Category Archives: Perpetual War

Boys will be boys, says Afghan President Karzai of Prince Harry’s comparing killing to a video game

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Prince Harry should be allowed to make mistakes, Afghan President says

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has dismissed Prince Harry’s comparison of war to video games – claiming “young men make mistakes”.

telegraph.co.uk | Feb 4, 2013

By Hayley Dixon

The 28-year-old Army captain gave “candid” descriptions of killing Taliban as he returned from a 20 week tour of Afghanistan, which some politicians in the country described as a propaganda victory for the enemy.

But speaking to ITV News and The Guardian President Karzai, who has a long-standing friendship with Prince Charles, refused to add his voice to the backlash.

The Prince claimed that his prowess on computers had helped him with on the battlefield, and described taking insurgents “out of the game”.

President Karzai, who described The Prince of Wales as “a very fine gentleman”, said of the furore: “Prince Charles is a great representative of Britain and the British ways of life. Prince Harry is a young man, we do give exits to young men when they make mistakes.”

When pushed on the issue he replied: “As I said, he’s a young man, and young men do make mistakes talking, while behaving, all of us have gone through that period, so let’s drop it there.”

His comments came as St James’s Palace announced that Harry is to pay a visit to Lesotho and South Africa at the end of the month for a three-day trip on behalf of his charity Sentebale.

He will spend the first two days privately, visiting Sentebale programmes throughout Lesotho, and on the final day will carry out public engagements in the Maseru district of Lesotho and then attend the Sentebale Gala Dinner in Johannesburg.

The last time the third in line to the throne was in Lesotho was in June 2010 when he took his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, to see Sentebale’s work as part of their first joint overseas trip.

President Karzai, who has not had a holiday in 12 years, is visiting the UK for a trilateral meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, and Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari.

He used the trip to condemn the recent insider attacks against British and American troops, describing it as “a serious breach of hospitality”.

But he also echoed comments he made four years ago that between the country was safer between 2002 and 2006 than it is now.

He said: “Schools were open in Helmand and life was more secure. But I am not going to blame.”

He said he “appreciated” the sacrifices of the British forces and the contributions they made to the country, adding: “Whatever happened is the past, and now we are looking forward to the future.”

He now wants to move forward in the peace process, to make it something “tangible” for the people who no longer want guns in their communities, and to bring to an end three decades of suffering.

The idea foreign troops would completely pull out of the country was a “Utopian state of mind” but would ultimately fail as the country needs to rebuild itself with the help of the international community, he said.

In ten years time the situation in the country is expected to have improved three fold. President Karzai added: “A good future lies ahead of us but we need to work for it, and work hard for it.”

U.S. Army’s special forces set for urban warefare training in Galveston, Texas

The parking garage at the Galveston County courthouse is already blocked off, in preparation for military training exercises Wednesday, which could include helicopters landing on the roof.

chron.com | Jan 30, 2013

By Carol Christian

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The parking garage at the Galveston County courthouse is already blocked off, in preparation for military training exercises Wednesday, which could include helicopters landing on the roof.
Photo: Google Maps

The garage occupies four floors of a seven-story building at 715 19th St., which also houses an empty jail.

The training will involve about 80 soldiers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in coordination with local law enforcement, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Noggle, an Army spokesman based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

No civilians will be involved, he said.

“We were invited by the city of Galveston to conduct joint training exercises to enhance the effectiveness of both services in order to better protect the residents of Galveston,” Noggle said by email.

“The purpose of the realistic urban training is to give our Special Operators an opportunity to hone their skills in a controlled, but unfamiliar, realistic urban environment that cannot be replicated with the bare-boned facades found on military installation ranges,” he wrote.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he thought the exercise could involve landing helicopters on top of the seven-story garage and jail facility.

An old antenna, which would have impeded landing on the building’s roof, was removed last week, Henry said.

“It was scheduled for demolition anyway,” the judge said. “We just accelerated the time frame on that. It’s out of their way so they can land there if they want to.”

Although the former county jail is empty, it’s well maintained in case it might be needed for inmate overflow, Henry said.

Noggle declined to specify what the training includes, but he stated that helicopters would be used if weather permits.

Any firing of weapons will involve “simulated ammunition,” Noggle said.

If the training is anything like the maneuvers that happened Monday in southeast Houston near the former Carnegie Vanguard High School and last week in Miami, it will catch the public’s attention.

On Tuesday, the Houston Police Department issued a statement that included an apology for its lack of prior warning about the exercises.

“In terms of the training, HPD is assisting the U.S. Army and Department of Homeland Security at various locations in the city through Friday of this week in which some training involves discharging of weapons and helicopter patrols,” the HPD statement said.

In Miami, the Miami-Dade Police Department issued two statements, one on Jan. 21 to announce the “joint military training exercise in and around the greater city of Miami and Miami-Dade County.”

The Miami training included the use of military helicopters, the statement said.

A second statement issued Jan. 25 thanked residents for their cooperation. “This was routine training conducted by military personnel designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments, prepare forces for upcoming overseas deployments and meet mandatory training certification requirements,” the statement said.

‘Stalin Buses’, Soviet Tanks and Military Parades Celebrate Dictator’s Victory at Stalingrad

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Five coaches bearing portraits of the moustachioed dictator have been allowed to operate in ‘Stalingrad’ (Victory Bus)

Volgograd renamed Stalingrad to celebrate key WWII battle against Nazis in 1943

ibtimes.co.uk | Feb 1, 2013

By Umberto Bacchi

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of a key World War II victory Russian lawmakers have renamed Volgograd as Stalingrad (Vicory Bus)

On Saturday, visitors to Volgograd are to experience a trip back in time of 60 years as buses painted with images of Joseph Stalin are driven around the southwestern Russian city, temporally renamed Stalingrad in honour of the Communist dictator who more than any other moulded the Soviet Union.

A military parade led by an old T-34 Soviet tank will also rally in the city centre.

Russian city gets to play ‘Stalin wasn’t so bad’ six days a year

Stalin gets his city back as Russians celebrate dictator’s triumph over Nazis

‘Stalin buses’ to mark 70th anniversary of Battle of Stalingrad in Russia

On 2 February, 1943, the Red Army won the decisively battle of Stalingrad, turning back Nazi forces after about six months of fighting.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the key World War II victory, regional lawmakers decided to use the city’s Communist-era name in for the day and on other key anniversaries through the year.

Five coaches bearing portraits of the moustachioed dictator will operate as part of the “Victory Bus” initiative.

It is a controversial move. Nostalgics credit him with leading the country to victory in World War II and making it a world superpower but to many others he is a hate figure for his genocide of millions of fellow countrymen and for his repressive regime.

“It’s blasphemous to rename the great Russian city after a bloody tyrant who killed millions of his fellow citizens,” said Nikolai Levichev a senior federal lawmaker with the leftist Just Russia party.

“This is an insult to the memory of those who died,” Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told Interfax news agency.

The city was renamed Volgograd in 1961 as part of the Soviet Union’s rejection of the Stalin personality cult.

“Our people won under the lead of Joseph Stalin and there is nothing about our supreme commander to be ashamed of,” reads a statement by the Victory Bus.

“We don’t paint swastikas. Thank God, Communist ideology and Stalin’s image have not been officially condemned. We only urge the preservation of memory of the WWII victory and people who contributed to it,” organiser Aleksey Roerich told Izvestia.

Roerich said the buses are from private firms funded by the Communist party and private donors.

The so-called “Stalinobuses” will operate in Volgograd until 9 May when Russia celebrates the final victory of the so-called Great Patriotic War. Stalin’s image will also appear on vehicles in the streets of St Petersburg and Chita.

Stalin led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953.

The coldest winter in 20 years for Syrian refugees

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This region has seen its coldest winter in 20 years.  Earlier this month, Lebanon and Jordan faced severe winter storms and heavy snow.

independent.co.uk | Jan 31, 2013

by Caroline Gluck

With a a massive flow of refugees, there is still a long way to go before they get the support they need

As donors met in Kuwait, to pledge millions of dollars in help to those affected by conflict in Syria, I spent the day in Jordan’s Zataari camp,  now home to more than 70,000 Syrian refugees.

Kitted out in a padded down jacket, jumper, scarf and goretex boots, I still felt the biting cold.  Around me young children, their faces red and raw from the low temperatures, played around.  Most didn’t have proper shoes but ran around barefoot wearing plastic slippers.

This region has seen its coldest winter in 20 years.  Earlier this month, Lebanon and Jordan faced severe winter storms and heavy snow.  It was an especially miserable time for the refugees, many of whom fled with just the clothes they were wearing.  Large numbers are living in tents, damp unfinished buildings, or makeshift self-built shelters without heating or electricity.  In Zataari, many tents collapsed or flooded in the heavy storms.

Oxfam and other agencies have been providing warm blankets, mattresses, heating oil and stoves to try to provide some relief during this difficult time of the year.

Parents complained their children were getting sick – coming down with colds and bronchial infections.

The children still played outdoors – seemingly resilient to the horrors many had witnessed back home. But watching some youngsters in one neighbourhood sheltering refugees in Lebanon, playing mock war-games with sticks and hiding behind building blocks to escape mock sniper fire, I realised that the scars of conflict will take a long time to heal.

Five year old Mahdi, a sweet-faced boy with twinkling eyes, has very real scars that his family showed to me. He was shot at by a sniper. Miraculously, the bullets exited his back, leaving ugly scars but no other serious physical damage.

Children like Mahdi need more support than they’re getting now – not just now but probably for a long time to come.

The UN and aid agencies have been struggling with big funding shortalls, hampering their ability to provide the scale of aid that’s needed  to respond to what’s become a massive flow of refugees – more than 700,000 at the latest count.  In the past month alone, more than 40,000 Syrians have crossed the border seeking safety in Jordan.

Today’s promises of large-scale aid are encouraging.  But promises and pledges must be quickly turned into real aid on the ground so that families quickly get the help they so desperately need.

Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

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Book: “Kill Anything That Moves”: New Book Exposes Hidden Crimes of the War

By Nick Turse

nickturse.com | Jan 30, 2013

9780805086911_custom-d7bde86a53a684d5facba08cf4d2cf39c664ad32-s6-c10Based on classified documents and first-person interviews, a startling history of the American war on Vietnamese civilians

Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by “a few bad apples.” But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of orders to “kill anything that moves.”

Drawing on more than a decade of research in secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time how official policies resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. In shocking detail, he lays out the workings of a military machine that made crimes in almost every major American combat unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington’s long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led soldiers to commit what one participant called “a My Lai a month.”

Thousands of Vietnam books later, Kill Anything That Moves, devastating and definitive, finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts Americans to this day.

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“Kill Anything That Moves”: New Book Exposes Hidden Crimes of the War

Military equipment flowing to local law enforcement raises questions

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Cobb County has two armored vehicles. One was military surplus and the other the police department bought using grant money.

“This is one of the most alarming trends in American policing…”

“The police are preparing for an enemy. My question is, ‘Who is the enemy?”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Jan. 27, 2013

By Rhonda Cook

The southeast Georgia town of Bloomingdale is tiny but well-armed.

Metro Atlanta police departments and sheriff’s offices have armored trucks and personnel carriers in their arsenals.

And the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office has in its possession four grenade launchers should there be a need to send canisters of tear gas or bean bags into a volatile situation.

All donated surplus military equipment available to law enforcement agencies nationwide — large and small.

Some people are upset that there are local law enforcement agencies armed with such weapons of war.

But the agencies that got the guns, armored vehicles and grenade launchers say it sends a message to would-be criminals: Officers “are armed to meet any threat,” so criminals should just stay away, said Bloomingdale Police Chief Roy Pike.

“Having the equipment precludes having to use it,” Pike said. “In the 20 years I’ve been here, we haven’t had to use deadly force against anybody.”

From the so-called 1033 program operated by a U.S. Department of Defense unit, Pike’s department of 13 officers acquired a grenade launcher for shooting tear gas, two M14 single-shot semi-automatic rifles and two M16 military-style rifles converted to semi-automatic from automatic.

The Defense Department established the 1033 program in the late 1990s to provide state and local law enforcement agencies with weapons, helicopters, armored vehicles, body armor, night vision equipment, surveillance equipment and protective gear. It also provides such things as surplus .45-caliber handguns and first-aid supplies.

Several local law enforcement officials said if their agencies had to buy the stuff, they’d just do without most of it. But since it’s donated, they find a place for it.

There is no cost to local taxpayers since they’ve already paid for the equipment with their federal taxes.

According to the most recent inventory by the Georgia Department of Public Safety, $200 million in surplus military equipment and weapons is in the hands of 600 Georgia law enforcement agencies, large and small.

Some say it’s an example of the militarization of police departments.

“I think military-grade weapons should be restricted to just that, the military. If local police run into a situation where someone is using those types of weapons, then call in the National Guard,” said LaShanda Hardin, who lives in Clayton County.

The Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank that promotes individual liberty and limited government, believes the military surplus program should be shut down, said Tim Lynch, director of the criminal justice project.

“When this equipment is given away, police departments start saying, ‘Let’s grab it.’ ” And once the equipment is in the hands of law enforcement, “we have militarized units going into the community in situations where they aren’t warranted,” Lynch said.

“This is one of the most alarming trends in American policing,” Lynch continued. “We used to call them peace officers and they would treat people … with more respect and civility. We’re getting away from that. We’re getting into these military tactics and mindset that the people they (police) come into contact with are the enemy … and part of this is the militarized units in police departments.”

According to state records, the Georgia Department of Corrections has one armored truck and the state Department of Homeland Security has seven armored vehicles.

State records also show agencies that have benefited from the program include:

  •     The Waycross Police Department, which has two armored personnel carriers and 16 M15 rifles.
  •     The Cartersville Police Department, which has an armored personnel carrier and 17 M14 rifles.
  •     The Doraville Police Department, which has an armored personnel carrier.
  •     Newnan PD, which has an armored personnel carrier, 15 M16s and 12 M14s.
  •     Clayton County PD, which has a helicopter, an armored truck, 11 M16s and five M14s.
  •     Cobb County PD, which has an armored truck, 106 M16s and eight M14s. Cobb also has a second armored vehicle, which it bought using federal grant funds.

Other agencies with armored trucks include the Sandy Springs and Pelham police departments and the Gordon, Morgan, Oconee, Pickens and Walton county sheriffs offices.

According to state records, the U.S. Department of Defense has put the value of the armored personnel carriers at almost $245,000 each and the armored trucks at around $65,000 each. State records did not assign a value to the rifles or the grenade launchers.

The agencies who have them say they save lives, and there is a waiting list of agencies that want armored vehicles as well as weapons.

“It gives the … SWAT guys a protection to where they can get closer to the folks shooting at them,” said Don Sherrod, director of excess property for the Georgia Department of Public Safety, which oversees the program for the DOD. “When you pull up in something … and the bullets start bouncing off, they (criminals) give up.”

Cobb County Police Department SWAT uses its two armored vehicles to extricate people from a “hot zone” or to get officers closer to a “volatile situation.”

Capt. Craig Dodson of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office said the agency has grenade launchers that have not been used, but they are held in reserve for scenarios that require deputies to fire tear gas canisters or non-lethal bean bags. He said the agency also has not yet used any of its 65 M16 semi-automatic rifles from the program.

“Our goal is to try to equip every patrolman in the law enforcement division with a rifle,” Dodson said.

“The M16 … gives you more capability to penetrate body armor or to make long-distance shots if you are not able to get closer. … It’s a safety blanket. We ask people to go out and do a job, and we want to give them the tools to be safe and do the job.”

But regardless of what law enforcement officials contend, Kimberly Binns, a multimedia designer who lives in Decatur, is alarmed by what military-grade firepower could mean for law-abiding citizens.

“I do not see the need for police departments to have such an extended arsenal,” she said.

Candace Garrett Daly, a Cobb County homemaker, is equally unnerved.

“What are we headed to?” Garrett asked. “Whatever it is seems to be already in motion at a breakneck speed. The police are preparing for an enemy. My question is, ‘Who is the enemy?”

Navy to Test-Fire DARPA’s Hellads Tactical Airborne Laser Weapon

aviationweek.com | Jan 24, 2013

by Graham Warwick

DARPA plans to buy a second Hellads high-energy laser system from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), to provide to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for the demonstration of a laser weapon system against targets relevant to surface ships.

Hellads is a liquid-cooled, solid-state laser that has been under development for DARPA for several years. GA-ASI is building a 150kW Hellads laser to be integrated with an existing US Air Force beam control system for a ground demonstration in 2014.

Hellads is designed to meet a weight goal of less that 5kg/kW, enabling a high-energy laser weapon to be integrated onto tactical aircraft. Concepts: DARPA

DARPA’s notice of intent to award a sole-source contract to GA-ASI says that, because the existing Hellads laser is committed to the Air Force demo and cannot be made available to the Navy, it wants to acquire a second, identical system for the ONR demo, also planned for 2014.

After focusing its directed-energy research for years on the free electron laser, ONR has launched a program to mature available solid-state electric laser technology with a goal of getting laser weapons on ships more quickly.

Hellads is designed to meet a weight goal of less that 5kg/kW, enabling a high-energy laser weapon to be integrated onto tactical aircraft. DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory are planning a follow-on flight demonstration under the Electric Lasers on Large Aircraft (ELLA) program.

The design is based on combining a series of unit cell modules together to produce a single 150kW laser. DARPA says GA-ASI demonstrated the required power output and optical performance with a single module, then showed that two unit cells could be integrated to produce more than 34kW.

Fabrication of the 150kW laser was planned to be completed the end of 2012. Plans for 2013 include its integration with the power, thermal management, beam control, and command-and-control subsystems to produce a laser weapon ready for low-power testing. Shoot-down tests against targets such as surface-to-air missiles and rockets will follow in 2014.

DARPA, meanwhile, plans to continue funding Lockheed Martin for Phase 3 of the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) program, intended to allow a self-defense laser on a high-speed fighter to shoot aft and sidewards through the turbulent flowfield behind the laser turret.


“High-energy laser systems are currently limited to a forward field of regard due to turbulent density fluctuations in the aft sector of the turret that severely degrade the laser beam fluence on target,” says DARPA. Lockheed’s solution combines active flow control to reduce airflow separation and adaptive optics to reduce the remaining beam distortions.

Lockheed has conducted full-scale windtunnel tests at NASA Ames with hardware-in-the-loop adaptive optics and flow control. Under the 30-month Phase 3, the company will build a subscale turret with flow control for flight testing on a government-furnished aircraft. This will gather data for use in design of the adaptive optics system, says DARPA.

U.S. moves to bolster French military campaign in Mali

French troops seek to halt Islamist rebels' advance in Mali
French soldiers deployed in an operation against Islamist militants in Mali ride in a military vehicle at an air base near Bamako, the capital. (Eric Feferberg, AFP/Getty Images / January 14, 2013)

The U.S. is preparing to ferry more French troops to Mali and provide other help. The fight against Al Qaeda affiliates gained urgency given the rebel advances.

Los Angeles Times | Jan 14, 2013

By Shashank Bengali, Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing to ferry hundreds of additional French troops to the North African country of Mali, bolstering a rapidly evolving military campaign in the latest conflict with Al Qaeda affiliates.

U.S. officials said they also were making plans to send drones or other surveillance aircraft and provide help with aerial refueling of French fighter jets, which bombed columns of Al Qaeda-allied militants in northern Mali for a fourth straight day Monday.

The Pentagon’s moves reflect growing concern in Washington about rebel advances, and a decision by the Obama administration to back France’s operation after months of inaction. French officials said they had halted the rebels’ advance on Bamako, the capital, but insurgents later overran Malian forces in a town about 200 miles northeast of the capital.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, speaking to reporters during a trip to Europe, said the U.S. was already providing the French with intelligence help, citing “a responsibility to go after Al Qaeda wherever they are.” Defense officials said small numbers of U.S. troops might be sent to Mali and surrounding countries but that they would be limited to a support role.

“We have promised [France] that we will … provide whatever assistance we can to try to help them,” Panetta said.

As the Obama administration winds down the United States’ long, costly war in Afghanistan, the focus of Western governments’ terrorism concerns has shifted to places such as Yemen, Somalia and northern Nigeria. Once-stable Mali joined the list after Islamist rebels seized the northern half of the country after a military coup in March. According to U.S. officials, the militants set up training camps and increased coordination with militant groups elsewhere in Africa.

The militants imposed harsh Islamic law, including forced amputations and summary executions.

The rebels include hundreds of fighters from Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which U.S. officials have described as the terrorist network’s best-financed branch. Flush with cash from kidnapping and smuggling operations, the fighters gained large stocks of military equipment after the 2011 fall of Moammar Kadafi in Libya. Weapons from Kadafi’s regime flowed across the lawless Sahara into Mali.

U.S. officials say the Al Qaeda offshoot has between 800 and 1,200 fighters and that an unknown number also have joined in recent months from other African nations and Europe.

“They’ve increased in numbers because they’re able to operate a little more openly,” one U.S. defense official said before the French campaign began. “A lot of folks have seen the success they’ve had, and that draws in people from the region as well as foreigners who’ve come in from outside the region.”

France, the former colonial power in Mali, has a large North African immigrant population and has long feared that Islamists could use their base in Mali to plot attacks on French soil. Eight French hostages reportedly are being held by Islamists in northern Mali.

U.S. officials until recently didn’t regard the threat with great urgency, but the rebel advance last week appeared to force France’s hand — and heightened American concern. According to local news reports, one group of fighters attacked the town of Konna and moved toward government-controlled Mopti while a second group advanced to the west, showing a level of coordination that analysts hadn’t seen before.

“Until a week ago, I and others were telling people we don’t really think that there’s much of a threat here, because these [militants] have very parochial interests and we don’t think they’ve got the military capability,” said Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst who worked on Mali and is now an expert at the Rand Corp. think tank.

“What France saw this last week just scared it. It saw real capability, audacity and capacity,” he said.

French President Francois Hollande swiftly sent 550 troops to Mali, mainly to Bamako to secure the airport and, if necessary, evacuate the roughly 6,000 French citizens living there, officials said. France has asked the Pentagon for help in quickly moving another 500 to 600 troops and their equipment into the country, a U.S. defense official said.

U.S. military planners were devising options for using Air Force cargo planes to move the forces from France to staging areas outside Mali, possibly including the neighboring countries of Niger and Burkina Faso, the official said.

“We’re going to do it,” the official said. “We just don’t know what platforms yet,” referring to the types of aircraft.

The United States for several years conducted training operations with Mali’s armed forces but was legally required to suspend all assistance to the Malian government after the March coup. A U.S. official said that restriction was delaying assistance to the French operation, but Obama administration lawyers were looking at ways around the prohibition.

Last month the United Nations signed off on a West African-led plan to send 3,300 regional troops to help Malian forces retake the north. France is putting pressure on the West African bloc to speed the deployment of its soldiers.

Full Story

DARPA’s Deep-Sea Sleeper Drones Fly Out of the Ocean

LMSW Cormorant launch
LMSW Cormorant launch. Concept: Lockheed Martin

aviationweek.com | Jan 11, 2013

by Graham Warwick

Arguing it is costly and complex to send large numbers of warships to forward operating areas – and that the energy and logistics needed to deploy lower-cost unmanned systems over oceanic distances limits their usefulness – DARPA has come with another idea.

That idea is to pre-deploy “deep-ocean nodes” in forward areas years in advance. These would be commanded from a safe stand-off distance to launch to the surface and release waterborne or airborne unmanned systems to disperse and provide ISR or “non-lethal effects” over a wide area in contested environments.

The program is called Upward Falling Payload (UFP), and DARPA plans to brief industry at a proposers’ day on Jan 25 in Washington, DC.

The UFP system would, the notice says, comprise three elements: “The ‘payload’ which executes waterborne or airborne applications after being deployed to the surface; the UFP ‘riser’ which provides pressure-tolerant encapsulation and launch (ascent) of the payload; and the communications which triggers the UFP riser to launch.”

DARPA plans a multi-phase effort to demonstrate the UFP systems. Details are sparse, but the program sounds like it could build on previous efforts such as Lockheed Martin Skunk Work’s Cormorant submarine-launched UAV (pictured above), which was cancelled in 2008. Cormorant was to be a high-performance UAV, but there has been other work on the encapsulated, underwater launch of small UAVs.

The research agency has looked at other ways of forward-deploying unmanned systems. One was Rapid Eye, which was a concept to deploy the UAV a long distance at short notice by rocket, releasing it to unfold and power up in the upper atmosphere. Another was Vulture, a large solar-electric UAV designed to stay aloft and ready in the stratosphere almost indefinitely, Neither got to the flying stage.

Lockheed Cormorant unmanned aircraft

In Prison for Protesting Drones

huffingtonpost.com | Jan 8, 2013

By John Dear

RQ-9_PredatorThis week, the president nominated the head of the U.S. drones program, responsible for killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be his new head of the C.I.A. That is appropriate, because the C.I.A. runs the U.S. torture, rendition, assassination and mass murder program in conjunction with the Pentagon. Of course, all of this pure evil goes contrary to everything the nonviolent Jesus taught. What do we do? We protest the ongoing killings by these evil U.S. drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, continue to call for nonviolent conflict resolution, try to build a movement of nonviolence and take nonviolent risks to stop the killings.

My friend Brian Terrell has taken many nonviolent risks to say No to a future of drones and permanent war. A long time peace activist, a member of the Creech14, and a founder of the “Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm” in Maloy, Iowa, he is currently serving six months in the federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota for protesting our evil U.S. drones program.

On April 15, 2012, Brian and two other friends walked onto the Whiteman Air Force Base in central Missouri to present a letter to the base commander calling for an end to the U.S. drone warfare. They tried to make the case that dropping bombs on women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not lead to peace, much less improve our own security, but in fact, inspire thousands of people to join the violent movements against the United States. Of course, they were immediately arrested, tried, and sentenced in Federal Court. While our recent government war criminals, Wall Street criminals, and torturers go free, Brian is holed up in a cell in South Dakota.

His wife Betsy told me on the phone yesterday that she had a good New Year’s Day visit with Brian, and he recently wrote me an upbeat letter. He hopes to be released in late May. This is Brian’s third arrest for protesting drones. In an article for their newsletter, Brian described their action:

At the Whiteman base, Ron, Mark and I attempted, on behalf of a larger group of protestors, to deliver an “indictment” to Brigadier General Scott A. Vander Hamm, the base’s commander. Our indictment charged the chain of command, from President Obama to General Vander Hamm to the drone crews at Whiteman “with the following crimes: extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians.” It noted the fact that “extrajudicial targeted killings by the use of unmanned air-craft drones by the United States of America are intentional, premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force in violation of U.S. and international human rights law” and demanded that these crimes immediately cease. Our polite request to the base sentries for directions to headquarters to deliver the indictment was denied and our way blocked by military police who handcuffed us and took us away. Our thirty or so companions, clearly exercising the constitutionally-protected right to peaceably assemble for the redress of grievances, were chased off the property by about fifty Air Force personnel in full riot gear who performed a carefully if grotesquely choreographed drill routine, complete with goosesteps and synchronized grunts and beating of clubs on shields.

The notorious Whiteman AFB used to launch B-2 Stealth bombers that flew directly to Iraq, where they dropped their bombs, killed thousands of children, and then turned around and flew home to Missouri, just in time for their Air Force pilots to have dinner with their families. They were also used at the beginning of our war on Afghanistan. These days, Whiteman AFB is building up its Drones program, so that the killing can be done by remote control and robotic fighter bombers.

In his sentencing statement before the judge on October 11, 2012, Brian tried to make the case that the drones should be put on trial. Here’s an excerpt:

Each of the government’s witnesses, all of them Air Force police personnel, testified that participants in this protest were nonviolent, respectful and peaceable in assembling at Whiteman Air Force Base, a government installation, to petition that government for redress of a grievance, demanding that the remote control killing carried out daily from Whiteman cease. They testified that at no time, before or during our protest, did they perceive us as a threat. Our expert witnesses testified that our behavior was consistent with the activities that the drafters of the First Amendment intended to be protected, not persecuted, by the government. The order and security of the base would not have been compromised had the security police allowed us to proceed to the headquarters to deliver our petition. No testimony to the contrary was offered this court.

Instead of planning to accommodate a constitutionally protected peaceable assembly, however, the Air Force chose intimidation and conspired to deprive us of the rights they are sworn to protect. We learned from government witnesses that that the phalanx of goose-stepping riot police is a “Confrontation Management Team,” deployed only in the case of preannounced events. Whiteman security did not call out the Team to defend the base but to intimidate citizens engaged in lawful activities.

The court was mistaken a month ago when it said that our group was “allowed” to assemble on the highway right of way by the Air Force and that this space provided for us met free speech requirements of reasonable time and place. This place in question is not only outside the base’s jurisdiction, it is outside the sight and hearing of anyone on the base. The court’s decision is part of a widening disintegration of civil liberties, where speech is tolerated only in designated and remote “free speech zones” where it cannot be heard by the government, and criminalized in any place where that speech might actually have a chance to be understood. Intended or not, the court’s message is a chilling one- that a citizens’ constitutional right to assemble to petition the government extends only to places outside government facilities and where the government does not have to hear it. The court’s easy dismissal of international law as not “trumping” domestic law has precedents, but is all the more disturbing for this fact.

Last fall, I was on trial for a drone protest in a New York State where, in contrast to this court, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark was permitted to testify on international law. Judge Gideon, after listening to Ramsey Clark speak of the Nuremburg Principles at length, leaned over the bench and asked him, “This is all interesting, but what is the enforcement mechanism? Who is responsible for enforcing international law?” “They are,” responded Mr. Clark, pointing to us defendants, “and so,” he said to Judge Gideon, “are you!” Every citizen is responsible under international law and every judge more so.

In our trial here last month, as at our protest in April, our intention has been to put the illegally operated predator drones on trial and so we have focused on the machines that are sowing death and terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base. It was never our intention to address or to protest the weapons system that is the larger mission of Whiteman, namely the B-2 Stealth Bomber. However, Judge Whitworth, both in sentencing Mark Kenney and in our trial, you noted that your commitment to maintain the security of the B-2 weighs heavily in your decisions. For a judge to admit to being swayed by a consideration other than the law, not to mention when that consideration is the security of weapons of mass destruction, raises obvious questions about that judge’s impartiality.

For my part, Judge Whitworth, I am grateful to you for calling our attention to the larger picture. It is not, of course, the technology of robotics that we protest but the murderous and criminal uses the government puts it to. Drones are the weapon of choice in the current administration’s wars of aggression, but it was the B-2s from Whiteman that first violated Afghan airspace eleven years ago this week and began killing the people of Afghanistan. The crimes against humanity that began in October, 2001, with B-2 airstrikes on a defenseless civilian population continue today with drones operated from that very same base. The B-2 Bomber, blasphemously nicknamed the “Spirit Bomber,” is also ready at a moment’s notice to commit the ultimate and unthinkable war crime of delivering a first strike nuclear payload to any place on earth. A cold war boondoggle, the B-2’s stealth capability shields it from radar the Soviets never got around to developing before their own tragic empire finally imploded.

On the official website for Whiteman Air Force Base I found the base’s mission statement. It is as brief as it is vicious: “Skilled and proud Airmen providing full spectrum, expeditionary, B-2 global strike and combat support capabilities to geographic commanders and the Commander, US STRATCOM, while supporting Team Whiteman. We kick down doors and kill targets… Weapons on Target, On Time!”

I have visited Afghanistan and know that eleven years of NATO troops “kicking down doors” has not brought peace there. Often soldiers don’t seem to know whose door they’ve kicked in or whether the “target” they kill is who they are hunting for. B-2 bombers from a great height or even drones with state of the art video feed do no better. We know that even children are sometimes named as targets to be killed by drones. Children regularly are among their “collateral damage.” The targets themselves are often victims of assassination rather than legitimate casualties of war.

Eleven years of kicking down doors has only made the world a more frightening place and has earned our nation more enemies and less security. Whiteman’s mission is not counter-terrorism; it is terrorism. [See the Catholic Worker website: http://www.justpeace.org]

While Brian was settling in to the horrors of the U.S. prison system last month, I was visiting Afghanistan. There, the youth of the Afghan Peace Volunteers told me that no one there knows who is or who is not a member of the Taliban. How do the U.S. soldiers ten thousand miles away back in America know who are members of the Taliban, they asked me? Most of the drone raids end up killing women and children, they said, as they told me their stories of grief and death.

“When Gandhi was talking about the cycle of violence, I think he was talking about something just as provable as the laws of physics,” Brian told the local newspaper the day before entering prison (see “American Drone Strikes Must Stop,” Yankton Press, Nov. 30, http://www.yankton.net). “We’re taking the Golden Rule and turning it inside out. We’ll do unto other people the worst thing we could imagine happening to us so that it won’t happen to us. But you’re not going to stop your neighbor from wanting to hurt you by hurting your neighbor.”

“There is an Arab proverb that says that a true prophet is a person who can love at long distance,” Brian continued. “I think what the American people desperately need is, while we have this technology to kill people who are very far away and strange to us, to be at least as ready and work just as hard to figure out how we can love the people who are so far away. I think our best ethical, moral and religious energy needs to be put toward loving these people. Otherwise, we’re just making the world a much more dangerous and scary place.”

As we begin a new year, I invite us to heed the peace witness of Brian Terrell and consider what more we ourselves can do for peace. Change comes through grassroots movement building, creative nonviolent action, and nonviolent risks for justice and peace.

May Brian’s prison witness touch our hard-hearts and inspire us to do our part to end drones, bombs, torture, and warfare, once and for all.

Letters of support can be sent to: Brian Terrell, #06125-02, FPC Yankton, Fed. Prison Camp, P.O. Box 700, Yankton, South Dakota, 57078.