Category: Military

Obama orders review of militarizing local coppers

President Obama has ordered a review of the government’s decade-old policy of sending military equipment to local police departments across the country…

Federal officials began reconsidering civilian police department’s use of such equipment — including body armor, mine-resistant armored trucks, silencers and automatic rifles — following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Local police used military-style equipment during violent clashes with demonstrators protesting the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer…

During widespread coverage of the Ferguson unrest, the public has absorbed images of heavily armed police, snipers trained on protesters and tear gas plumes.

“This equipment flowed to local police forces because they were increasingly being asked to assist in counterterrorism. But displays of force in response to mostly peaceful demonstrations can be counterproductive,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

“It makes sense to take a look at whether military-style equipment is being acquired for the right purposes and whether there is proper training on when and how to deploy it,” Holder said…

As the country concludes its longest wartime period, the military has turned over thousands of surplus weapons and armored trucks to local police who often trained alongside the military.

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union in June said police agencies had become “excessively militarized,” with officers using training and equipment designed for the battlefield on city streets. The report found the amount of goods transferred through the military surplus program rose in value from $1 million in 1990 to nearly $450 million in 2013.

RTFA for details, examples.

IMHO, this crap follows logically from the War on Drugs becoming a War on All Citizens – especially as reactionaries and bigots get wedgies over ordinary folks moving in a progressive direction. From broad acceptance of civil rights for everyone including gays and lesbians – to the wave of decriminalization heading to a crest over the sillyass prohibition of cannabis.

The bottom of the lumpen that didn’t qualify for civilian jobs – who therefore joined the military – who still don’t qualify for a lifetime gig after being demobbed, jump at the chance to become some kind of copper. Maybe they fit in because the PD chiefs are racist. Maybe they don’t even qualify for that level of policing and sink down to lower economic levels, border cop or even TSA. But, whatever road, they’re already accustomed to treating every civilian as a furriner who isn’t white Christian enough to be a proper American.

Thanks, Mike

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Pentagon gives New Orleans coppers snow camouflage parkas…Huh? Wha?


Snow shoes should work well on Mississippi mud flats

The disturbing events in Ferguson have focused attention on the militarization of America’s police forces. God knows, it’s worrying enough that the police begin to seem more like an army of occupation than agents of law enforcement.

New Orleans and Gulf Coast news site The Lens decided to have a look at just what kind of military kit Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish aquired.

Each county has received from the Defense Department’s 1033 Program since 2007:

Orleans Parish received:

Eight night-vision sniper scopes
20 snow camouflage parkas
A “rough terrain” forklift
40 “laser modules”
14 thermal sights
21 7.62 mm rifles and two 5.56 mm rifles
30 survival axes

Some of the equipment is more mundane, such as:

360 men’s scarves
Four data-entry computer mice
Nine folding chairs
One garbage can
A pair of pliers

Law enforcement in Jefferson Parish received:

Two 5.56 mm rifles and seven 7.62 mm rifles
A utility helicopter
A mine-resistant vehicle
Three bridge erection boats
A utility truck
A personnel carrier

Setting aside the questionable utility of a ‘mine-resistant vehicle’ in police work (how many mines and IEDs does a patrol officer encounter?), and the flat-out weirdness of ‘four data-entry computer mice’, ‘a pair of pliers’ and ‘one garbage can’, what really provokes that ‘what the fuck?’ moment is the ’20 snow camouflage parkas’.

Unless the police are planning to hide in the middle of a crowd of blindingly white people, these parkas aren’t going to be of much use in New Orleans. Between 1853 and 2008 it snowed in New Orleans on 55 days.

I can tell you from personal experience, most of those so-called snow days ended up melting on contact with funky pavement.

So, if you’re in New Orleans and are approached by a group of men dressed in snow camouflage parkas and carrying data-entry computer mice, folding chairs, a garbage can and a pair of pliers: get on your knees and put your hands behind your head, because they’re cops and cops are dangerous.

Mike also suggested you can see the military weapons, vehicles, and other equipment police in your area have acquired from the military. Searchable by state and county.

http://bridge.caspio.net/dp.asp?AppKey=36701000b255adcfe6ca4b13a8a4

Thanks, Mike

Israel squandered any chance for peace, years ago, for a phony “victory”


Never forget!Michael Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Alongside the toll of death and broken lives, perhaps the saddest reality of the latest Gaza war, like the Gaza wars before it, is how easy it would have been to avoid. For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza. Each time, they have chosen war, with devastating consequences for the families of Gaza…

Let’s begin in June 2006, when the University of Maryland’s Jerome Segal, founder of the Jewish Peace Lobby, carried a high-level private message from Gaza to Washington. Segal had just returned from a meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, whose Hamas faction had recently won free and fair elections and taken power in Gaza. Hamas was seeking a unity government with the rival Fatah faction overseen by Mahmoud Abbas.

…By voting for Hamas in 2006, Palestinians signaled their weariness with Fatah’s corruption and its failure to deliver an independent state, or even a long-promised safe passage corridor between the West Bank and Gaza. In the wake of its surprise election victory, Hamas was in turn showing signs of edging toward the political center, despite its militant history.

Nevertheless, Israel and “the Quartet” — the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the U.N. — refused to recognize the outcome of the democratic elections, labeling Hamas a “terrorist organization,” which sought Israel’s destruction. The administration of George W. Bush strongly pressured Abbas not to join a unity government. The Quartet suspended economic aid and Israel severely curtailed the flow of goods in and out of Gaza…

These punitive measures were to remain in place until Hamas renounced violence (including stopping its cross-border rocket attacks), recognized Israel, and accepted all previous agreements based on the Oslo peace accords.

Which brings us back to that Washington-bound letter from Gaza. In the wake of the elections, Hamas was no longer the militant opposition to a ruling Fatah party, but a legally elected government operating under siege. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, suddenly responsible for governing and facing a mounting economic, humanitarian, and political catastrophe, sought to defuse the situation. In his June 2006 hand-written note to President Bush that Jerome Segal delivered to the State Department and the National Security Council, he requested a direct dialogue with the administration…

The Bush team, however, chose to ignore Hamas’s overture, opting, with Israel, for violence and chaos. The Obama administration would follow the same path years later. In this way, a pattern of U.S. acquiescence in ongoing, ever worsening humanitarian disasters in Hamas-run Gaza was established. Direct American political and material support for the indiscriminate killing of thousands of Gaza’s civilians, including hundreds of children, became Washington’s de facto policy.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – and to my mind and memory – quite accurate. Unfortunately, accuracy, truth and honesty have nothing to do with the US relationship with Israel and the prisoner nation of Palestine.

The article details time after time the chances for peace deliberately sabotaged by the US/Israel military-industrial complex. Most of our politicians couldn’t care less. American voters are wholly ignorant of history; so, there is little or no pressure from ordinary voters.

Think about it – you may be just one of the small number who cares enough to try to make a change.

Thanks, Mike

US evacuates embassy in Libya

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 5.46.27 PM
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.

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.