Ending the US-Saudi War on Yemen’ David Swanson and Shireen Al-Adeimi / Talk Nation
Shireen Al-Adeimi is originally from Yemen, and is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. She co-authored a recent article at In These Times titled “Trump Quietly Overrides What Little Civilian Protections Remain in Yemen War” [See below]. She returns to Talk Nation Radio to discuss current efforts to end US involvement in the war on Yemen.
(August 20, 2018) — With little public attention, President Donald Trump used his August 13 signing statement for the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to override restrictions aimed at minimizing civilian deaths in the US-Saudi war on Yemen. The move came just days after the Saudi-led coalition struck a school bus in Yemen’s northern Saada province with a US-supplied and manufactured bomb, killing 54 people, 44 of them children.
The signing statement is the latest evidence that, after three years and tens of thousands killed, the Trump administration has no intention of curbing its role in the bloody war it inherited from Obama. The United States supplies arms, intelligence and aerial refueling of Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) warplanes — and gives political cover to the war.
As In These Times previously reported, the 2019 NDAA’s restrictions on the war were already insufficient when it reached Trump’s desk, merely requiring increased transparency and vaguely defined verification that the coalition is attempting to minimize harm to civilians — rather than ending the US role in the Saudi-led war altogether. Yet the measures were better than nothing, given the failure of Congress to end three years of US participation in the war.
But in one fell swoop, Trump dismissed roughly 50 statutes included in the NDAA, claiming that the provisions unconstitutionally tread on his executive authority. Signing statements outline presidents’ interpretations of laws, often with heavy input from White House and Department of Justice legal teams. Former President George W. Bush infamously used a signing statement to override a 2005 ban on torture.
Among Trump’s targets is section 1290, which stipulates that, before greenlighting the refueling of warplanes, the Secretary of State must certify that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are minimizing harm to civilians, mitigating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and trying to end the civil war.
That provision was already weak, offering a waiver in cases of US “national security interests,” which are often invoked by US officials who misleadingly overstate Iran’s influence in Yemen to justify intervention. Furthermore, the measure relied on Mike Pompeo to tell the truth, when the US-backed coalition already claims to be mitigating the humanitarian crisis and trying to end the war, despite overwhelming evidence otherwise.
As limited as this provision is, Trump claims he doesn’t have to comply. In his signing statement he cites the president’s “exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”
Meanwhile, there is no question that the US-backed coalition is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis with its new attack on the port city of Hodeidah, a conduit for as much as 80 percent of Yemen’s food and medicine imports, despite warnings that such an offensive would be catastrophic.
Since it began on June 13, the US-Saudi coalition’s assault on Hodeidah has displaced more than 300,000 people, and has killed residents with airstrikes such as an August 2 attack on a fish market and hospital that took at least 40 civilian lives.
Trump also sidesteps section 1274, which requires the Defense Department to review the actions of the United States and Saudi-led coalition in Yemen for illegal conduct. But Trump declares in his signing statement that he reserves the right to withhold information that he determines could “impair national security, foreign relations, law enforcement, or the performance of the president’s constitutional duties.”
In issuing these carve-outs, Trump effectively asserts the right to disregard all sections in the NDAA aimed at restricting the war on Yemen. These restrictions, however limited, were the work of a handful of senators and representatives — including Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) — who oppose US involvement in the war.
Trump’s signing statement follows the narrow failure in March of a bill that would have forced the Senate to vote on withdrawing the United States from participation in the Saudi-led war.
The Yemen provisions are not the only NDAA measures Trump claims he can override: In his signing statement, he also retains the right to ignore measures aimed at improving reporting on “civilian casualties in connection with United States military operations.” And he says he has powers to ignore measures to transfer people out of the infamous Guantanamo Bay military prison, stating, “I fully intend to keep open that detention facility and to use it, as necessary or appropriate, for detention operations.”
Even before it reached Trump’s desk, the NDAA was a giveaway to the president, handing him a historically high military budget, which earmarks $21.9 billion for nuclear weapons, despite the president’s proven willingness to threaten nuclear annihilation on a whim.
The bill sailed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, backed by key Democrats purportedly leading the #Resistance — even as they claim the president is unhinged and dangerous, and publicly criticize the war in Yemen. Among the yes votes was Ted Lieu, a vocal Trump critic who — when news of the school bus bombing hit — expressed concern that the US role in Yemen “could qualify as aiding and abetting these potential war crimes.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), one of 10 senators who voted no on the NDAA, wrote a letter to US Central Command’s Gen. Joseph Votel in the aftermath of the school bus bombing questioning whether the United States is able to “track the origins, purpose and results of US-supported airstrikes” in Yemen.
And on August 17, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced an amendment to the 2019 Defense Appropriations bill that would defund the US support for the Saudi-led war “until the Secretary of Defense certified that the coalition’s air campaign is not violating international law and US policy related to the protection of civilians.”
As Yemeni families bury their loved ones, it remains to be seen whether lawmakers will go beyond merely asking questions and demand that the war be shut down — and that Trump’s war-making power be meaningfully opposed.
Sarah Lazare is web editor at In These Times. She comes from a background in independent journalism for publications including The Intercept, The Nation, and Tom Dispatch. She tweets at @sarahlazare.
Shireen Al-Adeimi is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Having lived through two civil wars in her country of birth, Yemen, she has played an active role in raising awareness about the US-supported, Saudi-led war on Yemen since 2015. Through her work, she aims to encourage political action among fellow Americans to bring about an end to US intervention in Yemen.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
US Stepping Up Armed Drone Operations in Niger Ibrahim Ahmed / VOA News
(August 27, 2018) — The US Air Force is months away from completing the construction of an air base in Niger for armed drones that will target militant groups operating in the region, a US military official told VOA.
“To date, the Air Force has spent approximately $86.5 million on the construction project at Nigerien Air Base 201,” Auburn Davis, a spokesperson for US Air Force Europe and Air Force Africa, told VOA. “The total estimated construction cost, including FY19 planned projects, is $98.5million,” Davis added.
She said that the base, which is located in Agadez city in northern Niger, is the biggest US Air Force-led construction project in its history.
Agadez is a strategic city located in the Sahara Desert with easy access for militants and smugglers to cross to and from Libya, Algeria, Mali and Chad.
About 650 US military personnel will be deployed to the base once it’s operational. An undetermined number of military drones, including MQ-9s, currently operating from the capital, Niamey, would be transferred to the base, according to the U.S military.
Militarization of the Sahel
Some security analysts, such as William Assanvo, a regional coordinator for West Africa at the Institute for Security Studies Africa, believe that this move indicates the region is becoming increasingly militarized.
“This trend raises some concerns about foreign powers taking roots in the Sahel to pursue national interests that are not always clear, and that may not match [the] national interests of hosting countries,” Assanvo told VOA. “It could also trigger an escalation of attacks and clashes or be a justification for the so-called Jihad some of the extremists groups pretend to be fighting,” Assanvo added.
Nigerien officials, however, see the building of the Agadez base as a necessity to address the growing menace of terrorism that poses a threat to the security of Niger and the region.
“Our problems emanate from Libya. The area [between Agadez and the Libyan border] is vast, unpopulated. Terrorists move about freely there,” Kalla Mountari, Niger’s minister of defense, told VOA, adding that militants use the area to smuggle weapons and ammunition back and forth.
The US military says the decision to relocate assets from Niamey to Agadez and to construct the base there was reached in consultation and coordination with the government of Niger.
“The government of Niger requested US Africa Command [AFRICOM] to relocate ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] assets from Niamey to Agadez,” Davis, the US Air Force Africa spokesperson, told VOA.
Assanvo, of Institute for Security Studies Africa, believes that the move could also be part of an effort by the U.S military to have a low profile presence in the region without triggering potential opposition from the local population.
“The Agadez base has the advantage of making the U.S presence less visible, far from Niger capital, Niamey,” Assanvo said. “This is important, given the clear opposition a significant part of the Niger [population] have voiced about the increasing Western presence in the country.”
Assanvo is referring to several demonstrations held in various cities across Niger in February after Italy said it would send several hundred troops to the West African country.
Foreign troops a necessity
But Defense Minister Mountari said the presence of these foreign troops are necessary and critical in the country’s ongoing fight against terror and other trans-national criminal groups.
“”We requested the current [US] operations ourselves. Everything has been done with the knowledge and cooperation and at the request of our government because it is for the good of our country,” Mountari said. “Our Agadez base is obsolete with no good runway or navigational equipment. That’s why we encouraged the work the US is doing to rebuild Agadez air base since it has become a hub for our fight against terrorists,” he added.
The US started operating ISR drones in Niamey in 2013, in support of the French military operations in neighboring Mali and “other regional requirements”, according to the US Air Force.
While some critics are voicing concerns over the increased footprint of the US military in the region, Nigerien officials charge that US help has been effective and has paid dividends in terms of curbing militancy and terrorism in the Sahel region.
“I will say we are successful already because what the terrorists were able to do to us in the past has decreased significantly because we now have the means to detect and take care of a threat simultaneously,” Defense Minister Mountari said.
Black Dart is the US’ Answer to Drones VICE News
(October 28, 2014) — The US military has been experimenting with the use of drones for almost a century, but itâ€™s only recently that technological advances have made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) a game changer in warfare.
Today, at least 79 countries field drones; 23 of those countries arm them. Earlier this year, VICE News was one of the first media outlets ever granted access to the US military’s annual Black Dart exercise, a decade-old joint exercise that focuses on detecting, countering, and defeating UAVs.
As we watched tens of millions of dollars worth of military equipment go up against $1,000 drones, Black Dart demonstrated the way rapidly evolving drone technology is challenging the military’s most basic assumptions about controlling the air. (One civilian drone maker we visited told us that the technology he has at his fingertips is outpacing some R&D efforts at big aerospace contractors.)
And so Black Dart continues to encourage innovation in the effort to keep the US military one step ahead in the cat-and-mouse game between drones and drone killers.
Alice Slater / The Hill & Stephanie Nebehay / Reuters & Mia Gandenberger / Reaching Critical Will & Lawrence J. Korb / The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists & Tom Z. Collina and Zack Brown / DefenseOne – 2018-08-30 00:47:12
Space: The Next Battlefield? Alice Slater / The Hill
(August 20, 2018) — Last week, Vice-President Mike Pence announced the Trump administration’s plan for a new military command, the US Space Force, emphasizing President Donald Trump’s urging that “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space: we must have American dominance in space.” Pence’s announcement was greeted by Trump, tweeting in response, “Space Force all the way!”
Pence’s rationale for this disturbing expansion of US militarization to the heavens is that “our adversaries”, Russia and China, “have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself” that pose a threat to American satellites.
But despite a virtual blackout in the mainstream media, Russia and China have been arguing for years in the halls of the United Nations that the world needs a treaty to prevent stationing such weapons in outer space in order to maintain global “strategic stability” among the major powers and enable nuclear disarmament.
In 2008 and again in 2014, Russia and China introduced a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space in the UN forum that negotiates disarmament agreements, the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva.
We reach this point after a sad history of missed opportunities for peace in space and nuclear disarmament. It began with President Truman’s rejection of Stalin’s proposal to place the bomb under international control at the United Nations in 1946.
Then-President Reagan rejected former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s offer to eliminate nuclear weapons, provided the US didn’t proceed with his plan for Star Wars, a space-based military system, later described in 1997 under the Clinton administration, as the US Space Command’s Vision 2020, proclaiming its mission to “dominate and control the military use of space to protect US interests and investments.”
Clinton rejected Putin’s offer to reduce our massive nuclear arsenals of some 15,000 bombs each to 1,000 and then call on all the other nuclear weapons states to negotiate for their abolition, conditioned on the US halting its plans to put anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe.
President George W. Bush, relying on his policy to include missile defense and space-based weapons to destroy targets anywhere in the world swiftly for “full spectrum dominance,” walked out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that the US had negotiated with the Soviet Union and now there are US missiles in Romania and others planned for installation in Poland.
Further, President Obama rejected Putin’s offer in 2006, in light of a new kind of arms race with potentially dangerous consequences, to negotiate an international treaty to ban cyber attacks.
Last March, President Putin, in his State of the Nation Address, said he would speak about “the newest systems of Russian strategic weapons that we are creating in response to the unilateral withdrawal of the United States of America from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the practical deployment of their missile defence systems both in the US and beyond their national borders.”
He went on to say: Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system . . . . Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.
We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. [emphasis added]. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust . . .
All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security.
There has been a shocking failure to report on the repeated proposals from Russia and China to negotiate a treaty to prevent the terrible possibility that the United States is stirring up an arms race that could destroy our extended use of global positioning satellites to gather critical information for both peaceful and military purposes.
A careful and honest examination of the historical record can only lead to the conclusion of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”
Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War, is a CODEPINK affiliate, and represents the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation at the United Nations.
GENEVA (January 25, 2006) – China and Russia will submit a joint proposal next month for an international treaty to ban the deployment of weapons in outer space, a senior Russian arms negotiator said on Friday.
Valery Loshchinin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, said the draft treaty would be presented to the 65-member forum on February 12. . . .
(June 10, 2014) — The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 where the Russian Federation and China introduced a new draft of their joint treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT). The United States delivered a statement on its space policy and responded to the new draft with a preliminary assessment.
In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, Mr. Mankeur Ndiaye, delivered a statement and the Acting Secretary General of the CD, Mr. Michael MÃ¸ller, who provided some clarifications to his proposals from 20 May 2014.
New Draft PPWT Text
Ambassador Borodavkin of the Russian Federation introduced the new draft of the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT), which it first submitted together with China in 2008.
He noted that this new draft was drafted in light of comments and suggestions received from the previous version. The second draft of the PPWT sees quite a lot of changes from the first version presented six years ago.
All articles, as well as the preamble, have been amended and the order of the provisions has been rearranged. However, at a first glance, it does not appear that the new draft include any new elements missing in the first draft, for example prohibiting the testing of anti-satellite weapons.
The most notable changes are that the definition of “outer space” has been removed from Article I, while other definitions like “use of force” or “weapon in space” have been slightly amended. Slight modifications to Article IV, the right to self-defense, have also been made.
(August 24, 2018) — President Trump’s directive to the Defense Department to do more to deal with military threats in space should not come as a surprise. For those of us who missed it among the usual rush of news emanating from the White House, this directive — whose plans were unveiled by Vice President Mike Pence on August 9 during a speech at the Pentagon — concerns the creation of a $8 billion proposed “Space Force” which would be a entirely new branch of the military.
It is not clear what, exactly, the new force would do, nor even where he would get the authority to establish it; as Jonathan Turley, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school, told Defense News: “Congress alone has the power to establish a new branch of the military and to establish the positions of senior executive officials to lead such a department.”
To be sure, the idea has been around for a while. Even though President Trump garnered a lot of attention with his call for a separate space force, this issue has been on the table since at least the beginning of this century.
In 2000, Donald Rumsfeld chaired a congressionally mandated commission that recommended consolidating the space-related activities of the Defense Department under the Undersecretary of the Air Force. (The reforms were not implemented by Rumsfeld when he became Secretary of Defense because of the 9/11 attacks.)
Since 2007, when the Chinese shot down one of their satellites, there has been more emphasis on making our space forces more resilient. And the House Armed Services Committee included language in the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would have created a Space Corps as part of the Air Force, much like the Marines are part of the Navy. This provision was dropped from the bill because of opposition from the Trump administration.
But let us assume that the president can get the approval and the funding. What are the merits of the proposal? We need to examine whether it is desirable (or even feasible), and think about what would be involved in starting a new branch of the armed services from scratch; how we would we avoid duplication of effort; and whether we really need it.
There is no doubt that the United States needs to insure that it has unfettered access and freedom to operate in space; to do so, it needs to protect our thousands of satellites from potential attacks by our strategic competitors, especially Russia and China. And that our space-related functions are addressed in a more centralized manner.
The problem with the president’s directive lies in how he wants to do it. Trump argues that the challenges cannot be met effectively without the creation of an entirely separate Space Force. Which is where it is instructive to look at the history of previous new military programs.
Since the creation of the US Defense Department in 1947, the missions and the threats that our military must meet have constantly evolved. Each time a new capability was deemed necessary to protect our security, our civilian and military leaders eventually made the proper organizational and financial changes necessary to deal with these new challenges. But these changes did not come without some resistance from those who were profiting from the status quo or wanted more dramatic changes.
For example, Admiral Rickover, the father of the “Nuclear Navy,” initially resisted the idea of developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile program, because he feared it might not work and would therefore undermine his own nuclear attack submarine program. But Admiral Arleigh Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations from 1955 to 1961, decided to risk some of his service’s own scarce resources on the Polaris missile program.
As he told me when I interviewed him back on September 6, 1968, he did this because the potential payoff was so great. However, when the Polaris program proved successful, Burke wanted the Navy to select its own targets because he did not want to place his submarines under the control of the Air Force. It took the direct intervention of President Eisenhower to make the Navy’s Polaris program part of the Strategic Command.
Similarly, after the experience of the Vietnam War, the military — not wanting to fight another insurgency — slashed funding for the Special Operations Forces in each of the services. By the mid-1980’s Congress became so concerned about this that it created a new assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) and a Special Operations Command, both of which continue to play a critical role in fighting today’s wars. Some segments of the military even resisted the creation of the Unified Transportation Command.
In fact, the Navy went behind the back of the secretary of defense in 1982 to get the Senate Armed Services Committee to squash the proposal, even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued that the Command was necessary to prevent another Desert One. (“Desert One” was the code name for the ill-fated Delta Force mission to bring back 53 US citizens being held hostage in Iran; it came to a fiery end when the helicopters involved crashed in the desert south of Tehran.) The Transportation Command was created in 1987.
But the resistance to President Trump’s proposal is based not on the creation of a new separate unified command, but on resistance to the idea of creating an entirely new military service. In fact, virtually all the supporters of creating the new command believe that creating a new service is not only unnecessary but counterproductive. Their arguments fall into three categories:
First, the Defense Department is already setting up a separate Space Command, one which would continue to oversee all military space operations. And while our space programs could use more funding than the $17 billion they currently receive, this is a problem that can be handled by the secretary of defense and the thousands of people in his office.
The other joint commands, like the Strategic and Special Operations Commands, not only receive adequate funding to carry out their missions but carry them out efficiently and effectively — despite having members from all the existing military services in their organizations.
Second, creating a new separate military department would likely create an expensive and inefficient organization that would undermine the Pentagon’s ability to carry out the space mission. Creating the new department would raise several issues. For example, would the department need a Secretary of the Space Force? And would she or he need large staffs like the other military departments? How would the new department recruit, retain, and promote the new members of the space force?
When the Air Force was established as a separate service in 1947, its top-ranked military person was already a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and it had 80,000 planes and 2.4 million people in its force, including officers and administrative personnel. Would the Space Force eventually need to establish its own military academy to train its new generation of leaders?
Third, it would cost much more to establish a separate military department, over and above what it would cost to increase funding for a space command. The best estimate is that a Space Force as a separate branch of the military would cost about $8 billion a year, about the cost of buying 80 new fighter planes or adding 1,000 women and men to the active force. And in addition to the cost of setting up a new service, there is also the cost of developing space weapons.
The fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contained language calling for the development of space-based missile interceptors by 2022, which the National Research Council says will cost at least $300 billion. A separate military to operate them is much more likely to increase its share of the overall defense budget than a unified command.
It is not clear whether Congress will go along with the president’s plan to create a separate service. The Trump administration plans to make the proposal part of its fiscal year 2020 NDAA, which will be submitted in January of 2019. But even if it does create a new service or only a new command, it will most likely increase funding for space, though the result may be of questionable utility.
To really deal with the threat from space, the administration and Congress should go back to the Cold War playbook. Five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviets agreed on a treaty to ban atomic weapons in space, and within a decade after the development of all three legs of the triad, we began arms control negotiations with the Soviets to limit and eventually reduce the strategic arsenals.
WASHINGTON (August 3, 2018) — Even a bare-bones system would be ridiculously costly, and more likely to foster war than prevent it.
Before the GOP-controlled Congress spends billions of your tax dollars on new, highly controversial weapons in space, you might think it would seek the opinion of the Defense Department. But no. Strange as it may seem, Republicans are rushing ahead with space-based missile interceptors over the objections of the White House and before a Pentagon review on the subject has been completed.
It’s almost as if congressional leaders want to spend money on space weapons no matter whether the military wants them or if they even work.
This week Congress approved the development of missile interceptors in space as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a working prototype by 2022. Last year’s defense bill contained similar language, but specified that the project would only move ahead if endorsed by the Defense Department’s ongoing Missile Defense Review, which has yet to see the light of day.
Rather than wait for the Pentagon review, this year Congress acted without it. An amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, struck out the Pentagon review in the name of removing “the legal hurdle” to developing space weapons. The effect was to order up missile interceptors in space whether or not the Pentagon thinks it’s a good idea.
This gift from Congress has not been well-received. In June, the White House released a statement saying it “strongly objects” to the Cruz amendment as an “unfunded mandate,” and urged Congress to wait for the results of the ongoing review, calling any decision on development “premature at this point.”
Over at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, who leads the Missile Defense Agency, warned that space-based interceptors would “require a significant change in national policy” and would be expensive. His predecessor, then-Vice Adm. James Syring, said in 2016, “I have serious concerns about the technical feasibility of interceptors in space, and I have serious concerns about the long-term affordability of a program like that.”
As futuristic as they may sound, spaced-based weapons are an old — and bad — idea. The Reagan administration tried and failed to develop a space-based laser as part of its Strategic Defense Initiative. Then the George H. W. Bush administration switched from lasers to kinetic kill vehicles with Brilliant Pebbles and, when that failed, came up with Global Protection Against Limited Strikes, or GPALS. Eerily similar to Congress’s current iteration, GPALS called for a scaled-down system to protect against limited ballistic missile threats from regional powers like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
But the false allure of space weapons only hides its immense technical and financial hurdles, not to mention its hugely destabilizing effects.
A 2003 American Physical Society study showed that in order to have just one satellite-based interceptor on station above a launch site at any given time would require a network of at least 1,600 satellites (with a corresponding five- to ten-fold increase in American space-launch capacity). That number nearly matches all the active satellites in orbit today. And yet the system could easily be overwhelmed by an adversary launching multiple, inexpensive missiles at once.
Even a bare-bones system would be ridiculously costly. A 2012 National Research Council report determined that the total life-cycle cost of developing, building, launching, and maintaining an “austere and limited-capability network” of 650 satellites would be $300 billion.
In addition to spending hundreds of billions for a paper-thin system, Congress could also spook Russia and China into a dangerous arms race. Since the 1960s, rival powers have maintained a fragile norm against placing weapons in space. The deployment of space-based interceptors would irreparably destroy that precedent. Moreover, any interceptor that is able to target an enemy missile can also knock an enemy satellite out of the sky.
Against this capability, the claim that space-based interceptors have a purely defensive mission would ring hollow in Moscow and Beijing, who would be forced to deploy anti-satellite weapons of their own. This would greatly increase the likelihood of a shooting war in space, posing a grave risk to the satellites upon which the US military (and civil society) depends. As the nation that is most dependent on satellites for military and civil communications, we have the most to lose from a space war.
None of this is inevitable, but the development of space weapons greases the skids for this dangerous outcome. The United States should recognize space-based interceptors for what they really are: infeasible, unaffordable, and utterly destabilizing. Congress should reject space weapons and save our money — and our satellites â€“ instead.
At a minimum, Congress might want to check in with the Pentagon.
Tom Z. Collina is the policy director for Ploughshares Fund.
Zack Brown is a research assistant at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation that supports initiatives to reduce and eventually eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.
Raging Wildfires Near Berlin Force Hundreds
To Evacuate as Undetonated WWII Munitions Start Exploding James Hetherington / Newsweek
(August 24, 2018) — Blazing forest fires in Germany have forced the evacuation of three small towns believed to be sitting atop undetonated munitions from World War II.
The fires are burning in the districts of Potsdam-Mittelmark and Teltow-Flaming, just outside Berlin. Residents of Frohnsdorf, Klausdorf and Tiefenbrunnen were told to leave their homes by more than 300 firefighters taking on the blaze. The fires were so out of control that they were burning through tree tops, not just on the ground.
In total, 540 people were evacuated, most of whom chose to stay with family members. Several people are staying in the town hall of Treuenbrietzen nearby. According to the website dw.com, Treuenbrietzen Mayor Michael Knappe said that the area never had fires “of this magnitude.” The fire is spread across 400 hectares (about 988 acres).
Frohnsdorf residents have since been told they can return to their homes. Klausdorf and Tiefenbrunnen residents are still being told to stay away. Berlin itself has also been affected by the fires, with smoke billowing through its streets. The Berlin Fire Department warned residents of ash rain in the southeast of the city.
The munitions are spread across the land and have limited the firefighters’ access. “There are places we cannot get to,” an emergency service spokesman said. “We canâ€™t get to a lot of places, only the paths that have been cleared and are accessible.”
So far, grenades and cartridges have exploded in response to the fires. Bombs dating back to World War II are unearthed regularly in Germany.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Potsdam-Mittelmark official Christian Stein said the fires could be seen from as far as 10 kilometres (six miles) away. “Our main goal is still to protect the evacuated areas from the flames,” Stein said. “The fire still has not been pushed back, but it also hasnâ€™t taken a building with it.”
As of Friday morning, the fire was mostly under control, The Guardian reported.
In the United States, evacuation orders were issued in parts of Washington State this week as the Crescent Mountain Fire continued to burn. The fire has swept through some 31,091 acres and was 34 percent contained on Wednesday.
The fire, caused by lightning, which ignited on July 29, has prompted level three evacuation orders for residents living west of the Little Bridge Creek intersection in the Twisp River Valley. The Red Cross opened a shelter for those affected by the evacuations at the Methow Valley Community Center in Twisp.
(August 17, 2018) — It is not just North America and Asia that have faced deadly temperatures this summer season. Germany, Greece and even Sweden and Norway are struggling to cope with wild temperature fluctuations and unparalleled numbers of forest fires. In Japan, dozens of people have lost their lives as temperatures soar past 104 degrees F.
In Germany, the problem is compounded by a 70-plus-year-old problem: dormant ammunition and bombs. Leftover from the Second World War, they are causing serious headaches for firefighters nationwide. The Allies dropped thousands of bombs on Germany during the war, and those that did not detonate remained buried or hidden.
This summer season, there have been so many fires that it has become hard for authorities to tell if a bomb went off, thereby causing a fire, or if a fire caused some bombs to explode. Either way, they are causing profound difficulties for firefighters.
German officials have implemented an organized response system to deal with the munitions, but this year, unfortunately, is not the first time authorities have seen citizens’ lives threatened because of the chronic problem of unseen bombs.
Three German bomb disposal experts were killed in 2010 while trying to defuse a bomb in Gottingen, when it unexpectedly detonated. Officials frequently evacuate cities and villages, or shut down municipal services because of the threat. A laborer was killed when he inadvertently dug up a bomb near Euskirchen, Germany, roughly six years ago.
This has become almost commonplace for these occurrences to inconvenience citizens, but this summer’s fires and hot temperatures have compounded the risk to an even more deadly degree.
(January 2016) — Shortly before 11 a.m. on March 15, 1945, the first of 36 B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 493rd Bombardment Group of the US Eighth Air Force thundered down the concrete runway of Little Walden airfield in Essex, England, and rose slowly into the air.
They headed east, gradually gaining altitude until, assembled in tight box formations at the head of a stream of more than 1,300 heavy bombers, they crossed the Channel coast north of Amsterdam at an altitude of almost five miles. Inside the unpressurized aluminum fuselage of each aircraft, the temperature fell to 40 degrees below zero, the air too thin to breathe.
They flew on into Germany, passing Hanover and Magdeburg, the exhaust of each B-17’s four engines condensing into the white contrails every crewman hated for betraying their position to defenders below. But the Luftwaffe was on its knees; no enemy aircraft engaged the bombers of the 493rd.
Around 2:40 p.m., some ten miles northwest of Berlin, the city of Oranienburg appeared beneath them, shrouded in a mist along the lazy curves of Havel River, and the sky blossomed with puffs of jet-black smoke from anti-aircraft fire.
Sitting in the nose in the lead plane, the bombardier stared through his bombsight into the haze far below. As his B-17 approached the Oder-Havel Canal, he watched as the needles of the automatic release mechanism converged. Five bombs tumbled away into the icy sky.
Between 1940 and 1945, US and British air forces dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe, half of that amount on Germany. By the time the Nazi government surrendered, in May 1945, the industrial infrastructure of the Third Reich — railheads, arms factories and oil refineries — had been crippled, and dozens of cities across Germany had been reduced to moonscapes of cinder and ash.
Under Allied occupation, reconstruction began almost immediately. Yet as many as 10 percent of the bombs dropped by Allied aircraft had failed to explode, and as East and West Germany rose from the ruins of the Reich, thousands of tons of unexploded airborne ordnance lay beneath them.
In both East and West, responsibility for defusing these bombs — along with removing the innumerable hand grenades, bullets and mortar and artillery shells left behind at the end of the war — fell to police bomb-disposal technicians and firefighters, the Kampfmittelbeseitigungsdienst, or KMBD.
Even now, 70 years later, more than 2,000 tons of unexploded munitions are uncovered on German soil every year. Before any construction project begins in Germany, from the extension of a home to track-laying by the national railroad authority, the ground must be certified as cleared of unexploded ordnance.
Still, last May, some 20,000 people were cleared from an area of Cologne while authorities removed a one-ton bomb that had been discovered during construction work. In November 2013, another 20,000 people in Dortmund were evacuated while experts defused a 4,000-pound “Blockbuster” bomb that could destroy most of a city block.
In 2011, 45,000 people — the largest evacuation in Germany since World War II — were forced to leave their homes when a drought revealed a similar device lying on the bed of the Rhine in the middle of Koblenz. Although the country has been at peace for three generations, German bomb-disposal squads are among the busiest in the world.
Eleven bomb technicians have been killed in Germany since 2000, including three who died in a single explosion while trying to defuse a 1,000-pound bomb on the site of a popular flea market in Gottingen in 2010.
Early one recent winter morning, Horst Reinhardt, chief of the Brandenburg state KMBD, told me that when he started in bomb disposal in 1986, he never believed he would still be at it almost 30 years later. Yet his men discover more than 500 tons of unexploded munitions every year and defuse an aerial bomb every two weeks or so. “People simply don’t know that thereâ€™s still that many bombs under the ground,” he said.
And in one city in his district, the events of 70 years ago have ensured that unexploded bombs remain a daily menace. The place looks ordinary enough: a drab main street, pastel-painted apartment houses, an orderly railway station and a McDonaldâ€™s with a tubular thicket of bicycles parked outside. Yet, according to Reinhardt, Oranienburg is the most dangerous city in Germany.
Between 2:51 and 3:36 p.m. on March 15, 1945, more than 600 aircraft of the Eighth Air Force dropped 1,500 tons of high explosives over Oranienburg, a cluster of strategic targets including rail yards that were a hub for troops headed to the Eastern Front, a Heinkel aircraft plant and, straddling the rail yards, two factories run by the chemical conglomerate Auergesellschaft.
Allied target lists had described one of those facilities as a gas-mask factory, but by early 1945, US intelligence had learned that Auergesellschaft had begun processing enriched uranium, the raw material for the atomic bomb, in Oranienburg.
Although the March 15 attack was ostensibly aimed at the rail yards, it had been personally requested by the director of the Manhattan Project, Gen. Leslie Groves, who was determined to keep Nazi nuclear research out of the hands of rapidly advancing Russian troops. Of the 13 Allied air attacks eventually launched on the city, this one, the fourth within a year, was by far the heaviest and most destructive.
As one squadron of B-17s followed another into its run, almost five thousand 500- and 1,000-pound bombs and more than 700 incendiaries fell across the rail yards, the chemical factory and into the residential streets nearby.
The first explosions started fires around the railroad station; by the time the final B-17s began their attack, smoke from the burning city was so heavy the bombardiers had difficulty seeing where their bombs were falling. But where it cleared, the men of the First Air Division watched three concentrations of high explosives fall into houses near the road over the Lehnitzstrasse canal bridge, around a mile southeast of the rail station and a few hundred yards from one of the chemical factories.
These bomb loads were unlike almost any others the Eighth Air Force dropped over Germany during the war. The majority of the bombs were armed not with percussion fuses, which explode on impact, but with time-delay fuses, which both sides used throughout the war in order to extend the terror and chaos caused by aerial attacks.
The sophisticated, chemical-based fuses — designated M124 and M125, depending on the weight of the bomb — were intended to be used sparingly; US Army Air Force guidelines recommended fitting them in no more than 10 percent of bombs in any given attack. But for reasons that have never become clear, almost every bomb dropped during the March 15 raid on Oranienburg was armed with one.
Screwed into a bomb’s tail beneath its stabilizing fins, the fuse contained a small glass capsule of corrosive acetone mounted above a stack of paper-thin celluloid disks less than half an inch in diameter. The disks held back a spring-loaded firing pin, cocked behind a detonator. As the bomb fell, it tilted nose-down, and a windmill in the tail stabilizer began spinning in the slipstream, turning a crank that broke the glass capsule.
The bomb was designed to hit the ground nose-down, so the acetone would drip toward the disks and begin eating through them. This could take minutes or days, depending on the concentration of acetone and the number of disks the armorers had fitted into the fuse. When the last disk weakened and snapped, the spring was released, the firing pin struck the priming charge and — finally, unexpectedly — the bomb exploded.
Around three o’clock that afternoon, a B-17 from the Eighth Air Force released a 1,000-pound bomb some 20,000 feet above the rail yards. Quickly reaching terminal velocity, it fell toward the southwest, missing the yards and the chemical plants. It fell instead toward the canal and the two bridges connecting Oranienburg and the suburb of Lehnitz, closing on a wedge of low-lying land framed by the embankments of Lehnitzstrasse and the railroad line.
Before the war this had been a quiet spot beside the water, leading to four villas among the trees, parallel to a canal on Baumschulenweg. But now it was occupied by anti-aircraft guns and a pair of narrow, wooden, single-story barracks built by the Wehrmacht.
This was where the bomb finally found the earth — just missing the more westerly of the two barracks and plunging into the sandy soil at more than 150 miles per hour. It bored down at an oblique angle before the violence of its passage tore the stabilizing fins away from the tail, when it abruptly angled upward until, its kinetic energy finally spent, the bomb and its M125 fuse came to rest: nose-up but still deep underground.
By four o’clock, the skies over Oranienburg had fallen silent. The city center was ablaze, the first of the delayed explosions had started: The Auergesellschaft plant would soon be destroyed and the rail yards tangled with wreckage. But the bomb beside the canal lay undisturbed.
As the shadows of the trees on Lehnitzstrasse lengthened in the low winter sun, acetone dripped slowly from the shattered glass capsule within the bomb’s fuse. Taken by gravity, it trickled harmlessly downward, away from the celluloid disks it was supposed to weaken.
Less than two months later, Nazi leaders capitulated. As much as ten square miles of Berlin had been reduced to rubble. In the months following V-E Day that May, a woman who had been bombed out of her home there found her way, with her young son, out to Oranienburg, where she had a boyfriend.
The town was a constellation of yawning craters and gutted factories, but beside Lehnitzstrasse and not far from the canal, she found a small wooden barracks empty and intact. She moved in with her boyfriend and her son.
Abandoned ammunition and unexploded bombs claimed their first postwar victims almost as soon as the last guns fell silent. In June 1945, a cache of German anti-tank weapons exploded in Bremen, killing 35 and injuring 50; three months later in Hamburg, a buried American 500-pound bomb with a time-delay fuse took the lives of the four technicians working to disarm it.
Clearing unexploded munitions became the task of the German states’ KMBD. It was dangerous work done at close quarters, removing fuses with wrenches and hammers. “You need a clear head. And calm hands,” Horst Reinhardt told me. He said he never felt fear during the defusing process. “If you’re afraid, you can’t do it. For us, it’s a completely normal job. In the same way that a baker bakes bread, we defuse bombs.”
In the decades after the war, bombs, mines, grenades and artillery shells killed dozens of KMBD technicians and hundreds of civilians. Thousands of unexploded Allied bombs were excavated and defused. But many had been buried in rubble or simply entombed in concrete during wartime remediation and forgotten.
In the postwar rush for reconstruction, nobody kept consistent information about where unexploded bombs had been made safe and removed. A systematic approach to finding them was officially regarded as impossible. When Reinhardt started work with the East German KMBD in 1986, both he and his counterparts in the West usually found bombs the same way: one at a time, often during construction work.
But the government of Hamburg had recently brokered an agreement to allow the states of West Germany access to the 5.5 million aerial photographs in the declassified wartime archives of the Allied Central Interpretation Unit, held in Keele in England.
Between 1940 and 1945, ACIU pilots flew thousands of reconnaissance missions before and after every raid by Allied bombers, taking millions of stereoscopic photographs that revealed both where the attacks could be directed and then how successful they had proved. Those images held clues to where bombs had landed but never detonated — a small, circular hole, for example, in an otherwise consistent line of ragged craters.
Around the same time, Hans-Georg Carls, a geographer working on a municipal project using aerial photography to map trees in Wurzburg, in southern Germany, stumbled on another trove of ACIU images.
Stored in a teacher’s cellar in Mainz, they had been ordered from the archives of the US Defense Intelligence Agency by an enterprising American intelligence officer based in Germany, who had hoped to sell them privately to the German government for his own profit. When he failed, he sold 60,000 of them to the teacher for a few pfennigs each. Carls, sensing a business opportunity, snapped them up for a deutsche mark apiece.
When he compared what he’d bought with what the German government had copied from the British, he realized he had images the British didn’t. Convinced there must be more, held somewhere in the United States, Carls established a company, Luftbilddatenbank. With the help of archivists in Britain and the States, he brought to light hundreds of cans of aerial reconnaissance film that had gone unexamined for decades.
Crucially, Carls also found the maps made by the pilots who shot the film — “sortie plots” showing exactly where each run of pictures had been taken — which had often been archived elsewhere, and without which the images would be meaningless.
Supplementing the photographs and the sortie plots with local histories and police records, contemporary eyewitness testimony and the detailed records of bombing missions held at the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Carls was able to build a chronology of everything that had happened to a given patch of land between 1939 and 1945.
Examining the photographs using a stereoscope, which makes the images appear in 3-D, Carls could see where bombs had fallen, where they had exploded and where they may not have.
From that data he could compile an ErgebniskarteErgebniskarte in ominous red ink.
Paule Dietrich bought the house on the cul-de-sac in Oranienburg in 1993. He and the German Democratic Republic had been born on the same day, October 7, 1949, and for a while the coincidence seemed auspicious. When he turned 10, he and a dozen or so other children who shared the birthday were taken to tea with President Wilhelm Pieck, who gave them each passbooks to savings accounts containing 15 Ostmarks. At 20, he and the others were guests at the opening of the Berlin TV tower, the tallest building in all of Germany.
Over the next 20 years, the Republic was good to Dietrich. He drove buses and subway trains for the Berlin transit authority. He was given an apartment in the city, and he became a taxi driver. He added to the savings the president had given him, and on an abandoned piece of land in Falkensee, in the countryside outside the city, he built a summer bungalow.
But in 1989, Dietrich turned 40, the Berlin Wall fell and his Ostmarks became worthless overnight. Three years later, the rightful owners of the land in Falkensee returned from the West to reclaim it.
In nearby Oranienburg, where his mother had lived since the 1960s, Dietrich met an elderly lady who was trying to sell a small wooden house down by the canal — an old Wehrmacht barracks sheâ€™d lived in since the war. It needed a lot of work, but it was right by the water. Dietrich sold his car and mobile home to buy it and began working on it whenever he could.
His girlfriend and Willi, their only son, joined him, and slowly the house came together. By 2005, it was finished — plastered, weatherproofed and insulated, with a garage, a new bathroom and a brick fireplace. Dietrich began living there full-time from May to December and planned to move in permanently when he retired.
Like everyone else in Oranienburg, he knew the city had been bombed during the war, but so had a lot of places in Germany. And parts of Oranienburg were evacuated so frequently that it was easy to believe there couldn’t be many bombs left.
Buried bombs had apparently gone off on their own a few times — once, just around the corner from Dietrich’s house, one exploded under the sidewalk where a man was walking his dog. But nobody, not even the dog and its walker, had been seriously injured. Most people simply preferred not to think about it.
The state of Brandenburg, however, knew Oranienburg presented a unique problem. Between 1996 and 2007, the local government spent â‚¬45 million on bomb disposal — more than any other town in Germany, and more than a third of total statewide expenses for unexploded ordnance during that time.
In 2006, the state Ministry of the Interior commissioned Wolfgang Spyra of the Brandenburg University of Technology to determine how many unexploded bombs might remain in the city and where they might be.
Two years later, Spyra delivered a 250-page report revealing not only the huge number of time bombs dropped on the city on March 15, 1945, but also the unusually high proportion of them that had failed to go off. That was a function of local geology and the angle at which some bombs hit the ground: Hundreds of them had plunged nose-first into the sandy soil but then had come to rest nose-up, disabling their chemical fuses. Spyra calculated that 326 bombs — or 57 tons of high-explosive ordnance — remained hidden beneath the cityâ€™s streets and yards.
And the celluloid disks in the bombs’ timing mechanisms had become brittle with age and acutely sensitive to vibration and shock. So bombs had begun to go off spontaneously. A decayed fuse of this type was responsible for the deaths of the three KMBD technicians in GÃ¶ttingen in 2010. They had dug out the bomb, but werenâ€™t touching it when it went off.
In January 2013, Paule Dietrich read in the newspaper that the city of Oranienburg was going to start looking for bombs in his neighborhood. He had to fill out some forms, and in July, city contractors arrived. They drilled 38 holes in his yard, each more than 30 feet deep, and dropped a magnetometer into every one. It took two weeks. A month later, they drilled more holes in back of the house. They were zeroing in on something, but didn’t say what.
It was nine in the morning on October 7, 2013 — the day Dietrich turned 64 — when a delegation of city officials arrived at his front gate. “I thought they were here for my birthday,” he said when I met him recently. But that wasnâ€™t it at all. “There’s something here,” the officials told him. “We need to get at it.” They said that it was ein Verdachtspunkt — a point of suspicion. Nobody used the word “bomb.”
They marked the spot beside the house with an orange traffic cone and prepared to pump out groundwater from around it. When Dietrich’s friends turned up that afternoon to celebrate his birthday, they took pictures of the cone. Throughout October, the contractors had pumps running round the clock. They started digging at seven every morning and stayed until eight every night. Each morning they drank coffee in Dietrich’s carport. “Paule,” they said, “this will be no problem.”
It took them another month to uncover the bomb, more than 12 feet down: 1,000 pounds, big as a man, rusted, its tail stabilizer gone. They shored up the hole with steel plates and chained the bomb so it couldn’t move. Every night, Dietrich stayed in the house with his German shepherd, Rocky. They slept with their heads just a few feet from the hole. “I thought everything was going to be fine,” he said.
On November 19, the contractors were drinking coffee as usual when their boss arrived. “Paule, you need to take your dog and get off the property immediately,” he said. “We have to create an exclusion zone right now, all the way from here to the street.”
Dietrich took his TV set and his dog and drove over to his girlfriend’s house, in Lehnitz. On the radio, he heard that the city had stopped the trains running over the canal. The KMBD was defusing a bomb. The streets around the house were sealed off. Two days later, on Saturday morning, he heard on the news that the KMBD said the bomb couldn’t be defused; it would have to be detonated. He was walking with Rocky in the forest a mile away when he heard the explosion.
Two hours later, when the all-clear siren sounded, Dietrich drove over to his place with a friend and his son. He could barely speak. Where his house had once stood was a crater more than 60 feet across, filled with water and scorched debris.
The straw the KMBD had used to contain bomb splinters was scattered everywhere — on the roof of his shed, across his neighborâ€™s yard. The wreckage of Dietrichâ€™s front porch leaned precariously at the edge of the crater. The mayor, a TV crew and Horst Reinhardt of the KMBD were there. Dietrich wiped away tears. He was less than a year from retirement.
Early one morning at the headquarters of the Brandenburg KMBD in Zossen, Reinhardt swept his hand slowly across a display case in his spartan, linoleum-floored office. “These are all American fuses. These are Russian ones, these are English ones. These are German ones,” he said, pausing among the dozens of metal cylinders that filled the case, some topped with small propellers, others cut away to reveal the mechanisms inside. “These are bomb fuses. These are mine fuses. That’s just a tiny fingernail of what’s out there.”
At 63, Reinhardt was in the last few days of his career in bomb disposal and looking forward to gardening, collecting stamps and playing with his grandchildren. He recalled the bomb in Paule Dietrichâ€™s yard, and said his men had had no alternative but to blow it up. Sallow and world-weary, he said it was impossible to tell how long it would take to clear Germany of unexploded ordnance.
“There will still be bombs 200 years from now,” he told me. “Itâ€™s becoming increasingly difficult. At this point, weâ€™ve dealt with all the open spaces. But now itâ€™s the houses, the factories. We have to look directly underneath the houses.”
Late the following day, as the wet wind slapped viciously at the plastic roof overhead, I sat with Paule Dietrich in what had been his carport. A few feet of grass separated it from the spot where his house once stood. The bomb crater had been filled in, and Dietrich was living there in a mobile home. He kept the carport for entertaining, and had equipped it with a fridge, a shower and furniture donated by friends and supporters from Oranienburg, where he has become a minor celebrity.
Sitting at a small table, Dietrich chain-smoked Chesterfields and drank instant coffee. He produced an orange binder filled with photographs of his former home: as it was when he bought it; when he and his colleagues were decorating it; and, finally, as it was after the bomb had reached the end of its 70-year fuse.
Dietrich said he realized that he and his family had been lucky: Every summer, his grandchildren had played in a plastic pool near where the bomb had been lying; at night, they slept in a mobile home beside the pool. “Directly on the bomb,” he said.
By the time we met, Dietrich had been offered scant financial compensation by the authorities — technically, the federal government was required to pay only for damage caused by German-made munitions.
But among a pile of documents and newspaper clippings he had in the binder was a rendering of the new home he wanted to build on the site. It had once been the best prefabricated bungalow available in East Germany, he said, and a contractor in Falkensee had given him all the components of one, except for the roof. Even so, more than a year after the explosion, he hadn’t started work on it.
Outside, in the afternoon gloaming, he showed me why. In the grass at the bottom of the embankment of Lehnitzstrasse was a patch of sandy ground. Men from the city had recently marked it with two painted stakes. They had told him only that it was a “double anomaly,” but he knew precisely what they meant. Paule Dietrich had two more unexploded American bombs at the end of his yard.
Adam Higginbotham is the author of A Thousand Pounds of Dynamite. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, GQ and the New York Times Magazine.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Less Than 24 Hours After Senate Rejected
Effort to Curb Slaughter, 26 More Children
Killed by US-Backed Bombing in Yemen Jon Queally / Common Dreams
Yemenis carrying the bodies of children killed in a Saudi-led airstrike near Al Hudaydah on Thursday.
(Credit: EPA, via Shutterstock)
“Yesterday, 26 children were reportedly killed in attacks in ad-Durayhimi, Yemen. Children and families continue to be victims of intense and senseless violence. UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict to stop the war on children in Yemen once and for all.” #ChildrenUnderAttack
“The US must end its complicity in the Saudi-led onslaught in #Yemen. We’re helping intensify the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The worst #Cholera outbreak in human history. It has to stop.” #YemenCantWait
— Friends Committee on National Legislation
“It’s just unthinkable to me that we continue to willingly participate in the slaughter of Yemeni kids when there is zero benefit to US security.”
— Sen. Chris Murphy
“Shame on those Senators who let our
involvement in this war continue.
History will not be kind to you.”
— Win Without War
(August 25, 2018) — Less than a day after Republicans in the United States Senate rejected a chance this week “to slam on the brakes and stop [America’s] role in enabling the suffering in Yemen,” at least 26 more children were slaughtered by a US-backed Saudi-led bombing in the western part of the country.
Condemning the bombing near the Red Sea port of Al Hudaydah that occurred Thursday, but was not widely reported until Friday, the United Nation’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, and head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, said the attack — in which four women, in addition to the children, were killed — took place as the victims tried to flee the area.
“This is the second time in two weeks that an airstrike by the Saudi-led Coalition has resulted in dozens of civilian casualties,” said Lowcock, who noted that “an additional air strike in Al Durayhimi on Thursday resulted in the death of four children.”
As the New York Times reports: Criticism of Saudi Arabia and its partners has been growing over thousands of civilian casualties, many of them caused by munitions fired from the coalition’s warplanes.
Humanitarian groups and antiwar activists have also aimed criticism at the United States, a main provider of the Saudi coalition’s weapons, intelligence, warplane refueling and guidance technology for missiles and bombs.
Just two weeks ago, as Common Dreams reported, another Saudi airstrike in the city of Saada — which investigators later showed was carried out using US-manufactured bombs — killed at least 40 children riding in a school bus as they enjoyed a rare field trip. In reaction to that massacre, an outraged Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) declared, in all capital letters, “We just bombed a SCHOOL BUS.”
“I had hoped that the outrage that followed the Saada attack in Yemen two weeks ago would be a turning point in the conflict. Yesterday’s reported attacks in Al-Durayhimi, killing 26 children, indicate that it was not,” said Fore of UNICEF on Friday.
“These deaths are on our hands, and many more children will die in Yemen as long as the US supports the Saudi-led war,” declared the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the anti-war Quaker advocacy group, in a tweet.
It was the August 9th slaughter of the school children on the bus in Saada that drove Sen. Murphy on Wednesday of this week to push for a vote on his amendment that would have “cut off United States’ support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s war in Yemen until the Secretary of Defense certified that the coalition’s air campaign is not violating international law and US policy related to the protection of civilians.” But Republicans, led by Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, objected to the measure and would not allow a vote.
Less than twenty-four hours later, more than two-dozen innocent children were dead.
As the peace advocacy group Win Without War put it: “Shame on those Senators who let our involvement in this war continue. History will not be kind to you.”
* * * Comments from Sen. Chris Murphy “There’s no way a school bus is a legitimate military target. That school bus was carrying dozens of children — dozens of children that are now dead because of a 500-pound bomb made in the United States and sold to the coalition . . . .
“At some point we need to believe our eyes rather than the reports we get from the administration that the targeting is getting better.” [The] “problem is [that the coalition’s] targets are [a] school bus, funerals, water treatment facilities . . . .
“The fact of the matter is the majority of the civilian casualties are caused by the side that we are supporting . . . .
“The campaign is not expediting a political end. It is prolonging the misery and giving more opportunity for our mortal enemies there, the terrorist groups to get stronger and stronger . . . .
“We are radicalizing a generation of Yemeni children against us and that will have implications for US National security for years to come.”
CNN Reports on US Bomb That KiIIed 40 Yemeni Children:
Names Corporations Responsible for Weapons The Humanist Report
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
The Yemen Bus Massacre:
How a Joyful Excursion Ended in Sheer Horror Ahmad Algohbary and Faisal Edroos / Al Jazeera
DAHYAN, Yemen (August 18, 2018) — The bandage wrapped around Mokhtar al-Jaradi’s head is still soaked in blood. There are cuts and grazes to his arms and face. But it’s the anguish etched in his dark brown eyes that really speaks of the massacre that unfolded in north Yemen last week.
The eight-year-old was laughing and playing with a group of friends at the front of his school bus while on a day-long field trip organised by a pro-Houthi Islamic seminary.
Some of the older boys who arrived late were made to stand in the aisle. The younger ones jostled for the few seats available. Mokhtar says all of the 50 children on board the bus that morning appeared to be in high spirits.
A video taken by one of the boys on the bus, Osama al-Hamran, showed the children excited for the day ahead. In one clip, the children recited verses from the Quran. In another, they were smiling and giggling.
When the bus sped off, passers-by heard joyful screams as it veered through the dusty, pot-hole ridden roads of Saada province.
After stops at a graveyard for local fighters and a nearby shrine, the bus was supposed to take its young passengers to Saada city for a visit to the ninth-century al-Hadi mosque, a historical site which is venerated by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
But the children never made it.
What Mokhtar remembers next is a loud explosion, bright red-and-orange colours, then the grisly sight of charred young bodies.
“I saw the explosion, then my ears started ringing,” he told Al Jazeera. His eyes welled up with tears. “I saw blood, then smoke. And once I saw my friends dying, I began crying.”
Mokhtar lost several friends in the August 9 air raid, which killed 40 children as they stopped for food in Dahyan. Eleven bystanders were also killed in the attack, which sent shockwaves across the country.
Large protests erupted in the capital, Sanaa, and elsewhere. Local newspapers called the attack one of the worst days in Yemen’s three-year war.
‘The Screams Kept Getting Louder and Louder’
Ahmed Jaran, owner of a small clothes shop near the site of the blast, said he was greeted by “scenes of sheer horror” as he rushed to help the wounded.
“As I ran through the smoke, the screams just kept getting louder and louder,” he said, standing just metres away from the bombed-out carcass of the school bus. “Human remains were thrown everywhere, mixed with debris from the explosion. I took as many children as I could to the hospital — but it was 14km away.”
Along with several bloodied children, Jaran picked up Ali, one of his coworkers who was badly injured by the attack.
“When we reached the hospital, several of the children were pronounced dead. So, too, was Ali. I still can’t believe what happened. It feels like a bad dream. I’m still struggling to absorb the events.”
Among the boys who died was Osama, who had been using his smartphone to record a video diary throughout the religious trip. The videos were found on his phone, which survived the blast, according to the Houthis who sent the footage to Al Jazeera.
“I am filming!” Osama can be heard yelling in one of the videos, surrounded by children wearing coats over their thobes, a traditional dress for Arab males. Light-blue UNICEF rucksacks carried by the children could also be seen.
‘Never Seen Anything Like This’
But videos shot in the aftermath of the raid showed a smouldering heap of twisted metal and the lifeless bodies of two boys on the ground.
“I was shocked when I saw the victims,” said Mohammed Ahsan, a 35-year-old doctor at al-Talh hospital in Saada where most of the survivors are being treated. “I had never seen anything like this before. They were really badly wounded.”
Three days after the attack, victims’ families continued to throng to the scene of the attack, hoping to find the remains of their loved ones.
“I didn’t find any of him,” said Abdelhakim Amir as he searched the wreckage for his son, Ahmed. “Not his finger, not his bone, not his skull, nothing.”
Saudi Arabia, which, along with the United Arab Emirates, has been bombing Yemen since March 2015, said it would carry out an investigation. But out of the 16,000-plus raids they have launched since the start of the conflict, only a handful have been investigated, despite nearly a third of all bombs hitting civilian targets.
“America: Ask Why You Are Hated”
The UN blacklisted the Saudi-UAE alliance last year, for the majority of child deaths and injuries reported in Yemen. But on the day of the bus attack, Colonel Turki al-Malki, a spokesperson for the alliance, defended the raid, saying his forces hit a “legitimate military target”, which included “operators and planners.”
The Houthis have used the area to launch attacks on the Saudi border and fire missiles into the kingdom and the UAE.
However, on August 10, the alliance said the bombing had been referred for an internal probe after the US — which provides substantial support to the alliance, including intelligence sharing — denounced the killings and called for a “thorough and transparent investigation”.
‘I Hate Buses’
A few days later, Al Jazeera received an image suggesting a US-made MK-82 bomb was used in the raid. A metal fin, bearing the serial numbers of Lockheed Martin, was found nearby.
The photo has not been independently verified, but fragments of the MK-82 bomb have surfaced repeatedly amid the ongoing war.
The 500-pound bomb was used in a 2016 attack on a community hall hosting a funeral in Sanaa. At least 140 people were killed in that attack.
The Trump administration says it has little control over the targets the alliance chooses to attack, but human rights groups have told Al Jazeera that Washington should stop selling aerial bombs to the kingdom in the absence of serious investigations into alleged war crimes.
In the wake of the attack, individual members of Congress called on the US military to clarify its role in the war and investigate whether support for the air raids could render American military personnel “liable under the war crimes act”. But any investigation will do little to pacify the victims’ families, residents told Al Jazeera.
“I will take revenge on Salman, Mohammed Bin Zayed and Trump,” said Fares al-Razhi, referring to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US, after his 14-year-old son was killed.
The parents of some of the survivors were also inconsolable.
“I’m waiting on my son to get better, and once he does I will take my revenge on the Saudis,” said Mokhtar’s father. “We will never leave Saada.”
Close to him, his son crouches near the bomb site, still haunted by memories of the attack.
“My father says he will buy me toys and get me a new school bag. But I don’t want a new school bag. I hate school bags,” said eight-year-old Mokhtar before adding that his education ended the day his friends died.
“I don’t want to go anywhere near a bus. I hate buses, I hate school and I can’t sleep. I see my friends in my dreams begging me to rescue them.
Munitions experts said the numbers on this piece of shrapnel confirmed that Lockheed Martin was the maker of the bomb.
(August 17, 2018) — The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.
Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.
The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed “incorrect information” for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.
In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market– this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb — killed 97 people.
In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over “human rights concerns.”
The ban was overturned by the Trump administration’s then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2017.
As the US-backed Saudi-led coalition scrambles to investigate the strike on the school bus, questions are growing from observers and rights groups about whether the US bears any moral culpability.
The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence.
“I will tell you that we do help them plan what we call, kind of targeting,” said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “We do not do dynamic targeting for them.”
The latest strike has left the community in Yemen’s northern Saada governorate reeling.
Zeid Al Homran visits the graveyard where his two little boys are buried every day. On this occasion, he brought their five-year-old brother along. He is all Al Homran has left.
“I was screaming in anger and all around me women were throwing themselves on the ground,” he told CNN. “People were screaming out the names of their children. I tried to tell the women it couldn’t be true but then a man ran through the crowd shouting that a plane had struck the children’s bus.”
‘Bodies Scattered Everywhere’
The bomb’s impact as it landed on the bus full of excited schoolchildren on a day trip was devastating.
Of the 51 people who died in the airstrike, 40 were children, Houthi Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said last week. He added that of the 79 people wounded, 56 were children.
Eyewitnesses told CNN it was a direct hit in the middle of a busy market. “I saw the bomb hit the bus,” one witness said. “It blew it into those shops and threw the bodies clear to the other side of those buildings. We found bodies scattered everywhere, there was a severed head inside the bomb crater. When we found that, that was when I started running. I was so afraid.”
Some of the bodies were so mutilated that identification became impossible. Left behind were scraps of schoolbooks, warped metal and a single backpack.
Images of shrapnel filmed in the immediate aftermath of the attack were sent to CNN by a contact in Saada. Subsequently, a cameraman working for CNN filmed footage of the shrapnel after the cleanup operation had begun.
Munitions experts confirmed that the numbers on it identified Lockheed Martin as its maker and that this particular MK 82 was a Paveway, a laser-guided bomb.
Asked to comment on CNN’s evidence, coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said: “The democratically elected government of Yemen has been displaced by an Iranian-backed insurgency by minority Houthi militias.”
“The coalition is in Yemen with the support of the UN Security Council to restore the legitimate government. The coalition is operating in accordance with international humanitarian law, taking all practical measures to minimize civilian casualties. Every civilian casualty is a tragedy.” He added that it would not “be appropriate for the coalition to comment further while the investigation is underway.”
Saudi Arabia denies targeting civilians and defended the incident as a “legitimate military operation” and a retaliatory response to a Houthi ballistic missile from the day before.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, declined to confirm the provenance of the bomb. “The US has worked with the Saudi-led coalition to help them improve procedures and oversight mechanisms to reduce civilian casualties,” she said. “While we do not independently verify claims of civilian casualties in which we are not directly involved, we call on all sides to reduce such casualties, including those caused via ballistic missile attacks on civilian population centers in Saudi Arabia.”
The United Nations has called for a separate investigation into the strike, one of the deadliest since Yemen’s war began in early 2015. Since then, the Saudi-led coalition has battled rebels in support of exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Greater US Oversight
There have been growing calls in the US Congress for Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East, to do more to cut civilian deaths in Yemen, where three years of conflict have taken a terrible toll.
On Monday, US President Donald Trump signed a defense spending bill that includes a clause requiring the Pentagon and State Department to certify that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another key coalition member, are doing enough to reduce civilian casualties. This report must be submitted to Congress within 180 days and then annually for the next two years.
The US, alongside the UK and France, is a major supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia.
Trump signed a nearly $110 billion defense deal with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in May last year in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on what was his first stop abroad as President. In the same month, the US government reauthorized the export of Paveway munitions to Saudi Arabia, ending Obama’s December 2016 ban.
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, who served as a spokesman for the State Department and Pentagon under Obama, said the Saudis had a right to defend themselves against missile attacks from the Iranian-backed Houthis but that the Obama administration did not believe they were striking the right balance between that need and proper care for civilian life.
Asked whether the US had moral complicity in the deaths in Yemen, he said: “The issue of complicity is one that international lawyers probably are best to work out, not somebody like me.”
“What I would tell you is that we certainly had under the Obama administration deep concerns about the way the Saudis were targeting, and we acted on those concerns by limiting the kinds of munitions that they were being given and stridently trying to argue for them to be more careful and cautious.”
‘Legitimate Military Action’
In the immediate aftermath of the strike, al-Maliki, the coalition spokesman, told CNN it had been aimed at a “legitimate target.”
“No, this is not children in the bus,” he said. “We do have high standard measures for targeting.”
Yemeni children receive treatment at a hospital after being wounded in the August 9 strike.
The Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, similarly told the Security Council this week that the strike was a “legitimate military action” and that “the targeted Houthi leaders were responsible for recruiting and training young children and sending them to battlefields.”
“We are not engaged in the civil war. We will help to prevent, you know, the killing of innocent people. I’m very concerned about the humanitarian situation,” US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday when asked about the strike. “Wars are always tragic, but we’ve got to find a way to protect the innocent in the midst of this one.”
Despite a lack of public condemnation over the school bus strike, there are signs that the Trump administration is taking action behind the scenes. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the Saudi-led strike with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a call on Monday. A three-star US general also raised the matter while in Saudi Arabia to meet with the Saudi government and other coalition partners, the Pentagon said.
“The real key is whether or not the Pentagon can help change the calculus, the thinking, inside the Saudi military,” said Kirby.
The conflict in Yemen has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people — three-quarters of the population — in desperate need of aid and protection, according to the UN.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
UN Accuses Saudi-UAE Alliance of
Possible War Crimes in Yemen Investigation says alliance may have committed
war crimes and human rights violations
during war with Houthi rebels Alan Fisher /Al Jazeera
“None have clean hands….
DJIBOUTI (August 28, 2018) — The United Nations has accused the Saudi-UAE military alliance of committing possible war crimes in Yemen, adding there was “little evidence of any attempt . . . to minimise civilian casualties.”
In a damning report on Tuesday, the UN said air attacks had caused the most direct civilian casualties in the war, and a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law.
The alliance, which has been at war with Houthi rebels since March 2015, has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes, and claims its attacks are not directed at civilians.
However, data collected by Al Jazeera and the Yemen Data Project, has found that almost one-third of the 16,000 air raids carried out in the country have hit non-military sites.
The attacks have targeted weddings and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.
The charity Save the Children has estimated that an average of 130 children die every day from extreme hunger and disease – a crisis brought about by the conflict.
And according to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. However, analysts say the death toll is likely to be higher.
‘Violations Continue To Be Perpetrated’
“The group of experts has reason to believe the government of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, are responsible for violations of human rights,” said Kamel Jendoubi, the chair of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen.
“Violations and crimes have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated in Yemen by the parties to the conflict. Members of the government of Yemen and the [Saudi-UAE] coalition may have conducted attacks that were disproportionate and could constitute war crimes,” said Jendoubi.
“They may have committed acts that could constitute war crimes such as mistreatment, torture, attacks on peoples’ dignity, rape, recruitment, and enrollment of children under the age of 15 in the hostilities.”
The experts urged the international community to “refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict “- an apparent reference to countries like the United States and Britain, which supply the Saudi-UAE alliance.
Despite repeated petitions by human rights groups, the US assists Saudi Arabia and the UAE in “conducting aerial bombings in Yemen” and provides “midair refuelling services” for their warplanes.
Between 2010 and 2015, Washington also sold more than $90bn of military equipment to Riyadh.
But following a recent air attack on a school bus that killed 40 children, individual members of Congress called on the US military to clarify its role in the war and investigate whether support for the air raids could render American military personnel “liable under the war crimes act”.
“US Defense Secretary James Mattis is expected to hold a briefing at the Pentagon later today, and he will undoubtedly be asked about the continuing US role.
What we have heard from the panel of experts was criticism of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Yemeni government.
The US and UK are helping this coalition, so questions will now be asked about where we go from here and whether any of these governments will accept the findings from this panel of experts.”
‘No Light at the End of the Tunnel’
The experts also criticised work by the alliance’s Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIATY), which was set up as a bulwark against possible rights violations.
They questioned the JIAT’s explanations for the air attacks that have killed civilians, and challenged its “independence and its ability to carry out impartial investigations.”
The experts also said nearly a dozen deadly air attacks they investigated over the last year “raise serious questions about the targeting process applied by the coalition.”
They chastised some in-the-field coalition combatants for “routinely” failing to seek information about official “no-strike” lists that should have been avoided.
“Despite the severity of the situation we continue to see a complete disregard for the people in Yemen,” said Charles Garraway, one of the authors of the report
“This conflict has reached its peak, with no apparent sight of light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is indeed, a forgotten crisis.”
United Nations: Suspected War Crimes
In Yemen Committed by All Sides Investigators say all parties involved in the bloody war
may be responsible for human rights violations in Yemen Al Jazeera
DJIBOUTI (August 28, 2018) — All sides in Yemen’s bloody conflict may have committed war crimes involving deadly air strikes, rampant sexual violence, and the recruitment of child soldiers, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
A team of UN-mandated investigators said in a report it had “reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law”.
Many of these violations may amount to “war crimes”, the report said, pointing to widespread arbitrary detention, rape, torture and the recruitment of children as young as eight to fight.
Kamel Jendoubi, who heads the UN team, said the investigators had identified a number of alleged perpetrators. “A confidential list of these individuals will be presented today to the [UN] High Commissioner” for Human Rights, he told journalists in Geneva.
The damning report said air attacks by the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led military coalition had caused the most direct civilian casualties in the war, and a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law.
The alliance, which has been at war with Houthi rebels since March 2015, has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes, and claims its attacks are not directed at civilians.
A spokesman for the Saudi military said the UN report was referred to a legal team for review and will announce its conclusions after it is completed.
UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the report merited a response.
“We should review and respond to the [UN] experts’ report published today,” said Gargash in a tweet. “The coalition is fulfilling its role in reclaiming the Yemeni state and securing the future of the region from Iranian interference.”
Data collected by Al Jazeera and the Yemen Data Project has found almost one-third of the 16,000 air raids carried out in the country have hit non-military sites.
The attacks have targeted weddings and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.
The charity Save the Children has estimated that an average of 130 children die every day from extreme hunger and disease – a crisis brought about by the conflict.
And according to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. However, analysts say the death toll is likely to be higher.
The UN has described the situation in Yemen as world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“The group of experts has reason to believe the government of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, are responsible for violations of human rights,” said Jendoubi.
“Violations and crimes have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated in Yemen by the parties to the conflict. Members of the government of Yemen and the [Saudi-UAE] coalition may have conducted attacks that were disproportionate and could constitute war crimes,” Jendoubi added.
The experts also accused the Houthis of indiscriminate shelling in civilian areas and snipers targeting non-combatants. They urged the international community to “refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict ” – an apparent reference to countries such as the United States and Britain, which supply the Saudi-UAE alliance.
Iran has been accused of supplying weapons to the Houthis, allegations Tehran denies.
Despite repeated petitions by human rights groups, the US assists Saudi Arabia and the UAE in “conducting aerial bombings in Yemen” and provides “midair refuelling services” for their warplanes.
Between 2010 and 2015, Washington also sold more than $90 billion of military equipment to Riyadh. But following a recent air attack on a school bus that killed 40 children, some members of Congress called on the US military to clarify its role in the war and investigate whether support for the air raids could render American military personnel “liable under the war crimes act.”
Asked about the UN report, US defence chief James Mattis said on Tuesday support for the Saudi-UAE coalition was constantly under review and was not unconditional.
“At no time have we felt rebuffed or ignored when we bring concerns to them. The training we have given them we know has paid off,” he told a press conference.
“Our conduct there is to try to keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to the absolute minimum. That is our goal where we engage with the coalition. Our goal is to reduce this tragedy and to get it to the UN brokered table as quickly as possible,” said Mattis.
The UN investigators said nearly a dozen deadly air attacks they investigated over the last year “raise serious questions about the targeting process applied by the coalition”.
“Despite the severity of the situation we continue to see a complete disregard for the people in Yemen,” said Charles Garraway, one of the report’s authors. “This conflict has reached its peak with no apparent sight of light at the end of the tunnel. It is indeed a forgotten crisis.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Why Trump Can’t Do Anything about Google News Daniel Howley / Yahoo Finance
(August 28, 2018) — President Donald Trump has a complicated relationship with the media. Outside of Fox News, the president seems to believe that most, if not all, news organizations are biased against him and his administration. On Tuesday, though, Trump set his sights on Google (GOOG, GOOGL).
In an early-morning tweet, the president claimed that Google Newsonly shows news from the “National Left-Wing Media;” suggested that doing so might be illegal; alleged that “Google and others” are “suppressing voices of Conservatives;” and asserted that the situation “will be addressed.”
President Trump claims that Google Newsis biased against conservatives.
But even if Trump’s claims were accurate, there’s little he could actually do to change what Google shows its users.
“Under current statutory and constitutional law, it is absolutely not illegal for a private media company like Google Newsto show only certain kinds of news — left-leaning, right-leaning, you name it,” Genevieve Lakier, an assistant law professor at the University of Chicago’s law school, told Yahoo Finance.
How Google News Works Google Newsis the search giant’s news aggregation page, which provides users with headlines and links to the day’s top stories. According to the company’s own explainer on how items are chosen for Google News, the majority of the headlines a user sees are selected via Google‘s algorithms, which are based on your past usage history including via Google Search, YouTube and other properties, as well as subjects in which you’ve indicated your interest via the News app.
There are instances when humans curate stories within Google News, but they are relatively limited. Publishers, for example, can choose which stories appear in their respective sections of the Newstand portion of the Google NewsApp. For instance, CNN can choose what it shows in the CNN section, while USA Today can choose what appears in the USA Today section.
Google‘s editorial team can also add temporary topics for major events such as the Olympics or elections, and can add follow-up links to relevant search results. For example, Google says it could show a link to “How to register to vote,” under the Elections section. That, however, doesn’t mean Google has any bias as to what shows up in Google News.
Following Trump’s tweet, Google released the following statement: “When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.
Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”
Is It Illegal to Hide News Stories?
But what if Google chose to discriminate against specific news sources or based on certain topics as Trump claims. Would doing so be illegal? Not according to two legal experts who spoke to Yahoo Finance.
“President Trump’s assertions are basically empty bluster,” explained University at Buffalo law professor Mark Bartholomew. “Google is a private business with a proprietary algorithm that determines the news stories its users see.”
He added: “There is little the government can do that would directly alter what news this business decides to highlight for its users. The First Amendment represents an enormous bulwark for Google against government intervention in this regard.”
Can Trump Do Anything to Change This?
As Lakier points out, the First Amendment protects a person’s or company’s right to favor speakers based on their viewpoints. It would, however, be illegal for the government to favor one person, company or group’s viewpoints over another’s. But since Google is a private company and not a government entity, it is free to express any viewpoint it pleases.
“This means that even if the president were able to convince the Congress to enact a law prohibiting media companies from engaging in the kind of viewpoint discrimination he accused Google Newsof engaging in, that law would likely face an immediate First Amendment challenge — a First Amendment challenge I cannot see how it would win,” Lakier said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Trump administration has its hands tied. In fact, the Trump administration could target other parts of Google‘s business to pressure the company into changing how it displays news stories about him.
“He could threaten antitrust enforcement against Google. He could try to encourage federal authorities to scrutinize more closely Google‘s information tracking practices, possibly contending they run afoul of consumer protection laws,” Bartholomew explained.
“But these are indirect efforts. There’s little the president can do if he doesn’t like the news stories that come up on Google, just as there’s little he can do if he doesn’t like the stories written about him in The New York Times,” he added.
Trump’s Trumped-up Media Survey Gar Smith / The Berkeley Daily Planet & EAW
(August 28, 2018) — Clicking your laptop to watch NBC Nightly News on August 2, 2018 would have unleashed an unexpected pop-up ad from the “Certified Website Of President Donald J. Trump.”
The ad annouced a “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” — a public assessment of the Trump presidency that quickly revealed itself to be a partisan tool designed to buck up Trump’s complaint that the “Mainstream Fake News Media” is biased against him.
Let’s look at some of the 20 “fair and balanced” questions, shall we? * “Do you trust MSNBC to fairly report on our presidency?”
* “Do you trust CNN to fairly report on our presidency?”
* “Do you trust Fox News to fairly report on our presidency?”
* “Do you believe that the mainstream media actually cares about working Americans?”
* “Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party’s positions and actions?”
* “Do you believe that the media unfairly reported on Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting people entering our country from nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism?”
* “Do you believe that the media is engaging in a witch hunt to take down President Trump?”
* “Do your believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?”
* “Do you believe that the media has been far too quick to spread false stories about our movement?”
* “Do you believe that the media has turned a blind eye to Planned Parenthood’s worst actions?”
* “Do you believe that the media uses slurs rather than facts to attack conservative stances on issues like border control, religious liberties, and ObamaCare?”
* “Do you agree with the President Trump’s media strategy to cut through the media’s noise and deliver our message straight to the people?”
(At the end of the survey, visitors are invited to sign up for monthly donations to Trump — ranging from $35 to $2,700 a month. Worth noting: This solicitation appears to be a violation of Federal law, which limits individual donations to Candidate Committees to no more than $2,700 per year!)
Terrorists Readying Chemical Attack to Frame
Damascus and Provide Pretext for US Strikes RT News
(August 25, 2018) — The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.
The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.
The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase.
The provocations are being prepared by militants from Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in Idlib province, northwestern Syria).
In order to stage the attack, some eight canisters of chlorine were delivered in to village near Jisr al-Shughur city for the terrorists’ use, he added. A separate group of militants, prepped by private British security company Olive, have also arrived in the area. The group will be disguised as volunteers from the White Helmets group and will simulate a rescue operation involving locals purportedly injured in the attack, according to the military official.
According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, recent statements by US National Security Advisor John Bolton — in which he threatened to bomb Syria — could be interpreted as an implicit confirmation of such airstrikes. On August 22, Bolton stated that “. . . if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned Washington against new reckless moves in Syria, RIA Novosti reported. “We hear ultimatums from Washington, including those made in public,” the top official said, apparently referring to Bolton’s recent remarks.
According to Ryabkov, the US is aiming to destabilize Syria and create new pretexts for regime change in Damascus. “Again, we are witnessing serious escalation of the situation [in Syria],” he added.
In April, the US, UK and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria. The airstrikes were carried out in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.
Back then, Syrian defenses were scrambled to repel some 103 cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles launched at civilian and military targets by the Western trio. It managed to intercept at least 71 of them, the Russian Defense Ministry said at the time.
‘Foreign Specialists’ May Stage Chemical Attack in Syria
In Two Days to Frame Assad — Russian MoD RT News
(August 26, 2018) — “Foreign specialists” have arrived in Syria and may stage a chemical attack using chlorine in “the next two days,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. This will be filmed for international media to frame Damascus forces.
Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the operation is planned to unfold in the village of Kafr Zita in Syria’s northwestern Hama Province in “the next two days.”
Konashenkov said that “English-speaking specialists” are already in place to use “poisonous agents.” While a group of residents from the north has been transported to Kafr Zita and is currently being prepared “to take part in the staging of the attack” and be filmed suffering from supposed “‘chemical munitions’ and ‘barrel bombs’ launched by the Syrian government forces.”
The groups of residents will be used to assist “fake rescuers from the White Helmets.” They will be filmed apparently suffering from the effects of chemical weapons and then be shown in “the Middle Eastern and English-language media.”
The defense ministry earlier warned that the US, UK, and France are preparing to use the planned attack as a pretext for airstrikes against Syria. The USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago.
On August 22, US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov earlier warned that the US is not finished looking for pretexts for regime change in Damascus.
In April, the US, UK, and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.
Russia Warns of New US False Flag Chemical Attack
Russia Sends Largest Naval Armada Of Syrian War
Amidst New Chemical Attack Warnings Tyler Durden / Zero Hedge
(August 25, 2018) — We observed previously after John Bolton’s threat late this week of “greater military force” should chemical weapons allegations emerge against Damascus, that a familiar pattern has long been in play on Syria: just when it appears the jihadists are on the brink of final defeat, and as stability is returning after seven years of grinding war, something happens to bring things right back to the brink of global crisis and escalation.
(August 25, 2018) — Russia has built up its forces around the Mediterranean Sea in response to reports that the U.S., France, and Great Britain could be preparing to attack Syria after US National Security Advisor John Bolton informed Russia that America is prepared to respond with greater military force than it has used against Assad’s regime in the past, according to Bloomberg.
According to Yoruk Isik of the Bosphorus Observer, the Russian Navy has sent another armada of ships towards Syria’s territorial waters in order to increase the strength of their forces around the country.
Isik said that the powerful Russian warships, Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen class frigate, were spotted transiting the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Port of Tartous.
This latest move by the Russian Navy comes just 24 hours after they sent three ships en route to the Port of Tartous in western Syria.
The Turkish coast guard monitored the frigates as they passed through the Bosporus toward the Mediterranean, reportedly en route to Russia’s only major deep-water port in the region along the Syrian coast.
With the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) preparing to launch a large-scale offensive in northwest Syria, Russia fears that the jihadist rebels may fake a chemical weapons attack in order to get the U.S. and its allies to attack the government.
Ships are also being deployed as Syrian and Russian forces prepare for what’s expected to be the final push to liberate all of Idlib province, which Russian forces are expected to play a central role in executing.
Currently, the following Russian military vessels are stationed in the Mediterranean near the Syrian coast according to Naval military observers: * CG Marshal Ustinov * DDG Severomorsk * DDG Yaroslav Mudryy * FFG Admiral Grigorovich * FFG Admiral Essen * FFL Pytlivyy * FSG Vyshniy Volochek * FSG Grad Sviyazhsk * FSG Velikiy Ustyug * LST Orsk * LST Nikolay Fil’chenkov * MS Turbinist * MS Valentin Pikul * SS Kolpino * SS Velikiy Novgorod
Meanwhile, in reference to reports that Washington could be preparing another round of attacks, the Russian MoD pointed out on Saturday that: “the US Navy’s destroyer Sullivans with 56 cruise missiles on its board arrived in the Persian Gulf several days ago while a B-1B strategic bomber of the US Air Force armed with AGM-158 JASSM air-to-surface missiles was redeployed to the Al Udeid air base in Qatar,” according to TASS.
Foreign Specialists Prepare To Stage Chemical Attack In Idlib The Saker
(August 27, 2018) — “Foreign specialists” arrived in Syria to stage a chemical attack, which will be blamed on the Damascus government, Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on August 25 warning that the staging of the incident may happen soon. According to the military spokesman, the “English-speaking specialists” arrived in the Hbit settlement in southern Idlib.
“In the most populated area of Kafr Zita, preparations are being made for a group of residents brought from the north of the province to participate in the staging of an “attack” of allegedly chemical munitions and bombs by Syrian government forces, staged assistance by mimicked ‘rescuers’ from the “White Helmets” and the shooting of video for distribution to the Middle East and English-language media,” Maj. Gen. Konashenkov said.
He emphasized that this situation one again confirms that foreign forces are seeking to “severely destabilize the situation and disrupt the steady dynamics of the ongoing peace process.”
The Russian military pointed out that this staged attack is deigned to create a pretext for new US-led missile strikes on government facilities in the war-torn country. According to Konashenkov, Washington is already preparing for this move: the US Navy’s destroyer Sullivans with 56 cruise missiles on board arrived in the Persian Gulf several days ago while a B-1B strategic bomber of the US Air Force armed with AGM-158 JASSM air-to-surface missiles was deployed to the al-Udeid air base in Qatar.
Meanwhile, the Russian Naval Task Force near Syria has been strengthened with the Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen armed with Kalibr cruise missiles and Shtil-1 surface-to-air missile systems. The task force near Syria currently consists of at least 16 warships and submarines, including three Admiral Grigorovich class frigates and three Buyan-M class corvettes all armed with Kalibr missiles.
Separately, the head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria, Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov revealed that thousands of militants with heavy weaponry and armored vehicles have gathered in the province of Idlib preparing for an offensive on government-controlled areas in Hama and Aleppo.
The militants’ preparations are ongoing amid continued tensions between them and government forces at the contact line in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
On August 26, the Syrian Army carried out artillery strikes on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham positions in the villages of Khuwayn and al-Tamanah in southern Idlib and a HQ of Jaysh al-Izza near the village of al-Zakah in northern Hama. According to pro-government sources, the strikes destroyed several vehicles used by militants to build fortifications in these areas as well as eliminated several militant groups’ fighters.
The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone remains unstable and it will remain unstable until Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies are able to operate in the area.
Macron: France Ready to Conduct New Strikes
On Syria if Chemical Weapons Used Sputnik
(August 27, 2018) — French President Emmanuel Macron commented Monday on the situation in Syria’s Idlib as well as on the dependence of the European defense on the US.
France is ready to conduct further airstrikes in Syria in response to Damascus’ use of chemical weapons, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday during his speech to French ambassadors. “We will continue acting this way if we see new confirmed cases of the chemical weapons use,” Macron said.
Macron also noted that he had never insisted on the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad in exchange for rendering humanitarian aid to the country. At the same time, the French president suggested that leaving power in the future in the hands of Assad “would be a bad mistake.”
“France can’t appoint future Syrian leaders . . . But it is our duty and in our interests to make sure that Syrian people are able to do this,” he said.
Speaking further, the French president said he feared a serious humanitarian crisis in the Syrian province of Idlib, adding that France expected that Russia and Turkey would put pressure on the Syrian authorities in connection with the situation in the province of Idlib.
The French President, however, noted the first results of the joint Russia-French mechanism on the Syrian settlement.
“The mechanism of coordination with Russia, created in St. Petersburg, has produced its first results, in particular in the humanitarian sphere,” Macron told ambassadors in Paris, according to his official Twitter account.
The speech comes several days after the Russian Defense Ministry accused the United States, the United Kingdom and France of preparing to carry out new strikes against Syria under the pretext of a false flag, namely, a falsified government chemical weapons attack.
A group of militants trained under the guidance of a private British military company, Olive, to work with poisonous substances has arrived in Idlib, the Ministry added.
The US, UK, and France coordinated a massive airstrike on Syria in April 2018 after the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma had been reported by the controversial NGO “White Helmets”, which has repeatedly been caught staging false flag attacks.
In April, a number of opposition media, including the aforementioned While Helmets, reported of a chemical attack in the city of Douma. No substantial proof was presented and, as a prompt probe by Russian forces showed, no traces of chemical substances in the area have been found.
On European Defense and
European Strategic Partnership
Macron revealed a new push for the European defense project, adding that the continent’s security shouldn’t depend on the US. “Europe can no longer rely on the United States for its security. It is up to us to guarantee European security,” he said in a major speech to relaunch his diplomatic agenda.
At the same time, he stressed that France should build a strategic partnership with Russia and Turkey: “We cannot build Europe in the long term without thinking about relations with Russia and Turkey . . . Do we think clearly and frankly today that we can continue to talk about Turkey’s membership in the European Union, when every day the Turkish president . . . reaffirms the pan-Islamic agenda, which seems to be anti-European? . . .
It is necessary, therefore, to build a strategic partnership, not membership in the European Union. Strategic partnership with Russia and Turkey, because these two powers are important for our collective security, they need to be tied to Europe.”
Earlier, the European Union said it would spend nearly 20 billion euros on defense between 2021 and 2027, with the bulk of the money to be spent on the research and development of new military technologies.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has urged Europe to react to the US sanctions-related policy on Russia, China, Turkey and other important economic partners.
Recently, Emmanuel Macron proposed an initiative to set up a European military intervention force that could be rapidly deployed in the event of a crisis.
Russia, Trump’s Critics, Trump’s Alt-Right Backers, All Calling Alleged Syrian Gas Attack a Staged “False Flag” Event . . . . In the conspiratorial far-right narrative, the chemical strike in Douma was a false flag operation, engineered in order to . . .
April 15, 2018 — As the blame game over the alleged chemical attack in Syria escalates . . . air strike campaign by the US, UK and/or France against Syria, . . . them by their relatives after a false claim that chemical weapons were used, the ministry said. . . . .. Meanwhile, as we wait for Trump to announce what happens next, late . . .
April 6, 2017 — Trump Condemns Syria Chemical Attack: McCain Blames Trump . . . “Time and time again Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention . . . Witnesses say clinics treating the injured were then targeted by air strikes.
April 9, 2018 — The Chemical Attack in Syria: No Doubt It’s a War Crime: But Is It Also a . . . Remember the false reports of earlier Syrian government gas attacks? . . . . Donald Trump rushed to denounce the unconfirmed attack as a “mindless” . . .
April 11, 2018 — Red Crescent Says No Evidence of Chemical Attack in Syria’s Douma . . . ‘Syria Gases Own People Just as Trump Mulls Withdrawal?’ . . . community of possible false flag chemical attacks in the wake of the Syrian Army gains.
Trump Cites “Fake News” to Justify New Threat to Attack Syria . . . accusing the Syrian government of preparing a chemical weapons attack and threatening . . . Tweeted that any future attacks in Syria would be blamed on Assad, Russia, and Iran.
April 16, 2018 — But, President Trump and his national security team were not willing to wait . . . Why would the Syrian government stage chemical attacks exactly on the . . . . by Colin Powell at the United Nations in 2003 falsely accusing Saddam . . .
April 26, 2018 — https://southfront.org/trumps-smart-missiles-in-syria-summing-up- . . . . told Business Insider “both claims are completely and totally untrue. . . . the strikes were in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Douma.
April 18, 2017 — Doubts over Syria Gas Attack; Press Cheers While Trump Kills ‘Beautiful . . . US airstrikes in Mosul, Iraq killed up to 240 civilians, including scores of . . . attempt to manufacture a false claim that the intelligence actually supported . . .
“Thermonuclear Detonations Over The 60 Largest US Cities”
— FEMA Heightens Nuclear Response Readiness Tyler Durden / Zero Hedge
(August 24, 2018) â€“ The Federal government’s national disaster response and planning organization, FEMA, has significantly updated its nuclear disaster plans according to a new bombshell report in Buzzfeed, which describes the new plans as “truly terrifying”.
The report is based on an exclusive interview with an unnamed US Federal Emergency Management official. Notably, the official indicated the new FEMA plan includes preparedness for a scenario involving “large nuclear detonations over the 60 largest US cities”.
The plan was discussed on Thursday at a two-day National Academies of Sciences workshop for public health and emergency response officials held on Capitol Hill, and included emergency readiness planning for large-scale thermonuclear blasts by state actors, as opposed to a prior emphasis on terror organizations deploying tactical nuclear devices.
FEMA’s head of its chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear branch, Luis Garcia, told BuzzFeed News, “We are looking at 100 kiloton to 1,000 kiloton detonations.”
To put this in perspective the agency’s current protocol for disaster relief planners only considers the emergency impact of 1 to 10 kiloton blasts, similar to the power of WWII era atomic bombs.
But according to FEMA conference participants, things changed when last year North Korea tested a surprisingly powerful thermonuclear bomb that had a reported blast estimate size of 250 kilotons, capable wiping out a whole US city.
One conference keynote speaker and expert, Cham Dallas, told the conference, “The North Koreans have really changed the calculus,” and concluded, “We really have to look at thermonuclear now.”
Dallas presented “speculative” analyses of a nuclear detonations in several cities — including New York and Washington, DC — at the workshop, suggesting that a thermonuclear blast roughly doubles the hundreds of thousands of dead and many more wounded (a 1979 analysis of a 1,000 kiloton blast in Detroit estimated 220,000 deaths, for example) compared to the atomic bomb blasts. They also cause many more burn injuries and larger fallout clouds that travel farther away.
FEMA’s updated response plan reportedly includes mass preparations to deal with potential nuclear attack on 60 of America’s largest urban centers, and establishing medical services to tend to all the various non-direct impact injuries that result in the aftermath.
Nuclear nightmare scene from Terminator 2: Judgement Day
But the planning doesn’t just include direct impact and nuclear fallout as “the agency has also considered scenarios where a nuclear bomb, a cyberattack, a coordinated electromagnetic pulse, and biological weapons all hit the US at the same time,” according to the Buzzed report.
Thus it appears the “duck and cover” days of the generation that lived through the heart of the Cold War and into the 1980s could be back.
Russia Is Building Fallout Shelters
To Prepare for a Potential Nuclear Strike
Is this self-defense, an implied threat to the West,
an excuse for political repression, or all of the above? Anna Nemtsova / The Daily Beast
MOSCOW (October 17, 2016) — Managers of the Zenit Arena, a giant half-built stadium in St. Petersburg, received an official letter from the Ministry of Emergency Situations last week demanding that they immediately create shelter facilities for wartime. The stadium, under construction for the upcoming World Cup 2018, is located outside the city boundaries, the letter said, but in case of nuclear attack it is in the potential “zone of war destruction and radiation fallout.”
The last time Russians heard authorities talk like this about a potential mobilization for a nuclear strike was 20 years ago, and it all seemed highly improbable. Now, it appears, the Kremlin is not joking. Up to 40 million people participated in recent civil-defense exercises all across the country, learning about how to hide and where exactly to run to in case of a nuclear war.
But whether the motive behind this is self-defense, an implied threat to the West, a means to mobilize and control public opinion, or all of the above, is not entirely clear.
“These are the most serious tensions between Moscow and Washington in decades, said Sergei Markov, a member of the Civic Chamber, a Moscow-based state institution. “The war might begin even before the November elections in the US”
“I personally plan to stock 200 cans of pork to be ready for a potential war crisis,” Markov told The Daily Beast in an interview, “and I advise everybody to do the same.”
State Duma Deputy Vadim Dengin said he hoped that there would be no war with United States. “I cannot understand why the West cannot just leave us in peace, let us be,” the official said. “Americans should realize that it will be their children looking for shelters, too, if they are serious about attacking Russia.”
On Thursday, Vladimir Gladkov, a 19-year-old student, said he heard from a neighbor that the closest bomb shelter to his apartment building was Kitai Gorod metro station.
A Thermonuclear Bomb on Moscow?
Gladkov, who was born years after the Soviet Cold War with the United States was over, sounded frustrated: “Americans are not crazy to bomb us, I am not sure why our authorities want people to experience hysterical panic attacks. Maybe somebody feels annoyed that we feel too free and happy,” he suggested.
In Russia, where generations have suffered from wars or economic crises, panic takes over quickly as a kind of contagious epidemic and some respond with millennial obsessions.
During the impoverished years of the early 1990s, thousands of Russians moved to settlements in the Taiga seeking mystical salvation. Over 3,000 believers in Christ Vissarion still live in the Siberian woods waiting for the End of Light.
In 2012 many in Russia waited in fear for the Mayan Doomsday. People bought bottles of vodka, matches, and candles to survive the dark times.
There is an expression that every Russian knows well: “To save for a black day.” And there are so many black days in Russian history — not just days, but years of devastation.
“My life is just one everlasting black day,” says Baba Zoya, an old woman living alone in the village of Bezvodnoye in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The 82-year-old pensioner finds winters especially hard to survive.
“On some cold winter days when every joint, every bone hurts, I have no energy to go out and buy a piece of bread,” she told The Daily Beast. Her only comforts are her old dog and a falling-apart armchair outside of her old dark wood isba, a Russian traditional log house. She remembers World War II only too well — dozens of Bezvodnoye men left one day and never came back. “I wish, my dear, that you live your life without such awful memories,” she said.
Last week Perm, a city of more than 1 million people in the Ural region, prepared shelters “for the employees who would continue to work during wartime,” the state Russia channel reported.
Experts from the Ministry of Emergency Situations inspected one of the shelters to make sure there is enough space, medicine, and minimal provision; the daily norm of water was three liters per person, the channel reported.
Television shows devoted to the civil-defense drills explained to Russians that there was no reason to panic, that during wartime authorities would make sure that there was no radiation on public transport, that every person would have at least 300 grams of bread per day.
From early morning on Thursday, activists received boxes with baby food, plastic bags full of diapers and used warm clothes at Russia Behind Bars NGO, which had been supporting Russian convicts for the last eight years. Were there bomb shelters for the population of Russia’s prisons?
“No chance to survive in prison,” the head of the NGO, Olga Romanova, told The Daily Beast. “Russian prisoners will be doomed, everybody in jail realizes that.”
For her part, Romanova said she knew exactly where she would go and how many minutes it would take for NATO missiles to reach Moscow.
“If they bomb Moscow, I might make it to Taganka metro station, it takes me about 5 minutes to run from my house,” Romanova told The Daily Beast. “My husband and I have already discussed and decided that we would only bring a couple of water bottles and our passports.”
Anna Nemtsova is a correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast based in Moscow. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Politico, PRI, Foreign Policy, nbcnews.com, Marie Claire, and The Guardian.
This Is How Russia Plans to Withstand
A Nuclear Attack — And It Only Takes 30 Minutes Evacuate the president,
activate ‘Dead Hand,’ and
protect the population Nikolay Shevchenko / Russia Beyond
(August 23, 2018) — Disclaimer: Although there’s a specific government plan about what to do in case of a nuclear strike, Russia’s Ministry of Emergencies believes that such an attack on major Russian cities is unlikely.
Since the world first saw nuclear weapons in August 1945, governments around the world have drawn up contingency plans on what to do if facing a nuclear attack.
Russia, of course, has such a plan, and based on open sources, mass media reports, and official documents, we try to reconstruct it here, minute by minute.
During the Cold War, Russia’s main nuclear adversary was the US Even today, long after the nuclear standoff has ended, experts estimate the timeframe of a possible nuclear strike against Russia to be approximately 6 p.m. At this time, it’s morning in the US and evening in Moscow, where a major part of the population will be stuck in traffic on the way home.
Immediately after a nuclear strike is detected, Russia’s Early-Warning System sends a signal to the missile defense command center, and this system of radar and satellites reports the origin of the launch, as well as its speed and trajectory. It also estimates the time of impact.
If the military confirms that Russia has truly been attacked by nuclear missiles, (and that it’s not a computer glitch), the government and people will only have 30 minutes to prepare for impact if the rocket is launched from the North American continent, but drastically less time if the launch comes from a submarine in the Arctic Ocean. Needless to say, in the event of a much-dreaded nuclear terrorist attack, it will only be a matter of mere seconds.
By that time the military will likely begin the evacuation of the president and other government officials to safe places. Although the exact location is classified, we know the president has a number of escape routes at his disposal.
The most publicized is the “Doomsday Plane” â€“ a Tupolev Tu-214SR aircraft similar to Air Force One in its function: to keep the commander-in-chief out of harm’s way and ensure his uninterrupted communication with the country’s military forces.
It’s reported that the Kremlin has three “Doomsday Planes” at its disposal, totalling some â‚¬130 million in cost.
By this time, the president may choose to enable the notorious Perimeter. This fully automated AI system is known as “Dead Hand” because of its macabre role: to ensure a retaliatory strike even if the country has been obliterated, or the government’s command-and-control capability disrupted, or if there’s no one alive to give the order for retaliation.
Perimeter begins the complex process of monitoring seismic activity, radiation and air pressure for signs of nuclear explosions on Russia’s territory. It also begins monitoring the intensity of military communication for signs of high alert that would inevitably follow a nuclear attack.
The rest of the government is likely to be evacuated along with the president. Just as in the US, where the continuity of government is ensured by established procedures, Russia has its own line of succession in case the acting president is incapable of fulfilling his duty.
Russia’s prime minister is the first person in the line of succession for the presidency, and will most likely be evacuated with the rest of his ministers and other civil and military officials.
The locations of doomsday hideouts are secret, but it’s well known that Moscow has many bunkers built during Stalin’s rule.
Some, such as Bunker-42 at the Taganskaya metro station, have lost their relevance and are now sites that attract tourist and diggers. But many others remain intact.
The mysterious project codenamed, D-6, and widely known asMetro-2, fuels speculation about secret escape routes for government officials.
Citizens must also be notified about the upcoming strike. In Russia, the Ministry of Emergencies is charged with managing the logistics of this doomsday scenario.
In case of a nuclear attack, the ministry favours evacuation of big cities to the countryside, but this strategy will take much time and can’t be executed on short notice. Instead, the ministry’s plan to use bomb shelters is more sound.
The Moscow Metro is probably the best place for shelter: it’s deep enough to provide protection from a nuclear explosion, and many of the stations are equipped with protective-sealed doors and air filters.
A government plan approved by the Ministry of Construction states how quickly people must enter the Metro in case of emergency (including a nuclear attack).
“The estimated time for people to fill stations and tunnels after civil defense signals are sounded should equal 10 minutes,”says the document (link in Russian). In some cases, the time may be extended up to 15 minutes, but no more.
Naturally, the public will be notified as soon as possible in case of a nuclear attack and the precious 15 minutes will not be wasted. Yet, the government’s rules allow for mass sheltering to be possible even if the alarm comes at short notice.
By that time, the president, the government and the country’s military command, as well as citizens, must prepare for impact, taking shelter in bunkers or in the Metro.
After that, survivors will have to live in a world that none of us have seen before, and hopefully never will.
(April 3, 2014) â€“ Russia’s ultimate defense system will dispatch a retaliatory nuclear strike even if the command and communication lines of its Strategic Missile Forces are totally destroyed. The system is called ‘Perimeter,’ and in the US it has been nicknamed ‘Dead Hand’.
The main command and control of the strategic missiles is called Kazbek. It is famous for its nuclear briefcase codenamed Cheget. Perimeter is an alternative command system of Russia’s nuclear forces. It was designed to automatically control a massive nuclear attack.
The development of a system of guaranteed retaliation began in the midst of the Cold War when it became clear that electronic warfare systems, which were being constantly improved, would soon be able to block the regular channels controlling the strategic nuclear forces. A backup method of communication was needed that would guarantee the commands would make it to the launchers.
It was then that the idea was conceived to use a missile equipped with a powerful radio transmitter as a communication link. While flying over the Soviet Union, the missile would send the launch command not only to command centres of the strategic missile force, but also directly to the launchers.
On August 30, 1974, USSR secret decree â„– 695-227 ordered Dnepropetrovsk’s Yuzhnoe Design Bureau, an intercontinental ballistic missile manufacturer, to create this system.
The UR-100UTTKh (NATO designation Spanker) was used as the basis for the system. Flight-testing began in 1979, and the first successful launch with the transmitter was on December 26. Tests confirmed all system components of Perimeter could successfully interact, and that the warhead of the command missile would stick to the desired trajectory.
In November 1984, the command missile was launched from Polotsk and gave a command to the silo launch facility of an RS-20 ICBM (SS-18 Satan) at Baikonur. The Satan was launched, and after each stage was tested, it was confirmed the warhead landed on the correct quadrant at the Kura test range on Kamchatka peninsula. In January 1985, Perimeter was commissioned. Since then the system has been updated several times, now modern ICBM missiles are used as the command missile.
The system is made up of command ballistic missiles. Instead of flying towards the enemy, they fly over Russia, and instead of thermonuclear warheads, they carry transmitters that can send a command to launch all available combat missiles in silos, aircraft, submarines and mobile ground units. The system is fully automated, the human factor is excluded or minimized in it.
The decision to launch command missiles is made by an autonomous control and command system — a complex artificial intelligence system. It receives and analyzes a wide variety of information about seismic activity and radiation, atmospheric pressure, and the intensity of chatter on military radio frequencies. It monitors telemetry from the observation posts of the strategic missile force and data from early warning systems (EWS).
If it detects, for example, multiple point sources of powerful ionizing and electromagnetic radiation, it compares them with data on seismic disturbances in the same locations, and makes a decision whether or not there was a massive nuclear strike. In this case, Perimeter would initiate a retaliation strike bypassing even Kazbek.
Another scenario is if the country’s leadership receives information from the EWS that other countries have launched missiles, it would activate Perimeter. If the shutdown command does not come within a certain amount of time, the system will launch missiles. This eliminates the human factor and ensures there would be a retaliatory strike even if the command and launch teams were completely destroyed.
In peacetime, Perimeter is dormant but continues, however, to analyze incoming information. When it is put on high alert or when it receives a warning signal from the EWS, strategic forces, or other systems, a monitoring network of sensors is launched to detect signs of nuclear explosions.
Russian leaders have repeatedly assured foreign governments that there is no risk of an accidental or unauthorized missile launch. Before launching, Perimeter checks for four conditions. First, whether there was a nuclear attack.
Then it checks the communication link with the General Staff. If there is still a link, the system shuts down. If the General Staff does not respond, Perimeter sends a request to Kazbek. If there is no response there either, the artificial intelligence gives any person in the command bunker the right to make the decision. And only then it starts to act.
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