. Stone, and Thomas Paine.

That commitment can be seen in my dad’s pursuit of stories such as those mentioned above, but also so many others — including his investigations into the financial relationship of the influential Washington Times with the Unification Church cult of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the truth behind the Nixon campaign’s alleged efforts to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson’s Paris peace talks with Vietnamese leaders in 1968, the reality of the chemical attack in Syria in 2013, and even detailed examinations of the evidence behind the so-called “Deflategate” controversy that he felt unfairly branded his favorite football team, the New England Patriots, as cheaters.

Reviewing these journalistic achievements, it becomes clear that there are few stories that have slipped under Consortiumnews.com’s radar, and that the historical record is far more complete thanks to this website and Bob’s old-fashioned approach to journalism.

But besides this deeply held commitment to independent journalism, it should also be recalled that, ultimately, Bob was motivated by a concern over the future of life on Earth. As someone who grew up at the height of the Cold War, he understood the dangers of allowing tensions and hysteria to spiral out of control, especially in a world such as ours with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on the planet many times over.

As the United States continues down the path of a New Cold War, my dad would be pleased to know that he has such committed contributors who will enable the site to remain the indispensable home for independent journalism that it has become, and continue to push back on false narratives that threaten our very survival.

Thank you all for your support.

In lieu of flowers, Bob’s family asks you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Consortium for Independent Journalism.


An Apology and Explanation
From Editor Robert Parry / Consortium News

(December 31, 2017) — For readers who have come to see Consortiumnews as a daily news source, I would like to extend my personal apology for our spotty production in recent days. On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else.

The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that “every day’s a work day” had something to do with this.

Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor. It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for The Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse.

In some ways, the Republicans escalated the vicious propaganda warfare following Watergate, refusing to accept that Richard Nixon was guilty of some extraordinary malfeasance (including the 1968 sabotage of President Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks to gain an edge in the election and then the later political dirty tricks and cover-ups that came to include Watergate).

Rather than accept the reality of Nixon’s guilt, many Republicans simply built up their capability to wage information warfare, including the creation of ideological news organizations to protect the party and its leaders from “another Watergate.”
So, when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election, the Republicans used their news media and their control of the special prosecutor apparatus (through Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle) to unleash a wave of investigations to challenge Clinton’s legitimacy, eventually uncovering his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The idea had developed that the way to defeat your political opponent was not just to make a better argument or rouse popular support but to dredge up some “crime” that could be pinned on him or her. The GOP success in damaging Bill Clinton made possible George W. Bush’s disputed “victory” in 2000 in which Bush took the presidency despite losing the popular vote and almost certainly losing the key state of Florida if all ballots legal under state law were counted. Increasingly, America — even at the apex of its uni-power status — was taking on the look of a banana republic except with much higher stakes for the world.

Though I don’t like the word “weaponized,” it began to apply to how “information” was used in America. The point of Consortiumnews, which I founded in 1995, was to use the new medium of the modern Internet to allow the old principles of journalism to have a new home, i.e., a place to pursue important facts and giving everyone a fair shake. But we were just a tiny pebble in the ocean. The trend of using journalism as just another front in no-holds-barred political warfare continued — with Democrats and liberals adapting to the successful techniques pioneered mostly by Republicans and by well-heeled conservatives.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was another turning point as Republicans again challenged his legitimacy with bogus claims about his “Kenyan birth,” a racist slur popularized by “reality” TV star Donald Trump. Facts and logic no longer mattered. It was a case of using whatever you had to diminish and destroy your opponent.

We saw similar patterns with the US government’s propaganda agencies developing themes to demonize foreign adversaries and then to smear Americans who questioned the facts or challenged the exaggerations as “apologists.”

This approach was embraced not only by Republicans (think of President George W. Bush distorting the reality in Iraq in 2003 to justify the invasion of that country under false pretenses) but also by Democrats who pushed dubious or downright false depictions of the conflict in Syria (including blaming the Syrian government for chemical weapons attacks despite strong evidence that the events were staged by Al Qaeda and other militants who had become the tip of the spear in the neocon/liberal interventionist goal of removing the Assad dynasty and installing a new regime more acceptable to the West and to Israel.

More and more I would encounter policymakers, activists and, yes, journalists who cared less about a careful evaluation of the facts and logic and more about achieving a pre-ordained geopolitical result — and this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media. This perversion of principles — twisting information to fit a desired conclusion — became the modus Vivendi of American politics and journalism.

And those of us who insisted on defending the journalistic principles of skepticism and evenhandedness were increasingly shunned by our colleagues, a hostility that first emerged on the Right and among neoconservatives but eventually sucked in the progressive world as well. Everything became “information warfare.”

The New Outcasts
That is why many of us who exposed major government wrongdoing in the past have ended up late in our careers as outcasts and pariahs. Legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who helped expose major crimes of state from the My Lai massacre to the CIA’s abuses against American citizens, including illegal spying and LSD testing on unsuspecting subjects, has literally had to take his investigative journalism abroad because he uncovered inconvenient evidence that implicated Western-backed jihadists in staging chemical weapons attacks in Syria so the atrocities would be blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The anti-Assad group think is so intense in the West that even strong evidence of staged events, such as the first patients arriving at hospitals before government planes could have delivered the sarin, was brushed aside or ignored. The Western media and the bulk of international agencies and NGOs were committed to gin up another case for “regime change” and any skeptics were decried as “Assad apologists” or “conspiracy theorists,” the actual facts be damned.

So Hersh and weapons experts such as MIT’s Theodore Postol were shoved into the gutter in favor of hip new NATO-friendly groups like Bellingcat, whose conclusions always fit neatly with the propaganda needs of the Western powers.

The demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia is just the most dangerous feature of this propaganda process — and this is where the neocons and the liberal interventionists most significantly come together. The US media’s approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda. Does any sentient human being read the New York Times‘ or the Washington Post‘s coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts?

For instance, the full story of the infamous Magnitsky case cannot be told in the West, nor can the objective reality of the Ukrane coup in 2014. The American people and the West in general are carefully shielded from hearing the “other side of the story.” Indeed, to even suggest that there is another side to the story makes you a “Putin apologist” or “Kremlin stooge.”

Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many “liberals” who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the US intelligence community feeds us, even if we’re told to accept the assertions on faith.

The Trump Crisis
Which brings us to the crisis that is Donald Trump. Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton has solidified the new paradigm of “liberals” embracing every negative claim about Russia just because elements of the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency produced a report last Jan 6 that blamed Russia for “hacking” Democratic emails and releasing them via WikiLeaks. It didn’t seem to matter that these “hand-picked” analysts (as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called them) evinced no evidence and even admitted that they weren’t asserting any of this as fact.

The hatred of Trump and Putin was so intense that old-fashioned rules of journalism and fairness were brushed aside. On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump “Resistance.” The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster. Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.

Other people, including senior editors across the mainstream media, began to treat the unproven Russia-gate allegations as flat fact. No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the US government’s institutions. Anti-Trump “progressives” were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Hatred of Trump had become like some invasion of the body snatchers — or perhaps many of my journalistic colleagues had never believed in the principles of journalism that I had embraced throughout my adult life.

To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism; it was a commitment to the American people and the world to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could; not to slant the “facts” to “get” some “bad” political leader or “guide” the public in some desired direction.

I actually believed that the point of journalism in a democracy was to give the voters unbiased information and the necessary context so the voters could make up their own minds and use their ballot — as imperfect as that is — to direct the politicians to take actions on behalf of the nation.

The unpleasant reality that the past year has brought home to me is that a shockingly small number of people in Official Washington and the mainstream news media actually believe in real democracy or the goal of an informed electorate.

Whether they would admit it or not, they believe in a “guided democracy” in which “approved” opinions are elevated — regardless of their absence of factual basis — and “unapproved” evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality. Everything becomes “information warfare” — whether on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, MSNBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post. Instead of information provided evenhandedly to the public, it is rationed out in morsels designed to elicit the desired emotional reactions and achieve a political outcome.

As I said earlier, much of this approach was pioneered by Republicans in their misguided desire to protect Richard Nixon, but it has now become all pervasive and has deeply corrupted Democrats, progressives and mainstream journalism.

Ironically, the ugly personal characteristics of Donald Trump — his own contempt for facts and his crass personal behavior — have stripped the mask off the broader face of Official America.

What is perhaps most alarming about the past year of Donald Trump is that the mask is now gone and, in many ways, all sides of Official Washington are revealed collectively as reflections of Donald Trump, disinterested in reality, exploiting “information” for tactical purposes, eager to manipulate or con the public.

While I’m sure many anti-Trumpers will be deeply offended by my comparison of esteemed Establishment figures with the grotesque Trump, there is a deeply troubling commonality between Trump’s convenient use of “facts” and what has pervaded the Russia-gate investigation.

My Christmas Eve stroke now makes it a struggle for me to read and to write. Everything takes much longer than it once did — and I don’t think that I can continue with the hectic pace that I have pursued for many years.

But — as the New Year dawns — if I could change one thing about America and Western journalism, it would be that we all repudiate “information warfare” in favor of an old-fashioned respect for facts and fairness — and do whatever we can to achieve a truly informed electorate.

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.

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

Remembering Investigative Journalist Robert Parry

January 31st, 2018 - by admin

Marc Ash / Reader Supported News & Norman Solomon / The Nation – 2018-01-31 01:00:34

https://www.thenation.com/article/remembering-investigative-journalist-robert-parry/

Remembering Robert Parry
Marc Ash / Reader Supported News

(January 29, 2018) — We want to extend our sincere condolences to Bob’s family, friends and colleagues. Bob was a maverick, a warrior for truth, and as good a reporter as we have seen in America in a long time. We encourage Nat and the entire Consortiumnews extended family to press on.


Remembering Investigative Journalist Robert Parry
Norman Solomon / The Nation

(January 29, 2018) — After Robert Parry died on January 27, I asked another great investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, for some words.

“I ran into Bob more than three decades ago when he was the first to warn of the Iran/Contra affair, to little avail,” Hersh replied. “He was widely seen over the next years as a critic of the mainstream media in America. That was not so. He was a critic of lousy reporting, be it in Pravda or The New York Times. He wanted every journalist, everywhere, to do the research and the interviewing that it takes to get beyond the accepted headline.”

What made Bob Parry a trailblazer for independent journalism also made him a bridge burner with the media establishment. He refused to take on faith the official story, whether from governments or news outlets.

After winning acclaim, including a Polk Award, as an Associated Press reporter who broke many big stories on deadly US policies in Central America, he spent three years at Newsweek — where he saw top editors collaborating with officials of the George H.W. Bush administration on what should be shared or withheld from the public.

Bob left the magazine in 1990, and soon his relations with mainstream media had a whistle-blower quality. His 1992 book, Fooling America: How Washington Insiders Twist the Truth and Manufacture the Conventional Wisdom named names and pulled no punches.

Midway through the decade, Bob did a stint as director of The Nation Institute’s investigative unit. His writing for The Nation during 1996 included pieces about the CIA and drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan contras, the bankrolled power of right-wing foundations, and a seven-page expose that is chilling to read more than 30 years later — an investigative report on the Koch brothers.

In 1995, Parry launched a unique journalistic space, Consortiumnews.com, where he worked intensely as publisher, editor, and writer. For the next 22 years, Parry oversaw the website’s scrutiny of elite wisdom.

His work, which included authoring six books, won the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence from Harvard’s Nieman Foundation in 2015 and, last year, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

I got to see Bob at work up close, in 1996, when we co-wrote a series on a media darling: “Behind Colin Powell’s Legend.” During interviews, Bob was politely unrelenting. He had a methodical zest for plowing through documents, determined to “master the material.” And he was professionally generous; I wrote just a small proportion of the articles, but he insisted that I share the byline on every one.

Bob was notably non-ideological. What propelled him was a moral core and determination to follow the facts. That devotion led him to expose the lethal deceptions and machinations of Reagan-era figures like Oliver North, Elliott Abrams, and Caspar Weinberger. Three decades later, the same resolve to separate fact from spun fiction put him on a collision course with the conventional wisdom of “Russiagate.”

No one knew better than Bob Parry how intelligence agencies and major media outlets can create a cascading frenzy. Beginning in late 2016, Bob was prolific as he debunked the torrent of hyperbolic claims about Russia that became an ever-present flood across the US media landscape. Some progressive sites went from often posting his articles in 2016 to rarely or never posting them in 2017.

“For years, the mainstream, establishment media have, by their malpractices in covering US-Russian relations from Ukraine to ‘Russiagate,’ been deeply complicit in the unfolding of this new Cold War and its unprecedented dangers,” said Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, a contributing editor at The Nation.

“Bob Parry, very often alone, exposed those malpractices, especially those committed by the powerful New York Times and Washington Post, misreported story by misreported story, sometimes daily. For this, he was ostracized, slurred, certainly ignored by mainstream media.”

At the end of December, a week after his first stroke left him with badly blurred eyesight, Bob somehow was able to write what turned out to be his final article, brilliant and transcendent, a kind of cri de Coeur that is a stunning last testament to “the journalistic principles of skepticism and evenhandedness.” [See the article below — EAW.]

Western journalists, he wrote, “now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many ‘liberals’ who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the US intelligence community feeds us, even if we’re told to accept the assertions on faith.”

At the close of a lengthy tribute that appeared the day after his father’s death, Nat Parry wrote that, “ultimately, Bob was motivated by a concern over the future of life on Earth. As someone who grew up at the height of the Cold War, he understood the dangers of allowing tensions and hysteria to spiral out of control, especially in a world such as ours with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on the planet many times over.”

Robert Parry carried the lantern high. Now others will need to carry it on.

Norman Solomon is a journalist with ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy; the author of War Made Easy; and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

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

Vietnam: The War That Never Ends (for the US Military High Command)

January 31st, 2018 - by admin

Major Danny Sjursen / TomDispatch & Consortium News – 2018-01-31 00:15:58

The War That Never Ends (for the U.S. Military High Command)

The War That Never Ends (for the US Military High Command)
Danny Sjursen / TomDispatch & Consortium News

(January 29, 2018) — Vietnam: it’s always there. Looming in the past, informing American futures.

A 50-year-old war, once labeled the longest in our history, is still alive and well and still being refought by one group of Americans: the military high command. And almost half a century later, they’re still losing it and blaming others for doing so.

Of course, the US military and Washington policymakers lost the war in Vietnam in the previous century and perhaps it’s well that they did. The United States really had no business intervening in that anti-colonial civil war in the first place, supporting a South Vietnamese government of questionable legitimacy, and stifling promised nationwide elections on both sides of that country’s artificial border.

In doing so, Washington presented an easy villain for a North Vietnamese-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) insurgency, a group known to Americans in those years as the Vietcong.

More than two decades of involvement and, at the war’s peak, half a million American troops never altered the basic weakness of the US-backed regime in Saigon. Despite millions of Asian deaths and 58,000 American ones, South Vietnam’s military could not, in the end, hold the line without American support and finally collapsed under the weight of a conventional North Vietnamese invasion in April 1975.

There’s just one thing. Though a majority of historians (known in academia as the “orthodox” school) subscribe to the basic contours of the above narrative, the vast majority of senior American military officers do not. Instead, they’re still refighting the Vietnam War to a far cheerier outcome through the books they read, the scholarship they publish, and (most disturbingly) the policies they continue to pursue in the Greater Middle East.

The Big Re-Write
In 1986, future general, Iraq-Afghan War commander, and CIA director David Petraeus penned an article for the military journal Parameters that summarized his Princeton doctoral dissertation on the Vietnam War. It was a piece commensurate with then-Major Petraeus’s impressive intellect, except for its disastrous conclusions on the lessons of that war.

Though he did observe that Vietnam had “cost the military dearly” and that “the frustrations of Vietnam are deeply etched in the minds of those who lead the services,” his real fear was that the war had left the military unprepared to wage what were then called “low-intensity conflicts” and are now known as counterinsurgencies. His takeaway: what the country needed wasn’t less Vietnams but better-fought ones. The next time, he concluded fatefully, the military should do a far better job of implementing counterinsurgency forces, equipment, tactics, and doctrine to win such wars.

Two decades later, when the next Vietnam-like quagmire did indeed present itself in Iraq, he and a whole generation of COINdinistas (like-minded officers devoted to his favored counterinsurgency approach to modern warfare) embraced those very conclusions to win the war on terror. The names of some of them — H.R. McMaster and James Mattis, for instance — should ring a bell or two these days. In Iraq and later in Afghanistan, Petraeus and his acolytes would get their chance to translate theory into practice. Americans — and much of the rest of the planet — still live with the results.

Like Petraeus, an entire generation of senior military leaders, commissioned in the years after the Vietnam War and now atop the defense behemoth, remain fixated on that ancient conflict. After all these decades, such “thinking” generals and “soldier-scholars” continue to draw all the wrong lessons from what, thanks in part to them, has now become America’s second longest war.

Rival Schools
Historian Gary Hess identifies two main schools of revisionist thinking. There are the “Clausewitzians” (named after the nineteenth century Prussian military theorist) who insist that Washington never sufficiently attacked the enemy’s true center of gravity in North Vietnam. Beneath the academic language, they essentially agree on one key thing: the US military should have bombed the North into a parking lot.

The second school, including Petraeus, Hess labeled the “hearts-and-minders.” As COINdinistas, they felt the war effort never focused clearly enough on isolating the Vietcong, protecting local villages in the South, building schools, and handing out candy — everything, in short, that might have won (in the phrase of that era) Vietnamese hearts and minds.

Both schools, however, agreed on something basic: that the US military should have won in Vietnam.

The danger presented by either school is clear enough in the twenty-first century. Senior commanders, some now serving in key national security positions, fixated on Vietnam, have translated that conflict’s supposed lessons into what now passes for military strategy in Washington. The result has been an ever-expanding war on terror campaign waged ceaselessly from South Asia to West Africa, which has essentially turned out to be perpetual war based on the can-do belief that counterinsurgency and advise-and-assist missions should have worked in Vietnam and can work now.

The Go-Big Option
The leading voice of the Clausewitzian school was US Army Colonel and Korean War/Vietnam War vet Harry Summers, whose 1982 book, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, became an instant classic within the military. It’s easy enough to understand why. Summers argued that civilian policymakers — not the military rank-and-file — had lost the war by focusing hopelessly on the insurgency in South Vietnam rather than on the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. More troops, more aggressiveness, even full-scale invasions of communist safe havens in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam, would have led to victory.

Summers had a deep emotional investment in his topic. Later, he would argue that the source of post-war pessimistic analyses of the conflict lay in “draft dodgers and war evaders still [struggling] with their consciences.” In his own work, Summers marginalized all Vietnamese actors (as would so many later military historians), failed to adequately deal with the potential consequences, nuclear or otherwise, of the sorts of escalation he advocated, and didn’t even bother to ask whether Vietnam was a core national security interest of the United States.

Perhaps he would have done well to reconsider a famous post-war encounter he had with a North Vietnamese officer, a Colonel Tu, whom he assured that “you know you never beat us on the battlefield.”

“That may be so,” replied his former enemy, “but it is also irrelevant.”

Whatever its limitations, his work remains influential in military circles to this day. (I was assigned the book as a West Point cadet!)

A more sophisticated Clausewitzian analysis came from current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in a highly acclaimed 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty. He argued that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were derelict in failing to give President Lyndon Johnson an honest appraisal of what it would take to win, which meant that “the nation went to war without the benefit of effective military advice.” He concluded that the war was lost not in the field or by the media or even on antiwar college campuses, but in Washington, D.C., through a failure of nerve by the Pentagon’s generals, which led civilian officials to opt for a deficient strategy.

McMaster is a genuine scholar and a gifted writer, but he still suggested that the Joint Chiefs should have advocated for a more aggressive offensive strategy — a full ground invasion of the North or unrelenting carpet-bombing of that country. In this sense, he was just another “go-big” Clausewitzian who, as historian Ronald Spector pointed out recently, ignored Vietnamese views and failed to acknowledge — an observation of historian Edward Miller — that “the Vietnam War was a Vietnamese war.”

COIN: A Small (Forever) War
Another Vietnam veteran, retired Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Krepinevich, fired the opening salvo for the hearts-and-minders. In The Army and Vietnam, published in 1986, he argued that the NLF, not the North Vietnamese Army, was the enemy’s chief center of gravity and that the American military’s failure to emphasize counterinsurgency principles over conventional concepts of war sealed its fate.

While such arguments were, in reality, no more impressive than those of the Clausewitzians, they have remained popular with military audiences, as historian Dale Andrade points out, because they offer a “simple explanation for the defeat in Vietnam.”

Krepinevich would write an influential 2005 Foreign Affairs piece, “How to Win in Iraq,” in which he applied his Vietnam conclusions to a new strategy of prolonged counterinsurgency in the Middle East, quickly winning over the New York Times‘s resident conservative columnist, David Brooks, and generating “discussion in the Pentagon, CIA, American Embassy in Baghdad, and the office of the vice president.”

In 1999, retired army officer and Vietnam veteran Lewis Sorley penned the definitive hearts-and-minds tract, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. Sorley boldly asserted that, by the spring of 1970, “the fighting wasn’t over, but the war was won.”

According to his comforting tale, the real explanation for failure lay with the “big-war” strategy of US commander General William Westmoreland. The counterinsurgency strategy of his successor, General Creighton Abrams — Sorley’s knight in shining armor — was (or at least should have been) a war winner.

Critics noted that Sorley overemphasized the marginal differences between the two generals’ strategies and produced a remarkably counterfactual work. It didn’t matter, however. By 2005, just as the situation in Iraq, a country then locked in a sectarian civil war amid an American occupation, went from bad to worse, Sorley’s book found its way into the hands of the head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid, and State Department counselor Philip Zelikow.

By then, according to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, it could also “be found on the bookshelves of senior military officers in Baghdad.”

Another influential hearts-and-minds devotee was Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl. (He even made it onto The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.) His Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnan, followed Krepinevich in claiming that “if [Creighton] Abrams had gotten the call to lead the American effort at the start of the war, America might very well have won it.”

In 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker “so liked [Nagl’s] book that he made it required reading for all four-star generals,” while the Iraq War commander of that moment, General George Casey, gave Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a copy during a visit to Baghdad.

David Petraeus and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis, co-authors in 2006 of FM 3-24, the first (New York Times-reviewed) military field manual for counterinsurgency since Vietnam, must also be considered among the pantheon of hearts-and-minders. Nagl wrote a foreword for their manual, while Krepinevich provided a glowing back-cover endorsement.

Such revisionist interpretations would prove tragic in Iraq and Afghanistan, once they had filtered down to the entire officer corps.

Reading All the Wrong Books
In 2009, when former West Point history professor Colonel Gregory Daddis was deployed to Iraq as the command historian for the Multinational Corps — the military’s primary tactical headquarters — he noted that corps commander Lieutenant General Charles Jacoby had assigned a professional reading list to his principal subordinates.

To his disappointment, Daddis also discovered that the only Vietnam War book included was Sorley’s A Better War. This should have surprised no one, since his argument — that American soldiers in Vietnam were denied an impending victory by civilian policymakers, a liberal media, and antiwar protestors — was still resonant among the officer corps in year six of the Iraq quagmire. It wasn’t the military’s fault!

Officers have long distributed professional reading lists for subordinates, intellectual guideposts to the complex challenges ahead. Indeed, there’s much to be admired in the concept, but also potential dangers in such lists as they inevitably influence the thinking of an entire generation of future leaders.

In the case of Vietnam, the perils are obvious. The generals have been assigning and reading problematic books for years, works that were essentially meant to reinforce professional pride in the midst of a series of unsuccessful and unending wars.

Just after 9/11, for instance, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers — who spoke at my West Point graduation — included Summers’s On Strategy on his list. A few years later, then-Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker added McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty. The trend continues today.

Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller has kept McMaster and added Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger (he of the illegal bombing of both Laos and Cambodia and war criminal fame). Current Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley kept Kissinger and added good old Lewis Sorley. To top it all off, Secretary of Defense Mattis has included yet another Kissinger book and, in a different list, Krepinevich’s The Army and Vietnam.

Just as important as which books made the lists is what’s missing from them: none of these senior commanders include newer scholarship, novels, or journalistic accounts which might raise thorny, uncomfortable questions about whether the Vietnam War was winnable, necessary, or advisable, or incorporate local voices that might highlight the limits of American influence and power.

Serving in the Shadow of Vietnam
Most of the generals leading the war on terror just missed service in the Vietnam War. They graduated from various colleges or West Point in the years immediately following the withdrawal of most US ground troops or thereafter: Petraeus in 1974, future Afghan War commander Stanley McChrystal in 1976, and present National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in 1984.

Secretary of Defense Mattis finished ROTC and graduated from Central Washington University in 1971, while Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly enlisted at the tail end of the Vietnam War, receiving his commission in 1976.

In other words, the generation of officers now overseeing the still-spreading war on terror entered military service at the end of or after the tragic war in Southeast Asia. That meant they narrowly escaped combat duty in the bloodiest American conflict since World War II and so the professional credibility that went with it. They were mentored and taught by academy tactical officers, ROTC instructors, and commanders who had cut their teeth on that conflict. Vietnam literally dominated the discourse of their era — and it’s never ended.

Petraeus, Mattis, McMaster, and the others entered service when military prestige had reached a nadir or was just rebounding. And those reading lists taught the young officers where to lay the blame for that — on civilians in Washington (or in the nation’s streets) or on a military high command too weak to assert its authority effectively. They would serve in Vietnam’s shadow, the shadow of defeat, and the conclusions they would draw from it would only lead to twenty-first-century disasters.

From Vietnam to the
War on Terror to Generational War

All of this misremembering, all of those Vietnam “lessons” inform the US military’s ongoing “surges” and “advise-and-assist” approaches to its wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Representatives of both Vietnam revisionist schools now guide the development of the Trump administration’s version of global strategy.

President Trump’s in-house Clausewitzians clamor for — and receive — ever more delegated authority to do their damnedest and what retired General (and Vietnam vet) Edward Meyer called for back in 1983: “a freer hand in waging war than they had in Vietnam.” In other words, more bombs, more troops, and carte blanche to escalate such conflicts to their hearts’ content.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s hearts-and-minds faction consists of officers who have spent three administrations expanding COIN-influenced missions to approximately 70% of the world’s nations. Furthermore, they’ve recently fought for and been granted a new “mini-surge” in Afghanistan intended to — in disturbingly Vietnam-esque language — “break the deadlock,” “reverse the decline,” and “end the stalemate” there.

Never mind that neither 100,000 US troops (when I was there in 2011) nor 16 full years of combat could, in the term of the trade, “stabilize” Afghanistan.

The can-do, revisionist believers atop the national security state have convinced Trump that — despite his original instincts — 4,000 or 5,000 (or 6,000 or 7,000) more troops (and yet more drones, planes, and other equipment) will do the trick. This represents tragedy bordering on farce.

The hearts and minders and Clausewitzians atop the military establishment since 9/11 are never likely to stop citing their versions of the Vietnam War as the key to victory today; that is, they will never stop focusing on a war that was always unwinnable and never worth fighting.

None of today’s acclaimed military personalities seems willing to consider that Washington couldn’t have won in Vietnam because, as former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak (who flew 269 combat missions over that country) noted in the recent Ken Burns documentary series, “we were fighting on the wrong side.”

Today’s leaders don’t even pretend that the post-9/11 wars will ever end. In an interview last June, Petraeus — still considered a sagacious guru of the Defense establishment — disturbingly described the Afghan conflict as “generational.” Eerily enough, to cite a Vietnam-era precedent, General Creighton Abrams predicted something similar.

Speaking to the White House as the war in Southeast Asia was winding down. Even as President Richard Nixon slowly withdrew US forces, handing over their duties to the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) — a process known then as “Vietnamization” — the general warned that, despite ARVN improvements, continued US support “would be required indefinitely to maintain an effective force.” Vietnam, too, had its “generational” side (until, of course, it didn’t).

That war and its ill-fated lessons will undoubtedly continue to influence US commanders until a new set of myths, explaining away a new set of failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, take over, possibly thanks to books by veterans of these conflicts about how Washington could have won the war on terror.

It’s not that our generals don’t read. They do. They just doggedly continue to read the wrong books.

In 1986, General Petraeus ended his influential Parameters article with a quote from historian George Herring: “Each historical situation is unique and the use of analogy is at best misleading, at worst, dangerous.” When it comes to Vietnam and a cohort of officers shaped in its shadow (and even now convinced it could have been won), “dangerous” hardly describes the results. They’ve helped bring us generational war and, for today’s young soldiers, ceaseless tragedy.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US government.]

Major Danny Sjursen is a US Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast Fortress on a Hill.

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

Facing Up to US Nukes: In 2017, Activists Occupied a US Nuclear Bunker inside Germany

January 29th, 2018 - by admin

John LaForge / CounterPunch – 2018-01-29 23:32:29

Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base

Facing US Nukes in Germany
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
John LaForge / CounterPunch


In an effort to oust the remaining US B61 nuclear weapons from Germany, a delegation of US peace activists joined in protests at the Buchel Air Base.

BUCHEL, Germany (July 21, 2017) — The fairy tale that nuclear weapons provide state security is a fiction believed by millions. On July 17, five of us proved that state guarantees of “highly secure” nuclear weapon facilities are just as fictitious.

After nightfall, an international group of five peace activists, me included, got deep inside the Buchel Air Base here, and for the first time in a 21-year long series of protests against its deployment of US nuclear bombs, we occupied the top of one of the large bunkers potentially used for storing nuclear weapons. The US still deploys up to 20 B61 gravity bombs at the air base and German pilots train to use them in war from their Tornado jet fighter bombers.

After hiking along shadowy farm roads, shushing through a dark row of tall corn, clipping through the base’s outer fence, crossing a brightly lit air base road, and tramping noisily through a few wooded brambles, our small group cut through a second chain-link fence, bumbled past a giant hanger and under the wing of a jet fighter bomber, and reached a double-fence surrounding the broad, earth-bermed bunkers.

After cutting through the two non-electrified fences without tripping a single alarm or even having the lights snap on, the five of us scurried up to the top of the wide-topped, grass covered concrete Quonset hut. No motion detector or alarm, no Klieg light or guard had noted our intrusion at all.

We spent over an hour chatting, star gazing, checking our radiation monitor, and enjoying being flabbergasted that our implausible plan and Google-earth route had worked. This was supposedly a severely controlled H-bomb storage depot, but we’ll never know. We didn’t try breaking into it.

It started getting cold around 1 a.m. and we’d come prepared weeks or months in jail, but not for being outside all night. So Steve Baggarly, 52, of the Norfolk, Virginia Catholic Worker, and I climbed down to scratch “DISARM NOW” on the bunker’s giant metal doors, finally alerting some guards.

The two of us hustled back up to the others on top and were soon surrounded by vehicles’ scanning spotlights and guards searching on foot with flashlights. Rather comically, we were still unnoticed as we watched the patrols scurry around. We ultimately decided to announce our presence by singing “The Vine & Fig Tree,” prompting them for the first time to look up.

We were taken into custody over two hours after entering the base, and after being searched, photographed and briefly lectured, we were released without charges. Some may be pending.

The five, Baggarly, Susan Crane, 73, of California, Bonnie Urfer, 65, of Wisconsin, Gerd Buentzly, 67, of Germany, and I, said in a prepared statement:
“We are nonviolent and have entered Buchel Air Base to denounce the nuclear weapons deployed here. We ask Germany to either disarm the weapons or send them back to the United States for disarming . . . .”

Our bunker occupation, called a “go-in” action by German anti-nuclear campaigners here, was the fourth act of civil resistance during “international week” at the base. Organized by “Non-violent Action to Abolish Nukes” (GAAA), the week saw over 60 people — from Russia, China, Mexico, Germany, Britain, the US, The Netherlands, France and Belgium — participate.

The 7-day effort was part of a 20-week-long set of actions — “20 Weeks for 20 Bombs” — launched on March 26, 2017 — in conjunction with the start of final negotiations at the UN for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — by a 50-group nation-wide coalition called “Buchel is Everywhere!”

Two earlier protest actions succeeded in a couple of ‘firsts’: an unprecedented meeting between blockaders and the base commander and the removal of the otherwise very prominent United States flag.

During an early morning blockade, “Oberstleutnant” Gregor Schlemmer personally approached protesters — something unheard of in similar US protests — and accepted a copy of the newly-minted UN Treaty Ban from Sister Ardeth Platte, OP, of Baltimore, Maryland.

A day earlier, when over 35 activists streamed through the main gate which was mistakenly left unlocked, spontaneously lowered the US flag, and placed loaves of bread around the memorialized jet bombers, Sr. Platte and Sr. Carol Gilbert, OP, also of Baltimore, demanded a meeting with Mr. Schlemmer so they could deliver the treaty. The next day’s shocking appearance prompted a joke: “Yesterday we took down the flag, and today the commander surrendered.”

Eleven activists from the United States came to Buchel to put a spotlight on US plans to replace the B61s instead of removing them. Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance in Tennessee — where a new thermonuclear core for the “B61-Model12” might be manufactured — said, “It is important that we show this is a global movement. The resistance to nuclear weapons is not limited to one country.”

The new “B61-12” program will cost over $12 billion, if and when production starts sometime after 2020, and “Bushel is scheduled to get new hydrogen bombs. Nothing could be stupider when 90% of Germans want them out and the when world wants to abolish nuclear weapons,” he said.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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

Hawaii’s False Alarm Raises Questions About Militarization

January 29th, 2018 - by admin

Jon Letman / LobeLog.org – 2018-01-29 23:15:18

Hawaii’s False Alarm Raises Questions about Militarization

Hawaii’s False Alarm Raises Questions About Militarization
Jon Letman / LobeLog.org

(January 29, 2018) — In the days since Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency mistakenly issued an emergency alert warning of an inbound ballistic missile to over a million people, many of us in Hawaii have been thinking a lot about weapons and war.

The reaction to the January 13 false alarm has ranged from the deliberative (state legislature hearings) to the deranged (death threats against the unnamed employee who clicked the wrong option and triggered the scare). There has been discussion of the need for a better alert system and a faster response time in case of false alarms.

Critics have pointed out a lack of public preparedness, while others argue that it’s a moot point. Still others see the missile scare as a call to load up on guns, iodine tablets, and MREs in preparation for a post-apocalypse Hawaii.

Everyone agrees that the frightening mishap should serve as a wake-up call not just for Hawaii but the entire country. The debate over how much duct tape and Vienna sausage to keep in stock in case of a nuclear attack overlooks the US role in perpetuating a system that terrorizes people around the world.

Hawaii is home to the US Pacific Command (PACOM), the oldest and largest of America’s unified commands. Under PACOM, soldiers and weapons from every branch of the military are stationed, tested, trained, and cycled through Hawaii to conflicts and flashpoints from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Korean peninsula, and beyond.

The military’s financial influence over the Aloha State is enormous, accounting for $7.8 billion in spending in 2015 and employing over 64,000 defense personnel plus many thousands more who are economically dependent on the military presence.

In 2014, Hawaii ranked second in the nation (below Virginia) as the state with the highest defense spending as a percentage of its GDP. That same year, Honolulu County was in the top 10 (seventh place) for defense contracts. In 2017, Hawaii maintained its second highest ranking (nearly 10 percent) for defense spending as a portion of GDP.

From the dispatch of battleships to the testing of weapons and training of warriors, Hawaii is central to military operations across the region and around the world. Hawaii is a key test site for ballistic missiles, radar, sonar, fighter jets, drones, bombers, and advanced hypersonic weapons intended to strike anywhere on earth in under an hour.

Hawaii-based troops participate in everything from assault missions in Iraq and fighting insurgents in the Philippines to war games and military training on the Korean peninsula and Japan. It conducts these operations from Singapore to Australia and the Arctic. As such, Hawaii plays an enormous role in US global military operations.

Increased military activities, many of them executed or advanced by the US, also leads to heightened tensions, internal conflict, invasions, and occupations and wars with both direct and indirect support for actual bombs dropped on actual people.

Pointing this out however, is not likely to be met with much enthusiasm or support. According to a recent NPR/PBS poll, 87 percent of respondents reported having “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military compared with confidence in the media (at a tepid 30 percent).

Although members of Congress and the president complain that the Pentagon has been “gutted,” the United States continues to outspend all other countries by a long shot — nearly as much as the next nine largest military budgets (seven of which are close allies or strategic partners) combined.

The United States also remain the world’s largest arms dealer, accounting for roughly one-third of all global arms exports, with sales increasing more than 20 percent between 2007 and 2011.

In Trump’s first year, he unleashed a $60 million Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal in Afghanistan, and insulted his way to the brink of a nuclear war against North Korea.

Meanwhile Trump is pushing to expand US plans to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal at a staggering projected cost of $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years. Trump, who reportedly asked, “If we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them,” wants to develop “more usable” nuclear weapons deceptively called “mini-nukes” in order to create a “more credible” deterrent.

The false alarm that Hawaii recently experienced was terrifying, but it pales in comparison to the brutal reality other people experience when actual bombs fall. This militarism, perhaps America’s most destructive addiction, pours money into Hawaii’s coffers — but at a price. The real wake-up call has nothing to do with the lack of preparedness and everything to do with America’s own role in fostering insecurity in the world at large.

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

Nuclear War: A Thousand Buttons

January 29th, 2018 - by admin

Conn Hallinan / Dispatches from the Edge – 2018-01-29 23:11:20

http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2018-01-20/article/46417?headline=DISPATCHES-FROM-THE-EDGE-Nuclear-War-A-Thousand-Buttons–Conn-Hallinan

Nuclear War: A Thousand Buttons
Conn Hallinan / Dispatches from the Edge

BERKELEY, Calif. (January 20, 2018) — When President Donald Trump bragged that his nuclear “button” was bigger and more efficient than North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s “button,” he was perpetuating the myth that the leaders of nuclear-armed nations control their weapons. But you do not have to be Trump, Kim, Vladimir Putin, Theresa May, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Mamnoon Hussain, or Benjamin Netanyahu to push that “button.” There are thousands of buttons and thousands of people who can initiate a nuclear war.

Indeed, the very nature of nuclear weapons requires that the power to use them is decentralized and dispersed. And while it is sobering to think of leaders like Kim and Trump with their finger on the trigger, a nuclear war is far more likely to be started by some anonymous captain in an Ohio-class submarine patrolling the Pacific or a Pakistani colonel on the Indian border.

In his book “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” Daniel Ellsberg says that the recent uproar over Trump’s threats to visit “fire and fury” on North Korea misses the point that “every president has delegated” the authority to use nuclear weapons.

“The idea that the president is the only one with the sole power to issue an order that will be recognized as an authentic authorized order is totally false,” he told National Public Radio.

If a single “button” were the case, decapitating a country’s leader would prevent the use of nuclear weapons. Take out Washington (or Mar-a-Largo), Moscow, or Beijing and you would neutralize a nation’s nuclear force. In reality, the decision to use those weapons merely shifts further down the chain of command.

The Russians call it “dead hand”: Moscow goes, and some general in the Urals launches an ICBM or the captain of a Borei-class submarine in the Sea of Okhotsk fires off his multiple war head SS-N-32 “Bulava” missiles.

During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, a single commodore on a Soviet submarine off Cuba, Vasili Arkhipov, refused to okay an order by the sub’s first and second in command to launch a nuclear tipped torpedo at US warships that were harassing the vessel. If he had not intervened, according to Ellsberg, it is quite likely there would have been a nuclear war between the US, its allies, and the Soviet Union.

The problem with nuclear weapons — besides the fact that they are capable of destroying human civilizations and most life on the planet — is that they are actually quite fragile, with a very limited life span: “use them or lose them” is the philosophy of nuclear war planners, because if you hesitate, your opponent may destroy them before they can be launched.

The more efficient and accurate your nuclear force, the more destabilizing it becomes. For instance, the US has thousands of nuclear weapons deployed in a “triad”: air, land and sea. To attack the US with nuclear weapons would be tantamount to committing suicide, because no matter how large the attacking force was, it would be almost impossible to eliminate every warhead.

Russia also has vast numbers of weapons, although they are more vulnerable than those of the US Russia has fewer ballistic missiles subs, does not really have a modern strategic bomber force, and its land-based missiles are endangered by recent American breakthroughs in warhead technology.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the US now has the capability to “destroy all of Russia’s ICBM silos” in a first strike and still retain 80 percent of its warheads in reserve.

A “first strike” attack — also called “counterforce” — has always been central to US military planning, and was recently adopted by the Russians as well. As a result, both nations keep their nuclear forces on a hair trigger, fearful that the other side could neutralize their nuclear weapons with a first strike.

The danger here, of course, is war by mistake, and there have been at least a half dozen incidents where the two countries have come within minutes of a nuclear exchange. A weather rocket, a flock of geese, an errant test tape, have all brought the world to the edge of disaster.

The time frame for making a decision about whether one is under attack or not is extremely narrow. It is estimated that the US would have about 30 minutes to determine whether an attack was real, but, because the Russians do not have a reliable satellite warning system, that time frame would be about 15 minutes or less for Moscow.

China and India had a no-first use policy, but recently New Delhi adopted a “counterforce” strategy. Britain, France and Pakistan all reserve the right to first-use, The Israeli government refuses to admit it has nuclear weapons, so it is unclear what its policies are.

Of all the nuclear-armed countries, North Korea is the most vulnerable, simply because it probably has no more than 50 or so nuclear weapons. There is a caveat here: US intelligence has been consistently wrong on Pyongyang’s capabilities.

It underestimated its ability to produce long-range missiles, it disparaged its capacity to produce a hydrogen bomb, and it miscalculated its capacity to wage cyber war. In short, the US has no idea what would happen if it attacked North Korea.

Almost all estimates are that such a war would range from calamitous to catastrophic. And nuclear weapons are likely to make it the latter. The recent talk in Washington about a limited attack on North Korea — the so-called “bloody nose” strategy — could be seen by Pyongyang as an attempt to take out its small nuclear force.

Under the rule of “use them or lose them,” North Korea might decide to launch them locally — South Korea — regionally — Japan — or even at the US Estimates of the outcome of such a war range from the hundreds of thousands to several million dead.

Apparently there is also a plan to take out Kim Jung-Un, but decapitating North Korea’s leadership merely devolves the decision to use nuclear weapons to some commander in the field. Plus eliminating a nation’s leader would make it almost impossible to halt such a war. Who would one negotiate with?

In the end, the problem comes down to the nature of nuclear weapons themselves. Their enormous power and ability to strike quickly makes them vulnerable, and that vulnerability requires that the decision to use them be decentralized.

The recent scare that a ballistic missile was headed toward Hawaii was a bureaucratic screw up, someone pushing the wrong button on a computer. But that is how the world could end. Consider the following scenario:

An Ohio-class submarine armed with 24 Trident II ballistic missiles is on patrol in the East China Sea. Each Trident II missile has eight W-76 or W-88 warheads, 192 in all. The former pack a 100-kiloton punch, the latter up to 475 kilotons. In total, the submarine can generate up to 91,200 kilos of explosive force. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. The US has 18-Ohio class submarines.

A report comes over the COM that a missile is headed toward Hawaii, and then communications go dead, a not uncommon occurrence, according to Ellsberg. The captain of the Ohio-class sub knows he is not alone out there. Stalking him could be a Russian Yasen-class or Chinese Shang-class hunter-killer submarine. The US captain needs to make a decision: use them or lose them.

It doesn’t take a major crisis to touch off a nuclear war. Maybe things get a little out of hand between Indian and Chinese troops on a disputed Himalayan plateau. Maybe India employs its “cold start” strategy of a limited military incursion into Pakistan and some local Pakistani field officer panics and launches a tactical nuclear weapon. The recently released US “Nuclear Posture Review” posits using nuclear weapons in the case of a major cyber attack.

As Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons puts it, “Our extinction could be one insult away.”

Some 252 million years ago something catastrophic happened to the planet. A combination of massive volcanic activity, asteroid strikes, and the release of stored up carbon dioxide in the oceans killed 96 percent of life in the sea and 70 percent of land life. Called the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, it was the greatest die-off in our planet’s history.

Unless we get serious about abolishing nuclear weapons — something 122 nations voted to do last July — some unnamed captain in a submarine could do the same.

There are lots and lots and lots of buttons out there

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com andmiddleempireseries.wordpress.com

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

ACTION ALERT: New Trump Nuclear Policy Veers into Dangerous Territory

January 29th, 2018 - by admin

Martin Fleck / Physicians for Social Responsibility – 2018-01-29 23:07:04

http://www.psr.org/nuclear-weapons/blog/new-trump-nuke-policy-veers-dangerous-territory.html

New Trump Nuke Policy Veers into More Dangerous Territory
Martin Fleck / Physicians for Social Responsibility

(January 19, 2018) – Last week, a HuffPost reporter leaked a draft of the Trump administration’s new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR, which officially defines the role of US nuclear weapons, dangerously increases reliance on nuclear weapons rather than pursuing diplomacy to prevent conflict and move towards arms reductions. Help PSR hold our government accountable in calling this reckless policy unacceptable.

The near-final draft, leaked to HuffPost reporter Ashley Feinberg, highlights the core policy principles that will be embedded in the forthcoming official document. The official document is expected to be released on February 2, 2018. Here’s what we learned from the leaked draft:

1. The US will shift towards increased reliance on nuclear weapons.
The 2018 NPR augments the role of nuclear weapons in military plans. The document also loosens current restraints on the use of nuclear weapons by expanding the list of situations that could trigger their use. This is a significant departure from the Obama administration’s NPR, which included guidelines that the United States would pursue disarmament by working to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in military plans.

2. More usable “mini-nukes.”
The Trump administration’s NPR calls for the production of additional “tactical” low-yield nuclear weapons to provide the president with new nuclear attack options. Specific proposals are to develop a new sea-launched cruise missile and to equip some of the extremely accurate D-5 ballistic missiles carried by Trident submarines with a single low-yield (Hiroshima-sized) nuclear weapon.

During the presidential election campaign, Trump famously asked: “If you can’t use nuclear weapons, why do we have them?” The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrates that any use of nuclear weapons, no matter how small, could indiscriminately kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.

3. Unsurprisingly, a massive revamp of the entire US nuclear arsenal. The United States plans to enhance and upgrade the arsenal with new missiles, aircraft and submarines. This plan is estimated to cost $1.2 trillion over 30 years. Clearly, the creators of the NPR didn’t get the memo that a growing faction of the international community has declared nuclear weapons illegitimate and illegal.

On July 7, 2017, 122 nations voted to adopt the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. PSR and our partners at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), and the International Red Cross have also risen up and called for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

What You Can Do:
Ask your friends and colleagues to get involved. They can stay informed by signing up for PSR’s e-activist list.

Use our NPR talking points to write an op-ed or letter to the editor.

The State of the Union address on January 30 and anticipated release of the NPR on February 2 are both news opportunities that give us a chance to spread our message. (For tips on writing an effective letter to the editor, click here.)


PSR Nuclear Talking Points
Background:

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The United States will develop two types of “tactical” low-yield nuclear warheads.

The document claims that building smaller nuclear weapons (Hiroshima-sized) allows the United States to develop a more “credible deterrent” against Russia because smaller nuclear weapons are “more usable.” However, the United States already has low-yield nuclear weapons (air-launched cruise missiles and the B61 gravity bombs stationed in Europe).

The new low-yield warheads include: (1) a warhead for the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles and (2) a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.

The NPR expands the circumstances in which the United States might use its nuclear arsenal.

New circumstances include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties or aimed at critical infrastructure such as nuclear command and control sites.

This marks a break in policy from the Obama administration’s NPR, which stated that the United States wouldn’t threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NPR sidelines diplomacy and arms control treaties.

There is no mention of Article VI of the NPT in the entire document. The NPT legally obligates the United States to pursue nuclear disarmament.

The document criticizes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), calling it “unrealistic” and damaging to international security.

The United States will not submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for ratification.

Key Messages:
The draft NPR dangerously increases reliance on nuclear weapons while sidelining the diplomatic agreements that prevent conflict and keep us safe.

The document signals an increased role of nuclear weapons in military plans and lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons. The NPR fails to even reference Article VI of the NPT once in the 64-page document.

Ignoring the NPT and rejecting the TPNW shows that the United States is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the world by rejecting the diplomatic treaties that reduce nuclear weapons dangers. The international community (two-thirds of U.N. nations) have already voted in support of the TPNW, declaring nuclear weapons illegal.

The notion of building “more usable,” small nuclear weapons is abhorrent. Using nuclear weapons flattens cities, destroys populations, and causes long-term devastation to environmental health.

Hiroshima demonstrates that using a “small” nuclear weapon has devastating humanitarian consequences. A meaningful medical response would be impossible. An attack on any city would destroy hospitals and clinics, kill many of the city’s health professionals, wipe out medical supplies, and paralyze communication and transportation systems. At Hiroshima, 90 percent of physicians and nurses were killed or injured and 42 of the 45 hospitals were destroyed.

A “limited” nuclear war is an oxymoron. Any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic global health and environmental consequences. Scientific data shows that a regional nuclear war involving less than one percent of the global nuclear arsenal would be ecocidal and cause instant climate change. A nuclear war fought with low-yield nuclear weapons also risks escalating into a large-scale global conflict where higher-yield nuclear weapons are used.

Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms

January 28th, 2018 - by admin

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad / The New York Times – 2018-01-28 22:59:24

Pentagon Suggests Countering
Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad / The New York Times

WASHINGTON (January 16, 2018) — A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure, including what current and former government officials described as the most crippling kind of cyberattacks.

For decades, American presidents have threatened “first use” of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons.

The draft document, called the Nuclear Posture Review, was written at the Pentagon and is being reviewed by the White House. Its final release is expected in the coming weeks and represents a new look at the United States’ nuclear strategy. The draft was first published last week by HuffPost.

It called the strategic picture facing the United States quite bleak, citing not only Russian and Chinese nuclear advances but advances made by North Korea and, potentially, Iran.

“We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be,” the draft document said. The Trump administration’s new initiative, it continued, “realigns our nuclear policy with a realistic assessment of the threats we face today and the uncertainties regarding the future security environment.”

The Pentagon declined to comment on the draft assessment because Mr. Trump has not yet approved it. The White House also declined to comment.

But three current and former senior government officials said large cyberattacks against the United States and its interests would be included in the kinds of foreign aggression that could justify a nuclear response — though they stressed there would be other, more conventional options for retaliation. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the proposed policy.

Gary Samore, who was a top nuclear adviser to President Barack Obama, said much of the draft strategy “repeats the essential elements of Obama declaratory policy word for word” — including its declaration that the United States would “only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.”

But the biggest difference lies in new wording about what constitutes “extreme circumstances.”

In the Trump administration’s draft, those “circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.” It said that could include “attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”

The draft does not explicitly say that a crippling cyberattack against the United States would be among the extreme circumstances. But experts called a cyberattack one of the most efficient ways to paralyze systems like the power grid, cellphone networks and the backbone of the internet without using nuclear weapons.

“In 2001, we struggled with how to establish deterrence for terrorism because terrorists don’t have populations or territory to hold at risk. Cyber poses a similar quandary,” said Kori Schake, a senior National Security Council and State Department official during President George W. Bush’s administration, who is now the deputy director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

“So if cyber can cause physical malfunction of major infrastructure resulting in deaths,” Ms. Schake said, the Pentagon has now found a way “to establish a deterrent dynamic.”

The draft review also cites “particular concern” about “expanding threats in space and cyberspace” to the command-and-control systems of the American nuclear arsenal that the review identifies as a “legacy of the Cold War.” It was the latest warning in a growing chorus that the nuclear response networks could themselves be disabled or fed false data in a cyberattack.

So far, all of the United States’ leading adversaries — including Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — have stopped well short of the kind of cyberattacks that could prompt a larger, and more violent response.

The Russians have placed malware called “Black Energy” in American utility systems, but never tried to cause a major blackout. They have sent cable-cutting submarines along the path of undersea fiber optic lines that connect the continents, but not cut them. North Korea has attacked companies like Sony, and used cyberweapons to cause chaos in the British health care system, but never directly taken on the United States.

Still, the document recognizes that American, Russian and Chinese strategies have all been updated in recent years to reflect the reality that any conflict would begin with a lightning strike on space and communications systems. During the Obama administration, for example, a secret program, code-named “Nitro Zeus,” called for a blinding cyberattack on Iran in the event negotiations over its nuclear program failed and Washington found itself going to war with Tehran.

There are other differences with the Obama administration policy.

The draft strategy embraces the American production of a new generation of small, low-yield nuclear weapons — some of which were under development during the Obama administration. Some experts warn that such smaller weapons can blur the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, and, as a result, be more tempting to use.

And it states outright that Russia is testing its first autonomous nuclear torpedo, one that American officials believe would be guided largely by artificial intelligence to strike the United States even if communications with Moscow were terminated. It was Washington’s first public acknowledgment of such an undersea weapon, a prototype of which was first envisioned in the 1960s by Andrei Sakharov, the physicist who later ranked among the Soviet Union’s most famous dissidents.

The torpedo’s development was detected by the Obama administration and has been widely discussed in defense circles, but never publicly referred to by the Pentagon as a significant future threat.

Mr. Trump has rarely publicly criticized President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for Russia’s aggressions around the world. But the Pentagon document describes Moscow’s actions as so destabilizing that the United States may be forced to reverse Mr. Obama’s commitment to reduce the role and size of the American nuclear arsenal.

Russia is adopting “military strategies and capabilities that rely on nuclear escalation for their success,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in an introduction to the report. “These developments, coupled with Russia’s invasion of Crimea and nuclear threats against our allies, mark Moscow’s unabashed return to Great Power competition.”

In most cases, the Trump administration plan would simply move forward nuclear weapons that Mr. Obama had endorsed, such as a new generation of nuclear cruise missiles — low-flying weapons with stubby wings that, when dropped from a bomber, hug the ground to avoid enemy radars and air defenses.

But the strategy envisions other new nuclear weapons. The draft policy calls for “the rapid development” of a cruise missile to be fired from submarines. Mr. Obama had retired that class. It also calls for the development of a low-yield warhead for ballistic missiles fired from submarines.

It is relatively easy for presidents to change the country’s declaratory policy on the use of nuclear arms and quite difficult for them to reshape its nuclear arsenal, which takes not only vast sums of money but many years and sometimes decades of planning and implementation.

The price tag for a 30-year makeover of the United States’ nuclear arsenal was put last year at $1.2 trillion. Analysts said the expanded Trump administration plan would push the bill much higher, noting that firm estimates will have to wait until the proposed federal budget for the 2019 fiscal year is made public.

“Almost everything about this radical new policy will blur the line between nuclear and conventional,” said Andrew C. Weber, an assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration who directed an interagency panel that oversaw the country’s nuclear arsenal.

If adopted, he added, the new policy “will make nuclear war a lot more likely.”

One of the document’s edgiest conclusions involves the existence of a deadly new class of Russian nuclear torpedo — a cigar-shaped underwater missile meant to be fired from a submarine.

Torpedoes tipped with nuclear arms were common during the Cold War, with the Soviet Union pioneering the weapons and developing them most vigorously. One Soviet model had a range of miles and a large warhead.

Mr. Sakharov, a famous Russian dissident in the 1970s and 1980s, envisioned a giant torpedo able to travel several hundred miles and incur heavy casualties with a warhead thousands of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Though his vision was rejected at the time, the new review discloses that Moscow has resurrected a weapon along the same lines.

The document calls it “a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed undersea autonomous torpedo.” In a diagram labeled “New Nuclear Delivery Vehicles over the Past Decade,” it identifies the torpedo by its code name, Status-6.

News stories have reported the possible existence of such a weapon since at least 2015, but the document’s reference appears to be the first time the federal government has confirmed its existence. The long-range torpedo with a monster warhead is apparently meant to shower coastal regions with deadly radioactivity, leaving cities uninhabitable.

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

2017 Was the Hottest Year on Record for Oceans

January 28th, 2018 - by admin

Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch – 2018-01-28 22:36:06

https://www.ecowatch.com/ocean-heat-2017-2528900172.html

2017 Was the Hottest Year on Record for Oceans
Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch

(January 28, 2018) — Last year wasn’t just one of the hottest years on Earth’s surface, as it was the hottest year on record for the global ocean, according to a new study from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP)/Chinese Academy of Science.

Researchers Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu found that the top 2,000 meters of ocean waters are hotter than ever recorded, at 19.19 × 10^22 J. Heat energy is measured in Joules (J).

That’s quite the jump from 2015, the previous record-breaking year for ocean heat, which was recorded at 17.68 × 10^22 J.

“For comparison,” the study states, “total electricity generation in China in 2016 was 0.00216 × 10^22 J, which is 699 times smaller than the increase in ocean heat in 2017.”

Ocean heat in 2016 was cooler than both 2015 and 2017 due to a large El Nino event that year, which takes heat out of the ocean. As thermal sciences professor Dr. John Abraham explained in the Guardian, “During an El Nino, the Pacific Ocean tends to have very warm waters at the surface, which causes heat loss to the atmosphere (so the ocean cools and the atmosphere warms). Conversely, during a La Nina, the reverse process occurs.”

Despite the 2016 drop, the last five years were still the five warmest years in the ocean on record.

2017: 19.19 × 10^22 J

2015: 17.68 × 10^22 J

2016: 17.18 × 10^22 J

2014: 16.74 × 10^22 J

2013: 16.08 × 10^22 J

This chart makes the rise in ocean heat since the 1950s much more clear. SCROLL to view.

Change in global upper-level (0–2000 m) ocean heat content since 1958. Each bar shows the annual mean relative to a 1981–2010 baseline. The final bar on the right shows the 2017 value. Reliable ocean temperature records date back to 1958. IAP ocean analysis.

The study, published Friday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, determined that the increase in ocean heat content for 2017 occurred in most regions of the world, with the Atlantic and Southern oceans showing more warming than Pacific and Indian oceans.

The research highlights how measuring ocean heat is key to tracking the impacts of climate change:
“Owing to its large heat capacity, the ocean accumulates the warming derived from human activities; indeed, more than 90 percent of Earth’s residual heat related to global warming is absorbed by the ocean. As such, the global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming and is impacted less by weather-related noise and climate variability such as El Nino and La Nina events.

The year 2016 was cooler than both 2015 and 2017 owing to the huge El Nino, which took some of the heat out of the ocean. According to the IAP ocean analysis, the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean. Measurements of ocean heating are a more reliable indicator than atmospheric measurements for tracking the vital signs of the health of the planet.”

Abraham, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as “truly astonishing” and noted that the consequences of ocean heating could include declining oxygen levels in the oceans, coral bleaching, and the melting of sea ice and ice shelves that cause sea level rise.

“The consequences of this year-after-year-after-year warming have real impacts on humans,” Abraham said. “Fortunately, we know why the oceans are warming (because of human greenhouse gases), and we can do something about it. We can take action to reduce the heating of our planet by using energy more wisely and increasing the use of clean and renewable energy (like wind and solar power).”

The Chinese study underscores that how the oceans’ health — and the health of its creatures — are greatly impacted by human activities.

A separate paper published in Science this week showed that the millions of tons of plastic that we leach into our seas each year are literally poisoning and killing coral reefs.

“The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic,” the researchers reported.

The researchers estimated that more than 11 billion plastic items are currently littered in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region alone. If plastic consumption does not change, the total number could rise to 15.7 billion items by 2025.

“Plastic is one of the biggest threats in the ocean at the moment, I would say, apart from climate change,” Dr. Joleah Lamb of Cornell University said.

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

Heatwaves and Fires: Hell on Earth for Australia’s Wildlife

January 28th, 2018 - by admin

International Fund for Animal Wildlife & National Geographic & Nikkei Asian Review – 2018-01-28 22:26:05

https://www.ifaw.org/

It’s a Hell on Earth:
Intense heat wave wreaks
havoc on wildlife in New South Wales

International Fund for Animal Wildlife

(January 27, 2018) — After an intense heat wave in Australia which spiked past 117°F this month, the animal death toll in New South Wales is climbing.

Thousands of flying foxes have dropped from the sky and hundreds of egrets have abandoned their nests — leaving their babies orphaned, suffering from the extreme heat, and in desperate need of care . . .

We’re working with our local partners to save heat-stressed birds, flying foxes and joeys, and we’re rehabilitating them so that they can return to the wild where they belong.

We need your help to purchase food and lifesaving medical supplies so we can save these animals before it’s too late. These orphaned and suffering animals need you! We need you to help us save these animals and all the animals that need us.

You can help us provide these suffering animals with everything they urgently need: water spray kits to hydrate the animals, shade cloths to protect young birds vulnerable to heat stroke, and the food to nourish these animals through their recovery.

Making the need even more desperate, thousands of wild animals have suffered terrible burns and lost their homes after bushfires recently spread across parts of the New South Wales region.

The fires scorched their habitat — leaving these poor animals with nowhere to find relief. We’re aiding in the rescue of these animals and helping to nurse them through their recovery in the coming months.

As you may know, an unfortunate fact of a heat wave this severe is that this bushfire will not be the last threat to wildlife. Your donation can alleviate the pain and suffering of these animals.

Abby” and “Bailey” — pictured above — are the two adorable orphaned joeys our partner Hunter Wildlife Rescue saved from the bushfire. With the support of caring people like you, they can rebound from this tragedy and one day grow up to thrive in their natural environment.

Every individual animal we can save is critical — not just because it pains us to know a vulnerable animal is suffering, but also for the crucial role it plays in its environment.

But there’s more heat in the coming days. Hundreds more animals may collapse from heat exhaustion, suffer agonizing burns from the bushfire, and be brought to the brink of starvation as food sources are destroyed.

Anything you can donate today can help us care for animal victims of Australia’s heat wave and animals throughout the world.

Thank you for anything you can do to help.

International Fund for Animal Welfare | 290 Summer Street, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675 | USA. IFAW is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.


Bats Are Boiling Alive in Australia’s Heat Wave
Thousands could die from the summer heat,
wildlife conservation groups predict

Sarah Gibbens / National Geographic

Koalas are suddenly behaving strangely. Why?

(January 9, 2018) — While the Northern Hemisphere has been visited by a low-hanging polar vortex, blizzards, and wintry cyclones, the Southern Hemisphere is feeling some very different extremes.

Australia is experiencing nearly record high temperatures reaching just over 116 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s been so hot that asphalt melted on a stretch of highway, and local news outlets reported a surge in attendance at Australian beaches as residents struggle to escape dangers like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Australian wildlife has also been impacted by the intense heat.

According to conservation group Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, which operates just south of Sydney, more than 400 flying foxes from a local bat colony were found dead, possibly due to the heat. Pictures show rows of flying fox bodies collected from trees or where they were found after dropping to the ground.

Flying foxes are a type of large bat, and six species can be found in Australia. The Australian government officially lists one of those species as critically endangered and two others as vulnerable, while some species can be found in abundance and have at times been labeled a nuisance.

As a species, flying foxes help maintain a healthy ecosystem, because they are one of the country’s most active pollinators. It’s unclear if the die-off will impact their populations overall. But speaking with Australian TV station Sky News, a spokesperson from the Campbelltown group predicted that thousands could succumb to the heat before the summer’s end.

Kate Ryan, a Campbelltown flying fox colony manager, told local outlet Macarthur Advertiser hat the heat has deadly impacts on the animals’ brains. “It would be like standing in the middle of a sandpit with no shade,” she said of being a flying fox roosting in a tree.

Scott Heinrich, director of the Flying Fox Conservation Fund, says many flying foxes drop from trees because of dehydration. In 2014, the last time Australia experienced comparable temperatures, more than 45,000 flying foxes are estimated to have died from the heat.

“They can’t cool their body down at that point,” Heinrich says. “In a way, they’re kind of boiling in their bodies.”

The flying mammals aren’t the only Australian animals struggling with the heat. Wildlife groups have been actively spraying down koalas that are perched in trees. Koalas are easily startled by people, so the Melbourne-based Koala Clancy Foundation has been promoting a technique that entails spraying koalas from long distances with a specific type of quiet hose.

It’s unclear if any koalas have died in this heatwave, but the animals have increasingly struggled with hot, dry Australian summers, and some experts fear that climate change could exacerbate the problem.

Koalas primarily hydrate by eating water-filled eucalyptus leaves, and the trees are among their most important habitats. However, University of Sydney researchers concluded last March that hotter, drier conditions were drying out leaves and forcing koalas from trees.

“Increasing hot and dry conditions will mean more droughts and heat waves affecting the koalas’ habitat,” Valentina Mella, a University of Sydney postdoctoral researcher, said at the time.

In 2013, National Geographic pondered whether Australia was the face of climate change to come. The research that has since followed makes this prediction seem increasingly likely.

Australia released a State of the Climate report in 2016 that shows surface and ocean warming of a mean one degree Celsius in the country since 1910. The report also found that rainfall decreased by 19 percent since 1970 and extreme heatwaves had increased in both frequency and intensity.

Just last October, a study from the Australian National University in Canberra predicted that the country could see summer temperatures reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040.

In addition to the animals taken in by wildlife officials, Australian residents have posted comments on the rescue groups’ update posts claiming that kookaburras and pygmy possums were observed drinking from backyard birdbaths or hiding under homes for shade. Animals are also susceptible to burning their paws if they walk on hot asphalt.

The wildlife rescue group Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service has a tip sheet for how to identify heat exhaustion in various species of animals.


Wildlife Bears the Brunt of Australia’s ‘Angry Summer’
Flying foxes, loggerhead turtles
among animals dying amid extreme heat

Sian Powell / Nikkei Asian Review

SYDNEY (April 6, 2017) — Record-breaking summer heat waves in recent months have left Australians sweating and uncomfortable and killed thousands of animals, graphically illustrating the dangers that climate change poses to the world’s driest inhabited continent.

With temperatures topping 42 C along the country’s eastern seaboard, thousands of indigenous flying foxes have been dropping out of their trees, dead or severely distressed. In Queensland, loggerhead turtle hatchlings have been cooked in their shells while trying to reach the ocean across ferociously hot sand.

Wild animals ranging from possums to snakes were forced into aberrant behavior along the New South Wales coast, searching for refuge from the heat inside houses and garages. Koalas came down from their perches in eucalyptus trees to find water.

Dubbed the “angry summer” by the Climate Council of Australia, the season saw more than 200 record-breaking extreme weather events driven by climate change, according to the council’s latest report, published on March 7.

The report, Angry Summer 2016/17: Climate Change Supercharging Extreme Weather, shows that summer temperatures soared to unprecedented heights in many parts of Australia, with some state capitals, including Sydney and Brisbane, experiencing their hottest summers on record.

Horse races, football matches and other sporting fixtures were canceled or postponed, and people were warned to keep children and pets as cool as possible. On the hottest days, residents in many areas were warned of power blackouts and asked to increase the temperature targets for their air conditioners and fridges to reduce electricity demand.

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a senior research associate with the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said that comparisons of climate modeling exercises including and excluding the impact of human activities showed that Australia, the driest continent after Antarctica, will get even hotter, and that humans were at least partly responsible for this warming

“What I can tell you for certain is that heat waves will increase in the future, particularly in their frequency. That’s pretty much standard everywhere,” Perkins-Kirkpatrick told the Nikkei Asian Review. “Heat waves will also increase in their intensity, but by far the biggest signal is the change in frequency,” she said.

Increased heat wave frequency is a global phenomenon, Perkins-Kirkpatrick said, adding that the tropics will be hit harder than temperate zones. That is of increasing concern to health professionals in tropical and near-tropical Australia, where excessive heat is known as the “silent killer” because human deaths often occur a day or two after temperature spikes and are frequently recorded as being due to heart or renal failure.

“I know health researchers are really concerned, they’re really advocating for more to be done, more research to be done, more implementation to be done,” Perkins-Kirkpatrick said.

DISAPPEARING SPECIES
A review of Australia’s environment, published on March 7, found that the effects of climate change are increasing and that in certain cases the changes may be irreversible.

The State of the Environment report, produced every five years for the Australian government by a team of independent experts, found that both air and sea temperatures were rising, with often disastrous results on animal life. The global warming effects included coral bleaching, which has damaged the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

The report also pointed to likely species extinctions due to climate change — including the Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), a rodent, and the Christmas Island forest skink (Emoia nativitatis), a lizard.

Grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus), a large, fruit-eating bat with a maximum recorded wingspan of 1.5 meters, were the most visibly affected by the brutal temperatures of the recent heat waves, falling like rotten fruit out of trees in many parts of Australia.

These flying foxes died from the brutal heat. (Photo by AJ Caruana, courtesy of WIRES)

Kristie Harris, rescue office manager at the New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service, said she had received a deluge of phone calls from people wanting to aid the stricken bats. She estimated that thousands of the flying foxes had died from the heat.

“On the really hot days in December and January, there were a couple of events where they have literally been falling out of the trees in their colonies, found by the hundreds or even a thousand at a time, dead or in severe distress,” she said.

Flying foxes can usually cope with temperatures up to 42 C by flapping their wings, licking themselves and panting, Harris said. But anything higher than that will likely be fatal. While the grey-headed flying fox is not considered to be endangered, Harris said the summer heat had taken an enormous toll on the giant bats and warned that it would take a long time for colonies to recover.

“That sort of heat affects a huge variety of animals,” she said. “Birds are affected enormously — raptors (birds of prey), reptiles and small mammals like possums.”

Turtle hatchlings, too, struggled to make it across scorching-hot sands to the sea during the temperature spikes. Many hundreds died on the sands of Mon Repos beach in southern Queensland, the most important breeding site in the South Pacific for loggerhead turtles.

A broad-scale analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that climate change has already had a particularly damaging effect on endangered mammals and birds, including about half of mammal species and a quarter of bird species on the endangered “red list” kept by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The analysis, which reviewed 130 research papers, found that the range of animals now affected by climate change was extensive, including wildlife on every continent, according to James Watson, an Australian naturalist from the University of Queensland who contributed to the review. “We found things that had limited ranges and specialized diets really were the ones that were suffering, more than generalist species,” Watson said.

He and his colleagues found that about 700 bird and animal species were affected by global warming, including eastern gorillas, snow leopards and all species of elephants. Animals that reproduce at a slower rate, including marsupials, have more difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing environment.

Watson said it is time for national leaders to take action to protect the world’s fauna with a focus on saving the “last best bits of the wild,” rather than degraded environments and imperiled species. Most important, he warned, action should be taken sooner rather than later.

“We can’t just say, okay, it’s going to happen in the future and we have other priorities,” he said. “Policy leaders need to realize that the decisions we make now will lessen climate change impacts in the future.”

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

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