Archive for the ‘War’ Category
A Nigerian man has survived for two-and-a-half days trapped 30 meters deep in freezing seawater.
Harrison Okene, 29, was on board the tug boat Jascon-4 when it capsized in heavy swells…It sank to the seabed, upside down, but Mr Harrison was trapped in an air pocket and able to breathe.
Of the other 12 people on board, 10 bodies have already been found and Mr Harrison is assumed to be the only survivor.
Mr Harrison told Reuters journalist Joe Brock that he could hear fish eating the dead bodies of his fellow crew members.
The Jascon-4 capsized on 26 May, about 32km off the coast of Nigeria, while it was stabilising an oil tanker at a Chevron platform…Mr Harrison was working there as a cook, according to the ship’s owners, West African Ventures.
Mr Harrison told Reuters he was in the toilet when he realised that the boat was beginning to turn over, and as the vessel sank, he managed to find his way to an area with an air pocket.
“I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end. I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not,” he said…”I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue.”
“I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby. I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound.”
But after 60 hours, Mr Harrison heard the sound of knocking.
A team from the DCN global diving company had come to investigate – sent by Chevron and West African Ventures…”We expected it to be a body recovery job,” DCN spokesperson Jed Chamberlain told the BBC’s Impact programme.
Mr Harrison “actually grabbed the second diver who went past him,” Mr Chamberlain said, adding that the diver concerned got quite a fright…”This changed the whole nature of the operation to a rescue operation…”
Having been at such depth for so many hours, he needed time in a decompression chamber to normalise his body pressure.
Christine Cridge, a medical director at the Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC), advised the rescue team during this process…
“After a certain amount of time at pressure, nitrogen will dissolve into the tissues. If he’d ascended directly from 30m to the sea surface….. it’s likely he’d have had a cardiac arrest, or at best, serious neurological issues…
Mr. Harrison will have nightmares for quite a while. His good fortune still ain’t quite enough to counter everything he survived.
Come to think of it, that diver who was grabbed by Mr. Harrison probably won’t forget it either.
Some 22 US nuclear weapons are stored on Dutch territory, says former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers…Mr Lubbers, a centre-right prime minister from 1982-94, said they were stored underground in strong-rooms at the Volkel air base in Brabant.
He made the revelation in a documentary for National Geographic – saying: “I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013.”
The presence of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil has long been rumoured…However, Mr Lubbers is believed to be the most senior person to confirm their existence.
“I think they are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking,” Mr Lubbers said.
The Telegraaf newspaper quoted experts as saying the weapons held at Volkel were B61 bombs that were developed in the US in the 1960s. At 50 kilotons, they are four times the strength of atom bombs used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of World War II…
The “poorly kept secret” of the existence of nuclear weapons in concrete vaults emerged in 2010 in the classified US documents published by Wikileaks, reported NRC Handelsblad newspaper.
It was mentioned in a report on a conversation involving US Ambassador to Berlin Philip Murphy, US diplomat Phil Gordon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national security adviser, Christoph Heusgen.
In November 2010, then-Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal declined to give any explanation to the Dutch parliament.
A spokesman for the Royal Dutch Air Force was quoted by Dutch broadcaster NOS on Monday as saying these issues “are never spoken of“…”[Mr Lubbers], as former prime minister, knows that well,” he added.
Just as American liberals or conservatives fall right in line with every wish of the Pentagon and our military-industrial complex, governments around the world click their heels and listen to Uncle Sugar. It’s easier than thinking for yourself. Less trouble than cutting the umbilical cord to American death machines – and the dollars that flow into government treasuries and, sometimes, Swiss bank accounts.
Just as Obama uses the same excuses as George W Bush, governments of convenient coalitions – Center-Left, Center-Right, patriotic, independent politicians in other nations pay close attention to the people who own the United States – and never get out of line. Transparency is a cool word that still depends upon who owns the house and the windows.
Since the American-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has become one of the world’s top oil producers, and China is now its biggest customer.
China already buys nearly half the oil that Iraq produces, nearly 1.5 million barrels a day, and is angling for an even bigger share, bidding for a stake now owned by Exxon Mobil in one of Iraq’s largest oil fields…
Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil industry was sputtering, largely walled off from world markets by international sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein, so his overthrow always carried the promise of renewed access to the country’s immense reserves. Chinese state-owned companies seized the opportunity, pouring more than $2 billion a year and hundreds of workers into Iraq, and just as important, showing a willingness to play by the new Iraqi government’s rules and to accept lower profits to win contracts.
“We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply…”
Notably, what the Chinese are not doing is complaining. Unlike the executives of Western oil giants like Exxon Mobil, the Chinese happily accept the strict terms of Iraq’s oil contracts, which yield only minimal profits. China is more interested in energy to fuel its economy than profits to enrich its oil giants…
The Iraqi government needs the investment, and oil remains at the heart of its political and economic future. Currently OPEC’s second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi government depends on oil revenues to finance its military and social programs. Iraq estimates that its oil fields, pipelines and refineries need $30 billion in annual investments to reach production targets that will make it one of the world’s premier energy powers for decades to come…
But the kind of investment that is necessary has required contracting the services of foreign oil companies that are not always enthusiastic about Iraq’s nationalistic, tightfisted terms or the unstable security situation that can put employees in danger. Some like Statoil of Norway have left or curtailed their operations.
But the Chinese, frequently as partners with other European companies like BP and Turkish Petroleum, have filled the vacuum. And they have been happy to focus on oil without interfering in other local issues. “The Chinese are very simple people,” said an Iraqi Oil Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to the news media. “They are practical people. They don’t have anything to do with politics or religion. They just work and eat and sleep.”
Just as the Chinese arriving in Iran speak Farsi with an Iranian accent, the managers of China’s enterprises in Iraq speak Arabic with an Iraqi accent. Getting along with commercial partners isn’t as difficult as Congress tries to make it. If you watch the world news on a Chinese channel like CCTV9 you’re as likely to hear American-accented English as a British [or actually Hong Kong] accent. It all depends on the focus.
The Chinese decided long ago their commercial policies didn’t have to depend on politics. Good, bad or indifferent as your own analysis may be – China’s business partners appreciate the difference. That’s been pretty much maintained as policy by private/shareholder-owned enterprise as state-owned. Even though state-owned business is now the minority of Chinese commerce.
But, I have to think Dick Cheney didn’t plan it this way.
The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.
The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.
The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…
Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…
Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…
On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.
One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.
But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.
The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.
It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.
The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.
Some of the World War II-era munitions recovered in recent months from Deseret Chemical Depot landfills have been found to contain mustard, a liquid blistering agent.
The depot’s Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, 20 miles south of Tooele, was shut down in January 2012 with the incineration of the last of a decades-old stockpile of chemical weapons.
But still remaining on the 19,000-acre property are 27 informal dumps, where weapons and debris were burned over the decades before environmental hazards were recognized. The Army began cleaning up these non-stockpiled weapons late last year, removing surface pollution and testing for underground pollution…
The mustard-filled munitions…were discovered in a landfill near the depot’s southern edge, said spokeswoman Alaine Grieser. “We anticipate we’ll find a few more.”
The Army used a Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy (PINS) system, sort of like an X-ray, to detect the hazardous contents. The cartridges were packed in airtight containers, and at a later date will be loaded in to a portable “Explosive Destruction System,” cracked open and chemically neutralized, Grieser said.
The Army is about halfway through the landfill and has removed about 40,000 munitions discarded between 1945 and 1978.
“Back then, it wasn’t uncommon to dig trenches and take the munitions and dump them in there and light them on fire with diesel,” said Brad Maulding, hazardous-waste facilities manager at the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). “They didn’t question the long-term environmental effects or whether burning was adequate…”
Environmental groups say the landfills should remind future generations of how something dangerous is easily mishandled.
“We have to realize that Utah is a place where lots of materials like this gets brought,” said Matt Pacenza, policy director for HEAL Utah. “Whether it’s nuclear waste or chemical weapons, we need to be constantly vigilant and skeptical when companies say, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s safe.’ “
After the tortured use of chemical weapons in World War 1 the Geneva Protocols of 1925 prohibited chemical warfare including the use of weapons like those found in Deseret. Their presence is no surprise. Deseret being only one of several locations around the United States where our government stored and eventually destroyed stockpiles of such anti-human weapons.
What? Did you think we obeyed international law on the production of such weapons?
New wind farms off Germany’s North Sea coast will provide an ideal habitat that could help restore the lobster population near Heligoland after British bombing during and after World War II drove them away.
Biologists at the Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research are breeding 3,000 lobsters to be released next year into the Borkum Riffgat offshore wind farm near the island 70 km off the German-Dutch coast.
The 1.5 square km island had a thriving fishing industry before it became a Nazi fortress in the war, pounded by Allied bombs, and then later used for target practice. It is now a tourist resort…
Lobsters, whose local population is 90 percent smaller than it was 70 years ago, need a firm seabed to thrive…”The new wind parks mean lobsters may settle in a new habitat, because the stony foundations offer a favorable environment,” project leader Heinz-Dieter Franke said.
The 700,000 euro scheme is funded by compensation paid to the state of Lower Saxony by utility EWE for any potential ecological damage caused by the construction of its wind park. The money will fund breeding, reintroduction and monitoring of the lobsters for roughly two years.
“With Germany’s shift to renewables, we could have 5,000 wind farms by 2030, so if it works, this kind of project could have a huge effect on the lobster population,” Franke said…
Lobster expert Dominic Boothroyd, general manager of Britain’s National Lobster Hatchery, said the idea of using the hard foundations of a wind park made sense and that projects to reintroduce young lobsters had taken place in Britain and Norway, though not on wind farms.
“From these projects, we know the animals survive and that they contribute to fishery and reproduce…” Boothroyd said.
If there are no other impediments to the revival, this all makes great sense. Ask anyone who ever lived and worked on the Gulf of Mexico through the period of the introduction of drilling platforms.
The operative word is “structure”. Fishing of all sorts in all locations improved with the growth and spread of every kind of platform throughout the Gulf – and every other body of water of moderate depth where the structure effect could be felt.
Global defence spending fell by 0.5% to $1.75 trillion last year. This is the first annual decline since 1998, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think-tank. Although America still spends the biggest chunk of the world total, and 69% more in real terms than it did in 2001, its share has fallen below 40% for the first time since 1991.
Indeed, since the recession in 2008, spending has fallen by 10% in 20 of the 37 countries in western and central Europe. By contrast Russia increased spending by 16% in 2012 and further rises are planned to 2015. Russia and America each spent the equivalent of 4.4% of GDP, considerably higher than the global average of 2.5%, but much lower than that of Saudia Arabia, at 8.9%.
Over the past decade China’s military budget has risen by 175%, the largest increase of any of the countries shown in the chart, though this still represents only around 2% of GDP.
The chart speaks for itself. Our government – regardless of blather about pivots, peace initiatives, the dangers of small countries getting big guns and big bombs – still maintains the greatest capacity to destroy the whole planet and all life.
And whines about the possibility of diminishing that danger by a fraction of a percent.
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
American leadership skills in Iraq
Wind energy expert Paul Gipe reported this week that – for the amount spent on the Iraq war – the U.S. could be generating 40%-60% of its electricity with renewable energy…
The war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2013, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. That’s trillion, with a “t”. Including future costs for veteran’s care, and so on, raises the cost to $2.2 trillion.
Because the war was financed with debt, we should also include a charge for interest on the debt. The Iraq war’s share of cumulative interest on the US debt through 2053 will raise the total cost of the war to $3.9 trillion…
…If we want to develop an integrated system that will replace the mix of fossil fuels and nuclear power we use today, we will need a mix of renewable resources as well. Ideally, we would develop our wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources simultaneously. However, it is wind and solar that will provide the bulk of new generating capacity. So I’ve simplified this analysis by only considering a mix of wind and solar…
Based on a conservative estimate, the US could have built between a quarter-million to nearly a half-million megawatts of wind energy, and 300,000 to 600,000 megawatts of solar capacity.
For comparison, today there are only 60,000 MW of wind in the US, and a paltry 7,000 MW of solar.
If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply…
…Unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come…
Moreover, given that war is very harmful for the economy, the costs of the Iraq war including the drag on the economy raises the price tag well above $6 trillion. So 100% of renewable energy funding may be realistic.
It is ironic, indeed, that the Iraq war was largely about oil. When we choose subsidies for conventional energy sources – war or otherwise – we sell our future down the river.
Unfortunately, selling our future down the river doesn’t bother the bottomfeeders in Congress or the White House a whole boatload of heartache. While I differentiate between Republicans and Democrats on many social issues, when the question is one of war – especially one which profits truly “important” corporations – our elected officials fall over one another in the rush to Armageddon.
We debate the differences between “stupid” and just plain “ignorant” a lot on the Web. Fact remains that the average American – for whichever excuse – rarely has the backbone or independence to challenge war cries from on high. While reticence may appear after a few thousands kinfolk are sentenced to death along with tens of thousands crippled for life, it takes a mighty heap of dead bodies to get my fellow Americans to reconsider the glory of war deemed crucial by priests, pundits and politicians.
This counterpoint of the common good versus dedication to death and destruction is only an exercise in semantics and logic until and unless the voters of nation declare truth and progress more important than, say, parades for mission accomplished.
Spirit and courage like this demonstrated by a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank are not new. Victims of victims is apt – excepting only the oldest Israeli politicians in the Knesset may fit the description of victims. The following generations are making their own decisions based on lousy ideology.
Our own politicians will not defeat them no matter how much aid they provide to Israel’s government.
When the Bourbon monarchy was restored in 1815, the French diplomat Talleyrand is reported to have said of the Bourbons: “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Ten years after the start of the Iraq War, the question is whether anyone – Americans, Iraqis, Iranians, other Arab states – has learned anything from this terrible experience.
By the standards of modern warfare, America’s losses were much lower than they were in other recent conflicts – more than 12 times as many American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. Yet the Iraq war has scarred America in many ways. It was, as many have pointed out, a war of “choice,” a formulation rarely, if ever, used to describe America’s previous wars…
For some, sectarianism in Iraq appeared like a summer storm, which quickly passed once the “surge” of US troops became American strategy in 2007. But even the colossal mistakes of “de-Baathification” (the dismissal of all Iraqi officials who had been members of Saddam’s Baath Party) and the decommissioning of the Iraqi army – measures so foolish that nobody now admits to ordering them – cannot fully explain Iraq’s continuing political crisis.
To believe that sectarian fighting started because of a foolish US decision, and ended because of a subsequent wise one, is to ignore the role of sectarianism in a country that straddles the Sunni and Shia worlds and the Turkic and Arab worlds. These divisions, obscured by Saddam’s totalitarianism, never went away.
Indeed, the Sunni-Shia divide exists in many parts of the Arab world. While Americans saw in Bahrain’s protests in 2011 a people’s democratic aspirations, no one in the region doubted that the real source of the troubles was a restive Shia majority (perhaps inspired by Iraq, or even, as Sunni Arabs claimed, Iran) trying to remove a Sunni monarchy…
In fact, the Middle East – buffeted by the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, and the sectarian showdown in Syria – is unsure where to go next: liberal democracy and the rule of law, or Islamist rule? Yet, for the Sunni world, Iraq is the mistake that not only must not be repeated, but also must be reversed. Thus, Sunni Arabs and Shia Persians alike view Iraq as still up for grabs, a question rather than a country, a “great game” of the kind with which the world is very familiar…
Ten years after Saddam’s removal, Iraq’s future remains where it always has been: in the hands of Iraqis, who will have to rise to the occasion. No one can create a stable political order for them; with the Americans gone, meddlesome Arab neighbors and anxious Iranians can only lose by dooming Iraq to remain a tinderbox.
As for Americans, we need to learn from what happened in Iraq, lest our hubris doom us to similar ventures. And, when it comes to the vision that sent us there, that means that we must also forget.
RTFA for the nuances excised by blog editors like me. It’s not really that I think every passing pair of eyes is owned by a short attention span. Many visitors here click through to the original to catch up on details and additional links. I just have a habit learned as a blog diarist of poking out a lead – maybe asking a question or two – and leaving folks to their own devices.
Christopher Hill‘s article in Project Syndicate is representative of the sort of primary source history I find interesting. Not least being the glaring contradictions between old-fashioned American politics, someone who chose to spend his professional life in public service – and populist dirtballs who call themselves Real Americans by virtue of their bigotry and greed, rationales that range from religious fundamentalism to xenophobia.