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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
It’s 10 pm. Do you know where your drone is?
Oh, the confusion of it all! The U.S. military now insists it was deeply befuddled when it claimed that a super-secret advanced RQ-170 Sentinel drone (aka "the beast of Kandahar") which fell into Iranian hands on December 4th -- evidently while surveying suspected nuclear sites -- was lost patrolling the Afghan border. The military, said a spokesman, "did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission."
Whatever happened, that lost drone story hit the headlines in a way that allowed everyone their Warholian 15 minutes of fame. Dick Cheney went on the air to insist that President Obama should have sent Air Force planes into Iran to blow the grounded Sentinel to bits. (Who cares about sparking off hostilities or sending global oil prices skyrocketing?) President Obama formally asked for the plane’s return, but somehow didn’t have high hopes that the Iranians would comply. (Check out Gary Powers and the downing of his U-2 spy plane over Russia in 1960 for a precedent.) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta swore we would never stop our Afghan-based drone surveillance of Iran. Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked that his country be kept out of any “adversarial relations between Iran and the United States.” (Fat chance!) The Iranians, who displayed the plane, insisted proudly that they had hacked into it, “spoofed” its navigational controls, and brought it in for a relatively soft landing. And Kim Kardashian... oops, wrong story.
Monday, December 19, 2011
From: Human Rights Watch:
Dear President Obama,
We previously wrote to you on December 7, 2010, to express our concerns regarding the US targeted killing program. We made recommendations that would minimize harm to civilians and ensure US policies and practices were in line with the country’s international legal obligations. Since then, the use by the United States of Unmanned Combat Aircraft Systems (drones) to conduct targeted killings has expanded rapidly in Pakistan and other countries. Yet, your administration has taken few steps to provide greater transparency and accountability in conducting targeted killings, intensifying concerns both in the US and abroad about the lawfulness of these attacks.
Human Rights Watch recognizes that the US government has a responsibility to address threats to national security. The deliberate use of lethal force against a specific target can be legal in operations against a combatant on a genuine battlefield, or in a law enforcement situation in which there is an imminent threat to life and there is no reasonable alternative. We also recognize the challenges faced in trying to address potential threats that are not in a traditional conflict zone yet are also beyond the reach of any law enforcement.
We have read the statements from administration officials – most recently the September talk at Harvard University by counterterrorism advisor John Brennan – which posits the legal basis for the overall use of force but do not clearly provide one for conducting specific targeted killings and the legal limits on such strikes. Among the questions raised:
Where does your administration draw the line between lawful and unlawful targeted killings? Are international human rights law considerations taken into account?
John Brennan has argued for a more flexible definition of “imminence” to justify the use of force. Is this in the context of self-defense as provided under the United Nations Charter [article 51] or in the law enforcement context, which requires an imminent threat to life for lethal force to be used?
The administration suggests that targeted killings can be conducted without geographic limits, making the entire world a battlefield. What is different about the US government rationale for targeted killings that would not apply to other countries, such as Russia or China, that assert threats from terrorists?
The US government should clarify fully and publicly its legal rationale for conducting targeted killings and the legal limits on such strikes. Your administration has yet to explain clearly where it draws the line between lawful and unlawful targeted killings.
The government should also explain why it believes that its attacks are in conformity with international law and make public information, including video footage, on how particular attacks comply with that standard.
To ensure compliance with international law, the United States should conduct investigations of targeted killings where there is credible evidence of wrongdoing, provide compensation to all victims of illegal strikes, and discipline or prosecute as appropriate those responsible for conducting or ordering unlawful attacks.
We are particularly concerned about the expanded involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the targeted killings program. International humanitarian law does not prohibit intelligence agencies from participating in combat operations during armed conflicts. However, parties to an armed conflict have obligations to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and provide redress for victims. Because the US government routinely neither confirms nor denies the CIA’s well-known participation in targeted killings in northern Pakistan and elsewhere, there is no transparency in its operations. In 2009, then-CIA chief Leon Panetta unusually acknowledged the US airstrikes against al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan as being “very effective” because they are “very precise” and “very limited in terms of collateral damage.” However, he also said he would not provide more details, highlighting the government’s unwillingness to divulge information about CIA operations.
The CIA, like all US government agencies, is bound by international human rights and humanitarian law. Unlike the US armed forces, the CIA provides little or no information regarding the training and composition of its drone teams, or the procedures and rules it follows in conducting targeted killings. Nor has the government provided information as to whether the CIA has conducted any investigations into possible international law violations and their outcomes. As a result there is no basis for determining whether the US government is actually meeting its international legal obligations with respect to its targeting operations or providing redress for victims of unlawful attacks. Repeated assertions by senior officials within your administration that all US agencies are operating in compliance with international law – without providing information that would corroborate such claims – are wholly inadequate.
Human Rights Watch believes that so long as the US government cannot demonstrate a readiness to hold the CIA to international legal requirements for accountability and redress, the use of drones in targeted killings should be exclusively within the command responsibility of the US armed forces. This would be consistent with the findings of the independent 9/11 Commission, which in 2004 specifically recommended that “[l]ead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department.”
Such a recommendation has been made more recently by former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, among others. At the same time, while the US military has a more transparent chain of command and operational procedures, it too needs to ensure compliance with the laws of war, and provide accountability of redress when violations occur.
We again ask you to consider these concerns in light of your own words when you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize: "Even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules ... the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war,” stating, “that is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is the source of our strength." We respectfully urge that you provide the legal framework to uphold these words.
We have enclosed our December 2010 letter and a recent Q&A addressing these issues. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
CIA Director David Petraeus
Bold and links added by SPW-blog
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Dec 5th 2011
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids’ revitalized New Bohemia neighborhood is a hive of artisans, small businesspeople, entrepreneurs — and soon, space for the assembly of surveillance drones.
It’s the arrival of the latter in the form of AirCover Integrated Solutions Corp. — a Northern California-founded firm— that attracted about 75 protesters Saturday afternoon from Occupy Wall Street movements across Iowa including Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City, Dubuque and Davenport.
The use of U.S.-government drone aircraft to wage war on suspected terrorists and innocent civilians from Pakistan to Gaza has become controversial as civilian deaths have mounted and civil liberties concerns have grown.
The protest lasted about an hour with the only significant verbal confrontations coming between activists and merchants in the 104,000-square-foot building who were upset that the protest coincided with — and disrupted — the annual Very Cherry Holiday Open House.
The Occupy argument: The drones, to be assembled by AirCover, will enable Big Brother to hover over the streets and homes of America, and serve as the handmaidens of death on foreign soil.
James Hill, president of AirCover Solutions, rejected the protesters’ message. In an interview with Salon, Hill insisted that the unmanned drones, soon to be assembled in Iowa, will save the lives of soldiers, police and rescue personnel who can use his company’s devices to enter danger zones remotely without risk of bodily injury.
What’s more, business leaders in Cedar Rapids are eager for the up to 25 tech jobs that Hill says AirCover will bring to this city of 126,000 people. Iowa’s second-largest city is still suffering from the effects of devastating floods in 2008.
The protesters gathered just after 3 p.m. outside the Cherry Building, carrying signs that said, among other things, “Are you listening?” “I want my right to privacy” and “Stop the police state now.”
“It concerns me a whole lot the kind of money that we spend on these kind of military, police state items when we don’t have enough money for our schools — enough money for health,” said Dr. Maureen McCue, who teaches in the public health department at the University of Iowa.
McCue, an Occupy supporter, said the potential abuse of the drone technology is greater than the likelihood it will be trained to peaceful, positive ends.
“These drone issues are completely buried if people don’t make a lot of noise about it,” McCue said.
Another protestor, Dr. Robert Schultes, a doctor in Cedar Rapids, held a sign that said “No Drone Zone.”
He doesn’t trust the remote-control aspect of the drones.
“If they make a mistake they kill a whole bunch of people,” Schultes said.
Read the rest here...
Friday, December 2, 2011
Thirty-one of 38 accused activists were found guilty on Thursday for their role in a protest against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The activists were arrested on April 22 at the New York Air National Guard base at Hancock Field near Syracuse, New York, after trespassing to protest the MQ-9 Reaper drones, which the 174th Fighter Wing of the Guard has remotely flown over Afghanistan since late 2009. The protesters draped themselves in white clothes splattered with blood-red pigment and then staged a "die-in" at the main entrance to the base. They said their act of nonviolent civil disobedience aimed to visualize the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan by drones operated by personnel sitting in front of computers thousands of miles away. The group calls themselves the Hancock 38 Drone Resisters. Following the guilty verdict, four of the activists were sentenced to 15-day terms in prison while a number of others were given fines and community service. We speak to Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general turned outspoken human rights activist, who testified at the trial that the drones violate international law. We’re also joined by Harry Murray, one of the Hancock 38 and a co-defendant in the trial. "Having a drone control center established at Hancock Air Base has really brought the war home to central New York," Murray says. "Having people who are actually killing human beings in Afghanistan working right in Syracuse really makes Syracuse and upstate New York a war zone." Clark says drones are "a weapon of extreme provocation and extreme danger, extreme inaccuracy... International law, I believe, does prohibit the use of drones."
Ramsey Clark, lawyer and former U.S. attorney general.
Harry Murray, one of the Hancock 38 Drone Resisters and a co-defendant in the trial. He is professor of sociology and anthropology at Nazareth College, where he also serves as director of the peace and justice studies major.
Read the whole interview here...
Monday, November 28, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
By Deborah Blum | November 21, 2011
One hundred years ago, an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale – as you can see on the widely used chart to the left – puts sweet bell peppers at the zero mark and the blistering habanero at up to 350,000 Scoville Units.
I checked the Scoville Scale for something else yesterday. I was looking for a way to measure the intensity of pepper spray, the kind that police have been using on Occupy protestors including this week’s shocking incident involving peacefully protesting students at the University of California-Davis.
As the chart makes clear, commercial grade pepper spray leaves even the most painful of natural peppers (the Himalayan ghost pepper) far behind. It’s listed at between 2 million and 5.3 million Scoville units. The lower number refers to the kind of pepper spray that you and I might be able to purchase for self-protective uses. And the higher number? It’s the kind of spray that police use, the super-high dose given in the orange-colored spray used at UC-Davis.
The reason pepper-spray ends up on the Scoville chart is that – you probably guessed this - it’s literally derived from pepper chemistry, the compounds that make habaneros so much more formidable than the comparatively wimpy bells. Those compounds are called capsaicins and – in fact – pepper spray is more formally called Oleoresin Capsicum or OC Spray.
Photo courtesy: California Aggie
But we’ve taken to calling it pepper spray, I think, because that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when making something like a jalapeno-based salsa, a little burn, nothing too serious.
Until you look it up on the Scoville scale and remember, as toxicologists love to point out, that the dose makes the poison. That we’re not talking about cookery but a potent blast of chemistry. So that if OC spray is the U.S. police response of choice – and certainly, it’s been used with dismaying enthusiasm during the Occupy protests nationwide, as documented in this excellent Atlantic roundup - it may be time to demand a more serious look at the risks involved.
read the rest here.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
We are asking everyone to send this video to elected officials and military personnel. It is about the trial of the Hancock 38. Click on the arrow inside the Youtube to get it started:
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Nov 2, 2011
By Orla Guerin BBC News, Islamabad
When tribal elders from the remote Pakistani region of North Waziristan travelled to Islamabad last week to protest against CIA drone strikes, a teenager called Tariq Khan was among them.
A BBC team caught him on camera, sitting near the front of a tribal assembly, or jirga, listening carefully.
Four days later he was dead - killed by one of the drones he was protesting against.
His family told us two missiles hit the 16-year-old on Monday near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. His 12-year-old cousin Wahid was killed alongside him.
The boys were on their way to see a relative, according to Tariq's uncle, Noor Kalam, who we reached by phone.
He denied that Tariq had any link to militant groups. "We condemn this very strongly," he said. "He was just a normal boy who loved football."
The CIA's drone campaign is a covert war, conducted in remote terrain, where the facts are often in dispute.
The tribal belt is off limits to foreign journalists. Militants often seal off the locations where drone strikes take place. The truth can be buried with the dead.
After the missile strike on Monday, Pakistani officials said four suspected militants had been killed.
If the strike actually killed two young boys - as appears to be the case - it's unlikely anyone will ever be held to account.
There are no confirmed death tolls but several independent organisations estimate that drones have killed more than 2,000 people since 2004. Most are suspected to be militants.
Many senior commanders from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are among the dead. But campaigners claim there have been hundreds of civilian victims, whose stories are seldom told.
Photo: A drone aircraft of the kind used by the US military The use of drone missiles has soared
A shy teenage boy called Saadullah is one of them. He survived a drone strike that killed three of his relatives, but he lost both legs, one eye and his hope for the future.
"I wanted to be a doctor," he told me, "but I can't walk to school anymore. When I see others going, I wish I could join them."
Like Tariq, Saadullah travelled to Islamabad for last week's jirga. Seated alongside him was Haji Zardullah, a white-bearded man who said he lost four nephews in a separate attack.
"None of these were harmful people," he said. "Two were still in school and one was in college."
Asghar Khan, a tribal elder in a cream turban, said three of his relatives paid with their lives for visiting a sick neighbour.
"My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008," he said. "They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban."
Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.
"A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way," he said. "Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target."
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the British legal charity Reprieve, holding the fragment of a missile Campaigners like Clive Stafford Smith say drones are resulting in "murder"
Mr Akbar is suing the CIA for compensation in the Islamabad High Court, and plans to file a Supreme Court action.
He claims the US is getting away with murder in North Waziristan. It's a view shared by the British legal charity Reprieve, whose director, Clive Stafford Smith, has been meeting drone victims in Pakistan.
"What's going on here, unfortunately, is murder," he said.
"There's a war going on in Afghanistan, but none here in Pakistan, so what the CIA is doing here is illegal."
The CIA would doubtless say otherwise, if it were prepared to discuss the drone programme, but US officials are usually silent on the issue.
In a rare public comment two years ago, the then director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, defended the use of drones.
"We have targeted those who are enemies of the United States," he said. " When we use it, it is very precise and it limits collateral damage."
But the damage is not limited enough, say opponents like Mr Stafford Smith, who is gathering evidence about civilian deaths. From a shopping bag he produced a jagged chunk of metal - a missile fragment - believed to have killed a child in Waziristan in August of last year.
"I have a three-year-old son myself, and the idea that this thing killed someone very much like my little Wilf really tugs at your heart strings," he said.
Mr Stafford Smith says drones are changing the nature of modern warfare.
"If you are trying to surrender and you put your hands up to a drone, what happens?" he asks.
"They just fire the missile, so there are all sorts of Geneva Conventions issues which are not being discussed."
Campaigners also warn that drone strikes are counter-productive, generating more radicalism and more hatred of the West. They say the drone strikes are a Taliban recruiting tool.
At Tariq Khan's funeral, many mourners spoke out against the US, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.
But Washington is unlikely to heed the anger here. Under President Barack Obama, the use of drone missiles has soared - there's an attack on average every four days.
Increasingly, these remote-controlled killers are Washington's weapon of choice.
In: Mother Jones
Fri Oct. 28, 2011
It's official: another half-acre, multi-million-dollar US drone base has been confirmed, this one on Ethiopian soil. The Washington Post reports:
The Air Force has been secretly flying armed Reaper drones on counterterrorism missions from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a rapidly expanding U.S.-led proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa [al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia], U.S. military officials said...The Air Force confirmed Thursday that drone operations are underway at the Arba Minch airport. Master Sgt. James Fisher, a spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which oversees operations in Africa, said that an unspecified number of Air Force personnel are working at the Ethiopian airfield "to provide operation and technical support for our security assistance programs."
The Arba Minch airport expansion is still in progress but the Air Force deployed the Reapers there earlier this year, Fisher said. He said the drone flights "will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs."
Though the Post story emphasizes elements like the drones' "Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs," BBC News reports that, although the aircraft can be fitted with such firepower, American officials speaking to the BBC on Friday "stressed that the remotely-piloted drones were being used only for surveillance, and not for air strikes" and that the Reaper drones were flying unarmed "because their use is considered sensitive by Ethiopia's government." (According to Tesfaye Yilma, the head of public diplomacy for the Ethiopian embassy in DC, it's their explicit policy not to "entertain foreign military bases in Ethiopia.")
Read the rest here...
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
October 9th Prayer Action: CatholicWorker arrests: 59 at the Nuclear Test Site (NNSS) and 18 at Creech Air Force Base
From: the CatholicWorker:
October 9th CW arrests: 59 @ the Nuclear Test Site (NNSS) & 18 @ Creech Air Force Base
|NEVADA NATIONAL SECURITY SITE PRAYER-ACTION |
The NNSS (formerly the NTS & NPG) has been unlawfully occupying Shoshone land for over 60 years, conducting nuclear bomb tests and other international criminal violence. It's a place needing much prayer and radioactive remediation. The people working there need our prayers too. This week is also Keep Space for Peace Week, so today's actions at the NNSS and Creech are supporting a peace-zone around the planet, including in the outer space currently occupied by US weapons satellites.
Therefore, Catholic Workers have come here for decades on special dates, so that the violence may stop, and national resources may be used for the common good, especially for poverty relief for those among the 99% of the people affected by the 1% who are making bad decisions.
| CREECH AFB PRAYER-ACTION |
Creech Air Force Base is the headquarters of the USAF's 432nd Air Wing of Predator and Reaper drones which operates armed remotely piloted aircraft in various foreign countries. The NNSS continues to support the country's nuclear weapons programs, has a mandate to restart full-scale nuclear bomb tests within two years if so ordered by the President, and receives and stores radioactive waste on land that legally belongs to the Western Shoshone Nation.
Therefore, Catholic Workers have decided to help halt these offenses, so that the violence may stop, and national resources may be used for the common good, especially for poverty relief for those among the 99% of the people affected by the 1% who are making bad decisions. This week is also Keep Space for Peace Week, so today's actions at the NNSS and Creech are supporting a peace-zone around the planet, including in the outer space currently occupied by US weapons satellites.
List of arrestees at Creech still awaiting charges:
Matt Campbell (24) from Arizona
Huntley Hoffman (25) from Arizona
Nancy Mancias (41) from Arizona
Betsy Lamb (72) from Arizona
Fr. Jerry Zawada, (74) ofm from Arizona
John Heid (56) from Arizona
Toby Blome (56) from California
Mike Wisniewski (62) from California
Fr. Louis Vitale, ofm (79) from California
Mary Moody (47) from Iowa
Brian Terrell (56) from Iowa
Rosalie Riegle (74) from Michigan
Rebecca Lambert (28) Minnesota
Theo Kayser (21) from Missouri
Robert Majors (24) from Las Vegas, Nevada
Jim Haber (49) from Las Vegas, Nevada
Rachel Winch (27) from Wisconsin
Christine Nelson (64) from (North America)
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Code Pink Toby explains what is happening this weekend at Creech Airforce Base where hundreds of Catholic Workers and Code Pinkers are gathering to protest the use of Drone warfare and the research that makes possible robot weaponry. They will be present each morning up to October 13th, so join them!
Creech AFB, Indian Springs, Nevada, "home of the drones."
Thursday, October 6, 2011
WHEN: Sunday October, 9, 2011
WHERE: 9:00 a.m. Gate of Nevada National Security Site, Mercury, NV
1:00 p.m. Gates of Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, NV
***VISUALS: Signs, Banners, Puppets and Props, Civil-Resistance***
(Las Vegas) The largest anti-war demonstration ever at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, and the largest anti-nuclear civil resistance action in at least six years at the Nevada Test Site (now officially called the Nevada National Security Site or NNSS) will take place on Sunday, October 9. Over 200 radical pacifists from across the globe will swell the ranks of local activists because of the International Catholic Worker (CW)gathering in Las Vegas October 7 and 8. The CW gathering culminates with the antinuclear, anti-drone demonstrations which also mark the 10th tragic anniversary of the US
invasion of Afghanistan.
Creech Air Force Base is the headquarters of the USAF's 432nd Air Wing of Predator and Reaper drones which operates armed remotely piloted aircraft in various foreign countries.
The NNSS continues to support the country's nuclear weapons programs, has a mandate to restart full-scale nuclear bomb tests within two years if so ordered by the President,and receives and stores radioactive waste on land that legally belongs to the Western Shoshone Nation.
Jim Haber, Coordinator of Nevada Desert Experience which has a long history of peace activism in Nevada commented, “We are making connections to the Occupy Everywhere movement as well, but our prime focus is against war and killing as epitomized first by nuclear weapons and now drone assassins. Both rely on anti-democratic, secretive sites like these, the militarization of space, the desecration of ecosystems, and the swallowing of money that could otherwise be used to solve, rather than create social problems.”
“We are at an important milestone with 10 years of occupation in Afghanistan (and 8 in Iraq), expending millions of our tax dollars on unmanned aerial vehicles which are responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. The wars have bankrupted our country. It's time to stop the deadly drone strikes,” states Nancy Mancias, CODEPINK Ground the Drones campaigner.
The protests are also part of the Keep Space for Peace Week: International Week of
Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space taking place between October 1-8. Keep Space for Peace Week is co-sponsored by the Women’s International League for Peace &
Freedom, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK), Swedish Peace Council, Drone
Campaign Network (UK), and United Against Drones (U.S.). A complete list of global
protests can be found here.
Jim Haber, Nevada Desert Experience, 702-646-4814 (office), 415-828-2506 (mobile)
Brian Terrell, Catholic Worker, 773-853-1886 (mobile)
Friday, September 23, 2011
September 21st, Peace Action Day in Cymru: see here.
The theater of operations is vast – potentially as vast as the world itself, given the rationale of pursing “terrorists” wherever they might be detected – and, so far, the range extends from the tribal regions of Pakistan to the African savannah, where pilotless “Reapers” take off from airfields in Ethiopia and Djibouti in search of prey. According to reports, US bases have also been established in Saudi Arabia and the Seychelles for this purpose. The latter, I hear, are quite happy about what this has done for local business: Americans may be standing in the unemployment lines, while their taxes go to fund endless war, but the Seychellois are in relatively good shape these days.
In any case, the latest targets of these unmanned killer-drones are located, as far as we know, in Somalia, where the Islamic group al-Shabab is alleged to have some vague ties to al-Qaeda. But that’s just what they’re telling us: because this is a secret war, we don’t know the real targets. It is highly likely, however, that among those targets are numerous rebel groups rising against the tyranny of Ethiopian “president” Meles Zenawi.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
One of the installations is being established in Ethiopia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.
The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.
The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.
The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.
The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.
The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.
To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.
During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.
Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”
A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.
“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”
A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.
Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.
“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”
The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”
To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.
“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”
In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.
U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”
The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.
The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.
The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.
The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”
One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.
“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.
An Ethiopian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.
Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Drone warfare has complicated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a sisyphean counterinsurgency and nation-building project, by provoking militant attacks in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.1 At the strategic level, fragmented U.S. intelligence and military policies are working at cross purposes, eroding trust through "covert" drone warfare on the Pakistani side of the Durand line while trying tardily to build trust on the Afghan side. The growing outrage of Pakistani society came to a head in spring 2011 over the Raymond Davis incident and the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden. These events put great stress on relations between the United States and the world's most volatile nuclear state.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
In a surprise move, a counter-terrorism official has also released US government estimates of the numbers killed. These state that an estimated 2,050 people have been killed in drone strikes – of whom all but an estimated 50 are combatants.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Or so goes the United States government’s version of the attack, from an American official briefed on the classified C.I.A. program. Here is another version, from a new report compiled by British and Pakistani journalists: The missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house, killing 18 people — 12 militants, but also 6 civilians, known locally as Samad, Jamshed, Daraz, Iqbal, Noor Nawaz and Yousaf.
The civilian toll of the C.I.A.’s drone campaign, which is widely credited with disrupting Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s tribal area, has been in bitter dispute since the strikes were accelerated in 2008. Accounts of strike after strike from official and unofficial sources are so at odds that they often seem to describe different events.
The debate has intensified since President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, clearly referring to the classified drone program, said in June that for almost a year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Other officials say that extraordinary claim still holds: since May 2010, C.I.A. officers believe, the drones have killed more than 600 militants — including at least 20 in a strike reported Wednesday — and not a single noncombatant.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Statement on Behalf of Nevada Desert Experience and Anti-Nuclear Allies in the United States on the Occasion of the 2011 World Conference Against A & H Bombs
by Jim Haber and Mary Lou Anderson
We feel very privileged to be at this conference with everyone. For both of us, this is our first visit to
East Asia. The motivation is so meaningful, to join in this great peace-making work. If it were only for
ourselves, the expense would be better spent staying close to home, expressing solidarity electronically
and not increasing our carbon footprint.
We regularly hold signs and demonstrate at places like the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), until recently called the Nevada Test Site, or in Las Vegas, where we live, to make people aware that nuclear weapons continue to threaten all of humanity.
Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) organizes interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war. We
were important participants in the successful effort to end full-scale testing of nuclear weapons by the
United States in 1991. Unfortunately, the ending of the cold war didn't end the nuclear problem, it just
made it more invisible and hence harder to confront. There are many ways in which President Obama is
showing himself not to be working for nuclear disarmament, despite earlier statements that sounded like
a call to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world:
• Marching toward “Full Spectrum Dominance” by the “Global Strike Command” to
project US force worldwide in a matter of minutes;
• Developing a nuclear capable remotely piloted bomber;
• Budgeting over $80 billion to rebuild three major facilities to quadruple the output of
new parts for nuclear warheads;
• Resuming and increasing sub-critical and other “stockpile stewardship” tests at the
NNSS and other national laboratories;
• Researching a new generation of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and ballistic
• Frequently testing ICBMs that can “launch on warning” in a matter of minutes while
issuing bellicose statements against North Korea and Iran for testing inferior, shorterrange
missiles that take days to launch and can't even reach the United States itself;
• Pressuring South Korea and other allies to construct military bases (e.g. on Jeju Island)
in those countries for US anti-ballistic missile defense units which are actually very
provocative, destabilizing, and which promote the global arms race;
• Promoting the lie that we can construct new, safe nuclear power plants even as the
disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown continues to unfold;
• Looking to new weapons systems and technologies, like drones and other robotics, to
save us from war and environmental problems exacerbated by earlier weapons systems
We will share what we learn here when we return home. Our hope is that by meeting all of you, our
voices will travel further than they do now. So we have come here, not for ourselves, but as allies
representing allies. Gratefully, we're not alone, and we are happy to bring thoughts and greetings from
mutual friends who couldn't be here, just as we're looking forward to bring wisdom from this conference
back with us.
We bring greetings from Claudia Peterson of St. George, Utah, who is a member of our National
Council. She has attended several of these conferences because of the harmful, even deadly, effects that
nuclear weapons have had on her family and friends “downwind” from atmospheric tests 40 years ago in
southern Nevada. Claudia asked us to pass on this message:
“I would like the Japanese people to know they are in our thoughts and prayers. Even though
I am unable to join you this year at the conference, I am with you in spirit.
“With the terrible events of the earthquake, tsunamis and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
power plant accident, it is more important than ever that, together we push for a nuclear free
world. It has been 66 years since the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the suffering
continues. The Downwinders suffering continues also. Our health and environment have been
compromised for power and greed. Working together in solidarity we can make changes for
good. With our convictions to change the wrongs of the past, we can insure the future for our
children and grandchildren.
“My thanks to Gensuikyo for their continued work to help the people of need throughout the
world not only with their continued work for a nuclear free world but also for their work with the
many other disasters which they have assisted with.”
We bring greetings from Johnnie Bobb, NDE Council member and Chief of the Western Shoshone
National Council who some of you met last year while visiting Las Vegas. The meeting of Hibakusha,
Shoshone and other American Downwinders remains very poignant and motivational in our hearts.
We also bring greetings from our friend, Jackie Cabasso. She wishes she could be here again this
year in her capacity as North America Coordinator of Mayors for Peace, Executive Director of Western
States Legal Foundation, Convener of the United for Peace and Justice Nuclear Disarmament and
Redefining Security Working Group, and member of the Abolition 2000 Coordinating Committee.
Jackie is remembering the victims of nuclear war closer to home this year at the gates to the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory. Recently, Jackie wrote, “Nuclear weapons have threatened human
security since they were used by the United States against Japan nearly 66 years ago. In a time of
unprecedented global economic, environmental and political upheaval, can we afford to pay for them for
another 70 years, hoping they won't be used again?”
In closing we want to thank NDE Council member Janet Chisholm for giving us a charge. Janet was
raised watching nuclear tests in Nevada as a child and wanted to be a nuclear scientist. In college she
shifted from physics to religion and has become a leading trainer of nonviolence and popular education.
She told us to “Listen, learn and come back with new ideas.” We plan to do just that. Peace.
Mary Lou Anderson
Nevada Desert Experience
1420 West Bartlett Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89106
415-828-2506 Jim-mobile (Japan and USA)
702-572-7249 Mary Lou-mobile (USA)
This Statement can be found here.
Aug 3rd 2011
It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that Sister Jackie Hudson passed away early this morning in Washington State. Sr. Jackie died at around 7:30 am Pacific time.
After services in Washington her remains will be flown to Grand Rapids where a funeral Mass and the gift of her life will be celebrated.
We will have more details as soon as they are available.
Sisters Kay O’Neil and Michelle Meyers from Minnesota said, ”Surely Jackie never leaves us from her home in the communion of saints… We write with tears, love, and prayers of gratitude for her magnificent life. She continues to comfort and challenge us in death. May all who lived and worked with Jackie be held in tender love.”
As Liz McAllister said this morning, “Let us keep Jackie, her family, friends and community in our thoughts as we join our prayers with hers for a world at peace… and may more of us grow into her spirit.”
Deep Peace amidst such Deep Sorrow,
See also: Jackie Hudson: A Peacemaking Road Well Walked
A memorial will be held for Jackie Hudson on Saturday, August 13th at 1:30 pm at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, 16159 Clear Creek Road, Poulsbo, Washington.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir graced the occasion as chief guest. The indigenously developed UAVs are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and sensors and can successfully be employed in support of Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) in the coastal areas. The induction of UAVs in Pakistan Navy will enhance its operational capabilities.
Admiral Noman, while addressing the audience, congratulated all those who were involved in the UQAB-II programme and expressed satisfaction on induction of UAVs. He said that prevailing maritime environment poses multifarious challenges to navies across the globe. In addition to traditional roles, navies are now increasingly confronted with emerging challenge of deterring maritime terrorism. Owing to their small size, ease of operation and maintenance versatility in employment and low risk of loss, UAVs are regarded as force multipliers and are increasingly being used by combat forces worldwide.
Admiral Noman reiterated that UAVs induction is a manifestation of PN’s commitment and resolve towards self-reliance and indigenisation. Cognisant of the heightened surveillance measures at all times, the induction of UQAB-II UAVs will provide essential experience to Pakistan Navy and necessary impetus to utilise this particular segment of warfare to the best use of naval objectives.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Missile-armed drones are playing a greater role than ever in U.S. counter-terror operations, as President Barack Obama winds down land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Washington's focus expands to militant havens such as Somalia and Yemen where there are no U.S. troops permanently on the ground.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council and Western Shoshone Spiritual Person
Peace activist and community organizer
Dr. Bonnie E. Bobb
Cross cultural psychologist; Environmental consultant
Friday evening, August 19th and Saturday August 20, 2011
For complete information go to: http://www.kateripeaceconference.org/
or call John Amidon at 518-312-6442
Kindly pass along to your friends and neighbors. Thank you!
By John Przybys
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: Jul. 3, 2011
Jim Haber's and Linda Faso's names might seem vaguely familiar to you, even though it's unlikely you've ever met them in person.
Maybe you've run across their names in a photo caption or a newspaper story. Maybe you've driven by as they were holding picket signs or marching in demonstrations. And when you saw them, maybe you honked your horn in support, or yelled "Get a job!" or offered them a rude single-digit salute.
Haber and Faso are political activists, he for anti-war and pro-peace causes and she for animal rights. Singly and together, they're the living embodiment of dissent, the bedrock American value that not only allows us to disagree -- with each other, with our government, with mainstream society's opinions -- but encourages us to do so.
Independence Day weekend seems a good time to remember that our nation was founded in dissent, and that, even today, we remain happily, usefully and sometimes uncomfortably awash in it.
And it's interesting to note how often in our history dissenting voices -- over slavery, civil rights and women's suffrage, to name a few issues -- have evolved into mainstream thought, all because a handful of Americans got involved, spoke up and raised some democratic hell.
Faso and Haber certainly find it interesting. They're even banking on it happening again.
Read the rest here...
July 22 – 29
NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION AT N.A.T.O. WAR GAMES
Ofog, the Swedish anti-militarist network, invites international activists to next summer’s action camp against military combat training in Luleå, northern Sweden.
July 26 will be the day for nonviolent direct action at NEAT, the North European Aerospace Test Range, during NATO war practice. Make a direct impact on the largest training ground for war in Europe and meet as organizations and activists to exchange experiences and knowledge and coordinate resistance in the future.
For more information, visit www.warstartshere.com and www.ofog.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +46 (0) 733 81 53 61.
August 5 – 9, 2011, HIROSHIMA & NAGASAKI DAYS
The Des Moines and Omaha Catholic Workers will sponsor their annual 3-1/2 day August 6-9 “shake and bake” vigil at the gates of Offutt Air Force Base, in Bellevue, Nebraska, home of the Strategic Nuclear (STRATCOM) and the U.S. Military Space Commands.
Vigil concludes August 9 from 8–11 a.m. with a ceremony and line crossing. Evening programs to be announced; come for an hour or the whole time.
Bring a bedroll for church floor space or call ahead for other hospitality. For more info contact Jerry Ebner at 402-502-5887 or email email@example.com.
Brandywine Peace Community will hold a Hiroshima Day commemoration and vigil, concluding with nonviolent civil disobedience beginning at noon on Saturday, August 6 at Lockheed Martin corporation on Goddard Boulevard, behind the King of Prussia Mall, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Call the Brandywine Peace Community, 610-544-1818, by July 25 if interested in participating in the Hiroshima Day civil disobedience. Check www.brandywinepeace.com for more info.
Jonah House and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community will host a Hiroshima/Nagasaki Days Faith and Resistance Retreat in Washington, D.C., with nonviolent direct actions at the White House and Pentagon. Details pending.
For more information, contact Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, 202-882-9649, or check www.jonahhouse.org.
BANGOR TRIDENT SUB BASE
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nonviolent direct action at Kitsap-Bangor Navy Base, homeport of Trident nuclear submarines. Details pending, contact the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, www.gzcenter.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-930-8697.
Planning is underway for a Hiroshima Day commemoration at the Livermore nuclear weapons lab in California, with civil resistance planned for Nagasaki Day, August 9. For more info as plans develop, contact Tri-Valley CAREs at 925-443-7148 or visit trivalleycares.org.
August 20, 2011
Join this summer’s blockade of Europe’s largest, most expensive, new nuclear power plant at Olkiluoto, Finland. Plan to be there by August 20. Full details about the encampment, nonviolent direct actions, accommodation, legal consequences, maps and other information will be found at olkiluotoblockade2011.wordpress.com/english.
August 2011 through 2015
WALK FOR A NUCLEAR FREE FUTURE IN AUSTRALIA, CANADA, U.S. AND JAPAN
The Walk for a Nuclear Free Future is actually a series of walks through Australia, Canada, the United States and Japan over a five year period. The walks will follow the deadly nuclear fuel path from uranium mines to nuclear reactors, waste dumps and nuclear weapons sites. The drug- and alcohol-free walks will range from two to six months, covering an average of 15 miles/day.
A support van with kitchen will accompany each walk. Walkers will educate themselves and the public about a nuclear free future using street theater, music, art, public forums, media, petitioning, letter writing and nonviolent direct actions.
This year, Walk Away from Uranium Mining in Southwest Australia, August 21 – October 30.
In 2012, Saskatchewan to Montreal, Canada.
2013, Minnesota to Buffalo, NY, and
2014, Miami, FL to Oak Ridge, TN.
2015: Oak Ridge, TN to Hiroshima, Japan.
Walk coordinator Footprints for Peace has for over a decade organized annual walks, runs and bike rides bringing thousands of people into the streets to create positive change through peaceful action.
For full information, visit www.nuclearfreefuture.com, or contact Footprints for Peace, 1225 North Bend Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45224, 513-843-1205, email@example.com.
Week of September 13, 2011
DSEI ARMS FAIR, ENGLAND
This September, the world’s biggest arms fair returns to the conference center at London Docklands, England. Make no mistake; this is the big one – the nexus of 1,200 purveyors of capitalism, war and repression.
Join the Day of Action against DSEi on Tuesday, September 13, and other actions all week. In previous years there have been street parties, Critical Mass bike rides, die-ins, mock sales of “arms”, legs and even a tank; splashing fake blood across the entrances, engaging with arms dealers on the trains and platforms, invading the car park and rail entrance, blocking the roads, locking on to the trains, tripod and boat blockades to stop equipment from arriving at the arms fair and more. Find out where the arms dealers’ dinner is taking place on September 15 and spoil their party!
For more information, visit dsei.org.
October 3, 2011
BLOCKADE HINKLEY NUCLEAR POWER STATION, SOMERSET, U.K.
Hundreds of people are expected to non-violently blockade the access to Hinkley Point nuclear power station for one day.
While the blockade will be the key focus, there will be plenty of roles and activities for people who do not wish to risk arrest. Everyone who is anti-nuclear can come and join us on the day to express their opposition in many different ways. We will prepare ourselves for this blockade with non-violence training, and we will not be deterred by police trying to prevent our non-violent action.
The blockade will be inclusive, allowing people from all walks of life and with a wide range of experience in non-violent action – or no experience at all – to participate. We will organise a safe environment for everyone, built on trust for each other, but also on our determination to stop nuclear new-build.
In the days before the blockade, there will be local actions in Bridgwater. There will be a camp and local accommodation for people over the weekend and non-violence training will be provided.
More information at http://stopnewnuclear.org.uk.
October 7-9, 2011
CREECH AIR FORCE BASE & NEVADA TEST SITE
A National Catholic Worker Gathering will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 7–9, 2011. Roundtable discussions, hikes, prayer, crafts, singing, opportunity for civil disobedience at the Nevada Test Site (nuclear weapons) and Creech Air Force Base (drone warfare). Hosted by the Las Vegas Catholic Worker at Christ the King Catholic Community. Confirmed attendance already from at least 100 Catholic Workers, families and friends in 27 states [NR editors’ note: including us!].
If you plan to attend, or for more information, please contact the Las Vegas Catholic Worker, 500 W. Van Buren Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89106, 702-647-0728, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
One week after Pakistan’s Defense Minister publicly demanded that the US leave its Shamsi air base in the Balochistan Province, the Obama Adminsitration is reporting that the base is “fully operational” and still in US hands.
The US immediately rejected the call to leave the base, insisting they will remain in control. Though the base is reportedly no longer used for drone attacks, it is used to launch surveillance drones, which help in the controversial drone attacks.
Which are continuing to this day. Indeed, just today a US drone attacked a house in North Waziristan, killing six people and wounding an unknown number of others. As usual, the slain were termed “suspects” but there was no indication of their identities.
US officials downplayed the risk of losing the Shamsi base, despite Pakistani demands, saying that the CIA already has a “backup plan” in place for launching the surveillance drones, presumably out of Afghanistan, if Shamsi is ever taken back by Pakistan.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
New Mexico fires, having blazed through 61,000 acres in three days, now approach Los Alamos. Residents have evacuated and the fireproofed buildings of the National Laboratories are about to be put to their second test in 11 years.
By Pete Spotts, Staff writer
posted June 28, 2011
For the second time in 11 years, a New Mexico fire is threatening one of the nation's three nuclear-weapons laboratories, as well as the town that hosts it.
The approaching Las Conchas fire is raising concerns that if the blaze reaches the lab, it could free radioactive material from the grounds and storage sites surrounding the laboratory.
The bulk of the lab's stockpile of highly-radioactive material is stored in structures specifically designed to withstand fire, lab officials say.
IN PICTURES: Wildfires around the world
But the facility also hosts some 20,000 barrels of plutonium-bearing waste – ultimately destined for long-term storage in southern New Mexico – at a facility atop a small mesa just outside White Rock, N.M., known as "Area G." As of midday on Tuesday, the fire was two miles away from Area G.
The laboratory grounds also include at least one canyon that was used as a dump in the early years of the US nuclear weapons program.
Teams from the National Nuclear Safety Administration are expected to arrive on-site Tuesday, to help deal with any releases that might occur if the fire reaches the lab.
The Las Conchas fire started Saturday afternoon in the Santa Fe National Forest. The cause remains under investigation, but by Tuesday morning, the explosive blaze had scorched nearly 61,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as the town of Los Alamos, both about 25 miles northwest of Santa Fe.
Lessons from the past: The Cerro Grande Fire
The last fire that threatened the lab, the Cerro Grande, took two weeks to burn 48,000 acres when it moved across New Mexico in 2000. That blaze caused an estimated $1 billion in damage, destroying lab buildings and some 400 family homes, but no fatalities from the fire were reported.
During the Cerro Grande fire, some forms of radioactivity increased to between two and five times their normal levels, according to a study led by lab researcher David King.
But they weren't from the radioactive materials at the nuclear weapons lab.
Instead, radioactive byproducts from naturally-occurring radon gas, which had settled on plants and the soil around the plant, got caught up by the fire and redistributed. The team calculated that, even at the height of the blaze, the firefighters and volunteers were exposed to a level of radiation far below that of someone on an airline flight.
Still, the work highlighted a lack of information on the kind of radiation released by any wildfire – a gap filled by measuring the release of radioactive particles from four experimental fires, including two controlled burns in the Carson National Forest outside of Taos, N.M., in 2001 and 2002.
Lab scientists did find elevated levels of radioactive elements in ash following the Cerra Grande fire – including isotopes of plutonium, cesium, and strontium that appeared to be residual fallout from the years prior to a ban on above-ground nuclear tests.
The concern: storm water run-off following a fire could carry the ash into reservoirs or the Rio Grande River, which flows south through the valley below Los Alamos and on through Albuquerque.
To deal with the run-off – an issue not just after wildfires, but an ongoing concern because of lab-produced chemical contaminants – the lab has built a low-slung rock dam across one canyon, to slow the flow of storm run-off and allow sediment to fall out behind the dam. It has also planted willows and restored wetlands in strategic locations along the courses taken by run-off.
The current concern: Power failure
In looking at the potential radiological risk from the Las Conchas fire, the biggest uncertainty rests with a broad power failure involving the lab, says Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, a watchdog organization based in Santa Fe.
Most of the sensitive facilities are hardened and "pretty much fireproof," he says. As for the 20,000-barrel Area G storage facility, if a fire engulfs them, "the consequences are severe, but the probability is probably relatively low." The facility is not within the Ponderosa forests that are currently burning, and the lab has taken pains to clear the facility's immediate surroundings of vegetation.
But loss of power to the lab injects an extra element of uncertainty into the safety equation, Mr. Coghlan continues.
"I don't draw any parallel to Fukushima except to note that stuff happens when power goes out," he says.
Firefighters are prepared to build a line around the lab if the need arises, even as they set up containment lines to protect area homes.
In an interview Monday with the Associated Press, deputy Los Alamos County fire chief Mike Thomas said, "We'll pre-treat with foam if necessary, but we really want the buildings to stand on their own for the most part. That is exactly how they've been designed. Especially the ones holding anything that is of high value or high risk, for the community, and really, for the rest New Mexico for that matter."
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
"Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the Guards through reverse engineering," the official IRNA news agency quoted Hadjizadeh as saying.
Hajizadeh did not elaborate on the number or type of unmanned US aircraft it had shot down, or when or where it had done so.
Iran announced on January 2 that its forces had downed two US drones after they "violated" Iranian-controlled territory.
It later said it would put the aircraft on public display.
"The planes that were shot down are among the most modern US navy drones and have a long-range capability," the Fars news agency quoted the commander of the Guards' naval forces, Ali Fadavi, as saying at the time.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Located some 80 miles north of Las Vegas, the secret U.S. military base Area 51 in Nevada was established in the 1950s to build and test hi-tech spy and war planes including the U2, the stealth bomber and surveillance drones. Located inside the Nevada Test and Training Range, Area 51 also played a key role in nuclear weapon tests. For decades, the government denied Area 51 even existed, but in recent years many CIA and military documents have been declassified. We speak with Annie Jacobsen, author of the new book, "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base."
Read the rest here.
Here is a review of Ms Jacobsen's book in the NYT.
Monday, June 6, 2011
June 1st, 2011
...since Obama's inauguration, over 2,600 people have been arrested for similar acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war and injustice, a stunning number given the total lack of media coverage on peace and justice movements. (Bill Quigley, in Common Dreams)
Last week's Supreme Court ruling against California's prison system as "cruel and inhuman punishment" was not a surprise -- except in the sense that it was said publicly. Many of us who have experienced our criminal injustice system first hand know well how horrific it is. The court ruled that 35,000 California prisoners would have to be transferred or released because the system is so unjust.
The case sparked new discussion on overcrowded prisons (156,000 prisoners suffer in California prisons built for half that number), but it started years ago because of the atrocious lack of health care in California's prisons. Many prisoners died needlessly over the years, usually because they were not given their medicine.
It's not surprising either that our violent, imperial nation has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. The most recent figure says we have over 2,292,000 people in prison. The so-called "war on drugs" and mandatory sentencing laws against nonviolent offenders are partly to blame for this huge prison population.
Prison is bad for one's health, to put it mildly. During my last stint in the Las Vegas Jail for the Creech 14 action, I was stunned as the woman in charge of the main admitting area where a hundred of us sat in chains or handcuffs, yelled at us and threatened us. Then, she ordered an officer to beat up one prisoner, and he threw him against the wall. Nobody blinked.
NCR - June 10, 2011
Certainly one of the worst places I've ever been is the Robeson County Jail in North Carolina near the South Carolina border. Built for 75 people, it held 400 people when I was there for a few weeks in 1993 for our Plowshares action. One human rights report claimed that over 25 people had died in the five years previous to my stay. Most of them had been denied medicine, and were simply found dead the next morning.
I remember an elderly man serving a year for a nonviolent offense that Philip Berrigan and I had befriended. He was in the cell across the hall from us. We occasionally talked. He told us of his heart condition. We saw pills delivered to him every day. About a month after our transfer to another jail, we received word that he had died. He had argued with a jailer, so the jailer did not give him his medicine, and he died that night.
This week, many of us will gather in San Francisco to celebrate the release of Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale after his six months in prison for protesting the "School of Americas," our U.S. assassination and terrorism school at Fort Benning, Ga. Louie's in fine fettle, as determined as ever to do what he can to resist our wars and weapons. We go to honor his indomitable spirit (See: www.paceebene.org).
Last week the Nuke Resister [added updated link, but it comes from Common Dreams here - LaLa] reported that since Obama's inauguration, over 2,600 people have been arrested for similar acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war and injustice, a stunning number given the total lack of media coverage on peace and justice movements. As our prisons continue to worsen, it's amazing that activists are willing to risk imprisonment for social change.
At the moment, some friends are currently languishing in Tennessee and Georgia jails for civil disobedience at the Y-12 nuclear complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn. (See: www.jonahhouse.org). This past weekend, one friend suffered severe chest pains and was refused medical help. We are hoping and praying for her healing, and mobilizing folks to work on her behalf.
Read the rest here.
Also follow this blog for updates on those in prison because of their actions for peace and humanity.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Even with the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden outside of Islamabad on May 2, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials believe this town is the command and control center for members of Al Qaeda and its remaining senior leadership. It is also, they say, home to the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan militant group that has launched continuous attacks on U.S. and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.
Many of these militants have poured into Datta Khel, which borders northeastern Afghanistan, and the nearby town of Mir Ali in recent years as they have fled Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
As Fukushima continues to leak and smolder, what may be the definitive battle over new nukes in America has begun.
The critical first US House vote on a proposed $36 billion loan guarantee package for reactor construction may come as early as June 2. Green power advocates are already calling and writing the White House and Congress early and often, gearing up for a long, definitive showdown.
Germany and Japan have made their decision---the "Lethal Atom" has no future.
The coffin nail is Fukushima. Substantial radiation still leaks from three or more of its six reactors. Volatile fuel rods are dangerously exposed. Various containment and fuel pool structures are compromised. Heat and radiation still pour into our global eco-systems, with no end in sight.
Thankfully, a global citizens movement helped lower the amount of plutonium-based MOX fuel loaded into Unit Three. Without that, Fukushima's emissions would be far more lethal.
As it is, fallout continues to be detected across Europe and the United States. Fukushima is now rated on par with Chernobyl, by some estimates the killer of more than a million people.
... Read the rest here!
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Future drone attacks might be a seriously risky matter, however, as Pakistan’s Air Force Chief of Staff Marshal Rao Suleman reported that the air force is now prepared to shoot down future drones if given authorization to do so by the Zardari government.
The drones have been hugely unpopular in Pakistan, and the government has recently issued repeated demands for their halt. The fact that the attacks have continued and escalated have put the Pakistani military into a position of needing to assert itself.
Marshal Suleman also revealed an unusual fact about the drone flights, which have come out of an air base in Balochistan. According to Suleman, the Shamsi Air Base has actually been under the control of the United Arab Emirates since the 1990s.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Indian Defence Review on the UAV-industry.
(h/t Kathy Kelly)
World attention has been focused, however briefly, on questions of legality regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. But with the increasing use of Predator drones to kill suspected “high-value targets” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, extrajudicial killings by U.S. military forces have become the new norm.
Just three days after Osama bin Laden was killed, an attack employing remote-control aerial drones killed 15 people in Pakistan and wounded four. CNN reports that its Islamabad bureau has counted four drone strikes
over the last month and a half since the March 17 drone attack that
killed 44 people in Pakistan’s tribal region. This most recent suspected
strike was the 21st this year. There were 111 strikes in 2010. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that 957 innocent civilians were killed in 2010.
I’m reminded of an encounter I had in May 2010, when a journalist and a social worker from North Waziristan met with a small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation in Pakistan and described, in gory and graphic detail, the scenes of
drone attacks that they had personally witnessed: the carbonized bodies,
burned so fully they could be identified by legs and hands alone; the
bystanders sent flying like dolls through the air to break, with shattered
bones and sometimes-fatal brain injuries, upon walls and stone.
“Do Americans know about the drones?” the journalist asked me. I said I thought that awareness was growing on university campuses and among peace groups. “This isn’t what I’m asking,” he politely insisted. “What I want to know is
if average Americans know that their country is attacking Pakistan with
drones that carry bombs. Do they know this?”
“Truthfully,” I said, “I don’t think so.”
“Where is your democracy?” he asked me. “Where is your democracy?”
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Multiple missile strikes from US Predator drones hit the North Waziristan Agency on May 6th, killing at least 17 “suspects” and wounding an unknown number of others. The strikes destroyed a housing compound as well as a vehicle in Datta Khel. In a strike earleir this year, on March 17th, 44 people were killed in the same area.
The attacks targeted a region that is believed to have large numbers of militant factions, and was the first one to hit Pakistan since the Sunday raid into Abbottabad. The strikes have been hugely unpopular across Pakistan.
Increasingly the Pakistani military has been condemning the strikes, and several of the recent strikes killed large numbers of civilians and tribesmen allied with the government. This has added to anger about the attacks, which were already under renewed scrutiny after the Raymond Davis affair.
Today’s strike suggests that those demands to end the attacks have not been heeded, and the Zardari government, already embarrassed by the suggestion that Sunday’s bin Laden raid will become a precedent for a more aggressive collection of US ground attacks, will likely have to react, or face more loss of legitimacy.