Category: War

Tens of thousands of Japanese march against war constitution


Click to enlargeReuters/Kyodo

Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied outside Japan’s parliament to oppose legislation that could see troops in the officially pacifist nation engage in combat for the first time since World War II.

In one of the summer’s biggest protests ahead of the new laws anticipated passage next month, protesters on Sunday chanted “No to war legislation!” ”Scrap the bills now!” and “Abe, quit!”

Organisers said about 120,000 people took part in the rally in the government district of Tokyo, filling the street outside the front gate of the parliament, or Diet. Similar demonstrations were held across the nation.

In July, the more powerful lower house passed the bills that allow the army, or Self Defence Force, to engage in combat when allies come under attack even when Japan itself is not.

The upper house is currently debating the bills and is expected to pass them by late September, making it law.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his supporters say the bills are necessary for Japan to deal with the changed security environment in the world.

Public polls showing the majority of people oppose the bills and support for Abe’s government is declining.

Decades behind the US, Japan has learned the lessons of sophistry well. I recall the smattering of debate after WW2 when the pointy-heads in Washington decided to change the name of the War Department to the Department of Defense. As we changed to a time when the rest of the world needed to defend itself against Imperial America instead of Imperial England and Imperial Europe.

Not so incidentally, it may not take the anti-war movement in Japan to bring down Abe. Abenomics may do it for him. Pledging – as conservatives always do – to bring jobs growth and better economic times to the working people of Japan, the prime minister has only aided his Zaibatsu buddies. The rest of the nation suffers through a renewal of stagnation and ennui.

70 years after end of World War 2 – Okinawa protests new US military base


Click to enlargeJiji Press/AFP

Polls consistently show Okinawans and, increasingly, mainland Japanese are opposed to replacing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a sprawling military base in the south of the island, with a new facility in the rural Henoko district of Nago in northern Okinawa. Referred to as Henoko, the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) is planned to have multiple helipads, 5,900-foot dual runways, an ordnance depot, a fuel depot and an 892-foot pier capable of docking amphibious assault ships.

In May 35,000 Okinawans gathered to protest the Henoko base plan, days before Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga led a delegation to the United States to express opposition to Washington. Their demands, however, fell on deaf ears. U.S. and Japanese officials insist a new facility near Henoko Point in Oura Bay is “the only solution” to alleviating decades of tension stemming from the U.S. military presence.

Today, 43 years after the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japanese control, the U.S. maintains 32 U.S. military bases and installations plus 48 restricted air and ocean training sites on the island.

But, we are a peaceloving nation, friendly to everyone in Asia. Our politicians tell us so.

Pic of the day

schoolgirls, hole in the roof
Click to enlargeREUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinian schoolgirls, pictured through a hole in the roof of a classroom…damaged by Israeli shelling during a 50-day invasion last summer, attend a lesson on the first day of a new school year at Suhada Khouza school in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Ah, yes, enlightenment from the heavens – courtesy of Israeli heroes of Apartheid.

Armed conflict: bad for humanity, great for reducing air pollution!

NM Ozymandias

Air pollution has decreased dramatically in parts of the Middle East in the past five years – partly due to armed conflicts since the Arab Spring.

A new study suggests the improvement is the result of the conflicts, economic recessions and human displacement suffered across the region.

The findings state: “A combination of air quality control and political factors, including economical crisis and armed conflict, has drastically altered the emission landscape of nitrogen oxides in the Middle East.”

Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, was the lead author of the study, which was published in Science Advances.

Between 2005 and 2010, the Middle East had the world’s fastest-rising air pollution emission levels.

A similar increase took place in East Asia, most likely due to economic and industrial growth.

“However, [the Middle East] is the only region where this pollution trajectory was interrupted around 2010 and followed by a strong decline,” Professor Lelieveld said…

In Syria, the level of nitrogen dioxide over Damascus has fallen by 50 per cent since the start of the civil war in 2011.

It’s proportional to people, so if emissions have gone down in Syria by 50 per cent, I’d expect that 50 per cent of the people might have been displaced, as indeed they have,” Prof Lelieveld said.

The findings “disagree with scenarios used in prediction of air pollution and climate change for the future,” he added.

Yes, yes. Unless you’re one of the delightful nation-states which carries around the occasional nuclear weapon and threatens other lands with an opportunity to glow in the dark for several thousand years.

I admit, though, it is tempting to consider reducing the number of human beings in any location because of generally positive results. I would prefer doing so in a manner equally beneficial to the human species – as it is to those others, animal and vegetable, occupying the same landscape.

I suggest providing a basic scientific education including knowledge of birth control. In general, everywhere that happens the birth rate diminishes and tends to produce the same result. No fighter-bombers or helicopters required.

Pentagon’s views on the Free Press in wartime


Credit Brian Stauffer

The Defense Department earlier this summer released a comprehensive manual outlining its interpretation of the law of war. The 1,176-page document, the first of its kind, includes guidelines on the treatment of journalists covering armed conflicts that would make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship. Those should be repealed immediately.

Journalists, the manual says, are generally regarded as civilians, but may in some instances be deemed “unprivileged belligerents,” a legal term that applies to fighters that are afforded fewer protections than the declared combatants in a war. In some instances, the document says, “the relaying of information (such as providing information of immediate use in combat operations) could constitute taking a direct part in hostilities.”

The manual warns that “Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying,” so it calls on journalists to “act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities.” It says that governments “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.”

Allowing this document to stand as guidance for commanders, government lawyers and officials of other nations would do severe damage to press freedoms. Authoritarian leaders around the world could point to it to show that their despotic treatment of journalists — including Americans — is broadly in line with the standards set by the United States government.

Nice to see the NY TIMES stand up for a Free Press. Even in wartime. Finally.

RTFA for a more detailed albeit brief exposition. The editorial originally had a link to a .pdf of the relevant portion of the manual. That seems to have disappeared. But, we all know nothing ever really disappears from the Web.

Hee, hee, hee!

The price of rejecting the Iran treaty


UN Security Council voting to remove Iran sanctions

The Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, making Iran’s breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.

Israel cheats – and that’s OK with Congress.

Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality…

In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful. If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world…

We must remember recent history. In 1996, in the absence of any other international support for imposing sanctions on Iran, Congress tried to force the hands of foreign companies, creating secondary sanctions that threatened to penalize them for investing in Iran’s energy sector. The idea was to force international oil companies to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, with the expectation that all would choose us.

This outraged our foreign partners, particularly the European Union, which threatened retaliatory action and referral to the World Trade Organization and passed its own law prohibiting companies from complying. The largest oil companies of Europe and Asia stayed in Iran until, more than a decade later, we built a global consensus around the threat posed by Iran and put forward a realistic diplomatic means of addressing it.

The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

By JACOB J. LEW, US Secretary of the treasury

The point of any negotiations is a context of agreement upon what is possible – not what is ideology. I feel equally strong about the hypocrisy of our government’s fealty to Israel – a nation which has rejected the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, has a deadly stockpile of nuclear weapons and consistently threatens all of its neighbors. I think Israel should bear the weight of sanctions equal to those applied to Iran – and I’m also perfectly aware our government will continue to be decades out-of-date – and there is no chance at present that honesty will prevail.

So, I support the premise of honoring this agreement.

Psychologists end collaboration with “national security” interrogations


So, why is Gitmo an exception?

The American Psychological Association…overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration…

The vote followed an emotional debate in which several members said the ban was needed to restore the organization’s reputation after a scathing independent investigation ordered by the association’s board.

That investigation, conducted by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, found that some officers of the association and other prominent psychologists colluded with government officials during the Bush administration to make sure that association policies did not prevent psychologists from involvement in the harsh interrogation programs conducted by the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The ban was approved by the association’s council by a vote of 156 to 1. Seven council members abstained, while one was recused…

The final vote was met by a standing ovation by many of the council members, as well as the large crowd of observers, which included anti-torture activists and psychology graduate students who had come to the meeting to support the ban. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming “First, Do No Harm,” a reference to the physicians’ Hippocratic oath.

RTFA for all the gory details. I think it stands as mute testimony for the sentiment solidly rooted in many Americans that war criminals like George W Bush and Dick Cheney should stand trial for their crimes.

Members of the APA have been expelled for their role in torture. I think that body would support their prosecution. I hope so, anyway.

Psychologists are also still assigned at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they oversee “voluntary” interrogations of detainees.

PTSD + Agent Orange = extra risk of Dementia

Exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War doesn’t seem to increase the risk of dementia on its own, but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors like PTSD…

In an analysis of Veterans Affairs data, having been exposed to Agent Orange and having PTSD together was associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia according to Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

They reported their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference…

Some 8% of veterans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, where it was used as an herbicide to clear dense areas of forest…

Many other studies have looked at the health effects of Agent Orange exposure, and there have been mixed results regarding its neurological effects. Some studies found no adverse neurologic effects, while several recent studies have found worse cognitive function with greater exposure. Other studies have shown that verbal memory is the most affected neurocognitive region among Vietnam veterans.

Yet there haven’t been any studies specifically looking at the relationship between Agent Orange and the risk of dementia among these veterans, Barnes said.

Consequently, she and colleagues accessed VA electronic medical record data on 46,737 Vietnam veterans over age 55 who had at least one baseline visit and one follow-up visit, and who did not have dementia at baseline.

They looked at Agent Orange exposure alone and in combination with PTSD…

Barnes noted that there was a significant difference between the exposed and unexposed populations at baseline. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange were younger and had more comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and PTSD…

When they looked at PTSD and dementia risk, however, they did find a significant association — and having both Agent Orange exposure and PTSD together was associated with a larger increase in risk of dementia…

“Agent Orange alone doesn’t appear to increase the risk of dementia,” Barnes said, “but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors such as PTSD.”

She cautioned that the findings were limited because the researchers weren’t able to measure the actual exposure to Agent Orange; they had to rely on patients’ own reports of exposure…

Soldiers on the line ain’t about to forget exposure to Agent Orange. Until they get Alzheimer’s, anyway.

And, no, that wasn’t meant to be a joke.

Vietnam War vets still suffering from PTSD

A small, but significant, portion of Vietnam War veterans still experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even 40 years after the war ended, according to the results of a survey-based study.

When examining veterans over the course of a 25-year period, 10.8%, or about 271,000, of male “theater veterans” – those who served in the Vietnam theater of operations – reported experiencing current clinical and subthreshold war-zone PTSD symptoms based on CAPS-5 criteria, said Charles Marmar, MD, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center…

More than a third (36.7%) of all veterans with PTSD directly related to the war also experienced comorbid major depression. In addition, 30.9% met the criteria for current major depressive disorder…

Marmar told MedPage Today that he was surprised at the persistence of symptoms for veterans over the course of time.

“We did know that PTSD symptoms could persist in a minority of war fighters, or civilians for that matter, but it was surprising to find that 11% of those who served in the Vietnam theater had either PTSD or significant symptoms of PTSD that interfered with their functioning,” he said. “So the persistence was an important finding…”

Marmar said he did the study not only to honor the Vietnam generation and answer some questions for them, but to see what the road ahead may look like for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“Nobody has known before this study what the true lifetime effects of military service are on psychological health in an epidemiologically drawn, representative sample,” he said. “People have done studies of longer term effects of war, but not in a proper sampling frame where you’re getting a picture of every man and every woman from all branches of the services in all levels of combat…”

While not involved with the study, Gary J. Kennedy, MD…told MedPage Today…that the results demonstrated the majority of veterans did not suffer from PTSD or depression. However, he pointed out that for those who were impacted, there may be inadequate resources to offer assistance.

“The optimistic finding of rather remarkable resilience is contrasted by the complicated needs of those who do not recover,” he said. “Just as in the post Vietnam era, the VA is not adequately funded to meet the mental health needs of returning service personnel…”

He concluded that similar to World War II veterans, Vietnam war veterans also deserve quality care for their physical and mental well-being, both from clinicians and from the nation itself.

Overdue.

My closest friend till his death was a WW2 vet who still had occasional bouts with PTSD – and little substantive help from the VA. Fortunately, one of his main areas of study – courtesy of the GI Bill – was in psychology and he did a pretty good job of managing things on his own. Still, I’ll never forget a couple of times when he was roused unexpectedly from a sound sleep and thought he was back in Bastogne.