Sunday, June 10, 2012

Judge refuses to drop charges in Manning case - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Judge refuses to drop charges in Manning case - Americas - Al Jazeera English

A military judge has denied a motion to drop some of the charges against WikiLeaks suspect Private Bradley Manning, and said his trial would is likely to be delayed until November.
The judge, Denise Lind, on Friday rejected defence motions to dismiss 10 of 22 charges against Manning for allegedly spilling a trove of US intelligence secrets to WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website.
The judge rejected the claim that eight charges of unauthorised possession and disclosure of classified information were "unconstitutionally vague," noting that the Supreme Court had rejected similar claims and had concluded there was no uncertainty in the law. "The court finds there's no uncertainty in the statute," she said.
On the third and final day of preliminary hearings, Lind also denied the defence's bid to drop two additional charges that Manning exceeded his authorisation to use the US Defence Department intranet.
She did, though, ask the government to provide more details on the charges.
The ruling "raises the burden on the government to prove more things," a military official told the AP news agency. "The government could dismiss [the two charges] or change them to make them survive."

Monday, June 4, 2012

The MIlitary Budget versus NASA's Budget

You always hear how we "wasted" all that money on going into Space. Here's the facts:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist and science communicator. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. Since 2006 he has hosted the educational science television show NOVA scienceNOW on PBS, and has been a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Jeopardy!. It was announced on August 5, 2011, that Tyson will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day quiz: Test yourself - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

Memorial Day quiz: Test yourself - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

Here’s a quiz to test yourself on how much you know about Memorial Day and the wars in which U.S. soldiers have fought and died.
Answers, with a bit of history, follow the questions.

Scouts light more than 17,000 candles at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery in Virginia. (Peter Cihelka/AP) 

  1. Memorial Day was a response to the loss of American lives in which war?
a) Revolutionary War
b) Civil War
c) World War I
d) World War II
See the rest of the quiz at the link above:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why are we still in 'Vietghanistan?' -

Why are we still in 'Vietghanistan?' -
Scot has an article on the CNN Opinion pages addressing the same issue of "Body Parts" that he spoke so eloquently on their televised forum 

 Scott Camil   Da Loc   Vietnam1967

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gainesville Celebrates Mayday in style!

Occupy Gainesville Florida 
Gainesville had a mellow Occupy Mayday event cosponsored by the Labor Council with Free eats from Food not Bombs, the famous Gainesville Radical Cheerleaders and tabling by groups such as Move to Amend.  A number of VFP members were there as well as you will see from the slide show below:

Intelligence Rupture Over Iran: Israeli Apparat Falling Apart | Veterans Today

Intelligence Rupture Over Iran: Israeli Apparat Falling Apart | Veterans Today: A rift the size of a potential coup is taking shape between the Israeli government and the military-intelligence men over Iran, a fact which threatens the ruling Israeli political apparat on the one hand and exonerates Iran of all years-long groundless allegations on the other.

Pictures often speak louder than words but you might want to read the details in the article about the Military intelligence chiefs in Israel who are challenging the propaganda on Iran with, well, the facts!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bradley Manning in jail for 700 days - Government is withholding evidence - Is this a fair trial?

The Shroud of Secrecy in Bradley Manning’s Legal Proceedings 

Fire Dog Lake is Blogging the pretrial maneuverings in the Bradley Manning case.  They report a serious and illegal lack of transparency by the prosecution.  The judge has acknowledge this process by forcing the government to turn over risk assessments related to the release of cables to Wikileaks to the defense.
 . Judge Denise Lind ruled the government has to produce damage assessments yesterday that the defense had been seeking for months. The State Department is challenging this ruling by the judge, but it appears reports from the WikiLeaks Task Force (setup under then-CIA director Leon Panetta), the Information Review Task Force (set up under then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates) and the State Department will be given to the defense. The judge also ruled the government must do a search of hard drives in their possession from FOB Hammer, where Manning was based, and inform the defense of whether any of the drives have programs that Manning is charged with downloading without authorization.
However the press is being denied access to filings even though they have been read aloud in court.
  the judge denied requests for press access to court filings, which the press has in military proceedings for Guantanamo prisoners but does not have in the case of Bradley Manning. She contended the proceedings had “remained open thus far.”... The government is scheming to conceal the full extent of the legal fun and games that the prosecution has played in the proceedings thus far.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has entered the fray attempting to testify but being denied the right by the judge.
President Emeritus of CCR, Michael Ratner, wrote yesterday that the refusal to grant the press access to court filings is a “clear violation of the law, but it will likely take burdensome litigation to rectify this lack of transparency. The US supreme court has insisted that criminal trials must be public, and the fourth circuit, where this court martial is occurring, has ruled that the first amendment right of access to criminal trials includes the right to the documents in such trials.”
THe government has reacted to the demands for transparency with accusations against Manning not included in their charges.  Kevin Gosztola from Firedoglake concludes:

So, now, not only is Manning accused of “aiding the enemy,” which is al Qaeda and any terrorist groups related, even though there is no mention of his intent in the charge against him, but he is also considered an espionage actor who is using the legal proceedings to unveil the inner workings of government for nefarious purposes.
This is what the lack of transparency does to people who work for and on behalf of the government. They are so used to being able to use their power to conceal what they do that when someone succeeds in using the system to get just a little peek at what goes on behind closed doors people begin to throw out hysterical charges of evildoing.
Manning, like all soldiers accused of crimes, is entitled to a fair trial. There are still months of legal proceedings to go before the trial even commences. All of this secrecy, which invites challenges from the defense, just means Manning stays in pre-trial confinement for one hundred or more days. He already has been held in prison for 700 days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

OP-ED: Member of Veterans for Peace Alters Afghanistan Discussion on CNN | Huntington News

OP-ED: Member of Veterans for Peace Alters Afghanistan Discussion on CNN | Huntington News

Our own Chapter 14 Coordinator Scott Camil Appeared on CNN this week in a discussion about the current war scandal in Afghanistan in which photos of US soldiers posing with body parts have been released. Scott distinguished himself by speaking the truth about War in a way rarely heard on television. When asked about the photos he replied "you're nit picking when you're talking about things like people posing with bodies. The real question should be why are we at war in the first place? Why are we killing so many people in the first place? The concern over posing with someone that's dead, it seems to me the fact that that person is dead and that we're killing people is more important than what happens after they're dead." Camil continued: "What I understand is what it's like to be in a war zone and I understand the behavior in a war zone. And I would say that, first of all, that war is really an institution made up of criminal behavior. When we as civilians want to solve our problems, we're not allowed to murder people and burn their houses down. I don't see why war is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. And furthermore, the majority of people that die are innocent civilians." His comments changed the course of discussion with one of the panel members agreeing while others tried to maintain the status quo discussion which another guest described as offering support for the soldiers do they would understand the World is watching, another words, keep their body parts photos and other inconvenient facts about War to themselves.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Diego Garcia US Military Base: Indian Ocean - one of a thousand US bases around the world.

Diego Garcia Military Base: 
 We start our descriptions of US Military bases world wide with Diego Garcia, a Naval facility in the Indian Ocean in an area which is still a part of the British Empire, described as a British Overseas Territory.  The British enabled the establishment of the American Base on Diego Garcia,  the larges island in the Archipelago, in 1971 by forcibly deporting the approximately 2000 residents who had been living there since the time of the American Revolution.  These former residents are still suing to get their home back. 

According to David Vine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University and author of “Island of Shame: the Secret History of the U.S. Military on Diego Garcia(Princeton University Press).” in Global Researcher
Long off limits to reporters, the Red Cross, and all other international observers and far more secretive than Guantanamo Bay, many long suspected the island was a clandestine CIA "black site" for high-profile detainees, Vine wrote in a related article. Journalist Stephen Grey's 2006 book “Ghost Plane” documented the presence on the island of a CIA-chartered plane used for rendition flights. On two occasions former U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey publicly named Diego Garcia as a detention facility. And a Council of Europe report named the atoll, along with those in Poland and Romania, as a secret prison.
The island became “a major launch pad” for the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Vine said. In addition to its capacious harbor, the island readily supports some of the largest U.S. warplanes, including Air Force B-52s, B-1Bs and B-2s. Two years ago, the Pentagon awarded a $32 million contract to add a submarine base to the island’s arsenal.
Diego Garcia had been a British possession until 1966, when London allowed the U.S. to use it as a military base in exchange for cancelling a $14-million British debt for a military hardware purchase. Some idea of the size of the base may be conveyed by the fact it is said by the Pentagon to contain 654 buildings.
Recently released documents on British colonial history detail what was kept from the public as the base was developed:

The aim behind the decision to control the islands, noted a Foreign Office official in a document dated September 1966 and marked "Secret and Guard", was to build "defence facilities … without hindrance or political agitation".
In 1970, the Foreign Office told its officials at the UN to describe the islanders as "contract labourers" engaged to work on coconut plantations. "The merit of this line," it noted, "is that it does not give away the existence of the Ilois [the indigenous islanders] but is at the same time strictly factual."
In addition Wiki-leaks cables revealed further maneuverings to keep the islands free of indigenous populations so that the US and Britain can maneuver there as they please:
 In April 2010, the UK established a marine nature reserve around the Chagos Islands. A cable subsequently released by Wiki-leaks reported exchanges between a US political counsellor in London, Richard Mills, and a Foreign Office official, Colin Roberts. According to the leaked cable, Roberts "asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago's former residents".
A description from Wikipedia of the Base and its uses to the US Empire:
  During the Cold War era, the United States was keen to establish a military base in the Indian Ocean to counter Soviet influence in the region and protect the sea-lanes for oil transportation from the Middle East. The US saw the island as a strategically important one.[104] The value has been proved many times, with the island providing a "fixed aircraft carrier" for the US during the Iranian revolution, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The US Navy operates a large naval ship and submarine support base, military air base, communications and space tracking facilities, and an anchorage for pre-positioned military supplies for regional operations aboard Military Sealift Command ships in the lagoon.The Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia provides Base Operating Services to tenant commands located on the island. The command's mission is "To provide logistic support to operational forces forward deployed to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf AORs in support of national policy objectives."
 The atoll shelters the ships of the US Marine Pre-positioning Squadron Two. These ships carry equipment and supplies to support a major armed force with tanks, armoured personnel carriers, munitions, fuel, spare parts and even a mobile field hospital. This equipment was used during the Persian Gulf War, when the squadron transported equipment to Saudi Arabia.

There are facilities for Aircraft up to and including the size of the Space Shuttle and extensive communications facilities including satellite communications and one of five GPS stations operated by the US Military. And remember this is all paid for by our tax dollars while our schools decay, health care is out of reach for 50 million Americans and the Middle Class dwindles.

Monday, April 9, 2012

“The Warrior Class”: The Blackwater Videos—Winter Soldier revisited

“The Warrior Class”: The Blackwater Videos—By Harper's Magazine (Harper's Magazine):
Note the whole article requires a subscription but the videos are  available at the above link.

The April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine includes “The Warrior Class,” a feature by Charles Glass on the rise of private-security contractors since 9/11. The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq. Clips and photos from the videos are shown below, introduced by Glass’s descriptions:

See the link above.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Iraq Slams Saudis, Qataris for Plans to Arm Syrian Rebels |Military Response is again Our only Choice?

Iraq Slams Saudis, Qataris for Plans to Arm Syrian Rebels | Informed Comment
 Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal gave an impassioned speech in which he said it was “a duty” to provide the Syrian opposition with weapons, and he reaffirmed that necessity of getting arms to the revolutionaries of Syria. In the meantime, he demanded an immediate ceasefire by the regime, which he said has by its severe repression has committed what can only be crimes against humanity. 
So again our response to a crisis is use of force. And in steps Iraq:

 In contrast, Iraq’s prime minister Nouri al-Maliki (Iraq also attended the summit) strongly supported the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and severely condemned the plan to give arms to the rebels.
“”We reject any arming (of Syrian rebels) and the process to overthrow the (Assad) regime, because this will leave a greater crisis in the region . . . The stance of these two states [Qatar and Saudi Arabia] is very strange… They are calling for sending arms instead of working on putting out the fire, and they will hear our voice, that we are against arming and against foreign interference . . . We are against the interference of some countries in Syria’s internal affairs, and those countries that are interfering in Syria’s internal affairs will interfere in the internal affairs of any country… It has been one year and the regime did not fall, and it will not fall, and why should it fall?
  Iraq’s fears are not without reason. Saud al-Faisal’s idea of arming the rebels recalls the similar plan to arm the Afghan opposition, in in the 1980s, which led to a Soviet withdrawal but also created a long-term security nightmare in the form of al-Qaeda.
Finally the issues in Syria are really all about Iran.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Veterans at Occupy Sacramento Speak Out in November - Gainesville Vets follow the Speak Out Tradition this Week

Veterans at Occupy Sacramento Speak Out  in November - 

Last November VFP member and pastor Jerry Pederson spoke out against war based on his personal experience at the end of WWII:
Sacramento area veterans, including many appearing in uniform or military garb with ribbons and medals, spoke out against wars that they said only benefit the 1 percent during a news conference held by Occupy Sacramento at Cesar Chavez Park on Veterans Day, 2011.
Jerry Pedersen, a Lutheran minister, was only 17 when he was drafted to serve in the US. Army in the Pacific during World War II. He was a member of the honor guard that served at the surrender of the Japanese army aboard USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.
“I was standing only 30 feet away from where the table where General Douglas MacArthur and officials of the allies and Japanese government met,” said Pederson. “McCarthur said to the crowd, ‘We preserve in peace what we won in war.’”
“Out of my experience that day, I made my committment to work for peace – and decided that the best way to do that was as a pastor,” he said. “As a member of Veterans for Peace, I am working for our veterans to be treated honorably when they come home from war – and for the government to make a real commitment to slow down the war and violence business.”

Gainesville Veterans Speak Out this Wednesday Evening

Regardless of your stand on war and peace all Gainesville area veterans are invited to speak out about their own experiences and points of view this Wednesday at Santa Fe Community College.  The public is invited to attend and learn from our veterans.

WHEN:  Wednesday:  March 28, 6:30-9:00 pm.
WHERE:  Santa Fe College, Northwest Gainesville Campus, Room WA-104, Bldg WA
         [bldg WA is just west of bldg W].
WHO: SFC student groups, in conjunction with Community Coalition Against War & Terrorism and Veterans for Peace.
WHAT: All veterans, of all opinions, are invited to tell their stories, speak their minds, and answer questions from the public.

Contact: Pierce Butler:, 352-377-4601

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pressure Mounts for Transparency in Manning Court-Martial

Courthouse News Service
 The pressure to honor Bradley Manning's civil rights continues as trial lawyers and reporters are left in the dark on the initial proceedings.
   "As the Manning court-martial purports to be a public trial, we cannot understand why critical aspects of the proceedings are being withheld from public view," the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner wrote in a three-page letter released Thursday."
National Security again cited as an excuse for denying a citizen civil rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
  Last December, Manning stepped into a court in Fort Meade, Md., for the first time in an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury.
     The government has not released motions, rulings and transcripts of those and subsequent proceedings.
     In a March 12 letter to Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson, more than 40 news organizations wrote that the government showed greater transparency with the cases of Guantanamo detainees than with that of Manning.
     "As such, the coalition respectfully urges the government to implement similar reforms in its regulations governing court-martial proceedings generally and that of Manning specifically to ensure that military personnel tried stateside have the same rights to a public trial as those afforded accused terrorists," the letter states.
     Ratner, on behalf of Assange and Wikileaks, joined that effort on Thursday, in a letter to the presiding military judge, Col. Denise Lind, which he copied to the Pentagon."
government claims of the necessity of secrecy has shrouded the court proceedings in secrecy and denied the importance of the rules by which a democracy must live.

 The letter quoted 6th Circuit Judge Damon Keith's grim warning, "Democracies die behind closed doors," from an opinion in the case of Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, which forced immigration courts to open proceedings of defendants with suspected ties to the Sept. 11 attacks.
     Ratner said that it is difficult for even lawyers to follow the Manning court-martial without access to these records.
     "For example, undersigned counsel attended the motions hearing on March 15, 2012, and determined that it was not possible to understand fully or adequately the issues being litigated because the motions and response thereto were not available," he wrote.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why does US need over 1000 military bases around the world?

Why does US need over 1000 military bases around the world? - RT 110214 - YouTube
Introducing a new series: US Foreign Military Base of the Month.  I would love some help with deciding which of the 1000 or so US military bases to highlight each month.  If you have info on a base or would like to hear about a particular base let me know.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Attorney asks for dismissal in WikiLeaks case - Government refusesd to release documents for trial.

Attorney asks for dismissal in WikiLeaks case - FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An attorney for an Army private charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information asked a military judge Thursday to dismiss the charges against his client, arguing the government bungled the turning over of documents in the case.  The request came during a hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning at a military courtroom at Fort Meade, Md., near Baltimore.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Militarization of Foreign Policy | Are we ready to negotiate with Iran or Anyone.?

The Militarization of Foreign Policy | We Meant Well - Peter Van Buren
So if we don't bomb Iran are we prepared to negotiate?  Here is a story from Iraq on how our Foreign Policy was carried out.  You would laugh at how poorly we did our "nation building"  if it wasn't a tragedy for so many innocent people.
Peter Van Buren, an envoy in Iraq:
What you do get for your money is the militarization of foreign policy. During my year in Iraq as a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Leader I watched with some sadness as the majority of our engagement with Iraqis in the field was conducted by young Army captains. I was the lone Foreign Service Officer assigned to a brigade of some 3000 soldiers

If you wonder why so few envoys look at the facts about funding.

There really are more military band members than State Department Foreign Service Officers. The whole of the Foreign Service is smaller than the complement aboard one aircraft carrier. Despite the role that foreign affairs has always played in America’s drunken intercourse abroad, the State Department remains a very small part of the pageant. The Transportation Security Administration has about 58,000 employees; the State Department has about 22,000. The Department of Defense (DOD) has nearly 450,000 employees stationed overseas, with 2.5 million more in the US.

At the same time, Congress continues to hack away at State’s budget. The most recent round of bloodletting saw State lose some $8 billion while DOD gained another $5 billion. The found fiver at DOD will hardly be noticed in their overall budget of $671 billion. The $8 billion loss from State’s total of $47 billion will further cripple the organization. The pattern is familiar and has dogged State-DOD throughout the war of terror years.

I had heard this quote about the military band  from a young State Department envoy I know and on research found it was actually something Condolezza Rice said. And she was at least partly correct as you can see from the numbers above we don't put much money where our negotiating mouth is. Here are some more examples form Iraq on how skewed our approach to foreign policy is towards the military side.

The bottom line was that for most Iraqis not living and working in the Green Zone, the only Americans they saw wore green and carried weapons.

The militarization issue was always visible at the smallest units of diplomacy in Iraq, the PRTs. The Department of State struggled to field adequate numbers of qualified employees from among its own ranks, forcing the creation of an army of contractors, called 3161s after the name of the legislation in 5 USC 3161 that created their hiring program. The need for 3161s to live on a military base skewed hiring toward self-selecting former military, nearly self-defeating the idea of providing a civilian side to reconstruction.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in its review of the PRTs’ first year of operation found an Army veterinarian developing agriculture programs, an Air Force aviation maintenance manager as a PRT co-leader, and advisers to Iraqi provincial governors who included a former Navy submariner, a Marine ultrasound technician, and an Army drill sergeant. My own PRT staff fit a similar profile, with the exception of my agricultural adviser, a pig farmer from Missouri. He always felt a bit out of place in Iraq when no one wanted to discuss hogs with him

A sad story here that does not give you confidence that we are at all prepared to negotiate. The author also talked about the difficulties for the young Army Captains who were essentially the bulk of our "envoys" to Iraq who had to put down their guns and try to do diplomacy with essentially no training and a huge disadvantage in that they were negotiating with people who we had recently been shooting and whose relatives we often had killed.

There is also a critique of State and its ability to carry through Nation Building. Of course I and most of VFP would say that this Nation Building was nothing but a front to provide profits for private corporations that benefited from the unregulated and chaotic battle field conditions and the dismantling of state owned services in the conversion to the more profitable Free Market economy.  we also might say that Nation Building was irrelevant and probably impossible since Iraq will have to rebuild itself and cannot derive any benefits from the colonial approach of the US doing it for them although we definitely owe them reparations money which will probably never be paid. This is especially true since we started and seem to have remained totally ignorant and uninterested in Iraqi cultural traditions.  This last fact speaks to the flawed nature of our whole militarized foreign policy which not only puts the rest of the World at risk but makes Amreican citizens vulnerable to the blow-back it creates.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Brave Fellow Protestor for Peace Accepts the Iranian People's Oscar

The Iranian People's Oscar - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast
: Alyssa Rosenberg calls it "by far the classiest, most meaningful speech of the evening":

One of the best things art can do is expose who we are, in all our beauty and ugliness, and remind us of what we’re capable of being. And in this case, it was also a brave act. Farhadi’s been wearing a necktie most of this awards season in a subtle rebuke to the Iranian regime’s suggestion that it’s a decadent Western accessory, and tonight, some commentators suggest that his speech could prevent him from returning to Iran or make life uncomfortable for him when he got back there. That’s a real risk for an award that carries less benefit than a Best Actor or Best Director statuette. Farhadi should be an example to politically engaged artists—and to politicians—everywhere.

Friday, March 9, 2012

There are just a few problems With Bombing Iran

There are just a few problems | Firedoglake: Former Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan, in his first U.S. television interview, says he believes that the Iran regime is rational and that now is not the time to attack Iran.

“The regime in Iran is a very rational one,” the former top Israeli spymaster tells CBS’ Leslie Stahl, according to excerpts of the interview released by 60 Minutes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When Can Obama Kill You? - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast

When Can Obama Kill You? - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast
Ackerman"comments from Wired Danger Room:
Holder did not explain why U.S. forces could not have captured Awlaki instead of killing him, nor what its criteria are for determining on future missions that suspected U.S. citizen terrorists must be killed, rather than captured. Holder did not explain why Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, whom a missile strike killed two weeks after his father’s death, was a lawful target. Holder did not explain how a missile strike represents due process, or what the standards for due process the government must meet when killing a U.S. citizen abroad. Holder did not explain why the government can only target U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism for death overseas and not domestically.

More at the link above

Monday, February 27, 2012

Images from Iran that you don't see every day - YouTube

Images from Iran that you don't see every day - YouTube

This is a little dated but its a good opportunity as you watch to reflect on who we would be bombing if we or our ally attack Iran. Note the numbers for Iraq are much higher now. over a million civilian deaths estimated by widely accepted epidemiological methods and we passed the trillion mark over a year ago on cost with several trillion more in equipment replacement costs and veterans health care yet to come.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

VA Publishes The Retroactive Benefit Rules For Agent Orange Claims | Veterans Today

VA Publishes The Retroactive Benefit Rules For Agent Orange Claims | Veterans Today

Attention Vietnam Vets: If you have any of the following diseases and are a Vietnam veteran you are eligible for disability benefits.

(i) Type 2 Diabetes (Also known as type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes).

(ii) Hodgkin’s disease.

(iii) Multiple myeloma.

(iv) Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

(v) Acute and Subacute peripheral neuropathy.

(vi) Porphyria cutanea tarda.

(vii) Prostate cancer.

(viii) Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea).

(ix) Soft-tissue sarcoma (as defined in § 3.309(e)).
If you fit any of these disease descriptions check out the link above and contact your Veteran Services Officer or the DAV for information on how to apply for disability benefits.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals | The Agonist

Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals | The Agonist: since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.

The ACLU reported back in July 2011 that:
Zero civilian casualties — during a period when there were more than 100 CIA drone strikes — sounded almost too good to be true. As it turns out, it was. According to a new report from the UK's award-winning Bureau of Investigative Journalism, released last night, at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 strikes since August 2010. Among these, the Bureau reports that it has identified, by name, six children killed in drone strikes. More civilians are likely to have been killed in an additional 15 strikes for which precise information is not available.

The ACLU was protesting the denial of their FOIA request on this matter and pointing out that the government was claiming zero casualties while either refusing to take the responsibility for investigating and documenting civilian deaths or simply covering up what they did know by refusing to release the data.

See this article

Andrew Sullivan points out the bureacratic nightmare created by non- overlapping kill lists and secrecy between various government agencies creating an unregulated
unaccountable killing machine operating at an industrial scale, to borrow CNAS President John Nagl's phrasing.

Article at Andrew Sullivan Blog

Human Rights Watch chimes in:
“CIA drone strikes have become an almost daily occurrence around the world, but little is known about who is killed and under what circumstances,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as the US resists public accountability for CIA drone strikes, the agency should not be conducting targeted killings.”

Human Rights Watch also addresses the legality of Drone attacks with respect to International Law and this takes us back to the lack of tranparency and accountability:
The lawfulness of a targeted killing hinges in part on the applicable international law, which is determined by the context in which the attack takes place, Human Rights Watch said. The laws of war permit attacks during situations of armed conflict only against valid military targets. Attacks causing disproportionate loss of civilian life or property are prohibited. During law enforcement situations, international human rights law permits the use of lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save human life. Individuals cannot be targeted with lethal force merely because of past unlawful behavior, but only for imminent or other grave threats to life when arrest is not reasonably possible.

The CIA’s increasing role in targeted killings using drones in Pakistan and other countries with no transparency or demonstrated accountability raises grave concerns about the lawfulness of the attacks, Human Rights Watch said. While the laws of war do not prohibit intelligence agencies from participating in combat operations, states are obligated to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and provide redress for victims of unlawful attacks. The US government’s refusal to acknowledge the CIA’s role in targeted killings or to provide information on strikes where there have been credible allegations of laws-of-war violations leaves little basis for determining whether the US is meeting its international legal obligations.

It then makes an interesting recommendation that drones should be under MIlitary control and not used by the CIA:
Since the US has not demonstrated a readiness to hold the CIA to international legal requirements, the use of drones for attacks should be exclusively within the command responsibility of the US armed forces, Human Rights Watch said. The military has more transparent procedures for investigating possible wrongdoing, although it too needs to make clear that it is conducting attacks in accordance with international legal requirements.

Ending the CIA’s command of targeted killing operations would be consistent with the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission, which in 2004 specifically urged that “[l]ead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department.” In November, former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair called for military control over the armed drone program, noting that the armed forces have an open set of procedures, while CIA operations require secrecy, which is not sustainable over the long term: “If something has been going for a long period of time, somebody else ought to do it, not intelligence agencies."

Finally there is a photographic archive made by a pakistani journalist at great personal risk. These have been posted on Wired's Danger Room Blog by Spencer Ackerman who vetted the source to the best of his abilities and warns that accusationa have been ade about possible connections to Pakistani Intelligence:

Before posting Behram's photos we took a number of measures to confirm as best we could what was being shown. We verified Behram’s bona fides with other news organizations. We sifted through the images, tossing out any pictures that couldn’t correlate with previously reported drone attacks. Then we grilled Behram in a series of lengthy Skype interviews from Pakistan, translated by Akbar, about the circumstances surrounding each of the images.

Still, we weren't at the events depicted. We don't know for sure if the destruction and casualties shown in the photos were caused by CIA drones or Pakistani militants. Even Behram, who drives at great personal risk to the scenes of the strikes, has little choice but to rely on the accounts of alleged eyewitnesses to learn what happened.
But we know for sure that these are rare photos from a war zone most Americans never see. "In North Waziristan, the bar for western journalists is very high because of the Taliban presence," says Peter Bergen, al-Qaida expert and author of The Longest War

Here are some examples. Warning some photos are disturbing.

Datta Khel, Oct. 13, 2010

Behram arrived in Datta Khel, a district not far from Mirin Shah -- North Waziristan’s main city -- after the funerals for the victims of this strike. He was told that six people died, but didn’t see the corpses. One of the dead was said to be a man in his thirties who was supposed to soon be married, the cousin of the teenager in the maroon shirt shown here.

The teenager helped with the cleanup and rescue effort at the scene of his cousin's death. Along with some other local children, when he saw Behram taking photos, he ran over to Behram to express how angry he was. He gathered the children and they showed Behram fragments of the missile they recovered. Three U.S. ordnance experts examined Behrams' photos of these pieces, are concluded that they were Hellfires -- the missiles fired by U.S. drones and helicopters.

See Gallery of Photos here

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Anonymous ready to dump 2.6GB of Haditha docs - Boing Boing

Anonymous ready to dump 2.6GB of Haditha docs - Boing Boing

A group of Anons are about to dump a torrent 2.6GB of email containing "detailed records, transcripts, testimony, trial evidence, and legal defense donation records" about the Haditha massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were killed by the USMC.

Those of us who went to Winter Soldier II or know of it also know the name Haditha. Perhaps a little more light will be shined here. If you are not familiar with this part of The Iraq War go to the winter Soldier link on the left side of this blog.
In the Washington Post article:

Anonymous also said the e-mails contain “detailed records, transcripts, testimony, trial evidence, and legal defense donation records” about the Haditha Case. The e-mails will allegedly be posted to Pirate Bay, a Swedish bittorrent site, soon.

Anonymous has been on a hacking spree over the last week, taking down the Web site of Brazil’s largest bank Tuesday, and posting a protest against austerity policies on Greece’s justice ministry Web site Friday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Article says Israel may attack Iran in April - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Article says Israel may attack Iran in April - Americas - Al Jazeera English: he Washington Post claims that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is a growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran as early as April.

An opinion article published on Thursday says the strike is likely to happen either in April, May, or June.

Panetta and the Pentagon both declined to comment on the report.

Watch the video from Aljazeera:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tomgram: William Astore, Confessions of a Recovering Weapons Addict | TomDispatch

Tomgram: William Astore, Confessions of a Recovering Weapons Addict | TomDispatch:

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” a hard-bitten rock & roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college. It’s about auto workers back in 1955 who were “young and proud” to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, “the plants have changed and you’re lucky if you work.” Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.

But today our manufacturing sector is famous for very different merchandise. Thunderbirds have become drones and predators and F14s and America supplies the world. Its our number one export.

Clearly, the U.S. has grabbed the brass ring of the global arms trade. When it comes to investing in militaries and weaponry, no country can match us. We are supreme. And despite talk of modest cuts to the Pentagon budget over the next decade, it will, according to President Obama, continue to grow, which means that in weapons terms the future remains bright. After all, Pentagon spending on research and development stands at $81.4 billion, accounting for an astonishing 55% of all federal spending on R&D and leaving plenty of opportunity to develop our next generation of wonder weapons.

But at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the world? We’ve become the suppliers of weaponry to the planet’s hotspots. And those weapons deliveries (and the training and support missions that go with them) tend to make those spots hotter still -- as in hot lead.

As a country, we seem to have a teenager’s fascination with military hardware, an addiction that’s driving us to bust our own national budgetary allowance. At the same time, we sell weapons the way teenage punks sell fireworks to younger kids: for profit and with little regard for how they might be used.

Sixty years ago, it was said that what’s good for General Motors is good for America. In 1955, as Bob Seger sang, we were young and strong and makin’ Thunderbirds. But today we’re playing a new tune with new lyrics: what’s good for Lockheed Martin or Boeing or [insert major-defense-contractor-of-your-choice here] is good for America.

How far we’ve come since the 1950s!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stephen Colbert Super PAC Ads Spoof U.S. Election System and a possible solution from Larry Lessig

Nine PAC Ads from Stephen Colbert Spoof U.S. Election System | Open Culture
If you have not seen Steven Colbert's brilliant Super Pac Ads here is one of them. Also on the serious side here is a proposal by Harvard professor and founder of the Creative Commons Lawrence Lessig to convene a constitutional convention to change our governmental processes connected with elections and lobbying. Its is something built into the constitution that we the people can do.

Warning: the Lessig video is long but well worth the time to watch.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free -

10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free - The Washington Post:
Johnathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University. One more nail was put in the coffin for our Bill of Rights in December when Obama signed the National Defense act. Turley lists and explains 9 more "nails" including: Assassination of U.S. citizens, Indefinite detention, Arbitrary justice, Warrantless searches, Secret evidence, War crimes
Secret court, Immunity from judicial review, Continual monitoring of citizens, and Extraordinary renditions. his summary putting these changes in historical perspective is quoted below. Click the link above to read his description of the loss of our democracy as we slowly, security law by security law, become more like the totalitarian countries our government likes to criticize.

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His response was a bit chilling: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.

The indefinite-detention provision in the defense authorization bill seemed to many civil libertarians like a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the law over that provision, Levin, a sponsor of the bill, disclosed on the Senate floor that it was in fact the White House that approved the removal of any exception for citizens from indefinite detention.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Primary Relief: Paul ambushed by 'Vermin Supreme' who is also running for President!

N.H. primary pranks: Paul ambushed by 'Vermin Supreme' - Washington Times

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Texas Rep. Ron Paul's final full day of campaigning in New Hampshire got off to a bizarre start Monday when he was met by a bullhorn-toting man with a rubber boot on his head who challenged him and President Obama to a "panty-wrestling match to decide it all."

My favorite part of this whole episode is that apparently Vermin Supreme's foreign policy consists of making Iraq and Afghanistan US States. It is a unique idea!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Iraq can teach us about Iran |Going Forward in the middle East

What Iraq can teach us about Iran | Stephen M. Walt:

Looking ahead and at US policy in the Middle East and our relationship with Iran:

Ali A. Allawi has an interesting op-ed in today's New York Times, where he outlines the main challenges in post-occupation Iraq and maps out a broad approach for dealing with them. he says: "Iraq must reimagine the Middle East, creating new economic, security and political structures that weave Middle Eastern countries closer together while peacefully accommodating the region's ethnic and religious diversity.

In the American-Iranian cold war, Iraq must resist being dragged into a confrontation. We have real interests on both sides and can play an important role in mediating and even defusing that conflict.

Wait says that American foreign policy going forward in the Middle East could follow this advice as well as Iraq.

In essence, Allawi is saying that Iraq should strive to play a balance of power game in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, seeking good relations with all its neighbors, and adopt a creative and flexible approach to dealing with the diverse social and religious forces in the region. Such a strategy would not preclude Iraq tilting one way or the other as currents of power and interest shift, but it implies not allowing Iraq to get drawn into rigid alignments or permanent commitments that harden animosities or limit its diplomatic flexibility.

What struck me, however, was how Allawi's blueprint applies even more strongly to the United States. The United States is not a Persian Gulf state, and we have no interest in trying to run these countries. Instead, the United States has only three overriding strategic interests in the Gulf region: 1) make sure that Gulf oil and gas keeps flowing to world markets (even though the U.S. gets very little of its own energy from this region, a reduction in the global supply would send energy prices soaring), 2) discourage the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and 3) reduce the danger from anti-American terrorism. The best way to pursue these three objectives is to play balance-of-power politics ourselves: minimizing our military footprint in the region while striving to make sure that no single power dominates it and reducing incentives for anti-American terrorism or WMD proliferation.

Wait applies this general approach specifically to Iran:

It follows that the United States should be seeking to have good relations with as many states as possible -- so as to maximize its diplomatic options and resulting leverage -- and to do what it can to dampen regional tensions. (Note: this is also what Allawi advises Iraqis to do). From this perspective, a prolonged Cold War with Iran is in fact a policy failure (or at least not an achievement), even though avoiding one may be difficult given all that has already occurred. Our various "special relationships" in the region should be rethought as well, especially in light of the political upheavals that have been sweeping the region and rendering the future more difficult to forecast. In such circumstances, a smart great power would seek to maximize its options going forward, instead of being permanently and visibly committed to a status quo that is visibly shifting before our eyes.

Special relationships with Israel and confrontational relationships with Iran reduce our ability to reach the three objectives that are vital to our foreign interests. Of course this will require us to stop playing politics with our Middle East policy and possibly to consider having a a greater emphasis on diplomacy rather than brute force. Two recommendations from my side would be to get rid of the Drones and reexamine our investment in the State department. We should not have a Department of State whose total numbers of staff are less than you find in the Navy band.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Graphic Charts of Crony Capitalism Being Alive and Well in Fascist America « Blog

Graphic Charts of Crony Capitalism Being Alive and Well in Fascist America « Blog

An amazing series of info-graphics that show the relationship between powerful business concerns and "our" government. Its obvious if you study these whose government it is.

for a better look go to the original page where the images are large and easy to read.