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Russia begins weapons shipments to Iraq

Itar-Tass | October 17, 2013

MOSCOW – Russia has begun shipping military hardware to Iraq, Ali al-Musawi, advisor of the Iraqi Prime Minister told Russia Today on Thursday.

The official noted that the contract “entails primarily weapon shipments to combat terrorism.” The advisor clarified that Russia will provide “helicopters which were proven to be effective during anti-terrorist operations. Special hardware to combat terrorists will also be supplied.”

Ali al-Musawi noted that “Iraq does not possess offensive weapons, as it does not hatch any plans for expansion. Bagdad only strives for securing its own sovereignty, defense of its wealth and fight against terrorism.”

Iraq will receive 40 helicopters

The $4.2 billion contract was signed in 2012. In early 2013 reports on its annulment surfaced; however, Anatoly Isaykin, Director General of Rosoboronexport, announced at a press conference in February that the contract was not annulled; rather, it hasn’t come into force yet.

The agreement entails providing Iraq with 40 attack helicopters Mi-35 and Mi-28 “Night Hunter”. The first team of Iraq specialists has concluded Mi-35 flight training in the Russian Center for Military Aviation in Torzhok.

Previously Russia wrote off Iraq’s debt in exchange to expected large-scale purchases of Russian military hardware.

Traditional ties

Iraq purchased most of its military hardware in the USSR and Russia. During the Soviet era around $30.5 billion were spent on Russian arms throughout 30 years. Former deals include around 1000 planes and 350 helicopters as well as AA systems, land transport and watercraft.

Resumption of export of Russian hardware to Iraq is explained by the Iraqi armed forces being used to Russian weapons as well as diversification of suppliers – after Saddam Hussein’s regime toppled, Bagdad started purchasing weapons from the United States. Baghdad and Washington have made arms deals with the total price of over $12 billion.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Awkwardest and Most Authoritative Ever Comments on Drones

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | October 17, 2013

The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.

President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls’ education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.

Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.

Malala recounted: “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact.”

President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.

It’s up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.

The United Nations has released a report on “armed drones and the right to life” (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:

“Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes.”

Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:

“Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints — political and otherwise — may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones.”

The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition.  War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war.  But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:

“An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones.”

The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack.  The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent.  The Obama Administration has famously redefined “imminent” to mean eventual or theoretical — that is, they’ve stripped the word of all meaning.  (See the “white paper” PDF.)  The U.N. doesn’t buy it:

“The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law.”

U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it’s part of a war.  The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war.  Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:

“Insofar as the term ‘signature strikes’ refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected.”

The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders — namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:

“Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force.”

Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is “self-defense” the action must be reported to the U.N. — thereby making it sooooo much better.

A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes.  That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions.  But this second report just asks for “a detailed public explanation.”

The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn’t heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness.  Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.’s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drone strikes threaten global security: UN report

Press TV – October 18, 2013

A new UN report warns that the use of armed drones threatens global security and encourages more states to acquire unmanned weapons.

The report, which has been submitted to UN General Assembly by Christof Heyns — the organization’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions — called for states that operate armed drones to be more transparent and publicly disclose how they use them, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

“The expansive use of armed drones by the first states to acquire them, if not challenged, can do structural damage to the cornerstones of international security and set precedents that undermine the protection of life across the globe in the longer term,” the report said.

“The use of drones by states to exercise essentially a global policing function to counter potential threats presents a danger to the protection of life, because the tools of domestic policing (such as capture) are not available, and the more permissive targeting framework of the laws of war is often used instead,” it pointed out.

The report also called for international laws to be respected rather than ignored.

“The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable, even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack, distorts the requirements established in international human rights law,” stated the report.

Countries cannot consent “to the violation of their obligations under international humanitarian law or international human rights law,” it added.

Heyns noted that “drones come from the sky but leave the heavy footprint of war on the communities they target.”

“The claims that drones are more precise in targeting cannot be accepted uncritically, not least because terms such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant’ are sometimes used to describe people who are in truth protected civilians,” he said.

The report is the first of two major papers on drone strikes due to be debated at the UN General Assembly on October25. The second, by Ben Emmerson, special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, will be published next week.

Although no state is identified in the report, the comments are clearly directed at the legal problems raised by the US program of aerial attacks against what it describes as militants in other countries.

Emmerson said that drone strikes have killed far more civilians than US officials have publicly acknowledged.

He said on Thursday that at least 400 in Pakistan and as many as 58 in Yemen have been killed by the CIA drone strikes, and censured the US for failing to aid the investigation by disclosing its own figures.

The report was welcomed by the London-based human rights group Reprieve, which represents several civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.

“This report rightly states that the US’s secretive drone war is a danger not only to innocent civilians on the ground but also to international security as a whole.

“The CIA’s campaign must be brought out of the shadows: we need to see real accountability for the hundreds of civilians who have been killed – and justice for their relatives. Among Reprieve’s clients are young Pakistani children who saw their grandmother killed in front of them – the CIA must not be allowed to continue to smear these people as ‘terrorists’,” said its legal director, Kat Craig.

Washington uses assassination drones in several countries, claiming that they target “terrorists”. According to witnesses, however, the attacks have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US may free up frozen Iranian assets: Official

Press TV – October 18, 2013

The US is considering a proposal to unfreeze billions of dollars of Iranian assets to reciprocate Iran’s confidence-building measures over its nuclear energy program, a senior administration official says.

The administration of US President Barack Obama is weighing the possibility of easing sanctions against Iran in the wake of the recent promising talks between Tehran and six major world powers in Geneva, The New York Times website on Thursday quoted an unnamed source as saying.

The official said the proposed plan, under which Washington could free up Iran’s frozen overseas assets in installments, would “avoid the political and diplomatic risks” of repealing the international sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear energy program.

The move, still under discussion by the White House and the State Department, would also give President Obama the flexibility to respond to Iran’s proposals made during the recent Geneva talks without unraveling the sanctions, the official added.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain – plus Germany held two days of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program behind closed doors in the Swiss city of Geneva on October 15-16.

Both sides sounded an upbeat mood following the meetings, where Iran tabled its proposals to end the nuclear standoff, and agreed to meet again in Geneva on November 7-8.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with the US and the European Union using the allegation as a pretext to impose illegal sanctions on Iran.

Iran categorically rejects the allegation, arguing that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Why the Draft Never Stopped a War

Flag of the National Front for the Liberation ...It was the Vietnamese Who Stopped the US War Machine
By JONATHAN CARP | CounterPunch | October 17, 2013

In 2011 I sat on a panel discussion at King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington, on the subject of the effect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on soldiers and their families. My prepared remarks were a discussion of the impact of repeated deployments on the families I saw on the labor and delivery floor where I worked, but during the discussion after I was startled to hear a forceful call for the re-reinstatement of the draft from one of my fellow panelists- a call that met with widespread cheers from the audience.

Since then I’ve seen many, many more calls for a draft from ostensibly anti-interventionist voices, most recently in Andrew Bacevich’s latest book. The underlying premise of these calls, sometimes made explicit and sometimes not, is that a draft would stop America’s lust for war and foreign interventions because it would force the burdens of war to be spread more equally. The draft has been damned, and rightly so, for being a form of slavery and at times a particularly murderous one at that, but even those who might get the vapors at the idea of seeing American solders as slaves cannot deny the simple historical fact that the draft has never, ever- not once- stopped or slowed or in any way inhibited the conduct of a war.

The first American war fought with conscription was the first American war, the Revolution, and it was fought all the way to its conclusion. The next war fought with conscripts, the Civil War, claimed more American lives than any other and while the draft helped provoke some riots, most notably a draft protest turned anti-black pogrom in New York City, that war too was fought all the way to the bloody finish. The First and Second World Wars as well were fought largely with draftees and fought to the bitter end, in the latter case with the immolation of two major cities by a hideous new weapon delivered by aircraft in part manned by draftees.

Korea and especially Vietnam form what the pro-draft lobby thinks of as the lynchpin of their case. The conventional narrative of resistance to the war in Vietnam is of Middle America tiring of seeing its sons’ lives destroyed by Westmoreland’s war of attrition and rising up, of LBJ allegedly saying “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Supposedly the marches in the streets somehow persuaded the American government to leave Vietnam. What this narrative leaves out is what actually stopped the American war in Vietnam–the Vietnamese.

The American Revolution, the Civil War, the World Wars- for the American government, these were all victorious wars. Victory is very popular; victorious wars, however obviously aggressive or absurdly unjust, rarely generate any significant resistance. But in Vietnam, America was not winning. America was losing, and badly. Middle America was in the streets against Vietnam, it is true, but they weren’t there because Johnny was coming home in a box. They were there because Johnny was losing.

The pro-draft narrative of domestic resistance to the Vietnam War is at heart a racist, imperialist narrative, denying the Vietnamese their place as actors in their own history, giving pride of place to white Americans holding signs in the street over Vietnamese peasants giving their lives to drive out yet another imperialist power coming to lord over their country. What stopped the Vietnam War was not a college kid with a sign; it was a rice farmer with an AK-47. Americans only get upset about draftees dying when they are dying in a losing war, and credit for resistance to such wars goes not to Americans at home but to the victims of the American government abroad.

The idea that if only everyone had to share the burden, war would be less popular seems intuitive and appealing, but history reveals it to be deluded. Victory makes wars popular, and defeat makes them unpopular. To try to stop the war machine from inside the imperial center, we must do whatever we can to gum up its works, be it counter-recruiting, supporting GI resistance, spreading awareness about the costs of militarism, tax resistance, or anything else that might help. And while we might debate their ultimate aims as Communists in Vietnam or Islamic radicals in Iraq, we must always remember that the people who do the most to stop the war machine are the people who take up arms against it.

Jonathan Carp is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a nurse. He lives in Tacoma, WA.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 6 Comments

Kicking the can: Budget deal will not solve Washington’s problems

RT | October 18, 2013

Despite a deal to lift the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, the United States is far from a respite, as it won’t address the underlying, internal issues that have usurped its power in the world, economics professor Rodney Shakespeare told RT.

RT: The default is averted. That’s good news, isn’t it?

Rodney Shakespeare: Nothing has been averted. Instead, there’s going to be some sort of meeting between the Democrats and the Republicans, who are two sides of the same coin. And there are three subjects, which they’ll refuse to discuss. The first is the out of control military budget, which ought to be cut to one tenth of what it is at the moment to bring it in line with comparable nations. The second thing is that the system works by exporting jobs. They’ve exported the jobs to about 56,000 enterprises over the last 11 years. That’s five million jobs – and each job creates another three. That’s roughly 15 million jobs which aren’t coming back. And the third thing, which they aren’t going to discuss at this ‘wonderful’ meeting between the Democrats and the Republicans – they will not discuss the core of the issue, which is a corrupt banking system, whose center is the Federal Reserve. Instead, what they’ll do is they’ll blame everything on the poor. So, you see, nothing has been put off. Nothing has been solved. Nothing has been addressed. The situation goes on and ultimately it’s going to result in the final collapse of the dollar. But that may be a year or two off at the moment.

RT: It’s only a temporary fix for the US debt ceiling. But what happens when America is on the verge of running out of cash again?

RS: The same thing is going to happen as is happening at this moment, except that another two or three months will have passed, in which they’ve failed to address the underlying issues and their vanity and the essence of the corruption of the system will not have been addressed. So, you’re going to find at some point that they’ll then…the world will wake up to the overall level of the American debt, which is now just at the point when it becomes unrepairable. And when that happens, you’ll get a sudden, irrevocable slide in the dollar. So, they’ll kick the can down the road for a bit.

RT: It may also be difficult for the rest of the world to understand why there had to be so much last-minute drama in Washington, DC before they reached an agreement. A domestic squabble that held the rest of the world to economic ransom – can the global community afford to risk that again?

RS: The world community should continue doing what it’s quietly doing at the moment: starting to organize it in ways which are separate [from] and outside the West.  They should do it in their banking agreements. I’m pleased to say that the BRICs are creating on optic fiber cable, so that the banking can be done away from the West. They should do it by creating different national and central banks, which put out interest-free money. They should make agreements among themselves, particularly among the non-allied nations. This should be political agreements and financial agreements. They must accept that the West now…its economic powers have declined; its political powers have declined. And as of America’s moral authority? Forget it! They are putting out a poisonous depleted uranium. They’re attacking. They’re assassinating. They have no moral authority whatsoever. Everybody else should get on with organizing themselves away from the pariah states, which are now the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, with their poodles, which are the UK and France. I say to the rest of the world: Get on with it. Organize yourselves and give up this corrupt, out-of-date system, which no longer is providing adequate leadership.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment