The Invisible Rainbow of Electromagnetic Radiation Arthur Firstenberg / Global Union
Against Radiation Deployment from Space (GUARDS)
(May 14, 2018) — The Earth needs your help. Now.
Many are the assaults on our planet. The oceans — Jacques Cousteau said it already in 1970 — are dying. The majestic wilderness is no more. The very oxygen we breathe is being converted to carbon dioxide.
Others are wrestling with those problems, and they are not going to be solved overnight. But there is one that must be: we must leave space alone.
On March 29, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission gave its approval to SpaceX’s plan to launch an unprecedented 4,425 satellites into low orbit around the Earth. And that’s only the beginning. SpaceX has applied to the FCC to increase the number of satellites to 12,000 in order to provide “ultrafast, lag-free Internet” to every square inch of the earth. 5G from space.
SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, has announced his intention to begin launches in 2019, to begin operating as soon as he has about 100 satellites in orbit, and to have at least 800 satellites up and running by 2020. The name of SpaceX’s project is “Starlink.”
The global electrical circuit, which sustains all life, is about to be seriously disturbed unless we act.
In 1997, in my first book, Microwaving Our Planet, in the last chapter, titled “The Danger from Satellites,” I wrote: “The proliferation of satellites we are about to witness — unless this world wakes up soon — is mind boggling, and nobody seems to have considered that popping thousands of them up there like so much confetti might have consequences for our atmosphere and our climate.”
I wrote about the expected ozone loss; the destruction of the Van Allen belts; global warming from the addition of water vapor to the stratosphere; toxic wastes; groundwater pollution; space junk; microwave radiation; and the vandalism of the night sky. My 1997 book is posted here, courtesy of the Spanish website AVAATE, one of the best websites on this issue:
A year later the radiation problem asserted itself. On September 23, 1998, the world’s first satellite phones became operational. Service was provided by 66 satellites in low orbit around the Earth, launched by the Iridium Corporation. They unleashed a new kind of rain that turned the sky red and emptied it of birds for a couple of weeks.
A six-nation telephone survey was done of electrically sensitive people, support groups, and nurses and physicians serving this population. The results: 86% of electrically sensitive people and a majority of patients and support group members became ill on Wednesday, September 23 exactly, with typical symptoms of electrical illness including headaches, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, nosebleeds, heart palpitations, asthma attacks, ringing in the ears, etc.
Follow-ups revealed that some of these people were acutely ill for up to three weeks. Some were so sick they weren’t sure they would live.
In the United States the national death rate rose by 4% to 5% for two weeks. During those two weeks, very few birds were seen in the sky and thousands of homing pigeons failed to return home in pigeon races throughout much of the country. This was all documented in No Place to Hide, Vol. 2, No. 1, Feb. 1999, pp. 3-4.
The second satellite service, Globalstar, began commercial service on Monday, February 28, 2000. Widespread reports of nausea, headaches, leg pain, respiratory problems, depression, and lack of energy began on Friday, February 25, the previous business day, and came from people both with and without electrical sensitivity. See No Place to Hide, Vol. 2, No. 3, March 2000, p. 18.
Iridium, which had gone bankrupt in the summer of 1999, was resurrected by a contract with the United States Armed Forces. On March 30, 2001, commercial service resumed. Again the sky turned red. Again came reports of nausea, flu-like illness and feelings of oppression. But the events that made the news were catastrophic losses of racehorse foals that were reported throughout the United States and as far away as Peru.
On June 5, 2001, Iridium added data and Internet to its satellite phone service. Again came widespread reports of nausea, flu-like illness and oppression, and this time also hoarseness. See No Place to Hide, Vol. 3, No. 2, Nov. 2001, p. 15.
Between 2001 and now, our skies have not essentially changed. Iridium and Globalstar, operating 66 and 40 satellites respectively, are still the only providers of satellite phones. The amount of data raining on us all from space is still dominated by those two fleets.
The predicted fleets of thousands of satellites have not materialized. But they are about to now, unless we stop them. Everything we know and love is at stake — not just hawks and geese, pigeons and race horses, not just the human race, but life itself. This is a mortal threat not just to our children and grandchildren, but to all of us, immediately, within two years.
The biggest threats are from Boeing, OneWeb, and SpaceX, all of which have similar applications before the FCC. SpaceX’s 12,000 satellites will operate in two constellations, at 700 miles and 210 miles in altitude. They will operate at millimeter wave frequencies and they will be phased arrays.
Each satellite will have thousands of antenna elements that will aim focused, steerable beams at any desired point on the surface of the earth. Each beam from the 4,425 satellites already approved at the 700-mile height would have a maximum effective radiated power of up to 8,800 watts.
The revised application for 12,000 satellites is requesting an increase to 5,000,000 watts per beam (for the upper constellation of 4,425 satellites) and 500,000 watts per beam (for the lower constellation of 7,518 satellites). The satellites will communicate both with individual users and with gateway earth stations, of which there will be several hundred just in the United States.
OneWeb’s founder and Executive Chairman is Greg Wyler. So far, OneWeb has applied to the FCC for only 4,540 satellites, but it is partnering with Airbus, which will build the satellites; Blue Origin, a subsidiary of Amazon, which will provide the rockets; and Virgin Galactic, which will launch them.
Its investors include Qualcomm, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat of Luxembourg, Marker LLC of Israel, Grupo Salinas of Mexico, SoftBank of Japan, Bharti Enterprises of India, and Coca-Cola.
It received a license from the FCC for 720 low-orbit satellites in June 2017, but has already sold most of their capacity to Honeywell and other companies. Honeywell plans to use satellite transmissions to supply fast Internet to business, commercial, and military aircraft worldwide.
On January 4, 2018 OneWeb filed an application for an additional fleet of 2,560 medium-orbit satellites, and on March 19, 2018 it filed an application for 1,260 additional low-orbit satellites. It is now touting its enterprise as an essential element of the worldwide rollout of 5G technology.
Like SpaceX, OneWeb’s satellites will have antennas in phased arrays and use the millimeter wave spectrum. Their maximum effective power will be 6,000 watts. OneWeb intends to launch 36 satellites every 21 days beginning in the last quarter of 2018, and to begin service with the first few hundred satellites in 2019.
Boeing, which has its own plans for a fleet of 2,956 low-orbit satellites, and already has FCC approval for them, may now be backing OneWeb. In December, Boeing asked permission from the FCC to transfer its license for the 2,956 satellites to a company named SOM1101 LLC. Greg Wyler, the founder of OneWeb, is the sole owner of SOM1101.
A fourth company, Telesat Canada, was granted an FCC license on November 3, 2017. It plans to have a minimum of 117 satellites up and running by 2021. It intends to add satellites “as needed” to increase capacity. These satellites will also be phased arrays and they will also be for global internet to “unserved and underserved” communities, businesses, governments and individuals. They will have a maximum effective power of 8,000 watts.
Iridium, in an effort to compete with all these new companies, is presently in process of replacing its original fleet with a new fleet of 66 satellites called Iridium Next that will offer additional services.
These five companies together have approved and pending applications before the FCC for almost 20,000 low and medium orbit satellites to provide Internet to the world from space.
If 66 satellites providing only voice communication caused widespread illness and mortality among birds, horses, and people, what will a 20,000-satellite Internet-in-the-Sky do to us all?
The Way to Understanding
The original Iridium satellites were (and are still) at 1,000 watts of effective power and 483 miles in altitude. They are spread out around the Earth so that only one satellite is above any given point on the earth at any time. If a 1,000-watt tower were to be placed on a mountaintop that was 483 miles from the nearest person, no one would be alarmed.
Why, then, worry about satellites in space? Five million watts is a lot scarier, but even a 5-million-watt beam from 700 miles away will produce a power level of only 13 picowatts (trillionths of a watt) per square centimeter on the ground, a level that is far below the levels most of us are exposed to already from WiFi, cell phones, and cell towers.
The answer has to do with what atmospheric physicists call the global electrical circuit, and with what Chinese medicine calls qi. Electricity is not only something “out there” that powers our lights and machinery, it is the force that orchestrates growth and healing and keeps us alive.
The global electrical circuit flows through the earth, up to the sky in thunderstorms, through the ionosphere, and back down to earth through the atmosphere and through our bodies. The current enters our bodies through the top of our head, circulates through our acupuncture meridians, and reenters the earth through our feet. In addition to direct current, it contains 8 Hz, 14 Hz, 20 Hz, 26 Hz, and 33 Hz components.
These ELF frequencies are the Schumann resonances, and are identical to the brain wave frequencies of every animal. It also contains VLF frequencies. These are generated by lightning, vary seasonally, and regulate our annual biorhythms. We pollute this circuit at our peril.
From The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life (2017), Chapter 9, “Earth’s Electric Envelope”
The strength of the atmospheric electrical current is between 1 and 10 picoamperes (trillionths of an ampere) per square meter. Dr. Robert Becker found that 1 picoampere is all the current that is necessary to stimulate healing in frogs. (R.O. Becker and G. Selden, The Body Electric, New York: Morrow 1985, p. 142; R.O. Becker and A.A. Marino, Electromagnetism and Life, Albany: State University of New York Press 1982, pp. 49-51). It is these tiny currents that keep us alive and healthy.
The experiences of astronauts are a clue to the importance of the global electrical circuit to terrestrial life. The International Space Station is not completely outside of it; the Schuman resonances are clearly detectable even at that altitude, but they are greatly diminished. In the Space Station, astronauts’ circadian rhythms are disrupted. See John R. Ball and Charles H. Evans, Jr., editors, Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions, National Academies Press 2001. A
nd Russian authors have noted that “a decrease in all physiological processes” occurs during space missions and that these changes are “identical to those that occur during the process of aging on Earth.” (Irina M. Lirina et al., “Protein expression changes caused by spaceflight as measured for 18 Russian cosmonauts,” Nature, Scientific Reports 7:8142 (2017)). It is doubtful that human beings could long survive if completely removed electrically from Earth, for example in a colony on Mars such as Elon Musk is also contemplating.
Power Line Harmonic Radiation
Another piece of the puzzle is provided by research that has been done at Stanford University and elsewhere on the properties of the ionosphere and magnetosphere — the regions of space hundreds to thousands of miles above our heads that contain mostly electrons, protons, and other electrically charged ions.
It was discovered more than forty years ago that ELF and VLF radiation from all of the power lines on earth is reaching the ionosphere, and the magnetosphere above it, where it is being amplified up to one hundred thousand-fold by interaction with electrons.
As a result, the earth’s electromagnetic environment has been changed. The behavior of the magnetosphere, the structure of the Van Allen belts, the values of the Schumann resonances, and even the weather here on earth, have been altered. This phenomenon is called “power line harmonic radiation.”
It was further discovered that the radiation from VLF radio stations is also amplified tremendously in the magnetosphere — so much so that a radio signal of 0.5 watts sent from an antenna in Antarctica can be detected by a receiver in northern Quebec.
Dirty Electricity on the Global Circuit
What does this have to do with SpaceX and OneWeb? Or, to rephrase the question, if a single half-watt radio station broadcasting from the earth has a measurable effect on the magnetosphere, what effect will 20,000 satellites, some located directly in the ionosphere and some directly in the magnetosphere, each blasting out up to five million watts — what effect will that have on life below?
The answer has to do with the fact that the satellite signals — like all wireless signals today — will be pulsed at ELF and VLF frequencies. That is how the data will be sent. Like an AM radio, the ionosphere and magnetosphere will demodulate, or extract, the ELF and VLF components, and then amplify them tremendously.
Until now, nobody has looked for these effects from satellites. But a Stanford physicist with whom I have been corresponding explained why this could happen and showed me how to estimate the minimum power level that would be necessary.
Iridium had enough power, and the new satellites will have more than enough power: as a rough estimate, the five-million-watt SpaceX beams will contain enough energy up to a distance of 135 miles from each satellite for their ELF/VLF components to be demodulated by the ionospheric plasma and then amplified in the magnetosphere.
The result is similar to how dirty electricity gets onto house wiring. All of the electronic equipment — dimmer switches, fluorescent lamps, computers, cell phone chargers, etc. — that are plugged into our walls, produce electronic noise that travels on the wiring, radiates into our homes, and makes us sick.
Except that now the dirty electricity will get onto our bodies’ wiring. The noise from 20,000 satellites that are plugged into the ionosphere will pollute the global electrical circuit that we are all plugged into. It will kill us and it must be stopped.
It is not only the number of satellites but the number of customers they will serve that is the problem. A cell tower is more harmful than a radio station because instead of emitting just one signal it emits hundreds. Iridium is so impactful not only because it has 66 satellites but because it serves more than a million customers.
Because of Iridium and Globalstar, standing barefoot on the earth is no longer as healthful and invigorating as it once was, anywhere on the planet. Grounding yourself increases the flow of qi through your body, but the qi now has electronic noise on it. SpaceX’s initial goal is to sign up 40 million subscribers.
If OneWeb signs up another 40 million, and one-tenth of the subscribers are online at any given time, electronic noise from an additional 8,000,000 signals, to start with, will pollute the global circuit.
There are other serious environmental impacts from the intensive use of space, some of which I outlined in my first book. For example, the rockets of both SpaceX and OneWeb will burn kerosene. Burning kerosene in space produces prodigious amounts of black soot, which accumulates in the stratosphere.
Black carbon absorbs so much solar energy that its contribution to global warming is two million times greater per unit mass than carbon dioxide. Just 35 launches of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket per year would produce an amount of warming roughly equal to the amount of warming produced in a year by the world’s one billion cars.
I am extrapolating from the estimates of Martin Ross of the Aerospace Corporation, which were made in 2012 when there were 25 launches per year of much smaller kerosene-burning rockets. (M. N. Ross and P. M. Sheaffer, “Radiative forcing caused by rocket engine emissions,” Earth’s Future 2: 177-196 (2014)).
As Ross points out, the problem of black soot could be solved, or at least reduced, by using a different type of fuel. The radiation problem, however, by definition cannot be solved, because the radiation is the product.
The decision-makers and investors in these companies must be made to understand that they are playing with fire, and that what they are planning to do within the next two years will have fatal consequences.
The key players are: Chief Officers
Elon Musk, CEO — Bel Air, CA
Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO — Rolling Hills Estates, CA
Bret Johnson, CFO — Los Angeles area
Board of Directors
David S. Kidder, CEO of Bionic Solutions — Rye, NY
Luke Nosek, founder and partner of Gigafund — San Francisco, CA
Antonio Gracias, founder, Valor Equity Partners — Chicago, IL
Donald Harrison, Google’s vice president
for corporate development — Mountain View, CA
Kimbal Musk (Elon’s younger brother) — Boulder, CO
Barry Schuler, advisor — Napa, CA
Fidelity Investments (Abigail Johnson, CEO) — Boston, MA
Google ($900 million)
Nihal Mehta, founding partner of Eniac Ventures — New York, NY
Bracket Capital (Yalda Aoukar, CEO) — London
Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat — Luxembourg
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon — Medina, WA
Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Galactic — British Virgin Islands
Sunil Mittal, CEO of Bharti Enterprises — New Delhi, India
Dean Manson, Executive VP, Echo Star — Englewood, CO
Owner of Satellite License
Boeing (Dennis Muilenburg, CEO) — (Collinsville, IL)
All these people have families and children and have a stake in the future of the Earth. Some — for example, Kimbal Musk and his wife, Christiana — are long-time advocates for the environment and investors in environmental causes.
Please contact me if you want to help. What is needed is a team of dedicated people who can raise funds, mobilize scientists, petition governments, and call and meet with environmental organizations.
Also please contact me if you know any of the gentlemen or ladies I have listed above, or if you know someone who can get us an audience with one of them. All we need is one. An opening into that community of billionaires, to begin a dialogue that will save this planet.
Arthur Firstenberg, for Global Union Against Radiation Deployment from Space (GUARDS). (505) 471-0129
The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life Book Review by Jennifer Wood
The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life, by Arthur Firstenberg, is not only a marvelous opus. It is one of those once-in-a-millennium books that turn into classics.
Easy to read, hard to put down, sublimely poetic and scientifically rigorous, with a bibliography almost one-third the size of the book itself, this is a history of electricity which has never been told. It’s not only that it has been written from an environmental and biological point of view; nor that it’s mostly unspoken reverence for life is so understated that its power is hard to resist.
In the end, the power of this book lies in the meticulous care with which the author has done his research, corroborated his data and revealed his stunning findings.
We rediscover not only the ancient Chinese Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine but western doctors and scientists from the 1700s to the present day: what they’ve had to say about electricity, how it has been harnessed, and which direction it has taken in the west and in the east.
We meet Yuri Grigoriev, first assigned to research the biological effects of atomic weapons at the Institute of Biophysics in the former Soviet Union before going on to write a book about the dangers of microwave radiation from cell phone use; Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtalnd, three-time Prime Minister of Norway and former head of the World Health Organization who banned cell phones from her office for health reasons; and Dr. Samuel Milham, who showed that rural electrification caused a shocking increase in cancer rates during the 1950s.
In light of imminent plans to bring us all 5G cell phone technology on the ground and to launch thousands of satellites into space to provide wireless Internet on a global scale, The Invisible Rainbow could not have arrived at a better time.
Expecting to read about the groundbreaking work on the bioeffects of non-inonizing radiation by scientists like Martin Blank, author of Overpowered, I instead found new, comprehensive, and thoroughly documented information dating back to the 1700s.
Prior to 1889, for example, we learn that influenza epidemics occurred not annually but years or decades apart and were highly correlated with sunspots, and that the 1889 pandemic of influenza, which altered that pattern occurred in the exact year the widespread use of alternating current began.
“In that year exactly,” Firstenberg writes, “the natural magnetic activity of the earth began to be suppressed.” The earth’s magnetic field now bore, for the first time in history, the imprint of power line frequencies and their harmonics. The marvelous harnessing of electricity for humans had begun but it had a byproduct: certain precautionary measures could perhaps have been taken but were not. Each step in that development had important consequences.
I found the story of influenza particularly riveting. We go on to learn that in 1918, the radio era began, ushered in by the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. The radar era, we learn, began in 1957 with the building of hundreds of powerful radar stations in the northern hemisphere “hurling millions of watts of microwave energy skyward;” low-frequency components of these waves rode on magnetic field lines to the southern hemisphere as well.
The radar era was ushered in by the Asian Flu pandemic of 1957. In 1968, we learn the satellite era began with the launch of dozens of satellites “with relatively weak broadcast power but since they were already up in the magnetosphere they had as big an effect on it as the small amount of radiation that had managed to enter it from sources on the ground.” The satellite era was ushered in by the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic.
At the end of the twentieth century came the beginning of the wireless era and the establishment of the High Frequency Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Firstenberg describes the environmental effects of these two technological developments in depth. He brings together history, epidemiology, and cutting edge science, but he does much more. He goes to the heart of his subject, documenting the path that led to the public health crises we are facing today.
Brilliantly researched, The Invisible Rainbow explains why cancer, diabetes and heart disease rose from their previous rarity to become major killers of humanity, painting a vivid picture of what is happening at the cellular level in terms everyone can understand.
The author is uniquely situated to write such a book, perhaps by temperament, certainly by education, fate and circumstance. A top student whose medical career was cut short by injury from x-ray overdose, the author experienced firsthand, in the early 1980s, the effects of radiation poisoning, and experienced them again in 1996 with the advent of widespread commercial cell phone use. He was not alone. As he has carefully documented, millions of people were affected.
Firstenberg writes with a passion and tenacity that only a man with his particular background could summon. This is science at its best, supported by an untold personal story that few of us know or could imagine. That Firstenberg could write such a remarkable book under the appalling conditions in which he has lived for over three decades is astounding.
Rarely do we see such an unusual and integrated work of both art and science, augmented with tables, line graphs, historic etchings and contemporary photographs. Centuries of forgotten knowledge and the careers of important scientists — from Isaac Newton to Luigi Galvani to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi to Robert Becker — are woven into an unforgettable story.
The story of electricity and its previously ignored effects on humans, plants, animals and the earth’s magnetosphere open the door to a better, more informed future. Despite thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies, much of the population is presently unaware of this issue.
This book is an awakening: perhaps the equivalent to the Yellow Emperor’s Classic for our age of electricity. Buy the book and read it. You just might come to realize that your life and the life of our planet are literally, if invisibly at stake. Gaining knowledge is humanity’s first step toward taking preventative measures. The Invisible Rainbow has made not only the path behind us much more visible, but also the one ahead.
* * * Jennifer Wood is an architect who has lived and worked throughout the world. In 1996, she experienced radiation poisoning resulting from over-exposure to widespread commercial cell phone use and other forms of wireless technology while writing a long novel that attracted the attention of the film director, Oliver Stone.
After three near-bouts with death, and weighing 77 pounds, she was forced to move to the National Radio Quiet Zone in Green Bank, West Virginia. Exiled in the forest, she built her own tiny, non-electric cabin, solo, by hand. Away from power lines, WiFi and cell phone radiation, she regained much of her health and began researching numerous scientific studies in depth, becoming an environmental health advocate.
She has been filmed and interviewed by Time Magazine, Werner Herzog, Russia Today and over 80 other international journalists and filmmakers at her cabin and in Washington DC where she initiated and co-organized a protest at the Supreme Court in 2017.
Jennifer is the originator of the GROW Village for Refuge from EMR, a concept which is yet to be realized in the wake of total global WiFi currently being built and deployed from space, leaving no square inch of earth uncovered by microwave/RF radiation.
Much of the media has censored, or omitted the many scientific facts related to EMR that she has continued to relay to the public. Jennifer is also the author of Fighting Faustian Fission, the story of an elderly police officer who helped shut down New York’s Shoreham nuclear power plant before it opened commercially in New York.
Her shorter writings include The Canaries, An Afterward for a photography book on environmental illness and exile. (Thilde Jenson, Lena Publications) and Deep in the Dream of Time (Adams Media Publications) under the pen name Langley. email@example.com
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Congress Targets Election Winners in Iraq Bryant Harris / Al-Monitor
(May 30, 2018) — As parliamentarians in Baghdad work to form a new governing coalition in the wake of this month’s elections, their counterparts in Washington are seeking to sanction more than a dozen of the Iraqi legislators over their links to Iran.
The House of Representatives unanimously voted last week on legislation requiring President Donald Trump to sanction “persons that are officials, agents, affiliates of or owned and controlled by” two prominent Iran-backed militias that operate in Iraq and Syria.
The amendment from Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, to a must-pass annual defense authorization bill targets Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, both of which are part of the Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units battling the Islamic State.
Both militias joined with other Iran-backed military forces as part of the Fatah, or Conquest, political coalition, which came in second in the May 12 elections with 47 out of 329 parliamentary seats. Asaib Ahl al-Haq won 14 of those 47 seats, according to Iraq analyst Kirk Sowell, while Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba did not field any candidates.
“The US Department of Treasury will ultimately determine if the political wing constitutes an affiliate or entity controlled by” Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Poe aide told Al-Monitor. “Congressman Poe believes [Asaib Ahl al-Haq] will likely be subject to these penalties unless it completely breaks all ties with the armed wing, renounces violence and acts solely as [an] Iraqi political party with no backing from Iran.”
“Political parties are about engaging in peaceful civil discourse, not about representing armed thugs who commit violent atrocities to achieve political ends,” the aide added.
The Trump administration has taken an increasingly hawkish approach to Iran following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal earlier this month, vowing to go after Iran’s proxies throughout the region.
If it so chooses, however, the administration has some wiggle room to avoid sanctioning the 14 new Asaib Ahl al-Haq lawmakers as Iraqi law requires political parties to formally separate themselves from the militias. However, the parties retain the same names as their respective militias and Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s leader, Qais al-Khazali, has landed a seat in parliament.
‘s inquiries about its positions on the provision.
After Poe introduced similar legislation last year, a Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba spokesman denounced the bill as a “conspiracy and victory for the Islamic State and all other terrorist organizations supported by Washington.”
Despite the conspiratorial rhetoric, both the Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militias formed an alliance of convenience with the United States during the fight against the Islamic State.
Previously, both groups had battled US forces following the 2003 invasion of Iraq with the backing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The United States has sanctioned the leader of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, Akram al-Kaabi, since 2008.
Despite Washington’s fear of growing Iranian influence in Iraq, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s nationalist Sairoon Alliance won the most seats. He is now working with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Nasr (Victory) coalition in an attempt to establish a new government, even as disgruntled parties are demanding a recount.
While Sadr previously directed the Mahdi Army against US troops following the 2003 invasion, he is also critical of Iranian influence in Iraq. This has prompted IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani to coordinate with pro-Tehran parties in Baghdad as a bulwark against Sadr.
Other than potential sanctions on the 14 Iraqi parliamentarians, it remains unclear how much of an impact such measures would actually have on Washington’s ability to do business with Baghdad as Iraqi politicians attempt to create a new coalition.
“The most meaningful impact of sanctions like these is often less on the direct targets and more on their environment,” Nathaniel Rabkin, the managing editor of the newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics, told Al-Monitor. “The more Iraqi entities and persons you sanction, the more US businesses will be cautious about doing business in Iraq more generally and the more carefully they’ll be vetting Iraqi partners.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced its own draft of the annual defense bill last week, but has not publicly released the text.
Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor‘s congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. On Twitter: @brykharris_ALM, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
House: No Authorization for US to Attack Iran
Amendment included in House version of NDAA Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 25, 2018) â€“ Passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019, which itself passed the House on Thursday, warns the Trump Administration that they have no legal authorization for a military attack on Iran.
The amendment was offered by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and was very simply worded. It simply declares that it is the sense of Congress that neither the NDAA nor any other act authorizes the use of military force agaist Iran.
The amendment became particularly important after President Trump withdrew the US from the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran. Analysts have warned that this move, followed by a litany of demands from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was setting the stage for a US war.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said the amendment sends a clear message to the Trump Administration that “Congress has the power to decide issues of war and peace.” Whether this remains in the final version of the NDAA remains to be seen.
The Senate version does not appear to contain a comparable amendment, and that means it is possible that the final reconciled House and Senate version of the NDAA might remove this language. Given a number of outspoken hawks and a unanimous vote, it seems likely many are expecting this amendment won’t survive the final bill.
US House Makes Clear That There Is
No Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iran Press Release
A bipartisan amendment introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and cosponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) passed the US House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019
WASHINGTON (May 24, 2018) — On Tuesday night, the House unanimously passed an amendment making clear Congress’s position that no law exists which gives the President power to launch a military strike against Iran. Today, that amendment passed the US House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019.
“The unanimous passage of this bipartisan amendment is a strong and timely counter to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and its increasingly hostile rhetoric,” Rep. Ellison said. “This amendment sends a powerful message that the American people and Members of Congress do not want a war with Iran. Today, Congress acted to reclaim its authority over the use of military force.”
“I am pleased with the inclusion of this amendment, which clarifies that the President does not have the authority to go to war with Iran,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Just weeks after President Trump shamefully pulled out of the Iran Deal, it is more important than ever to ensure diplomacy with Iran and in the region. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important amendment and will do everything in my power to ensure we do not go to war with Iran.”
“The War Powers Act and Constitution is clear that our country’s military action must first always be authorized by Congress. A war with Iran would be unconstitutional and costly. The unanimous passage of Rep. Ellison’s amendment sends a strong message to Secretary Pompeo, National Security Advisor Bolton, and the Trump administration that Congress has the power to decide issues of war and peace,” said Rep. Khanna.
“This amendment’s historic passage affirms the fact that the American people do not want to go to war with Iran. Following the President’s misguided withdrawal from the JCPOA, the House of Representatives sent a clear message by passing this amendment unanimously: unauthorized war with Iran is not an option. The President must listen to the American people and return to diplomacy as the primary solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” said Rep. Schakowsky.
“Congress is sending a clear message that President Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran,” Rep. McGovern said. “With President Trump’s reckless violation of the Iran Deal and failure to get Congressional approval for military strikes on Syria, there’s never been a more important time for Congress to reassert its authority. It’s long past time to end the White House’s blank check on war and the passage of this amendment is a strong start.”
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Harvard Study On Puerto Rico Is Devastating For
More Reasons Than The Alarmingly High Death Toll Carolina Moreno / Huffington Post
(May 29, 2018) — Puerto Rico’s death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is estimated to be almost 5,000, according to a Harvard study published Tuesday. Data from this large-scale survey also revealed some sobering information about what life has been like for those trying to manage their health on the island in the wake of the storm.
The study, which surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households in Puerto Rico over three weeks, found that from Sept. 20 to Dec. 31, 2017, at least 4,645 people died in connection to the storm. The government’s death toll is 64.
Dr. Satchit Balsari, one of the researchers for the study, explained the importance of having an accurate death count not only because of its financial ramifications but also because it gives families a sense of closure. “It’s important to acknowledge what happened and why they lost their family members,” he told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday.
Researchers calculated this new alarmingly high death toll and gathered facts about causes of death, displacement and infrastructure loss in the months after the storm. The information paints a distressing picture of the sort of challenges that millions of Puerto Ricans faced after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September of last year.
The study’s numbers aligned with previous media reports and analyses that the death toll was likely in the thousands. The researchers’ findings are dismaying but, unfortunately, are surprising only in their magnitude.
The aftermath of the storm was deadlier than its landfall
The survey found that the significant increase in deaths in the months after Hurricane Maria was mainly a result of interruption of medical care, with about one-third of households reporting such issues — including accessing medications (14.4 percent), being unable to use respiratory equipment because of a lack of electricity (9.5 percent), having no open medical facilities nearby (8.6 percent) or having no doctors at medical facilities (6.1 percent).
Nearly 9 percent of households in remote areas said they were unable to reach 911 services by phone.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University in New York, said he knows the numerous health struggles people face after a disaster.
“I think people gravitate towards how many people were killed immediately from drowning or falling debris,” he said. “But the reality is, the much, much bigger problem is the long-term inability to get to medical care or the inability to get the medical devices or medication that people need to survive — so, people who are dependent on electrical-powered medical devices like ventilators or who need their medication every single day so their diabetes or high blood pressure doesn’t get out of control.”
The average household went over
2 months without power and water
After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s decades-old power grid was devastated, leaving millions of residents in the dark. For months, access to drinking water and plumbing was compromised by a lack of electricity — conditions that prompted health concerns over bacterial disease outbreaks, among other fears.
A lack of power can be dangerous for people with chronic conditions who rely on electrically powered medical devices or must have a functioning refrigerator to store medicines such as insulin.
And the Harvard study found that, on average, households went 84 days without electricity and 68 days without water. Many respondents were still without power at the time the survey was conducted, from Jan. 17 to Feb. 24 this year.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
War on Iran Is US Policy Now,
According to New US Secretary of State Former CIA head offers a policy of prevarication and tortured truth William Boardman / Reader Supported News
(May 30, 2018) — On May 21, in his first formal public address, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo (sworn in May 2) effectively declared war on the sovereign nation of Iran. Pompeo has no constitutional authority to declare war on anyone, as he well knows, so his declaration of war is just short of overt, though it included a not-so-veiled threat of a nuclear attack on Iran.
Pompeo’s declaration of war is a reactionary move that revitalizes the malignant Iranaphobia of the Bush presidency, when predictions were rife that Iran would have nuclear weapons by next year, next month, next week, predictions that never came true over twenty years of fear-mongering.
In effect (as we’ll see), Pompeo wants us to believe that everything bad that happened in the Middle East after Saudi terrorists attacked us on 9/11 in 2001 has been Iran’s fault, starting with Afghanistan. Almost everything Pompeo had to say to the Heritage Foundation on May 21 was a lie or, more typically, an argument built on lies.
Heritage Foundation host Kay Coles James called Pompeo’s 3,700-word speech”Bold, concise, unambiguous” and “a bold vision — clear, concise, unambiguous.” It was none of those, except perhaps bold in its willingness to go to war with an imaginary monster. Even without open warfare, warmongering has its uses both for intimidating other states and creating turmoil among the populace at home. Buckle your seatbelts.
The 2012 Iran nuclear deal (officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was, by all reliable accounts, working effectively in its own terms up until May 8: inspectors confirmed that Iran had eliminated the nuclear programs it had promised to eliminate, that its uranium enrichment program for nuclear power plants was nowhere close to making weapons-grade material, and so on.
Whatever perceived flaws the deal may have had, and whatever other problems it didn’t cover, the deal was working to the satisfaction of most of its signatories: Iran, France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, and China. As a measure of international cooperation, the deal not only worked, it was an available precedent for further negotiations among equal parties acting in good faith. The US was not such a party.
On May 8, the US president, unilaterally (and over the clear objections of all the other parties to the agreement) pulled the US out of the deal for no more clearly articulated reason than that he didn’t like it. Or as Pompeo tried to re-frame it in his May 21 declaration of war: President Trump withdrew from the [Iran nuclear] deal for a simple reason: it failed to guarantee the safety of the American people from the risk created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This is a Big Lie worthy of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.
What “risk created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” is there? Iran poses NO imminent threat to the US, and wouldn’t even if it had nuclear weapons (as North Korea and eight other countries have).
Iran has no overseas bases; the US has more than 600, including a couple of dozen that surround Iran. A classified number of US bases and aircraft carriers around Iran are armed with nuclear weapons. Iran lives every day at risk from the US military while posing almost no counter-risk (and none that wouldn’t be suicidal). There is no credible threat to the American people other than fevered speculation about what might happen in a world that does not exist.
To clarify Pompeo’s lie, the president withdrew from the deal for a simple reason: to protect the American people from a non-existent threat.
In reality, peremptorily dumping the deal without any effort to improve it first may well have made Americans less safe in the long term. There’s no way to know. And given the current US ability to manage complicated, multifaceted problems, there’s little reason for hope. Since no one else seems as reckless as the US, we may muddle through despite massive inept stupidity and deceit.
The frame for Pompeo’s deceitful arguments is the familiar one of American goodness, American exceptionalism, American purity of motive. He deploys it with the apparent self-assurance that enough of the American people still fall for it (or profit from it) that it gives the government near carte blanche to make the rest of the world suffer our willfulness.
Pompeo complains about “wealth creation for Iranian kleptocrats,” without a word about American kleptocrats, of whom his president is one and he is too, presumably. And then there’s the unmentioned collusion with Russian kleptocrats. Better to divert attention and inflate the imaginary threat: The deal did nothing to address Iran’s continuing development of ballistic and cruise missiles, which could deliver nuclear warheads.
Missiles were not part of the nuclear agreement, so of course it didn’t address missiles. And even if Iran, which has a space program, develops missiles under the agreement, it still wouldn’t have nuclear warheads to deliver.
There is no threat, but the US could move the projected threat closer by scrapping the agreement rather than seeking to negotiate it into other areas. That move both inflames the fear and conceals the lie. In effect, Pompeo argues metaphorically that we had to cut down the cherry orchard because it failed to produce beef.
Pompeo goes on at length, arguing that all the problems in the Middle East are Iran’s fault. He never mentions the US invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq, or US intervention in other countries creating fertile ground for ISIS in Libya and genocide in Yemen.
Pompeo falsely claims that “Iran perpetuates a conflict” in Syria that has made “that country 71,000 square miles of kill zone.” Pompeo falsely claims that Iran alone jeopardizes Iraq’s sovereignty. Pompeo falsely blames Iran for the terror and starvation in Yemen caused by US-supported Saudi terror bombing. Pompeo falsely blames Iran for US failure in Afghanistan. Pompeo uses these and other lies to support the longstanding Big Lie that “Iran continues to be . . . the world’s largest sponsor of terror.”
This is another Bush administration lie that lived on under Obama and now gets fresh life from Pompeo, but without evidence or analysis. US sponsorship of Saudi bombing of defenseless civilians in Yemen probably accounts for more terrorist acts than Iran accomplishes worldwide. Israeli murder of unarmed protestors in Gaza has killed more people than Iran’s supposed terror.
The demonization of Iran persists because of the perverse US public psychology that has neither gotten over the 1979 hostage-taking nor accepted any responsibility for destroying Iranian democracy and subjecting Iran to a brutal US-puppet police state for a quarter-century. The Big Lie about Iran is so ingrained in American self-delusion, Pompeo may not be fully aware of the extent to which he is lying to his core (he surely knows the particulars of specific smaller lies).
Only someone who is delusional or dishonest, or both, could claim with apparent sincerity that one goal of the US is “to deter Iranian aggression.” Pompeo offers no particulars of this Iranian “aggression.” So far as one can tell, in the real world, Iran has not invaded any other country in the region, or elsewhere. The US has invaded several countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and, by proxy, Yemen.
American aggression has been real and deadly and constant for decades, but because the US is the one keeping score, the US doesn’t award itself the prize it so richly deserves year after year as the world’s number one state sponsor of terror. This is how it’s been since long before 1967, when Martin Luther King tried speaking “clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”
That’s the way it was, that’s the way it still is, that’s the future Pompeo points us toward with a not so veiled threat of nuclear war: And I’d remind the leadership in Iran what President Trump said: If they restart their nuclear program, it will mean bigger problems — bigger problems than they’d ever had before.
And then Pompeo launched on a lengthy description of Iran as he sees it, a self-serving interpretation of Iranian events that may or may not mean what Pompeo says they mean. What is most remarkable about the passage is that it could as well apply to the US today. Just change the Iran references to American references, as I have done in the text below, leaving everything else Pompeo said intact, and the likely unintentional effect is eerily like looking in a black mirror reality: Look, these problems are compounded by enormous corruption inside of [the US], and the [American] people can smell it. The protests last winter showed that many are angry at the regime that keeps for itself what the regime steals from its people.
And [Americans] too are angry at a regime elite that commits hundreds of millions of dollars to military operations and terrorist groups abroad while the [American] people cry out for a simple life with jobs and opportunity and with liberty.
The [American] regime’s response to the protests has only exposed the country’s leadership is running scared. Thousands have been jailed arbitrarily, and at least dozens have been killed.
As seen from the [#MeToo] protests, the brutal men of the regime seem to be particularly terrified by [American] women who are demanding their rights. As human beings with inherent dignity and inalienable rights, the women of [America] deserve the same freedoms that the men of [America] possess.
But this is all on top of a well-documented terror and torture that the regime has inflicted for decades on those who dissent from the regime’s ideology.
The [American] regime is going to ultimately have to look itself in the mirror. The [American] people, especially its youth, are increasingly eager for economic, political, and social change.
As an analysis of the US by a US official, that might suggest we were headed toward enlightened and progressive policy changes. Even for what it is, Pompeo’s self-deceiving pitch to “the Iranian people,” it could have led in a positive direction. It didn’t. Pompeo followed this assessment with a dishonest offer for new talks. It was dishonest because it came with non-negotiable US preconditions, “only if Iran is willing to make major changes.”
Then came a full page of preconditions, “what it is that we demand from Iran,” as Pompeo put it [emphasis added]. Meeting those US demands would be tantamount to a surrender of national sovereignty in exchange for nothing. Pompeo surely understood that he was making an offer Iran couldn’t do anything but refuse.
The secretary of state’s bullying chest-puffery continued for another two pages of falsehoods and repetitions. He called for a global alliance of democracies and dictatorships “to join this effort against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Linking Egypt and Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, Pompeo spun into a fully delusional statement about nations with little in common: They understand the challenge the same way that America does. Indeed, we welcome any nation which is sick and tired of the nuclear threats, the terrorism, the missile proliferation, and the brutality of a regime which is at odds with world peace, a country that continues to inflict chaos on innocent people.
Wait a minute! Nuclear threats! Missile proliferation! Brutality at odds with world peace! A country that continues to inflict chaos on innocent people! That’s us! That’s the US since 1945. And that’s absolutely not what Pompeo meant, insofar as anyone can be absolutely sure of anything. He made that clear with yet another lie: “we’re not asking anything other than that Iranian behavior be consistent with global norms.”
Pompeo came to the predictable conclusion familiar to other countries: Iran will “prosper and flourish . . . as never before,” if they just do what we tell them to do. And to illustrate US bona fides and good faith in all its dealings, Pompeo showed himself, however unintentionally, capable of true high hilarity: If anyone, especially the leaders of Iran, doubts the President’s sincerity or his vision, let them look at our diplomacy with North Korea.
THAT is funny. It’s just not a joke.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theater, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Oil and Gas Industry Are Going to
‘Break the Planet’ if We Let Them Bill McKibben / RNZ Community Scoop
(May 20, 2018) — With half the Arctic summer sea ice gone, and climate change still just beginning, the fight has never been so urgent, says environmentalist Bill McKibben.
McKibben has been at the forefront of climate change action for 30 years, first as a journalist with the New York Times then an activist with 350.org. He says climate change is the first ever time-limited test humanity has faced. “If we don’t solve it soon we won’t solve it and there’s no guarantee that we’re going to — at the moment we’re losing.”
The oil and gas industry knows its time is up, he says, but is trying to squeeze every last dollar out of its business.
“These guys know in 30 years we’ll run the world on sun and wind because it’s free, but they don’t want to surrender any sooner than they have to. They want to squeeze more cash out of this operation — but they’re going to break the planet if they do.”
McKibben welcomed the government’s recent announcement that it will not grant new deep-sea oil and gas exploration permits. “It’s one of the signals that world needs to hear. Very few people have figured out we need to cut off the supply as well as demand . . . it’s rare and encouraging to see a government that’s figured out where the future lies.”
Thirty years ago McKibben says climate change was an abstract concept — but no longer.
“Now it’s clear what scientists warned about has come true, and come true much more quickly and with much more force than even the most dire predictions. Half the summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone and we’re still near the beginning of climate change, which is why the fight has never been more urgent than it is now.”
New Zealand has a “front row seat” to climate changes effects, he says. “It’s your neighbours in the Pacific whose nations are disappearing, people are having to evacuate their homes. Because the tide means they can’t live in places where humans have lived for thousands upon thousands of years. It’s not their fault. Global warming manages to very efficiently injure most those who have done least to cause it — it’s injustice on steroids.”
That injustice has been fuelled by billions of dollars spent on disinformation, McKibben says.
“Thirty years ago the big fossil fuel guys — Exxon and the rest — knew everything there was to know about climate change. They had good scientists hard at work on it and they understood how fast the temperature was going to go up, and they believed their scientists. Exxon started building all its drilling rigs higher to compensate for the rise in sea level they knew was coming.
“What they didn’t do, was tell anybody else.”
McKibben says that campaign has recently paid rich dividends with a climate-change-denier now in the White House. “We’ve gone from arguably one of the smartest leaders the US has ever had to a grotesque buffoon, and in his buffoonery threatening to drag down not only an important nation but also the whole planet.”
But McKibben still sees reason for some hope.
“I’m confident that there’s a movement in place around the planet that wasn’t there a decade ago and that movement guarantees there’ll be a fight — a serious fight.”
He says the campaign to divest money from fossil fuels has gone much better than he expected. Since the campaign was launched six years ago $US6 trillion has been divested from fossil fuel companies. It’s an area where New Zealand needs to do more work, he says.
“The big banks here continue to pump money into the fossil fuel industry. Money is the oxygen on which global warming feeds.”
(May 21, 2018) — For millennia, humans have harnessed rivers, built dams, and dug wells to quench our growing civilization. Now, for the first time, we have a picture of what all those generations have wrought on our blue planet’s most defining resource.
Newly analyzed data from groundwater-detecting satellites “reveals a clear human fingerprint on the global water cycle,” according to a study out Wednesday in the journal Nature. It’s the kind of result that is equal parts terrifying and long-expected in its implications.
“We know for sure that some of these impacts are caused by climate change,” says lead author Matt Rodell, chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA. “We are using huge parts of the [Earth’s] available water.”
The authors used the satellite data to construct a map of 34 rapidly changing regions around the world, painting a unified picture of current hot spots of water scarcity and excess. Nearly every activity that involves people requires water — rice farming, nuclear power, aluminum smelting, you name it — so the lives of people living where reserves are being rapidly depleted are under grave threat.
“The resulting map is mind-blowing, and has staggering implications for water, food, and human security that we are just not aware of or prepared for,” says study co-author Jay Famiglietti, a water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We are very literally seeing all of the hotspots for climate change, for changing extremes of flooding and drought, and for the impact of human water management define themselves.
“Our future challenges could not be more clear from looking at this map.”
Annotated Map of TWS Trends: GRACE (NASA)
The map offers a powerful first glimpse of what climate change and over-exploitation of water resources looks like — a “global pattern of freshwater redistribution, due to climate change,” according to Famiglietti. It’s stark, visual evidence that the way humans use water is unsustainable.
The study’s authors took 14 years of data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which measures minute fluctuations in the Earth’s gravitational field as water moves around the planet. They then tried to track down the root causes of the biggest changes they found — an analysis that took eight years to complete.
In two-thirds of the cases, the researchers discovered a direct link to human activity. And in some of those, especially in remote regions of southern Africa and China, the colossal scale of the shifts was previously unknown.
The footprints left behind by massive feats of engineering are also visible in the new map. You can see the consequences of the filling of major reservoirs, like the one bound by the massive Three Gorges Dam in China, of the diverted rivers in India, and of the exploitation of the High Plains aquifer in the central United States for agriculture.
Long-predicted climate shifts are also apparent, such as the rapid warming and moistening of the Arctic, melting ice in mountain glaciers, and increasingly extreme cycles of droughts and floods.
To be sure, there are drawbacks to this study, says Kate Brauman, a water researcher at the University of Minnesota who was unaffiliated with the research. The main problem is related to the fact that the GRACE satellite’s output is not very geographically specific.
“Relatively small changes in weather make a big difference” on the huge regions the study covers, says Brauman. She says the method the authors used identifies only large-scale changes — roughly the size of Kansas or larger. That’s too coarse a view to spot individual water-wasters, but it’s possibly accurate enough to raise hope for monitoring and governing previously untracked and unregulated large-scale abuses.
The next generation of GRACE satellites, launching on Saturday, should provide additional evidence of exactly how humans are altering the planet’s water cycle, and with more accuracy. And in another 15 years or so, Rodell says, his team should be able to draw even bolder conclusions about exactly which parts of the world are being affected most by shifts in rainfall and changing water policies.
For Famiglietti, the research was life-changing. The work inspired him to leave his job at NASA for a role at the University of Saskatchewan studying “the forces that drive water insecurity in the major hotspots revealed by this map.”
A year from now, Famiglietti hopes to be working to assemble local groups around the world focused on water conservation in each of the affected regions. For him, the message behind the data is clear: It’s time to act.
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Black People Created Memorial Day — Literally Felice Leon / The Root
(May 28, 2018) — Memorial Day is here. Think barbecues, lemonade. A precious three-day weekend full of sun, sales and slacking off. But this is The Root, and you know there’s another part of this story.
Rewind to the end of the Civil War. In 1865, Charleston, S.C., was in ruins, and many Union soldiers were being held prisoner in a converted racecourse. At least 257 of the captives died because of the horrific conditions, and their bodies were discarded in a mass grave.
Later, a group of black workmen dug up the bodies and reburied them to properly honor the fallen.
On May 1, 1865, over 10,000 people — recently freed slaves, black schoolchildren, colored soldiers and their allies — held what was the first Memorial Day parade.
“They paraded around the racetrack, and then they gathered as many as could fit into the cemetery compound; about three or four black preachers read from Scripture,” said David Blight, a professor of history at Yale and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery.
His research is responsible for bringing this little-known history to light. The historian says that the white South controlled much of the nation’s narrative, which explains why this heroic story was practically erased.
“Can one imagine that someday children will grow up learning this story, instead of Paul Revere’s ride, or Lincoln at Gettysburg?” Blight told The Root.
(May 29, 2011) — Most Americans know that Memorial Day is about honoring the nation’s war dead. It is also a holiday devoted to department store sales, half-marathons, picnics, baseball and auto racing. But where did it begin, who created it, and why?…
(May 30, 2011) — From historian David Blight, an essay on Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865 — an event of enormous symbolic significance at the time but forgotten afterwards in the “national reconciliation” mode of late 19th-century Memorial Days following their semi-official beginnings in 1868.
Blight begins by describing how the “Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true ‘patriots,’ defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order, and a ’cause’ that had been overwhelmed by ‘numbers and resources” but never defeated on battlefields.”
But before the Civil War was over, black soldiers had established a meaning for that day consonant with their experience of fighting for freedom:
But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops.
Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.
Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.
The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.
After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”
The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses.
Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.
After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill.
Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.
The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.
Despite the size and some newspaper coverage of the event, its memory was suppressed by white Charlestonians in favor of their own version of the day. From 1876 on, after white Democrats took back control of South Carolina politics and the Lost Cause defined public memory and race relations, the day’s racecourse origin vanished . . . .
Found Voices: Slave Narratives Pt 1
(August 9, 2011) — Very Unique Nightline that introduces us to voices from the past. These are actual slave recordings done in the 1930’s and recently digitized. Crafted beautifully by Producer Karen Dewitt. Field Producer & Camera: Fletcher Johnson, Audio: Wayne Boyd.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Hundreds Arrested Nationwide as Poor People’s
Campaign Demands ‘End to the War Economy’ Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
“We have a long history of wars against
other people, mostly people of color, around the world.
It’s time we stopped calling it the Defense Department
and started calling it what it is: the Department of War.”
(May 29, 2018) — Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s warning that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom,” the Poor People’s Campaign launched its third week of action in cities nationwide on Tuesday with the aim of confronting the American war economy, which pours resources that could be used to provide healthcare and food to the poor at home into the killing of innocents abroad.
Hoisting signs that read “The War Economy Is Immoral” and “Ban Killer Drones,” demonstrators gathered at the capitol buildings of New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and several other states to denounce a militaristic system that profits “every time a bomb is dropped on innocent people.”
As of this writing, hundreds have been arrested and many more are facing arrest as they gather outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office in Washington, D.C.
“The Democrats talk about the middle class.
The Republicans talk about the military.
No one’s talking about the poor.”
As Common Dreams reported, the Poor People’s Campaign unveiled a detailed series of demands last month ahead of the launch of its 40 days of action in more than 30 states across the country.
“We demand a stop to the privatization of the military budget and any increase in military spending,” the agenda reads. “We demand a reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, healthcare, jobs, and green infrastructure needs, and strengthening a Veterans Administration system that must remain public.”
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Decrying System That Favors ‘War and the Wealthy,’
Poor People’s Campaign Unveils Agenda to Combat
Poverty, Racism, and Militarism Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
“We are coming together to break the silence and tell the truth about the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and our distorted moral narrative.”
— Poor People’s Campaign
(April 10, 2018) — In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s original campaign against poverty that kicked off 50 years ago next month, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) on Tuesday announced plans to revive Dr. King’s radical moral vision with mass action nationwide and unveiled a series of ambitious demands aimed at combating the economic, racial, and environmental injustices that afflict tens of millions of people in the world’s wealthiest nation.
“The truth is that systemic racism allows us to deny the humanity of others; by denying the humanity of others, we are given permission to exploit or exclude people economically; by exploiting and excluding people economically, we are emboldened to abuse our military powers and, through violence and war, control resources; this quest for the control of resources leads to the potential destruction of our entire ecosystem and everything living in it,” PPC declares.
Below is a list of just a handful of the movement’s demands, which PPC leader Rev. William Barber argued during a press conference on Monday can only be achieved through “power-building from the bottom up”:
* Full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and “an end to racist gerrymandering and redistricting”;
* Automatic voter registration;
* Federal and state living wage laws;
* Full implementation of single-payer healthcare;
* Complete repeal of the GOP tax law and “reinvestment of those funds into social programming that helps all”;
* A ban on fracking and a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy; and
* An “end to military aggression and war-mongering” and reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, healthcare, jobs and green infrastructure needs, and strengthening a VA system that remains public.”
“We are coming together to break the silence and tell the truth about the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and our distorted moral narrative,” the document concludes. “We loudly proclaim that we will move forward together, not one step back!” . . .
In addition to its series of demands, PPC also released a report in conjunction with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) detailing the widespread destitution and collapsing living standards that make such an ambitious agenda necessary.
Titled “The Souls of Poor Folks,” the report examines the crippling poverty that afflicts tens of millions of Americans, but rarely receives more than a few moments of attention from the corporate media or America’s establishment politicians.
“The Democrats talk about the middle class. The Republicans talk about the military,” Barber told the Associated Press in an interview on Monday. “No one’s talking about the poor.”
According to the report, more than 40 million Americans subsist below the poverty line and closer to 140 million people are dealing with some combination of structural racism, economic inequality, and ecological degradation every day.
“Nearly half of our population cannot afford a $400 emergency, which presents a structural crisis of national proportion that ties poverty to things like healthcare and housing,” the analysis continues. “The devastation cuts across race, gender, age, and geography.”
And while a large swath of the population faces stagnant or declining incomes and standards of living, the report notes that an ever-growing percentage of America’s vast wealth is being siphon by those at the top.
“Instead of going to workers, massive gains from economic growth have been going to a smaller and smaller share of society,” the report notes. “Since 1968, the top one percent’s share of national income has nearly doubled while the official poverty rate for all US families has merely inched up and down.”
In a statement on Tuesday, IPS director John Cavanagh said the report’s findings thoroughly debunk the “enduring narrative that if the millions of people in poverty in the US just worked harder they would be lifted up out of their condition.”
“Here we’re proving — with data and analysis spanning 50 years — that the problem is both structural barriers for the poor in hiring, housing, policing, and more, as well as a system that prioritizes war and the wealthy over people and the environment they live in,” Cavanagh concluded.
“It is unfathomable, for example, that in the wealthiest nation in the world, medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy filings, and one and a half million people don’t have access to plumbing.”
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Dan Ellsberg on What Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un
Don’t Know About Their Own Standoff George Perkovich / The Atlantic & Defense One
(May 26, 2018) — When President Donald Trump canceled his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he told him in a letter that the past few days of “tremendous anger and open hostility” had made it “inappropriate” for the two to meet and discuss denuclearization.
“You talk about your nuclear capabilities,” Trump wrote, “but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” The language echoed a January tweet in which the president wrote, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
The North issued a statement in short order emphasizing a willingness to “sit down with the United States any time, in any format, to resolve the problems.”
Yet it’s getting harder to see how Trump and Kim can make the mutual accommodations necessary for diplomacy to succeed. In fact, beneath the surface, the current situation resembles the prelude to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which historical research continues to show was much more dangerous than anyone knew at the time.
If the Trump-Kim summit stays canceled, and saber-rattling returns as the dominant mode of communication, the odds of military crisis will rise dramatically. And, as the Cuba experience shows, once begun, a military crisis involving nuclear weapons will almost inevitably bring lots of surprises — ones that could make the shocking twists and turns of the summit buildup look pedestrian by comparison.
Daniel Ellsberg thought he knew all that could be known about the Cuban crisis. Brainiacs with top security clearances in Washington often think that way — but Ellsberg had solid reasons. In 1964, before he became famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers, he conducted a higher-than-top-secret study of the crisis for the Defense Department. Yet, as he narrates in his recent memoir, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, alarming facts about the military dynamics in 1962 were unknown to anyone in the US until decades later.
Indeed, to the extent that Americans today have any understanding of the Cuban crisis, it’s probably misinformed. This raises the shuddersome question: What will historians 50 years from now know that Trump and Kim do not now know about their own nuclear standoff?
“The similarities of the Cuban crisis and now are quite striking,” Ellsberg told me in an interview the day after President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” tweet in January. “To begin with, this is the first time since 1962 that a president has threatened imminent military action, with clear nuclear imagery, directly against a nuclear-weapon state. Then, as now, the United States was seeking regime change.”
In 1962, Ellsberg explained, the Soviet leadership was worried that the communist project would be undermined by American threats to invade and overthrow the communists in Cuba. The Soviets lagged far behind America’s capacity to deliver nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, to the adversary’s homeland. But Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev realized he could threaten the US directly by putting nuclear weapons in Cuba.
“Kim makes a similar calculation today,” Ellsberg said. South Korea is next door, a prospering country that, if the North Korean people knew about it, would be an object lesson in how they’ve suffered under the Kim family. Meanwhile, the US, allied with South Korea, represents an existential military threat.
“Kim needs ICBMs as a deterrent against attack by the United States to overthrow him or to intervene if he loses his grip over North Korea,” Ellsberg concludes. “A big difference is that the Soviets did it secretly, whereas Kim is doing it very openly.”
The clock of the Cuban crisis began ticking on October 16, when President Kennedy was notified that US spy planes detected medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba that could target the East Coast. Top military, intelligence, diplomatic, and White House officials were working around the clock to prepare options for the president. Kennedy’s secret tape-recording of meetings in the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office reveal military leaders pressing the president to authorize an invasion, and Kennedy calmly asking questions and reminding everyone of the consequences of nuclear war.
On October 22, Kennedy announced the discovery of Soviet missiles on television and said that he would impose a naval “quarantine” of Cuba in two days. He warned that the launch of a single missile from the island would cause “a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” This meant a massive US nuclear attack on the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites.
Meanwhile, US Air Force and CIA planes were flying high and low over Cuba to glean intelligence on the Soviet missile buildup and to prepare plans for attacking key installations and invading the island. On October 27, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba by a Soviet surface-to-air missile (SAM). When Kennedy wondered aloud why Krushchev would do this, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara answered, “I don’t know how to interpret it.”
There is much that US officials did not know how to interpret during the crisis, and much that they misinterpreted.
For example, when the U-2 was shot down, all American officials assumed that the anti-air firing on US planes was authorized by Khrushchev. In fact, however, Khrushchev was not in control of anti-aircraft forces in Cuba.
Rather, Cuban personnel were conducting operations under the direction of Fidel Castro. Castro had feared an imminent invasion and ordered his anti-aircraft personnel to fire on American planes.
Some Soviet operators were carried away by the example of their Cuban comrades and ignored orders not to fire without authorization from the Soviet general in charge in Cuba. This turned out to be the case with the Soviet officer who had successfully struck the U-2 plane.
That night, Attorney General Robert Kennedy met secretly with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin at the Justice Department and delivered a two-part ultimatum. The first demand was that the Soviets begin removing the missiles within 48 hours, or the US would attack them. The second demand, which long remained secret, was that firing on American reconnaissance planes must end immediately.
According to Ellsberg’s notes, the attorney general declared: “‘If one more plane was shot at, we wouldn’t just attack the site that had fired at it; we would take out all the SAMs and anti-aircraft and probably all the missiles. And that would almost surely be followed by an invasion.'”
In threatening invasion for actions over which Krushchev may not have had control, Kennedy ominously did not know that the Soviets had deployed 98 “tactical” nuclear weapons with Soviet forces on Cuba. These weapons were to defend Cuba against an expected marine invasion by the US Prior to October 22, local officers were pre-authorized to use them. Neither the existence of these weapons nor the delegation of authority to use them was known to Americans until 30 years later. [Emphasis added — EAW]
Another unknown — or mistakenly known — “fact” also added impetus to an American invasion. The Defense Department told Kennedy that there were “about 8,000-10,000” Soviet “probably military personnel” in Cuba. Calculations of what it would take to complete an invasion followed from this. In fact, the Soviets had roughly 42,000 troops on the island, which also was not known until decades later.
If Kennedy had assented to his generals’ constant pressure to invade Cuba, the higher-than-known Soviet troop numbers would likely have made the landing and ground war much more difficult to win. This, in turn, would have created even greater pressure on Kennedy to escalate in order to avoid a politically devastating defeat.
Such escalation would have then probably driven the Cubans and Soviets to use some of these nuclear weapons against invading forces. According to Soviet archives, Khrushchev did not initially comprehend that this would cause the US to escalate to general nuclear war.
“We don’t need to speculate what would have happened,” McNamara declared when he finally learned — in 1992 — about the Soviet deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba. “It would have been an absolute disaster for the world.”
In the 55 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis, America’s technical capabilities to gather intelligence have improved breathtakingly. Still, it’s extremely difficult to know how foreign adversaries perceive their situation and calculate their moves, especially when key targets of intelligence do not reveal their inner thoughts in phone calls, texts, and emails that can be intercepted.
The US and other governments know that North Korea has nuclear weapons that work. The number is uncertain; estimates run from 15 to 60. North Korea has tested a variety of missiles whose ranges extend from 50 to 8,000 miles. (Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is 120 miles from Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Washington is about 6,750 miles from Pyongyang.)
The reliabilities of the various missile types, again, are uncertain. Outsiders, as well as Kim himself, cannot know whether nuclear warheads mounted on longer-range missiles would detonate as planned.
Similar uncertainties apply to the effectiveness of the ballistic missile defenses that the US has deployed in Alaska to knock out North Korea’s long-range missiles. Such defenses have not been tested in wartime conditions.
Last October, Trump told Fox News‘s Sean Hannity, “We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time.” Experts debunked this claim and the Pentagon did not defend it. But if the president believes it (or the North Koreans believe he believes it), then the risk of nuclear conflict could be greater than it should otherwise be.
The president could be emboldened to strike North Korea, believing that missile defenses would limit North Korea’s retaliation. Kim could back down for the same reason, or, more likely, he could be motivated to expand his nuclear arsenal and delivery options so that he would have more confidence in being able to retaliate against Trump.
Prior to talk of a summit, the Trump administration had been contemplating and preparing for strikes against North Korean military facilities if North Korea were to conduct another test of an ICBM or a nuclear weapon. The idea, according to credible reports, was not to undertake or signal a war to remove the North Korean regime, but rather to demonstrate America’s seriousness and capacity to compel Kim to stop such provocations.
If the North Koreans respond to the summit’s cancelation by flexing their nuclear or missile capabilities, the White House will feel pressed to push back. Advocates of such military action seem to presume that the North Korean leadership and all the officers dispersed under their command would correctly interpret the limited threat that Trump would be signaling and would not respond militarily in ways that would compel Trump to one-up the North.
Yet, senior US military officials privately acknowledge that they have very little insight into how Kim and his inner circle would react to various US military actions or diplomatic negotiating positions. Indeed, senior officials in the current administration and its predecessors say that less is known about North Korea than about any other adversary. Meanwhile, recent interlocutors report that North Korean officials are desperate for insights into what Trump will do.
“The Cuban Missile Crisis shows that a small power can decide to go down in a blazing act of glorious defiance rather than being occupied,” Ellsberg told me. Soviet archival research and memoirs reveal that Castro pleaded to Khrushchev that if the US invaded — as Castro expected and the Russians feared — Khrushchev must preemptively use nuclear weapons against the US.
Castro wrote to Moscow, “if they [the Americans] actually carry out the brutal act of invading Cuba . . . that would be the moment to eliminate such danger forever through an act of legitimate defense, however harsh and terrible the solution would be.” Castro knew this would destroy Cuba and himself, but he could not stand the idea of the US getting away with invading, and he thought global socialism would prevail.
“Smart guys can make crazy judgments — crazy, not just ignorant,” Ellsberg noted. “Castro was young, very smart, very ideologically committed. Kim is young, perhaps smart, and probably very ideologically committed not to go down and lose his family’s legacy without a fight.”
What about the US and its leadership? Ellsberg noted the widely reported concerns about Trump’s mental and temperamental fitness, and his predilection for making fiery threats.
“The question is, will the military hold the president back from his impulsiveness?” he asked. “My own guess is they can’t, they won’t. They can be replaced in an instant. Someone else will step in. They can’t hold him back. Who has ever told the president ‘you can’t do this’?”
George Perkovich VP for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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ACTION ALERT: Dual Wars in North Korea and Iran? Win Without War
(May 29, 2018) — We have less than a week to stop Trump from getting a huge blank check for endless global war.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote as soon as next week on a horrifying new Authorization for the Use of Military Force — or AUMF — that would let Donald Trump start a new war any time, anywhere, with just an FYI to Congress.
When Sens. Bob Corker and Tim Kaine introduced this five-alarm fire of a bill in late April, Win Without War activists like you jumped into action. Our pressure stiffened the spines of key senators to derail the bill’s fast track and delay the vote.
But now, the Trump War Act is back — and facing its first vote in committee as soon as next week. Worse, the bill’s sponsors are confident they have the votes to speed this AUMF through.
We can’t let that happen. We’ve got to stamp out this dangerous bill next week, before it can get to the Senate floor. Please, rush an emergency gift to help us defeat the Trump War Act:
In just the past few weeks, Trump and his war cabinet have kicked the war-machine into high gear: * He pulled out of the Iran Deal and steered us closer to a terrible war of choice with Iran.
* He abruptly cancelled his meeting with Kim Jong-un via an inane letter threatening nuclear war with North Korea.
Just this morning, the Washington Post reported on the Pentagon’s preparations for simultaneous wars with North Korea and Iran.  Yes — really: “Could the US fight dual wars in North Korea and Iran? After diplomacy breaks down, questions loom.”
— The Washington Post
Congress should be doing everything they can to pull us off the brink of yet more wars of choice — not signing over their Constitutional authority to declare war to a megalomaniac president and his warmongering advisers.
We cannot let Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo get their hands on a free pass for even more unaccountable, global war. Please, pitch in to kill this dangerous new AUMF.
The bipartisan group of senators behind the Trump War Act claim they’re solving the broken status quo of endless war. They’re not. The framers of the Constitution put the power to declare war in Congress’ hands for two reasons: To make it really hard, and to ensure We, the People, can weigh in. But this dangerous new AUMF cuts Congress out of the picture — and squelches our voice in warmaking, too.
Win Without War exists exactly for situations like this — to bring our grassroots demands for peace back to the forefront of a Washington conversation about war-making that has gone completely off the rails.
Already, our pressure has restored common sense to the debate and gotten Senate leaders to refuse to jam this bill quietly through committee. But next week’s vote is the key turning point.
If we lose next week’s committee vote, the Trump War Act will be able to speed onto the Senate floor with serious traction to become law. So we’ve got to win this vote. And we’re going to need your help.
The proposed new Corker-Kaine Authorization for the Use of Military Force is profoundly dangerous. This AUMF would give the president unlimited war-making authority and would violate the Constitution by abdicating Congressâ€™ core responsibility over matters of war and peace. Please oppose this dangerous resolution.
Thank you for working for peace,
Kate, Stephen, Cassandra, and the team at Win Without War
 Washington Post, “Could the US fight dual wars in North Korea and Iran?”
(May 25, 2018) — The seeming collapse of the North Korea summit and the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal have led top officials in the Trump administration to once again make veiled references to military action, with President Trump most recently touting American might in a speech Friday at the US Naval Academy.
But beyond the saber-rattling is a sobering reality well known by strategists and planners at the Pentagon: The unlikely, worst-case scenario of sliding into open armed conflict with both Iran and North Korea simultaneously would strain the US military to a degree few Americans could fathom.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has repeatedly warned that an open conflict on the Korean Peninsula alone would be catastrophic, resulting in the sort of warfare the US military hasn’t seen in generations. The outside chance of a conflict with Iran at the same time would present Pentagon leaders with logistical, tactical and personnel challenges unenviable for any commander.
Former top Pentagon officials say the possibility of coinciding wars with Iran and North Korea remains extremely remote, and the United States could drift in the space between diplomatic breakthrough and all-out war for years. Still, if the dual wars were to occur, they would test decades of contingency planning that anticipates huge risks to the US armed forces despite ultimate victory.
“Both fights would be costly,” said David Ochmanek, a senior researcher at the Rand Corp. and a former top Pentagon strategist in the Clinton and Obama administrations. “In the end you would expect the US and its allies to prevail but at a human and material cost that would be almost incalculable, particularly in the case of the Korea example.”
For decades dating back to the Cold War, planners at the Pentagon have grappled with the question of how the US military should prepare for the remote possibility of having to fight two full-scale regional wars at once.
The new national defense strategy issued by Mattis, however, emphasizes the need to build up military capability for a possible great-power conflict with Russia and China, and largely backs off the focus on waging two regional wars at once that once consumed the Pentagon.
But as the US military pivots its focus to countering Russia and China, regional challenges from Iran and North Korea continue to consume the administration and the public.
“If you want to ensure the Pentagon can actually plan and prepare and resource for a potential conflict with China or Russia, then getting into conflict with Iran and North Korea is the exact wrong thing to do,” said Mara Karlin, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former Pentagon strategist.
Whereas military planners envision a war with North Korea as primarily a land and air fight, ultimately requiring a massive ground invasion and ending in regime change followed by stabilization, conflict with Iran would more likely be primarily a naval and air battle, focused on crippling specific missile and nuclear sites rather than dismantling the government itself.
Simultaneous warfare in the two countries would stress intelligence and reconnaissance assets such as drone overflights, which the US military has come to rely on heavily, according to former Pentagon officials.
Battles in two theaters also would strain Special Operations forces and possibly electronic warfare and tactical air support units, they said. Another challenge would be getting forces and equipment to both theaters in a prompt manner and sustaining them once they arrive.
Amid the attention on Iran and North Korea, Trump has stressed the strength of the US military and his administration’s efforts to reverse what military commanders say has been underinvestment in the force.
“We’re sharpening the fighting edge of everything, from Marine infantry squads to combat ships to deliver maximum lethal force,” Trump said during his Naval Academy address. “We will have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, and it won’t even be close. And when did we need it more than now?”
While Trump has boasted of major increases to defense spending, the impact of greater budgets won’t be felt for some time. Meanwhile, the military continues to feel the effects of more than a decade and a half of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It’s still in many respects a tired force — the toll of the wars and constant deployments, the effect on both manpower and equipment, the lack of opportunity to do the right kind of training,” said Brian P. McKeon, who served as acting undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration.
Mattis has regularly emphasized the need for diplomacy for Iran and North Korea, even as other members of the Trump administration have threatened military options.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggested Mattis’s approach might reflect his firsthand understanding of the potential costs and uncertainties of any conflict, regardless of the Pentagon’s many contingency plans.
“There’s such an inherent unpredictability to war,” O’Hanlon said. “The minute you start to think your beautiful battle plan is going to work the way you designed it, that’s where it gets dangerous.”
(May 20, 2018) â€“ “NORTH KOREA LATEST — US HALTS NEW SANCTIONS TO REVIVE THE SINGAPORE SUMMIT,” reports The Wall Street Journal: “The US decided to defer launching a major new sanctions push against North Korea, part of a flurry of weekend moves by both sides aimed at reviving a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The White House was prepared to announce the ramped-up sanctions regime Tuesday but decided Monday to indefinitely delay the measures while talks with North Korea about the summit proceed, a US official said, citing progress in efforts to repair diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The Treasury Department had prepared a sanctions package aimed at nearly three dozen targets, including Russian and Chinese entities, according to two administration officials.”
The decision came as US officials met with their North Korean counterparts Sunday in North Korea to prep for the planned summit, still targeted for June 12 in Singapore, reports The Washington Post. Kim’s top nuclear weapons negotiator is in China, amid reports he could visit the US to finalize plans for the summit, reports The New York Times. And, this morning, Trump tweeted confirmation the top North Korean negotiator is headed to New York.
On Saturday, Kim and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in held an unannounced meeting, after which Moon said Kim is committed to “complete denuclearization” and still wants to meet with Trump, adds The Washington Post.
But, in Washington, Kim’s talk draws skepticism, writes The Washington Post, though former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper notes the North Korean leader “may have met his match” in Trump, via our colleague Connor O’Brien. In fact, North Korea nuclear disarmament could take up to 15 years, a top expert warns, via the NYT.
Trump himself expresses optimism for the future of US-North Korean relations, via POLITICO‘s Brent D. Griffiths. Additionally, Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have agreed to meet ahead of a Trump-Kim summit, reports the NYT. And questions loom whether the Pentagon could fight dual wars in North Korea and Iran, writes The Washington Post.
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