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60 Years Since the Largest U.S. Nuclear Accident and Captured Federal Agencies

By Robert Dodge | Common Dreams | July 13, 2019

60 years ago today the largest nuclear accident in U.S. history occurred above the Southern California community of Simi Valley when the Santa Susanna Field Laboratory (SSFL) site suffered a partial nuclear meltdown. That accident, kept secret for two decades, has resulted in ongoing local health effects that persist to this day and has pitted the community health and wellbeing against corporate financial interests and captured government agencies.

SSFL, a 2850 acre site, currently owned by the Department of Energy, NASA and the largest owner being Boeing, is a former nuclear reactor and rocket engine testing site. It is located in the hills above the Simi and San Fernando Valleys, at the headwaters of the Los Angeles River. Located about 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, originally far from population areas, the area now has around 500,000 people within 10 miles of the site. Over its years of operation, there were 10 non-contained nuclear reactors that operated on the site as well as plutonium and uranium fuel fabrication facilities and a “hot lab” where highly irradiated fuel from around the U.S. nuclear complex was shipped for decladding and examination. In addition there were tens of thousands of rocket engine tests conducted over the many years of operation.

The Sodium Reactor Experiment or SRE was the first reactor to provide commercial nuclear power to a U.S. city in Moorpark. Then on July 13, 1959, a partial meltdown occurred in which a third of the fuel experienced melting. Dr. Arjun Makhijani estimated the incident released 260 times the amount of radioactive iodine as was released from the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

As a result of this partial meltdown and numerous other reactor accidents, radioactive fires, massive chemical contamination in handling of the radioactive and chemically contaminated toxic materials that were routinely burned in open pits through the years at the site, it remains one of the most highly contaminated sites in the country. It has widespread contamination with radionuclides such as cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium-239 and toxic chemicals perchlorate, trichloroethylene (TCE), heavy metals and dioxins.

In 2012, the U.S. EPA released the results of an extensive radiological survey of Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone at SSFL, and found 500 samples with radioactivity above background levels, in some cases, thousands of times over background.

These toxins are associated with a multitude of health risks. Many are cancer causing, others are neurotoxins causing a host of issues including learning disabilities, birth defects and many other health effects. The most vulnerable tend to be women and children. Through the years, there have been many health studies performed. In 2006, a cluster of retinoblastoma cases, a rare eye cancer affecting young children, was identified within an area downwind of the site. The retinoblastoma mothers meeting at Los Angeles’s Children’s Hospital ultimately formed a chemo carpool.

The Public Health Institute’s 2012 California Breast Cancer Mapping Project found that the rate of breast cancer is higher in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oak Park and Moorpark than in almost any other place in the state.

In addition, studies by cancer registries found elevated rates of bladder cancer associated with proximity to SSFL.

There have been numerous additional studies including one by the UCLA School of Public Health that found significantly elevated cancer death rates among both the nuclear and rocket workers at SSFL from exposures to these toxic materials. Another study by UCLA found offsite exposures to hazardous chemicals by the neighboring population at levels exceeding EPA levels of concern.

A study performed for the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found the incidence of key cancers, those types known to be associated with the contaminants on site, were 60% higher in the offsite population within 5 miles of the site compared to further away.

Unfortunately, these contaminants do not stay on site. When it rains, they wash off site to the Valleys below. When it blows, they become airborne and migrate offsite. The 2017 Woolsey fire is a most recent example. After initially denials, officials finally admitted the fire actually started on the field lab site burning across almost the entire site and potentially spreading toxic chemicals over the basin. Unfortunately, no adequate monitoring was performed and only began days after the flames had moved on.

Ultimately, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), has regulatory oversight of the cleanup and of the responsible parties which include NASA, the Department of Energy (DOE), and Boeing. In 2010, the Department of Energy and NASA signed historic agreements with DTSC that committed them to cleaning up all detectable contamination. The agreements, or Administrative Orders on Consent (AOC), specified that the cleanup was to be completed by 2017. Boeing, which owns most of the SSFL property, refused to sign the cleanup agreements. Nevertheless, DTSC said that its normal procedures require it to defer to local governments’ land use plans and zoning, which for SSFL allow agricultural and rural residential uses. DTSC said SSFL’s zoning would thus require Boeing to conduct a cleanup equivalent to the NASA/DOE requirements.

In response, Boeing, currently under scrutiny after the 737 MAX crashes, launched a massive “greenwashing” campaign in an attempt to convince the public that SSFL’s contamination was minimal, never hurt anyone, and that the site doesn’t need much of a cleanup because it is going to be an open space park. Boeing prefers a re-designation to recreational cleanup standards that are based on someone being on the site infrequently limited to a few hours per week . But people who live near SSFL don’t live in recreational areas, they live in residential areas and as long as the site isn’t fully cleaned up, they will still be at risk of exposure to SSFL contamination.

Recently, both the Dept. of Energy and NASA, following Boeing’s lead, have said that they too want to break out of their legal cleanup agreements and also cleanup to a weak recreational standard. So, all three responsible parties are completely disregarding the state of California’s regulatory authority. In effect they are asserting that they, the polluters, get to decide how much of their contamination gets cleaned up. That violates federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act laws as well as the AOC cleanup agreements. Now more than ever, we need our elected representatives to stand up and demand the existing cleanup agreements be upheld.

Melissa Bumstead, an adjacent West Hills resident whose daughter has twice survived a rare leukemia and who has mapped over 50 other rare pediatric cancers near SSFL, is bringing fresh energy and new voices into the cleanup fight. Her Change.org petition has now been signed by over 650,000 people and is helping to galvanize the community to fight for the full, promised cleanup.

Thus far, almost all local and federal elected officials have voiced concern that the cleanup agreements are being broken, especially in the wake of the Woolsey Fire. What is needed now is action. People ask how to protect themselves. The best thing people can do is fight for the full cleanup of SSFL. Each of has an opportunity to help this effort. We must contact all of our local officials and demand action today for a full cleanup of SSFL.

Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

July 14, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Worse Than Chernobyl’ Security Scare at UK Nuclear Waste Plant

Sputnik – July 14, 2019

The UK’s sprawling nuclear processing Sellafield plant in Cumbria has a powerful claim to fame, dubbed the “most hazardous industrial building in western Europe”.

There have been 25 safety breaches reportedly logged at the huge Sellafield nuclear waste plant in the UK over the past two years, according to The Sun on Sunday.

The cited incidents include radiation ominously leaking from a water pipe, a nuclear waste container for some reason not welded completely shut, spilt uranium powder and a burst pipe found to be leaking acid, to name just a few.

Logs show a bomb squad was summoned in October 2017 after potentially unstable chemicals sparked a scare, while just a month later it was revealed that a worker had been exposed to a low level of radiation.

Earlier this year, when a high-voltage cable was sliced, causing a power loss, the Office for Nuclear Regulation was swift to hit Sellafield with an improvement notice.

The Cumbria compound has a 140 tonne plutonium stockpile and takes in radioactive waste from the UK’s working reactors.

As bosses insist nuclear safety is an “overriding priority”, the 6km long, razor-wired site has, nonetheless, been dubbed the most hazardous place in Europe.

Locals live in constant fear of a serious incident happening there, said Janine Smith, from the campaign group Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment.

“One safety breach is one too many. There just shouldn’t be any. Just one error could be catastrophic. The buildings at Sellafield are all so close together that if something was to happen at that site it would be a disaster. It could be worse than Chernobyl”, said Smith.

In response to the nuclear security scares, Sellafield Ltd said it is “never complacent about safety.”

“None of the events recorded in the past two years have been above the lowest level of classification. In line with our commitment to openness and transparency, we investigate all incidents and report details on our website,” said a spokesman.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred on 26 April 1986 at the No. 4 nuclear reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR. The meltdown generated a blast [radiation] equivalent to the detonation of 500 nuclear bombs when a reactor exploded and burned.

It is one of just two nuclear energy disasters rated at the maximum severity level of 7, with the other being the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

July 14, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

On the Avoidability of World War One

By Nicholas Kollerstrom | Inconvenient History | December 1, 2011

On August 1, 1914, as dreadful war was breaking out in Europe, the German ambassador Prince Lichnowsky paid a visit to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey. Dr Rudolf Steiner commented as follows upon this meeting – in a 1916 lecture which he gave in Switzerland:

‘A single sentence and the war in the West would not have taken place.’

At that meeting, he averred that, with just one sentence, ‘this war could have been averted.’[1]

To examine that outrageous-sounding claim, we delve into what is a bit of a mystery, that of the first conflict between Germany and Britain for a thousand years: two nations bound by the same royal family, with every statesman in Europe loudly proclaiming that peace is desired, that war must at all costs be avoided; and then the bloodbath takes place, terminating the great hopes for European civilization and extinguishing its bright optimism, as what were set up as defensive alliances mysteriously flipped over and became offensive war-plans.

The ghastly ‘Schlieffen plan’ became activated, as the master-plan of Germany’s self-defense, which as it were contained the need for the dreadful speed with which catastrophe was precipitated. France and Russia had formed a mutual defense agreement (everyone claimed their military alliances were defensive). While Bismarck the wise statesman who founded Germany had lived, this was avoided, such an alliance being his darkest nightmare. But Kaiser Wilhelm did not manage to avoid this, and so Germany’s neighbors to East and West formed a mutual military alliance. The Schlieffen plan was based on the premise that Germany could not fight a war on two fronts but might be able to beat France quickly; so in the event of war looming against Russia in the East, its troops had to move westwards, crashing though Belgium as a route into France. It all had to happen quickly because Germany’s army was smaller than that of Russia.

The timing over those crucial days shows its awful speed: Russia mobilized its army on July 29th, in response to hostilities breaking out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia; two desperate cables were sent by the Kaiser to the Tsar on the 29th and 31st, imploring him not to proceed with full mobilisation of his army because that meant war; the French government ‘irreversibly decided’ to support Russia in the war on the evening of 31st, cabling this decision to the Russian foreign minister at 1 am on August 1st [2]; then, on the afternoon of that same day Germany proceeded to mobilise and declared war on Russia, and two days later went into Belgium. Britain’s House of Commons voted unanimously for war on 5th August, viewing Germany as the belligerent warmonger.

Kaiser Wilhelm’s Nemesis

The Kaiser had enjoyed the reputation of a peacemaker:

Now … he is acclaimed everywhere as the greatest factor for peace that our time can show. It was he, we hear, who again and again threw the weight of his dominating personality, backed by the greatest military organisation in the world – an organisation built up by himself – into the balance for peace wherever war clouds gathered over Europe. ‘(‘William II, King of Prussia and German Emperor, Kaiser 25 years a ruler, hailed as chief peacemaker,’ New York Times, 8 June, 1913. [3])

A former US President, William Howard Taft, said of him: ‘The truth of history requires the verdict that, considering the critically important part which has been his among the nations, he has been, for the last quarter of a century, the single greatest force in the practical maintenance of peace in the world.’ ([4],[5]). That is some tribute! In 1960 a BBC centenary tribute to the Kaiser was permitted to say: ‘Emphasis was placed on his love of England and his deep attachment to Queen Victoria,’ his grandmother.

A lover of peace …. skilled diplomat … deep attachment to Queen Victoria .. so remind me what the Great War was for, that took nine million lives?

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

Kaiser Wilhelm II enjoyed a reputation as a peace maker. Shown in a photo from 1890.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R28302 / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Might the war have been averted if the Kaiser had, perhaps, focussed a bit more on the art of war – how to refrain from marching into Belgium? There was no ‘plan B’! In later days the Kaiser used to say, he had been swept away by the military timetable. Who wanted the war which locked Europe into such dreadful conflict? Did a mere sequence of interlocking treaties bring it on?

On the night of 30-31st of July, feeling entrapped by a seemingly inevitable march of events, Kaiser Wilhelm mused to himself doomily:

Frivolity and weakness are going to plunge the world into the most frightful war of which the ultimate object is the overthrow of Germany. For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves – knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria – to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us… In this way the stupidity and clumsiness of our ally [Austria] is turned into a noose. So the celebrated encirclement of Germany has finally become an accepted fact… The net has suddenly been closed over our heads, and the purely anti-German policy which England has been scornfully pursuing all over the world has won the most spectacular victory which we have proved ourselves powerless to prevent while they, having got us despite our struggles all alone into the net through our loyalty to Austria, proceed to throttle our political and economic existence. A magnificent achievement, which even those for whom it means disaster are bound to admire.’ [6]

‘Those dreadful fields of senseless carnage’

Did hundreds of thousands of young men, the flower of England, want to go out to muddy fields, to fight and die? Shells, bayonets, gas, machine guns – what was the point? In no way were they defending their country or its Empire – for no-one was threatening it. No European nation benefitted: it spelt ruin for all of them. Do we need to fear the imbecility of the poet’s words:

If I should die, think only this of me
There is some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England’? (Rupert Brooke)

A leading British pacifist, E.D. Morel, was widely vilified for the views expressed in his book Truth and the War (1916), and had his health wrecked (as Bertrand Russell described) by being put into Pentonville jail. In haunting words of insight, his book described how: ‘Those dreadful fields of senseless carnage’ had been brought about by ‘futile and wicked Statecraft’ – by ‘an autocratic and secret foreign policy’ carried out by those ‘who by secret plots and counter-plots … hound the peoples to mutual destruction.’ Of the war’s outbreak, Morel wrote: ‘It came therefore to this. While negative assurances had been given to the House of Commons, positive acts diametrically opposed to these assurances had been concerted by the War Office and the Admiralty with the authority of the Foreign Office. All the obligations of an alliance had been incurred, but incurred by the most dangerous and subtle methods; incurred in such a way as to leave the Cabinet free to deny the existence of any formal parchment recording them, and free to represent its policy at home and abroad as one of contractual detachment from the rival Continental groups.’ [7] A total analogy exists here with Blair taking Britain into the Iraq war, making a deal with Bush while continually denying back home that any such deal existed. Two Cabinet members resigned in August 1914, once the central importance of this concealed contract became evident: Viscount Morley and John Burns.

A more orthodox, deterministic view was given by Winston Churchill: ‘the invasion of Belgium brought the British Empire united to the field. Nothing in human power could break the fatal chain, once it had begun to unroll. A situation had been created where hundreds of officials had only to do their prescribed duty to their respective countries to wreck the world. They did their duty’. [8] That necessary chain leading to ruin began only after the crucial discussion alluded to by Dr Steiner, we observe.

Considering that Germany went into Belgium on the 3rd of August, whereas Churchill and Mountbatten, the First and Second Sea Lords, had ordered the mobilising of the British fleet over July 26 -30th, so that by days before the 3rd much of the world’s biggest navy was up north of Scotland all ready to pounce on Germany – his words may appear as some kind of extreme limit of hypocrisy. The mobilising of the British fleet was a massive event which greatly pre-empted political discussion, a week before Britain declared war. [9], [10]

A Secret Alliance

Britain was obliged by no necessity to enter a European war, having no alliance with France that the people of Britain or its parliament knew about, and having a long indeed normal policy of avoiding embroilment in European conflicts. However, ministers especially Grey the Foreign Minister had covertly made a deal with France. To quote from Bertrand Russell’s autobiography: ‘I had noticed during previous years how carefully Sir Edward Grey lied in order to prevent the public from knowing the methods by which he was committing us to the support of France in the event of war.’ [11] Would Britain be dragged into a European war on the coat-tails of France – for centuries, its traditional enemy – given that France had signed a treaty obligation to enter war in consequence of a German-Russian conflict? France was keen to avenge past grievances over the French-German border, aware of the superiority of troops which it and Russia combined had against Germany – and convinced that it could drag Britain into the fray.

On 24 March 1913, the Prime Minister had been asked about the circumstances under which British troops might land on the Continent. He replied, ‘As has been repeatedly stated, this country is not under any obligation not public and known to parliament which compels it to take part in any war’ – a double negative which concealed a hidden but then-existing accord!

Last Hope of Peace

We turn now to the question put, on August 1st by Germany’s ambassador to Britain’s Foreign Secretary, normally omitted from history books on the subject. If war and peace did indeed hinge upon it – as Dr Steiner averred – it may be worth quoting a few judgements about it. Here is Grey’s own letter, written that day:

Grey’s letter to the British ambassador in Berlin: 1 August, concerning his meeting with Prince Lichnowsky:

‘He asked me whether, if Germany gave a promise not to violate Belgian neutrality we would engage to remain neutral. I replied that I could not say that: our hands were still free, and we were considering what our attitude should be….I did not think that we could give a promise on that condition alone. The ambassador pressed me as to whether I could formulate conditions on which we would remain neutral. He even suggested that the integrity of France and her colonies might be guaranteed. I said that I felt obliged to refuse definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar terms, and I could only say that we must keep our hands free.’ [12],[13]

Swiss author George Brandes summarised this meeting:

‘Now Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, asked whether England would agree to remain neutral if Germany refrained from violating Belgium’s neutrality. Sir Edward Grey refused. Britain wanted to retain ‘a free hand’ (‘I did not think we could give a promise of neutrality on that condition alone’). Would he agree if Germany were to guarantee the integrity of both France and her colonies? No.’ [14]

The US historian Harry Elmer Barnes: ‘The only way whereby Grey could have prevented war, if at all, in 1914 would have been by declaring that England would remain neutral if Germany did not invade Belgium…,’ but Grey ‘refused to do’ this: ‘After Grey had refused to promise the German Ambassador that England would remain neutral in the event of Germany’s agreeing not to invade Belgium, the German ambassador asked Grey to formulate the conditions according to which England would remain neutral, but Grey refused point-blank to do so, though he afterwards falsely informed the Commons that he had stated these conditions’. [15] Barnes commended the editorial of the Manchester Guardian July 30th – opposing the pro-war jingoism of The Times – which declared: ‘not only are we neutral now, but we are and ought to remain neutral throughout the whole course of the war.’

The British judge and lawyer Robert Reid was the Earl of Loreburn as well as the Lord Chancellor of England from 1905 to 1912, so he should know what was going on. His book ‘How the War Came’ described how it was the secret deal with France which wrecked everything:

The final mistake was that when, on the actual crisis arising, a decision one way or the other might and, so far as can be judged, would have averted the Continental war altogether … The mischief is that Sir Edward Grey slipped into a new policy, but without either Army, or treaty, or warrant of Parliamentary approval … This country has a right to know its own obligations and prepare to meet them and to decide its own destinies. When the most momentous decision of our whole history had to be taken we were not free to decide. We entered a war to which we had been committed beforehand in the dark, and Parliament found itself at two hours’ notice unable, had it desired, to extricate us from this fearful predicament… If the government thought that either our honour or our safety did require us to intervene on behalf of France, then they ought to have said so unequivocally before the angry Powers on the Continent committed themselves to irrevocable steps in the belief that we should remain neutral. Instead of saying either, they kept on saying in the despatches that their hands were perfectly free, and told the Commons the same thing. The documents show conclusively that till after Germany declared war our Ministers had not made up their minds on either of the two questions, whether or not they would fight for France, and whether or not they would fight for Belgium. Of course Belgium was merely a corridor into France, and unless France was attacked Belgium was in no danger. [16]

After it was over, US President Woodrow Wilson in March of 1919 summed up its avoidability: ‘We know for a certainty that if Germany had thought for a moment that Great Britain would go in with France and Russia, she would never have undertaken the enterprise.’ (p.18, Lorenburn). That was the sense in which Britain precipitated the dreadful conflict. Clear words of truth could have avoided it – had that been desired.

We remind ourselves of Dr Steiner’s comparison: that the British Empire then covered one-quarter of the Earth’s land-surface; Russia one-seventh; France and her colonies one-thirteenth; and Germany, one thirty-third. (Karma, p.11)

Upon receiving a telegram from Prince Lichnowsky earlier in the day of August 1, the Kaiser ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate, as if there might be hope of reaching a deal with Britain. Even though he was just that afternoon signing the order for mobilisation of the German army, he could in some degree have recalled it … but, it was a false hope, and a telegram from King Edward later that day explained to him that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ between Britain’s Foreign Secretary and the German ambassador. [17]

Gray’s Duplicity

On the 26th or 27th, Grey told the Cabinet that he would have to resign, if it did not support his initiative to take Britain into war in support of ‘our ally,’ France. He would not be able to go along with British neutrality. Over these days up until the 1st, or 2nd, when the war was just starting, all the Cabinet of Britain’s Liberal Party government except for Churchill and Grey favoured British neutrality. It was those two who dragged Britain into war. Grey did not yet know whether the Belgian government would say ‘no’ to the German request to be allowed to pass through. To get his war, Grey had to swing it on the ‘poor little Belgium’ angle. Once Belgium had said ‘No’ and yet Germany still went in – as its only way to enter France – a cabinet majority would then became assured.

On August 2nd, Grey gave to the French ambassador what amounted to British assurance of war-support. On August 3rd, Grey gave the Commons an impassioned plea in favour of British intervention on behalf of France – making no mention of the German peace-offer. The MP Phillip Morrell spoke afterwards in the sole anti-war speech that day, and pointed out that a guarantee by Germany not to invade France had been offered, on condition of British neutrality, and spurned. As to why Grey did not mention the German offer, the view was later contrived that the German ambassador had merely been speaking in a private capacity! [18]

The supposed neutrality of Belgium was a sham, as ministers of that country had secretly drawn up detailed anti-German war-plans with Britain and France. No wonder the Kaiser had a sense of being ‘encircled’ by enemies, because ‘“neutral” Belgium had in reality become an active member of the coalition concluded against Germany’ [19] – i.e. it had plotted against a friendly nation. Quoting the commendably insightful George Bernard Shaw, ‘The violation of Belgian neutrality by the Germans was the mainstay of our righteousness; and we played it off on America for much more than it was worth. I guessed that when the German account of our dealings with Belgium reached the United states, backed with an array of facsimiles of secret diplomatic documents discovered by them in Brussels, it would be found that our own treatment of Belgium was as little compatible with neutrality as the German invasion.’ [20]

Steiner’s View

Rudolf Steiner’s judgement in his December 1916 lecture (during which Britain was declining a peace offer from Germany) was:

‘Let me merely remark, that certain things happened from which the only sensible conclusion to be drawn later turned out to be the correct one, namely that behind those who were in a way the puppets there stood in England a powerful and influential group of people who pushed matters doggedly towards a war with Germany and through whom the way was paved for the world war that had always been prophesied. For of course the way can be paved for what it is intended should happen. ..it is impossible to avoid realising how powerful was the group who like an outpost of mighty impulses, stood behind the puppets in the foreground. These latter are of course, perfectly honest people, yet they are puppets, and now they will vanish into obscurity …. [21]

Grey and Churchill were the two consistently pro-war cabinet ministers. The Conservative Party was solidly pro-war, and Churchill was ready to offer them a deal if perchance too many of the Liberal-party cabinet were going to resign rather than go to war. Steiner here remarked:

‘Anyone [in England] voicing the real reasons [for war] would have been swept away by public opinion. Something quite different was needed – a reason which the English people could accept, and that was the violation of Belgian neutrality. But this first had to be brought about. It is really true that Sir Edward Grey could have prevented it with a single sentence. History will one day show that the neutrality of Belgium would never have been violated if Sir Edward Grey had made the declaration which it would have been quite easy for him to make, if he had been in a position to follow his own inclination. But since he was unable to follow his own inclination but had to obey an impulse which came from another side, he had to make the declaration which made it necessary for the neutrality of Belgium to be violated. Georg Brandes pointed to this. By this act England was presented with a plausible reason. That had been the whole point of the exercise: to present England with a plausible reason! To the people who mattered, nothing would have been more uncomfortable than the non-violation of Belgian territory!’ [22]

Could powers behind Grey have wanted war, and steered events towards that end? Steiner argued against the widespread view of an inevitable slide into war: ‘You have no idea how excessively irresponsible it is to seek a simple continuity in these events, thus believing that without more ado the Great World War came about, or had to come about, as a result of Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia. (p.82)

We are here reminded of Morel’s account, of how secret plotting had paralysed debate:

‘The nemesis of their own secret acts gripped our ministers by the throat. It paralysed their sincere and desperate efforts to maintain peace. It cast dissension amongst them… They could not afford to be honest neither to the British people nor to the world. They could not hold in check the elements making for war in Germany by a timely declaration of solidarity with France and Russia, although morally committed to France.. In vain the Russians and the French implored them to make a pronouncement of British policy while there was still time.’ [23]

On August 4th, Britain declared war, and that same night cut through the transatlantic undersea telephone cables coming out of Germany, [24] enabling British atrocity propaganda to work largely unchallenged. Quoting a recent work on the subject, ‘The hallmark of Britain’s successful propaganda efforts were alleged German atrocities of gigantic proportions that strongly influenced naive Americans yearning for a chivalrous war from afar’. [25] Such consistent, intentional mendacity was fairly innovative, which was why it worked so well: ‘In that war, hatred propaganda was for the first time given something like organised attention’. [26] Thus, a nemesis of what Morel described as ‘futile and wicked statecraft’ here appeared, in that British soldiers were motivated to fight, by a nonstop torrent of lies – from their own government. [27]

In conclusion, can we agree with Dr Steiner? Quoting Barnes, ‘It is thus apparent that the responsibility for the fatal Russian mobilisation which produced the war must be shared jointly, and probably about equally, by France and Russia.’ This was because of the French cabinet’s general encouragement, then its final decision to embark upon war on the 29th July, of which Barnes remarked: ‘The secret conference of Poincaré, Viviani and Messimy, in consultation with Izvolski, on the night of 29th of July, marks the moment when the horrors of war were specifically unchained in Europe.’ (pp.328, 242) This had to be the time, it was the only opportunity, because these war-plotters would have known of the mobilisation of the world’s biggest navy, that of Great Britain, over these fateful days, all ready for war. The Russian generals browbeat the Tzar into signing the documents giving his assent – for a war he didn’t want [28]. On the 31st one more desperate telegram arrived from the Kaiser about how ‘The peace of Europe may still be maintained’ if only Russia would stop its mobilisation, but the Tzar no longer had that ability. Germany placed itself at a military disadvantage by refraining from declaring war or taking steps to mobilise until the afternoon of August 1st, much later than any of the other great powers involved. Had a deal been reached in London on that afternoon, a conflict in Eastern Europe would presumably still have taken place, but it would have been limited and diplomats could have dealt with it: yes, a world war could have been averted.


Essential texts:

  • Alexander Fuehr, The Neutrality of Belgium, NY 1915
  • E.D. Morel, Truth and the War, 1916
  • The Earl Lorenburn, How the War Came, 1919
  • Harry Elmer Barnes, The Genesis of the World War an Introduction to the Problem of War Guilt, 1926
  • British documents on the origins of the war 1898-1914, Vol XI, HMSO 1926.
  • Memorandum on Resignation by John Viscount, Morley, 1928, 39pp.
  • Alfred von Wegerer, A Refutation of the Versailles War Guilt Thesis, 1930
  • Winston Churchill, The Great War Vol. 1, 1933
  • Captain Russell Grenfell, Unconditional Hatred, German War Guilt and the Future of Europe (mainly about WW2) NY, 1954
  • M. Balfour, The Kaiser and His Times, 1964
  • Stewart Halsey Ross, Propaganda for War, How the United States Was Conditioned to Fight the Great War of 1914-18, 2009.

Notes:

[1] Rudolf Steiner, The Karma of Untruthfulness Vol. 1 (13 lectures at Dornach, Switzerland, 4-31st December 1916), 1988, p.19. NB it’s available online as a Google-book, with the same pagination as here used. The new 2005 edition (subtitled Secret Societies, the Media, and Preparations for the Great War) has a fine Introduction by Terry Boardman.
[2] Barnes 1926, pp.284-8.
[3] Balfour, 1964, p.351.
[4] Ross, 2009, p.9. For a letter by US diplomat and presidential advisor Colonel E.House, concerning the pacific philosophy of the Kaiser, after a visit he paid in July 1914, see Barnes, p.523. For the ex-Kaiser’s view on ‘proof of Germany’s peaceful intentions’ i.e. how Germany had not prepared for war or expected it, see: My Memoirs, 1878-1918 by Ex-Kaiser William II, 1992, Ch.10 ‘The Outbreak of War.’
[5] Morel, p.122: Germany had ‘for forty and four years kept the peace when war broke out in August … No other Great Power can boast such a record.’ (Morel’s book may be viewed online)
[6] Balfour, 1964, p.354
[7] Morel, 1916, pp.6, 8, 13 and 42.
[8] Churchill, 1933, Vol. 1, p.107.
[9] Churchill, ibid., has the British fleet secretly mobilised over the night of 29-30th July. Hugh Martin, in Battle, the Life-story of the Rt Hon. Winston Churchill, 1937: ‘Churchill, upon his own responsibility and against the express decision of the Cabinet, ordered the mobilisation of the Naval Reserve’ On the 27th, ‘the fleet [was] sent North to prevent the possibility of it being bottled up,’ p.105. A ‘Test Mobilisation’ of the entire Royal Navy paraded before the King on July 26th, at Spitalhead, after which the Navy was held full battle-readiness (The Life and Times of Lord Mountbatten, John Terrence 1968, p11-14); then, ‘On July 29th Churchill secretly ordered the core of the fleet to move north to its protected wartime base .. riding at top speed and with its lights out, it tore through the night up the North sea.’ (To End All Wars, How WW1 Divided Britain, 2011, Adam Hochschild, p.85).
[10] The first indication for the Kaiser of war-imminence, was when he learned that the English fleet ‘had not dispersed after the review at Spitalhead but had remained concentrated.’ (My Memoirs, p.241).
[11] Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, Vol. 1, 1967, p.239. H.G. Wells judged that: ‘I think he (Gray) wanted the war and I think he wanted it to come when it did … The charge is, that he did not definitely warn Germany, that we should certainly come into the war, that he was sufficiently ambiguous to let her take a risk and attack, and that he did this deliberately. I think that this charge is sound.’ (Experiment in an Autobiography, II, 1934, p.770)
[12] Edward Grey letter Aug 1st: Britain’s ‘Blue Book,’ HMSO, 1926, p.261. See also Morley 1928, p.38-9.
[13] The noncommittal attitude expressed by Grey on August 1st to the German ambassador had been endorsed by the Cabinet and Prime Minister: Roy Jenkins, Asquith 1964, p.363.
[14] Steiner, Karma, p.18: Georg Brandes, Farbenblinde Neutralität, Zurich 1916 (Brandes was Danish). Steiner quotes extensively from it, Karma, pp. 14-23.
[15] Barnes, 1926, p.497.
[16] Loreburn, 1919, pp.15-19.
[17] Annika Mombauer, Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War 2001 CUP p.219-223: Lichinowsky’s telegram misunderstood (NB I’m not endorsing her thesis of German war-guilt).
[18] Grey told cabinet about talk with Lichinowsky on 3rd, with a claim that the latter’s views were ‘merely personal and unauthorised.’ (Morley, pp.13-14) If so, why was the conversation recorded and published in Britain’s ‘White Book’ of key wartime documents? How could a German Ambassador make a merely personal proposal? Other such ‘White Book’ documents were recorded as personal, but not this one. As Morel pointed out (pp.26-7), the UK’s ‘Blue Book’ published its account of this interview with no hint that the Ambassador was merely acting privately – and Lichinowsky’s telegram to his Government dated 8.30 pm, August 1, indicated that he had been acting on ‘instructions.’ His offer was generally concordant with telegrams then being sent by the Kaiser and German Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Morel, p.26)
[19] Fuehr, 1915, pp.90, 117. (For comments on Fuehr see Ross 2009, pp.116-7: Fuehr’s account was ‘certainly biased’ but ‘well-documented.’) For the incriminating documents, see Ross p.300, note 55. The Kaiser recalled how piles of British army-coats and maps of Belgium were found concealed around the Belgian border, in anticipation of the war: My Memoirs, p.251-2.
[20] Ross, 2009, p.42.
[21] Steiner, Karma, pp.84-5.
[22] Ibid, p.86.
[23] Morel 1916, p.297.
[24] Ross, 2009, pp.15, 27.
[25] Ibid, p.3.
[26] Grenfell, 1954, p.125.
[27] Likewise from the French government: Barnes, …For a general comment see Georges Thiel, Heresy: ‘One grows dizzy at the listing of all those lies [against Germany] which, afterwards, were demolished one after the other.’ Historical Review Press, 2006, p.31.
[28] For the Ex-Kaiser’s account of how, as he later learned, his telegrams considerably affected Tzar Nicholas in those crucial days, see: My Memoirs, Ch.10.

July 13, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Republicans & Democrats agree: No war on Iran (without Congress at least)

RT | July 12, 2019

The House of Representatives has adopted the 2020 military spending bill, but with an amendment that blocks war on Iran without congressional approval – backed by President Donald Trump’s outspoken critics and supporters alike.

A bipartisan amendment to bar the executive branch from offensive action against Iran without explicit authorization from Congress was adopted with a 250-170 vote, with 27 Republicans joining the Democrats in support, and seven Democrats crossing the aisle in opposition.

Khanna made the point that Trump himself had campaigned against endless wars, but had advisers around him that were pushing him into a conflict with Iran.

“I believe he doesn’t want one,” Khanna said. After the amendment passed, he told reporters that it was “proof that opposition to war with Iran transcends partisan politics.”

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media outlets reported on the amendment’s passage as a rebuke of Trump by the Democrat-led House.

“The Democratic-controlled House votes to limit President Trump’s authority to make war against Iran,” said AP. “House votes to prevent Trump from entering an unauthorized war with Iran,” said the Washington Post. “The House voted to check President Trump’s authority to strike Iran by requiring him to get Congress’s approval first,” declared the New York Times.

Far from being a warmonger, however, Trump called off the strike against Iran last month – citing concerns over Iranian casualties – after Tehran shot down a US spy drone over the Straits of Hormuz. He has also opened dialogue with North Korea, ordered the US withdrawal from Syria, and his administration is currently conducting peace talks to conclude the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton are considered hard-liners on the issue of Iran, as are many establishment Republicans in the House, including Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), daughter of George W. Bush’s VP Dick Cheney, one of the architects of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“A Cheney wanting us to get into war? Weird,” Gaetz joked to Fox, when asked about her objections to the amendment he and Khanna had proposed.

Another amendment, seeking to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, passed with a vote of 242-180. It was sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-California) and Justin Amash (I-Michigan), a former Republican.

The final vote on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by a vote of 220-197, along party lines. It authorizes $733 billion for the Pentagon in the next fiscal year, some $17 billion less than what the White House asked for.

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | | 2 Comments

How Real is the Trump Administration’s New Flexibility with North Korea?

By Gregory Elich | CounterPunch | July 12, 2019

Although widely derided by the Washington Establishment as an empty photo opportunity, the recent meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un at Panmunjom produced an agreement to resume working-level talks in the near future. According to the North Korean news agency KCNA, the two leaders discussed stumbling blocks in improving relations and easing tensions, and agreed to work towards a “breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in the bilateral relations.”

The resumption of working-level talks comes as welcome relief after months of stalled progress since Trump pulled the plug on the Hanoi Summit due to North Korea’s failure to accede to the demand that it unilaterally disarm. At Hanoi, U.S. negotiators presented a plan that called for North Korea to denuclearize, while promising nothing in exchange. Nothing, that is, other than punishment in the form of “maximum pressure” sanctions. All that was on offer to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name for North Korea) was the vague mention of unspecified economic benefits after it had fully denuclearized.

In addition to denuclearization, the U.S. side widened the scope of talks at Hanoi by delivering a document to the North Koreans that demanded the dismantlement of chemical and biological warfare programs, as well as ballistic missiles and facilities. U.S. negotiators also wanted a detailed accounting of nuclear facilities, subject to intrusive U.S. inspections. For the North Koreans, to implement such a proposal would allow inspectors to map the bombing coordinates of its nuclear facilities, an obvious non-starter when the U.S. has yet to provide any semblance of a security guarantee.

In essence, what the U.S. offered at Hanoi was the Libya Model of denuclearization, in which obligations are loaded solely on its negotiating partner. That is not an approach that is going to work with North Korea, as among other reasons, its nuclear program is far more advanced than was the case with Libya’s. The DPRK has something substantial to trade, and it is not going to relinquish it for free.

The sanctions against the DPRK are designed to strangle its economy. The North Koreans regard sanctions relief as an essential element in the trade-off for denuclearization. The fate of small nations that the United States has attacked, such as Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, did not go unnoticed in the DPRK. Those object lessons led the North Koreans to draw the logical conclusion that the only way for a small targeted nation to ensure its survival would be to develop a nuclear deterrent.

There has been much talk in the U.S. media about the Trump administration’s apparent intent to adopt a more flexible approach to negotiations. This has resulted in much hand-wringing among the Washington Establishment, panicked over a potential reduction in tensions, which it fears could have knock-on effects in sales of military hardware to Asian allies like South Korea and Japan. New pretexts would need to be developed to explain the military buildup in the Asia-Pacific that is aimed at China.

How real is this new flexibility? In a widely misread report in the New York Times, it is suggested that Trump may “settle” for a nuclear freeze, leaving the DPRK as a nuclear power. A careful reading of the article indicates, however, that the Trump administration does not envision a nuclear freeze as an end state, but rather as a “foundation for a new round of negotiations.” Talks “would begin with a significant – but limited – first step.” From there, U.S. negotiators would seek to persuade Kim to expand the range of nuclear facilities that would be dismantled.

On Trump’s return flight from South Korea, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun talked about U.S. plans for the next summit between Trump and Kim. Biegun said that the U.S. wanted a complete freeze on the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs while negotiations are underway. This is not different than what was stated in the New York Times report, leaving aside the misleading use of the word “settle” and the fretful comments the Times quoted from Establishment analysts.

Biegun’s choice of words is significant: ‘WMD,’ rather than ‘nuclear.’ John Bolton’s insistence on including chemical and biological weapons programs in any negotiated settlement remains very much to the fore. North Korea denies having any such operations and U.S. belief in their existence is predicated primarily on supposition, backed by weak and inconclusive indications. If the DPRK does not have a chemical or biological weapons program, then it cannot freeze what it does not have, and it cannot provide details on programs that remain a fantasy in the minds of Washington. It requires little imagination to anticipate how hawks in the Trump administration would seize upon North Korean denials as a means of sabotaging negotiations.

Whether North Korea has chemical and biological programs or not, it is likely to have misgivings about the United States adding demands while at the same time offering no concessions. When Libya denuclearized, it too faced an ever-expanding array of conditions, including visits by John Bolton and other U.S. officials, telling it how to vote at the United Nations and ordering it to cut military ties with Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

It is notable that at no time has any U.S. official mentioned what kind of security guarantee it could offer to the DPRK. Given the record of U.S. militarism in recent decades, it is difficult to conceive of any assurance the U.S. would provide that could be trusted. Whatever the U.S. may offer will need to be supplemented, and protection will have to come from elsewhere. Chinese President Xi Jinping alluded to the same during his recent visit to Pyongyang, when he stated, “China will take an active role in resolving North Korea’s security concerns.” In May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that security guarantees are an “absolutely mandatory” component of any negotiated agreement with the DPRK. “Russia and China are prepared to work on such guarantees,” he added.

In his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 14, Lavrov stressed the importance of providing security guarantees to the DPRK, but all Pompeo wanted to talk about was hitting North Korea as hard as possible with sanctions, without letup.

Much has been made of Stephen Biegun’s claim that the United States plans on a more flexible “simultaneous and parallel” approach to negotiations. When examined, there is less change than many suppose. Biegun is in line with the rest of the Trump administration, emphasizing that “in the abstract, we have no interest in sanctions relief before denuclearization.”

Since sanctions relief and security guarantees are off the negotiating table as far as U.S. officials are concerned, what are they ready to offer? According to Biegun, flexibility means the U.S. would consider agreeing to the two nations opening liaison offices in each other’s capitals, permitting some people-to-people talks, and humanitarian aid. That last point may mean that the United States would consider stopping its efforts to block humanitarian assistance. Or it could indicate a willingness by the U.S. to directly provide a token amount of aid while continuing to shut down independent aid operations in the DPRK.

To the North Koreans, this “flexibility” is a distinction without a difference. It remains the Libya Model. As such, it is a recipe for failure if the U.S. rigidly adheres to this strategy.

Complicating matters further is the rider the U.S. Senate attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. If the rider makes it into the House version, then once the defense budget is signed into law, it would mandate secondary sanctions on any financial institution that does business with the DPRK. Current sanctions leave it to the discretion of the Treasury Department as to which firms to sanction. The Senate bill aims to cut off the North Korean economy from what little international trade it still has after sanctions, so as to inflict further harm on the population. Certainly, this also signals the Senate’s opposition to any negotiated settlement.

The North Koreans need two things in exchange for denuclearization: the lifting of sanctions and a security guarantee. What that security guarantee would look like is difficult to discern. A piece of paper is not going to do it. The DPRK needs a reliable means of assuring its security if it is going to denuclearize.

Across the entire U.S. Establishment, both within and outside the Trump administration, there is an unwavering belief that every action the DPRK takes towards denuclearization should be rewarded with “maximum pressure” sanctions.

It is a curious notion, this expectation that nothing need be offered to North Korea in exchange for meeting U.S. demands. Odder still is the conviction that the DPRK ought to be satisfied with being tormented by crippling sanctions for each concession it makes. But then, imperialism and arrogance go hand-in-hand. There is no reason, however, to expect the North Koreans to be servile. “North Korea wants actions, not words,” observes Christopher Green of the International Crisis Group. “I’m not sure the U.S. is mentally ready for it, even now.”

Whether or not North Korea denuclearizes depends entirely on the United States. If the Trump administration believes it can bully the DPRK into unilateral disarmament, then it is sadly mistaken. If on the other hand, it eventually comes to recognize that the only way to achieve its objective is to offer some measure of reciprocity, then denuclearization becomes an achievable goal. At this point, there is little indication that the U.S. is prepared to move beyond the former position.


Gregory Elich is a Korea Policy Institute associate and on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute. He is a member of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language. He is also a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific. His website is https://gregoryelich.org 

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

US pours oil into fire in Gulf, mum’s the word for India

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | July 12, 2019

The illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibralter by the British Navy last Friday is fast acquiring farcical character. Britain acted at the behest of the US; in turn, the US probably acted at the behest of the ‘B Team’. So far, only one top US official has expressed joy over the incident — National Security Advisor John Bolton, who is of course the member-secretary of the B Team. None of the other three members of the B Team — Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu or either of the two Gulf Crown Princes (bin Salman and bin Zayed)) has waded into the controversy.

The original intention behind the Anglo-American operation was clearly to provoke the Iranians into some retaliatory action. But Iran refused to be provoked and is biding its time. Had Iran acted impulsively or rashly, a military conflagration might have ensued, which would have provided just the alibi for a large-scale US military strike at Iranian targets. Even Article 5 of the NATO Charter on collective security might be invoked. The B Team has been angling for just such a window of opportunity. The US defence secretary’s last visit to Brussels was a mission to rally NATO support for a military strike against Iran.

Now, Iran is savvy enough to figure out the Anglo-American game plan. Tehran is indignant and has warned of consequences, but all in good time. Since Iran refused to be provoked, Britain made a false allegation that Tehran made an abortive attempt to “intimidate” a British oil tanker. Tehran, of course, furiously denied the allegation. Meanwhile, there is a parallel move by the US to assemble a ‘coalition of the willing’ ostensibly to protect oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, an Iranian waterway. Therein hangs a tale.

The false allegation by Britain has been promptly seized by the US Navy to press ahead with its master plan to establish military escorts for shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. General Mark Milley, who has been nominated to become chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been quoted as saying on July 11 during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington that the Pentagon is working to put together a coalition “in terms of providing military escort, naval escort to commercial shipping.” In his words, “I think that that will be developing over the next couple weeks.” Milley characterised the project as an assertion of a fundamental principle of “freedom of navigation”, a coinage Washington uses arbitrarily in its “Indo-Pacific” rule book.

The Strait of Hormuz, located betweenIran and Oman connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea and is the world’s most important oil chokepoint.

It doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that the US intends to take control of the Strait of Hormuz — although the strait is Iranian-Omani waters under international law. As the narrowest point of the Strait of Hormuz is twenty-one nautical miles, all vessels passing through the Strait must traverse the territorial waters of Iran and Oman. The rights of passage for foreign vessels under international law will consequently be subject to either the rules of non-suspendable innocent passage or transit passage depending on the applicable legal regime.

The topic has come before the International Court of Justice. The ICJ confirmed the customary international law rule, used in international navigation, that foreign warships have the right of innocent passage in straits during peacetime, which means that during peacetime the coastal state could only prohibit the passage of any foreign-flagged vessel if its passage was non-innocent.

However, the grey area here (which the US wants to challenge) is that Iran has the legal right as a coastal state to prevent transit or non-suspendable innocent passage of ships if the ship that is in engaged in passage through the strait constitutes a threat or actual use of force against Iran’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence, or could be acting in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.

In strategic terms, therefore, by precipitating the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker, the US and Britain are proceeding on a track to create a pretext to challenge Iran’s rights over the Strait of Hormuz and to take control of the strait. This is also contingency planning in advance insofar as under international law, if the US were to attack Iranian territory without a decision of the UN Security Council, the question would arise whether the provisions for transit passage under UNCLOS would continue to apply to the Strait of Hormuz or whether Iran could invoke the laws of war and take action against tankers, especially if they are deemed to be assisting the enemy.

Suffice to say, it is possible to see that what might have appeared as a  maverick or silly act by Britain off Gibralter when it seized the Iranian tanker could actually be the tip of a calibrated project aimed at imposing effectively a naval blockade against Iran. Indeed, this forms the latest chapter in the US’‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran.

By the way, a second leg of the current project is also to seize control of the strategic shipping lanes via the the Bab al-Mandab (off Yemen), which leads to the Suez Canal. (The narrow Bab al-Mandab connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.)

The chokepoint of Bab el-Mandab off Yemen connecting Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal via Red Sea

The US control of the Bab al-Mandab will mean that Iran’s use of the Suez Canal will come under intense US monitoring. The US has a military base in Djibouti facing the Bab al-Mandab. (Against this backdrop, the bitterly-fought war in Yemen falls into perspective, too.)

Of course, all this constitutes acts that are in gross violation of international law and the UN Charter and India should keep miles away from the Anglo-American project to impose naval blockade against Iran on whatever pretext.

Indeed, India will be called upon to take some tough decisions in the period ahead vis-a-vis the emergent situation in the Persian Gulf. First and foremost, India should stay clear of the US-led project to establish military escorts for ships in the Persian Gulf. There are reports that the Indian Navy has deployed two ships with helicopters in the Gulf of Oman. Presumably, this deployment will not form part of the US-led naval flotilla to intimidate and blockade Iran.

Second, there is a strong likelihood of the US invoking its privileges under the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement to gain access to Indian military facilities for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment of its ships. At the signing of the LEMOA in 2016, much criticism was expressed by Indian experts that it was a “strategic mistake”. In an impassioned plea, Bharat Karnad wrote in August 2016: “It (LEMOA) is, perhaps, the most serious strategic mistake made by the country in its nearly seven decades of independent existence.” Karnad’s criticism forewarning the serious consequences has turned out to be prescient. (here)

The LEMOA’s text remains secret. The Indian public doesn’t even know if India has an option to reject any US demarche for access to our military bases for their ships in a situation such as today’s when war clouds are gathering in our extended neighbourhood and Washington is stepping up preparations for a military operation against Iran, a friendly country with which India has had profound civilisational ties and common concerns in the contemporary regional setting.

The government will be betraying India’s medium and long-term national interests if it provides the US Navy with back-up facilities in its military bases at present under the LEMOA.

Third, most important, Delhi is maintaining deafening silence — for reasons best known to the policymakers — over the gathering storms in the Persian Gulf region. Damn it, over 7 million Indians live and work in that region. Even if one were to overlook that these Gulf-based NRIs give significant budgetary support to the Indian economy, running into billions of dollars annually through their remittances, the government owes it to its citizens to leave no stone unturned to ensure their physical safety and security. Tens of millions of their relatives in India depend on them critically for livelihood.

Shouldn’t the government say something to the effect that India opposes a war situation in the Persian Gulf and that the Trump administration should act with utmost restraint? If this is not a foreign policy issue of consequence for the Prime Minister to articulate, what else could be? Other countries such as Russia, China and the US’ close allies have spoken on the Persian Gulf crisis.

What explains the government’s cowardice? Fear of Trump? Are our elites far too compromised with the B Team? Faustian deal with Netanyahu (who is reportedly heading for Delhi to meet PM)? Or, plain Ostrich Approach of seeing no evil, hearing no evil or speaking no evil if it is about Uncle Sam? At any rate, what kind of impression of a regional power of India is it that the government is projecting? Shame on India!

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

Pentagon solicits virtual reality tech to prep soldiers for ‘battlefield nuclear warfare’


© Global Look / Sebastian Gollnow
RT | July 9, 2019

The Pentagon has put out a call for virtual reality training environments with “radiological/nuclear considerations” – another sign that the US’ unhealthy obsession with nuclear warfare isn’t going away anytime soon.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a Department of Defense division focused on countering weapons of mass destruction, is looking for virtual reality systems it can use to train combat forces in a “battlefield nuclear warfare environment.” The agency issued a “sources sought notice” last week, seeking technical specs and other market information on “virtual training and testing programs” for combat troops “performing radiological threat objects find and interdict operations” – as well as fighting on the nuclear “battlefield.”

“AR/VR capabilities will not replace field training requirements,” the notice states, adding that its “purpose is to test warfighter scenarios and decision-making to provide users realistic outcomes to support training and course-of-action selection when faced with radiological/nuclear threats.” It may also be used for “planning training scenarios” and “equipment testing events.” While the addition of a realistic VR overlay of post-nuclear devastation could make soldiers more reluctant to push the big red button, that decision has never been left to the rank-and-file, and it’s unlikely their commanders will be lining up to experience even the most high-tech post-apocalyptic training module.

The US military is increasingly relying on training simulators, which carry obvious advantages including cost – avoiding the need to transport troops to the countries they’re training to occupy – and safety. The army awarded two contracts for training simulators last month with the goal of ultimately generating 400 different location-specific training environments. And virtual reality is the only way to provide soldiers with training in a post-nuclear scenario – for now, at least.

It’s the duty of a nation’s military to be prepared, and the Pentagon’s nuclear prepping wouldn’t be nearly so sinister if it hadn’t posted, then removed, a Joint Chiefs of Staff strategy paper last month providing “principles and guidance to plan, execute, and assess nuclear operation.” The chilling document matter-of-factly suggests “using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability.” Nor was that an isolated burst of nuclear cheerleading. Last month, Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein suggested that the military piggyback its nuclear command and control function on the ever-growing network of commercial satellites.

The US pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty earlier this year, immediately embarking on the development of missiles that had been banned under the agreement. When the only military that has ever used nuclear weapons suggests there’s ever an acceptable time and place for their deployment, it’s understandable why the rest of the world might worry.

July 10, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

The Obama Wars

By David Swanson | War Is A Crime | July 10, 2019

By “the Obama wars” I don’t mean some overgrown infants on television screaming racist insults or pretending that opposing racism requires cheering for Obama.

I mean: the widespread indiscriminate murder of human beings with missiles — many of them from robot airplanes — let loose to threaten any non-white country on earth by Obama and expanded by Trump. I mean the catastrophic destruction of Libya — still continued by Trump. I mean the war on Afghanistan, the vast bulk of which was overseen by Obama, though Bush and Trump have had minor roles. I mean the assault on Yemen, begun by Obama and escalated by Trump. I mean the war on Iraq and Syria escalated first by Obama and then by Trump (following the de-escalation locked in place by Bush though Obama fought it tooth-and-nail).

I mean the conflict with Iran, heightened by Obama and then dramatically again by Trump. I mean the expansion of conflict-producing troops and bases across Africa and Asia. I mean the creation of the new cold war with Russia. I mean the build up in nuclear weapons and the delusional rhetoric about “usable” nuclear weapons. I mean the support for Israel’s wars on Palestinians. I mean the coups in Ukraine and Honduras. I mean the threats to Venezuela. I mean the normalization of fantastical excuses for the gravest crimes. I mean the practice of campaigning on ending wars, never ending any of them, and never having anyone really care. I mean the constant shattering of past records in military spending.

Obama’s legacy, despite all sorts of variations, many of them superficial, and despite its role in defeating Hillary Clinton at the ballot box, has largely been maintained, advanced, and imitated by bipartisan consensus and by Donald Trump.

If you want to review what Obama did in that quirky little area of his job to which some 60% of federal discretionary spending is devoted, and which puts us all at risk of nuclear disaster, pick up a copy of Jeremy Kuzmarov’s book Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State. Kuzmarov places Obama in historical context and outlines his parallels with Woodrow Wilson, another extreme militarist generally understood as a peace visionary. Kuzmarov reviews — and adds information that many of us probably never knew to — the story of Obama’s rise to power and the story of all of his many wars.

We tend to forget that right up through the presidency of George W. Bush wars were thought of as temporary things that had endings. Now they’re hardly thought of at all, but they’re understood to be permanent. And they’re thought of in partisan terms. We sometimes forget that candidate Obama, like candidate Trump, promised a larger military. Candidate Obama promised a larger war on Afghanistan. And when it came time for Obama’s re-election to a second term, he reached out to the New York Times and asked that paper to write an article about how good he was at killing people, about how he carefully studied a list of men, women, and children and picked out the ones in whose name he would send missiles into clusters of unidentified victims. Obama’s claim, in his own words, was “I’m really good at killing people.” Nobody who liked Obama and didn’t like murder allowed themselves to become aware of this aspect of Obama’s re-election campaign; and they never will become aware of it.

The reason it matters is that over 20 Democrats are now campaigning for president, some of whom are promoting the same sort of militarism, some of whom are opposing it to some degree, and some of whom have revealed little or nothing about their positions on such matters. One of them, Joe Biden, was part of Obama’s wars. Biden is the guy who claimed of the mass-slaughter of people in Libya “We didn’t lose a single life.” Kamala Harris is the woman who will never ever question whether by “life” he meant “non-African life.” She’s too busy worrying that peace might break out in Korea. The stupidity of tokenism will plague us until we at least have the decency to regret having fallen for it before. The stupidity of militarism will plague us until we stop glorifying and excusing it and start supporting efforts to create peace.

July 10, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Panama’s Open Wounds: Victims of US Invasion Demand Justice

Sputnik – July 9, 2019

Victims of the 1989 US invasion of Panama are calling for compliance with a ruling of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In November 2018, the IACHR determined that the United States had violated the human rights of civilians during its invasion of Panama between December 1989 and January 1990.

The US Armed Forces conducted the military operation in order to overthrow governing General Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was accused by Washington of drug trafficking. According to the ruling, the United States should provide physical and psychological assistance to the victims, as well as provide them with material compensation.

According to Panamanian NGOs, about 5,000 people were killed. There have also been reports of disappearances and people buried in mass graves, in addition to the damage to property and forced displacement of families.

Gilma Camargo is a lawyer who represents the survivors and relatives of those who died during the US invasion of Panama.

“The IACHR has explained that the American Declaration of Human Rights is a fundamental document. The advantages we have in this matter imply an extraterritorial responsibility of the US”, Camargo said.

Prior to this international instance, the survivors have for years been appealing for justice for their country, albeit without success.

“Panama was occupied, and now thanks to declassification we know that because of ‘Operation Just Cause’ the country was under US occupation until 1994. There was no functioning judicial system”, the lawyer explained.

The “Frente Salas” was created in order to implement the recommendations and make the consequences of the invasion visible.

“We are working together with the survivors. They have accumulated some evidence; and now we are going to present it in the Frente Salas, which is supervised by the IACHR”, Camargo said.

“One of the most Machiavellian invasion plans was to displace the victims. There are 16 displaced communities in two parts of the country. But it seems that there are no victims here; the relatives of those missing don’t have any channels to present charges. The commission formed under the Varela government [Juan Carlos, the outgoing president] turned out to be a failure”, the lawyer concluded.

July 10, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Trump outflanks Iran to the west and east

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | July 5, 2019

The Turkish state news agency Anadolu has featured an analysis titled US sanctions on Iran increasing public unease, which is highly critical of the Iranian ruling elite’s approach to the current standoff with the US. The thrust of the commentary is that the Iranian ruling elites are deliberately provoking a showdown with the US by spurning President Trump’s repeated offers for unconditional negotiations because Tehran harbours the notion that it can lethally damage his bid for a second term in the 2020 election by entangling the US in an asymmetrical war and creates a Middle Eastern quagmire for him. The sub-text of the commentary is that the newfound belligerence in Tehran is attributable to the Supreme Leader and is not in the interests of the Iranian nation.

The opinion piece comes at a time when Turkey is quietly pleased with President Trump’s pragmatism in accommodating its purchase of the S-400 ABM system from Russia. It reinforces the impression from Trump’s extraordinary remarks at the press conference in Osaka on June 29 on Turkish President Erdogan that some sort of a deal has been struck by the two leaders. Trump  had gone out of the way to defend Erdogan’s decision on purchase of the S-400 missiles (because “he got treated very unfairly” by the Obama administration), which is “not really Erdogan’s fault”. Trump had said he’s “working on it (S-400 deal). We’ll see what we can do.”

Erdogan claimed later that Trump told him at their meeting in Osaka that the US will not impose sanctions against Turkey on account of the S-400 deal with Russia. Meanwhile, the actual delivery of the S-400 system in Turkey is expected next week. (Erdogan had also said recently that a visit by Trump to Turkey in July “is being talked about”.)

Some sort of an understanding between Trump and Erdogan with regard to Iran cannot be ruled out. Of course, Turkey is in a position to render invaluable help to Iran to bust the US sanctions (which it actually did in the past under the infamous oil-for-gold deal between Turkish and Iranian business elites during the Obama presidency.) Trump would know that if Turkey denies “strategic depth” to Iran, it can be a game changer for the  “maximum pressure” strategy against Tehran.

Significantly, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is also due to visit the US to meet Trump on July 22. Turkey and Pakistan aren’t exactly comparable but there are common elements here. Turkey is an estranged NATO ally which is open to reconciliation, whereas Pakistan is keenly seeking the resuscitation of its moribund strategic ties with the US.

The bottom line is that the US stands to gain out of “win-win” cooperation with both these Cold War allies over the vexed Iran problem.

Turkey’s cooperation is vital for the US to plug Iran’s land route to Syria’s ports in eastern Mediterranean and the US bases in eastern Turkey are key intelligence outposts eavesdropping on Iran. Similarly, the US hopes to keep a “very large” intelligence presence in the Afghan bases, which requires Pakistan’s acquiescence. Certainly, these US intelligence assets are not merely focused on the terrorism problem but also target Russia, China and Iran. In sum, the US intelligence assets in Turkey and Pakistan will play a crucial role in any military confrontation with Iran.    

Fundamentally, in regard of both Turkey and Pakistan, their estrangement as allies happened due to the US’ flawed policies that failed to adequately accommodate their legitimate interests. In both cases, the degradation of the relationships and the ensuing nosedive took place under President Obama. The alienation of Turkey when the Obama administration began soft-pedalling on the regime project in Syria in 2012 and it exacerbated following the failed coup attempt in 2016 to overthrow Erdogan.

In the case of Pakistan also, that watershed moment was reached in 2011 when a series of incidents took place that rocked the US-Pakistan ties — the detention of ex-CIA employee Raymond Allen Davis in Lahore in January that year, the Abbottabad operation to kill Osama bin Laden in May and the slaughter of 28 Pakistani troops at two Pakistani border posts in Mohmand tribal agency by NATO Apache helicopters, an AC-130 gunship and fighter jets in November.)

Unsurprisingly, Trump didn’t say at the press conference in Osaka as to what Erdogan’s side of the bargain might be. But the Anadolu commentary hints that Turkey won’t erode the US’ “maximum pressure” on Iran. Turkey has closed its ports to Iranian oil, fully complying with US sanctions against its main supplier — although Erdogan had previously slammed the sanctions, saying they are destabilising for the region. Prior to May 2018, when the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, Turkey imported an average of 912,000 tonnes of oil a month from Iran, or 47% of its total imports.

Again, last Tuesday, the US put the Baluchistan Liberation Army on its global terrorist watchlist and on Thursday, Islamabad made the formal announcement on Imran Khan’s visit to the US. Pakistan comes under the US Central Command theatre of operations. (So does Iran.) Currently, there are no US bases in Pakistan.

But Pakistan, like Turkey, also has a long history of hosting American military bases. In Baluchistan alone, there were several US drone bases — Shamsi Airfield, shrouded in secrecy, which exclusively used to conduct drone operations and housed US military personnel; PAF base on the Sindh-Baluchistan border, which was also used for CIA drone operations; Pasni Airport where US spy planes used to be based, and so on.

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Seizure of Syria-bound tanker is all about Jeremy Hunter’s bid to become PM — Former UK Ambassador to Syria

By Peter Ford – July 5, 2019

Technically the measure will find UK Foreign Office lawyers to defend it, but other lawyers will deem the action illegal. While sending oil to Syria may be illegal under US law it is not illegal under EU law. The far-fetched justification seems to be that the Banyas oil refinery in Syria provides financial benefit to the Syrian government, is therefore subject to EU sanctions, and thus any contact with it whatever is sanctionable. An Iranian lawyer would point out that if the EU had intended its restrictions to prevent oil shipments to Syria it could easily have adopted a relevant regulation. It didn’t.

For five years until now since Banyas was sanctioned tankers have been making their way past Gibraltar heading for Banyas and the UK has not seen fit to intervene. Why now?

This is obviously Hunt trying to look macho; the UK currying favour with Trump to get a better trade deal.

This will increase tension with Iran, of course, at precisely the wrong moment, when even the US by its own admission is looking for a ‘workaround’ for Iranian oil shipments to China. How do we think Iran is more likely to react – by meekly kowtowing, or doubling down in some way ?

Ordinary Syrians are suffering greatly because of the impact of US oil sanctions. Hospitals don’t have fuel to power their generators. Car drivers have to queue for up to 12 hours to get petrol. We should be proud of ourselves…..Hunt on the Today BBC radio programme this morning refused to say if he considered fox hunting cruel. Bravo, macho man! Putting the boot into a prostrate Syria as well.

Spain may not be best pleased at this reminder of UK colonial arrogance. A spanner Macho Man has thrown into the Brexit works?

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Russia has ‘political will’ for arms reduction deal, but ball is in US’ court – Putin

RT | July 4, 2019

Russia does not seek an arms race, only protection, Vladimir Putin said shortly after suspending the INF treaty in a mirror response to the US. Moscow is open to a new arms reduction deal, but the US must reciprocate, he added.

In an extended interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily on Thursday, Putin pointed to the gargantuan difference between the US and Russian defense budgets, to dismiss the notion that Moscow could want to enter an arms race.

“Compare how much Russia spends on defense – some $48 billion, and how much the US spends – over $700 billion. Where is the arms race? We will not let ourselves be dragged into such a race, but we must ensure our security,” Putin said.

Reaching a comprehensive arms reduction agreement is what Moscow is striving for, but Washington doesn’t seem as willing, he said.

“Russia has the political will to work on this. Now it’s the US’ turn,” Putin said.

He pointed out that Moscow never heard back from the Trump administration after offering to sign a joint declaration on the inadmissibility of nuclear war in October, the same month Trump announced his intention to unilaterally withdraw from the cold-war era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Washington cited Russia’s alleged violations as it dismantled the cornerstone of European security, accusations that Moscow vehemently denied. In a mirror response, Russia has suspended the treaty as well. Putin signed the corresponding bill into law on Wednesday.

The treaty banned nuclear and non-nuclear ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of up to 5,000km.

After pulling the US out of the INF, Trump signaled that he would like to thrash out a trilateral nuclear pact that would also include China. The US president said that he discussed the possibility of striking such a “three-way-deal” in a phone call in May.

In spite of this rhetoric, Trump has been aggressively expanding the already immense US nuclear arsenal, spending billions of dollars on its build-up.

Last week, Trump bragged about the US war industry churning out “brand new nuclear weapons” that he “hopefully” will never use.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment