Tagged: U.S. military

Okinawa votes once again to kick US military off the island


Messages tied to fence around the US military base by Okinawa citizensToru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images

A politician who wants a U.S. Marine base moved out of Okinawa won election as governor of the southern Japanese island chain…

Takeshi Onaga was set to win a sweeping victory after exit polls late yesterday indicated he had almost twice as many votes as Hirokazu Nakaima, incumbent and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favored candidate.

Onaga, 64, is seeking to reduce the military burden on Okinawa, which hosts about three quarters of the U.S. bases in Japan, while boasting only 0.6 percent of the nation’s land area. Nakaima, 75, last December agreed to allow the Futenma U.S. Marine base to be shifted to a less densely populated area of the prefecture — a move that appeared to end nearly two decades of wrangling over the issue.

“Based on this victory, I will go to the government, the U.S. government and even the United Nations to tell them the people are against it,” Onaga said yesterday in a televised interview broadcast after the exit polls were published. Nakaima’s decision had “sent the wrong message,” he said…

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Nov. 14 that the government would stick to its policy of trying to close the Futenma base within five years regardless of the election result. Abe has lifted an effective ban on arms exports and reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to defend other countries — including the U.S., its only formal ally…

“Defending other countries” being Washington doublespeak for “Japan remains our leading flunky in Asia”.

Local residents complain of crime, pollution, accidents and noise associated with the U.S. bases and anger peaked in 1995 when a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by three U.S. servicemen. Polls show 80 percent of local people want to move the facility out of the prefecture.

Boasting a unique culture and language, as well as white sand beaches and clear waters, Okinawa has become a tourist hot spot. Visitor numbers from both Taiwan and mainland China doubled in September from a year earlier, while visits totaled 3.72 million people in the six months through September.

…Onaga said in an Oct. 31 interview with Bloomberg that while he doesn’t want all the bases removed, the economic incentive for hosting them has faded. They account for just 5 percent of Okinawa’s economy and about 9,000 jobs, and their removal would free up land for tourist development.

Peaceful commerce with China doesn’t mean much of anything to Japan’s militarists. They may not march at the front of election parades; but, they still pull the same old strings from their comfortable couches within corporate Zaibatsu skyscrapers.

Meanwhile, Uncle Sugar wants to retain Okinawa to be available as a rock-solid launching platform for the next time we decide to invade any part of Asia — the role that the prefecture played during the years we spent trying to return VietNam to Western subjugation.

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US military has managed to crash more than 400 drones in the past 13 years

More than 400 large US military drones have crashed around the world in the past 13 years, a Washington Post investigation has found.

The Post obtained documents detailing accidents including collisions with homes, farms, runways, roads, waterways and even an air force transport plane in midair. Several drones vanished while at cruising altitude and were lost.

In April, an army drone crashed next to an elementary-school playground in Pennsylvania; in 2012 an unmanned navy surveillance aircraft nose-dived and ignited a wildfire in Maryland.

Of the 418 major drone crashes since September 2001 that the newspaper identified, about half happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly a quarter were in the US. Almost 200 of the crashes were classed by the military as “class A”, meaning they destroyed the aircraft or caused at least $2 million worth of damage, though no loss of life was attributed to the accidents. Problems included pilot error, mechanical failure and communications challenges.

Though unmanned aircraft have long been used by the US military in overseas operations and by US border patrol, their safety is of particular concern as they are set to become a common feature of civilian life in America within a couple of years…

Congress told the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with a plan allowing commercial drones access to US airspace by September 2015, but the agency is unlikely to meet that deadline given the complexity of drafting safety regulations.

I’m only addressing the question of small civilian drones.

Think of all the things that can go wrong just because amateurs are farting around with devices that can get into real trouble. In most states, RC planes are controlled by state and local regulations. There are limitations to how and when and where they can be flown.

Right now, it’s legally a hobby. One I might even enjoy myself. But, I don’t think the wildlife and especially the raptors and snakes we specialize in watching in the bosque would appreciate the more-or-less-synchronized noise of several small-displacement rotors buzzing over their turf while they try to live a normal day hunting for their next meal.

There are beaucoup useful and productive tasks small unmanned vehicles can accomplish. The same is true for casual or professional creative work. Licensed, insured, flown by operators of proven ability. Keep on rocking in the Free World.

6 Confederate states say they have a right to be bigots


Click to enlarge

On the morning of Sept. 3, the first day the Pentagon said they could, Alicia Butler and her spouse, Judith Chedville, who is a Texas Army National Guard officer, went to Austin’s Camp Mabry so Ms. Butler could get a military spouse identification card and register for the same federal marriage benefits provided to wives and husbands of heterosexual service members.

The two women handed a sheaf of official papers, including their 2008 California marriage license, to a clerk who glanced at the documents and declared, “It’s one of those.” She then called over her boss, who told the couple that they would have to travel to a federal military base like Fort Hood, 70 miles to the north, to get the ID, Ms. Butler recalled.

The reason: Texas is one of six states refusing to comply with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order that gay spouses of National Guard members be given the same federal marriage benefits as heterosexual spouses. Mr. Hagel’s decree followed the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages…

But the six states are violating federal law, Mr. Hagel told an audience recently. “It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice,” he said. Mr. Hagel has demanded full compliance, but Pentagon officials have not said what steps they would take with states that do not fall in line…

The military grants a range of significant benefits to the spouses of active-duty guardsmen, including the right to enroll in the military’s health insurance program and to obtain a higher monthly housing allowance. Spouse IDs allow unescorted access to bases with their lower-priced commissaries.

RTFA if you think you’re going to find new lies to supplement those offered when bigots used the States Rights defense in their attempt to maintain segregation and all the other crimes of racism.

Civil Rights under the US Constitution have always been a class of laws where federal law eventually and appropriately takes precedence. Hypocrites and liars like Rick Perry and Mary Fallin, the governors of Texas and Oklahoma and their backwards peers vacillate between hatred and cowardice in their excuses. Nothing new to offer. The facts remain the same. Homophobia is just one more ignoranus crime against constitutional democracy and should be dealt with as such.

Doctors aid torture at US military prisons

Doctors and nurses working under US military orders have been complicit in the abuse of terrorism suspects, a new independent US report says.

The study says medical professionals helped design, enable and participated in “torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees.

The report was compiled by an independent panel of military, health, ethics and legal experts.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon have rejected the report’s findings…

That last sentence ain’t exactly a surprise. I doubt if they care one way or the other.

The report says the collusion began at US prisons in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at CIA secret detention sites after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Co-author Leonard Rubenstein told the BBC’s Newsday programme that the report revealed “the legacy of torture and detainee abuse at Guantanamo and elsewhere on the medical community”.

“What we found was that the department of defence and the CIA actually changed core ethical standards to facilitate participation by health professionals in the abuse of detainees. And those distortions still exist,” he said…

The report calls on the US Senate Intelligence Committee to fully investigate medical practices at the detention sites.

Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said that none of the critics of prisoner care had access to the detainees, their medical records, or the procedures at Guantanamo.

He described the doctors and nurses working at Guantanamo as “consummate professionals“.

And Mussolini got the trains in Italy to run on time.

As for access to prisoners? That’s a function of the isolation imposed by the screws in charge of US prisons holding detainees illegally to begin with. What meager judicial processes the prisoners have been allowed violate all core international treaties on war crimes. And even though a significant number of prisoners have been judged free of crime they haven’t been allowed repatriation.

Nope. The whole process stinks on ice – just like Obama’s so-called legalising of Bush’s crimes. Same shit, different day is all. The doctors who worked for Himmler and Hitler in Nazi death camps were consummate professionals, too.

You can download the full report [.pdf] over here – hosted by the Institute for Medicine as a Profession.

American military marches openly in San Diego’s Gay Pride parade


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

About 200 active-duty troops and veterans wearing T-shirts advertising their branch of service marched Saturday in San Diego’s gay pride parade with American flags and rainbow banners, marking what is believed to be the first time a military contingent has participated in such an event in the U.S.

Many of the active-duty troops said they were moved to come out because it is time to end the military’s ban on openly gay troops. The march comes a day after a federal appeals court reinstated “don’t ask, don’t tell” but with a caveat that prevents the government from investigating or penalizing anyone who is openly gay.

National Guard member Nichole Herrera, 31, said she didn’t think twice about marching, even though the policy is back on the books. She said she was “choked up” several times as she walked down a main thoroughfare in San Diego, a major Navy port.

“This is one of the proudest days in my life. It’s time for it (the policy) to be gone,” Herrera said. “I’m a soldier no matter what, regardless of my sexual orientation.”

The crowd roared as the group waving military flags and holding placards identifying their military branch walked past the thousands.

Every branch of service was represented Saturday, including the Coast Guard. Marines and sailors ran out carrying their branch’s flags over their heads. One Marine stopped to pose with two towering bikini-clad blondes in stiletto-heeled boots.

Onlookers stepped into the parade route to salute them.

Bravo! The salute is overdue. Wish my cousin Billy was alive to see the Navy allow him public pride.

Okinawa anti-base governor Hirokazu Nakaima re-elected


Hirokazu and supporters celebrate re-election
Daylife/Getty Images used by per mission

The governor of Japan’s Okinawa has been re-elected, in a poll which was closely tied to the future of a controversial US base on the island.

Hirokazu Nakaima, who has fiercely opposed the relocation of the Futenma base, repeated his call that it be removed from the island.

Mr Nakaima had faced tough opposition from Mayor Yoichi Iha. But he will now have the power to veto the plan, which has severely strained ties between Tokyo and Washington…

I am demanding the base be removed off the island and the Japan-US agreement be reviewed,” the Jiji news agency quoted him as saying…

The unpopular Futenma base is located in the densely populated south of the island.

Both the US and Japan want to relocate it to a new offshore facility in the less populated north.

But residents and law makers in Henoko oppose the plan, as do environmentalists who say it will devastate marine life in the area. Many residents also say that Futenma should be moved off Okinawa altogether – they say Okinawa hosts more than its fair share of bases, leading to disruption, noise and crime.

Most of the treaty has been kept secret from both American and Japanese citizens. Even politicians who win the national election and are voted in as Prime Minister by the Parliament don’t get to see it until afterwards.

We’re still ruling the foreign policy of a nation as the result of a war won 65 years ago. If that ain’t a symptom of the corruption of imperialism – nothing is. Meanwhile, each democratic vote by the people who actually live on the island is meaningless in the eyes of our State Department and Japan’s Home Office.

With damned few exceptions, we should bring all our troops home. Now.

Judge rules military Gay discrimination policy unconstitutional


Handcuffed Gay members of the military protest President Obama’s inaction
Daylife/AP PHoto used by permission

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay members of the military is unconstitutional, a federal judge in California has ruled.

Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court struck down the rule in an opinion [.pdf] issued late in the day. The policy was signed into law in 1993 as a compromise that would allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in the military…

The plaintiffs challenged the law under the Fifth and First Amendments to the Constitution, and Judge Phillips agreed.

“The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ act infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members in many ways,” she wrote. “In order to justify the encroachment on these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ act was necessary to significantly further the government’s important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden…”

The decision is among a number of recent rulings that suggest a growing judicial skepticism about measures that discriminate against homosexuals, including rulings against California’s ban on same-sex marriage and a Massachusetts decision striking down a federal law forbidding the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage…

The suit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay organization. The group’s executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, pronounced himself “delighted” with the ruling, which he called “not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members but all American service members…”

Richard Socarides, a lawyer who served as an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues when the policy was passed into law, said the legal action was long overdue. “The president has said he opposes the policy, yet he has defended it in court. Now that he’s lost, and resoundingly so, he must stop enforcing it.”

Our president will probably dump responsibility into the collective Congressional lap – whose members will sort themselves out along traditional American political lines: The bigots will assemble their collection of code words and hold press conferences defending their bigotry. The cowards will assemble their collection of do-nothing code words and decry bigotry – and fail to do a damned thing about it.

I don’t know of very many principled members of Congress who will actually stand up for the extension of civil rights to all Americans just because it’s their constitutional right. Do you?

Mass rally in Japan against US base on Okinawa


Supporters rally in Tokyo

Demonstrators have gathered at a rally in Okinawa, Japan, to protest against a US military air base on the island.

Sunday’s rally, near Kadena air base, the largest US military facility in the Asia-Pacific region, is expected to include Hirokazu Nakaima, Okinawa’s governor, and more than 30 town mayors.

Many on the island are unhappy with the heavy American military presence – a legacy of Japan’s World War II defeat – complaining of noise, pollution and frictions with US soldiers.

The issue threatens the political future of Yukio Hatoyama, the prime minister, who has staked his job on settling the issue.

The row centres on the unpopular Futenma US Marine Corps Air Station, which under a 2006 deal between Tokyo and Washington, was to be moved from the crowded city of Ginowan to the quieter coastal Henoko area of Okinawa.

After taking power in September in a landslide election, Hatoyama said the base may be moved off the island entirely instead…

Under the 2006 agreement – which requires legal approval from Nakaima, the Okinawa governor – Futenma facilities would be shifted to reclaimed land around Camp Schwab in Henoko and about 8,000 marines would move to the US territory of Guam.

Japan, which committed to pacifism in its post-WWII constitution, relies heavily on the US, its treaty partner, for its security.

And we all know how important that has been.

Crap! Japan never exactly faced invasion by Chinese hordes throughout the Glory Days of the Cold War. China’s more likely to send someone over with a checkbook, nowadays – and buy the Ginza!

Get the bloody troops off Japanese territory, bring ‘em home, quit spending 6-figures apiece on sustaining each soldier-ambassador of American democracy.

Bible references discovered on U.S. military weapons


“Damn right we’re crusading! …”

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious “Crusade” in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as “the light of the world.” John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military.


“… and don’t you forget it!”

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Update: Company will stop citing its bible on our weapons. First they take prayer out of the schools, now this. What would granma think?

U.S. Military deluged by data stream from drones


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

As the military rushes to place more spy drones over Afghanistan, the remote-controlled planes are producing so much video intelligence that analysts are finding it more and more difficult to keep up.

Air Force drones collected nearly three times as much video over Afghanistan and Iraq last year as in 2007 — about 24 years’ worth if watched continuously. That volume is expected to multiply in the coming years as drones are added to the fleet and as some start using multiple cameras to shoot in many directions.

A group of young analysts already watches every second of the footage live as it is streamed to Langley Air Force Base here and to other intelligence centers, and they quickly pass warnings about insurgents and roadside bombs to troops in the field.

But military officials also see much potential in using the archives of video collected by the drones for later analysis, like searching for patterns of insurgent activity over time. To date, only a small fraction of the stored video has been retrieved for such intelligence purposes…

Instead of carrying just one camera, the Reaper drones, which are newer and larger than the Predators, will soon be able to record video in 10 directions at once. By 2011, that will increase to 30 directions with plans for as many as 65 after that. Even the Air Force’s top intelligence official, Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, says it could soon be “swimming in sensors and drowning in data…”

RTFA. So far the best tools for interpreting the data stream remain the eyeball and the human brain.

If anything, the military stands the best chance of learning how to handle the technology – from ESPN. The folks in those trailers parked outside an NFL game have already figured out how to handle multiple data streams. Play by play.