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WAR NEWS

FEARS OF FRIENDLY FIRE

In a move which NBC called 'unprededented', 200 US Marines who had been instructed to attend a speech by former CIA chief/current US defence secretary Leon Panetta were told to leave the building and stack their weapons outside before Panetta spoke.

The story is here. The incident took place at Camp Leatherneck, one of more than 250 US bases in Afghanistan. Panetta was not ushered into the briefing area until the Marines had disarmed themselves - leaving stacks of M16s, M-4s, and 9mm pistols outside.

Sergeant Major Brandon Hall told the New York Times, "All I know is I was told to get the weapons out. Somebody got itchy." Veterans Today - which broke the story - reports that the Marines were disarmed following an assassination attempt against the defence chief.

NUCLEAR WAR - COMING SOON TO A THEOCRACY NEAR YOU!

As 'we' prepare for a new war against Iran, it's worth pausing to consider why we're doing this. According to our worst-case scenario, the Iranians are on the verge of building an atomic bomb: in other words, doing what the Americans, the Russians, the French, the British, the Chinese, the Israelis, the Indians, the Pakistanis and the North Koreans have already done.

Let's assume, for a moment, that the bi-partisan War Party is correct, and that the Iranians really do intend to build a nuclear weapon. Let's also assume that our constant military threats, freezing of their assets, sanctions and assassinations of their scientists have some kind of justification - in that we don't want another theocracy in the Middle East to develop these terrible WMDs.

Why, then, is Saudi Arabia being encouraged to spend a hundred billion dollars to build sixteen nuclear plants? Assuming, again, that the official version of these matters is correct, a Saudi - Osama Bin Ladin - organized the terrorist attacks against America in 2001; and Saudis acting under his orders carried them out. The Saudis have attacked us more than once, and may well do so again. Iran, in contrast, has never attacked the United States, and during the Reagan years was hugely helpful to the American government (remember Iran Contra?). If we were genuinely worried about mad mullahs developing nukes, why are we encouraging the theocrats of Saudi Arabia to develop a nuclear capacity?

Yesterday, Interpol - the notoriously corrupt international 'police' agency funded in part by terrorist states such as Saudi Arabia - arrested a newspaper columnist, Hamza Kashgari, at Kuala Lumpur airport. His crime? Offending the Prophet (pbuh) by sending a tweet.

It might sound funny, if it weren't so utterly offensive and insane, and likely to lead to this poor fugitive's extradition, torture and death.

And these are our allies?

I can't think of a caption for the picture above. It appeared in the British press last week, and shows US Marine snipers from Charlie Company, 1st Recon Batallion, relaxing at Camp Pendleton (!), Afghanistan, in Sept 2010, with their two favourite flags.

As we vacate our Iraq bases, we're building up a similar network of permanent fortresses in Afghanistan. Why? No one seems able to say. Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, writing in the Armed Forces Journal, reports paralysis and failure on 'our' side. A senior American officer there asked him, “How do I look these men in the eye and ask them to go out day after day on these missions? What’s harder: How do I look [my soldier’s] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?”

What can save us from this madness? Probably nothing. Unless there's a chance that ART can pull sane people back from the nuclear brink. Certainly this was the intention of Kubrick with DR. STRANGELOVE and Watkins with THE WAR GAME, back in the days when filmmakers struggled to speak about these things. In the tradition of Kubrick and Watkins, a Japanese artist, Isao Hashimoto, has created an amazing little video which depicts all the officially-recorded nuclear explosions which scarred our lovely planet's surface between 1945 and 2008.

It's an extraordinary piece of work: art with a purpose. It reveals no let-up whatsoever in the pace of nuclear blasts following the Kennedy/Khrushchev Test Ban Treaty; not until the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1990, did the crazed race slow down. Hashimoto's work - art with a real purpose - documents only the official record (just as I have done in this article). He doesn't include South African, Israeli, or North Korean bomb tests as they are subject to some dispute. Hashimoto's total: 2053 nuclear blasts.

THE COSTS OF WAR

The Costs of War is a new study from Brown University and the University of Boston. It takes a conservative estimate of Iraqi and Afghani casualties (a mere 137,000 dead civilians, as opposed to the Lancet's estimate of more than a million native people killed so far) and adds to that the number of American troops killed (around six thousand) plus coalition and mercenaries (some 25,000 dead), plus the cost of caring for the wounded and the mentally-ill, plus the economic, social, environmental and political costs of a war-based society in which civil liberties continue to erode. Loss of personal liberty can't be counted in money, of course, but otherwise the study provides some interesting maths: almost 3.5 trillion dollars in expenditure, so far.

There is a website, and you can download a .pdf of the human casualty estimate here.

PERMANENT US BASES IN IRAQ

I recently had a very nice dinner with a pair of academics - one American, the other Iranian. These are smart people who don't get all their info from Murdoch and Hannitay. But they're under the impression - like many decent, liberal Americans - that the Democrats have different foreign policy goals than the Republicans, and wish to end the Iraq War.

When I said that the US was building permanent military bases in Iraq, and that this was a bi-partisan project, they refused to believe me. After all, it's never mentioned on CNN, or in the New York Times. My Iranian friend told me I had an Iranian perspective - because like all his countrymen I was a conspiracy theorist!

(I am a conspiracy theorist. But the permanent US bases in Iraq aren't a theory. Google "permanent US bases Iraq" and you'll get in excess of twelve million hits. These aren't conspiracy websites. They're sites like the Quakers' the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, and Global Security, which exists, as far as I can tell, to provide information to families of US troops posted aboard, and to sell them 'deployment bracelets' and military ringtones.)

Global Security has a great introduction. There are fourteen permanent bases in all, including the Green Zone in Baghdad: two have not yet been officially identified. Not all of them are immediately proximate to oil fields (though the permanent Kirkuk base - Camp Renegade - sits on top of oil wells and a refinery). Most of them have airfields, which means they can quickly strike insurgents - or pipeline saboteurs - anywhere in the country.

The Pentagon intends to consolidate the bases - most of them, ironically enough, expansions of Saddam Hussein's palaces! - into four mega-bases. In addition to the Green Zone and Camp Renegade, they are:

Camp Anaconda (formerly Balad Airbase) - with five cafeterias, two swimming pools, and a 35mm cinema - holds 22,500 US troops and 2,500 US military contractors.

Camp Taji (formerly Camp Cooke), a Republican Guard 'military city' which has been fitted with 29,000 square feet of retail shopping opportunities for US troops.

Camp Falcon - also in Baghdad - intended to house 5,000 US soldiers.

Camp Courage (formerly Post Freedom - Saddam Hussein's Palace of Swords) in Mosul. Contains a kidney-shaped swimming pool, various palaces, three artificial lakes, and religious facilities for US troops.

Camp Victory - adjacent to Baghdad International Airport - has an artificial lake with a palace which serves as the USD Army's conference centre. Will house up to 14,000 US troops.

Camp Marez/Camp Diamondback - Mosul Airbase - with at least eight hardened aircraft shelters and muitions storage.

Camp Speicher, in Tikrit, Northern Iraq - a.k.a. Al Sahra airfield, where the Americans are building a new rail spur, to facilitate construction. Home of the US "Screaming Eagles" and 6,000 other US troops.

Camp Fallujah - the exact location of this provocative military base is being kept secret. The Quaker site suggests it's being built at the railway station. Global Security says the largest US base adjacent to Fallujah is Camp Baharia: this too features lavish facilities and another artificial lake!

Nasiriyah Base - exact name and whereabouts unknown. (Nasiriyah is a provincial capital of South-East Iraq adjacent to massive oil and gas reserves.)

Another nameless faculty, being built between Irbil and Kirkuk. (Again, this is one of Iraq's biggest oil fields, destined to be seized by our Kurdish "allies" should the country fall apart).

Plus two more permanent bases, names and locations currently undisclosed, designated #13 and #14.

None of the above info is new. None of it is secret. It's all available on the web; all ignored by BBC, by CNN, by the major newspapers of record in Britain and the US. I'm re-capping it here because I think it's important 1) that we realise this stuff isn't anyone's "theory" and 2) that we understand this is a bi-partisan project, which means those cuddly Democrats support it, too.

When the Dems took over Congress, they had a clear mandate to bring the troops home. They didn't attempt to do it. Having a majority means that the Dems could vote the permanent base plan out of existence, by refusing to fund it. And here's the rub - they did! The House voted, back in March 2006 (before the election!) for Barbara Lee's amendment to bar the use of any funds in the new spending bill to establish US permanent bases in Iraq. The Senate voted the same way - a voice vote, with no opposition.

But all the language barring money for permanent bases was stripped from the legistation by the conference committee - a bipartisan body. So when Nancy Pelosi offered George W an unconditional twelve months' extension of the war, it was exactly that. Not a peace plan, not a compromise, but a guarantee of twelve more months - minimum - to build those bases.

Here are two more useful and informative links - the first to a site supporting the Iraqi petroleum workers union IFOU (the union, legal under Saddam Hussein, has been banned by the Americans); the second to Carbonweb.org, where you can download the report CRUDE DESIGNS - coproduced by War on Want - detailing the American and British rip-off of Iraqi oil wealth.

And you can download a report on Shell's part in the Iraqi oil ripoff - Stealing Iraq's Future - here.

2007.7.24

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