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Romney’s Made-up History on Iran

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 6, 2012

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has taken a page from right-wing mythology as the foundation for his tough-guy policy toward Iran, citing the supposed “history” of Ronald Reagan scaring the Iranians into releasing 52 American hostages on Jan. 20, 1981.

This account of a macho Reagan staring down the Iranians after they had mocked Jimmy Carter for 444 days is a cherished canard of the American Right, reprised again Tuesday in Romney’s Washington Post op-ed, which states:. “Running for the presidency against Carter [in 1980], Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior.”

But that swaggering tale of Reagan’s toughness is not supported by the historical record. Not only does the overwhelming evidence now show that Reagan’s campaign team negotiated secretly behind President Carter’s back to undercut his efforts to free the hostages, but Reagan then followed up their release by authorizing secret shipments of weapons to Iran via Israel.

In other words, instead of bullying the Iranians over their hostage-taking, Reagan rewarded them. And those shipments did not begin in 1985, with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage deals, but rather almost immediately after Reagan took office in 1981, according to a number of Israeli and U.S. government officials.

For instance, Israeli arms dealer William Northrop claimed in an affidavit that even before Reagan’s inauguration, Israel had sounded out the incoming administration regarding its attitudes toward more weapons shipments to Iran and got “the new administration’s approval.”

By March 1981, millions of dollars in weapons were moving through the Israeli arms pipeline, Norththrop said, including spare parts for U.S.-made aircraft and tons of other hardware. Northrop added that Israel routinely informed the new Reagan administration of its shipments.

(Northrop was indicted by the U.S. government in spring 1986 for his role in allegedly unauthorized shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran, but the case was thrown out after Reagan’s Iran-Contra arms deal with Iran was exposed in fall 1986).

Lost Plane

On July 18, 1981, one of Israel’s secret weapons deliveries to Iran went awry. A chartered Argentine plane strayed off course and crashed (or was shot down) in Soviet territory, threatening to reveal the clandestine deliveries, which surely would have outraged the U.S. people if they had learned that Israel was supplying weapons to Iran with Reagan’s secret blessing – just months after the hostage crisis had ended.

After the plane went down, Nicholas Veliotes, a career diplomat serving as Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, tried to get to the bottom of the mysterious weapons flight.

“We received a press report from Tass [the official Soviet news agency] that an Argentinian plane had crashed,” Veliotes said in a later interview with PBS “Frontline” producers. “According to the documents … this was chartered by Israel and it was carrying American military equipment to Iran. …

“And it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment. Now this was not a covert operation in the classic sense, for which probably you could get a legal justification for it. As it stood, I believe it was the initiative of a few people [who] gave the Israelis the go-ahead. The net result was a violation of American law.”

The reason that the Israeli flights violated U.S. law was that Reagan had not given formal notification to Congress about the transshipment of U.S. military equipment as required by the Arms Export Control Act. If he had, the embarrassing reality of the arms pay-off to Iran would almost surely have leaked — and questions might have been asked about why Reagan was making the pay-off in the first place.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

Q: “Between?”

Veliotes: “Between Israelis and these new players.”

Veliotes added that the embarrassing facts about the downed plane were obscured by Reagan’s State Department, which issued misleading guidance to the U.S. press.

Israeli Pipeline

In my work on the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, I also had obtained a classified summary of testimony from a mid-level State Department official, David Satterfield, who saw these early arms shipments as a continuation of Israeli policy toward Iran.

“Satterfield believed that Israel maintained a persistent military relationship with Iran, based on the Israeli assumption that Iran was a non-Arab state which always constituted a potential ally in the Middle East,” the summary read. “There was evidence that Israel resumed providing arms to Iran in 1980.”

Over the years, senior Israeli officials have claimed that those early shipments, which Carter had tried to block, received the blessing of Reagan’s team.

In May 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon told the Washington Post that U.S. officials had approved Iranian arms transfers. “We said that notwithstanding the tyranny of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, which we all hate, we have to leave a small window open to this country, a tiny small bridge to this country,” Sharon said.

A decade later, in 1993, I took part in an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Tel Aviv during which he said he had read Gary Sick’s 1991 book, October Surprise, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980  hostage negotiations to disrupt Jimmy Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

Walsh’s Suspicions

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh also came to suspect that those later arms-for-hostage deals traced back to 1980, since it was the only way to make sense of why the Reagan team kept selling arms to Iran in 1985-86 when there was so little progress in reducing the number of American hostages then held by Iranian allies in Lebanon.  When one hostage was released, another was taken.

In conducting a polygraph of Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser (and former CIA officer) Donald Gregg, Walsh’s investigators added a question about Gregg’s alleged participation in the secret 1980 negotiations between Reagan’s team and the Iranians.

“Were you ever involved in a plan to delay the release of the hostages in Iran until after the 1980 Presidential election?” the examiner asked. Gregg’s denial was judged to be deceptive. [See Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I, p. 501]

So, the historical evidence suggests that the dramatic timing of Iran’s hostage release – as Reagan was giving his Inaugural Address – was not the result of the Iranians fearing Reagan’s retaliation, but rather was a choreographed P.R. event between Reagan’s team and the Iranians.

In the days before Reagan’s Inauguration, his acolytes had been busy circulating a joke around Washington which went: “What’s three feet deep and glows in the dark? Tehran ten minutes after Ronald Reagan becomes President.”

Instead the Iranians released the hostages at the moment most favorable to Reagan – to enhance his standing with the American people as someone whom America’s enemies feared. Republicans got busy working the myth of the Mighty Reagan while Reagan’s team quietly approved Israeli-brokered weapon sales to Iran.

Now, this mythology has found a new place in Romney’s campaign, which has entrusted its foreign policy largely to neoconservatives who came of age during the Reagan administration in the 1980s and helped shape George W. Bush’s foreign policy last decade. In part, here is what Romney published in Tuesday’s Washington Post:

“Beginning Nov. 4, 1979, dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior.

“On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.

“America and the world face a strikingly similar situation today; only even more is at stake. The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy.

“While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world. …

“The overall rubric of my foreign policy will be the same as Ronald Reagan’s: namely, ‘peace through strength.’ Like Reagan, I have put forward a comprehensive plan to rebuild American might and equip our soldiers with the weapons they need to prevail in any conflict. By increasing our annual naval shipbuilding rate from nine to 15, I intend to restore our position so that our Navy is an unchallengeable power on the high seas. …

“My plan includes restoring the regular presence of aircraft carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. It also includes increasing military assistance to Israel and improved coordination with all of our allies in the area.”

Historical Need

Sometimes, I’m asked why I have worked so hard trying to get the history of the Reagan era correct. The question often goes: “Why not leave that to the historians?” In the tone, there is a suggestion that this history is not as important as investigating current events.

But my concern is this: If the bogus history is allowed to stand unchallenged today, the Reagan mythology will continue to control how many Americans perceive their recent past – and thus this propaganda will keep influencing the present and the future.

Romney’s op-ed is a good example of the price the nation and the world might pay for the tendency of many Americans (including prominent Democrats) to duck difficult confrontations with Republicans over a truthful accounting of the Reagan history.

With the Reagan myth lovingly protected by Republicans (and rarely contested by Democrats), it can become a touchstone for dangerous policies, now and in the future, both foreign and domestic.

[For more details on Reagan’s secret dealings with Iran, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or’s “New October Surprise Series.”]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Iran-Pakistan trade rises despite US sanctions’

Press TV – March 17, 2012

A Pakistani minister says trade levels with Iran have increased over the past few years despite US sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear energy program.

“The balance of trade USD 410.438 million remained in favor of Iran [in 2010-2011]. During the last few years there has generally been a positive trend in trade relations between Pakistan and Iran,” Pakistani Federal Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim said.

Islamabad exports to Tehran stood at USD 161.941 million in 2010-11, whereas imports from Iran accounted for USD 572.379 million, Pakistan’s biggest financial daily Business Recorder reported on Saturday.

Amin Fahim said Pakistan’s major exports to Iran in 2010-11 include rice, fruit, chemical material and products, cotton fabric, and manufactures of non-ferrous metals.

Pakistan’s major imports from Iran during the same period were petroleum, chemical compounds, chemical material and products, machinery and its parts, and ores and concentrates of iron, he said.

Earlier in January, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said Islamabad would not limit trade relations with Iran “because of the political whims of any outside power.”

Pakistan has no choice but to seek greater ties with its neighbors – Iran, China, India and Afghanistan – “because the economies of the West are in trouble and not in a position to help us,” Zardari added.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Five family members of a Haiti workers’ leader murdered in Port au Prince

CHAN News Service – March 15, 2012

Five family members of Réginald Antoine were murdered on the morning of Tuesday, March 13, 2012 in Port au Prince. He and Charles Fritz-Gérald are leaders of the Platform of Employees Unjustly Fired from Public Administration (PEVEP). They have fought for years for financial compensation for those who were fired from public service jobs by the 2004-06 regime of Gerard Latortue. This was the regime whose installation was overseen by the U.S., Canada and France following the coup d’etat of February 2004 against President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The PEVEP fought the Latortue regime and then the governments of President Préval and Michel Martelly for compensation for workers illegally fired from their jobs in public enterprises. The group accuses Martelly of reneging on promises he made to settle its grievances.

According to witnesses, several people attacked the home where Réginald Antoine grew up. The murderers used guns and a hand grenade to carry out their grisly task. Antoine was not in the house at the time of the attack. The dead include Antoine’s brother and sister, Claudy and Nancy, his brother in law Wilson and two children.

In a statement to Radio Metropole, a police spokesperson dismissed the gravity of the crime, saying it was carried out by a mentally deranged person. Antoine has called on police to find the killers.

Réginald Antoine is one of signators of this open letter published in the UK Guardian on March 2, 2011 calling on the U.S., Canada and other foreign powers to stop interfering in Haiti’s political affairs. The letter is critical of the first round of Haiti’s national election on November 28, 2010 whose vote count saw Michel Martelly finish third and therefore be ineligible to pass into the second round of voting. The result of that count was later reversed by the chairperson of the country’s electoral council under pressure and threats by the Organization of American States.

Sources: Radio Télévision Caraibes and Radio Kiskeya.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Five family members of a Haiti workers’ leader murdered in Port au Prince

Israel using Gaza as testing field for weapons: Meshaal

Press TV – March 17, 2012

Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Meshaal has said that the Israeli military has turned the Gaza Strip into a testing field for its new weapons.

“Israel used Gaza as a field experiment for the Iron Dome [missile system]” and the weapons of the Israeli army, Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post quoted Meshaal as saying in a surprise meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara late on Friday.

The Hamas leader also criticized the Israeli regime for “fabricating excuses” to launch the recent attacks on the Gaza Strip.

At least 26 Palestinians have been killed and dozens of others injured in Israeli attacks on the coastal sliver since March 9.

Erdogan also lambasted the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, saying that Tel Aviv was marking efforts to drag Palestinians into war.

Reports say Meshaal and Erdogan also discussed the ongoing reconciliation talks between Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.

“There are positive developments regarding relations between Hamas and Fatah. We will assess these developments,” Erdogan told reporters before the meeting.

Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have been trying to form a unity government based on an agreement brokered by Egypt and signed last year in Cairo.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on Israel using Gaza as testing field for weapons: Meshaal

Aussie Soldiers in AFRICA

By Tichaona Zindoga and Farirai Machivenyika | The Southern Times | March 16, 2012

Harare – Could Australia be planning some sort of military action in Africa, specifically Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria?

Absurd as such a question would have sounded just a fortnight ago, the possibility now seems real.

Australian media this past week claimed Canberra had deployed special forces to the three African countries on “intelligence-gathering missions”.

The New Age newspaper said the soldiers were, among other things, assessing border controls, exploring landing sites for possible military interventions and possible escape routes for the evacuation of Australian nationals and military assessments of local politics and security.

Soldiers are not normally deployed as spies.

Further fueling speculation that Australia did indeed deploy– despite the official denials – are indications that a“Western” or “Arab” spy, believed to belong to elite-trained special forces, was arrested in Harare in the past month.

Intelligence gathered by the Australians is believed to flow into databases used by the US and its allies in Africa.

Officials from both Zimbabwe and Australia have not been keen to comment on this.

A few weeks ago, police arrested an Australian couple purporting to be tourists on charges of spying.

The duo was deported.

However, Australia’s Ambassador in Harare, Matthew Neuhaus, told The Southern Times, “I can confirm that there is no Australian SAS or defence operation in Africa.

“I can categorically say there (are) none in Zimbabwe.”

He said issues like evacuation of Australian citizens were dealt with on a “case-by-case” basis.

Neuhaus added that Australia operated within the confines of international law, and its naval assets were part of an operation to hunt down pirates along Africa’s East Coast.

SAS 4 Squadron

According to the New Age newspaper, Australia’s covert unit,the SAS 4 Squadron, which was established by the John Howard government in 2005, has been in Africa since at least last year. However, its existence has never been acknowledged.

The squadron has been operating in three African countries with which Australia is not officially at war.

Authorisation for deployment came from Defence Minister Stephen Smith in late 2010. Smith is believed to have also permitted the transformation of the military unit into one that also dabbles in intelligence gathering.

They are not uniformed and are not accompanied by personnel from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, with whom undercover SAS forces are conventionally deployed. In essence, they have no legal right to be in Africa and if captured can be treated as spies.

Australian National University’s Professor Hugh White, a former Deputy Secretary of Defence, has been quoted saying, “Such an operation deprives the soldier of a whole lot of protections, including their legal status and, in a sense, their identity as a soldier.”

The New Age said Australia’s close links with the US might have influenced its decision to create the SAS 4 Squadron and dispatch troops to Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya.

It is believed Australia is following the US model of training and deploying “soldier-spies”. These have both a military and intelligence-gathering background.

Acting like terrorists

Defence and security expert, Retired Colonel Panganai Kahuni, told this paper that if Australia had deployed in Zimbabwe that would be a violation of international law.

“In the first place, Zimbabwe is a peaceful country with no terrorism activities at all.

“Zimbabwe has no defence and security pact with Australia; hence if such operations are happening they are violating international law and immigration law.

“Those involved could easily be regarded as terrorists since they are operating covertly without the consent of Zimbabwe’s authorities.

“If arrested they could easily be charged under treason laws of Zimbabwe.

“They also can be charged for violating our immigration laws.

“However, these terroristic activities demand that our security institutions become more vigilant and alert.”

The chair of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Management (IPCM), Chakanyuka Karase, said such activities should be looked at within the wider and deeper context of increased Western military involvement in Africa’s affairs.

“The IPCM implores African governments and populations to be vigilant against these foreign machinations.

“The IPCM also implores the international community to discard interventionist doctrines camouflaged under the cloak of ‘protecting civilians’ to promote the interests of certain states by effecting regime change.

“The role of the special forces of Western countries in the destruction of Libya is gradually being exposed and revealed to the world.

“The international community in the interests of peace and security has a duty to guard against a repeat of what transpired in Libya,” he told The Southern Times.

Professor Ben Saul of the University of Sydney was quoted in the media adding, “If Australian forces are present in other countries, in circumstances where Australia is not fighting lawfully in an armed conflict, but they are just picked up as spies on the ground, that then exposes them to the full force and penalty of the local domestic law.

“In many countries espionage is an incredibly serious political offence, which can carry the death penalty.”

Vultures Circling

In recent years, several Western powers have not hidden their desire to intervene militarily in Africa to further their own ends.

The US is keen to establish a military base, the Africa Command (AFRICOM).

In 2011, the US sent special forces to “assist” Uganda rebel Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in Uganda and used AFRICOM to launch the war on Libya.

The Israelis have agreements with Kenya, the Western-backed Somali government and Tanzania on various “military co-operation” deals to curb Islamic militants in the Horn of Africa.

France has deployed militarily in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire in the past year alone, and is understood to be meddling in Madagascar’s political crisis.

An alliance between Australia’s SAS and the US would be natural in the geo-political order of things.

A British paper recently stated that Australia’s SAS played a key role in the potentially illegal detention of prisoners of war at a secret Iraqi prison.

The Guardian said documents showed an SAS squadron of 150 men was integral to the operation of a secret detention facility, known as H1.

A blog called American Interests expounds on the US-Australia military relationship.

It says, “For nearly 100 years, Australia has committed its armed services in every major conflict fought by the United States.

“Its foreign policymakers and its people have mostly accepted that the US is a force for good; a force that historically we have wanted to be associated with.

“Beginning in 1908 when Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin successfully invited Teddy Roosevelt to send his fleet to visit our shores through to the fighting in WWI.

“From when John Curtin turned our military operations over to US General Douglas MacArthur during WWII, through to Vietnam and presently, Afghanistan and Iraq – some 50,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam.”

The SAS, according to the blog, is the “cream” of Australia’s military and is moulded along the same lines of the British special forces of the same name. Canberra has always been secretive about its existence and activities.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vermont Yankee future in question again

NRC asked to investigate recent pattern of failures

By Lucas W Hixson | Enformable | March 16, 2012

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is operating at reduced power due to problems with the condenser tubes, which are reported to be leaking.  Most nuclear power plants replace their condenser at between 20 and 30 years of continued operation, while  Vermont Yankee’s condenser has been in operation over 39-years.

Condenser leaks adversely affect reliability and the water quality of the water that is used inside the nuclear plant as the primary reactor coolant.  Cooling for the plant’s steam condenser is provided from the adjacent Connecticut river.  At the beginning of February, nuclear engineers at the plant discovered that the condenser was not operating efficiently.  There have been a string of outages in recent months that Yankee has had to reduce power because of problems with the condenser.

Condensers have been known to fail catastrophically, as occurred at Entergy’s Grand Gulf Plant, shutting down the plant for several months.  Thus failure of the Condenser would have a tremendous impact upon Vermont Yankee’s ability to operate within cost-effective margins.  The condenser has thousands of small tubes, that are made out of admiralty metal, copper, stainless steel, or titanium.  The Condenser has two major functions:

  • Condense and recover the steam that passes through the turbine (Condensers are used in all power plants that use steam as the driving force)
  • Maintain a vacuum to optimize the efficiency of the turbine.

A regional spokesman for the NRC said the plastic coating Entergy used on the condenser tubes has caused the system to run less efficiently.  If the epoxy is the source of the issue, the plant will have to run at 50 percent power levels while workers strip epoxy off of the tubing in each of the sections of the condenser.  Vermont Yankee spokesman said the condenser has been upgraded over time and the tubes were “re-sleeved” several years ago.

The cause of the “reduced performance” of the condenser isn’t clear at this point.  Last week the back pressure level went up to 4.5 pounds per square inch. The maximum level for the plant is 5 psi, according to Sarah Hofmann, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service. At 7 psi, the plant is designed to SCRAM.

The state says Yankee technicians made a mistake and left a metal plate inside the component as they were trying to troubleshoot the issue last week.  The plate was a piece of metal large enough for workers to stand on.  Neil Sheehan is a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the agency is aware of the incident, adding, “ It’s an issue that’s affected not only Vermont Yankee but numerous other plants over the years where there’s foreign material that’s left behind when a job is completed. We don’t think that’s acceptable and we certainly had that discussion with them and our inspectors will certainly be addressing that in an upcoming inspection report.”

Entergy is unlikely to replace the condenser until a decision is made in its favor to extend the plants current operating license in Vermont, which expires on March 21st, 2012, but the NRC issued a new operating license last year allowing the plant to continue operating until 2032.

In testimony, Fairewinds Associates noted that rather than invest $200,000,000 (in 2016 dollars) in a new condenser, Entergy may choose instead to shut down the plant as it would be difficult to recoup such a large investment during the final years of the plants life.  Especially if Entergy is losing more than it is profiting for extended periods, which may then cause the licensee to make drastic economic decisions in the face of mounting pressure to block the extension of the plants operating license.  Entergy has admitted Vermont Yankee is a minimal profit producer and additional costs may prove too expensive, especially with the added costs of post-Fukushima upgrades, and conditions imposed after the NRC issued its 20-year extended license.

The NRC recently released an annual report on Yankee that cited a number of what it called non-safety issues at the plant.  Since Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation purchased Vermont Yankee from state utility companies in 2002, the plant has had a string of physical plant problems including a water tower collapse in 2007 and a transformer fire.  In January 2010, the company revealed that underground pipes at the plant were leaking tritium into soil on the compound, which is located on the banks of the Connecticut River.

The recent incident prompted the Shumlin Administration to ask federal regulators about a recent series of human errors at the plant.  Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller wrote Thursday to the head of the NRC’s Northeast region to say she’s concerned about what she called a pattern of human errors at the Vernon reactor during the past 15 months.

Commissioner Miller says the most recent incident of the metal plate left inside the condenser raised questions about whether Yankee was experiencing a pattern of human errors. “In looking at the reports I had a concern that there had been a number of incidents and felt it was appropriate to ask the NRC to explain why that pattern of incidents didn’t deserve further attention or further action by the NRC and so that’s why we sent the letter.”

Miller lists five errors, ranging from failure to remove a plastic cover from a pump before it was installed to inaccurately measuring the dose rate from a shipment of radioactive waste.  Miller’s letter to the NRC cites other mistakes, including a case last fall when Yankee technicians misread a work order and shut down a breaker which resulted in a brief loss of the shutdown cooling system, and another case in December when workers mistakenly tripped the wrong diesel back-up generator.

The NRC labeled all five incidents as minor, but Miller is questioning why they aren’t being considered as part of a pattern.  Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said he could not comment on Miller’s letter. The NRC said it would review it.  In addition to conducting two reviews in 2012 — at mid-cycle and end-of-cycle — the NRC will also review Yankee’s implementation of an industry initiative meant to control degradation of underground piping.

In 2009, the Vermont Senate voted to deny permission for Entergy to obtain a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board for re-licensure of the plant.  In February 2010, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 against re-licensing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant after 2012, citing radioactive tritium leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials, and other documented on-site events.  Entergy sued the state over several statutes, including one that gives Vermont jurisdiction over the continued operation of the plant past the 40-year deadline and a say in the long-term storage of nuclear waste on site.

A state law that prevents the plant from storing spent fuel at Vermont Yankee after that date without approval from the Public Service Board.  Last week the board questioned whether it had the ability to let Vermont Yankee keep producing spent fuel and pushed Entergy attorneys on why they hadn’t addressed the impending issue earlier. Federal district court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled the Atomic Energy Act pre-empted the two state laws, but his decision left the Public Service Board’s discretion intact.  The Public Service Board held a status conference March 9 at which they would not guarantee that the plant would keep operating, and briefs are due Friday.

When the board reopened the proceeding and asked whether the plant could continue to operate, Entergy fired off an immediate request to the court asking it to let the plant operate after March 21, implying it might continue operating, even if the board says it should not.

“[O]n March 9, 2012, the PSB made clear that it does not necessarily agree with the AG’s and the DPS’s view. In the event that the PSB ultimately disagrees, Plaintiffs will be forced either to cease operating or, if they defy the PSB by continuing to operate, to face the prospect of a diminished credit rating, a loss of crucial employees, and a demerit in the PSB’s consideration of Plaintiffs’ petition for a new CPG.”

Entergy has a track record of deferring maintenance, exampled by the 2007 collapse of the cooling towers, was found to be caused by corrosion in steel bolts and rotting of lumber.  Some still think that a corporation that buys an aged nuclear plant fully aware of the pending decommissioning agreement with the state, ought to be bound to decommission it. However, right in the middle of the Fukushima disaster the NRC grants another 20 years to an old, trouble ridden plant, doesn’t that just beat all…

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Nuclear Power | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vermont Yankee future in question again

Spinning Business as Usual

By Fred Reed | | March 17, 2012

I remember being a young Marine recruit at Parris Island, August of 1966, running, running, boots thumping on the grinder, exulting in the sense of power and communion that comes of men acting in unison, shouting, “Luke the Gook comes marching by, stick your bayonet in his eye, lef rye lef rye lef….” Only an idiot goes to PI – Third Battalion, Disneyland, in my case – in August. I was one. It goes with being nineteen.

Under a leaden sun that beat down like a soft rubber truncheon, we unlearned civilization. How to clap a hand over a sentry’s mouth while inserting your Kbar in his kidney; agony, shock and instant blood loss prevent a struggle. We ran in formation shouting Kill! Kill! Kill! We learned that it is better to shoot an enemy in the bowels than the head because trying to keep him alive would strain the enemy’s medical resources, and the man would probably die anyway. Peritonitis is your friend, we learned. The other guy’s peritonitis.

Months later at Lejeune we slogged day after day, on three and a half hours sleep, through the greasy clay mud of a North Carolina autumn, from range to range. We learned flame throwers, which if you haven’t you don’t know what hell is, and how to burn the enemy alive. Again, that sense of power. We learned to use white phosphorus, WP, Willy Peter or other names less printable, to cover enemies in burning goop that you can’t put out. We learned to be what human beings shouldn’t be. We felt an exhilarating freedom, of not being subject to moral constraints. We learned to suppress conscience, morality, and empathy. This, more than the use of weapons, is the goal of military training.

It works. Generations of study of psychological conditioning have gone into making it work. It plays to all the animal instincts of the young male, the desire to belong, for adventure, to prove himself, to win.

The love of combat, or the love of a highly romanticized idea of combat, runs deep in the race. Go to a movie in the style of Star Wars and watch the audience as the hero’s starfighter twists, dodges, fires, closes in on the villain. They will be on the edge of their seats, almost orgasmic. What proportion of movies, of video games, turn on war, gunfights, and the like?

It is not hard to direct the instinctual combativeness into hatred of any desired foe. Tribalism is innate in humanity. But the hostility cannot be precisely focused. Typically the soldier is young, not too bright, poorly educated, and not real sure what the war is about. You cannot train him to hate the enemy according to fine distinctions. They are all gooks, dinks, slopes, zipperheads, sand niggers, towel heads. That much used slogan of the Albigensian wars, “Kill them all, God will know his own,” becomes emotional bedrock to soldiers.

And so he comes to hate them all. Viets, Afghans, Iraqis, or Cambodians, Laos, whatever, are weird, alien, dirty, can’t talk English, sneaky, and you can just tell they don’t like Americans. Watch their eyes. They’re hiding something, aiding the enemy. They are animals, don’t deserve to live. And so in every war you hear the plea, “Screw the rules of engagement. Turn us loose. We’ll end this fast.”

And so the atrocities come. Always. Inevitably. In every war. In ancient times they were not called atrocities, but just “war.” Conquering commanders would perhaps put the whole city to the sword, or at least allow the soldiers a few days of raping and looting. Today we are more squeamish, and avert our eyes. Read carefully the history of any country’s wars, certainly including America’s. Ghastly examples abound.

The military’s response to a discovered atrocity is to lie about it if possible. This is not from shame. In Afghanistan, the Pentagon knows that the Taliban cannot defeat American forces, but public opinion in the US can. If lying doesn’t work, spin, spin, spin. In the latest atrocity by US forces, in which a GI killed sixteen Afghan civilians for fun, or maybe from boredom, the Pentagon is saying that he had suffered a head injury. Oh. (The magazine The Nation quotes Afghans as saying that there were several GIs, drunk and laughing. I guess they all had head injuries.)

The atrocities will continue. They always do. They are part of war, especially of wars against populations. Most go unreported. A few years back I was in China and met a young Puerto Rican vet from New York. His mother had taken him on tour to celebrate his live return from Afghanistan. He told me of being on patrol in some town when a woman had accidentally blocked the path of the sergeant in charge of the patrol. He rifle-butted her. A small thing, not up there with splashy atrocities like killing a bunch of children. The kid said he knew it was wrong, but in a firefight you have to depend on the other guys and you can’t risk having the sergeant down on you. He didn’t say anything.

If you suggest that such behavior isn’t a real good idea, the hard-nosed will say, what the hell, tell them to get over it, we’ve got a war to fight. Thing is, Afghan men are as hard as any who ever lived, and they take mistreatment of their women seriously. They take the murder of their children for fun seriously. A horizontal butt-stroke to the face of someone’s wife means that you aren’t going to win your war. Pissing on Afghan dead, kicking their doors in at three in the morning, kill teams sportily murdering civilians, all the things that boot camp makes inevitable – they all mean you are not going to win your war.

Even Republicans can tire of killing, or conceivably can. But it is not just the weariness of Americans with endless war that threatens the Pentagon. The Afghans hate the United States, and their soldiers have begun killing US troops. The Pakis, furious at American intervention and random killing with those fun new drones, are at the point of revolt. The atrocities will continue because, after all the medals and stories of heroism at the O-club, the high-fives and the teary-eyed tributes to the fallen, atrocities are what armies do.

When you have trained men to behave in a certain way, don’t be surprised when they do.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

How many violations of US arms laws are too many?

By Franklin Lamb | Al-Manar | March 17, 2012

On March 6, 2012, the US Congressional Research Service released a report to the US Congress concerning Restrictions on the use of American weapons by recipient countries.

For those who have followed the subject there was not a whole lot new in the CRS study, yet it is instructive in identifying Israel once again as far and away the most consistent egregious violator of virtually every provision of every US law which purports to regulate how American weapons are used.

In accordance with American law, the U.S. Government is mandated to enforce strict conditions on the use against civilians, of weapons it transfers to foreign recipients.

Violations of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of contracts for such defense items, and even the cutting off of all aid to the violating country.

Section 3(a) of the 1976 US Arms Export Control Act (AECA) sets the standards for countries to be eligible to receive American arms and it also sets express conditions on the uses to which these arms may be put. Section 4 of the AECA states that U.S. weapons shall be sold to friendly countries “solely” for use in “legitimate self-defense, for use in “internal security,” and to enable the recipient country to participate in “collective measures requested by the United Nations for the purpose of maintaining or restoring international peace and security.”

Should the President or Congress determine pursuant to section 3(c)(3)(A) of the Arms Export Control Act that a “substantial violation” by a foreign country of an applicable agreement governing an arms sale or grant has occurred, then that country is automatically ineligible for further U.S. military hardware. This action would also terminate provision of credits, loan guarantees, cash sales, and deliveries pursuant to previous sales or grants. Other options include suspension of deliveries of defense items already ordered and refusal to allow new arms orders.

The United States has only once used such an option against Israel.

Questions raised by researchers in Beirut during the summer of 1982 and by Washington Post journalist Jonathan Randel regarding the use of U.S.-supplied military equipment by Israel in Lebanon in June and July 1982, led the Reagan Administration to determine on July 15, 1982, that Israel “may” have violated its July 23, 1952, Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States (TIAS 2675) and the AECA.

The pertinent language of the 1952 agreement between Israel and the United States states:

“The Government of Israel assures the United States Government that such equipment, material, or services as may be acquired from the United States … are required for and will be used solely to maintain its internal security, its legitimate self-defense, or to permit it to participate in the defense of the area of which it is a part, or in United Nations collective security arrangements and measures, and that it will not undertake any act of aggression against any other state.”

Alarm centered on whether or not Israel had used U.S.-supplied antipersonnel cluster bombs against civilian targets during its carpet bombing West Beirut during the nearly three month siege.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on this issue in July and August 1982.

On July 19, 1982, the Reagan Administration announced that it would prohibit new exports of cluster bombs to Israel.

This prohibition was lifted by the Reagan Administration in November 1988 under US Israel lobby pressure on the White House designed to assist the Presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush.

The facts of this case which manly centered on events in Lebanon are instructive. During the 1973 Ramadan war, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, watching Arab forces advance on Israel troops following the October 6 Egyptian and Syrian offensive, and being advised by the Israeli Defense Ministry of a pending disaster, threatened President Nixon with Israel using nuclear weapons unless the US rescued Israel. Nixon’s immediate response was to order a massive air lift to Israel of US arms stockpiled for use in Vietnam at Clark air force base near Subic Bay, Philippines. […]

During a late June 1982 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Begin, Reagan was handed a note from George Shultz. Based on the information he had in hand, Reagan directly told Begin that the US had reliable information than Israel was using American weapons against civilians in Lebanon. At this point according to Reagan, Begin became very agitated.

He lowered his glasses and while glaring at Reagan and shaking his index finger said, “Mr. President, Israel has never and would never use American weapons against civilians and to claim otherwise is a blood libel against every Jew, everywhere.”

Following their meeting Reagan told Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, as reported by Weinberger and by various biographers of Reagan that “I did not know what the term “blood libel” meant, but I know that the man looked me straight in the eyes and lied to me.” […]

The US Zionist lobby accurately considers American arms control laws as meaningless. The prohibitions against Israel’s use of American weapons against civilians have not, are not and in all likelihood will never be enforced against Israel given the regime’s continuing occupation of much of the US government. … Full article

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on How many violations of US arms laws are too many?