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US Cuts Funds for Disarming Explosives It Dropped on Cambodia

By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook – 15.11.2017

In an article by Thai PBS titled, “US cuts 2018 funding for demining operations in Cambodia,” it’s revealed that next year’s meager $2 million in US government funding for demining operations of US unexploded ordnance (UXO) in eastern Cambodia leftover from the Vietnam War has been discontinued without warning or explanation.

The move caused confusion across Cambodia’s government, as well as across partner nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Cambodia participating in the US program.

Speculation over the move revolves around growing tensions between Washington and Phnom Penh as the United States desperately attempts to reassert itself in Asia Pacific, while Asian states – including Cambodia – continue to build closer and more constructive ties with Beijing at the expense of Washington’s waning influence.

Cambodia has recently exposed and ousted a myriad of US-funded fronts posing as NGOs and independent media platforms executing a campaign of US-backed political subversion. This includes the disbanding of the Cambodia National Rescue opposition party and the arrest of its leader, Kem Sokha, who bragged of his role in a US conspiracy to overthrow the Cambodian government and install him into power.

Tensions in Cambodia represent a wider, regional trend where US footholds face increasing scrutiny and resistance as Washington’s abuse of “NGOs,” “rights advocacy,” and “democracy promotion” is systematically exposed and rolled back.

Cut or Renewed, US UXO Assistance is Meaningless  

The US embassy in Cambodia would claim after receiving backlash for the move that the US had unilaterally decided to shut down funding in order to open up bidding for a new and “world-class removal program” – the details of which have yet to be confirmed or released.

The US boasts that it has spent “more than 114 million dollars” over the past 20 years to clear explosives it itself helped drop on Cambodia as part of its nearly two decades-long war in Vietnam and wider intervention in Southeast Asia – or in other words – the US has spent over 5,000 times less in 20 years on removing UXO in Cambodia than it does annually on its current military operations around the globe. In fact, a single F-35 Joint Strike Fighter warplane costs roughly the same amount of money the US has spent on demining Cambodia over the last 20 years.

There are an estimated 6 million pieces of UXO still littering Cambodia, which since the end of the Vietnam War and the rule of the Khmer Rouge have cost nearly 20,000 Cambodians their lives – with casualties still reported monthly.

Efforts that last 20 years, cost as little as a single warplane in Washington’s current arsenal, and still leave people dead or maimed monthly indicate efforts that are halfhearted – a diplomatic stunt more than sincere reparations or humanitarian concern.

Doubling Nothing is Still Nothing 

In neighboring Laos, the United States left an estimated 80 million submunitions littering the country, or about 11 for each man, woman, and child that lives there. 20,000 people have also been killed by UXO in Laos and many more have been maimed.

According to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO LAO), 444,711 submunitions (about 0.55%) have been destroyed between 1996 and 2010. Despite the dangerous and exhausting work, eliminating 0.55% of the 80 million submunitions still littering the country amounts to virtually nothing.

Despite this, the US insists that it is “dramatically” increasing its efforts. US Ambassador to ASEAN Nina Hachigian would claim upon the US being criticized for its current meddling in Laos in light of the horrific UXO legacy it has left there, that:

We’ve been spending hundreds of millions of [dollars] to clean them up and [President] Obama just doubled [our] annual [contribution].

Western establishment journal, The Diplomat, in an article titled, “Obama in Laos: Cleaning up After the Secret War,” would try and explain this increased “contribution,” claiming (emphasis added):

In recent years, U.S. support for UXO clearance and victim assistance in Laos has dramatically increased. In response to steady pressure from NGOs like Legacies of War and their allies in Congress, U.S. funding for this work increased from $5 million in 2010 to a record $19.5 million this year. These resources, disbursed by the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, are used to support clearance efforts that destroy up to 100,000 pieces of lethal ordnance in Laos annually, employing 3,000 workers in the commercial and humanitarian sectors.

While the US repeatedly boasts of the “millions” that it spends to clean up a mess it itself intentionally created, at the current rate of UXO disposal in Laos alone, the country should be safe in approximately 1,000 years – or effectively – never.

When Washington’s remaining points of leverage in Asia Pacific include the threat of continued political subversion and destabilization and the cutting of already meaningless levels of aid to deal with a decades-spanning UXO threat – versus China’s offer of economic, infrastructural, and military partnerships – it finds itself in a self-feeding cycle of decline in Asia that will – in turn – further feed its decline as a global hegemon.

The cruel irony of America’s clumsy, inadequate, and embarrassing UXO policy in Southeast Asia is that the annual military budget that dwarfs its UXO annual removal efforts in Asia by a factor of tens of thousands, is being used to fuel conflict elsewhere around the globe – from the Middle East to North Africa, and Central Asia to Eastern Europe – that is littering the planet with not only additional UXO dangers, but new and more horrifying threats including depleted uranium munitions and chemical weapons proliferation.

While the US could potentially play a constructive, positive role in Asia Pacific, the same mentality that underpinned US foreign policy that drove the Vietnam War and resulted in the current UXO threat is the same mentality that still prevails today on Wall Street and in Washington. If that mentality and those possessing it are not rooted out, America’s current state of decline will be terminal.

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Greenwashing Wars and the US Military

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Protest sign urging global conservation meeting to address the environmental damage from U.S. military bases. (Photo by Ann Wright)
By Ann Wright | Consortium News | September 9, 2016

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has come in for criticism due to its lack of attention to the detrimental effects of wars and military operations on nature. Considering the degree of harm to the environment coming from these human activities, one would think that the organization might have set aside some time at its World Conservation Congress this past week in Hawaii to specifically address these concerns.

Yet, of the more than 1,300 workshops crammed into the six-day marathon environmental meeting in Honolulu, followed by four days of discussion about internal resolutions, nothing specifically addressed the destruction of the environment by military operations and wars.

The heavy funding the IUCN gets from governments is undoubtedly the rationale for not addressing this “elephant in the room” at a conference for the protection of the endangered planet – a tragic commentary on a powerful organization that should acknowledge all anti-environmental pressures.

At a presentation at the USA Pavilion during the conference, senior representatives of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy regaled the IUCN audience of conservationists with tales about caring for the environment, including protecting endangered species, on hundreds of U.S. military bases in the United States.

The presenters did not mention what is done on the over 800 U.S. military bases outside of the United States. In the one-hour military style briefing, the speakers failed to mention the incredible amounts of fossil fuels used by military aircraft, ships and land vehicles that leave mammoth carbon footprints around the world. Also not mentioned were wars that kill humans, animals and plants; military exercise bombing of entire islands and large swaths of land; and the harmful effects of the burn pits which have incinerated the debris of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Each military service representative focused on the need for training areas to prepare the U.S. military to “keep peace in the world.”  Of course, no mention was made of “keeping the peace” through wars of choice that have killed hundreds of thousands of persons, animals and plants, and the bombing of the cultural heritage in many areas around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

Miranda Ballentine, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Installations, the Environment and Energy, said the U.S. Air Force has over 5,000 aircraft, more than all the airlines in the United States — yet she never mentioned how many gallons of jet fuel are used by these aircraft, nor how many people, animals and cultural sites the aircraft have bombed.

To give one some idea of the scale of the footprint of U.S. military bases, Ballentine said Air Force has over 160 installations, including 70 major installation covering over 9 million square miles of land, larger than the country of Switzerland, plus 200 miles of coastland.

Incredibly, Ballentine said that due to commercial development around military bases, military bases have become “islands of conservation” — conservation takes place inside the protected base while there are larger conservation issues outside the fence lines of the bases.

Adding to the mammoth size of the military base footprint, Dr. Christine Altendorf, the regional director of the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command of the Pacific, said U.S. Army bases have 12.4 million acres of land, including 1.3 million acres of wetlands, 82,605 archeological sites, 58,887 National Historical Landmarks and 223 endangered species on 118 installations.

The U.S. Navy’s briefer, a Navy Commander, added to the inventory of military equipment, saying the Navy has 3,700 aircraft; 276 ships, including 10 aircraft carriers; 72 submarines. Seventy naval installations in the United States have 4 million acres of land and 500 miles of coastline. The Navy presenter said the Navy has never heard of a marine mammal that has been harmed by U.S. Naval vessels or acoustic experiments in the past ten years.

Only One Question

At the end of the three presentations, there was time for only one question — and luckily, my intense hand waving paid off and I got to ask: “How can you conserve nature when you are bombing nature in wars of choice around the world, practicing military operations in areas that have endangered species like on the islands of Oahu, Big Island of Hawaii, Pagan, Tinian, Okinawa and bombing islands into wastelands like the Hawaiian island of Koho’olawe and the Puerto Rican island of Vieques  and now you want to use the North Marianas ‘Pagan’ Island as a bombing target. And how does the construction of the new South Korean naval base in pristine marine areas of Jeju Island that will be used by the U.S. Navy and the proposed construction at Henoko of the runways into the pristine Oura Bay in Okinawa fit into conservation of nature?”

Interestingly, in the large audience of approximately 100 people, not one of them applauded the question indicating that either audience was composed primarily of Department of Defense employees, or that the conservationists are uneasy about confronting the U.S. government and particularly the U.S. military about its responsibility for its large role in the destruction of much of the planet’s environment.

The Navy representative was the only person to respond to my question. He reiterated the national security necessity for military exercises to practice to “defend peace around the world.” To his credit, he acknowledged the role the public has in commenting on the possible impact of military exercises. He said that over 32,000 comments from the public have been made on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the possibility of artillery firing and aircraft bombing of the Northern Marianas island of Tinian — that has only 2,300 inhabitants.

Despite all odds, someone in Hawaii was able to get an exhibit of photographs of the cleanup of Koho’olawe placed on the third floor of the Hawaii Convention Center. There was no sign announcing the exhibition, just a series of photos with some explanation. In five days of attending the conference, I observed that 95 percent of the conference attendees who walked past the exhibition did not stop to look at it – until I stopped them and explained what it was about. Then, they were very interested.

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A crater that was created on the Hawaiian island of Koho’olawe from massive explosions of TNT in 1965. (Photo from Hawaii Archive)

From 1941 to 1990, the island of Koho’olawe was used as a bombing range for U.S. military aircraft and naval vessels. One photograph in the exhibition showed the crater called “Sailor’s Hat” which was made by several massive explosions of TNT in 1965 to recreate and study the effects of large explosions on nearby ships and personnel to simulate in some manner the effects of a nuclear explosion. The crater affected the island’s fresh water aquifer and now no artesian water remains on the island.

After Hawaiians stopped the bombing through their protests and by staying on the island during bombings from the 1970s, the U.S. Navy returned Koho’olawe to the State of Hawaii in 2004 after a 10-year clean-up process. But only 66 percent of the surface has been cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO), and only 10 percent cleared to a depth of 4 feet. Twenty-three percent of the surface remains uncleared and 100 percent of the waters surrounding the island have not been cleared of UXO, putting divers and ships at risk. 

Okinawan Environmental Activists

Environmental activists from Okinawa had a booth at the IUCN at which they told about the attempt of the U.S. military and the national Japanese government to construct a runway complex into Oura Bay, a pristine marine area that that is the home of the protected species of marine mammal, the dugong.

The Deputy Governor of Okinawa and the Mayor of Nago city, Okinawa, both of whom have been key figures in the grassroots campaign to stop the construction of the runways and the lawsuits filed by the provincial government of Okinawa against the federal Japanese government, gave presentations about the citizens’ struggle against the construction of the runways.

However, there was no mention of the environmental effects on the marine environment from the construction of a huge new naval base on Jeju Island, South Korea, the site of the previous IUCN conference four years ago. At that conference, IUCN, no doubt at the request of the South Korean government, refused to allow citizen activists to have a booth inside the convention or make presentations like the Okinawans did this year. As a result, the Jeju Island campaigners were forced to stay outside the conference site.

Four years later in the 2016 WCC conference in Hawaii, the Government of Japan and the Province of Jeju Island sponsored a large multi-media pavilion about Jeju island which did not mention the construction of the new naval base and the destruction of the cultural heritage of the site nor the displacement of women divers who had dived at the location for generations.

On Sept. 3, local groups in Honolulu came to the Hawaii Convention Center with signs to remind the IUCN of the U.S. militarization of Asia and the Pacific. Signs and posters from local environmentalists cited the environmental impact from the huge 108,863-acre Pohakuloa bombing range on the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest U.S. military installation in the Pacific; the Aegis missile test center on the island of Kauai; and the four large U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine bases on the island of Oahu.

Other signs referenced the extensive number of U.S. military bases in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Guam and new U.S. military installations in the Philippines and Australia.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also served 16 years as a US diplomat in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. She was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001.  She resigned from the US Department of State in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

September 10, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Acknowledges CIA ‘Secret War’ in Laos but No Apology

teleSUR | September 6, 2016

While Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to ever visit Laos, half a century after the U.S.’s “secret war” left it with the unfortunate distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in history, he stopped short of offering an apology to one of Southeast Asia’s smallest countries.

Laos became the world’s most-bombed country per capita from 1964 to 1973 as Washington launched a secret CIA-led war to cut supplies they believed were flowing to communist fighters during the war on Vietnam.

Much of the country is still littered with ordnance, including millions of cluster munition “bomblets” that maim and kill innocent people to this day.

In his speech Tuesday in the capital of Vientiane, Obama acknowledged the secret war but stopped short, as he did in Vietnam, of offering an apology for Washington’s dirty legacy.

He pledged US$90 million, a figure close to the US$100 million the United States has spent in the past 20 years on clearing its UXO in Laos, to help the country clear unexploded ordnance that has killed or injured more than 20,000 people.

“Given our history here I believe the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal,” Obama told a crowd of delegates, including communist party leaders, students and monks, during a speech in the capital Vientiane.

“The remnants of war continue to shatter lives here in Laos,” he said, adding many U.S. citizens were still unaware of their country’s secret carpet bombing of the country. “Over the years thousands of Laotians have been killed or injured. Farmers tending their fields, children playing. The wounds, a missing leg or arm, last a lifetime.”

UXO remains a stubborn problem in the region and experts say it could take decades to clear landmines and bombs in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, which were beset by conflicts in the 1960s and 1970s, and in Cambodia’s case, in the 1980s and 1990s too.

In the central Lao province of Xieng Khouang, the area most heavily bombed by U.S. aircraft during the war in neighboring Vietnam, there is a trail of devastation.

About 80 percent of the people of landlocked Laos rely on agriculture, but some of it is simply too dangerous to farm. Approximately a quarter of its villages are contaminated with unexploded ordnance, says the British-based Mines Advisory Group, which helps find and destroy the bombs.

The issue has long dogged relations between the United States and Laos, a cloistered and impoverished communist nation. But both sides have moved closer in recent years and Obama’s visit is being hailed as a landmark opportunity to reset ties.

September 7, 2016 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chilcot: UK refusing to help clean up Iraq after raining down radioactive shells

RT | July 12, 2016

Britain has no intention of cleaning up its deadly radioactive legacy in Iraq or even monitoring the terrifying impact depleted uranium (DU) shells will have on the population in the future, it has been claimed.

Writing in the Ecologist on Tuesday, Doug Weir, who is coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), says that hidden within the Chilcot report is a previously classified military document setting out the UK’s rejection of any duty to cleanse Iraq of DU of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

“In it, the clearance of unexploded ordnance and DU is considered and the Ministry of Defence [MoD] argues that it has: “… no long-term legal responsibility to clean up DU from Iraq” Weir writes.

“Instead it proposes that surface lying fragments of DU only be removed on ‘an opportunity basis’ – i.e. if they come across them in the course of other operations.”

This indicates, according to Weir, that the UK has effectively swerved any obligation to clear up after itself in Iraq.

“In other words, the UK’s stance is that chemically toxic and radioactive DU ‘ash’ from spent munitions is strictly the problem of the country in which the munitions were used – in this case Iraq – and that the UK, which fired the DU shells, has no formal responsibility of cleaning up the mess.”

DU ammunition is used in only two UK weapons systems – the Royal Navy’s PHALANX Close-In Weapon System and in the Charm 3 ammunition fired by the Challenger 2 main battle tank.

However, the route to shirking responsibility may not be as easy as the UK government seems to hope. In October, the UN will meet to debate a sixth resolution on DU weapons. It’s a move which will give succor to the government of Iraq, which in 2014 called for the international community to help clean up DU.

Weir remains hopeful that the UN meeting may be able to encourage governments to take responsibility for the use and fallout of the weapons.

“When the United Nations last discussed DU two years ago, 150 governments recognised the need for states to provide assistance to countries like Iraq,” he wrote.

“This October, our Coalition will add our voice to those of the states affected by DU weapons in calling for an end to the use of DU weapons and for the users to finally accept responsibility for their legacy,” he added.

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Why is the United States Still Terrorizing Laos?

By Brett S. Morris | CounterPunch | July 9, 2015

Last month, the United States announced a new aid package of $15 million for the unexploded ordnance (UXO) sector in Laos. The aid package—the highest annual amount the US has ever given for UXO cleanup in Laos—brings to total about $85 million the US has given to Laos for UXO cleanup since 1993.

This is a shocking and embarrassingly low figure. The UXO is the result of one of the most intensive bombing campaigns in human history, when the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos from 1964 to 1973. One third of the bombs did not explode on impact, and have killed or injured twenty thousand people since 1973.

The United States has a moral responsibility to do everything it can to clean up the UXO and help the victims. The $85 million the US has allocated to date are mere pennies compared to the $18 million (inflation-adjusted) the US spent bombing Laos per day from 1964 to 1973. The best estimated amount to clean up all the UXO is $16 billion, according to UXO expert Mike Boddington (as quoted in the excellent book by journalists Karen J. Coates and Jerry Redfern, Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos).

The United States could easily provide the $16 billion needed to clean up the UXO. For comparison, the US spent $610 billion on the military in 2014 (more than the next seven highest spenders combined), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. $16 billion is just 2.6 percent of $610 billion.

Why does the US government refuse to provide the necessary funds? Clearly, the US could provide the money—if it wanted. And there’s the key. The United States simply doesn’t care. Some poor, suffering people in a developing country that most Americans wouldn’t be able to find on a map just don’t matter. The US has more important things to spend its money on, like a trillion dollars on nuclear arms over the next three decades, a trillion and a half dollars on a new type of plane, almost 5,000 military bases and sites worldwide (587 of them outside the US and its territories), and arming human rights abusers like Israel.

This is an unacceptable state of affairs. Laos is a beautiful country with warm, friendly people that never did anything to the United States and never threatened the United States. Their only crimes were seeking independence through the communist, nationalist group the Pathet Lao (who had fought the French in the First Indochina War and the US-backed royalist government in Laos in the 1960s and 70s) and to have had the misfortune to share a border with Vietnam, another country the United States sought to decimate.

When I visited Laos last year, the effects of the so-called “Secret War” (secret to Americans, but definitely not to Laotians) were ever present. In Phonsavan, the capital of one of the most bombed regions in Laos, Xieng Khouang, bomb casings abound. The tourist information center has a substantial amount of them displayed outside its doors.

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Bomb casings are even used for practical or decorative purposes. Laotian homes in rural areas use them as stilts as part of the structure for their houses. Restaurants display them outside to attract tourists. For example, a restaurant called “Craters” has these outside its entrance in Phonsavan:

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Anyone who goes to Phonsavan should be sure to pay a visit to the UXO Survivor Information Centre. Inside one will find details of how one Laotian NGO, the Quality of Life Association, is helping the victims of UXO and their families. One way they do this is to gather family members of UXO victims into social groups that knit and create products such as scarves and laptop bags. The exercise serves the dual purpose of providing a social outlet for victims’ families as well as raising money to help themselves. This is an excellent idea, but the fact that the United States won’t provide the necessary funds to help the victims and their families is a moral abomination.

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Probably the most heartbreaking component of the UXO Survivor Information Centre is the list of recent UXO victims. They include farmers, scrap metal collectors, and children.

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Children are especially vulnerable because they find cluster bombs and try to play with them, mistakenly believing the small, round bombs are toys. Cluster bombs are notably deadly weapons because dozens of them are dispersed over a wide area from a single canister. Of the 270 million cluster bombs dropped on Laos, up to 80 million did not detonate, and forty percent of UXO victims are children. (To this day, the United States refuses to give up its use and exportation of cluster bombs: it refuses to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions; has used cluster bombs in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen; and exports them to dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.)

Outside Phonsavan, one will find the mysterious Plain of Jars, a landscape of ancient stone structures probably used by a prehistoric community for burial purposes thousands of years ago.

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There are numerous bomb craters throughout the plain:

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Readers may be familiar with the term “Plain of Jars” from the late Fred Branfman’s book, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War, which documented the atrocities US bombers were inflicting on Laotian villagers. An excerpt, as written by a Laotian villager:

The people’s houses burned and were completely destroyed. The people were hit by bombs and killed, and more than thirty were wounded. Because these airplanes dropped bombs on the village without stopping, the people had no place to go to escape. They had never before experienced anything like this. It caused parents to be taken in death from their children and children to be taken in death from their parents in great numbers, causing the people’s tears to flow. Because the airplanes had dropped bombs on the ricefields and rice paddies the people saw that they could not withstand these hardships. So they fled into the forest and the jungle or different streams and caves.

The United States terrorized Laos badly enough in the war, and they are still terrorizing Laos by not providing sufficient funds to clean up the UXO. This grotesque lack of concern for one’s own actions must end!

Brett S. Morris is a freelance writer, journalist, photographer, and author. He has traveled the world, documenting current events and the legacy of US foreign policy. His latest book is 21 Lies They Tell You About American Foreign Policy. He can be reached on his website, Twitter, and Facebook

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment