Category: War Crimes

NICKY HAGER: New Book “Hit And Run”. SAS In Afghanistan And The Meaning Of Honour.

Image result for nicky hager

Causing a stir in the MSM right now:

New Hager book is Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour

http://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/21-03-2017/new-hager-book-is-hit-run-the-new-zealand-sas-in-afghanistan-and-the-meaning-of-honour/

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have just published Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, which they say ‘tells the story of a dark and guilty secret of New Zealand’s recent history’, and makes the case that six civilians were killed and 15 wounded in an SAS operation.

Below is the Q&A they have issued to media. Beneath that, the NZ Defence Force response, issued at 8.25pm. More comment, analysis and response to follow.

What, where, when, and who?

The events in the book occurred in 2010, mainly in an isolated and mountainous area of Baghlan province known as Tirgiran valley, about 50 kilometres across country from the then-Kiwi base in neighbouring Bamiyan province. New Zealand SAS troopers, supported by Afghan commandos and US helicopters, raided two villages in the valley early in the morning on 22 August 2010. The SAS believed, based on flimsy intelligence, that they would find a group of Taliban fighters who’d attacked a New Zealand patrol 19 days earlier. But the group wasn’t there, and the 21 people killed and wounded in the operation were all civilians – mostly women and children. The campaign continued over the following two years.

How do you know 21 people were wounded or died?

The book contains details of each person: their name and family connections, and injuries, as well as details of precisely where they were when they were wounded or killed. These names have been officially confirmed by the district governor and by numerous other sources; they were all civilians. Each name on the list has a human story: the recently graduated school teacher home on holiday who was killed behind his parents’ house; the three-year-old girl killed by exploding munitions as her mother was trying to carry her to safety; the farmer who lay without medical assistance for nine hours, with a piece of shrapnel lodged in his body, before he died. (See chapter 4)

The New Zealand Defence Force has claimed on multiple occasions that only insurgents were killed in this raid. Is this possible?

No. The defence force knew very soon after the raid that none of the fighters they were targeting had been found during the raid. The claims about killing insurgents, made then and later, were simply false. Indeed, within a day of the raid, an Afghan informer gave our defence force video footage that had been taken on a  mobile phone showing the whole insurgent group arriving alive and well at the funerals for the dead villagers. (See chapter 5). It was common in Afghanistan for US-led forces to claim that civilians killed during military operations were “dead insurgents”.

Who is responsible for the events described in the book?

Most of all, people in the SAS. They gathered the intelligence, planned the raid and commanded and led the operation. The authors believe that the deaths and injuries of 21 civilians, the destruction of homes, and the beating and torture of a detainee were due in large part to their actions and inactions, and that they led the efforts to keep it quiet afterwards. Next there are officers in the defence force who were responsible for overseeing the SAS and who should have investigated more responsibly when news of civilian casualties emerged. This includes the then-chief of defence force Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae, who was in Afghanistan at the time, and who watched on the screens at the SAS operations room in Kabul as the operation unfolded. Then there are the political leaders. Most government decisions are made by individual ministers or by Cabinet as a whole. However in this case, as Chapter 2 describes, the prime minister John Key was briefed by phone from the SAS compound in Kabul and personally gave his approval for the raid.

How did you get the information for the book?

This book would not have been possible without the assistance of present and former New Zealand, Afghan and US military personnel, who spoke to the authors on the condition that their names and identities would not be revealed. These interviews allowed the facts gradually to be assembled and cross-checked. At the same time, people from the Afghan villages that were raided assisted enormously, describing in detail what they experienced and where and when each part of the event occurred.

Why should New Zealanders care?

New Zealanders were told that their military was in Afghanistan to bring peace and reconstruction and that they treated the locals with empathy and respect. But when a New Zealander died in the attack on a New Zealand patrol, our military response was reckless: innocent people were killed and wounded, houses were blown up or burnt down, and our soldiers did nothing to check on or assist the wounded. All this happened in New Zealand’s name, in an operation commanded by New Zealanders, by people whose salaries are paid for by the New Zealand public. Our soldiers’ actions, and those of their US allies, alienated locals and led many to join or support the insurgents and was a key factor in the Taliban gaining complete control of the area.

Surely bad things happen in all wars?

Even in wars and conflicts, people must behave legally. It is vital for the world that they do, or there would be chaos. This is why we have international agreements like the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture which New Zealand has signed and is committed to observing. The New Zealand Defence Force prides itself on obeying international law and acting with integrity. Its core values and Code of Conduct lay out the principles and rules. What is seen in this book goes against much of what the New Zealand military stands for.

Is this book an attack on the troops?

Not at all. Many people in our defence force will be appalled by what is revealed in the book. It was kept secret from most of them as well. Indeed, there would be no book now if there had not been professional New Zealand personnel who were upset with what happened, believed the story needed to be told and helped the authors. Most criticism in the book is reserved for the senior staff and politicians who made the decisions, failed to stop abuses and then, later, when news of the tragedy began to leak out, did nothing about it and joined in the cover up.

Have parts of this story come out before?

Yes. A few of details have emerged in the past, thanks to the efforts of journalists. But the vast majority of the story has remained secret, and what the authors have discovered is much worse than anyone knew. As the book reveals in chapter two, the defence minister at the time, Wayne Mapp, has privately called the raid on Tirgiran “our biggest and most disastrous operation. A fiasco.” (Chapter 2.) But the military decided to keep it all from the public.

Is the SAS responsible for casualties and destruction of property caused by US helicopter gunships or the torture of a detainee by the Afghan secret police?

For a number of reasons, the answer is yes. Under military law, the commander of an operation is responsible for the actions of the subordinate personnel. This was an SAS-led and commanded operation, with a dedicated radio network linking the various New Zealand, Afghan and US components. The SAS collected the intelligence, decided the targets, and led the raid on the ground. That ground commander reported to SAS operations staff at their compound in Kabul. The SAS had requested the use of US helicopters for the operation and were responsible for briefing the pilots. During the operation, US attack helicopters made numerous attacks in two different villages while the SAS commander was present at the scene, yet the SAS on the ground did nothing to help the people caught in the heavy fire. In addition, some of the deaths appear to have been from bullets, not helicopter weapons. An inquiry is needed to determine if any of those deaths were caused by SAS snipers who were reportedly involved in the raid. (See chapters 3 and 4.) Later, when one of the fighters was captured in Kabul, he was beaten by an SAS trooper and handed to the Afghan secret police, where he was tortured. It is not good enough to say that our Afghan allies were responsible for the torture; the SAS knew the people they were handing him to were notorious for mistreating and torturing detainees, yet they transferred him anyway (Chapter 6). When they learnt he had been tortured, they did nothing.

Does the book undermine the safety of the troops by talking about secret SAS operations?

No. And it is very important that “security” isn’t used as an excuse for the military and government to evade responsibility for their decisions and actions. The events in the book occurred when New Zealand was running a military base in Bamiyan province and an SAS contingent in Kabul, but both groups returned to New Zealand several years ago. This is the time to face up to wrongdoing. In fact, international law requires countries to investigate their own breaches, including potential war crimes. The government and military have failed to do this. It’s fallen to others to get the story out.

Are you saying there were war crimes?

War crimes are a highly technical area of law and the authors will leave it to experts to determine whether they have been committed. What we are saying is that there are grounds to suspect that war crimes were committed and it is vitally important that these are taken seriously and investigated in an independent way. We asked human rights lawyer and former Chief Human Rights Commissioner Margaret Bedggood to read the book before it was published and her response is printed on the back cover. She says the alleged actions and decisions described in the book, “if confirmed, would seriously breach international human rights and humanitarian law and could amount to war crimes.”

What do you expect the Defence Force and the government to do in response to the book?

We hope they will order a full and independent inquiry into the raid at Tirgiran and other operations and incidents outlined in the book. We also hope they’ll consider immediately offering an apology and reparations to the affected people in the Afghan villages. What do we expect? Based on their actions to date, there is a chance they may deny and dodge, running the dishonourable line that if anything bad happened – which they won’t admit – it had nothing to do with New Zealand. The whole country will be able to watch how they respond. It will be an important test of the military’s avowed core values: courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity.

Is this all too old to worry about?

Not at all. Things as serious as potential crimes of war fester away, sometimes for decades, until they reach the public and are dealt with. It took six years in this case until enough of the people involved felt ready and willing to help reveal the guilty secrets.

What needs to happen?

First, there needs to be the independent inquiry into all these events, with the power to gather all the relevant information and compel witnesses to appear. Besides the SAS’s own secret reports on their various operations, there may be radio communications and weapon systems video recorded during the raids. There will also be reports and official paperwork relating to the handover of the detainee to the Afghan secret police, and the reports the defence force received describing his torture and interrogation. Finally, there will be defence force and SAS documents showing how much the SAS tried to keep the story secret – even from the rest of the defence force. Chapter 7 documents years of cover-up and it is now time for the SAS and defence force to front up about this.

The government also needs to give the apology and reparations to the villagers. But perhaps most important, there need to to be changes to the SAS and defence force to make what occurred in Afghanistan less likely to happen again. The public should have been told about the SAS action within days of it happening – not years later. The public should not have had to rely on insiders being willing to be whistle blowers. The defence force needs a culture change to be more open to the kind of accountability and democratic control we expect from other government organisations. These issues are explored in Chapter 8.

NZDF RESPONSE TO BOOK

The New Zealand Defence Force stands by the statement it made dated 20 April 2011.

As the 2011 statement says, following the operation, allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures.

The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.

The NZDF does not undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations.  That was the role of the joint Afghan-ISAF investigation.

The NZDF is confident that New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement.

Chris Finalyson:

A spokesperson for acting defence minister Chris Finlayson has said in a statement: “The matter was investigated at the time and I am advised by the New Zealand Defence Force they stand by what they said at the time.”

Syria Shoots Down Israeli Plane After Air OP. Launched To Support ISIS

Syria Shoots Down Israeli Plane After Israel Launches Air Operation In Support Of ISIS

By Brandon Turbeville

Only a week away from a number of Israeli officials making statements suggesting the buildup to a war with Hezbollah, the Israeli Air Force once again launched airstrikes in Syria, alleging that the strikes were taken against a weapons convoy of the Lebanese militia coming through Syria. Four airplanes took place in the operation according to the Syrian military.

However, the Syrian military activated their anti-aircraft missile defense system against the Israeli jets, taking one down and hitting one more. The jet crashed in Israeli territory, however, as the planes were back over Israeli soil by the time the missile was able to connect.

The Israeli operation and the missile firing were both confirmed by the Syrian and Israeli governments. Israel would not confirm that a plane had actually been shot down, however. This is typical of Israel who tends not to acknowledge any military defeats or setbacks publicly.

Israel claimed that its air defense system, Arrow, was able to intercept one of the missiles but would not elaborate. It also refused to say whether or not the missiles caused any further damage to Israeli territory, saying that the missiles did not compromise the safety of civilians or compromise any aircraft.

The Syrian government responded to the Israeli operation by calling it “blatant aggression” designed to support “terrorist gangs” and “deflect from the victories” of the SAA. Of course, one could scarcely argue with the Syrian statement because Israel’s operation, as well as all of its past operations in Syria, is, indeed, blatant aggression. Not only that, but bombing a militia fighting terrorists is, undoubtedly, a bombing operation in support of terrorists.

Still, some are disputing the Israeli claims that Hezbollah was ever the target to begin with. These sources have argued that the Syrian military and its operations around Palmyra, particularly those centered around removing terrorists from the oil and gas fields which aid ISIS in terms of funding.

Interestingly enough, Arrow, one of Israel’s multi-layered missile defense systems, is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles that are located higher in the stratosphere, not mere anti-aircraft missiles. This fact has caused many to question the veracity of the Israeli claim regarding the interception of the Syrian missile.

Israel has launched a series of attacks against the Syrian military and Hezbollah inside Syria since the crisis began in 2011. Indeed, Israel has even been provided material and medical support to terrorists since the crisis began in earnest.

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Neve…, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future …. Turbeville has published over 1000 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

This article may be freely shared in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

“They Dropped Bombs On Us!”

Almost half a century after United States B-52 bombers dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of explosives on Cambodia’s countryside Washington wants the country to repay a $US500 million ($662 million) war debt.

The demand has prompted expressions of indignation and outrage from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

US Air Force B-52 dropping bombs over Southeast Asia in the 1960s.© Public Domain US Air Force B-52 dropping bombs over Southeast Asia in the 1960s.

Over 200 nights in 1973 alone, 257,456 tons of explosives fell in secret carpet-bombing sweeps – half as many as were dropped on Japan during the Second World War.

The pilots flew at such great heights they were incapable of discriminating between a Cambodian village and their targets, North Vietnamese supply lines – nicknamed the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.”

The bombs were of such massive tonnage they blew out eardrums of anyone standing within a 1-kiolmetre radius.

Opposed: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh.© AP Opposed: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh.

War correspondent James Pringle was two kilometres away from a B-52 strike near Cambodia’s border.

“It felt like the world was coming to an end,” he recalls.

A string of bombs dropped by a US plane exploding across fields in Southeast Asia.© Supplied A string of bombs dropped by a US plane exploding across fields in Southeast Asia.

According to one genocide researcher, up to 500,000 Cambodians were killed, many of them children.

The bombings drove hundreds of thousands of ordinary Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, an ultra-Marxist organisation which seized power in 1975 and over the next four years presided over the deaths of more than almost two million people through starvation disease and execution.

The debt started out as a US$274 million loan mostly for food supplies to the then US-backed Lon Nol government but has almost doubled over the years as Cambodia refused to enter into a re-payment program.

William Heidt, the US’s ambassador in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia’s failure to pay back the debt puts it in league with Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

“To me, Cambodia does not look like a country that should be in arrears…buildings coming up all over the city, foreign investment coming in, government revenue is rapidly rising,” Mr Heidt was quoted as saying by the Cambodia Daily.

“I’m saying it is in Cambodia’s interest not to look to the past, but to look at how to solve this because it’s important to Cambodia’s future,” he said, adding that the US has never seriously considered cancelling the debt.

Cambodia’s strongman prime minister Hen Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who defected to Vietnam, hit back, saying “The US created problems in my country and is demanding money from me.”

“They dropped bombs on our heads and then ask up to repay. When we do not repay, they tell the IMF (International Monetary Fund) not to lend us money,” he told an international conference in early March.

“We should raise our voices to talk about the issue of the country that has invaded other (countries) and has killed children.”

Mr Pringle, a former Reuters bureau chief in Ho Chi Minh City, said no-one could call him a supporter of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia with an iron-fist for three decades.

But he said on this matter he is “absolutely correct.”

“Cambodia does not owe a brass farthing to the US for help in destroying its people, its wild animals, its rice fields and forest cover,” he wrote in the Cambodia Daily.

American Elizabeth Becker, one of the few correspondents who witnessed the Khmer Rouge’s genocide, has also written that the US “owes Cambodia more in war debts that can be repaid in cash.”

Mr Hun Sen pointed out that craters still dot the Cambodian countryside and villagers are still unearthing bombs, forcing mass evacuations until they can be deactivated.

“There are a lot of grenades and bombs left. That’s why so often Cambodian children are killed, because they don’t know that they are unexploded ordnance,” he said.

“And who did it? It’s America’s bombs and grenades.”

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/fury-in-cambodia-as-us-asks-to-be-paid-back-hundreds-of-millions-in-war-debts/ar-AAo7Pns?li=BBqdg4K&ocid=SK2MDHP

 

 

Commentary: Is This How World War Three Starts?

By Nolan Peterson

 

It’s cold, and I’m alone. I walk along Khreshchatyk, this city’s main boulevard. The street lights cast shadows on the ground, concealing patches of slippery ice and trampled snow. I walk thoughtfully and carefully, unable to clearly see the obstacles in my path.

As is so often the case in a foreign country, even in one that starts to feel like home, the compiled differences in language and life experience isolate you, making you hyper aware to minute details.

A small group of soldiers in uniform huddle outside a bar. They’re smoking cigarettes. A group of pretty young women in leather high-heeled boots and black fur coats walk past. The soldiers are young men, but they hardly seem to notice. Their war isn’t over, and they’re not yet ready to pretend like it is.

Old women sell trinkets like blue and yellow wristbands (Ukraine’s national colors) at souvenir stands on the sidewalk across the street from a Niketown store. Like when I first arrived in Ukraine three years ago, the old women’s wares include rolls of toilet paper and door mats adorned with the likeness of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Up in the windows of some of the apartments along Khreshchatyk, Ukrainian flags hang. Ukraine is, by the way, the only country outside of the United States where I have observed such an ubiquitous display of the national colors.

There are also a few red and black flags of Ukrainian partisan groups, which fought against both the Nazis and the Red Army in World War II. Reminders of this country’s tragic history trapped between the armies of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in the no man’s land of the deadliest battlefield in the deadliest war in human history.

Today, this country remains at the front lines of the same ideological fault lines from World War II, which are reopening across Europe and the world.

In 1935, as war clouds gathered in Europe, the American author and war correspondent Ernest Hemingway wrote:

War is no longer made by simply analyzed economic forces if it ever was. War is made or planned now by individual men, demagogues and dictators who play on the patriotism of their people to mislead them into a belief in the great fallacy of war when all their vaunted reforms have failed to satisfy the people they misrule.

Background

The war is still there, even when I don’t go to it.

Nothing has changed in the past two years since the February 15, 2015, cease-fire was signed. Except for what has been lost in the time in between.

More than 10,000 are now dead, almost 2 million have fled their homes. About $20 billion worth of damage to repair.

And yet, nothing has been won or lost. Although, the war hasn’t gotten any worse. And Ukrainians’ dream of a better life, free from oppression and corruption, which inspired the 2014 revolution, has not yet died.

That’s a victory, too, I suppose.

I walk along Khreshchatyk to the Maidan, Kiev’s central square where the revolution was born three years ago. Today, on this evening, the Maidan is not crowded. Only faint, scattered clues of the revolution remain.

Faded burn marks remain on the stone floor of the square, where protesters burned tires as a smoke screen from the snipers. The Trade Unions Building, which was set ablaze on February 18, 2014, is still a burnt out skeleton. White panels conceal it from view. “Glory to Ukraine” is written in giant letters.

The war has become the invisible background din to life in Ukraine. You won’t notice its clues unless you purposefully pay attention for them. But the war is always there, stealthily ever-present.

There is a street performer playing guitar, somehow able to operate his fingers in the brutal cold. He plays a Ukrainian-language song about the war. A man wearing a loose-fitting, mismatched military uniform stands apart, watching. He has a bottle of horilka (Ukrainian for vodka) in his hand, from which he sips frequently. His eyes are half-closed, and he sways out of rhythm to the music, mouthing the words.

The hardest part of war is often the coming home. Wars, after all, never really end for those who fight in them. That’s just as true for this war as for any other.

Heroes

I pass through the Maidan and up the steep cobblestone street to the top of the hill overlooking the square.

The street used to be called Institutskaya Street. Now, it’s the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred Street, a reference to the roughly 100 protesters who were killed during the revolution.

The street’s cobblestones have all been replaced. Protesters ripped them out of the ground in 2014 to build defensive barricades against the special police unit, called the Berkut, deployed against them by deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

There, at the top of the street, in front of the upper entrance to the Maidan metro station, lies a memorial to the “heavenly hundred.”

At this place, on February 20, 2014, snipers gunned down dozens of unarmed protestors. Today, likenesses of the fallen are etched into metal placards. Passers-by, family members, friends have left flowers and candles beside the many faces.

The fallen, memorialized at this hallowed place, comprise men and women, students and professors, 18-year-olds and 70-year-olds. Hardly the CIA-sponsored Nazis the Kremlin says they were. Rather, ordinary Ukrainians who walked head-on into gunfire to stand up for their freedom.

The price for that freedom was steep. On the ground, in the light poles, in the brittle bark-flesh of the the leafless trees—bullet holes remain.

If you’ve ever been to war, then you know this: Walking toward the sound of gunfire takes a lot of courage.

I feel the cold wind lap at my neck. I hear the click of passing heels on the stone sidewalk. The door to the metro station makes a ratcheting sound as it opens and closes. You can hear that same sound in the YouTube videos of the protestors being gunned down.

Nearby, there are fancy shops, like Cartier, Faberge and Louis Vuitton. There’s a McDonald’s restaurant down the street across the Maidan. That’s where, during the revolution, my friend Valentyn Onyshchenko went to wash his face clean of the blood and bits of brain that spattered on him when a man standing in front of him was shot by a sniper.

Tonight, at this place where so many died three years ago, pedestrians scurry by, on their way to the metro station for the rush-hour commute home.

A man walks by, holding a child’s hand.

The veneer between civilization and barbarism is thinner than we might imagine, I think.

I am within a five-minute walk of my apartment, where my fiancee waits for me. When I get home, if I wanted to, I could order Domino’s Pizza delivery and watch a movie on Netflix through my Apple TV.

I drag my fingers over the bullet holes, as if to confirm, once again, that they are true.

People died here. The snipers shot some of the protesters in the leg. Helpless, they called to their friends to save them. Those comrades rushed up to help, only to be gunned down themselves.

Center of mass. Dead almost instantly. Their bodies fall to the earth in that faster-than-gravity way that dead men do. Like the power has been switched off. Bam, down, dead, done. Nothing dramatic or heroic about it. Just alive and then dead, without any dying in between.

That’s war. But war doesn’t belong in an evening like this, in such a city.

It seems impossible. But it’s real, it’s true. And it’s still happening just hours away. Tanks, heavy artillery, rocket attacks, snipers, trench warfare. In Europe. In 2017.

It’s still happening. People are still dying.

History Repeating

Sure, it feels good to believe that history is moving in the right direction. To retain hope that we, as a species, are better off than we were during, let’s say, World War II, two generations ago.

I think about 72-year-old Anatoli Bastriski sitting on a green bench outside his artillery-razed home in the eastern Ukrainian village of Semyonovka. It was August 2014, weeks after a battle between Ukrainian troops and combined Russian-separatist forces.

Bastriski wore a blue paddy cap and sat with one leg over the other and his arms folded across his thigh. The wall behind him was pockmarked by shrapnel. The street was mostly cleared of debris, but almost every skeleton of a home along the way was unoccupied. There was no one else on the road. The trees were stripped clean of branches and leaves, only the charred trunks survived the artillery barrage.

Bastriski, a Jew, was an infant when the Nazis occupied this part of Ukraine. His family survived the Holocaust, but lost their home in the war.

When the shells started to fall in 2014, Bastriski chose to remain in Semyonovka, riding out the battle in his basement. Even when the roof of his brick home was obliterated by artillery fire, he refused to flee.

“I was born here, and I built my home with my own hands,” Bastriski told me. “The Germans destroyed my parents’ home, and I’ll rebuild this one.”

He cracked a half-smile, shrugged his shoulders, and added, “I’d leave, but the cemetery is too far away.”

Gravity

Will future generations look back on us with the same disbelief that we “didn’t see it coming” as we now look back on those who appeased Hitler, or apologized for Stalin, or Communist Chairman Mao Zedong?

We think that something like World War II could never happen to us, because, well, we’re the ones alive now. We’re different, aren’t we? We have globalization and the United Nations and the internet.

Unfortunately, though, truth has a habit of showing itself, even if we choose to ignore it.

The bullet holes on the sidewalk in Kiev. And the war, which is only a six-hour train ride away. Both reminders that, collectively, we are just treading water, fighting against the gravitational tug of history. The minute we stop kicking, we descend, quickly and easily, into those dark depths from which we thought we had escaped.

“Americans should not take the current international order for granted,” retired General David Petraeus told Congress on February 1. “It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so, it will fray and, eventually, collapse.”

I must confess, it’s hard to believe in the inevitability of violence on a cold winter’s night in a peaceful, European capital city like Kiev.

The McDonald’s restaurants, the cocktail bars, the fancy shops—it sure feels good to stare at shadows for a night. But the bullet holes, the war—that’s the light at my back, dimming the shadows so much that I can no longer believe in them.

One last thought. I’ve written this sentence before, but it bears repeating:

The only way to prevent the next world war from happening is to believe that it could

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/comment-nolan-peterson-is-this-how-world-war-iii-starts/ar-AAni4Ut?li=BBqdg4K&ocid=SK2MDHP

Eternal Sunshine: Erasing Bad Memories

Could erasing memories of distressing events help with PTSD? Scientists think so.

Soldiers could be cured of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by erasing memories of disturbing events, scientists believe.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that individual memories are encoded in just a few cells of the brain, and hope they will be able to switch them off using drugs.

Figures from the Ministry of Defence show that around 400 soldiers a year report symptoms of PTSD and, in the last five years, the charity Combat Stress has received nearly 10,000 referrals largely linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many more suffer similar trauma – with symptoms including flashbacks, insomnia and paranoia – from events such as child abuse, road accidents and crime.

READ MORE
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​* Government not doing enough to help with PTSD, says veteran
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Researchers hope they will be able to erase memories of traumatic events after turning off specific memories in mice.

“Although there are millions of neurons in the brain, only a few of them are necessary to form a fear or threat memory,” said Dr Sheena Josselyn, Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology.

“Our findings suggest that one day it could be possible to treat people with PTSD by erasing these traumatic memories. In these people, the memories are intrusive and disrupt their lives.

“Our goal would be to find a pharmacological way to target and inactivate just these neurons, like a heat seeking missile-like drug.”

Memories are stored in small networks of cells called “engrams” and scientists discovered they could turn off memories by surgically removing engrams in mice.

The process is similar to that portrayed in the Kate Winslet film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which characters have memories of bad relationships removed at a clinic.

In real life, Josselyn said memories would only be removed when they interfered with mental health.

She added: “We all learn from our mistakes. If we erase the memory of our mistakes, what is to keep us from repeating them?

“Our studies provide a proof-of-principle. However, our society needs to develop ethical policies around the potential use of this.”

British experts also expressed concern. Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This is an interesting advance but we need to be cautious.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/89570789/hope-for-ptsd-cure-by-erasing-bad-memories

 

Needless to say there are some thorny ethical and psychological issues with erasing memories.

Shades of MKultra?

A soldier without traumatic memories of the horrors of war is likely to stripped of guilt or conscience. And how long before the well heeled can have memories erased to order? And how many unsuspecting folk have already had memories erased, alien abduction style?

Don’t know how anyone else feels, but the whole concept of memory erasure, even for apparent good reason, makes me cringe.

 

 

 

Human Rights Watch: Proof Of Chemical Weapons Use In Syria

Image result for chemical weapons aleppo

 

By Anthony Deutsch | AMSTERDAM

AMSTERDAM Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during battles to retake the city late last year, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Monday.

The findings add to mounting evidence of the use of banned chemical weapons in the six-year-old Syrian civil war and could strengthen calls by Britain, France and the United States for sanctions against Syrian officials.

Government helicopters dropped chlorine bombs “in residential areas in Aleppo on at least eight occasions between November 17 and December 13, 2016,” the New York-based group said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees a global treaty banning toxic warfare, had no immediate comment.

Syria and its ally Russia, which helped state troops in the Aleppo assault, have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the conflict. They blame opposition militants seeking to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Human Rights Watch said its report, which was based on interviews with witnesses, analysis of videos and photos and social media posts, did not find proof of Russian involvement in the chemical attacks, but noted Moscow’s key role in helping the government to retake Aleppo.

“The attacks, some of which included multiple munitions, killed at least nine civilians, including four children, and injured around 200,” it said.

Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview that the way chemical attacks moved in step with the frontline showed they were an integral part of the offensive.

“This is a strong indication that these chlorine attacks were coordinated with the overall military strategy. And it is a strong indication then that senior military officers, the commanders of this military offensive in Aleppo, knew that chlorine was being used,” he said.

A U.N.-OPCW inquiry assigned to identify organizations and individuals responsible for the chemical attacks concluded last October that Syrian government forces had used chlorine as a chemical weapon at least three times in 2014-15. Islamic State militants, it said, had used sulfur mustard gas in one attack.

The U.N. Security Council extended the mandate of the inquiry, known as the Joint Investigative Mission (JIM), until November this year. It is due to issue its next report by Saturday.

Responding to the JIM’s findings, the United States last month blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials it said were connected to the country’s weapons of mass destruction program.

Reuters reported in January that leading Syrian officials, including President Assad and his brother, had been identified as possible suspects in the chemical attacks.

Chlorine’s use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. If inhaled, chlorine gas turns into hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in the resulting body fluids.

(Additional reporting by Marina Depetris; Editing by Ed Osmond)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-chemicalweapons-idUSKBN15S1W7

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A Collective Organism?

Image result for perdix drone

© Alphr.com US military drops swarm of self-thinking drones from jets Strange things have been happening in the Californian desert. The US military has announced that it has conducted its largest-ever test into new drone-swarm technology, having launched over a hundred from the back of three F/A-18 Super Hornet jets.

103 Perdix drones, named after the Greek mythical hero who was transformed into a partridge, were tested last October. These drones have a wingspan of around 30cm, and communicate with each other via a distributed brain.

The drones are given a mission, but instead of being programmed with specific directions, the small machines work out how to complete a task for themselves. On the fly, as it were.

“Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronised individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” said William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office at the US Department of Defense.

“Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”

The Department of Defense released a video of the test online, which shows the jets launching the drones, and then an aerial view of the drones carrying out a series of missions. Perhaps most unsettling is the shot at the end, of the drones screeching collectively as they circle a target.

The machines are able to withstand speeds up to mach 0.6 and temperatures of -10°C, although the element of noise may need to be addressed if the Perdix drones want to be successful in their primary goal, which is thought to be surveillance.

The test mission took place on China Lake, in California, which may or may not give some clue about the intended targets of the Perdix drones’ future assignments. Talking to the BBC, Elizabeth Quintana, at UK military think tank the Royal United Services Institute, said that China has a significant amount of expertise when it comes to drone manufacturing.

“It’s going to be very interesting – it won’t just be about who has the biggest swarm, but also about who can outmanoeuvre who,” she told the broadcaster.

In 2015, the US Navy demonstrated testing of a similar drone swarm – of drones named Cicada (Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft), which are designed to be cheap to produce and disposable after a single mission.

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/money/technology/us-military-drops-swarm-o…

Obama Moves Hundreds Of Tanks To Russian Border

January 8th, 2016 – Fort Russ News – 

– SVP – Interview with Andrei Polunin – 
 
On Friday, January 6th, at the German port of Bremerhaven, hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment began arriving from the US. The transport ship Resolve has delivered the goods to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, United States located in  Eastern Europe, as reported by Reuters.
 
According to the agency, the two other American transports – Freedom and Endurance – should reach the coast of Germany today, 8th of January. In Bremerhaven, the military equipment is to be loaded into rail cars, and then sent to their destination via the territory of Germany and Poland. According to the Bundeswehr, 900 cars will be required for the transportation with a total length of 14 kilometers. 
 
We recall that Washington’s plans to deploy in Eastern Europe an armored brigade group became known in late April 2016. As the commander of the European Command of the US Armed Forces (EUCOM), General Philip Breedlove , this is a reaction to the “aggressive” policy of the Kremlin. On paper, the Americans plan looks impressive: 4,200 troops, 250 tanks and howitzers, military equipment and 1,700 additional vehicles.
 
The decision to deploy a third brigade in Europe is more costly to the Pentagon. The White House announced its intention to allocate over $ 3.4 billion in 2017, for additional weapons and equipment in Europe. The given figure is four times higher than the amount provided in the budget for 2016.
 
The new team will be different from the other two brigades of the US Army stationed in Germany and Italy. New barracks in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic States will not be built. Personnel and equipment will change every nine months. The brigade will break into small units, which will then be placed in rotation in various countries. This approach Washington intend to ensure respect for the fundamental act of the NATO – Russia in 1997. Under its provisions, the alliance should refrain from the permanent deployment in Eastern Europe “substantial combat forces”.
SP: Pentagon plans immediately caused a sharp reaction from the Kremlin. As Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko said “they further complicate the already difficult relations” between Russia and NATO. The Permanent Representative described the intention of the US military leadership as taking “the next step, setting up a transition of NATO from watchdog to aggressive.”
 
Will they will correct these plans once Donald Trump comes to power in the United States, how will Russia respond to the strengthening of NATO in Eastern Europe?
 
A. Polunin: Barack Obama began the transfer of 3rd Armoured Brigade in Europe earlier than planned – said a leading expert of the Center for Military-Political Studies of MGIMO, doctor of political science Mikhail Alexandrov . Initially, I remind you, the operation was scheduled for February 2017. This is done, of course, within the framework of the decisions of the Warsaw Summit of NATO to deploy four battalion tactical groups in Poland and the Baltic States.
Here it is necessary to understand that battalion tactical groups have the infrastructure for rapid deployment in the full team. Personnel can be airlifted and equipment is already in stock. This will be the most capable  team of the West in Europe, plus they will support the Polish army, which is quite an impressive effect – taking into account that the aircraft can be quickly deployed from Germany and even from the United States.
 
As a result, the United States will be able to in two weeks to create the most powerful striking force on the borders of the Kaliningrad region.
On our side, I remember, there are only three divisions, plus the Baltic Fleet. However, NATO members could delay our fleet forces by bringing additional naval groups in the Baltic, where, incidentally, there is also the German Navy, and Polish. In other words, the West is really able to quickly establish superiority of forces in the region of Kaliningrad.
SP: How can we resist such a deployment?
A. Polunin: We can increase the grouping in  most of the Kaliningrad region. But there is a small area, and we did not place a lot of troops on it. In addition, these compounds will be in direct impact zone. This means that if NATO decided to strike first, our troops will for the most part be destroyed.
 
In my opinion, the best option is to create two tank armies on the borders of Latvia and Lithuania. In this case, the alliance will not have illusions that it can capture the Kaliningrad region. Even if Belarus will remain neutral – given the current “wobbly” policy of Alexander Lukashenko – our armored army rolls and passes through Latvia, Lithuania, and quickly come to the borders of the Kaliningrad region.
 
As a result, our group in Kaliningrad will need to hold out for two or three days, and then crush the Polish army, and American teams with our tank armies.
 
The main thing, I repeat, NATO should have no doubt that we will crush them in the region even without the use of nuclear weapons. Because now the alliance expects that we do not dare go to the use of nuclear weapons, and hopes for predominance in conventional weapons.
SP: – Can Trump push back the Obama administration plans to strengthen in Eastern Europe?
A. Polunin: – I think he can. But Obama just does everything to hinder this coming together. If what was planned is postponed until February, Trump – whose inauguration will be held January 20th – could postpone the transfer of troops to the talks with Vladimir Putin , and then completely abolish it.
But now Trump can not withdraw troops  – otherwise he would be serious attacked on the part of all Russophobes and representatives of the US Democratic Party. Therefore, he will have to proceed with caution.
SP: – What’s the Kremlin to do in such a situation ?
 
A. Polunin – Putin, I believe he needs to have a conversation about making NATO return to its promise – not to deploy substantial forces in Eastern Europe – and that US troops were withdrawn. Otherwise we will be forced to take retaliatory measures that are adequate.
However, Trump himself must decide whether he aims at the continuation of confrontation with Russia, or wants to change the vector of  foreign policy. In theory, he could blackmail us increasing in Eastern Europe in the hope that we will bargain on Syria, as well as with regard to Iran and China.
But if Trump really dares such blackmail, it will be a failing policy. In this case we are not going to retreat, and force Americans to delay more forces on the Eastern European front. As a result, Washington has no strength left to resist Beijing or solve problems in the Middle East. So that Trump should think twice before he goes to the escalation of tensions on the Russia-US line.
A correction of the NATO course in Eastern Europe is possible, but not in the near future, according to the deputy director of the Tauride information-analytical center Sergey Ermakov RISS .
An advanced military presence is a very important thing for the Americans. In addition, anti-Russian legislative initiatives, which came from Obama at the end of his presidency, has a certain inertia. With that Trump will have to be considered. It’s no coincidence that American political scientists believe that the way of the new US president delivered a maximum of barriers, so that he too came closer to Russia.
 
In addition, the question now acutely rise, what will come of NATO? The alliance in recent years formed several centers of power – Western Europe, the neophytes, who are ready to support the United States in every way, plus Turkey, which is now playing a big foreign game.
This makes NATO an important tool for the United States, despite Trump’s claims  about the futility of the alliance. It is realized through the NATO military policy of the USA. And in order to support the alliance, keep it afloat and justify its appropriateness, the Americans really need a military presence in Eastern Europe.
Massimiliano GRECO in Opinione Pubbica, translated from Italian by Tom Winter –

The usual McCain welter of threats and accusations directed at Putin

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham went to Kiev to bring support to the Ukrainian coup, promising that 2017 will be the year in which America will regulate accounts with Putin, who will be, in their terms, defeated on the fields of battle of Eastern Europe. “If Putin wins in Ukraine, then he can invade the rest of the world,” said McCain. “Your struggle is our struggle,” he added, pointing to the putschists. “Back home, we will push for measures to be taken on the issue. It is time for them to pay a heavy price.”

Graham, first asserts that “the Russians will have to pay a high price: it’s time that they stop attacking other countries,” then poses as a moderate, saying that “our struggle is not against the Russian people, but against Putin.”

McCain, for his part, reiterated: “I believe we will win. We will do everything we can to provide what is needed for victory. On the other hand, the successes we have achieved, we owe not to the equipment, but to your courage. The world is watching: we can not allow Vladimir Putin to succeed here, because if he succeeds here, he will succeed in other countries. ”

McCain concluded by saying that for him Putin really manipulated the American elections, and that this too, should reinforce both the sanctions against Moscow, and the military aid to countries friendly to America, including Ukraine.

What to say? The hatred of McCain and his companions is not rational, given that, if Putin really manipulated the American elections, making the Republicans win, McCain, being a Republican, for consistency should ask his party colleagues to resign, starting with Trump.

The outbursts of McCain, who actually delegitimizes Trump and only criticizes Obama for being too good with Putin, demonstrate, once again, that the real clash in America is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between realists and neoconservatives. In the first set we find Trump and Kissinger, in the second, Soros, Clinton, and McCain.

Thanks to John de Rothschild for source.