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.

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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

Israel to Build New Settlement in Occupied West Bank

Israel has announced it’s building an entirely new Jewish-only settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The move marks the first brand-new, official settlement in the West Bank built by the Israeli government in about two decades, although Israeli settlers have built unofficial settlements and the Israeli government has dramatically expanded already existing settlements. Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to begin construction on more than 5,000 housing units in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

— source democracynow.org

Deutsche Bank Wins in Stare-Down With Department of Justice Over Mortgage-Backed Securities Liability

Credit Suisse Also Settles While Barclays Holds Out

As we’d pointed out in the context of the Security and Exchange Commission’s settlements of private equity regulatory violations, it’s widely recognized that senior members of the agency are in a rush to wrap up outstanding matters before the Trump regime starts. Anyone who has worked on a negotiation knows that if someone is in a rush, they lose a ton of negotiating leverage.

The resolution of the Deutsche Bank case is instructive. Oddly, US authorities had apparently leaked that they were seeking a settlement of $14 billion, at a point in time much earlier than they had typically let their ask be known. Historically, these media smoke signals took place after there had been some interaction between the target and the Feds. The early news stories might have been a slip up, or they might have signaled an intent to be bloody-minded. Or perhaps they were to show how far apart the German bank’s bid of $2 to $3 billion was from the DoJ’s $14 billion offer, and get harmed US borrowers and media allies to make a stink, allowing the US authorities to say the the public recognized that Deutsche was a bad actor and thus showing much leniency was not politically feasible.

Deutsche’s wee problem was that this was a lot of money, particularly given that the world was finally waking up to the fact that it was a garbage barge. At around the time this story broke, its market cap was down to $18 billion. It had litigation reserves of only €5.5 billion in litigation reserves, which was then equivalent to a bit over $6 billion.

We had thought the Department of Justice had a strong hand, and that Deutsche was not likely to get a huge concession on the headline amount, particularly since the way US officials finessed these settlements in the past was to have a large headline figure, but a much smaller hard dollar fine. The rest was made up phony-baloney undertakings, which rewarded banks for activities they were going to pursue regardless, were values at vastly in excess of what they cost the bank, or even better, had them impose costs on third parties (as in get credit for writing down mortgages in mortgage securitizations, when the cost of doing the mod was vastly below the reduction imposed on investors. And that’s before you get to the fact that banks would cherry pick and focus on modifying first mortgages held by investors to make their own home equity lines of credit to the same borrowers, which were due to be written off, have some economic value). But we had also noted that Deutshe wasn’t a large mortgage servicer, so it would have less ability to engage in this sort of non-cash optics.

Given that Deutsche had been patient zero of subprime CDOs and had worked closely with the major subprime shorts, it seemed plausible that the DoJ could make a strong case. The flip side was the German government would not allow Deutsche to be hit so hard that it would start looking wounded. We thought one finesse would be to let the negotiations drag out beyond the German elections….meaning October 2017.

But Christmas came early for the German bank in the form of the Trump win. While Trump might view a foreign bank as a cheap target for burnishing his law-enforcement credentials (all the US banks have settled on these issues), it’s now clear that the incoming Administration intends to roll out the red carpet for financiers.

The result is Deutsche got off easy. It is only having to pay $3.1 billion in cash (and some of these settlements have been deductible for tax purposes) and another $4.1 billion in promised “consumer relief” as in “stuff maybe we’ll do in the future.” Even with an official (but toothless) monitor for the National Mortgage Settlement of 2012, many of those terms were violated, in addition to banks falling short of their targets. And the bottom line was very little of the “consumer relief” actually went to harmed borrowers.

This settlement allows each side to declare victory (one of the big objectives), since Deutsche paid more than many observers expected but still well less than the Department of Justice’s too-well-broadcast target. But the fact that Deutsche still has plenty left in its litigation reserve even after deducting the full cash portion says it did very well.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The combined $7.2 billion agreement is higher than many investors and analysts expected. But investors are likely to see as positive that the proportion making up the cash penalty—which has an immediate financial impact—is less than half the total..

The settlement came together quickly in the latter part of this week following intense negotiations between lawyers representing the bank and the government, a person familiar with the matter said. Going into the week, the two sides still had significant differences to overcome, people close to the discussions said.

The German bank said it would take a roughly $1.17 billion pretax charge this quarter as a result of the $3.1 billion penalty. The additional consumer relief has less immediate and less solid consequences, because it is to be paid out over at least five years, the bank said in a statement late Thursday night.

The impact of the $4.1 billion consumer relief could fluctuate over time. The bank said that portion of the settlement isn’t expected to have a material impact on its 2016 financial results.

In a breaking story, Credit Suisse, which was also negotiating a mortgage liability settlement, just announced its deal. Again from the Journal:

Credit Suisse Group AG said Friday it has settled a U.S. probe into the Swiss bank’s selling of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis for about $5.3 billion.

Zurich-based Credit Suisse, one of several European banks that have been working toward a settlement on the mortgage-backed securities issue, said its deal includes a penalty from the Justice Department of $2.48 billion, and consumer-relief payments of about $2.8 billion, to be paid over five years.

As a result, the bank said it would take a $2 billion charge to its results in the current quarter.

Note that the cash portion of this deal is higher and Credit Suisse is also recognizing much more of the total cost in this quarter than Deutsche did.

By contrast, Barclays has decided to roll the dice and defy the Department of Justice, which obligingly filed suit today. The last time the British bank crossed swords with regulators, the result was the ouster of its chairman, CEO, and president. Mind you, this is not a battle in its home market with its primary regulator, but a mere fight over money. Barclays may hope that Trump will call the dogs off, but with a suit in motion, he’d have to spend political capital to intervene, and there is no strong reason to think that this fight would merit intervention.

The press stories indicate that the reason the Barclays talks fell apart was that the British bank had a strong opinion regarding what it should pay based on the total dollar amount of toxic securities other banks had sold versus the size of the settlements it paid. However, the Department of Justice appears to think that Barclays should pay a higher relative fine because its conduct was egregious even by subprime industry standards. From the Financial Times:

Federal prosecutors have sued Barclays and two of its executives over allegedly fraudulent mortgage-backed securities the bank issued as the US housing bubble was at its peak.

The suit claims the bank “securitised billions of dollars of loans it knew had material defects” and financed lenders that it knew were issuing mortgages to customers who would be unable to repay them, prosecutors charged. The loans in question defaulted “at exceptionally high rates early in the life of the deals”….

Barclays has calculated that investors in the residential mortgage-backed securities it issued suffered half the losses of investors in similar products issued by Goldman Sachs and less than a third of those of Citigroup.

While some US banks bet against the RMBS products they sold and kept little if any exposure to them, Barclays told the DoJ that it held the equity tranches of most mortgage securities it issued and so lost money alongside other investors when they went bad…

The US government is charging the defendants with violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, via mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and other misconduct.

The two Barclays executives named in the suit are Paul Menefee, its head banker on subprime residential mortgage-backed securities, and John Carroll, the bank’s head trader for subprime loan acquisitions…

The DoJ said the bank had falsely assured investors it had conducted adequate due diligence on the loans underlying its subprime securities and had excluded “unacceptable” loans. “In reality, Barclays’ due diligence on the subject deals was a sham,” prosecutors wrote.

Even investors in triple A-rated securities, which carry the same rating as US Treasuries, suffered steep losses…

According to the complaint filed in federal court on Thursday, the bank misled investors and rating agencies about its loan selection criteria. In some cases, the lawsuit says, the bank found that more than half of the loans it reviewed contained defects, yet officials assured investors they were sound.

Companies that reviewed the loans for Barclays informed the bank that many did not meet underwriting guidelines or legal standards. “These vendors described some of these securitised loans as ‘craptacular’, others as ‘scariest collateral’, and others as having the ‘distinct aroma of default’,” the lawsuit says.

Mr Menefee, the Barclays executive in charge of due diligence on the subprime deals, is quoted as calling one loan pool “about as bad as it can be” and saying of a Wells Fargo pool that “we have to eat their sh*t loans”.

Mr Carroll, Barclays’ head subprime trader, allegedly told Mr Menefee to leave one group of 40 delinquent loans in a securitisation pool to save the bank $1m, even though it would make investor losses more likely.

Barclays ordered its vendors to change the grades they assigned on thousands of loans “for no legitimate reason”, the lawsuit says. “Even when loans were already delinquent or in default by the time a deal closed, it did not seem to matter to Barclays.”

Barclays prioritised its relationships with loan originators over protecting the investors who bought its mortgage-backed securities, the lawsuit alleges. As the housing bubble popped, the bank in some cases abandoned due diligence entirely.

In 2007, the DoJ alleges, Barclays executives decided that checking the quality of loans originated by New Century was a waste of time since any defective ones could not be forced back on to the cash-strapped issuer. The bank took that decision even as Mr Menefee and Mr Carroll agreed that the loans “look(ed) like sh*t”, the suit says.

“Defendants repeatedly misled investors and kept to themselves critical information about the loans in the deals, knowingly putting those investors at risk of harm,” the lawsuit says.

Yves here. Notice that the Barclays argument about losses on the equity tranches is misleading. The equity tranche was so attractive that in the years running up to the crisis, originators would sell them off in securities called “NIM bonds” for “net interest margin” bonds. These bonds appealed to hedge funds since the equity investment would typically be paid off at a nice profit in 18 months or so. Why? The NIM bonds benefitted both from overcollateralization (which offered greater protection against loss despite the apparent junior status) and “excess spread” meaning a premium interest rate. The mortgages at issue were sold between 2005 and 2007. So the DoJ should have a hard look at the older deals, since Barclays may have come out whole on its equity investment in them. And the equity tranche was also not that large, typically a mere 1% par value of the securitization.

But the real reason the DoJ may be willing to play hardball is that the documents it has uncovered so far show that the Barclays executives were fully aware of what they were up to. Damning e-mails make for easy cases. By contrast, even though Barclays thinks it should be fined on the same formula as Goldman, Goldman staffers are schooled to be very conscious of liability to the firm as well as to believe the PR about serving customer interest. Thus saying bad things about deals even verbally will typically result in a dressing-down by partners, and in e-mails, even more so. So even though Barclays may be correct that it ought to be treated no worse than Goldman, the New York bank left a document trial that said that just about no one internally thought the firm was up to no good. By contrast, at Barclays, it appears that it will not be hard to convince a judge that the bank’s execs knew full well that they were screwing investors and didn’t care.

— source nakedcapitalism.com By Yves Smith

Israel Approves Construction of Jewish-Only Settlements in West Bank, E. Jerusalem

The Israeli government has approved the construction of a massive wave of new Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. More than 500 housing units have been approved for East Jerusalem, and more than 2,500 units for the occupied West Bank. The settlements are illegal under international law.

— source democracynow.org

JPMorgan Chase to Pay $55M to Settle Housing Discrimination Lawsuit

JPMorgan Chase will pay $55 million to settle a lawsuit with the Justice Department accusing the bank of discriminating against more than 50,000 homeowners of color between 2006 and 2009. The lawsuit accuses JPMorgan Chase of violating the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act. As part of the settlement, JPMorgan Chase does not have to admit wrongdoing, and no bankers are facing criminal charges.

— source democracynow.org

what a wonderful country. justice for sale.

United States War Crimes

Human Rights Day, December 10, 2016, we bring to the attention of our readers an important article published in 2002 on the record of US war crimes.

The issue of War Crimes emerged after World War I at the Versailles Conference, but it was not until the end of World War II that a more comprehensive definition of what constitutes war crimes was developed. First among new international conventions addressing war crimes was the 1950 Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Its fundamental premise was that the conduct of war in violation of international treaties was a crime against peace. Ill treatment of prisoners of war, killing hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages was a war crime. Crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, deportation, and prosecution based on political, racial or religious grounds.

The 1949 Geneva Convention gave recognition to the development of new technologies which exposed civilian life to greater threats of destruction. A 1977 addendum further emphasized the right of civilians to be protected against military operations. This included the protection of civilians against starvation as a method of warfare. Article II of the Geneva Convention addressed the issue of genocide, defined as killing or causing serious bodily harm to individuals based on their nationality, ethnic, racial or religious group and with the intent to destroy that group.

Since the Geneva Convention, a number of other significant international treaties addressing war and human rights have been drafted, but the United States has rejected almost all of them. Among the treaties that the United States has refused to sign are the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (1966); the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (1966), and the American Convention on Human Rights (1965).

The United States has been particularly reluctant to sign treaties addressing the “laws of war”. It has refused to sign The Declaration on the Prohibition of the Use of Thermo-Nuclear Weapons (1961); The Resolution on the Non-Use of Force in International Relations and Permanent Ban on the Use of Nuclear Weapons (1972); The Resolution on the Definition of Aggression (1974); Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention (1977); and the Declaration on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(1989).1

Equally disturbing was the U.S. refusal to sign the Convention on Rights of the Child, introduced into the United Nations General assembly on November 20, 1989 and subsequently ratified by 191 countries.

The first use of atomic weapons against human beings occurred on August 6-9 1945, when the United States incinerated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, killing an estimated 110,000 Japanese citizens and injuring another 130,000. By 1950 another 230,000 died from injuries and radiation. Earlier in 1945 two fire bombing raids on Tokyo killed 140,000 citizens and injured a million more.

Since World War II the US has bombed twenty-three nations. [2001 figures] Author William Blum notes:

“It is sobering to reflect that in our era of instant world wide communications, the United States has, on many occasions, been able to mount a large or small scale military operation or undertake other equally blatant forms of intervention without the American public being aware of it until years later if ever.”2

The growing primacy or aerial bombardment in the conduct of war has inevitably defined non-combatants as the preferred target of war. Indeed, the combination of American air power and occupation ground forces has resulted in massive civilian casualties around the world.

Korea:1943-1953

On August 15,1945, the Korean people, devastated and impoverished by years of brutality from Japanese occupation forces, openly celebrated their liberation and immediately formed the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CKPI). By August 28, 1945, all Korean provinces on the entire Peninsula had established local people’s democratic committees, and on September 6, delegates from throughout Korea, north and south, created the Korean People’s Republic (KPR). On September 7, the day after the creation of the KPR, General Douglas MacArthur (image left), commander of the victorious Allied powers in the Pacific, formally issued a proclamation addressed “To the People of Korea.” The proclamation announced that forces under his command “will today occupy the Territory of Korea south of 38 degrees north latitude.”

The first advance party of U.S. units, the 17th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, actually began arriving at Inchon on September 5th, two days before MacArthur’s occupation declaration. The bulk of the US occupation forces began unloading from twenty-one Navy ships (including five destroyers) on September 8 through the port at Inchon under the command of Lieutenant General John Reed Hodge. Hundreds of black-coated armed Japanese police on horseback, still under the direction of Japanese Governor-General Abe Noabuyki, kept angry Korean crowds away from the disembarking US soldiers.

On the morning of September 9, General Hodge announced that Governor-General Abe would continue to function with all his Japanese and Korean personnel. Within a few weeks there were 25,000 American troops and members of “civil service teams” in the country. Ultimately the number of US troops in southern Korea reached 72,000. Though the Koreans were officially characterized as a “semi-friendly, liberated” people, General Hodge regrettably instructed his own officers that Korea “was an enemy of the United States…subject to the provisions and the terms of the surrender.”

Tragically and ironically, the Korean people, citizens of the victim-nation, had become enemies, while the defeated Japanese, who had been the illegal aggressors, served as occupiers in alliance with the United States. Indeed, Korea was burdened with the very occupation originally intended for Japan, which became the recipient of massive U.S. aid and reconstruction in the post-war period. Japan remains, to this day, America=s forward military base affording protection and intelligence for its “interests” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Seventy-three-year-old Syngman Rhee was elected President of ASouth Korea@ on May 10,1948 in an election boycotted by virtually all Koreans except the elite KDP and Rhee’s own right -wing political groups. This event, historically sealing a politically divided Korea, provoked what became known at the Cheju massacre, in which as many as 70,000 residents of the southern island of Cheju were ruthlessly murdered during a single year by Rhee’s paramilitary forces under the oversight of U.S. officers. Rhee took office as President on August 15 and the Republic of Korea (ROK) was formally declared. In response, three-and -a-half weeks later (on September 9, 1948), the people of northern Korea grudgingly created their own separate government, the Democratic People’s’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), with Kim II Sung as its premier.

Korea was now clearly and tragically split in two. Kim Il Sung had survived as a guerrilla fighter against the Japanese occupation in both China and Korea since 1932 when he was twenty years old. He was thirty-three when he returned to Pyongyang in October 1945 to begin the hoped-for era of rebuilding a united Korea free of foreign domination, and three years later, on September 9, 1948, he became North Korea’s first premier. The Rhee/U.S. forces escalated their ruthless campaign of cleansing the south of dissidents, identifying as a suspected “communist” anyone who opposed the Rhee regime, publicly or privately. In reality, most participants or believers in the popular movement in the south were socialists unaffiliated with outside “communist” organizations.

As the repression intensified, however, alliances with popular movements in the north, including communist organizations, increased. The Cheju insurgency was crushed by August 1949, but on the mainland, guerrilla warfare continued in most provinces until 1959-51. In the eyes of the commander of US military forces in Korea, General Hodge, and new “President” Syngman Rhee, (left) virtually any Korean who had not publicly professed his allegiance to Rhee was considered a “communist” traitor. As a result, massive numbers of farmers, villagers and urban residents were systematically rounded up in rural areas, villages and cities throughout South Korea. Captives were regularly tortured to extract names of others. Thousands were imprisoned and even more thousands forced to dig mass graves before being ordered into them and shot by fellow Koreans, often under the watch of U.S. troops.

The introduction of U.S./UN military forces on June 26,1950 occurred with no American understanding (except by a few astute observers such as journalist I.F Stone) that in fact they were entering an ongoing revolutionary civil war waged by indigenous Koreans seeking genuine independence after five years of U.S. interference. The American occupation simply fueled Korean passions even more while creating further divisions among them.

In the Autumn of 1950, when U.S. forces were in retreat in North Korea, General Douglas MacArthur offered all air forces under his command to destroy “every means of communication, every installation, factory, city and village ” from the Yalu River, forming the border between North Korea and China, south to the battle line. The massive saturation bombing conducted throughout the war, including napalm, incendiary, and fragmentation bombs, left scorched cities and villages in total ruins. As in World War II, the U.S. strategic bombing campaign brought mass destruction and shockingly heavy civilian casualties. Such tactics were in clear violation of the Nuremburg Charter, which had, ironically, been created after World War II, largely due to pressure from the U.S. The Nuremburg Tribunal defined “the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages” to be a war crime and declared that Ainhumane acts against any civilian population” were a crime against humanity.

From that fateful day on September 8, 1945 to the present, a period of 56 years, U.S. military forces (currently numbering 37,000 positioned at 100 installations) have maintained a continuous occupation in the south supporting de facto U.S. rule over the political, economic and military life of a needlessly divided Korea. This often brutal occupation and the persistent U.S. support for the repressive policies of dictatorial puppets continues to be the single greatest obstacle to peace in Korea, preventing the inevitable reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Until 1994, all of the hundreds of thousands of South Korean defense forces operated under direct U.S. command. Even today, although integrated into the Combined Forces Command (CFC), these forces automatically revert to direct US control when the US military commander in Korea determines that there is a state of war.

Indonesia: (1958-1965)

After 350 years of colonialism, President Sukarno, with the cooperation of the communist party (PKI), sought to make Indonesia an independent socialist democracy. Sukarno’s working relationship with the PKI would not be tolerated by Washington. Under the direction of the CIA, rebels in the Indonesian army were armed, trained and equipped in preparation for a military coup. The Indonesian army=s campaign against the PKI in 1965-66 brought the dictator Suharto to power. Under his rule, teachers, students, civil servants and peasants were systematically executed. In Central and East Java alone, 60,000 were killed. In Bali, some 50,000 people were executed, and thousands more died in remote Indonesian villages. In some areas citizens were confined in Navy vessels which were then sunk to the bottom of the sea.

The most extensive killing were committed against suspected PKI supporters identified by U.S. intelligence. Historian Gabriel Kollo states that the slaughter in Indonesia “ranks as a crime of the same type as the Nazi perpetrated.”3

Recent revealed documents at George Washington University’s National Security Achive confirmed how effectively the Indonesian army used the U.S.-prepared hit list against the Indonesian communist party in 1965-66. Among the documents cited is a 1966 airgram to Washington sent by U.S. ambassador Marshall Green stating that a list from the Embassy identifying top communist leaders was being used by the Indonesian security authorities in their extermination campaign.

For example, the US Embassy reported on November 13,1965 that information sent to Suharto resulted in the killing of between 50 to 100 PKI members every night in East and Central Java. The Embassy admitted in an April 15, 1966 airgram to Washington: “We frankly do not know whether the real figure for the PKI killed is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000.”4

The Indonesian military became the instrument of another counter revolutionary offensive in 1975 when it invaded East Timor. On September 7,1975, just 24 hours after the highest officials of the United States government, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, had been in Djakarta on a state visit, 30,000 Indonesian troops landed in East Timor. Napalm, phosphorus bombs and chemical defoliants were delivered from US supplied planes and helicopters, resulting in the killing of tens of thousands of people, and the conflict continues to simmer.5

Vietnam: (1954-1965)

President Harry Truman began granting material aid to the French colonial forces in Indochina as early s 1946, and the aid was dramatically increased after the successful Chinese revolution in 1949 and the start of the “hot” Korean War in June 1950. By the time of the French army was defeated in 1954, the U.S. was paying nearly 80 percent of the French military expenditures and providing extensive air and logistical support.

The unilateral U.S. military intervention in Vietnam began in 1954, immediately following the humiliating French defeat in early May 1954. The July 21, 1954 Geneva Agreement concluded the French war against the Vietnamese and promised them a unifying election, mandated for July 1956. The U.S. government knew that fair elections would, in effect, ensure a genuine democratic victory for revered Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. This was unacceptable. In June 1954, prior to the signing of the historic Geneva agreement, the U.S. began CIA-directed internal sabotage operations against the Vietnamese while setting up the puppet Ngo Dinh Diem (brought to Vietnam from the U.S.) as “our” political leader. No electrons were ever held. This set the stage for yet another war for Vietnamese independence — this time against U.S. forces and their South Vietnamese puppets.

The significance of U.S. intentions to interfere with independence movements in Asia cannot be underestimated. U.S. National Security Council documents from 1956 declared that our national security would be endangered by communist domination of mainland Southeast Asia. Secret military plans stated that nuclear weapons will be used in general war and even in military operations short of general war. By March 1961, the Pentagon brass had recommended sending 60,000 soldiers to western Laos supported by air power that would include, if necessary, nuclear weapons, to assure that the Royal Laotian government would prevail against the popular insurgency being waged against it. For the next ten years the U.S. unleashed forces that caused (and continue to cause ) an incomprehensible amount of devastation in Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Eight million tons of bombs (four times the amount used by the U.S. in all of World War II) were dropped indiscriminately, leaving destruction which, if laid crater to crater, would cover an area the size of the state of Maine. Eighty percent of the bombs fell on rural areas rather than military targets, leaving ten million craters. Nearly 400,000 tons of napalm was dropped on Vietnamese villages. There was no pretense of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.

The callous designation of as much as three-fourths of South Vietnam as a “free fire zone” justified the murder of virtually anyone in thousands of villages in those vast areas. At the time, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara cited a 1967 memo in which he estimated the number of Vietnamese civilians killed or seriously injured by U.S. forces at 1000 per week. The CIA=s Phoenix program alone killed as many as 70,000 civilians who were suspected of being part of the political leadership of the Viet Cong in the south.

There was a historically unprecedented level of chemical warfare in Vietnam, including the indiscriminate spraying of nearly 20 million gallons of defoliants on one-seventh the area of South Vietnam. The vestigial effects of chemical warfare poisoning continue to plague the health of adult Vietnamese (and ex-GIs) while causing escalated birth defects. Samples of soil, water, food and body fat of Vietnamese citizens continue to reveal dangerously elevated levels of dioxin to the present day.

Today, Vietnamese officials estimate the continued dangerous presence of 3.5 million landmines left from the war as well as 300,000 tons of unexploded ordnance. Tragically, these hidden remnants of war continue to explode when farmers plow their fields or children play in their neighborhoods, killing thousands each year. The Vietnamese report 40,000 people killed since 1975 by landmines and buried bombs. That means that each day, 4 or 5 Vietnamese civilians are killed day by U.S. ordnance.

The U.S. and its allies killed as many as 5 million Southeast Asian citizens during the active war years. The numbers of dead in Laos and Cambodia remain uncounted, but as of 1971, a congressional Research Service report prepared for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee indicated that over one million Laotians had been killed, wounded, or turned into refugees, with the figure for Cambodia estimated two million. More than a half million “secret” US bombing missions over Laos, begun in late 1964, devastated populations of ancient cultures there. Estimates indicate that around 230,000 tons of bombs were dropped over northern Laos in 1968 and 1969 alone. Increasing numbers of U.S. military personnel were added to the ground forces in Laos during 1961, preparing for major military operations to come.

The “secret” bombing of Cambodia began in March 1969, and an outright land invasion of Cambodia was conducted from late April 1970 through the end of June, causing thousand of casualties. These raging U.S. covert wars did not cease until August 14, 1973, by which time countless additional casualties were inflicted. When the bombing in Cambodia finally ceased, the U.S. Air Force had officially recorded the use of nearly 260,000 tons of bombs there. The total tonnage of bombs dropped in Laos over eight and a half years exceeded two million.

The consensus today is that more than 3 million Vietnamese were killed, with 300,000 additional missing in action and presumed dead. In the process the U.S. lost nearly 59,000 of her own men and women, with about 2,000 additional missing, while combatants from four U.S. allies lost over 6,000 more. The South Vietnamese military accounted for nearly 225,000 dead. All of this carnage was justified in order to destroy the basic rights and capacity of the Vietnamese to construct their own independent, sovereign society. None of the victims deserved to die in such a war. Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, and U.S. military “grunts” were all victims.

All of these corpses were created to perpetuate an incredible lie and to serve a “cause” that had been concocted by white male plutocrats in Washington, many of whom possessed Ph.Ds from prestigious universities. Like most of their predecessors throughout U.S. history, these politicians and their appointees, along with their profit-hungry arms makers/dealers, desired to assure the destruction of people’s democratic movements in East Asia that threatened the virtually unlimited American hegemony over markets, resources, and the profits to be derived therefrom. But never did a small country suffer so much from an imperial nation as the Vietnamese did from the United States.

Iraq:1991-2001

The royal family in Kuwait was used by the United States government to justify a massive assault on Iraq in order to establish permanent dominion over the Gulf. The Gulf War was begun not to protect Kuwait but to establish US power over the region and its oil.6 In 1990, General Schwarzkopf had testified before the Senate that it was essential for the U.S. to increase its military presence in the Gulf in order to protect Saudi Arabia. However, satellite photos showed no Iraqi troops near the Saudi Border.

After Iraq announced that it was going to annex Kuwait, the United States began its air attacks on Iraq. For 42 days the US sent in 2000 sorties a day. By February 13,1991, 1,500 Iraqi citizens had been killed. President George Bush ordered the destruction of facilities essential to civilian life and economic production.

The Red Crescent Society of Jordan announced at the end of the war that 113,00 civilians were dead and sixty percent were women and children. Some of the worst devastation was wrought by the US military’s use of Depleted Uranium (DU) on battlefields and in towns and cities across Iraq. It left a legacy of radioactive debris which has resulted in serious environmental contamination and health problems, particularly among Iraqi children. Child mortality rates have risen by 380 percent. Between August 1990 and August 1997 some 1.2 million children in Iraq died due to environmental devastation and the harsh economic sanctions imposed in 1991. Not satisfied with such havoc, the U.S. and Britain have recently sought to tighten the blockade against Iraq by imposing so-called :”smart sanctions.” This would continue the aggression against northern and southern Iraq and lead to the deaths of more women, children and elderly.

Yugoslavia: (1991-1999)

The United States and Germany prepared plans for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the late 1980′s and have since reconfigured Yugoslavia into mini-states, with only Serbia and Montenegro remaining in the Yugoslav federation, a situation which has opened the way to the re-colonization of the Balkans.

In 1991, the European Community, with US involvement, organized a conference on Yugoslavia that called for the separation, sovereignty and independence of the republics of Yugoslavia. President George Bush’s administration passed the 1991 Foreign Operations Act, which provided aid to the individual republics, but cut off all aid to Belgrade, the capitol of Yugoslavia. This stimulated the eventual secession of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. With secession came civil wars. Ethnic Serbs living in Croatia had been loyal to that Yugoslav republic, but great power meddling now forced them to defend their region in Croatia known as Krajina. The U.S. covertly provided arms, training, advisors, satellite intelligence and air power to the Croats in “Operation Storm” directed against the helpless Serbs in Krajina. When the bombing began, the Krajina Serbs fled to Belgrade and Bosnia. Approximately 250,000 Serbs were thus ethnically cleansed from the Krajina and all evidence of Serb habitation was systematically destroyed. Civilians were executed, livestock slaughtered and houses were burnt to the ground.7

To avoid a similar human catastrophe in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bosnian Serbs consolidated Serb-owned lands, an area constituting about two thirds of Bosnia/Herzegovina. Germany and the U.S. quickly aided the military alliance of Bosnian Muslims and Croats against the Serbs, and , supported by American bombing and regular army forces from Croatia, the Muslim/Croat alliance soon swept the Serbs from the majority of Bosnia/Herzegovina. As in the Krajina, the conflict forced ethnic Serbs off of their lands, creating one hundred thousand Serb refugees.

Under the U.S.-brokered Dayton Agreement, Bosnia/Herzegovina was divided into two parts, a Muslim-Croat Federation and Republica Srpska. The central government today is controlled by US/NATO forces, the IMF, and international NGOs. With no history of independence, Bosnia/Herzegovina=s economic assets have been taken over by foreign investors who now own their energy facilities, water, telecommunication, media and transportation.

The effects of the Bosnian civil war on the city of Srebrenica were reported extensively in the western media. Reports claimed that 7,414 Bosnian Muslims were executed by the Serbian army. After years of searching, digging and extensive investigations, only seventy bodies were found, but the original charges of genocide are still circulated in the media.

Kosovo, an autonomous region of Serbia, is the site of the most recent, and perhaps most disastrous, U.S. military intervention. Kosovo=s problems began after World War II when immigrants from Albania flooded into the region, sparking political confrontation between Albanians and Serbs. escalated into military conflict. The “Kosovo Liberation Army, an Albanian terrorist/separatist group, escalated tensions by directing their violence against not only Serbian civilians, but Albanian who refused to join their cause. As the war intensified, a United Nations team of observers in the Kosovo village of Racak found 44 Albanian bodies. The Serbs identified them as KLA fighters killed during one of the now frequent gun battles with police. William Walker, a US diplomat, who had earlier acted as an apologist for the death squads in El Salvador, led a group of journalists to view the bodies, and their subsequent claims of Serb war crimes made world-wide headlines.8

President Clinton used this event to bring delegates form the contending forces in Bosnia to Rambouillet, and the proposed Ramboullet Accords served as a prelude to U.S. intervention in Kosovo. The accords, if accepted, would have allowed NATO forces complete access to all of Yugoslavia, a virtual foreign occupation, with all associated costs to be borne by the Yugoslav government. As the Ramboullet negotiations began to stall, U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright ordered the bombing of Yugoslavia to begin.

On March 16, 1999, twenty three thousand missiles and bombs were dropped on a country of eleven million people. Thirty five thousand cluster bombs, graphite bombs and 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium weapons were used, the latter scattering radioactive waste throughout the Yugoslav countryside.

The 78 day bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia targeted schools, hospitals, farms, bridges, roads communication centers, and waterways. Because a large number of chemical plants and oil refineries bombed by US/NATO planes were located on the banks of the Danube river, the bombing of these industrial sites polluted the Danube, a source of drinking water for ten million people in the region. The environmental damage done to the soil, water and air of Yugoslavia soon spread to Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Greece and Italy. Countries like Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, which border on the Black Sea, into which the Danube empties, also continue to face health hazards.

Afghanistan:(1979-2001)

“The Bush-Afghan war calls up memories of the Vietnam War in both actions and rhetoric, the massive use of superior arms heavily impacting civilians, deliberate food deprivation, wholesale terror allegedly combating ‘terrorism’, but always sincere regrets for collateral damages.”9

The U.S. war in Afghanistan began in 1979, ostensibly as a campaign to oust the ruling Taliban and apprehend the alleged terrorist Osama Bin Laden, who was assumed to be hiding in Afghanistan. Ironically, the Taliban had received billions of dollars worth of weapons from the CIA to help it overthrow a progressive socialist government in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden regarded himself as an important CIA asset. Indeed, the CIA had been deeply involved in Afghanistan even before the Soviet Union intervened there in 1979 to defend the revolutionary government.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the U.S. has waged a merciless war against the Afghan people, using chemical, biological and depleted uranium (DU) weapons. The use of DU continues to spread radiation throughout large parts of Afghanistan and will affect tens of thousands of people in generations to come, causing lung cancer, leukemia and birth defects. DU was also used against Iraq and Yugoslavia, where the frequency of cancer has tripled.

The bombing of the Afghan population has forced thousands of civilians to flee to Pakistan and Iran, and seven to eight million civilians are facing starvation. UNICEF spokesman Eric Larlcke has stated, “As many as 100,000 more children will die in Afghanistan this winter unless food reaches them in sufficient quantities in the next six weeks.”10

The racist underpinnings of the American world-view allows the American press and its political leaders to be silent on the mass killing of Third World children. Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, has stated that the U.S. is not looking to negotiate peace with the Taliban and Al-Quida in Afghanistan. There is a clear indifference to the daily carnage in Afghanistan, where sixty percent of the casualties are women and children. Human rights organizations have expressed concern over reports of large-scale executions of would-be Taliban defectors in the city of Kunduz, and the United Nations has echoed human rights groups in demanding an investigation into the slaughter of prisoners at the Qala-i-Jhangi fort near Mazar-i-Sharif. With more than 500 people dead and the fort littered with bodies, allegations of war crimes against the U.S. and UK for ignoring the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war have led the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to call for an urgent inquiry.

“Once we recognize the pattern of activity designed to simultaneously consolidate control over Middle Eastern and South Asian oil and contain and colonize the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan is exactly where they need to go to pursue that agenda.”11

In his book The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brezezinski writes that the Eurasian Balkans are a potential economic prize which hold an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil and important minerals as well as gold.

Brezezinski declares that the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea basin are “known to contain reserves of natural gas and oil that dwarf those of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea.”12 Afghanistan will serve as a base of operations to begin the control over the South Asian Republic in order to build a pipeline through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to deliver petroleum to the Asian market. This pipeline will serve as a bonanza of wealth for the US oil companies.

Conclusion:

An examination of the American conduct of its wars since World War II shows the US to be in violation of the Nuremberg Principles, the 1949 Geneva Convention relating to protection of civilian prisoners of war, the wounded and sick, and the amended Nuremberg Principles as formulated by the International Law Commission in 1950 proscribing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The massive murder and destruction of civilian infrastructure through the use of biological, chemical and depleted uranium weapons violates not only international laws but the moral and humanitarian standards expected in modern civilization.

— source globalresearch.ca By Lenora Foerstel and Brian S. Willson

Goldman Sachs ordered to pay $120 million penalty for rate manipulation

Goldman Sachs has been ordered to pay a $120 million civil penalty to settle charges that it often tried to manipulate a global dollar benchmark for interest rate products over a five-year period, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Wednesday. The CFTC said in a statement that Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) attempted on “many occasions” from January 2007 to March 2012 to manipulate the U.S. Dollar International Swaps and Derivatives Association Fix benchmark. The firm also was ordered to take steps to prevent similar future misconduct, which involved multiple trading desks and product lines, the CFTC said.

— source reuters.com