Sunday, April 20, 2014

Agent Orange as Chemical Warfare: War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

By Marianne Brown

Beaver County Peace Links via Voice of America

April 19, 2014 - Government officials from the U.S. and Vietnam attended a ceremony Saturday marking the next stage in the cleanup process of one of the Vietnam War's deadliest legacies - Agent Orange.

The herbicide was sprayed by the U.S. military as a defoliant to destroy jungle cover for communist troops. Its highly toxic byproduct, dioxin, has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, cancer and birth defects.

The $84 million project, officially launched in 2012, aims to clean up contaminated soil by cooking it at high temperatures.

On Saturday, a group of visiting U.S. senators and congressmen crowded together at one of 28 so-called dioxin “hotspots” in the country, the former U.S. air base at Da Nang, in central Vietnam, where Agent Orange was stored. They hit a giant start button to initiate the clean up.

"We built a containment structure roughly the size of a football field and filled it with 45,000 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear.

"Beginning today the contaminated soil will be heated to extremely high temperatures to destroy dioxin. After approximately four months the soil will be tested to confirm that the project cleanup goals have been achieved," he said.
Healing the wounds of war has been an important issue for the two countries since diplomatic relations were normalized nearly two decades ago. The cleanup has become a symbol of progress and cooperation between the two governments.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nato's Action Plan in Ukraine is Right Out of Dr Strangelove

Men wearing military fatigues in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk

From China to Ukraine, the US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass

By John Pilger

Beaver County Peace Links via The Guardian

I watched Dr Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major TJ "King" Kong goes "toe to toe with the Rooskies" and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it's left to General "Buck" Turgidson to reassure the president. Strike first, says the general, and "you got no more than 10-20 million killed, tops". President Merkin Muffley: "I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler." General Turgidson: "Perhaps it might be better, Mr President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books."

The genius of Stanley Kubrick's film is that it accurately represents the cold war's lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant, yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same "invisible government", as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Dr Strangelove was made, "the missile gap" was the false flag. To build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John F Kennedy approved the CIA's propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles. This filled front pages as the "Russian threat". In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in production of the missiles, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Strategic nuclear missiles Cold War National Museum of the US Air Force Strategic nuclear missiles from the cold war. Photograph: Alamy

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato enlargement project. Reneging on the Reagan administration's promise to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand "one inch to the east", Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet caucuses, Nato's military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.

In February, the US mounted one of its proxy "colour" coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly antisemitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The US Military Has Been ‘At War’ in Africa on the Sly For Years

US Army

US Army special forces with troops from the Central African Republic and Uganda, in Obo, Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)


If you want to know what US forces are doing in Africa, it helps to be connected to a large engineering or construction firm looking for business.

This article originally appeared at

By Nick Turse

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things—especially when it comes to the US military in Africa. For years, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale and scope of its efforts. At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States “has little forward presence” on that continent. Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon’s presence there were telling a very different story—but they weren’t speaking with the media. They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet. They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.

I recently experienced this phenomenon myself during a media roundtable with Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers. When I asked the general to tell me just what his people were building for US forces in Africa, he paused and said in a low voice to the man next to him, “Can you help me out with that?” Lloyd Caldwell, the Corps’s director of military programs, whispered back, “Some of that would be close hold”—in other words, information too sensitive to reveal.

The only thing Bostick seemed eager to tell me about were vague plans to someday test a prototype “structural insulated panel-hut,” a new energy-efficient type of barracks being developed by cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point. He also assured me that his people would get back to me with answers. What I got instead was an “interview” with a spokesman for the Corps who offered little of substance when it came to construction on the African continent. Not much information was available, he said, the projects were tiny, only small amounts of money had been spent so far this year, much of it funneled into humanitarian projects. In short, it seemed as if Africa was a construction backwater, a sleepy place, a vast landmass on which little of interest was happening.

Fast forward a few weeks and Captain Rick Cook, the chief of US Africa Command’s Engineer Division, was addressing an audience of more than fifty representatives of some of the largest military engineering firms on the planet—and this reporter. The contractors were interested in jobs and he wasn’t pulling any punches. “The eighteen months or so that I’ve been here, we’ve been at war the whole time,” Cook told them. “We are trying to provide opportunities for the African people to fix their own African challenges. Now, unfortunately, operations in Libya, South Sudan, and Mali, over the last two years, have proven there’s always something going on in Africa.”

Cook was one of three US military construction officials who, earlier this month, spoke candidly about the Pentagon’s efforts in Africa to men and women from URS Corporation, AECOM, CH2M Hill and other top firms. During a paid-access web seminar, the three of them insisted that they were seeking industry “partners” because the military has “big plans” for the continent. They foretold a future marked by expansion, including the building up of a “permanent footprint” in Djibouti for the next decade or more, a possible new compound in Niger, and a string of bases devoted to surveillance activities spreading across the northern tier of Africa. They even let slip mention of a small, previously unacknowledged US compound in Mali.

The Master Plan

After my brush off by General Bostick, I interviewed an Army Corps of Engineers Africa expert, Chris Gatz, about construction projects for Special Operations Command Africa in 2013. “I’ll be totally frank with you,” he said, “as far as the scopes of these projects go, I don’t have good insights.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Paying for America's War Machine Is a Terrible Waste of Tax Money

Your tax dollars resting in the desert sun

By Lisa Savage

Beaver County Peace Links via Alternet

April 13, 2014 - On April 14, the eve of tax day and ironically (or appropriately) Global Day of Action Against Military Spending, the Pentagon plans to launch a brand new weapon system, one that uses electric pulses to project a 40-pound missile the distance from New York City to Philadelphia at a speed of 5,600 mph.

The U.S. Navy spent more than $4 billion to develop and build its stealth destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, a key element in President Obama's announced “pivot to the Pacific.” It's expected that the Zumwalt will be patrolling the coast of China soon at further – as yet undetermined –  expense to U.S. taxpayers.

When we're told by our elected officials that we can't afford full funding for education, SNAP (food stamps), Head Start, or unemployment compensation, how is it that we can afford the endless “War on Terror” plus a pivot to East Asia? Expecting a peace divided as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down is wishful thinking: President Obama still proposes to spend a whopping 55% of federal discretionary funds for Fiscal Year 2015 on the military.

In addition, we can expect still more spending on what normal people call “war funding” but Pentagon doublespeak calls “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), a budget which is not subject to caps or cuts under sequestration. In 2014, Congress provided $85 billion for OCO, which has become a slush fund for the Pentagon to use on whatever.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Red Line and the Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Turkey’s Erdoğan, the Syrian Rebels, and Which Side Was Using Poison Gas to Provoke US Intervention.

By Seymour  Hersh

Beaver County Peace Links via London Review of Books

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.[*]

Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Reason Republicans Love War So Much

Not that certain Democrats should be off the hook, but the GOP and the South can’t stand the fact that Obama seeks diplomacy.

By CJ Werleman

Beaver County Peace Links via

March 28, 2014 - “Southerners are a military people. We were back then, still are today,” says a North Carolina Civil War enthusiast in 1998’s Confederates in the Attic.

That's why the Republican Party is piling on President Obama as he seeks a diplomatic peace in Ukraine. The United States is acting like a nation in decline in its dealings with Russia rather than projecting strength, say former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, while Sen. John McCain has criticized Obama’s diplomatic efforts on so many occasions in a way that suggests if we don’t start bombing Russia in the next 72-hours, the senator from Arizona will chew through a lamp post.

On Tuesday, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that even a “trained ape” has better foreign policy skills than President Obama. Mind you, Rumsfeld also said in 2002, “That even a trained ape knows Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” Just kidding, but that's the guy we're dealing with here.

The Republican Party is the party of the South. The Republican congressional delegation is disproportionately southern, and unsurprisingly a majority of the party’s leaders talk with a southern accent. If you want to know why there has never been a war the Republican Party didn’t want another person’s kid to fight, it’s the Republican Party’s slavish devotion to the monolithic South. In Better off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes, “The southerner’s enthrallment with war and bloodshed, his veneration of defeat and disaster, his zeal for religious crusade, and easy compliance with the corporate profit motive, has repeatedly dragged the nation into unnecessary wars.”

The GOP and the South can’t stand the fact that Obama seeks diplomacy, or occasionally walks back from his own self-imposed “red lines.” They view his hesitancy to use military force as weakness, while at the same time forgetting the blood and treasure this country has forfeited in its previous rush to war; an invasion and occupation that cost 186,000 Iraqis and 5,000 Americans their lives. While also not forgetting that misadventure came with a $3 trillion pricetag and an immeasurable moral cost.

Interestingly, a 2003 Pew Research Poll showed that Southerners were by far the most supportive of the Iraq invasion, with 77 percent believing it was the right choice, as opposed to barely half of Americans in general. In fact, Southern whites expressed the strongest support for military action in Iraq with 83 percent saying it was the right decision.

Going back further, C. Vann Woodward noted in The Burden of Southern History, “Not only had the strongest support for the Vietnam War come from the South, but so also had the President and the Secretary of State who led the crusade.”