Category: Military

US evacuates embassy in Libya

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I’m not certain even an evacuation would get me up in an OspreyPhoto by Shawn Valosin/US Marine Corps

The United States has shut its embassy in Libya and evacuated its diplomats to neighbouring Tunisia under US military escort after fighting intensified between rival militias in the capital’s streets…

Speaking in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that “free-wheeling militia violence” had become a real risk to US staff as clashes erupted around the embassy…

The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately…

Britain’s foreign office on Saturday also urged British nationals to leave by commercial means, due to “ongoing and greater intensity fighting in Tripoli and wider instability throughout Libya.”

American personnel at the Tripoli embassy, which had already been operating with limited staffing, left the capital around dawn and traveled by road to neighbouring Tunisia, according to spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The move marks the second time in a little more than three years that Washington has closed its embassy in Libya.

There’s no truth to the rumor that John McCain was seen in a rented Toyota pickup truck with a machine gun mounted in the bed – dashing off to Benghazi to rescue Darrell Issa who’s been supplementing his Wall Street investments as an itinerant arms dealer.

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Israelis shell Gaza hospitals


In the Al-Aqsa HospitalMohammed Abed/AFP-Getty Images

Israeli tanks have shelled a hospital in the central Gaza Strip, killing at least five people and wounding at least another 50.

Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza, said according to early reports the third floor of the al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah had been hit by at least three tank shells on Monday…

Al-Aqsa Hospital is the third to be hit by Israeli tank fire since Israel launched its ground offensive in Gaza four days ago.

Al Jazeera’s Dekker said the scene of the hospital shelling was an area “where a lot of people had been fleeing to”…”There’s extremely heavy shelling going on in that neighbourhood. This is an area you’d think would be relatively safe,” she said…

A distressed doctor at the scene of the attack told Al Jazeera: “We cannot do anything here for our patients, all the patients, all the injured in the emergency department.”

There were no known indications that the hospital was used by armed factions of Hamas…

That is the excuse the Israeli military always uses for killing civilians in any facility normally protected by international protocols.

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U.S. Navy has its first female four star admiral


Addressing crew at her first command, USS Fort McHenryKristopher Wilson

The United States Navy promoted Michelle Howard from vice admiral to admiral Monday, making Howard the first female in the Navy’s 236-year history to hold the rank of four star admiral.

Along with her new rank and four star shoulder bars, Howard will also take on the post of Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the second highest position in the Navy.

Howard, no stranger to making history, was the first black woman to command a Navy ship.

Howard was promoted to her new rank during a ceremony held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “But also, it is an historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position…

“Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves — a nation where success is not born of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability,” Mabus told the crowd during the ceremony. “She is also a great example of how much we as a nation and a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in, if we don’t judge people based on their ability, based on their capability.

Of course, if she’s stationed anywhere in the new extended Confederacy she may have a rough time voting.

New Mexico the leader of the pack – turning coppers into militia

If you think local police look increasingly like soldiers armed for battle instead of civil servants responsible for protecting you, it’s not your imagination.

As noted in the Journal’s recent three-part series analyzing “mission creep” at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the federal government funnels millions of tax dollars to local police departments in the form of grants used to buy high-powered paramilitary style weapons and other gear.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are also tapping into a military surplus program to acquire Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Interestingly – some would say disturbingly – New Mexico police departments, representing one of the nation’s least populous states, have acquired more of these fearsome-looking armored vehicles than any other state, according to a New York Times analysis.

In an article published this month, the Times found that there are at least 42 MRAPs now stationed at New Mexico law enforcement agencies.

Texas – with 37 – had the second-largest number…

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report titled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” It’s a sobering analysis of the increasingly violent and invasive techniques police are using, especially in the war on drugs.

The ACLU report calls for the federal government to rein in the incentives for police to militarize. The civil liberties group also asks that local, state and federal governments track the use of SWAT raids, and the guns, tanks and other military equipment that end up in police hands…

The national trend of police militarization is clearly felt here in New Mexico,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU of New Mexico. “We have towns like Farmington operating armored vehicles and the Albuquerque Police Department shooting civilians at alarming rates.

“This military mindset, coupled with assault-style tactics and weapons, positions the public as the enemy, rather than human beings they have sworn to serve and protect.”

Who is going to protect us from our police?

Egypt court obediently finds Al Jazeera journalists guilty

A judge on Monday convicted three journalists of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports of civil strife in Egypt.

Two of the journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison, and the third was given 10 years, the three additional years apparently for his possession of a single spent bullet. The case has drawn condemnation from international rights groups and Western governments because there was no publicly available evidence that the journalists had either supported the Brotherhood or broadcast anything inaccurate.

In a potentially embarrassing turn for the Obama administration, the verdict came a day after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo in a show of renewed partnership with the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who led the military takeover here last summer. Declaring that the Egyptian president “gave me a very strong sense of his commitment” to “a re-evaluation of human rights legislation” and “a re-evaluation of the judicial process,” Mr. Kerry expressed confidence that Washington would quickly resume the $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt that the administration had partially suspended after the takeover…

Just in case anyone out there actually thought the United States had changed foreign policy since the days of Joe McCarthy and John Foster Dulles.

The three journalists convicted on Monday are respected professionals who were reporting for Al Jazeera’s English-language network at the time of their arrest and who had previously worked for established international news organizations. Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian citizen of Egyptian descent, previously worked for CNN and The New York Times; Peter Greste, an Australian, previously worked for the BBC and had spent only a few days in Egypt at the time of his arrest; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, previously worked for the Japanese news organization The Asahi Shimbun.

All three have been in jail since their arrest in December after a raid on Al Jazeera’s makeshift studio in a Marriott Hotel, and they have been described in the state-run and pro-government Egyptian news media as “the Marriott cell.”

Rights advocates have described the charges as farcical…When asked by the court to screen the allegedly false news reports obtained from the defendants’ laptops, prosecutors showed images that included Mr. Greste’s family vacation, horses grazing in a pasture in Luxor, Egypt, and a news conference by the Kenyan police that Mr. Greste had covered in Nairobi…

Several students were also convicted and sentenced along with the journalists, apparently on charges that they had collaborated with the journalists to generate inflammatory news reports of student protests against the takeover.

Outside the courtroom, the British, Australian and Canadian ambassadors all denounced the conviction as a blow to freedom of the press, and all pledged diplomatic pressure to free the imprisoned journalists.

The military junta governing Egypt behaves as expected. The United States behaves as expected. In general, Western democracies will do what can be done through diplomatic channels to try to reverse the phony findings of the Egyptian court.

Meanwhile, Uncle Sugar will resume pouring our tax dollars into the pockets of the thugs in power.

Japan “interprets” regulations to hide over a ton of plutonium

Japan-Developing-Nuclear-Weapons-Preparing-For-War

The Japanese government has not declared about 640 kg of unused plutonium in its annual report for the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2012 and 2013, an amount enough to make 80 nuclear bombs…

Japan claims to own 44 tons of plutonium, while the actual amount is 45 tons, said Japan’s Kyodo News Agency. The unreported plutonium is part of the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel placed at an offline reactor in a nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture, southern Japan.

The MOX fuel was loaded in March 2011, shortly before the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis happened later that month. Until two years later, the unused fuel was taken out from the reactor which remained offline.

An official from Japan Atomic Energy Commission argued that the plutonium is considered being used and hence exempt from reporting to the IAEA.

But plenty of experts both abroad and at home criticized the action of the Japanese government for failing to recognize the seriousness of the problem…”From the safeguards point of view this material is still un- irradiated fresh MOX fuel regardless of its location,” former IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen said. Thus the unreported plutonium could be diverted to as many as 80 nuclear bombs.

Japan keeps the largest amount of plutonium among non-nuclear nations. The country used it for power generation in the past, but after the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, Japan’s nuclear reactors remain idle.

The big amounts of plutonium are causing regional worries over Japan’s motives, as well as global concerns over the security of these nuclear fuel reserves.

This ain’t an “oops!” moment. Reflect for a minute on what reasons there might be for Japan to hide a ton of plutonium. It’s not like they’re paying taxes or licensing fees on the stuff.

It isn’t likely Japan would sell plutonium to some other nation – especially when the first use that comes to mind is production of nuclear bombs or warheads, dirty or otherwise. Just when the Abe government is trying to unwrite the nation’s pacifist constitution.

Last of the original Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez — died at age 93

This article appeared in the military newspaper, STARS AND STRIPES, last November. Honoring Chester Nez.

The 29 U.S. Marines dodged bullets at the front — first in the Pacific and then in Germany — passing top-secret messages to each other in a code that the enemy couldn’t crack.

The warriors, Navajo Code Talkers, relied on their their native language to develop the code, which helped to turn the course of World War II in the favor of the Allies. Of the original group, only one is still alive: Chester Nez.

On Nov. 9, the American Veterans Center honored Nez and six other veterans for bravery and valor above and beyond the call of duty during combat. Nez received the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service in the military during World War II.

“I was very proud to say that the Japanese did everything in their power to break that code but they never did,” Nez said in an interview with Stars and Stripes the day before the award ceremony.

If the Code Talkers had been caught, he said, they would be tortured and their tongues cut out. They risked everything for the United States, even though they were raised in military boarding schools that prohibited them from speaking their native language…

Their language, however, would serve the United States well later, in 1942, when Americans were dying in rising numbers overseas, especially in the Pacific. The Japanese seemed to know what the U.S. military was planning well before it took place.

That’s where the Code Talkers came in, recruited from boarding schools to join the Marines and use their unique skills to develop an unbreakable code to pass messages…

World War I veteran Philip Johnston, who came up with the idea to develop the Navajo Code in 1941, came to Nez’ boarding school to recruit. The volunteers went directly into basic training without any goodbyes. Nez left behind his sister Dora, his father and his beloved grandmother, who wouldn’t know he was fighting until two years after he left…

After the war, the Navajo men received no fanfare, and many struggled, said Judith Avila, who co-wrote Nez’s memoir “Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Talkers of WWII” and helped Nez during the Nov. 8 interview.

Instead of people thanking them for their service, they faced discrimination and insults, she said. When Nez wore his Marine Corps uniform to register for his Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood — required for all Native Americans — the clerk told Nez he wasn’t a real citizen…

Without support, suffering from what most now know to be post-traumatic stress, many Code Talkers turned to alcohol and lived on the streets. There were about 420 Code Talkers that followed the original 29 into service. Of that group, about 30 are still alive.

Nez said he was one of the lucky ones. When he returned, he was embraced by his family. He got a job at the VA, which he kept until the 1970s.

Nez still has good memories of his time with the Marines, whom he said treated the Code Talkers very well. Latham Nez, who accompanied his grandfather to the awards, said the Marines saw the Navajo men as “damn good Marines” who were already warriors when they left for basic training.

I met a few Code Talkers when I lived in the Navajo Nation. It was an honor.

The contrast between the reception back home for white soldiers compared to Black, Hispanic and Native American veterans is well known, nowadays. But, decades of indifference and bigotry have been exceedingly slow to disappear from even acceptable behavior in polite society.


Jake Schoellkkopf/Los Angeles Times

Chester Nez was a brave and courageous American. He died, yesterday, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Thanks, Mike

The Pentagon has a plan to stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Really.

The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.

Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”

Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead — from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even “evil magic zombies” — and destroy them.

CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”

Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners … realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”

In other words, it’s about as realistic as the 50 times Congressional Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare.

U.S. Air Force confident that they can take out Godzilla

During an interview with the Smithsonian’s Air and Space magazine, members of the United States Air Force confirmed that there is a contingency plan for taking out Godzilla — if the fire-breathing sea creature ever does attack.

Master Sgt. Jason Edwards of Kadena Air Base said the Air Force would deploy “4,000 Segways and slingshots” and would need help from certain people.

“Well I could go with Chuck Norris, but that would be the obvious one,” Edwards said. “As I understand it, the Power Rangers are probably a good choice in this type of scenario…

There are more than 50 F-15 fighter jets available at Kadena, so those planes would likely be utilized as well.

Heartwarming to witness such self-confidence guiding our military.