Posts Tagged ‘U.S. military’
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.
Bravo! The salute is overdue. Wish my cousin Billy was alive to see the Navy allow him public pride.
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.
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?
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.
“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!”
Update: Company will stop citing its bible on our weapons. First they take prayer out of the schools, now this. What would granma think?
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.
Nada Alkhaddar and her son in their Chicago apartment
Nada Alkhaddar spends her days at the Muslim Women Resource Center helping refugees and immigrants deal with government and commercial bureaucracies that can make life in the United States seem about as easy as computing the Alternative Minimum Tax…
Despite her skills at navigating the obstacles immigrants face, Ms. Alkhaddar cannot seem to help the person closest to her and her three children — her husband, Ahmed Alrais — who is trying to get a green card.
Mr. Alrais came to the United States in the spring of 2008 after his life had been threatened for working as an interpreter for the United States Army in Iraq. Unable to find a job during the recession and without a green card, he returned in February to the country he had fled to work again for the Army through a private contractor.
Federal officials at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, will not give Mr. Alrais credit for the time he has spent on a United States military base overseas so he can fulfill an American residency requirement to get the green card. His application was denied in November.
Mr. Alrais, 51, struggles to understand a system that would have given him a green card if he had stayed in the United States for the full year without a job, instead of working with American forces in Iraq…
Fred Tsao, policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said Mr. Alrais’s ordeal to secure a green card was “crazy.”
“To go back and face the dangers while serving this country and then be denied a green card seems really unfair,” Mr. Tsao said. “It’s an awful deterrence to making a contribution to the country that took you in. Something is terribly wrong here.”
RTFA. There is nothing here that will surprise many of you.
In light of the service these people have given and continue to give to the U.S. Military and people in need – you might expect the slightest crack of sunlight and warmth to reach the icy hearts of bureaucrats. Unaccustomed though they may be to using their heads for anything other than supporting a hat with earflaps.
The pervasive smoke spewing from the junk heap at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq is causing many returning troops to be concerned about the effects on their long-term health.
For four years, the burn pit was a festering dump, spewing acrid smoke over the base, including housing and the hospital.
Until three incinerators were installed, the smelly pit was the only place to dispose of trash, including plastics, food and medical waste.
“At the peak, before they went to use the real industrial incinerators, it was about 500,000 pounds a day of stuff,” according to a transcript of an April 2008 presentation by Dr. Bill Halperin, who heads the Occupational and Environmental Health Subcommittee at the Defense Health Board. “The way it was burned was by putting jet fuel on it.”
A lawsuit filed against the burn pit operators by a contractor alleges the burn pit also contained body parts.
“Wild dogs in the area raided the burn pit and carried off human remains. The wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths,” says the lawsuit filed in Texas federal court.
Aside from Balad, there are similar pits at bases elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some still have no incinerators…
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
An international debate is needed on the use of autonomous military robots, a leading academic has said.
Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield said that a push toward more robotic technology used in warfare would put civilian life at grave risk. Technology capable of distinguishing friend from foe reliably was at least 50 years away, he added.
However, he said that for the first time, US forces mentioned resolving such ethical concerns in their plans.
“Robots that can decide where to kill, who to kill and when to kill is high on all the military agendas,” Professor Sharkey said at a meeting in London. “The problem is that this is all based on artificial intelligence, and the military have a strange view of artificial intelligence based on science fiction…”
The problem, he said, was that robots could not fulfil two of the basic tenets of warfare: discriminating friend from foe, and “proportionality”, determining a reasonable amount of force to gain a given military advantage.
“Robots do not have the necessary discriminatory ability,” he explained.
“They’re not bright enough to be called stupid – they can’t discriminate between civilians and non-civilians; it’s hard enough for soldiers to do that.
“And forget about proportionality, there’s no software that can make a robot proportional,” he added.
“There’s no objective calculus of proportionality – it’s just a decision that people make.”
RTFA. Lots of questions asked. Not a hell of a lot of answers.
I suppose the most pressing question is – does the military care about our questions at all? Do the politicians undertand – or care – who are supposed to oversee the military?
The new guy – Gen Stanley McChrystal
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The US defence secretary has asked the country’s commander in Afghanistan to step down, saying the battle against the Taleban needs “new thinking”.
Robert Gates confirmed Gen David McKiernan would effectively be sacked less than a year after taking command. He will be replaced by Gen Stanley McChrystal, who is seen as having a better understanding of the conflict.
The change comes as the US boosts troops numbers in Afghanistan and prepares for a change in strategy…
Gen McChrystal was in charge of Joint Special Operations in Iraq. His forces were involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Robert Gates has refused to explain why he lost faith in Gen McKiernan. But both he and President Obama have often repeated that the war in Afghanistan will not be won with military strength alone…
Gen McChrystal is reported to have adopted an approach of “collaborative warfare” – relying on communication intercepts and human intelligence as well as military force…
Correspondents say Gen McChrystal is a specialist in the kind of counter-insurgency strategy the Obama administration plans to implement in Afghanistan.
Though I haven’t access to the intel that prompts re-examination, my opinion about 4th generation warfare apparently coincides with Gates’ – nowadays.
There is an abundance of study and strategy offered by the best minds at the U.S. War College supporting this kind of change. Including what sort of armed forces we need for a world beyond the Cold War mentality of mutant primates like Cheney.