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General Shinseki’s Resignation Will Solve Nothing: The Real Problem is a Decade of War May 30, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Mental Health, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: this is a press release issued by Veterans for Peace.  These former soldiers know from first hand experience what are the real costs of war, i.e. precious human life.  They refuse to see themselves as pawns, but rather as thinking and caring human beings, capable of understanding the dynamics of warfare and who profits by it.

 

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Saint Louis. General Eric Shinseki has resigned from his position as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Now what? When will we start the real debate the nation must have about turning away from war?

The resignation of General Eric Shinseki is not the answer to the challenges facing the Veterans Administration. Yes the department has serious problems of mismanagement, incompetence, indifference and fraud. All these issues must be fixed immediately. Someone must be held accountable and apparently that someone is Eric Shinseki. But we must get to the root of the problem.

Why is the VA overwhelmed by greater numbers of wounded veterans that it can effectively serve? The answer is more than a decade of war. “War is the real culprit in this crisis,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. “We must stop war mongers and corporate profiteers from controlling our foreign policy.”

“We must stop throwing our children, and the children of the world into the meat grinder of war. Every soldier and every victim of war is someone’s child.”

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans and troops by both Democrats and Republicans, who have systematically underfunded healthcare in their war budgets. These same problems plagued the agency long before Shinseki.

We must acknowledge that U.S. service members are facing dire stress as reflected in historically high rates of suicide, sexual assault and rape in the military. Military personnel are exhausted and depleted, with many of them having deployed more than five times, and some as many as ten.

These war policies are killing innocent people who are not a threat and will never be a threat to U.S. security or legitimate interests. For many service members, this is the most debilitating aspect of their sacrifice. Many thousands of our soldiers and veterans are suffering from “moral injury,” produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, as exemplified by indiscriminate killing, indefinite detention, targeted assassinations and torture.

Moreover, the Bush and Obama Administration’s war policies have failed. Afghanistan is far from secure. Violent deaths are a daily occurrence. Women are severely oppressed by Taliban and U.S.-backed warlords alike. Iraq is in utter turmoil, with sectarian violence killing scores of people on an almost daily basis. As outlined in the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism, a decade of war has failed to end or reduce terrorism. The State Department report, released in April, showed that worldwide terrorism increased by 43% in 2013.

“Why does President Obama want to keep 9,800 U.S. troops and untold numbers of contractors in Afghanistan?” asked Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans For Peace. “Continuing this failed policy is another grave disservice to our soldiers. If we really want to ‘Support the Troops,’ we should bring them all home now and give them the care they need and deserve.”

As Vietnam veteran John Kerry said while testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

We keep asking our service members to be the last person to die in Afghanistan. The ones who make it back home are neglected. Bring Them Home Now and Take Care of Them When They Get Here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, May 30, 2014

For more information:

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, 314-725-6005, mcphearson@veteransforpeace.org

Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace Vice President, 206-499-1220, projectsafehaven@hotmail.com

Camilo Mejia, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 786-302-8842, black65d@aol.com(Spanish Interpreter)

Sam Feldman, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 305-632-0036, SAMFELDMAN@THE-BEACH.NET(Spanish Interpreter)

The primary cause for the disaster in care is more than a decade of war! May 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: I cringe when in Canada or the US and I see one of those “support our troops” bumper stickers.  I think of the hypocrisy of the governments who send men and women to kill and be killed in illegal imperialist wars, then abandon them when they come home broken physically and mentally.  As the song goes: “When will they ever learn?”

 

Veterans for Peace (VFP) press release, May 22, 2014

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Veterans For Peace calls on the President and Congress to stop using the lives and deaths of veterans and troops for political points and gain, and to cease using military force and war as the means for solving international conflicts. Yes, we must address the incompetence, indifference and inefficiencies of the Veterans Administration. However, the primary cause for the disaster in care is more than a decade of war.

VFP Interim Executive Director Michael McPhearson said, “Veterans’ deaths and secret waiting lists uncovered by the current round of Veteran Administration scrutiny are tragic and outrageous, but come as no surprise to Veterans For Peace. This abuse is nothing new. For more than a decade, since the first service members returned from Afghanistan and Iraq,VFP has called for adequate attention, healthcare and services for returning veterans.” Presidents Bush and Obama, Congress and military leaders then and today claim they will do more, yet the problems continue to grow and more service members and veterans fall through cracks and gaping holes in the system, with many of them dying.

But this latest scandal is really the tip of issues plaguing an abused military force. For more than eight years, Veterans For Peace has called into question military policies and culture that put both men and women in danger of sexual assault and rape. There are countless well documented cases of service members reporting abuse and facing retaliation for reporting; thus many others do not report at all. There are well documented reports of female soldiers in Iraq refusing to drink water because they were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they went to use the women’s latrine after dark. Many cases of assault have been swept aside or under-investigated. Yet today women and men continue to face growing rates of sexual assault in the face of ineffective responses by the Pentagon and political leaders.

“The suicide crisis among veterans and service members continues to grow. Veterans For Peace has called attention to this issue at least since our 2006 Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana. Calling for an end to the wars and for the money used for war to be diverted to human needs, we highlighted the similar rates of high unemployment, PTSD and suicide among recent veterans and Hurricane Katrina survivors. Suicide was heavy on participants’ minds as we had recently lost Douglas Barber, an Iraq veteran, to suicide,” McPhearson commented.

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans by both Democrats and Republicans. The best evidence of the negligence is a decade of war that has failed in its objective to end or reduce terrorism as outlined in this year’s State Department’s annual report on global terrorism. The report released in April showed a worldwide increase of 43% in 2013. Yet we have service members who have undertaken multiple tours, some up to ten times, like Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg. The standing ovation and pats on the back during this year’s State Union saluting his service do little if anything to help him contend with a broken mind and body, caused by broken and immoral polices controlled by the people who celebrated him. Perhaps more debilitating to many service members is the moral injury produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, exemplified by indefinite detention, torture, indiscriminate killing and targeted assassinations.

As troops and veterans die, who benefits from these policies? War profiteers make out like bandits and politicians build their political careers. The primary reason for these wars are greed and pursuit of power. The war economy is not working for the vast majority of U.S. citizens. To repeat our mantra since 2003, coined with Military Families Speak Out, “Bring our troops home now and take care of them when they get here.”

 

My Road to Conscientious Objection May 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: I too was a conscientious objector for my opposition to the Vietnam War.  When I was drafted I was required to do two years of “civilian service” in lieu of serving in the armed forces.  After putting in one year, I “deserted” my civilian work in order to spend full time in oppositon to the War as well as organizing for the Civil Rights Movement and the United Farm Workers.  Eventually I was arrested by the FBI, and I fled to Canada.  I returned to the U.S. for personal reasons prior to the amnesty and was put on trial.  I was convicted of violation of the Selective Service Act, given an eighteen month suspended sentence during which time I was required to complete my civilian service obligation.  For a time I was a convicted felon and was required to report periodically to a probation officer without whose permission I was not allowed to travel.  Eventually I was granted a full pardon by Gerald Ford.

 

Trey Kindlinger, veteran member of VFP Chapter 99 in Asheville NC and Conscientious Objector wrote this piece for International Conscientious Objector’s Day (May 15).

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A few years after high school, I received a bulk mail card from the Navy. I had been the salutatorian in my small high school class in East Texas. I couldn’t afford to go to college, was stuck in dead-end low wage work, and had never seen much of the world. I spoke with a recruiter and joined – two weeks later I was in boot camp in Orlando, Florida. In nearly nine years of service, I visited many countries, living overseas for five years in active duty. I was stationed overseas in Europe and Asia and visited ports all over the world, including Egypt and the Occupied West Bank.

I was stationed overseas on September 11, 2001. Everything changed in a single day: we were suddenly on a war footing. That November I transferred to a base that broadcast news sources besides American mainstream media. Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and British media had a bleaker view of invading Iraq. Through this milieu of media, I realized that invading Iraq was a war crime. With the help of a friend (an anarchist who was also active duty), I learned how to become a conscientious objector. We were on the precipice of risk and turning our backs on the military, when the base police ransacked my friend’s barracks room for anything political — including anything colored red or black. They took all of his writing, computers, and any clothing that was the wrong color. He was discharged for “commission of a serious offense” and lost most of his benefits even though he never went to court-martial or Captain’s Mast.

It was then that I saw we weren’t fighting “for freedom” or anything the recruiters said. We were fighting for a narrow view of what the military considered to be right. Most of the leadership of the military took a very dim view of anything that wasn’t pro-capitalist, conservative, and Protestant Christian. I could no longer consent – I completed the Conscientious Objector packet and turned it in to the command. I was terrified of rejecting the military, losing my job and benefits, and having to confront my local brass on what I felt to be an unjust war…but after about four months they granted me an honorable discharge.
Getting out of the military was definitely freeing, at least for a time. I was suddenly a “civilian” and could engage with groups and people who were coming to the same conclusions as me. The world started to make sense, and my political understandings were shaped by involvement with organizations such as Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and particularly the International Socialist Organization. They showed me what was really going on with the wars in the Middle East and historically with American wars in general. Reading other media outlets, especially Socialist Worker, provided honest reporting on the imperial project that both political parties were engaged in – remember, the Democrats got the military into World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, not to mention so many other smaller conflicts that overthrew democratically elected leaders for American puppets.

Eventually, all the little things that anyone trains for in the military came to the fore in my civilian life. I started sleeping less and less, wasted precious time on being 15 minutes early (because, really, who has 15 extra minutes when you have a family?), and generally losing patience with “civilians” and with having no “mission” in life. It was, ironically enough, through loads of counseling with a VA mental health provider that I slowly returned to a normal life.

I am but one person who tried to face down an immoral and illegal war. Others, such as Victor Agosto, paid much more of a price than I. But those who went before us, who objected to the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, laid the groundwork for those of us who objected to this latest round of wars. Becoming a conscientious objector truly helped develop my sense of action and my ability to gird those actions with theory, helped me become better prepared to be an activist.

Trey Kindlinger was born and raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After graduating from high school, he served in the US Navy from 1994-2003. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College in 2008 and now lives in Asheville, NC, with his two children.

A Military Mom Reflects on Mother’s Day May 9, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War, Women.
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Roger’s note: Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents do, which is only one of the many ways warfare is obscene; it makes cannon fodder out of our children and the children of those we define as enemies, not to mention the innocent “collateral damage.”  The Obama daughters are approaching the age where they would be eligible for service in the military.  Why do I mention this?  I’m not sure.  It just seems relevant.

 

May 9, 2014

 

2014_MFSOMothersDay 001284494baa6d7cd886725a99a07c64_f1213

As Mother’s Day approaches, conversation and commercial advertising abounds with discussion and advertisements with ideas on what we should buy or do to celebrate Mother’s Day. Every year my own children ask me how I want to celebrate, and for the past decade or so I’ve learned that the one thing that no one knows more than more than mothers is that military moms cannot celebrate this day knowing our children are in harm’s way. It just isn’t possible.

The one thing so many of us war-weary moms want most in the world can’t be bought; we want the war in Afghanistan to end now. How hard would that be to get after almost 14 years of endless war when, today, according to a CNN poll, 82% of the American people want us out of Afghanistan anyway? Yet, it’s within our reach this year, and it’s so simple that it’s hard for most people to believe. The only thing our president needs to do is absolutely nothing. Really.

It’s all about the power of the pen that our president has the power to to wield, but if we can just get him to put that almighty pen down, we can all have the best Mothers Day possible and bring all of our troops home from Afghanistan for good. Here’s why…

Right now, because other impending wars have taken Afghanistan out of the spotlight, and mothers (and fathers of course), fear we might get dragged and lied into yet another war in Syria, N. Korea or even the Ukraine possibly, it’s easy to forget the “original” war still rages on. And why shouldn’t we forget? What with all the presidential messages we’ve been hearing all year long that wars are “winding down” in Afghanistan and that all the troops will be out by the end of this year, why would anyone think otherwise?

Any sensible person would conclude that the US is in a big rush to wrap up combat operations in Afghanistan and get on with the business of dealing with these other crises around the world. Need I even mention the painfully obvious truth that we can’t even deal with the military’s out-of-control sexual assault cases and untreated incidents of PTSD? So why, we should ask, would the Obama administration even think there is any need to create more traumatized veterans by continuing the war in Afghanistan? Apparently it does.

We still have over 30,000 combat troops remaining in Afghanistan and our loved ones are still being deployed. But most alarming of all is the undisputed fact that President Obama has been pressuring the incoming presidential candidates in Afghanistan to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that allows our troops to remain in Afghanistan another ten years!

And although it may seem perfectly sensible to you and me that we now have the perfect face-saving opportunity to finally get all of our troops out and to leave Afghanistan in the hands of its own people, instead President Obama is practically doing cartwheels and begging the future presidential candidates of Afghanistan to sign the BSA so we can continue to stay mired in a war that never should have happened in the first place and that the American people so plainly do not want.

Perhaps, then, on this special, nationally recognized day to honor Motherhood, he will read what I want to share with you about the very real experiences of the mothers I have worked, cried, and suffered with over the past 13 plus years. Then maybe, if he hears our stories, he won’t try so hard to get the BSA signed.

Dede’s “favorite baby” nephew had been killed just a few years before, yet she went with me all the way to DC to invite our congressional representatives to visit the memorial to the fallen that we had spent all day building on the Capitol Mall in DC. This memorial represented the thousands of troops who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and allowed passersby to visualize and consider the true cost of war. We very optimistically invited my Congressman Rohrabacher, who then proceeded to order us out of his office and call this loving Gold Star Aunty a “traitor”. After looking all over for her in the congressional hallways I found her in the middle of the field of crosses collapsed and sobbing near a pair of combat boots. Betrayed twice.
We buried Donna’s son last month. Every day her son was in combat was a mother’s nightmare for her. She woke up one morning to the sight of police with guns drawn looking for her son. When he came back alive from his deployment, Donna helplessly watched her son drink excessively and race at high speeds on his motorcycle in his struggle to chase the PTSD demons away. When the Marine’s presented her the US flag, her face was hollow with an indescribable grief only another parent understands. I count three betrayals here.

Rossana’s son snapped to attention at a family gathering when the flash of a cigarette triggered a full combat mode response in their front yard. It was a horrible scene and just one example of the invisible wounds of war that will forever mar any future celebrations in that close knit family. Double betrayal and for many years to come.

I would get frantic calls at all hours of the night when Laurie’s son, in the Stryker Brigade, was deployed. Her rants struck deep into this military mom’s heart and were usually followed by pages and pages of emails that were desperate cries from the sheer madness of a mom who hadn’t slept in days and was trying to protect her son who was over 7,000 miles away. Her fear made perfect sense to me.

That’s how I would feel if I didn’t know if my son was missing, killed or wounded. I often fantasized that my son was off in a chow line somewhere in Afghanistan, but Laurie kept it real by trying to track each battle and figure out night after night if there was a one near her son. If she could have flown into Baghdad, I know she would have done it in a military mom minute. She counts her number of betrayals every day.

Marselle’s niece was raped while in the military. We all know almost 14 years too late about the one in six military personnel who are sexually assaulted. Will we ever know the depths of that scandal? Who would want to come forward and testify when case after case we learn the perpetrators are rarely reprimanded or see justice? No better example of betrayal than this inside job.

Though her son Evan was killed in Iraq, whenever Jane sees me she never fails to ask me how my son is and how I am doing. I am so unbelievably moved that she is still willing to be in this fight with those of us who are speaking out against the war. Because of her strength and goodness to move on, the Evan Ascraft Foundation has given thousands of dollars and support to veterans in need.

Yet, in spite of her “ultimate sacrifice” and all her hard work and success in making something good come out of her unspeakable loss, her name got dragged into a major newspaper about whether her son was in some juvenile trouble before he enlisted and whether he was better off joining the military or not. Really? What mother wouldn’t prefer that her son or daughter wind up even in a solitary confinement maximum security prison rather than dead forever and never to see again? That’s public betrayal and unbelievably callous.

Vicky’s son, Jonathan was, as she often says, “The center of my universe.” To me and many others, Jonathan represented the unrealized promise of thousands of our youth who died in these wars. Our country will never reap the treasure of their patriotism and talent. In addition to the greatest loss a mother could have, Vicky will never recover from the shock of having seen photos of her son’s body after questions arose about the circumstances of his death. You see, after an explosion, not all body parts can be found and she saw those pictures. We will be connected forever, even though I’m sure our sons never met.

On one deployment, my son was one of many who had to the retrieve weapons of our dead, some of which he had to wipe clean of those body parts, organs and such so that they could be re-used in battle. “Someone has to do it,” my son explained once. “After all, I’m older and more able to handle it than those 18 and 19 year olds who had those orders.” I doubt it, but that’s an endless cycle of post- mortem betrayal that cannot be erased.

So here we are 14 Mothers’ Days later and we Moms are still going to be asked what we want on our special day. This Marine Mom asks you to tell all of our families and friends and everyone who will listen, to please call the White House and beg, yes beg, President Obama to do nothing and that please, for every mother’s sake, do NOT sign the Bilateral Security Agreement. Bring our troops, all of our troops home, once and for all.

This security agreement is set to be signed this summer so let’s do it now while we are all thinking of ways to truly honor our mothers — and especially for Dede, Vicky, Jane, Donna and so many others who will never have a son or daughter to celebrate Mother’s Day with again, but still work tirelessly to make sure I do.

Pat Alviso & Jeff Merrick
Military Families Speak Out
Orange County & South Bay Chapter
http://www.mfsooc.org
562-833-8035
Support Our Troops
Bring Them Home Now!
Take Care of Them After They Get Home

Olympic Capitalism: Bread and Circuses Without the Bread May 1, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Economic Crisis, Latin America, Sports, War.
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Roger’s note: When I was a member of Toronto’s Metropolitan City Council, I was an avid opponent of the city’s (failed) bid for the 1996 Olympics and a supporter of the citizen lead Bread Not Circuses Coalition.  I can verify from my experience and research at the time, that everything you read below is true.

OpEdNews Op Eds 5/1/2014 at 14:54:47

By (about the author)  

he author of Brazil’s Dance With the Devil, Dave Zirin, must love sports, as I do, as billions of us do, or he wouldn’t keep writing about where sports have gone wrong.  But, wow, have they gone wrong!

Brazil is set to host the World Cup this year and the Olympics in 2016.  In preparation Brazil is evicting 200,000 people from their homes, eliminating poor neighborhoods, defunding public services, investing in a militarized police and surveillance state, using slave and prison labor to build outrageous stadiums unlikely to be filled more than once, and “improving” a famous old stadium (the world’s largest for 50 years) by removing over half the capacity in favor of luxury seats.  Meanwhile, popular protests and graffiti carry the message: “We want ‘FIFA standard’ hospitals and schools!” not to mention this one:

 


FIFA Train
(image by http://warisacrime.org)

 

(FIFA = Fédération Internationale de Football Association, aka Soccer Profiteers International)

Brazil is just the latest in a string of nations that have chosen the glory of hosting mega sports events like the Olympics and World Cup despite the drawbacks.  And Zirin makes a case that nations’ governments don’t see the drawbacks as drawbacks at all, that in fact they are the actual motivation.  “Countries don’t want these mega-events in spite of the threats to public welfare, addled construction projects, and repression they bring, but because of them.”  Just as a storm or a war can be used as an excuse to strip away rights and concentrate wealth, so can the storm of sporting events that, coincidentally or not, have their origins in the preparation of nations for warmaking.

Zirin notes that the modern Olympics were launched by a group of European aristocrats and generals who favored nationalism and war — led by Pierre de Coubertin who believed sport was “an indirect preparation for war.” “In sports,” he said, “all the same qualities flourish which serve for warfare: indifference toward one’s well being, courage, readiness for the unforeseen.”  The trappings of the Olympic celebration as we know it, however — the opening ceremonies, marching athletes, Olympic torch run, etc., — were created by the Nazis’ propaganda office for the 1936 games.  The World Cup, on the other hand, began in 1934 in Mussolini’s Italy with a tournament rigged to guarantee an Italian win.

More worrisome than what sports prepare athletes for is what they may prepare fans for.  There are great similarities between rooting for a sports team, especially a national sports team, and rooting for a national military.  “As soon as the question of prestige arises,” wrote George Orwell, whom Zirin quotes, “as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.”  And there is prestige not just in “your” team winning, but in “your” nation hosting the grand event.  Zirin spoke with people in Brazil who were of mixed minds, opposing the injustices the Olympics bring but still glad the Olympics was coming to Brazil.  Zirin also quotes Brazilian politicians who seem to share the goal of national prestige.

At some point the prestige and the profits and the corruption and the commercialism seem to take over the athletics.  “[T]he Olympics aren’t about  sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy,” Zirin writes. “The Olympics are not about athletes.  And they’re definitely not about bringing together the ‘community of nations.’ They are a neoliberal Trojan horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties.”

And yet … And yet … the damn thing still is about sports, no matter what else it’s about, no matter what alternative venues for sports are possible or imaginable.  The fact remains that there are great athletes engaged in great sporting activities in the Olympics and the World Cup.  The attraction of the circus is still real, even when we know it’s at the expense of bread, rather than accompanying bread.  And dangerous as the circus may be for the patriotic and militarist minded — just as a sip of beer might be dangerous to an alcoholic — one has the darndest time trying to find anything wrong with one’s own appreciation for sports; at least I do.

The Olympics are also decidedly less militaristic — or at least overtly militaristic — than U.S. sports like football, baseball, and basketball, with their endless glorification of the U.S. military.  “Thank you to our service men and women watching in 175 countries and keeping us safe.” The Olympics is also one of the few times that people in the U.S. see people from other countries on their televisions without wars being involved.

Zirin’s portrait of Brazil leaves me with similarly mixed sentiments. His research is impressive. He describes a rich and complex history.  Despite all the corruption and cruelty, I can’t help being attracted to a nation that won its independence without a war, abolished slavery without a war, reduces poverty by giving poor people money, denounces U.S. drone murders at the U.N., joins with Turkey to propose an agreement between the United States and Iran, joins with Russia, India, and China to resist U.S. imperialism; and on the same day this year that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed ending the open internet, Brazil created the world’s first internet bill of rights. For a deeply flawed place, there’s a lot to like.

It’s also hard to resist a group of people that pushes back against the outrages being imposed on it.  When a bunch of houses in a poor Brazilian neighborhood were slated for demolition, an artist took photos of the residents, blew them up, and pasted them on the walls of the houses, finally shaming the government into letting the houses stand.  That approach to injustice, much like the Pakistani artists’ recent placement of an enormous photo of a drone victim in a field for U.S. drone pilots to see, has huge potential.

Now, the question is how to display the Olympics’ victims to enough Olympics fans around the world so that no new nation will be able to accept this monster on the terms it has been imposing.

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more…)

Oh, I Forgot, Guns Don’t Kill April 28, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence.
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1-16-2012-gun-industry

The Special Ops Surge: America’s Secret War in 134 Countries January 17, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Imperialism, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Jeremy Scahill’s documentary, “Dirty Wars,” was has just been nominated for an academy award, outlines the length and bredth of the American secret war around the globe.  For more information go to http://www.dirtywars.org.
Published on Thursday, January 16, 2014 by TomDispatch.com

by Nick Turse

 

They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America.  They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa.  They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific.  They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia.  All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed — until now.

(Reuters)

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, from their numbers to their budget.  Most telling, however, has been the exponential rise in special ops deployments globally.  This presence — now, in nearly 70% of the world’s nations — provides new evidence of the size and scope of a secret war being waged from Latin America to the backlands of Afghanistan, from training missions with African allies to information operations launched in cyberspace.

In the waning days of the Bush presidency, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world.  By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post.  In 2011, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120.  Today, that figure has risen higher still.

In 2013, elite U.S. forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe, according to Major Matthew Robert Bockholt of SOCOM Public Affairs.  This 123% increase during the Obama years demonstrates how, in addition to conventional wars and a CIA drone campaign, public diplomacy and extensive electronic spying, the U.S. has engaged in still another significant and growing form of overseas power projection.  Conducted largely in the shadows by America’s most elite troops, the vast majority of these missions take place far from prying eyes, media scrutiny, or any type of outside oversight, increasing the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.

Growth Industry

Formally established in 1987, Special Operations Command has grown steadily in the post-9/11 era.   SOCOM is reportedly on track to reach 72,000 personnel in 2014, up from 33,000 in 2001.  Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as its baseline budget, $2.3 billion in 2001, hit $6.9 billion in 2013 ($10.4 billion, if you add in supplemental funding).  Personnel deployments abroad have skyrocketed, too, from 4,900 “man-years” in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013.

A recent investigation by TomDispatch, using open source government documents and news releases as well as press reports, found evidence that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in or involved with the militaries of 106 nations around the world in 2012-2013.  For more than a month during the preparation of that article, however, SOCOM failed to provide accurate statistics on the total number of countries to which special operators — Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos, specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, and civil affairs personnel — were deployed.   “We don’t just keep it on hand,” SOCOM’s Bockholt explained in a telephone interview once the article had been filed.  “We have to go searching through stuff.  It takes a long time to do that.”  Hours later, just prior to publication, he provided an answer to a question I first asked in November of last year.  “SOF [Special Operations forces] were deployed to 134 countries” during fiscal year 2013, Bockholt explained in an email.

Globalized Special Ops

Last year, Special Operations Command chief Admiral William McRaven explained his vision for special ops globalization.  In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, he said:

“USSOCOM is enhancing its global network of SOF to support our interagency and international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small, persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement where necessary or appropriate…”

While that “presence” may be small, the reach and influence of those Special Operations forces are another matter.  The 12% jump in national deployments — from 120 to 134 — during McRaven’s tenure reflects his desire to put boots on the ground just about everywhere on Earth.  SOCOM will not name the nations involved, citing host nation sensitivities and the safety of American personnel, but the deployments we do know about shed at least some light on the full range of missions being carried out by America’s secret military.

Last April and May, for instance, Special Ops personnel took part in training exercises in Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.  In June, U.S. Navy SEALs joined Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, and other allied Mideast forces for irregular warfare simulations in Aqaba, Jordan.  The next month, Green Berets traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to carry out small unit tactical exercises with local forces.  In August, Green Berets conducted explosives training with Honduran sailors.  In September, according to media reports, U.S. Special Operations forces joined elite troops from the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia — as well as their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Russia for a US-Indonesian joint-funded coun­terterrorism exercise held at a training center in Sentul, West Java.

In October, elite U.S. troops carried out commando raids in Libya and Somalia, kidnapping a terror suspect in the former nation while SEALs killed at least one militant in the latter before beingdriven off under fire.  In November, Special Ops troops conducted humanitarian operations in the Philippines to aid survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The next month, members of the 352nd Special Operations Group conducted a training exercise involving approximately 130 airmen and six aircraft at an airbase in England and Navy SEALs were wounded while undertaking an evacuation mission in South Sudan.  Green Berets then rang in the new year with a January 1st combat mission alongside elite Afghan troops in Bahlozi village in Kandahar province.

Deployments in 134 countries, however, turn out not to be expansive enough for SOCOM. In November 2013, the command announced that it was seeking to identify industry partners who could, under SOCOM’s Trans Regional Web Initiative, potentially “develop new websites tailored to foreign audiences.”  These would join an existing global network of 10 propaganda websites, run by various combatant commands and made to look like legitimate news outlets, including CentralAsiaOnline.com, Sabahi which targets the Horn of Africa; an effort aimed at the Middle East known as Al-Shorfa.com; and another targeting Latin America called Infosurhoy.com.

SOCOM’s push into cyberspace is mirrored by a concerted effort of the command to embed itself ever more deeply inside the Beltway.  “I have folks in every agency here in Washington, D.C. — from the CIA, to the FBI, to the National Security Agency, to the National Geospatial Agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency,” SOCOM chief Admiral McRaven said during a panel discussion at Washington’s Wilson Center last year.  Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Library in November, he put the number of departments and agencies where SOCOM is now entrenched at 38.

134 Chances for Blowback

Although elected in 2008 by many who saw him as an antiwar candidate, President Obama has proved to be a decidedly hawkish commander-in-chief whose policies have already produced notable instances of what in CIA trade-speak has long been called blowback.  While the Obama administration oversaw a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (negotiated by his predecessor), as well as adrawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan (after a major military surge in that country), the president has presided over a ramping up of the U.S. military presence in Africa, a reinvigoration of efforts inLatin America, and tough talk about a rebalancing or “pivot to Asia” (even if it has amounted to little as of yet).

The White House has also overseen an exponential expansion of America’s drone war.  While President Bush launched 51 such strikes, President Obama has presided over 330, according to research by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  Last year, alone, the U.S. also engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, LibyaPakistanSomalia, and Yemen.  Recent revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have demonstrated the tremendous breadth and global reach of U.S. electronic surveillance during the Obama years.  And deep in the shadows, Special Operations forces are now annually deployed to more than double the number of nations as at the end of Bush’s tenure.

In recent years, however, the unintended consequences of U.S. military operations have helped to sow outrage and discontent, setting whole regions aflame.  More than 10 years after America’s “mission accomplished” moment, seven years after its much vaunted surge, the Iraq that America helped make is in flames.  A country with no al-Qaeda presence before the U.S. invasion and a government opposed to America’s enemies in Tehran now has a central government aligned with Iran and two cities flying al-Qaeda flags.

A more recent U.S. military intervention to aid the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi helped send neighboring Mali, a U.S.-supported bulwark against regional terrorism, into a downward spiral, saw a coup there carried out by a U.S.-trained officer, ultimately led to a bloody terror attack on an Algerian gas plant, and helped to unleash nothing short of a terror diaspora in the region.

And today South Sudan — a nation the U.S. shepherded into being, has supported economicallyand militarily (despite its reliance on child soldiers), and has used as a hush-hush base for Special Operations forces — is being torn apart by violence and sliding toward civil war.

The Obama presidency has seen the U.S. military’s elite tactical forces increasingly used in an attempt to achieve strategic goals.  But with Special Operations missions kept under tight wraps, Americans have little understanding of where their troops are deployed, what exactly they are doing, or what the consequences might be down the road.  As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, has noted, the utilization of Special Operations forces during the Obama years has decreased military accountability, strengthened the “imperial presidency,” and set the stage for a war without end.  “In short,” he wrote at TomDispatch, “handing war to the special operators severs an already too tenuous link between war and politics; it becomes war for its own sake.”

Secret ops by secret forces have a nasty tendency to produce unintended, unforeseen, and completely disastrous consequences.  New Yorkers will remember well the end result ofclandestine U.S. support for Islamic militants against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s: 9/11.  Strangely enough, those at the other primary attack site that day, the Pentagon, seem not to have learned the obvious lessons from this lethal blowback.  Even today in Afghanistan and Pakistan, more than 12 years after the U.S. invaded the former and almost 10 years after it began conducting covert attacks in the latter, the U.S. is still dealing with that Cold War-era fallout: with, for instance, CIA drones conducting missile strikes against an organization (the Haqqani network) that, in the 1980s, the Agency supplied with missiles.

Without a clear picture of where the military’s covert forces are operating and what they are doing, Americans may not even recognize the consequences of and blowback from our expanding secret wars as they wash over the world.  But if history is any guide, they will be felt — from Southwest Asia to the Mahgreb, the Middle East to Central Africa, and, perhaps eventually, in the United States as well.

In his blueprint for the future, SOCOM 2020, Admiral McRaven has touted the globalization of U.S. special ops as a means to “project power, promote stability, and prevent conflict.”  Last year, SOCOM may have done just the opposite in 134 places.

© 2014 Nick Turse
Nick Turse

Nick Turse is the associate editor ofTomDispatch.com. His latest book is Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. He is the author/editor of several other books, including The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare,Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt), The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives and The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His website is Nick Turse.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, orFacebook.

Biggest Threat to World Peace: The United States January 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Wouldn’t it be interesting and enlightening if a similar poll had been taken in the 1930s so that we could compare the U.S. numbers here with those of Nazi Germany then?  If this article interests you, you may want to go to the original and read the comments at the end, most of which are informative and right on (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/31-6).

 

 

International polls shows that world, including significant portion of Americans, deem US as greatest obstacle to peace

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

U.S. soldiers stop traffic on the road to the governor’s compound in Kandahar, scene of a deadly battle on April 28, 2012 (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Over 12 years into the so-called “Global War on Terror,” the United States appears to be striking terror into the hearts of the rest of the world.

In their annual End of Year survey, Win/Gallup International found that the United States is considered the number one “greatest threat to peace in the world today” by people across the globe.

The poll of 67,806 respondents from 65 countries found that the U.S. won this dubious distinction by a landslide, as revealed in the chart below.

The BBC explains that the U.S. was deemed a threat by geopolitical allies as well as foes, including a significant portion of U.S. society.

Predictable in some areas (the Middle East and North Africa) but less so in others. Eastern Europe’s 32% figure may be heavily influenced by Russia and Ukraine, but across most of Western Europe there are also lots of figures in the high teens.

In the Americas themselves, decades of US meddling have left an awkward legacy. Its neighbours, Mexico (37%) and Canada (17%), clearly have issues. Even 13% of Americans see their own country as a danger.

 

Stratcom Slide 15

democracy

Christmas Truce of 1914 December 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Peace, War.
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ROGER’S NOTE: MERRY PEACEMAS.

 

 

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December 2014 will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914. During 2014 VFP (Veterans for Peace) National will plan activities to share with chapters to celebrate this memorable moment in history.

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

On Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

Courtesy of History website

Why Is VFP Involved?

Who better than veterans who work for peace to tell the story of these soldiers’ celebration of peace in the midst of war? Our society needs to hear this story that peace is possible. Use the great resources listed in the sidebar to reach out in a new way to new and old allies.

“Really Good At Killing People” Sez Obama Article Cites Grandma Killed, Too. Still Love the Dude? December 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
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Roger’s note: There is no hard evidence that Obama said that he is good at killing people, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong (watch the video below).  Of course, it doesn’t matter what he says, it is what he does, which is to use his unfettered powers to authorize the murder of innocent civilians, including American citizens, with neither transparency or due judicial process.  This is known quaintly as collateral damage.  The Fog of War?  Just Wars?  War is Hell?

Try instead War is a Racquet.  Here is the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket).  Better yet, read the book.

 

Cindy Casella

 

 

http://www.dailykos.com, December 13, 2013

 

Yesterday, I was flamed for writing a diary that juxtaposed Obama’s alleged statement to aides that he’s “really good at killing people” with the story of a Pakistani family who came to Washington to testify about how drones killed their mother/grandmother.  Among the pies tossed my way was the accusation I was deliberately flame baiting by pairing these two concepts side by side in the title of my diary: Son Told Truant Congress Drones Killed His Mom; Obama: “I’m good at killing people”.

When I wrote my diary, my intention wasn’t fishing for flames as one commenter kept accusing me.  Obama’s comment popped into my head when I read this article, Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother, written by Rafiq ur Rehman, the son of the 67 year old midwife, Momina Bibi, who was targeted by the bright lights of a drone and blown up while picking okra with her 9 grandchildren, who witnessed the “dum dum” sound of the drone hovering overhead and then smelled the “weird” scent of their grandmother being blown up by a hellfire missile as their world before them darkened.  I thought this dreadful statement is the only explanation that Obama has even remotely given the grief stricken family so far about the death of their mother and grandmother, albeit indirectly.

I recommend reading this Huffington Post article: Obama Told Aides He’s ‘Really Good At Killing People,’ New Book ‘Double Down’ Claims by Mollie Reilly and urge you to watch the video, in which the reporter says the following:

“The quote, the relish that he seems to take in the taking of human life is sort of unseemly, I’d say, and not the best thing for a politician to say.””Pretty nasty stuff.”

 

Will the detractors who changed the subject away from a Pakistani family traveling 7000 miles to testify before Congress, most of whom didn’t bother to show up and listen to the innocent drone victims, who according to the REAL LIARS don’t even exist, libel the Huffington Post reporter’s integrity, too, for finding Obama’s statement “unseemly,” “pretty nasty stuff,” and noting “the relish that he seems to take in the taking of human life”?

Just using the phrase “being good at killing” in and of itself, whether or not it was said quietly, is creepy to most people with any shred of humanity or even a modicum of social acumen.  But when it is said by the world leader who gave his OK for drone strikes that killed and maimed hundreds of innocent victims, including this grandmother, whose families’ suffering he ignores and does not compensate, it is beyond unseemly to anyone with even half a conscience.

The MSM reported that instead of a grandmother being droned in a field alongside her 9 grandchildren, 3-5 militants were droned in their car/house.

Now, that’s what I call a lie.

Ms. Reilly also included in her article the story about the Pakistani family losing their grandmother as an example of one of the many civilians Obama has killed with drones.  So, I was not alone in pairing Obama’s statement about “being good at killing people” with the sweet grandmother droned to death.

The claim that Obama is remorseful about the grandmother’s death rings hollow since he has never apologized for it or given any compensation to her family for her loss or the medical expenses to remove hellfire missile shrapnel from her 11 year old grandson’s, Zubair’s, leg or treating her 9 year old granddaughter’s, Nabila’s, hand wounds, who awoke in a hospital after running and running away from the explosion.  Not only that, but the very next day after the family voiced their sad testimony in our Nation’s Capitol, Obama was scheduled to meet, not with them, but with the very company that manufactured the hellfire missile that killed their grandmother and two companies that manufacture drones.  He never met the grieving school teacher or his two injured children while they were in Washington.  This snub alone says it all.

If these angry Kossacks believe Obama feels rueful about “being good at killing” and maiming innocent people by the softness of his voice, why do they accept the fact that he isn’t apologizing to the innocent victims, helping them, or even acknowledging that they exist?  Why are they accepting his continuance of a drone program considered a war crime by many legal minds?

As I commented yesterday:

I was trying to show the horrible reality of who Obama was really good at killing…many of whom are innocent people.

A commenter wisely made this point about Obama’s explanation on drones:

He doesn’t need words or legal construct….He can either reduce or stop their use, he can explain to these families WHY they were targeted, as was the case with al-Awlaki’s 16 year old, American citizen son, whose family members still have not heard why the strike that killed him was ordered. He can set up a system where targets can somehow contest the evidence against them…

But I don’t accept the current system, where secret evidence is gathered secretly, where the approval for strikes is done in secrecy, and where the government refuses to even allow an assassination target to see the evidence against him or contest any of it, because again, secrecy. These are not the policies of an enlightened, transparent, and peaceful country.

And the truth is, none of us have any idea as to how Obama actually feels about these strikes….

How anyone could attack someone for pointing out the obvious about a statement that is truly horrible coming from a world leader, instead of demanding the world leader STOP KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE is WHY he is getting away with secretly killing grandmothers without a trial, without any apology, without any compensation, and without any acknowledgment.To quote Bill Clinton about his indiscretion that pales in comparison to droning a grandmother, Obama can answer Momina Bibi’s grieving son, “I did it, because I could.”

Yes, he can.

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