BSF constable sacked over Facebook video

A BSF constable who had posted a video about the “poor quality” of food served to jawans in forward locations has been dismissed on charges of “making false allegations, posting photographs on social media and for carrying two mobile phones”.

A Border Security Force statement said Tej Bahadur Yadav (41), was sacked after a Summary Security Force Court (SSFC) held him guilty on four counts of breach of discipline.

— source thehindu.com

What Happens When All We Have Left Is The Pentagon?

At over $600 billion a year and counting, the Pentagon already receives significantly more than its fair share of federal funds. If President Donald Trump has his way, though, that will prove a sum for pikers and misers. He and his team are now promising that spending on defense and homeland security will increase dramatically in the years to come, even as domestic programs are slashed and entire civilian agencies shuttered.

The new administration is reportedly considering a plan — modeled on proposals from the military-industrial-complex-backed Heritage Foundation — that would cut a staggering $10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade. The Departments of Energy, Commerce, Transportation, and State might see their budgets slashed to the bone; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized; and (though the money involved would amount to chicken feed) the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities would be eliminated altogether. In the meantime, the ranks of the Army and Marines would be expanded, a huge naval buildup would be launched, and a new Star Wars-style missile defense system would be developed — all at a combined cost of up to $1 trillion beyond the already munificent current Pentagon plans for that same decade.

The specifics won’t be known until Trump’s first budget becomes public in perhaps April or May, but as we wait for it, Republican Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has just taken the unusual step of releasing his own spending blueprint for the military. It suggests that a key senator and the president and his team are on the same page when it comes to military funding. At an extra $430 billion over the next five years, the numbers in McCain’s plan are similar to the potential Trump buildup.

One thing is already clear: this drastic tilt toward yet more Pentagon spending and away from investment in diplomacy abroad and civilian needs at home will only further militarize American society, accelerate inequality, and distort the country’s already highly questionable foreign policy. After all, if your military is the only well-funded, well-stocked arm of the government, it’s obvious whom you’re going to turn to in any crisis.

This process was already visibly underway even before Donald Trump took the oath of office. His gut decision to entrust national security policymaking only to military figures was particularly troubling. From National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Secretary of Defense James Mattis to head of the Department of Homeland Security John Kelly, retired generals and other ex-military types now abound in his administration. Defense analyst and former White House budget official Gordon Adams summed up the risks of this approach recently in this way:

“Putting military officers in charge of the entire architecture of national security reinforces the trend toward militarizing policy and risks cementing in place ‘the military-industrial complex’ that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of. To borrow the psychologist Abraham H. Maslow’s words, if all the men around President Trump are hammers, the temptation will be ‘to treat everything as if it were a nail.’”

How the Military Came to Dominate Foreign Policy

President Trump won’t, of course, be starting from scratch in his urge to further elevate the military in foreign and domestic affairs. He’s building on a process that’s already well under way. In the Obama years, for instance, there were a record number of drone strikes, especially outside official U.S. war zones — 10 times the number launched by the Bush administration. Similarly, the Obama administration paved the way for various Trumpian urges by waging wars on multiple fronts and instituting a historic crackdown on whistleblowers in the military and the intelligence communities. It also approved record levels of U.S. arms sales abroad, $278 billion worth of them, or more than double those of the Bush years. (In Trumpian terms: jobs!)

In addition, as part of his pledge to avoid large, “boots-on-the-ground” conflicts like the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, President Obama oversaw a sharp increase in the size of the U.S. Special Operations forces, sending them abroad to arm, train, and fight alongside militaries in 138 countries in 2016. Think of this approach — having a “lighter footprint” while expanding the number of conflicts the United States is involved in — as a case of what I’ve called “politically sustainable warfare.” It seems cheaper, is far less visible, and involves fewer U.S. casualties than full-scale invasions and occupations.

In these years, the Pentagon has also continued to encroach on turf previously occupied by the State Department and the Agency for International Development, including funding its own arms and training programs and engaging in economic development projects. Under the euphemistic term “building partner capacity,” the Pentagon now has the authority to arm and train foreign military forces through no less than 70 separate programs.

To be fair, the drift toward military dominance of foreign policy began well before Barack Obama took office. In her 2003 book The Mission, Dana Priest of the Washington Post described the increasing role of regional combatant commanders in shaping policymaking in Washington. They could leverage their greater resources and close connections to foreign leaders to outstrip U.S. ambassadors in power and influence. And their growing role was just a symptom of a larger problem that Priest described at the time and that has only become more obvious in the years since: the urge of American leaders to turn to the military for solutions to problems “that are often, at their root, political and economic.” As retired General Anthony Zinni, former head of the U.S. Central Command, noted for instance, “There is no military solution to terrorism.” That’s a conclusion shared by other American military leaders, but one that has had little effect on U.S. efforts to use force as the primary tool for combatting terrorism in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, a process that has only led to more failed and failing states and the further spread of terror groups.

Donald Trump may indeed gut the diplomatic corps, but don’t forget that State Department funding was long ago overwhelmed by the largesse available to what the new president regularly refers to as our “depleted” military. The Pentagon’s budget is today more than 12 times as large as the State Department’s, a disparity sure to grow in the years to come. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted some years ago, there are more military personnel stationed on one aircraft carrier task force than trained diplomats in the U.S. Foreign Service. And keep in mind that the United States currently has 10 active aircraft carriers, which themselves will be just a small part of the Trump administration’s proposed 350-ship Navy.

Even the intelligence community is likely to be further militarized in the Trump years. While he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Advisor Michael Flynn tried to increase its influence at the expense of the CIA. Expect him to attempt to seize control of the nation’s intelligence apparatus and put it in service to his own distorted view of the world. From failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union to allowing itself to be used to put forward misleading information about Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Intelligence Community has hardly covered itself in glory. Still, it does contain a cadre of professional analysts who can provide sitting presidents with actual information contradicting prevailing prejudices. This was even true in the case of Iraq, where a number of analysts dissented from the claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons, while others only acquiesced after being browbeaten by Vice President Dick Cheney and the band of neoconservatives in his office.

In the years to come, expect the Cheney model of intelligence manufacturing to be replicated, especially by Flynn, whose extreme views include a belief that Islam is not a real religion, that Iran is the “linchpin” of a global anti-American coalition of enemies extending from Cuba and Venezuela to North Korea, China, and Russia, and that Islamic “Sharia law” is actually being imposed in parts of our country. Flynn’s views on Islam would have been beyond the pale for a top adviser in any prior administration. Now, however, he’s positioned to regularly press his views on Donald Trump, who doesn’t read and seems inclined to believe the last person he talks to.

A Military-First Administration

To imagine how Flynn might wield his new power, consider his attempt, while still at the DIA, to get subordinates to prove that Iran was the “hidden hand” behind the 2012 attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens. As the New York Times reported, “Like many other investigations into Benghazi, theirs found no evidence of any links, and the general’s stubborn insistence reminded some officials at the agency of how the Bush administration had once relentlessly sought to connect Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

Trump and his men now seem poised to purge the CIA and other intelligence agencies of analysts who might have opinions contrary to their own fantasy view of the world. Expect Flynn, in particular, to try to shape the intelligence community’s products towards his ends while serving as interpreter of last resort for the president. Getting Trump to swallow intelligence assessments skewed toward his particular set of prejudices and inclinations should be an easy feat, given that he can’t even acknowledge the size of the crowd at his own inauguration or let go of the demonstrably false claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election.

The only likely obstacle to Flynn’s ambitions to impose his twisted view of the world on Trump is the other “big league” Islamophobe in the administration, White House counselor Steve Bannon. As a recent New York Times account noted, Bannon has already attempted to outmaneuver Flynn in the battle for access to the president on foreign policy issues and his elevation to the National Security Council at the expense of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence is just the latest indication of how influential he’s likely to be in shaping Trump’s foreign policy agenda. This is hardly good news, as on certain issues he may be even more extreme than Flynn, if that’s possible.

Trump’s predictably militarized approach to policymaking could have serious impacts on the domestic front as well. On his fifth day in office, for example, he threatened by tweet to “send in the Feds” to Chicago if the city government didn’t take steps to “end the carnage” there. It was unclear whether he meant federal law enforcement personnel or federal troops, a vagueness troubling in its own right. And don’t forget that his pledge to “build a wall” ensures a significant jump in funding for the further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, already being patrolled by unarmed drones and growing numbers of armed federal agents. After all, it took him just days after his inauguration to announce a plan to add 5,000 personnel to the Border Patrol and 10,000 agents to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

As in all matters Trumpian, some will say we shouldn’t take him at his word, or that we should wait for his first budget proposal and other such documents to see what he’s really going to do. But the evidence is already abundant that the Trump administration is on a path toward undermining our democracy by pouring taxpayer dollars galore into the U.S. military. This will happen despite the fact that, 15 years after 9/11, that military has won nothing and settled no conflicts to Washington’s advantage, even as terror groups have spread across the Greater Middle East and Africa. It’s a decade-and-a-half-long record that should lead to almost any other set of plans than the ones the Trump administration clearly has in mind. But don’t tell them. They could care less.

Frightening as it may be, it’s important to recognize that Trump’s impulse to further militarize American society is by no means a done deal. Democrats in the Senate are in a position to stop him by voting as a bloc against any proposal to dramatically ratchet up spending on the Pentagon, which would deprive Republicans of the 60 votes they need to move forward on a spending proposal. In addition, the new president’s plans to pump up the Pentagon, dramatically slash taxes, invest in expensive new programs like the border wall, and create a trillion dollar infrastructure plan could set the stage for massive deficits that will undoubtedly unnerve constituencies ranging from fiscal conservatives to important sectors of the business community.

And keep in mind that significant numbers of military and intelligence professionals truly believe in civilian control of the military and don’t want to take on tasks unrelated to traditional military missions. In addition, Trump has already pledged to target overpriced weapons systems like the F-35 and force the Pentagon to get its books in order so it can at last pass an audit. Whether or not he follows through on these promises, he will have put them on the public agenda, reinforcing one reality: the way so much of the money currently going to the Pentagon has more to do with lining the pockets of contractors than with defending the United States and its allies.

The military-first direction in which Trump is going to take his administration will predictably lead to yet more militarized policies in the world. It’s that hammer and nail again. He should take a lesson from history by listening to the speeches of the former Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a military man who also rose to the pinnacle of power in Washington. As president, Eisenhower not only spoke out against the dangers of the military-industrial complex but also stressed that America’s power is ultimately rooted in the strength of its economy and the health of its citizens, not in seeking magical military solutions or in overspending on the Pentagon. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is no Dwight D. Eisenhower.

— source tomdispatch.com By William Hartung,

Defence to be largest business of Reliance Group

Defence will emerge as the largest business for the Reliance Group, said Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group in a presentation to analysts on Monday as Reliance Defence gears to tap defence opportunities worth Rs. 1 lakh crore annually in the Indian defence market.

“There is a huge opportunity for private sector in the defence business as currently India imports 70% of its defence requirement in value terms and accounts for 14% of the global defence imports in 2016,” said Anil Ambani addressing a gathering of 80 analysts in Mumbai on Monday. “Overall, India Offset opportunities are in excess of Rs. 77,000 crore with peak obligation of Rs. 10,000 crore in 2018. This is a big playing field for the Indian private sector,” he said.

Reliance Defence has submitted bids for Rs. 30,000 crore of defence orders comprising landing platform dock and anti submarine warfare and shallow water craft.

Reliance Defence is planning to bid for the construction of two indigenous aircraft carriers worth Rs. 90,000 crore and 12 submarines worth Rs. 1.2 lakh crore. The company is also planning to submit bids worth another Rs. 30,000 for building next-generation missile vessels and a next-generation corvette this year. “Reliance Group’s entry into the defence sector is driven by the new policy of Make in India and Skill India which makes available the large opportunity for the group. Contrary to general perception, defence is [a] low-capital business with high turnover,” said Mr. Ambani adding that his vision was to be the leading manufacturer and supplier of ‘state-of -the-art’ advanced weapon platforms, equipment, systems and hardware “to meet the domestic requirements of the Indian Armed Forces and to mark our presence across the world.”

In aerospace, Reliance Defence has set up a 51: 49 JV, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd., which plans to be a key player in the offset opportunity for the Rafael 36 contract. The annual budget for Indian defence is about Rs. 2.6 lakh crore.

— source thehindu.com by Piyush Pandey

when defence becomes private business, conflicts and war will escalate. because these private companies get profits only if there is need of weapons. America proved this.

Our soldiers and civilians will going to die in unnecessory wars. We must end privatization of defense sector. Soldier’s families and citizen must unite on this issue.

US Tops List of Arms Spending with $622 Billion in 2016

Global arms spending totaled US$1.57 trillion in 2016 alone, with the U.S. dwarfing all other nations with its military budget of 40 percent of the world’s total. The U.S. topped global spending with US$622 billion, with China in a distant second with just under US$192 billion and the U.K. was third with US$53.8 billion, according to data from the 2016 Jane’s Defence Budgets Report compiled by finance company IHS Markit.

India for the first time is in the top five of defense spending as it laid out US$50.7 billion, a 9 percent increase from last year. India overtook Both Saudi Arabia US$48.7 billion and Russia US$44.4 billion.

— source telesurtv.net

Did defense secretary nominee James Mattis commit war crimes in Iraq?

Retired Gen. James Mattis earned the nickname “Mad Dog” for leading U.S. Marines into battle in Fallujah, Iraq, in April 2004. In that assault, members of the Marine Corps, under Mattis’ command, shot at ambulances and aid workers. They cordoned off the city, preventing civilians from escaping. They posed for trophy photos with the people they killed.

Each of these offenses has put other military commanders and members of the rank and file in front of international war crimes tribunals. The doctrine that landed them there dates back to World War II, when an American military tribunal held Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita accountable for war crimes in the Philippines. His execution later was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the siege of Fallujah, which I covered as an unembedded journalist, Marines killed so many civilians that the municipal soccer stadium had to be turned into a graveyard.

In the years since, Mattis – called a “warrior monk” by his supporters – repeatedly has protected American service members who killed civilians, using his status as a division commander to wipe away criminal charges against Marines accused of massacring 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005 and granting clemency to some of those convicted in connection with the 2006 murder of a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi, who was taken outside his home and shot in the face four times.

These actions show a different side of Mattis, now 66, than has been featured in most profiles published since his nomination as President-elect Donald Trump’s defense secretary, which have portrayed him as a strong proponent of the Geneva Conventions and an anti-torture advocate.

Although Mattis argued against the siege of Fallujah beforehand, both international and U.S. law are clear: As the commanding general, he should be held accountable for atrocities committed by Marines under his command. Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting received no reply to messages sent to Mattis’ personal, business and military email addresses. Trump’s transition team likewise did not respond to inquiries. Mattis’ biography on the transition team’s website does not mention the battle.

“There have been credible reports that U.S. troops under the command of Gen. Mattis did target civilians, conducted indiscriminate attacks and also conducted attacks against military objectives that caused disproportionate casualties to civilians during military operations in Fallujah,” said Gabor Rona, who teaches international law at Columbia University and worked as a legal adviser at the Geneva headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the time of the siege.

“All of these are war crimes,” Rona said. “Applying the doctrine of command responsibility, Gen. Mattis would be responsible for these misdeeds, these war crimes of troops under his command if he … either knew, should’ve known or did nothing to prevent or punish this behavior.”

Nearly 13 years later, the siege of Fallujah has receded from the headlines. But for those of us who experienced the events firsthand, the death and destruction are seared into our memories. The lack of accountability for the killing of so many civilians grates like nails on chalkboard.

Given his command responsibility, Mattis’ confirmation hearing for defense secretary, which starts Thursday, provides an opportunity to probe his role in the killings, including asking whether he committed war crimes.

***

I spent parts of three years in Iraq, covering the war as an independent, unembedded journalist, including work in and around Fallujah at the time of the April 2004 siege. The year before, in May 2003, I had spent $10 to take a taxi from Baghdad to Fallujah and – as an American journalist armed only with a microphone – walked freely among the fruit and vegetable sellers, buying a Seiko watch with a fake leather band and sitting in on a Friday prayer to hear from Jamal Shakur, the city’s most strident and powerful imam.

Although AK-47s were being sold openly on the street and there already had been clashes with American troops, the imam urged nonviolence.

“Islam is a religion of peace,” he preached. Do not confront the Americans, he said. Do not turn out to protest.

But as the U.S. government bungled the occupation, anti-American sentiment grew. Basic services such as electricity, knocked out during the initial invasion in March 2003, were not restored. Insurgent attacks increased, and along with them the number of civilians killed in American counterattacks. Thousands of Iraqis disappeared into Abu Ghraib prison, Saddam Hussein’s old lockup outside Baghdad, by then operated by the U.S. military.

A year later, Fallujah was destroyed by the Marines under Mattis’ command.

Rotting bodies in Fallujah streets

More than 12 years later, I still remember the smell of bodies left to rot in the streets for weeks because they could be buried only after the Marines withdrew. Iraqi doctors told me that when they tried to bury bodies during breaks in the fighting, American snipers on rooftops would shoot at them.

“When you see a child, 5 years old with no head, what (can you) say?” Dr. Salam Ismael, the head of Iraq’s young doctors association, told me in Baghdad at the time. “When you see a child with no brain, just opened cavity, what (can you) say? Or when you see a mother just hold her child, still an infant, with no head and the shells all over her body.”

My strongest memory of Fallujah came from the day the Marines withdrew from the city. On May 1, 2004, I watched as a team of volunteers wearing surgical masks pulled the rotting corpse of a middle-aged woman from a shallow grave in the front yard of a single-family home. The homeowner explained how the woman came to be lying dead in his yard.

An American warplane bombed her car as she fled the city with her husband, he said. The husband had been temporarily buried in the garden of the house next door, the charred remains of the car still visible a few yards from his front door.

The volunteers poured formaldehyde over the woman’s body to cut the stench, then placed her on a gurney and took her away in a small pickup truck. I was struck by the sad, intense eyes of one boy – not more than 12 – helping with the operation. He didn’t blink as he stood in the back of the open bed of the truck next to the body, which was covered with a white sheet.

The truck sped away. The boy was still standing, his hands on the side of the truck. In 10 minutes, he would be at the municipal soccer stadium helping bury the woman alongside hundreds of others who had died in the fighting.

Shooting at ambulances, refugee camp

Ismael told me Marines shot at his organization’s ambulance twice while he was in it. One time, he said, he was trying to retrieve bodies for burial. The other time, he was trying to bring aid to civilians stranded in their homes.

“I see people carrying a white flag and yelling at us, saying, ‘We are here, just try to save us,’ but we could not save them because whenever we opened the ambulance door, the Americans would shoot at us. We tried to carry food or water; the snipers shoot the containers of food.”

Proof often is elusive in a war zone. But that same week, British filmmaker Julia Guest showed me footage of a clearly marked ambulance, complete with blue flashing lights, riddled with bullet holes. The driver had a bandage around his head.

“It’s very clearly an ambulance,” she told me. “It’s carrying oxygen bottles. The damage to the ambulance was such that two of the wheels are totally wrecked. … They were left without an ambulance after that.”

At the time, the Marine Corps did not deny it was shooting at ambulances, but it blamed insurgents. In a 2004 email, corps spokesman Lt. Eric Knapp told me that his forces had seen fighters loading weapons from mosques into ambulances.

“By using ambulances, they are putting Iraqis in harm’s way by denying them a critical component of urgent medical care,” he wrote. “Mosques, ambulances and hospitals are protected under Geneva Convention agreements and are not targeted by U.S. Marines. However, once they are used for the purpose of hostile intent toward coalition forces, they lose their protected status and may be targeted.”

Both Ismael and Guest denied that the ambulances were used to ferry arms. Contacted for this story, Ismael, who now lives in England, still maintains that his ambulance should have been protected.

“We entered that area because we had been called for by civilians who were trapped,” he said.

The statement that ambulances were being used to smuggle arms was just one of the claims by Marine commanders that didn’t match up with what I heard on the ground from civilians and officials alike.

For instance, on one hand, the Marine Corps command consistently said it strategically targeted insurgent fighters. On the other, an official with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society told me outside Baghdad that the aid agency had to move a camp for civilians fleeing the violence because the U.S. kept shooting at it.

Civilians repeatedly told me they were targeted by Marine snipers who had taken up positions at high points around Fallujah, too. One 11-year-old boy, Yusuf Bakri Amash, said a sniper killed his best friend.

“Ahmed was in my class,” he said. “He was younger than me. He was standing next to the wall of the secondary school and was trying to cross the street. He was hit by a bullet. The American troops fired the bullet.”

Through it all, Mattis’ top deputies downplayed the number of civilian casualties. In one statement, Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne told reporters that 95 percent of the casualties were “military-age males.”

“The Marines are trained to be precise in their firepower,” Byrne said when confronted with an Associated Press report that 600 Iraqis had been killed, with many buried in a mass grave at the soccer stadium. “The fact that there are 600 goes back to the fact that the Marines are very good at what they do.”

In New York, a senior official with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights requested an independent inquiry, citing reports that 90 percent of the people killed in Fallujah were noncombatants. The investigation never occurred. An official Marine Corps history of the battle later would put the number of civilian deaths in the first two weeks of fighting alone at 220.
Mattis initially opposed attack on Fallujah

The official Marine Corps history says Mattis was against the assault on Fallujah, reporting that he argued, presciently, “that a large-scale operation would send the wrong message, unnecessarily endanger civilians, and ultimately fail to achieve the primary objective” of apprehending the insurgents who had killed four Blackwater security contractors.

But once it began, the official history says the Marines reporting to him carried out the assault “in a state of confusion.” U.S. military veterans of the siege, who I’ve talked to since, describe ever-shifting rules of engagement with a self-defense provision that they were encouraged to stretch to the limit.

Adam Kokesh served as a sergeant in Fallujah during the April siege. I met him four years later, in 2008, when he was one of 36 veterans who spoke at a Winter Soldier gathering of antiwar veterans in Silver Spring, Maryland. There, veterans disclosed atrocities they perpetrated or witnessed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the gathering, Kokesh showed a trophy photo of himself next to a car with an Iraqi man killed by Marines at a checkpoint he staffed. He said the Marines in his unit took turns taking pictures with the dead Iraqi, who had been killed in a hail of machine-gun fire.

According to Kokesh, a whole group of Marines “unloaded into the vehicle with a .50-caliber machine gun,” even though the car was still far away.

“The bullets started at the bumper and went up through the engine compartment, and then one round at least hit this Iraqi in the chest so hard that it broke his chair backwards, and we saw the vehicle burning in the distance,” he said. “Everybody tried to justify it and said, oh, they heard rounds cooking off in the fire, AK-47 rounds were bursting in the trunk or somewhere in the car. And they dragged the car into the area where we were sleeping the next day. And we didn’t even question that, but it was clear that there were no … holes from rounds that were cooking off in the side of this car.”

Kokesh also described how at one point during the siege, he and other men commanded by Mattis stood on a bridge over the Euphrates River and allowed women and young children to flee Fallujah but pushed back all males 14 and older.

“It took me a long time before I could think about what a horrible decision we were forcing these families to make,” he said. They “could split up and leave their husband and older sons in the city and hope a Spectre gunship round doesn’t land on their head, or stay with them and hunker down and just hope they made it through alive.”

Press on, Mattis said, as ire mounted

The decision to allow only some civilians to flee the city, which I witnessed – and other media covered as well – occurred when then-Maj. Gen. James Mattis was sent in to negotiate a ceasefire following tremendous blowback from across Iraqi society about the mounting number of civilian casualties.

The Iraqi army had refused to fight alongside Mattis’ Marines, while members of the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council threatened to quit. The U.N.’s envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, threatened to resign.

“Collective punishment is certainly unacceptable and the siege of the city is absolutely unacceptable,” Brahimi said at the time.

But Mattis wanted to keep fighting. In his book “Fiasco,” military journalist Thomas E. Ricks writes that Mattis was against the negotiations and the ceasefire.

“If you’re going to take Vienna, take fucking Vienna!” Ricks quotes Mattis as snarling to Gen. John Abizaid, then-head of U.S. Central Command.

Mattis eventually negotiated an end to the assault, which turned over control of the city to an Iraqi-run “Fallujah Brigade” commanded by a former general in Saddam Hussein’s army, who sported a beret and wore a thick Baathist mustache. The settlement did not deliver the strategic objective announced when the assault began, namely that the killers of the four Blackwater security contractors be apprehended.

Years later, Mattis referred to the withdrawal from Fallujah as one the toughest orders he ever had to follow.

“It was a difficult decision,” he said in a Marine Corps interview posted in October. “It was a decision taken for reasons that had nothing to do with the tactical situation on the ground.”

“I was concerned to a degree that the Marines would lose confidence in their leadership,” he added, noting that sailors and Marines under his command had lost comrades in the assault.

“But they didn’t,” Mattis said, recalling a slow-talking gunner who sat for a television interview and told the reporter that he wasn’t troubled by the order to pull out of Fallujah. Mattis quotes the Marine as saying: “Doesn’t matter, we’ll just hunt ’em down somewhere else and kill ’em.”
Mattis ordered wedding party carnage

As the summer of 2004 began and it was clear that Fallujah had become a haven for insurgents, Mattis again was sent in to negotiate. Those talks failed and that November, Marines would return and, in an even bloodier siege, take the entire city.

By then, Mattis was back in the U.S., having been promoted to lieutenant general and assigned to the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia.

But before Mattis’ command in Iraq ended, he was involved in another controversial incident. On May 19, less than three weeks after his forces pulled back from Fallujah, Mattis personally authorized an attack on a wedding party near the Syrian border. The Iraqi government said the strike left 42 civilians dead, including at least 13 children.

The killings roiled Iraq, coming so soon after the carnage of Fallujah – but Mattis stood by his action, arguing the dead were insurgents.

“How many people go to the middle of the desert … to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?” he told The Guardian. “These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let’s not be naive.”

A few days later, the Associated Press obtained a videotape of the event. In it, a dozen white pickup trucks sped through the desert, escorting a bridal car decorated with colorful ribbons. The bride wore a white dress and veil and was ushered into a house by a group of women, while men reclined “on brightly colored silk pillows,” the AP reported, “relaxing on the carpeted floor of a large goat-hair tent as boys” danced to tribal songs.

The video did not capture the strike itself, but soon after the footage was taken, the AP reported many, including the wedding videographer, were dead.

Mattis later told military historian Bing West that it had taken him less than 30 seconds to deliberate whether to bomb the location.
Exonerations for Haditha massacre

In media reports since Donald Trump’s nomination of Mattis for defense secretary, the now-retired general consistently has been portrayed as the adult in the room, a veteran military man beloved by his fellow Marines. He’s seen by many as a steady, well-read leader in a group that includes a national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who believes that Islam is not a religion and wrote in a book published last year that America already was “in a world war against a messianic mass movement of evil people.”

“There’s no doubt,” Flynn wrote, that the Islamic State is “dead set on taking us over and drinking our blood.”

These observers took heart, for example, when Trump emerged from a meeting with Mattis in November and reported that the general had argued against waterboarding, an interrogation technique broadly condemned as torture, which Trump embraced during his campaign.

“I’ve never found it to be useful,” Trump quoted Mattis as saying. “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I do better with that than I do with torture.”

But my experience as a journalist reporting on Mattis’ assault from the perspective of Iraqi civilians gave me insight into another side of the general, a man who was willing to look the other way – and even authorize attacks on civilians – when there were “fighting-aged males” nearby. While he has many aphorisms about the importance of international law and the Geneva Conventions, in the battle of Fallujah, his Marines were not sanctioned.

This pattern becomes even clearer when you look at Mattis’ behavior once he returned to the U.S. and was promoted to general in charge of all Marine forces serving Central Command.

It was there where he used his position in the Marine Corps’ justice system to wipe away charges against three Marines charged with the murder of 24 civilians in Haditha, often called the My Lai massacre of the Iraq War.

Time magazine broke the story in March 2006, four months after the killings. Reporter Tim McGirk wrote that after a popular member of their unit was killed by a roadside bomb, a group of Marines “went on a rampage in the village … killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children.” Marines also shot up a car and killed a man running on a ridge. The total number of civilian dead was 24, including a man in a wheelchair.

The Marines Corps initially did not investigate the attack because no one on the ground reported it. A subsequent Department of Defense inquiry found Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents arrived on the scene only after Time published its exposé. Another military investigation by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell found that the entire Marine Corps chain of command in Iraq ignored obvious signs of serious misconduct.

“All levels of command tended to view civilian casualties, even in significant numbers, as routine and as the natural and intended result of insurgent tactics,” Bargewell wrote. “Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get ‘the job done’ no matter what it takes.”

Mattis, then a lieutenant general stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, became the “convening authority” for the court martial – giving him ultimate authority of justice in the case. In that role, he took the rare step of writing public letters to Marines accused of murder, exonerating them for their roles in the massacre.

In his letter wiping away murder charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, who stood accused of killing three Iraqi men in a home, Mattis referenced Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who served as an infantryman in the Civil War, saying, “Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the face of an uplifted knife.”

“You have served as a Marine infantryman in Iraq where our Nation is fighting a shadowy enemy who hides among the innocent people, does not comply with any aspect of the law of war, and routinely targets and intentionally draws fire toward civilians. As you well know, the challenges of this combat environment put extreme pressures on you and your fellow Marines,” Mattis wrote. “With the dismissal of these charges you may fairly conclude that you did your best to live up to the standards, followed by U.S. fighting men throughout our many wars, in the face of life or death decisions.”

After Mattis dismissed charges against three Marines, the cases against the others collapsed. In the end, only the alleged ringleader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, was held accountable, though his sentence did not include a day in prison. In 2012, more than six years after the massacre, Wuterich pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty, and, as punishment, his rank was reduced to private. He told the court that he regretted telling his men to “shoot first and ask questions later.”
Mattis has his defenders – and critics

Today, the prosecution of Marines involved in the Haditha massacre is widely seen as a debacle, said Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor who teaches a course at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School called “Losing Haditha.”

But Solis, like other observers, doesn’t blame Mattis, saying he was hamstrung by inexperienced prosecutors. Compounding matters further was the lack of good evidence, the result of the initial failure of Marines on the ground to report the killings. Marine prosecutors also wasted three years fighting CBS in court, trying to get the network to provide unreleased footage from a “60 Minutes” broadcast, Solis said, during which time memories faded and witness statements changed.

“I think so highly of Gen. Mattis,” Solis said, putting primary blame for the killings on the nature of the Iraq War itself. “Whenever you are involved with armed opposition groups who don’t identify themselves, civilians are going to die by the carload.”

Other observers, including Gabor Rona, the former attorney for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Mattis’ actions in the Haditha aftermath deserve renewed scrutiny with his nomination as defense secretary.

“Mattis’ role in whitewashing, if in fact that’s what he did, would be a war crime under international law, and analogous to what we prosecuted and executed Yamashita for,” he said, referring to the Japanese World War II general.

Indeed, Haditha was not the only time that Mattis used his command authority to clear Marines in a war crimes case. He also granted clemency to three Marines convicted in the 2006 killing of a disabled Iraqi man in Hamdania, freeing them from prison.

The Washington Post reported that a group of Marines went into the home of a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi with a metal bar in his leg, pulled him out and shot him in the face four times. The Marines then tried to frame him by planting a machine gun and shovel at the scene, to make it look as though he were an insurgent digging a roadside bomb. Eight servicemen initially were convicted and jailed; a year later, all but one had been released.

Among the three freed by Mattis was Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to eight years.

Faded Iraq War memories

Nearly 13 years have passed since the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. More than a decade has gone by since the Haditha massacre. The murder of a disabled man in Hamdania is nearly as old.

So much time has passed, in fact, that an inquiry to the Marine Corps press office for details of service member prosecutions related to the Fallujah siege was met with confusion. I was routed in sequence to the Marine Corps History Division, the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy and eventually back to the Marine Corps’ main public affairs desk.

I told each officer I encountered that I was not aware of anyone being held accountable for atrocities, but wanted to be sure before I said so in a story.

After two weeks of phone calls and emails, a Marine spokeswoman, Lt. Danielle Phillips, offered this answer: I would have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request. The events simply were too long ago, she said.

Many of the international law experts contacted for this story likewise had forgotten the details, and I had to jog their memories with photographs, audio recordings and government documents.

With James Mattis’ nomination on the horizon, some suggest senators should press him about his actions as commanding general of one of the war’s bloodiest battles and his subsequent role in exonerating servicemen found guilty of war crimes.

At his confirmation hearing, senators should “ask about the high numbers of civilian casualties and whether there was adequate oversight and accountability,” said Beth Van Schaack, a law professor at Stanford University who served as deputy to the ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues in the Obama administration.

Mattis also should be asked about his “personal role as commander over subordinates who committed what appear to be war crimes against Iraqi civilians by targeting civilians or using indiscriminate force that insufficiently verified whether the targets were civilians or combatants,” Van Schaack said. “How did he supervise his troops, and what measures did he take after the fact?”

Gabor Rona, the former legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said senators should remind Mattis that commanders in Yugoslavia and Rwanda have been convicted in international war crimes tribunals for failing to prevent or punish lower-ranking war criminals, a doctrine also recognized in U.S. law through Yamashita’s case and enshrined in the Department of Defense Law of War Manual.

“Troops are between a rock and a hard place,” Rona said, “obligated to follow orders but also obligated to disobey manifestly unlawful orders” such as mistreatment of civilians or captured combatants.

Mattis’ hearing, he said, offers Congress an opportunity to put commanders on notice that they have a duty to prevent and punish abuses committed by their troops.

— source https://www.revealnews.org/article/did-defense-secretary-nominee-james-mattis-commit-war-crimes-in-iraq/ By Aaron Glantz
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Short-lived greenhouse gases cause centuries of sea-level rise

Even if there comes a day when the world completely stops emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, coastal regions and island nations will continue to experience rising sea levels for centuries afterward, according to a new study by researchers at MIT and Simon Fraser University.

In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that warming from short-lived compounds — greenhouse gases such as methane, chlorofluorocarbons, or hydrofluorocarbons, that linger in the atmosphere for just a year to a few decades — can cause sea levels to rise for hundreds of years after the pollutants have been cleared from the atmosphere.

“If you think of countries like Tuvalu, which are barely above sea level, the question that is looming is how much we can emit before they are doomed. Are they already slated to go under, even if we stopped emitting everything tomorrow?” says co-author Susan Solomon, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT. “It’s all the more reason why it’s important to understand how long climate changes will last, and how much more sea-level rise is already locked in.”

Solomon’s co-authors are lead author Kirsten Zickfeld of Simon Fraser University and Daniel Gilford, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

Short stay, long rise

Recent studies by many groups, including Solomon’s own, have shown that even if human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide were to stop entirely, their associated atmospheric warming and sea-level rise would continue for more than 1,000 years. These effects — essentially irreversible on human timescales — are due in part to carbon dioxide’s residence time: The greenhouse gas can stay in the atmosphere for centuries after it’s been emitted from smokestacks and tailpipes.

In contrast to carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases such as methane and chlorofluorocarbons have much shorter lifetimes. However, previous studies have not specified what their long-term effects may be on sea-level rise. To answer this question, Solomon and her colleagues explored a number of climate scenarios using an Earth Systems Model of Intermediate Complexity, or EMIC, a computationally efficient climate model that simulates ocean and atmospheric circulation to project climate changes over decades, centuries, and millenia.

With the model, the team calculated both the average global temperature and sea-level rise, in response to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons.

The researchers’ estimates for carbon dioxide agreed with others’ predictions and showed that, even if the world were to stop emitting carbon dioxide starting in 2050, up to 50 percent of the gas would remain in the atmosphere more than 750 years afterward. Even after carbon dioxide emissions cease, sea-level rise should continue to increase, measuring twice the level of 2050 estimates for 100 years, and four times that value for another 500 years.

The reason, Solomon says, is due to “ocean inertia”: As the world warms due to greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide included — waters heat up and expand, causing sea levels to rise. Removing the extra ocean heat caused by even short-lived gases, and consequently lowering sea levels, is an extremely slow process.

“As the heat goes into the ocean, it goes deeper and deeper, giving you continued thermal expansion,” Solomon explains. “Then it has to get transferred back to the atmosphere and emitted back into space to cool off, and that’s a very slow process of hundreds of years.”

Stemming tides

In one particular climate modeling scenario, the team evaluated sea level’s response to various methane emissions scenarios, in which the world would continue to emit the gas at current rates, until emissions end entirely in three different years: 2050, 2100, and 2150.

In all three scenarios, methane gas quickly cleared from the atmosphere, and its associated atmospheric warming decreased at a similar rate. However, methane continued to contribute to sea-level rise for centuries afterward. What’s more, they found that the longer the world waits to reduce methane emissions, the longer seas will stay elevated.

“Amazingly, a gas with a 10-year lifetime can actually cause enduring sea-level changes,” Solomon says. “So you don’t just get to stop emitting and have everything go back to a preindustrial state. You are going to live with this for a very long time.”

The researchers found one silver lining in their analyses: Curious as to whether past regulations on pollutants have had a significant effect on sea-level rise, the team focused on perhaps the most successful global remediation effort to date — the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty ratified by 197 countries in 1989, that effectively curbed emissions of ozone-depleting compounds worldwide.

Encouragingly, the researchers found that the Montreal Protocol, while designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons — has also helped stem rising seas. If the Montreal Protocol had not been ratified, and countries had continued to emit chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere, the researchers found that by 2050, the world would have experienced up to an additional 6 inches of sea-level rise.

“Half a foot is pretty significant,” Solomon says. “It’s yet another tremendous reason why the Montreal Protocol has been a pretty good thing for the planet.”

In their paper’s conclusion, the researchers point out that efforts to curb global warming should not be expected to reverse high seas quickly, and that longer-term impacts from sea-level rise should be seriously considered: “The primary policy conclusion of this study is that the long-lasting nature of sea-level rise heightens the importance of earlier mitigation actions.”

This research was supported, in part, by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and NASA.

— source http://news.mit.edu/2017/short-lived-greenhouse-gases-cause-centuries-sea-level-rise-0109
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Glia, not neurons, are most affected by brain aging

There are three types of glia cells, each providing different kinds of support to neurons: oligodendrocytes insulate, microglia act as immune cells, and astrocytes help with neuron metabolism, detoxification, among many functions.
astrocytes and oligodendrocytes shift their regional gene expression patterns upon aging, (e.g., which genes are turned on or off) particularly in the hippocampus and substantia nigra — important brain regions for memory and movement, respectively — while the expression of microglia-specific genes increases in all brain regions.
the number of oligodendrocytes decreases with age in the frontal cortex.
this likely corresponds with decreased expression of oligodendrocyte specific genes. Other types of cells had more complicated patterns of change.
oligodendrocytes disappearing but with neurons we didn’t see dramatic changes in cellular numbers except for a decrease in the largest neurons. This is of interest because those largest neurons are generally connected to neurodegenerative diseases.
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Cash Is No Longer King

As physical currency around the world is increasingly phased out, the era where “cash is king” seems to be coming to an end. Countries like India and South Korea have chosen to limit access to physical money by law, and others are beginning to test digital blockchains for their central banks.

The war on cash isn’t going to be waged overnight, and showdowns will continue in any country where citizens turn to alternatives like precious metals or decentralized cryptocurrencies. Although this transition may feel like a natural progression into the digital age, the real motivation to go cashless is downright sinister.

The unprecedented collusion between governments and central banks that occurred in 2008 led to bailouts, zero percent interest rates and quantitative easing on a scale never before seen in history. Those decisions, which were made under duress and in closed-door meetings, set the stage for this inevitable demise of paper money.

Sacrificing the stability of national currencies has been used as a way prop up failing private institutions around the globe. By kicking the can down the road yet another time, bureaucrats and bankers sealed the fate of the financial system as we know it.

A currency war has been declared, ensuring that the U.S. dollar, Euro, Yen and many other state currencies are linked in a suicide pact. Printing money and endlessly expanding debt are policies that will erode the underlying value of every dollar in people’s wallets, as well as digital funds in their bank accounts. This new war operates in the shadows of the public’s ignorance, slowly undermining social and economic stability through inflation and other consequences of central control. As the Federal Reserve leads the rest of the world’s central banks down the rabbit hole, the vortex it’s creating will affect everyone in the globalized economy.

Peter Schiff, president of Euro-Pacific Capital, has written several books on the state of the financial system. His focus is on the long-term consequences of years of government and central bank manipulation of fiat currencies:

“Never in the course of history has a country’s economy failed because its currency was too strong…The view that a weak currency is desirable is so absurd that it could only have been devised to serve the political agenda of those engineering the descent. And while I don’t blame policy makers from spinning self-serving fairy tales (that is their nature), I find extreme fault with those hypnotized members of the media and the financial establishment who have checked their reason at the door. A currency war is different from any other kind of conventional war in that the object is to kill oneself. The nation that succeeds in inflicting the most damage on its own citizens wins the war. ” [emphasis added]

If you want a glimpse 0f how this story ends, all you have to do is look at Venezuela, where the government has destroyed the value of the bolivar (and U.S. intervention has further exacerbated the problem). Desperation has overcome the country, leading women to go as far as selling their own hair just to get by. While crime and murder rates have spiked to all-time highs, the most dangerous threat to Venezuelans has been extensive government planning. The money they work for and save is now so valueless it’s weighed instead of counted. The stacks of bills have to be carried around in backpacks, and the scene is reminiscent of the hyperinflation Weimar Germany experienced in the 1920s. Few Western nations have ever experienced a currency crisis before, meaning many are blind to the inevitable consequences that come from the unending stimulus we’ve seen since 2008.

In order to keep this kind of chaos from spreading like a contagion to the rest of the world, representatives are willing to do anything necessary, but this comes at a cost. Instead of having to worry about carrying around wheelbarrows full of money, the fear in a cashless society will likely stem from bank customers’ restricted access to funds. With no physical way for consumers to take possession of their wealth, the banking interests will decide how much is available.

The level of trust most people still have in the current system is astonishing. Even after decades of incompetence, manipulation, and irresponsibility, the public still grasps to government and the established order like a child learning how to swim. The responsibility that comes with independence has intimidated the entire population into leaving the decisions up to so-called ‘experts.’ It just so happens that those trusted policymakers have an agenda to strip you and future generations of prosperity.

Some of the few hopes in this war against centralization are peer-to-peer technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These innovative platforms have the potential to open up markets that circumvent state-controlled Ponzi schemes. The future development of crypto-assets has massive potential, but being co-opted is a real danger.

The greatest threat to individual freedom is financial dependence, and as long as your wealth is under someone else’s control, it can never be completely secure. Unfortunately, private blockchains are becoming increasingly popular, creating trojan horses for those just learning about the technology (in contrast, Bitcoin’s transaction ledger is public) . Without the decentralized aspect of a financial network, it is just a giant tracking database that can be easily compromised like any other.

The World Economic Forum released a report on the future of financial infrastructure. Giancarlo Bruno, Head of Financial Services Industries at WEF stated:

“Rather than to stay at the margins of the finance industry, blockchain will become the beating heart of it. It will help build innovative solutions across the industry, becoming ever more integrated into the structure of financial services, as mainframes, messaging services, and electronic trading did before it.”

The list of countries who are exploring integrating blockchain technology into their central banking system is extensive. Just to name a few; Singapore, Ukraine, France, Finland and many others are in the process of researching and testing out options.

For those who appreciate more tangible wealth, diversifying into hard assets like gold and silver is a great first step. It’s not about becoming a millionaire or getting rich quickly, but rather, using precious metals as vehicles for investment in the long-term. Regardless of what events unfold over the decades to come, the wealth preserved in physical form is more secure than any other asset. Forty years ago it was possible to save your money in the bank and accumulate interest over time, but that opportunity no longer exists. Those who fail to adapt to this new financial twilight zone will likely find themselves living as slaves to debt for years.

Control and confidence are two of the most important things in the system we live in. Once these digital spider webs have been put into place, the ability for an individual to maintain privacy or anonymity will all but disappear. Only through understanding the subversive actions being taken can people protect themselves from having to put their future in someone else’s hands. The cash that allows free transactions without tax burdens or state scrutiny won’t be around much longer. There will be many rationalizations for a cashless society in the years to come, but without fixing this broken financial system first, this will only ensure that despotism gains an even sturdier foothold.

— source theantimedia.org By Shaun Bradley