Articles (Apr – Jun 2010)

USSF Presentation at the ‘American Lake’ or Ka Moana Nui?: Demilitarization Movements in the Asia-Pacific Workshop

By Christina Illarmo
Presentation at the
USSF – United States Social Forum

24 June 2010

The Pacific island of Guahan, where I was born and raised, has been touted to mainstream audiences as “the tip of the spear,” “the unsinkable aircraft carrier,” or as a kind of ”gas station” for U.S troops. But this island is more than a military outpost, it’s place of waterfalls, fresh water caves, thick jungles, and warm sandy beaches. It’s also home to a loving and resilient native people who after surviving centuries of Western colonization have yet to receive their inherent right to self-determination.

We’ve been citizens since the 50’s, yet we still can’t vote for President, we aren’t represented in the senate, and our one Congressional Delegate can’t vote on the floor; but our voices are valid and our concerns are real.

This massive military buildup, which will realign troops from Okinawa to Guahan, puts our culture, environment, and our ­quality of life at risk while simultaneously violating our human rights. While Okinawa, Hawai’i, California, Philippines, and Korea have said no- we have not; and it is not because we say “yes”; it is because we were never ASKED. Our political status as a US Territory provides the United States a place wherein they may implement their plans with “no restrictions,” meaning: they can do whatever is in their best interest. When our local leaders voiced concerns during realignment negotiations, they were told that this was a “nation-to-nation” conversation. This response reminds our people that we have never been equals within this country. We are Americans; but then we are not.

Why does the US go so far out of its way to subjugate a peaceful little island 30 miles long and 7 miles wide with a population of 171,000?

In a simple word: LOCATION. …

But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how important the Pentagon thinks we are, this costly, immoral and unsustainable practice of forcing bases on unwilling soil has a huge price tag ($4 billion) and it is breaking the backs of the American working class while destroying the lives of native peoples abroad. …

Read on:

Five Reasons to Withdraw From Afghanistan Sooner Rather Than Later

By Doug Sarro, Huffington Post , 23 June 2010

In the face of rapidly rising violence throughout the country, Obama needs to decide how quickly to withdraw U.S. troops from the country.

Here are five reasons why Obama should end the Afghan war sooner rather than later:

  1. Karzai hasn’t changed since he fudged his re-election last year. Counterinsurgency only succeeds if you’re working in support of a government capable of gaining public trust. …
  2. Early withdrawal means less cash for the Taliban. … U.S. tax dollars are flowing into the Taliban’s coffers …
  3. Washington wouldn’t have to defend drug lords at the UN anymore. … when Russia called on the UN Security Council to launch a crackdown on the Afghan opium trade, the United States, along with other NATO countries on the Council, quickly poured cold water on the idea …
  4. Sticking around won’t stop Pakistan from slipping aid to the Taliban. … evidence is mounting that its intelligence service … is supplying covert aid to the Taliban …
  5. The rest of NATO won’t be in Afghanistan much longer. … it won’t be long before America finds itself alone in Afghanistan.

Read this important article here:

Afghan Options

Paul Rogers, Oxford Resaerch Group, June 2010

Barely a month after the UK election, the incoming Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited British troops stationed in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. … Cameron was able to offer vigorous support for the British troops, knowing that this would be popular within the UK. While the war may be controversial across large swathes of the population, public support for the troops, as distinct from the war, remains high.

This was the positive element but the other aspects were most certainly not. In the week before he was there, 26 NATO soldiers were killed and scores injured in a series of attacks. Even Mr Cameron’s visit was affected by the levels of violence as his planned visit to a forward operating base was cancelled after his helicopter was already airborne following receipt of intelligence that the base would be subject to a Taliban attack. This incident supported the view that paramilitaries have extensive intelligence of forthcoming coalition operations. It followed a rocket attack on a major Jirga meeting in Afghanistan a week earlier, which was undertaken in spite of around 12,000 security forces being assembled to guard the Jirga.

The final aspect was that Mr Cameron announced that the British Army planned to double the numbers of specialist bomb disposal personnel to be deployed in Afghanistan. This was in response to sustained loss of life and serious injuries to UK troops caused by improvised explosive devices, especially in their main areas of operation in the northern part of Helmand Province. …

The official NATO line is that there may be substantial problems but that Afghanistan is more or less on track for a steady move towards stability over the next two years, leading to a progressive troop withdrawal. Many other assessments point to a very different picture of a coalition that is increasingly mired in an intractable insurgency. …

Read the full article here:

AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense

Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is being developed as part of the US Navy’s sea-based ballistic missile defense system and will provide theater-wide defense against medium and long range ballistic missiles. …

What is SM-3? see

Truth or consquences for missile defense

By George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol, Boston Globe, May 28, 2010

During the past few weeks the Pentagon has been making claims about the success of a missile defense system called the Standard Missile 3. But our analysis of the Pentagon’s own publicly available test data showed that instead of being the highly capable defense-system described by the Pentagon, the SM-3 was barely working, failing to destroy target warheads in eight to nine of 10 tests that were reported by the Pentagon as successes. President Obama, who once expressed doubts about the effectiveness of missile defenses, described the SM-3 as a “proven and reliable’’ centerpiece of a new missile defense program he announced last year. We believe that the president was misled by the Pentagon.

That misrepresentation may have led the president from skepticism to confidence and helped him decide that two nonworking missile defense systems, the SM-3 and the the Ground-Based Missile defense, could be expected to provide reliable defensive capabilities for the defense of the United States and for its European and Japanese allies.

These claims had other serious consequences for the security of the United States and its allies. The misconception about the potential role of missile defense now permeates the Nuclear Posture Review, which had to be delayed and revised before it was issued recently. …

This is not the first time a president has been misled by false reports from the Pentagon about the capabilities of missile defenses …

America and the world’s jungle

Open Democracy, Paul Rogers – May 27, 2010

An official directive that grants the United States army expanded counterinsurgency powers reveals Washington’s imprisonment in an exhausted vision of security.

An early decision of Bill Clinton after he became president in January 1993 was the appointment of R James Woolsey as director of the CIA. At his Senate confirmation hearings, Woolsey was asked how he would to characterise the current era, following the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He replied that the United States had slain a “large dragon” (the Soviet threat) only to find itself living “in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes” (see “A world beyond control”, 22 May 2008).

George W Bush made a similar point in his own style during the campaign for the United States presidency in 2000:

“When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who the ‘they’ were. It was us versus them and we knew exactly who ‘them’ was. Today we’re not so sure who the ‘they’ are, but we know they’re there.”

The identity of some of the “they” became apparent on 11 September 2001. The United States chose not to respond by studying and searching “the jungle” and seeking them out, but by tearing through that jungle and waging two multi-year wars in the process (see “If it’s good for America, it’s good for the world”, 27 January 2002).

In the early months of 2010, it had begun to look as if at least one of those destructive wars – that in Iraq – might at last be easing. The number of US troops in the country fell below 100,000 for the first time since 2003, a symbolic reduction that was accompanied by a military surge in Afghanistan that exceeded the same figure …”

How US Military Supremacy is a Soviet-Style Poison Pill

The Daily Reckoning
By Rocky Vega
June 22, 2010

Viewed through the lens of the greater than $3 trillion federal budget, the expense of a $700+ billion per year military clearly doesn’t stand alone as the nation’s biggest financial threat. Mandatory entitlement expenses including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are already higher and rising more quickly, and, of course, there’s the national debt at over $13 trillion.

However, national defense is by far the largest portion of US discretionary spending, meaning it must be approved by Congress every year. That yearly green light says a lot about the priorities of the nation. How that singular focus comes about makes defense spending an interesting area to explore further. A recent article by author Tom Engelhardt, comparing the US military expenditures now to the Soviet Union just before its collapse, helps to explain why.

From AlterNet:

“Looking back, the most distinctive feature of the last years of the Soviet Union may have been the way it continued to pour money into its military — and its military adventure in Afghanistan — when it was already going bankrupt and the society it had built was beginning to collapse around it. In the end, its aging leaders made a devastating miscalculation. They mistook military power for power on this planet.”

Is it possible that the US has forgotten most of its military strength has derived from its extraordinary economic success, and not the other way around? …

Read on:

Afghanistan, and the world’s resource war

Paul Rogers, 17 June 2010

A new report that highlights Afghanistan’s extensive mineral deposits provides fuel for the United States’s military project. But it also signals the existence of a wider resource-competition that reflects the 21st-century’s emerging geopolitics.

A notable feature of the Afghanistan war in 2010 has been the way that assessments of its progress have varied regularly between optimism and pessimism. The current mood in Washington, evident in congressional hearings that have thrown some light on the problems, tends to the bleaker end of the spectrum – in marked contrast to the optimism of a few months ago …

What makes this attitude even more interesting is that its spread coincides with the appearance of reports that Afghanistan possesses mineral reserves worth at least $900 billion. The implication is that Afghanistan, and by extension the war being waged there, evidently vital geo-strategic importance that goes beyond even the campaign against the Taliban …

It is in this context of a difficult and increasingly unpopular war that the Pentagon released details of its survey into Afghanistan’s mineral resources, conducted jointly with the US Geological Service and Usaid. This, which draws on information gathered between the early 1950s and around 1985, finds that the country has iron-ore deposits with a value estimated at $420 billion; copper-ore worth $274 billion; cobalt worth $50 billion; and reserves of lithium that could compare to those in Bolivia (currently the world’s largest source)

The timing of the report’s release immediately aroused a certain suspicion of political manipulation (see Katie Drummond, “No, the U.S. Didn’t Just ‘Discover’ a $1T Afghan Motherlode”, Wired, 14 June 2010). The argument is that at an exact moment when the Afghan war is going badly and the foreign presence in the country is under great pressure – and at the start of a week of sensitive US congressional hearings on the war – along comes a survey that highlights Afghanistan’s hidden wealth; and, by implication, enjoins the need to keep fighting …

Read the full article here:

Jeju and a Naval Arms Race in Asia

Foreign Policy in Focus
By Kyoungeun Cha,
June 18, 2010

Jeju IslandMaritime security has been a top issue in Northeast Asia recently. The sinking of the South Korean ship, the Cheonan, was a major agenda item at the annual summit that South Korean conducted
with Japan and China on Jeju Island last month. Jeju Island is important for another reason. The South Korean government is planning to build a naval base there.

Jeju Island is a special self-governing province located just southeast of South Korea. Its location in the center of Northeast Asia has given Jeju Island a political and geographic advantage. …

The Jeju naval base is a likely bone of contention between the United States and China because of missile defense. Seoul plans to dock Aegis-equipped destroyers at Jeju. These warships are the main military component of the U.S. missile defense system. According to Xinhua Chinese newspaper, South Korea plans to build a new naval base on the southern island of Jeju to expand the range of its naval operations. U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin provides the Aegis combat system to Seoul. “China regards missile defense as the 21st century’s greatest threat and is dissatisfied with U.S. missile defense policy,” argues Cheong Wook-sik, director of Peace Network in South Korea. China believes that, in the event of a conflict over Taiwan, the United States will inevitably become involved because of missile defense. …

Read on:

Unconditional return of the Chagos Islands – Navin Ramgoolam meeting with William Hague

Mauritius Newspaper – KotZot News
By Atman Ramchalaon (Filmmaker from Mauritius, based in the Netherlands)

Navin Ramgoolam should have used his recent visit to British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in London to press for an unconditional return of the Chagos Islands so that the Chagossians can return to their homeland. Between 1968 and 1973, around 2000 of them had been forcibly evicted by the British Authorities to make way for the use of joint U.S. -British military base on Diego Garcia, the main island of the Chagos Archipelago.

The nuclear capacity military base of Diego Garcia represents a threat to the local and global environment as well as to world peace and should be dismantled, but the present administration of Mauritius appears to have closed its eyes on the African Union demands for the demilitarisation of the Indian ocean and on the issue of re-establishing Mauritian sovereignty over Diego Garcia.

Instead of supporting the plight of the islanders crying out for justice, especially from the country that deported them, it seems that our Prime Minister is collaborating with the British Government to create a 250,000 square-mile marine reserve which presumably would also protect the status of the current residents of the islands, namely the British and thousands of U.S. military and their naval facilities on Diego Garcia while putting yet another obstacle in the path of the Chagossians of whom the vast majority wants to return home.

In 1960, the British government misled the U.S. into believing that the Chagos islands were “inhabited” and in 1965, Navin Ramgoolam’s father, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, leader of the Labour party and his ruling coalition partner PMSD was party to the excision of the Chagos Islands in exchange for the independence of Mauritius.

Due to their actions, the inhabitants of the Chagos islands were forcibly removed from their homeland without their consent and with the option of no return. The chagossians’rights to participate in the decision making in matters which would affect their rights are being denied again by the present governments of Mauritius and Great Britain. The British government is using the creation of the marine sanctuary as an excuse to prevent the resettlement of the islanders. Britain has no right over these islands and equally has no right to dictate on what should be done with them.

The British government should immediately end the illegal occupation of our territory and provide all means to repatriate the native inhabitants of the Chagos Islands. They must have full sovereignty over their land, sea, and the environment of the Chagos Archipelago.

Under the British administration, the Chagos islands which supported the lives of the chagossians for 5 generations are drastically changed.

The island of Diego Garcia is extensively developped with military infrastructure since 1973 : Initial dredging of the lagoon to expand the berthing facility, building new hangars for bombers, the extension of the runway, the construction of “camp justice” (to hold suspected terrorists from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia) and the construction of the naval facilities command has further increased the depletion of natural resources of the island. The combination of rising ocean temperatures alongside military development such as the creation of harbour and berthing facilities for submarines destroyed much of the coral reefs on the Chagos. Greenpeace, the Human Rights watch, Dr P.H. Sand from the university of Munich, Prof Klaus Bosselmann from University of Berlin, specialists in the field of climate change, biodiversity, justice, human rights and global governance, myself, and many peace-loving people of the world do not support the creation of a marine reserve around the Chagos Islands. “Deporting the population from their islands by force and then declaring the latter as a nature sanctuary are unacceptable”.

Israel vs Iran: the risk of war

Open Democracy
By Paul Rogers
June 11, 2010

Iran is at the centre of a global storm: targeted by new sanctions, suspected by Washington, defended by Brazil and Turkey. But the complex diplomacy around its nuclear programme could be ended by decisions made not in the United States but in Israel

Iran has returned to the centre of international diplomacy, and with a vengeance. A week after the crisis over Israel’s assault on an aid-flotilla bound for Gaza, the United Nations Security Council on 9 June 2010 adopted a resolution imposing another tranche of sanctions on the Tehran regime over its contested nuclear programme. The response – from Iran’s ambassador at the UN to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at home – was characteristically vigorous. In the anniversary week of Ahmadinejad’s victory in Iran’s disputed presidential election on 12 June 2010, Iran’s leadership is as determined as ever to withstand what it sees as unjust interference in its internal affairs.

But this is more than just another episode in an endless cycle of confrontation between Iran and the west in general and the United States in particular. The Tehran-Washington polarisation remains one of the principal faultlines of global politics, but two additional elements in the current situation make it both more complex and more perilous than ever:

* the emergence of rising powers onto the global stage

* the deep concern in Israel about Iran’s nuclear plans, and its influence over the Hizbollah movement in Lebanon

A cascade of pressure

The Security Council Resolution 1929, which imposes new restrictions on trade with Iran, was welcomed by Washington as a signal of the international-community’s determination to take a tough line with Tehran. The reality is more prosaic: after a lengthy process of negotiation among the council’s permanent members, the content of the resolution was gutted in order to accommodate the concerns of Russia and China before they could vote for it.

Even then, it was opposed by two key non-permanent members of the council with influence in their region and in the majority-world, Turkey and Brazil (see Leslie Bethell, “Brazil: regional power, global power”, 8 June 2010). The leaders of these two states, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Lula, had agreed a uranium-exchange deal in Tehran on 17 May 2010 in an attempt to defuse the crisis; this reflects both their ambition to play a more prominent role in the “multipolar world” and, more immediately, their deep concern about the possibility of an escalation of the crisis over Iran. …

Israel’s plans and intentions towards Iran are a vital if uncertain component of the regional strategic landscape (see “Israel’s shadow over Iran”, 14 January 2010). It cannot be said with any certainty that Israel is moving towards an early assault on Iran’s nuclear- and missile-complexes. What can be said the view held by the current Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu – and shared to a great extent across the Israeli political spectrum – is that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would represent an existential threat to Israel that must be prevented at all costs. …

Israeli claims that Hizbollah has now added Scud missiles to its already extensive arsenal – and may even intend to deploy them in northern Lebanon where they are difficult to counter – may or may not be correct. But there is evidence that Hizbollah has greatly increased its arsenal of shorter-range weapons; and its Iranian ally has steadily developed versatile solid-fuel medium-range ballistic-missiles that could reach deep into Israel and leave no part of the country immune…

The Binyamin Netanyahu government and much of Israel’s military establishment think that peace is not now possible; Israel can only be secure by being a fortress that periodically strikes out at its enemies to massive effect. There are many dangers in this view … . But its logic is also clear: that there is a real risk of another war before too long – and that this will be a double war, against both Iran and Hizbollah.

Boeing Eyes India & Asia for Big Weapons Profits

The Business Times
June 7, 2010

Faced with slumping demand and budget cuts in the United States, American aerospace giant Boeing’s defence arm is looking to Asia to pick up the slack.

Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS), estimates that countries such as South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and South-east Asian partners such as Malaysia will be strong markets for its fighter jets, unmanned systems, helicopters, energy
systems security and even cyber-warfare technology amid a slowdown in defence spending in its US home market.

‘We are seeing some pressure in our core business in the US, such as missile defence, but growth will come from other markets, particularly in Asia,’ he said.

About 16 per cent of BDS’s US$34 billion business comes from international sales. Mr Muilenburg, who was in Singapore last week for the Asia Security Summit, sees international business share rising to 25 per cent in five years.

Asian markets account for about half the international sales. And this could grow sharply in the next three years.

The company is awaiting a Japanese tender for some 40 next-generation fighters to replace its ageing F4 Phantoms.

In Korea, where it has delivered 61 F15-K Eagle fighters, it is looking at an opportunity to clinch another deal for 60 more of the planes.

In Australia, where it has delivered the first five of 25 F18 Superhornets and five C17 transport planes, it sees interest for the P8 anti-submarine planes.

In Malaysia, it is currently in talks to sell its F18 Hornets to replace the air force’s ageing Russian MiG fighters, while in Singapore, it is in the process of supplying the 24 F15 Eagles on order.

But it is India which Mr Muilenburg sees as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’.

The signing of the nuclear agreement by former president US George W Bush two years ago, and the subsequent thawing of relations between the US and India, have finally opened up the country’s US$30 billion defence market to Boeing.

‘In the past, Boeing’s relationship with India was purely on the commercial airplanes side,’ he said. ‘Now, relations encompass the defence side.’ …

Read on …

U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role

Washington Post
By Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe
June 4, 2010

Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials.

Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

Commanders are developing plans for increasing the use of such forces in Somalia, where a Special Operations raid last year killed the alleged head of al-Qaeda in East Africa. Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group.

The surge in Special Operations deployments, along with intensified CIA drone attacks in western Pakistan, is the other side of the national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values President Obama released last week.

One advantage of using “secret” forces for such missions is that they rarely discuss their operations in public. For a Democratic president such as Obama, who is criticized from either side of the political spectrum for too much or too little aggression, the unacknowledged CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, along with unilateral U.S. raids in Somalia and joint operations in Yemen, provide politically useful tools.

Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed “things that the previous administration did not.” …

Read on…

US Troops, Patriot Missiles in Poland Spark Russian Concern

Voice of America May 27, 2010

U.S. troops and Patriot missile batteries arrived in Poland this week, where they will be stationed in the northern town of Morag, just 64 kilometers from the Russian border. The training mission ties Poland more firmly to NATO, but also re-ignites Russian concerns over missile defense in the region.

Here in Morag, a small town in northern Poland, a handful of American Patriot missile launching platforms point toward the sky, as around a hundred U.S. soldiers reported for duty in a ceremony. It will be the largest-ever deployment of US troops in Poland on a long-term basis.

The soldiers will be rotating through Morag through 2012 as they train the Polish military to use Patriot missile systems. The deployment is part of an agreement negotiated by former President George Bush in 2008.

But the new installation is just 64 kilometers from the border of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. A Russian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying it Is “unclear” why the location had been chosen, and that the move would promote neither stability nor trust within the region. …

“What the Russians were afraid of – and I think they still are – is that development of missile defense can give the Americans such a technological advantage that the Americans can develop these systems much further than was anticipated. In this situation the only asset of strategic nature which puts Russia on par with the United States – their nuclear capabilities – would be annihilated. …”

Robert Fisk: Western leaders are too cowardly to help save lives

The Independent – June 1, 2010

It is a fact that it is ordinary people, activists, call them what you will, who now take decisions to change events

Has Israel lost it? Can the Gaza War of 2008-09 (1,300 dead) and the Lebanon War of 2006 (1,006 dead) and all the other wars and now yesterday’s killings mean that the world will no longer accept Israel’s rule?

Don’t hold your breath.

You only have to read the gutless White House statement – that the Obama administration was “working to understand the circumstances surrounding the tragedy”. Not a single word of condemnation. And that’s it. Nine dead. Just another statistic to add to the Middle East’s toll.

But it’s not.

In 1948, our politicians – the Americans and the British – staged an airlift into Berlin. A starving population (our enemies only three years before) were surrounded by a brutal army, the Russians, who had erected a fence around the city. The Berlin airlift was one of the great moments in the Cold War. Our soldiers and our airmen risked and gave their lives for these starving Germans.

Incredible, isn’t it? In those days, our politicians took decisions; our leaders took decisions to save lives. Messrs Attlee and Truman knew that Berlin was important in moral and human as well as political terms.

And today? It was people – ordinary people, Europeans, Americans, Holocaust survivors – yes, for heaven’s sake, survivors of the Nazis – who took the decision to go to Gaza because their politicians and their statesmen had failed them.

Where were our politicians yesterday? Well, we had the ridiculous Ban Ki-moon, the White House’s pathetic statement, and dear Mr Blair’s expression of “deep regret and shock at the tragic loss of life”. Where was Mr Cameron? Where was Mr Clegg?

Back in 1948, they would have ignored the Palestinians, of course. It is, after all, a terrible irony that the Berlin airlift coincided with the destruction of Arab Palestine.

But it is a fact that it is ordinary people, activists, call them what you will, who now take decisions to change events. Our politicians are too spineless, too cowardly, to take decisions to save lives. Why is this? Why didn’t we hear courageous words from Messrs Cameron and Clegg yesterday? …

Read on:–to-help-save-lives-1987989.html

The sinking of the Cheonan: Another Gulf of Tonkin incident

By Stephen Gowans

While the South Korean government announced on May 20 that it has overwhelming evidence that one of its warships was sunk by a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine, there is, in fact, no direct link between North Korea and the sunken ship. And it seems very unlikely that North Korea had anything to do with it.

That’s not my conclusion. It’s the conclusion of Won See-hoon, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence. Won told a South Korean parliamentary committee in early April, less than two weeks after the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank in waters off Baengnyeong Island, that there was no evidence linking North Korea to the Cheonan’s sinking.

South Korea’s Defense Minister Kim Tae-young backed him up, pointing out that the Cheonan’s crew had not detected a torpedo, while Lee Ki-sik, head of the marine operations office at the South Korean joint chiefs of staff agreed that “No North Korean warships have been detected…(in) the waters where the accident took place.”

Notice he said “accident.”

Defense Ministry officials added that they had not detected any North Korean submarines in the area at the time of the incident. (4) According to Lee, “We didn’t detect any movement by North Korean submarines near” the area where the Cheonan went down.

When speculation persisted that the Cheonan had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo, the Defense Ministry called another press conference to reiterate “there was no unusual North Korean activities detected at the time of the disaster.”

A ministry spokesman, Won Tae-jae, told reporters that “With regard to this case, no particular activities by North Korean submarines or semi-submarines…have been verified. I am saying again that there were no activities that could be directly linked to” the Cheonan’s sinking.

Rear Admiral Lee, the head of the marine operations office, added that, “We closely watched the movement of the North’s vessels, including submarines and semi-submersibles, at the time of the sinking. But military did not detect any North Korean submarines near the country’s western sea border.”

North Korea has vehemently denied any involvement in the sinking.

So, a North Korean submarine is now said to have fired a torpedo which sank the Cheonan, but in the immediate aftermath of the sinking the South Korean navy detected no North Korean naval vessels, including submarines, in the area. Indeed, immediately following the incident defense minister Lee ruled out a North Korean torpedo attack, noting that a torpedo would have been spotted, and no torpedo had been spotted.

The case gets weaker still. …

Read on:

U.S. And NATO Accelerate Military Build-Up In Black Sea Region

By Rick Rozoff, Before It’s News May 24, 2010

In the post-Cold War era and especially since 2001 the Pentagon has been steadily shifting emphasis, and moving troops and equipment, from bases in Germany and Italy to Eastern Europe in its drive to the east and the south.

That process was preceded and augmented by the absorption of former Eastern Bloc nations into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization beginning in 1999. In one of the first nations in that category, Poland, the initial contingent of what will be over 100 U.S. troops arrived in the town of Morag this week, as near as 35 miles from Russian territory, as part of a Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and the host country ratified this February.

Also in February, the governments of the Black Sea nations of Romania and Bulgaria confirmed plans for the U.S. to deploy a land-based version of Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic interceptors on their territory. …

Last autumn it was revealed that the Pentagon planned to spend $110 million dollars to upgrade and modernize a base in Bulgaria and another in Romania, two of seven such newly-acquired installations in the two nations.

The air, naval and infantry bases in Bulgaria and Romania have been employed for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, although not publicly acknowledged, doubtlessly for arming Georgia before, during and since its five-day war with Russia in August of 2008. …

Review Cites Flaws in U.S. Antimissile Program

By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, New York Times May 17, 2010

President Obama’s plans for reducing America’s nuclear arsenal and defeating Iran’s missiles rely heavily on a new generation of antimissile defenses, which last year he called “proven and effective.”

His confidence in the heart of the system, a rocket-powered interceptor known as the SM-3, was particularly notable because as a senator and presidential candidate he had previously criticized antimissile arms. But now, a new analysis being published by two antimissile critics, at M.I.T. and Cornell, casts doubt on the reliability of the new weapon.

Mr. Obama’s announcement of his new antimissile plan in September was based on the Pentagon’s assessment that the SM-3, or Standard Missile 3, had intercepted 84 percent of incoming targets in tests. But a re-examination of results from 10 of those apparently successful tests by Theodore A. Postol and George N. Lewis, being published this month, finds only one or two successful intercepts — for a success rate of 10 to 20 percent.

Most of the approaching warheads, they say, would have been knocked off course but not destroyed. While that might work against a conventionally armed missile, it suggests that a nuclear warhead might still detonate. At issue is whether the SM-3 needs to strike and destroy the warhead of a missile — as the Pentagon says on its Web site.

“The system is highly fragile and brittle and will intercept warheads only by accident, if ever,” said Dr. Postol, a former Pentagon science adviser who forcefully criticized the performance of the Patriot antimissile system in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. …

NPT conference: half time glass half full

Rebecca Johnson, openDemocracy May 17, 2010

Frustration at the failure of nuclear weapon states to honour the agreements made at previous NPT Conferences is growing. In heated exchanges in New York the 184 countries without nuclear weapons want to ensure that this time the NPT outcome has direction, accountability and muscle.

The review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York has passed its midpoint well on schedule, much to the relief of those who remember the angry stalemate of 2005, yet failure to get agreement on key regional and global disarmament commitments could still threaten the outcome. As first drafts of proposals from the three committees on disarmament, safeguards and nuclear energy were circulated on Friday, the major disagreements revolve around three issues: what should be in the 2010 disarmament action plan; how concrete a commitment will be made to a future conference and process to lay the groundwork for making the middle east a nuclear-weapons-free zone; and the role and acceptability of the strengthened safeguards agreements that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been trying to get states to adopt. …

So far we have seen Britain, France and Russia still reciting the reductions and closures of nuclear facilities that they undertook in response to the end of the cold war twenty years ago, as if expecting to rest on these past laurels for the foreseeable future while they actually seek to retain, modernise and renew their nuclear systems. Apart from its long-held declaratory policies of “no first use” and unconditional promises not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-armed countries (called security assurances), China hasn’t even got reductions to show, as Beijing is also bent on modernising and increasing the Chinese nuclear arsenal.

The exception is the United States, which had a lot of catching up to do after the Bush administration’s negative record on nuclear arms and international treaties over the previous decade. Ever since President Obama’s speech in Prague last year on wanting a world free of nuclear weapons, the United States has been at pains to promise future disarmament and security commitments as well as listing its past efforts. The President’s determination to ratify the CTBT and the New START agreement with Russia, as well as the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review’s recognition of the need to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, have brought considerable support for the Obama administration’s efforts to make the NPT Conference successful. …

News that Obama has promised $80 billion to modernise the US nuclear infrastructure and arsenal over the next ten years has called into question the sincerity of his commitment to nuclear disarmament. …

Read the full story here:


The Global Economic Crisis
The Great Depression of the XXI Century

by Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall
May 25, 2010

This is a new book from Global Research.

In all major regions of the world, the economic recession is deep-seated, resulting in mass unemployment, the collapse of state social programs and the impoverishment of millions of people. The meltdown of financial markets was the result of institutionalized fraud and financial manipulation. The economic crisis is accompanied by a worldwide process of militarization, a “war without borders” led by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

This book takes the reader through the corridors of the Federal Reserve, into the plush corporate boardrooms on Wall Street where far-reaching financial transactions are routinely undertaken.

Each of the authors in this timely collection digs beneath the gilded surface to reveal a complex web of deceit and media distortion which serves to conceal the workings of the global economic system and its devastating impacts on people`s lives.

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent writer both on the contemporary structures of capitalism as well as on the history of the global political economy. He is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

Despite the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives presented within this volume, all of the contributors ultimately come to the same conclusion: humanity is at the crossroads of the most serious economic and social crisis in modern history.

UK ratifies Cluster Munition Prohibition Act

The UK deposited its instrument of ratification at the UN in NY on 4 May 2010, making it the 32nd country to do so and ensuring that it will be a full State Party by the time of the First Meeting of States Party that is scheduled to take place in Laos in November.

The UK’s ratification and indeed its actual domestic legislation (copy of the Cluster Munition Prohibition Act below) will have implications for campaigners in other countries and for this reason thought you might appreciate a brief overview of the good and bad parts of our legislation, as well as statements on
the legislation by the Government.

Good Parts:

Direct Financing: While the text of the Act is not clear on disinvestment, in that it does not explicitly include a prohibition on investment in, or provision of financial services to, companies involved in the production of cluster munitions in Section 2 on Offences, the Act does prohibit direct financing. During the development of the law we raised this issue with the government, who then issued a Ministerial Statement on the 7 December 2009, confirming that the direct financing of cluster muntions, ie funds directly contributing to the manufacturing of cluster munitions, is indeed prohibited under the Bill. The Government also confirmed that this is a legal interpretation of the Bill and not just the interpretation by the current government.

Foreign Stockpiling: Although not dealt with in the text of the legislation, this was also an important issue for us to engage with the Government on during the legislative process. We have been pleased with their response which saw them make several definitive statements that foreign stockpiles of cluster munitions will be removed from the UK mainland and all UK territories by 2013. They have also stated that this process has started and that it is irreversible (ie a new government cannot change it).

Bad Parts:

Indirect Financing: As noted above the Legislation does not prohibit indirect financing of cluster munitions. However the Foreign Office has said that they intend to work with the financial sector, NGOs and other interested parties to promote a voluntary code of conduct to prevent indirect financing, and that if necessary they will initiate legislation on this. They also stated that they intend to review public investment guidelines. UK NGOs intend to work closely with the government to follow this up.

Read/download the Cluster Munition Prohibition Act

Talking With Chalmers Johnson

By Harry Kreisler on CounterPunch

Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire and his latest book Nemesis: Last Days of the American Republic.

“I have to say I was shocked to see the impact of thirty-eight American bases located on an island [Okinawa] smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, with 1.3 million people living cheek-by-jowl with warplanes . . .

“Osama bin Laden comes from a wealthy family of a construction empire in Saudi Arabia. He’s the sort of person that you would more likely expect to see on the ski slopes of Gstaad with a Swiss girl on his arm, or as a houseguest in Kennebunkport with the first President Bush… The base where he trained mujahideen, at Khost, the CIA built for him. It was one of the few times we knew where to hit. Because we built it, we did know where they were. He then was disgusted with us and certainly gave us fair warning in the attack in 1993 on the World Trade Center.

“What I want to introduce here is what I call the “base world.” According to the “Base Structure Report”, an annual report of the Department of Defense, in the year 2002 we had 725 bases in other people’s countries. Actually, that number understates in that it does not include any of the espionage bases of the National Security Agency, such as RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire.

“These are huge bases. Menwith Hill downloads every single e-mail, telephone call, and fax between Europe and the United States every day and puts them into massive computers where dictionaries then read them out. There are hundreds of these. The official Base Structure Report also doesn’t include any of the main bases in England disguised as Royal Air Force bases even though there are no Britons on them. It doesn’t include any of the bases in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, any of the bases in Afghanistan, the four bases that are, as we talk, being built in Iraq. They put down one major marine base for Okinawa—there are ten—and things like that. So there is a lot of misleading information in it, but it’s enough to say 700 looks like a pretty good number, whereas it’s probably around 1,000.

The base world is secret. Americans don’t know anything about it. The Congress doesn’t do oversight on it. You must remember, 40 percent of the defense budget is black. No congressman can see it. All of the intelligence budgets are black.

Read the full conversation here:

US military escalates its dirty war in Afghanistan

“American special forces units are operating in and around the Afghan city of Kandahar, assassinating or capturing alleged leaders and militants of the Taliban resistance ahead of the major US-NATO offensive scheduled for June. …”

The Iraq “surge” was marked by the use of JSOC [Joint Special operations Command], aided by local collaborators, to kill or capture suspected insurgents ahead of the deployment of larger formations into resistance-held areas.

The secretive mass killings and stories of brutal imprisonment generated terror in urban centers like Ramadi, Baqubah, Mosul, Basra, Amarah and the suburbs of Baghdad. It is credited by sections of the US military as playing an equally decisive role in subduing resistance as the parallel policy of bribing insurgents to cease fighting in exchange for amnesty and cash.

The coming assault on Kandahar is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to shatter the Afghan insurgency and finally impose American control over the country. Kandahar and the neighboring province of Helmand have been the main support bases of the Taliban movement since the mid-1990s. Large swathes of both provinces have remained under its influence since the US invasion in 2001. The majority of the predominantly ethnic Pashtun population is virulently opposed to the presence of foreign forces. They do not accept the authority of the thoroughly corrupt Afghan puppet government headed by President Hamid Karzai. …

Read on… Text and illustration from “The Common Man News”:

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside

The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. …

“What have the Americans done with all that waste?” The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. …

Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas. …

From Read on…

US to launch secret ‘space warplane’

From Press TV April 19, 2010

The United States Air Force has announced that it will launch a secret space plane that has sparked speculation about the militarization of space.

The Pentagon set April 21 as the date for the launch of the robotic space plane known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), which is a reusable unmanned plane capable of long outer space missions at low orbits.

Since the nature of the project is shrouded in mystery, defense analysts allege that the US military is building the first generation of US ‘space Predator drones’ that will build up the United States’ space armada …

Read the full story here:

A weapon that can strike anywhere
on Earth in 30 minutes

More on the X-37B ‘Orbital Test Vehicle’ mentioned above

The next generation of Star Wars
By Sharon Weinberger, April 25 2010, New York Times

“Call it a reusable space vehicle. Call it a space plane. But whatever you do, just don’t call it a space weapon.”
That’s the message from the Air Force after last week’s launch of its X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which can stay on orbit up to 270 days. The Air Force won’t say what, exactly, the robotic space plane will be doing there, how long it will linger this time, or even how much it costs. But the military is already in the process of building a second aircraft …

Washington vs Waziristan: the far enemy

Open Democracy
May 14, 2010
Paul Rogers

The new pattern of United States military attacks in the AfPak borderlands is fuelling ever-greater hostility on the ground. The arrest of a presumed Taliban militant in New York is one of its symptoms. The long war is recharging itself.

Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to explode a car-bomb near New York’s Times Square on 1 May 2010 was dismissed almost at once as an amateurish “one-off” attempt by a lone eccentric. It soon became clear that the operation, though in the end abortive, was much more serious: for the perpetrator was an American citizen of Pakistani origin who had recently been in Pakistan and was reported to have connections with the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) movement there. Moreover, the arrest on 13 May of three people suspected of funding Shahzad in the northeast United States raises the possibility that at least one organised cell there has been been able to escape detection.

The official response to the news was a mixture of consternation and denial. The reports that Shahzad was motivated by anger at United States drone-attacks in western Pakistan were quickly dismissed, not least by the senior White House counter-terror specialist John O Brennan. He preferred to attribute Shahzad’s actions to the “murderous rhetoric of al-Qaeda and the TTP that looks at the United States as an enemy” (Anne E Kornblut & Karin Brulliard, “U.S. blames Pakistani Taliban for Times Square bomb plot”, Washington Post, 10 May 2010).

Behind this reductive explanation is a form of thought that is deeply entrenched in government circles across Washington and extends to many other western European countries (including leading members of the new coalition government in Britain). In stark terms, the al-Qaida movement and the diverse Taliban groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan are motivated by a blind and adamantine loathing for the United States.

The massive US military response is legitimised by the horror of 9/11. This rationale has survived wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have consumed more than 100,000 lives and created over 4 million refugees. The wars may have set in motion an enduring cycle of violence and instability in both countries (which in Afghanistan’s case is heading towards its tenth year), but American strategists remain unable to rethink their fundamental approach in light of the devastation it has created (see “A phantom endgame”, 3 May 2010). …

Read on..

Barack Obama: a market report

Open Democracy
May 6, 2010
Godfrey Hodgson

The political fate of this United States presidency is now coming to turn on the mid-term elections in November 2010

In an age where politics and business thinking have become ever more fused, an appropriate way of looking at the United States presidency might be to see the president as a trader in a political market. He enters the White House with a stock of political capital, accumulated in the successful campaign and in his whole earlier career. To keep afloat, he must venture that capital. If he successfully turns a political profit, he will acquire the means to accomplish what he set out to achieve, and what his supporters expect from him. But he must speculate to accumulate. His future reputation and success will depend on how successfully he trades in the market.

How can he, and his customers, calibrate the price of his political stock so as to decide whether he is trading at a profit or at a loss? …

President Obama faces a number of tough battles – foreign as well as domestic – where his stock trade will be tested in the five months leading to the mid-term elections. The several dangerous foreign issues include the war in and relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan, which remain as difficult as ever. The impasse over Israeli settlements and the dwindling prospect of peace talks between Israel and the two political tribes of Palestinians has implications that reach deep into domestic politics. …

The prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is a major threat to the whole American posture in the middle east, and there are hints that this is taken even more seriously in Washington than official statements of policy would suggest …

But presidents, in the global arena even more than at home, do not have as much power to command success as they think. And there is always the possibility of something going spectacularly wrong. If (for example) Iran were to explode a nuclear weapon, an Islamist government were to take power in Pakistan, or just one suicide-bomber succeeded in inflicting mass murder in America, all Barack Obama’s accumulated capital would be in danger of turning into junk-bonds overnight.

America’s political market is pitiless, even more in this era of social hardship, political fluidity and media frenzy. But this president has shown an impressive ability to recover his standing from a period when his leadership seemed trapped and in want of serious achievement. It is not yet time to sell his stock short.

Afghanistan: a phantom endgame

Open Democracy
May 3, 2010
Paul Rogers

The nature and future of Afghanistan’s war is now bound to international political calculation, not least the United States’s electoral timetable.

The first months of 2010 have seen a large-scale military campaign by thousands of United States and Afghan forces to take control of the Taliban-dominated district around Marjah in the centre of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, backed by efforts to persuade the local population to support the government and oppose Taliban influence …

This operation has been a prelude to a much larger plan to win control of the key city of Kandahar, to the east of Helmand, long seen as the base for the whole Taliban movement. The city represents a very different challenge to the rural environment of central Helmand, and will continue for several months.

The operation may officially start in June 2010, though in one sense it has already begun. In recent weeks, US special-operations forces have been mounting raids to kill and detain suspected Taliban paramilitaries, with the aim of substantially weakening the movement in advance of the main attacks and preparing the ground for the later conventional campaign. When the core operation gets underway, it is likely to feature a deployment of Afghan troops inside the city and American troops in the surrounding districts …

The special-forces raids have been accompanied by a large increase in the number of roadblocks and checkpoints across Kandahar, which provoke strong opposition from local residents. This in itself is bad news for the American-led campaign for the city, but more broadly the prospective siege of Kandahar faces two problems.

The first problem relates to the possible use of Afghan national army (ANA) troops inside Kandahar. From the viewpoint of the United States military it makes eminent sense to avoid deploying US troops within the heart of the city for any length of time, given the local population’s deep opposition to their presence. …

The second problem is that even were the coalition troops to establish control of Kandahar (or appear to), multiple precedent indicates that the Taliban and its allies merely go to ground and marshal their resources for a renewed assault. …

The Kandahar operation may well last until the autumn and winter of 2010, a major urban test that will do much to determine the future of the entire US and coalition presence in Afghanistan. …

The Poisoning of Puerto Rico

In These Times
May 3, 2010
By Jacob Wheeler

The U.S. Navy left Vieques, but for many, the cancer remains.

On March 31, retired Sgt. Hermogenes Marrero was told during a visit to the Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, that he didn’t have cancer — or at least, his official VA computer file no longer showed any record of cancer.

But Marrero was not relieved. He had been diagnosed twice before with colon cancer and suffers today from a dozen other illnesses, including Lou Gehrig’s disease, failing vision, a lung condition that keeps him on oxygen around the clock, not to mention tumors throughout his body. The terminally ill and wheelchair-bound, 57-year-old veteran immediately suspected that the U.S. government had manipulated his medical record.

Marrero is the star witness in a lawsuit filed in 2007 against the U.S. government by Mississippi attorney John Arthur Eaves on behalf of more than 7,000 residents of the picturesque, yet heavily polluted, Puerto Rican island of Vieques. From 1941 until 2003 the U.S. Navy operated a base here, conducting bombing runs and testing chemical weapons for use in foreign wars, from Vietnam to Yugoslavia to Iraq.

The three-quarters of Vieques’ population listed as plaintiffs in the suit blame the billions of tons of bombs dropped by the Navy on Vieques’ eastern half, and the toxic chemicals released into the water, air and soil during that period, for their physical and psychological illnesses. Viequenses today suffer 30-percent higher cancer rates than other Puerto Ricans, 381-percent higher rates of hypertension, 95-percent higher rates of cirrhosis of the liver and 41-percent higher rates of diabetes. Twenty-five percent more children die during infancy in Vieques than in the rest of Puerto Rico. ….

U.S. Consolidates Military Network In Asia-Pacific Region News
April 29, 2010
By Rick Rozoff

The United States has six naval fleets and eleven aircraft carrier strike groups patrolling the world’s oceans and seas. The U.S. Navy is as large as the world’s next thirteen biggest navies combined.

Washington has as many aircraft carriers as all other nations together. Russia has one; China has none. The U.S. and its NATO allies – Britain (2), Italy (2), France (1) and Spain (1) – account for 17 of 22 in service in the world. Ten of the eleven American carriers are Nimitz class nuclear-powered supercarriers, substantially larger than most all non-U.S. ones. The U.S. Navy has all ten supercarriers in the world at the moment.

U.S. aircraft carriers contain 70-80 planes and are available for deployment in all the world’s oceans and most of its seas. They are escorted in their carrier groups by anti-air and anti-submarine warfare guided missile destroyers, anti-submarine warfare frigates, missile cruisers with long-range Tomahawks, and nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines. The U.S. also maintains between ten and twelve naval expeditionary strike groups which include amphibious assault ships and AH-1 Super Cobra attack helicopters in addition to destroyers, cruisers, frigates, attack submarines and P-3C Orion long-range anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.

With the reestablishing of the Navy’s Fourth Fleet – its area of responsibility includes Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea – two years ago after a 58-year hiatus, the U.S. has six fleets that can be dispatched to all five oceans.

The Seventh Fleet (there is no First Fleet), based in Japan, is the largest of U.S. forward-deployed fleets and consists of as many as 40–60 ships, 200-350 aircraft and 20,000-60,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Its area of responsibility takes in more than 50 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from Russia’s Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south, from the South China Sea to the Arabian Sea, South Africa to the Korean Peninsula, the Strait of Malacca to the Taiwan Strait.

When on the occasion of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize last December President Barack Obama referred to himself as the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s sole military superpower he was not guilty of hyperbole if he was of hubris. His defense budget for next year is almost half as large as world military spending for 2008, the last year for which the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has compiled figures.

The U.S. has mutual defense treaties with six nations in the Asia-Pacific area: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand. The Pentagon has bases in Japan and South Korea, troops and base camps in the Philippines, satellite surveillance sites in Australia and the use of air bases in Thailand.

Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are included in the American global missile interceptor network with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and ship-based Standard Missile-3 deployments in those four nations. Last December it was announced that the U.S. will supply Taiwan with 200 Patriot anti-ballistic missiles and the following month it was revealed that Washington will also provide Taiwan with eight frigates capable of being upgraded to fire Standard Missile-3 interceptors.

Last week the head of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, told the U.S. Congress that, as Reuters summarized it, “Japan remains fully committed to building a linchpin multibillion-dollar missile interceptor with the United States,” despite hopes to the contrary entertained after the Democratic Party of Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama became prime minister last September. …

From Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and the other Chagos Islands – people speak out

Open Democracy
Alex Morrison
April 22, 2010

In 1965, a secret Anglo-American agreement designated the tiny Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia for the creation of a US military base. The 2,000 people of the Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is the largest, were packed onto boats and dumped into miserable poverty in Mauritius. Though many Chagossians traced their island ancestry to the 1700s, the British Government called them “migrant workers” and even “a few Tarzans and Men Fridays” to justify their removal. Growing international pressure saw many islanders and their descendants granted UK passports in 2002, since when almost 2,000 have arrived in the UK, landing at Gatwick and setting up a thriving community in nearby Crawley. Today, islanders are still banned from their homeland, though several small groups have visited since 2008. The US base has been used for “rendition flights”, the practice of flying terror suspects to foreign countries for torture. As the islands, officially called the British Indian Ocean Territory, are still UK-owned, Britain has been accused of a complicit role in torture.

It has also been suggested that the presence of nuclear submarines threatens Africa’s “atomic free” status. David Miliband’s recent creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around Chagos has attracted criticism from some islanders’ groups and also from Mauritius, which asserts sovereignty over Chagos.

We are told that the announcement of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the Chagos Islands has provoked anger, even “fury” among islanders, who consider the scheme a ploy to block their right of return. …

“We are interested in the preservation of our homeland and we are backing the British Government on this,” said Allen Vincatassin, chairman of the Crawley-based Diego Garcian Society, the main islanders’ group in the UK. “We support the MPA and we believe the issue is separate from resettlement.”

Since their plight hit the political mainstream, islanders have faced an increasing problem of others speaking for them, using international sympathy to further their own ambitions.
The MPA debate has provided many examples of this, and the Diego Garcian Society also accuses Mauritius of misrepresenting islanders to further its sovereignty claim over Chagos.

“It is high time we were allowed to speak for ourselves,” Mr Vincatassin said. “There are many people who are undoubtedly sincere and would like to see us resettled in our homeland, but some, in their zeal, are not listening and have not taken into account our real aspirations as people.” …

A tale of three cities: Washington, Baghdad, Tehran

Open Democracy
Paul Rogers
April 22, 2010

The United States’s war in Iraq failed to curb Iranian influence in the region. The war’s architects now seek to make Tehran pay for their mistake.

The political and security conditions in Iraq continue to be a major concern for United States policy-makers, seven years after the war that eliminated the Saddam Hussein regime. What these evolving conditions reveal is that one of the objectives of this war, the containment and reduction of Iranian power in the region, is very far from being achieved. An awareness of this outcome is causing particular anguish among the American neo-conservatives who played a central role in the drive to war. If they have their way once more, the political consequences for the region could again be destructive.

Two incidents in Iraq in the past week say much about the state of security in the country. A senior Sunni Muslim figure, Sheikh Ghazi Jabbouri, was assassinated on 14 April 2010 as he returned home from prayers at the Rahman mosque in the Al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad …

The assassination of Sheikh Jabbouri was followed by a publicity-coup for the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki: an announcement that two leading al-Qaida associates in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, had been killed in the western province of Anbar … This is reported as having been the outcome of a joint United States/Iraqi operation, and one of the most substantial and coordinated actions against al-Qaida in Iraq for several years.

There are now around 95,000 American military personnel in Iraq – most of whom, after the redeployment agreement with the Iraqi government took effect in 30 June 2009, are now concentrated away from Iraq’s urban centres; the total is due to fall to 50,000 by 31 August 2010 (when combat-operations are scheduled to end). The plan is that a very large proportion of those remaining will be military advisers and technicians who will be both combat-ready and capable of training Iraqis and conducting base-security operations …

Washington’s worry over Iranian influence in Iraq and the wider region has been a central factor in its strategic calculations across the entire spectrum of the Iraq war. …

Whatever the precise nature of the Tehran regime’s current nuclear plans and developments, its uncompromising line and the shroud of uncertainty appear to some in the United States – in particular among the neo-conservative circles which provided the main ideological fuel for the Iraq war – as alarming evidence of a major uncompleted foreign-policy job on Washington’s part …

It is beyond dispute that Iran has gained from the war …

Read the full article here:

Africa: Obama and U.S. Military Engagement in Continent
April 22, 2010
By Daniel Volman

When Barack Obama took office as president of the United States in January 2009, it was widely expected that he would dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarised and unilateral national security policy toward Africa that had been pursued by the Bush administration. But, after a little more than one year in office, it is clear that the Obama administration is essentially following the same policy that has guided US military involvement in Africa for more than a decade. Indeed, it appears that President Obama is determined to expand and intensify US military engagement throughout Africa.

Thus, in its budget request for the State Department for the 2010 financial year, the Obama administration proposed significant increases in funding for US arms sales and military training programmes for African countries, as well as for regional programmes on the continent, and is expected to propose further increases in its budget request for the 2011 financial year.

The 2010 budget proposed to increase foreign military funding spending for Africa by more than 300 per cent, from just over US$8.2 million to more than US$25.5 million, with additional increases in funding for North African countries. Major recipients included Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. …

Missile Defense and Arms Reduction

The Huffington Post
By William Hartung
Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation.
April 21, 2010

The Obama administration’s new nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia has been beset by a chorus of conservative claims that it will “constrain” U.S. efforts to develop missile defenses, in the words of Charles Krauthammer, among many others. (By the way, this conservative love of missile defense is based on an exaggerated sense of what such a system could realistlically achieve, not to mention an unjustified faith in the possibility of a technical “fix” to the nuclear problem).

Over the longer run, when the U.S. and Russia seek deeper cuts in their respective arsenals, missile defense could become an issue, but it is not an issue with regard to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) now up for Senate ratification. …

… some observers may be confused by recent Russian rhetoric on the topic, which essentially says that if U.S. missile defenses are developed in ways that threaten Russian security, Moscow might withdraw from the treaty. Basically what this means is that if the United States radically increases the size and scope of its missile defense system in a way that might give it a first strike capability against Russia, Moscow would consider withdrawing from the New START agreement. …

Read the full article:


CAAB has asked some more questions in both Houses of Parliament.

Cluster bombs banned for UK armed forces

“British armed forces are being banned from using cluster munitions under a law passed by the House of Commons.

“The law comes after the UK in 2008 signed an international convention outlawing the weapons – which have maimed and killed thousands of people.

“The bombs were withdrawn from use by the UK in May 2008 and stockpiles are due to be destroyed by the end of 2013.

“The Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill received the backing of all parties as it received an unopposed third reading in the Commons, having already completed its passage through the Lords.

“It now goes for Royal Assent.”   BBC News 23 March:

How do cluster bombs work? From

Step 1

The cluster bomb CBU-87 is dropped from a plane. It weighs about 430 kg and carries about 200 bomblets. This bomb can be dropped from a wide range of aircrafts from many different countries. The bomb can fly about 9 miles by itself before the bomblets are released.

Step 2

A short time before the bomblets are released the cluster bombs begin to spin. The canister opens at an altitude between 100m and 1000m. The height, velocity and rotation speed determine what area will be covered by the bomblets.

Step 3

Each bomblet is the size of a soft drink can. They deploy a little parachute that stabilizes them and makes sure that they descend with their nose down. Each of the bomblets holds hundreds of metal pieces, which can pierce armour.

Step 4

Depending on the altitude from which the bomblets were released and on the wind conditions, the bomblets can cover an area of up to 200m by 400 m.

When the bomblets explode, they cause injury and damage across a wide area. The blast of one bomblet can cause deadly shrapnel injuries of in a radius of up to 25 metres.

Read this story on BBC News:

See latest Parliamentary Questions and Answers on this subject

Obama embraces missile defense in nuclear review

Posted By Josh Rogin – April 6, 2010 – Foreign Policy

For an Obama team that has been skeptical of the past U.S. administrations’ efforts to rapidly deploy ballistic missile-defense systems around the world, missile defense sure does get star billing in the United States’ newly released report on overall nuclear strategy.

The document claims that missile defense is critical to allowing the United States to shift away from nuclear weapons, especially now that the U.S. will no longer threaten to use nukes to retaliate against non-nuclear attacks, such as from chemical or biological weapons.

The review even features a photo of a missile being shot from an Aegis destroyer in 2007, in what many outside experts saw at the time as a clear demonstration of the fact that U.S. missile defense capabilities can also have offensive uses as well, such as shooting down a satellite.

“Major improvements in missile defenses and counter-weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities have strengthened deterrence and defense against CBW attack,” reads the document, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, which will stand as the Obama administration’s guiding document on all things nuclear.

“With the advent of U.S. conventional military preeminence and continued improvements in U.S. missile defenses and capabilities to counter and mitigate the effects of [chemical and biological weapons], the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks — conventional, biological, or chemical — has declined significantly” …

Read on …

Beyond “liddism”: towards real global security

By Paul Rogers, Open Democracy, April 1: 2010

A decade of pitiless wars and brutal inequalities has made the arguments of the book “Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century” – first published before 9/11, and now in its third edition – more relevant than ever. In his 450th column for openDemocracy, Paul Rogers looks back and forward.

The strategic nuclear-arms treaty agreed between the United States and Russia on 26 March 2010 entails substantial and welcome cuts in the two countries’ nuclear arsenals, and leaves the way open for further reductions before Barack Obama’s first term in office is tested in the presidential election of November 2012. This bilateral deal is a healthy prelude to the quinquennial review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) in New York on 3-28 May 2010, of its nature a much broader intergovernmental endeavour …

These two arms-related events reflect an important part of the way the present world-system operates: that is, via cooperation, competition and negotiation between states. These forms of interaction appear so powerful and ever-present that they can appear almost to define the political world as it exists and is “managed”. Yet stand back, look more widely and deeply, and other realities – even more fundamental and more potent – can come into view. …

The United States, according to the same diagnosis, remains a superpower; but its experience of the 2000s – the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the enormous burden of debt, and the failure to match the dynamism of key Asian economies – presages its eventual decline. The “new American century” may have looked feasible a decade ago, but it cannot be sustained by fighting $3-trillion wars amid the financial sector’s implosion

The logic of this approach is to foresee in the 2010-40 period the relative decline of the north Atlantic community and the even further rise of Asia …

The first decade of the 21st century has been dominated by wars that have killed or injured close to half a million people, wars that arose after determined paramilitaries used parcel-knives to exploit the weaknesses of the world’s most advanced state. That incident might in principle have been a lesson in the impossibility of preserving the status quo – and that, as a consequence, “liddism” will not work. That indeed was the conclusion when the first edition of Losing Control was written and published in 2000, not long before 9/11. What has happened since has reinforced the argument. The search for a different, sustainable future is more urgent than ever.

Read the full article here

Lindis Percy reluctantly accepts
out of court settlement

For four years Lindis Percy (Coordinator of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases – CAAB) has tried to bring Frank Macdonald (US First Class Airman based at the USAF base at Croughton, Northamptonshire) to court.

In February 2006, Ms Percy was at the American base at Croughton (Northamptonshire) when she was accosted by several American military personnel. Despite being well known to the base authorities as a peaceful campaigner Ms Percy was assaulted by Frank Macdonald. As a result of sustained pressure to her neck by Frank Macdonald, she suffered a facial palsy which lasted 6 weeks (among other injuries). Two Ministry of Defence Police Agency (MDPA) officers stood by while the assault took place. CCTV cameras were said not to be working at the time of the incident.

An application to bring private summonses against Frank Macdonald and the two MDPA officers in February 2007 was refused by Corby Magistrates ending up in a successful Judicial Review by Ms Percy in the High Court London. Two senior Judges ordered Corby Magistrates to issue the summons. The case could not proceed after a Certificate of Immunity was entered by the American authorities.

In February 2009 Ms Percy took out a civil claim against Frank Macdonald. In March 2010 he offered to settle the case with costs out of court. Ms Percy very reluctantly had to accept the offer because the cost of legal representation and proceedings proved to be prohibitive. Frank Macdonald was represented by the Treasury Solicitor. The case is typical of how many civil actions end when there is such an imbalance of power. Ms Percy represented herself. The financial settlement (apart from costs) has been given to CAAB.

Ms Percy said, “Frank Macdonald never once appeared in court despite attempts to get him there to account for his actions. He brought dishonour on himself by omitting any reference in his statements to either the assault or the injuries he caused. He avoided the truth and got away with it, as did the MDPA officers who stood by while criminal offences were committed by a member of the US Visiting Forces (USVF).

“We hope that in future the USVF will abide by both their own instructions and English law when dealing with peaceful protestors. We also expect the MDPA to use their authority and insist that they take control of any incidents involving peaceful British people.”

Note: The Ministry of Defence Police Agency are paid for and under the operational control of the US authorities when working on US bases.

Missile defence controversy remains
after START accord

by Al Pessin and Dan Robinson,
The Sofia Echo, March 27, 2010

Friday’s announcement of a new US-Russia strategic arms reduction treaty was achieved partly because the negotiators agreed to separate the issue from the controversy over the US missile defence programme.

Russia has strongly opposed the programme, but US officials say missile defence has become an integral part of security for the United States and its allies, and they predict significant advances during the next two years.

After US president Barack Obama announced the agreement at the White House on March 26 2010, US defence secretary Robert Gates made this simple declaration. “Missile defense is not constrained by this treaty,” he said.

That was good news for the large and growing segment of the US defence establishment and defence industry devoted to missile defence. At an annual conference for such people this week, Gates’ deputy, William Lynn, made this almost triumphant statement to several hundred government workers and industry executives.

“The high-pitched partisan debate over whether to invest in missile defence is no longer with us,” he said. “Ballistic missile defence is without question an important part of our current and future strategy. We are committed to developing new missile technologies to their fullest.” …

Lynn was referring to decades of controversy over whether it was possible to develop a missile that could hit and destroy an incoming missile in flight, and to do so at a reasonable and sustainable cost. …

“What makes sense for the Gulf region, what makes sense for Europe, what makes sense for the Pacific, they’re not going to be the same. And how we figure that out and how we move in a direction that’s both effective and affordable is the work that has to be done over the next two years,” he said.

The $10-billion US missile defence programme involves a combination of systems designed to detect and intercept missiles coming from short, medium and long distances. There are only minutes – sometimes seconds – to react, and the incoming weapons are traveling faster than the speed of sound. …

Read on …

Congratulations to All Involved
in Achieving this Excellent Result


Three activists who freely admitted breaking into a government spybase near Blenheim and slashing an inflatable plastic dome covering a satellite dish have walked free.

Their defence – that they mounted the attack to prevent others’ suffering – has been successfully used by Iraq-war protesters overseas, but is thought to be a New Zealand first.

Teacher Adrian Leason, 45, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, 69, and farmer Sam Land, 26, were charged with burglary and wilful damage at the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) base at Waihopai.

The prosecution said the trio cut their way through fences into the base on April 30, 2008, then slashed the plastic cover over a satellite dish with sickles.

The three men readily admitted attacking the base, but said they were driven by a belief that the satellite caused human suffering and their actions to shut it down, if only temporarily, were lawful.

A jury in Wellington District Court took two hours to acquit them of all charges yesterday. A similar defence – known as the greater good defence – has been run by protesters in Britain, Ireland and Germany. Waihopai three walk free Waihopai a key link in global intelligence network Ploughshares Penetrate Waihopai Base Deflate Dome

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