Watch the US State Department Try To Explain Why US Weapons Keep Ending Up in Al-Qaeda’s Hands

US State Department officials refuse to comment on reports that CIA weapons meant for ‪‎Syrian‬ “rebels” are magically stolen, again, and somehow ended up in Al Qaeda / Al Nusra hands. Funny how that keeps on happening.

“No Comment.”

“It’s an ongoing investigation.”

Then AP’s Matt Lee says, “How long should I hold my breath”.

Referring to how long it will take for some explanation as to why, mysteriously albeit, US weapons meant for “moderate Syrian rebels” keep on ending up in Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS hands.

— source theduran.com

After Trump Calls Gulf Nation “High Level” Funder of Terrorism, US Sells Qatar $12 Billion in Fighter Jets

Just days after President Donald Trump publicly scolded Qatar for being a “high level” exporter of regional terrorism in the Middle East, its government announced Wednesday the signing of a deal to buy $12 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets from U.S. weapons makers.

The Pentagon justified the massive sale by saying the jets—reportedly 39 of them—would increase “security cooperation” between the two countries.

Last Friday, Trump told reporters at a White House press conference that “Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.” The president then said he had decided to take a harder line with the country.

Oil-rich Qatar is home to a major U.S. airbase in the region and a longtime ally, but the latest weapons sale comes amid boiling tensions in the region centered around ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen as a well as a diplomatic crisis between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

— source commondreams.org

US military admits failures to monitor over $1 billion worth of arms transfers

The US Army failed to keep tabs on more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment in Iraq and Kuwait according to a now declassified Department of Defense (DoD) audit, obtained by Amnesty International following Freedom of Information requests.

The government audit, from September 2016, reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location”of a vast amount of equipment pouring into Kuwait and Iraq to provision the Iraqi Army.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher.

“It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.”

The military transfers came under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF), a linchpin of US-Iraqi security cooperation. In 2015, US Congress appropriated USD$1.6 billion for the programme to combat the advance of IS.

The transfers, which include tens of thousands of assault rifles (worth USD$28 million), hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles, were destined for use by the central Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilisation Units, as well as the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

The DoD audit found several serious shortcomings in how ITEF equipment was logged and monitored from the point of delivery onward, including:

Fragmentary record-keeping in arms depots in Kuwait and Iraq. Information logged across multiple spreadsheets, databases and even on hand-written receipts.
Large quantities of equipment manually entered into multiple spreadsheets, increasing the risk of human error.
Incomplete records meaning those responsible for the equipment were unable to ascertain its location or status.

The audit also claimed that the DoD did not have responsibility for tracking ITEF transfers immediately after delivery to the Iraqi authorities, despite the fact that the department’s Golden Sentry programme is mandated to carry out post-delivery checks.

A previous DoD audit in 2015 pointed to even laxer stockpile monitoring procedures followed by the Iraqi armed forces. In some cases the Iraqi army was unaware of what was stored in its own warehouses, while other military equipment – which had never been opened or inventoried – was stored out in the open in shipping containers.

“The need for post-delivery checks is vital. Any fragilities along the transfer chain greatly increase the risks of weapons going astray in a region where armed groups have wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering,” said Patrick Wilcken.

Arms transfers fuelling atrocities

Amnesty International’s research has consistently documented lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command. This has resulted in arms manufactured in the USA and other countries winding up in the hands of armed groups known to be committing war crimes and other atrocities, such as IS, as well as paramilitary militias now incorporated into the Iraqi army.

In response to the audit, the US military has pledged to tighten up its systems for tracking and monitoring future transfers to Iraq.

However, the DoD made almost identical commitments in response to a report for Congress as long ago as 2007 that raised similar concerns.

“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep re-occurring. This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to Iraq, to urgently shore up checks and controls. Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy; it is just reckless,” said Patrick Wilcken.

“Any state selling arms to Iraq must show that there are strict measures in place to make sure the weapons will not be used to violate rights. Without these safeguards, no transfer should take place.”

Amnesty International is urging the USA to comply with the Leahy Law, which prohibits the supply of most types of US military aid and training to foreign security, military and police units credibly alleged to have committed “gross human rights violations”.

The USA and Iraq must also accede to the global Arms Trade Treaty, which has strict rules in place to stop arms transfers or diversion of arms that could fuel atrocities.

— source amnesty.org

Wait for slave owners to agree

U.N. Considers a Historic Ban on Nuclear Weapons, But U.S. Leads Boycott of the Talks

Some 120 countries gathered at the United Nations this week to draft a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. But the United States is leading a boycott of the talks. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 scientists signed an open letter endorsing the U.N. talks, and, on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the United Nations to pursue the “total elimination” of nuclear weapons.

Zia Mian talking:

The news is not that the U.S. is leading a boycott. We knew the United States wasn’t going to participate and that it’s been trying to force its nuclear NATO allies also to not participate. The news here is that, after 70 years, the vast majority of countries in the world have decided they’ve had enough of waiting for the United States and the other countries with nuclear weapons to keep their promise that they would get rid of nuclear weapons, and said, “Enough is enough. We are now going to create an international treaty that will ban nuclear weapons, and you are going to be nuclear outlaws. And you’re going to have to deal with this new reality.”

It’s taken years and years of effort by non-weapons states and peace movements around the world to build the kind of coalition that it’s taken to bring a resolution to the United Nations last year, in which 123 countries, as you mentioned, voted in support of the beginning of talks. The United States tried actively to block that resolution being passed. It actually sent a classified memo to all of the NATO allies the U.S. protects with its nuclear weapons, saying, “Don’t support this resolution at the United Nations. And if the resolution passes, don’t go, or else.” It was actively threatening its own allies to make sure they wouldn’t participate, because they know that in many of the countries in Europe, in particular, and in countries like Japan, which are protected by U.S. nuclear weapons, public opinion and many parliaments are actually in favor of joining the process to ban nuclear weapons. And it’s taken a lot of effort by the United States to keep these countries out of the process.

you can’t wait for the worst actors in the world before you pass laws about what’s right and wrong. If that was the way the world worked, we would never have banned slavery, if you had to wait for slave owners to agree in advance that slavery is a bad thing. What countries are doing is laying down a marker, just like we did with chemical weapons, biological weapons, land mines, cluster munitions and creating the laws of war, that simple humanitarian principles apply. There are limits on what states are allowed to do, no matter what. You don’t commit genocide. You don’t use chemical weapons, biological weapons, and you shouldn’t use nuclear weapons. And we’re going to pass a law that says having nuclear weapons and threatening to use nuclear weapons and using nuclear weapons is forbidden under international law. And if you’re going to keep your weapons, then you are going to be on the outside of what the international community considers is acceptable.

– other nuclear weapon states—India, Pakistan and so on?

They haven’t said why they wouldn’t participate. But what happened when the U.N. was passing the resolution at the end of last year, which the U.S. tried to block, was that China and India and Pakistan abstained. They didn’t vote no, unlike the United States and Russia and Britain and so on. And there was a possibility that at some stage in the future they might actually think about joining the negotiations, even if they’re not ready right now to sign the treaty, because it’s hard to imagine that countries like China, which have 250 nuclear weapons, are going to agree on a process to ban nuclear weapons, where the United States, which has 7,000 nuclear weapons, is going to sit outside this treaty.

Trump administration’s plan to increase spending on nuclear weapons is perfectly consistent with what President Obama’s administration was also doing, which was increasing spending on nuclear weapons. There is a shared commitment by the U.S. policymaking process on spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to modernize the nuclear weapons, the submarines, the bombers and every part of the nuclear weapons production complex to get ready for a hundred more years of nuclear weapons. And this is part of what this U.N. process is trying to block, which is that we are not willing to live with nuclear weapons for another hundred years.

Not a single nuclear weapon state has actually agreed to be part of the negotiations. And so, first thing is, this is not a debate. This is the negotiation of a treaty, mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations. This is the first time in the history of the nuclear age, since the first creation of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear weapons by the United States in 1945, that there has ever been an international treaty negotiation to ban nuclear weapons. Until now, all negotiations have been limited to a handful of countries, mostly the United States and Russia, about how to reduce marginally the weapons that they hold. This is the first time there has ever been an effort for a treaty to actually ban all nuclear weapons for all countries. So it’s no surprise the nuclear weapon states don’t want to be part of this process.

Trump’s comments reflect a deep and abiding perspective in the United States that nuclear weapons will spread remorselessly and relentlessly to the rest of the world, and that the only way to do this is to make sure we have more and bigger weapons and are more ready to use them than anybody else, and therefore we’ll maintain a decisive advantage over any other state. This is what drove the arms race with the Soviet Union from the very beginning. You have to remember that when the United States made and used nuclear weapons at the end of World War II, for the first few years it was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons. And in 1946, the United Nations, newly formed, passed its very first resolution: Resolution 1. The first thing the United States ever—United Nations ever talked about and agreed on was the need for a plan to eliminate nuclear weapons. And the United States said no.

I think what’s different this time is that after 70 years of seeing what nuclear weapons have done, the rest of the world, the 120 countries, which is the vast majority of countries in the world, have decided they do not want this as the future. After 70 years of nuclear weapons, there are still only nine countries with nuclear weapons. There are dozens and dozens of countries that tomorrow could begin to make nuclear weapons, if they wished. But these are countries that are sitting in the room in the United Nations, saying, “We want to make sure that this never happens for anyone,” not that “Let’s all go out and defend ourselves the way that the United States thinks that you should do, which is by the threat to commit genocide by using nuclear weapons.”

The focus on Japan is—comes from three factors. The first of this is that, because of the situation in North Korea and the U.S. military commitments to Japan, Trump and others in the U.S. policymaking process feel that it’s only by trying to raise the stakes in East Asia, by threatening to further arm and perhaps allow nuclear weapons to go to Japan and South Korea, that you can intimidate both North Korea and China. And this has been a constant refrain among some elements of the U.S. policymaking process, that you just have to raise the stakes and reduce the cost to the United States directly for its military guarantees to these countries. But the fact of the matter is that in Japan and in South Korea, there is no real domestic constituency for going nuclear. These are countries where, in Japan, its constitution forbids it to go to war. The idea that Japan is suddenly going to go off and start making nuclear weapons is unthinkable,

the U.S. forced that Article 9 into their constitution. The U.S. wrote the Japanese constitution after World War II. And this tells you where things have come as to how far the Trump administration has gone beyond what’s been considered acceptable for so long.

two comments on Nikki Haley. First, the idea that the United States—right?—needs nuclear weapons to defend itself, and that this does no harm, because this is how you keep peace. All countries want to feel secure. All countries want to see peace in the world. So why shouldn’t all countries go off and seek nuclear weapons, including North Korea, given that the United States has threatened them repeatedly, including with the use of nuclear weapons? And so, the fallacy of Nikki Haley’s argument is exposed absolutely clearly, that the United States and its friends uniquely have the right to protect themselves using nuclear weapons, but God forbid that anybody else should want to do the same thing. This is just an unsustainable and fundamentally immoral perspective, that we want to be able to commit mass murder to defend us, and we call it keeping the peace, but anybody else wants to have the same right, only it’s absolutely intolerable and illegal, and we have to mobilize the international community to defeat this effort.

The second is the idea that nuclear weapons do no harm as a way to keep the peace. The fact is, the United States, along with other nuclear weapon states, have the capacity to destroy civilization. And they’ve known this from the very beginning, from the first dropping of the atom bomb in Hiroshima, that one bomb destroys an entire city. And if this is your notion of what keeping the peace is in the modern world, then you actually have no right to speak about peace and security as part of a civilized community. Mass murder is no way to keep the peace.

I think all American presidents would consider dropping the bomb. You have to remember, the United States is the only country that had the choice to not do it, but chose to do it. And every president has retained the option, no matter what they’ve said, to use nuclear weapons, including President Obama, despite his promises to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. He was the one that when the chance came to say we would not use nuclear weapons first in a war, he didn’t do it. And so, the option to go first and to start nuclear war is a right that American presidents have kept to themselves and seek to deny everybody else.

President Obama’s trillion-dollar modernization of nuclear weapons means is that when it came down to making deals with Republicans in the Congress, the Obama administration was willing to do a deal on the future of humanity and said, “Look, if you—if we need you to pass legislation through the Senate, and you want more nuclear weapons and more spending on nuclear weapons, we’ll give you that to get what we want.” And the Obama administration made a tragic deal with the Republicans in the Senate. But the fact of the matter is, they could have refused to make that deal. But they decided that it was more important to pursue that legislative priority than to think about what the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years will look like. And that is something that we’re now going to have to wrestle with year by year, because once this process has been put in play, you’ve created enormous vested interests in the nuclear weapons complex, within the military and among the political allies, to try and keep this gravy train for them moving forward for years and years and years. And so, yes, the Obama administration carries an enormous burden of responsibility for this problem.

the letter signed by 3,000 scientists supports the ban treaty, and it’s signed by scientists from all over the world, including many Nobel laureates and people with lifetimes of experience on working on nuclear weapons policy, from many, many countries, including from the United States.

And this goes back to a long tradition of scientists speaking out about nuclear weapons. So, in 1946, Albert Einstein led a group of scientists and wrote a letter to scientists all over the world, asking for a million dollars to begin a campaign to educate the world about the dangers of nuclear weapons. And that tradition of scientists trying to reach out to the world, to policymakers and to the public, as part of their commitment to the democratic process, to say, “Look, as people and as democracies and as believing that people have the right to decide what their governments do, scientists, who understand these things, have an obligation to tell everyone that this is what nuclear weapons mean, these are the dangers, and you—now that you know, you have to decide what you want from your government.”

And so, this letter from scientists is part of a long-standing effort by scientists from all over the world to make democracy work when it comes to nuclear weapons. And this is what the ban treaty process is also all about, that in the international community, it should not be the most powerful military state in the world that decides what happens in the world, but it should be the majority of the world’s community deciding what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. And so, as you mentioned about Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World?, the goal of the ban treaty process, of the very idea of the United Nations, is that the answer to the question “Who rules the world?” is not the people with the biggest and most guns, or in this case the largest number of nuclear weapons, but the majority of countries in the world should decide about how the world works.

Many of the American scientists who signed this letter will certainly be part of the march. But there are scientists all over the world who are committed to this project—scientists from Pakistan, scientists from Russia, scientists from China. There are scientists everywhere who understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and are trying to help their fellow citizens better understand that danger, and give them the tools with which to push back against their governments.

April 22nd for the March for Science is now expanded from a march for science to basically become a march for rationality and reason and fact as the basis for dealing with public policy and decision-making in this country, and to try and defend the very idea of the Enlightenment and the idea that reason and democracy need facts and ideas, not sound bites and propaganda, as the way to actually shape how we have a democratic conversation and make decisions in this country.

What happens at the end of this week is that—the countries have been discussing what should be in the treaty. Now they’ll go away and draft their ideas as text for what could be in the treaty, and then they will come back in June and July and actually negotiate, sentence by sentence, what the draft treaty text is. And the chair of the United Nations negotiating process, who’s an amazing woman ambassador from Costa Rica, is actually going to then present a draft text of a treaty for countries to take back to their capitals and consider. And the hope is that by the end of this year, we may actually begin the process of having countries sign up to a treaty that will declare nuclear weapons to be illegal. Costa Rica does not have a military.
____

Zia Mian
physicist, nuclear expert and disarmament activist. He is co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. Mian is co-author of Unmaking the Bomb: A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation.

— source democracynow.org

Army Failed to Keep Track of $1 Billion Worth of Arms in Iraq & Kuwait

A newly declassified Pentagon audit has revealed that the U.S. Army has failed to keep track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment, including tens of thousands of assault rifles and hundreds of armored vehicles, in Iraq and Kuwait. Amnesty International, who obtained the Pentagon report, said, “It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of U.S. arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.”

— source democracynow.org

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

No More Holiday Gifts for Repressive Regimes

The U.S. is selling weapons to a country that’s killing a child every 10 minutes. That has to stop.

While the world has been transfixed on the epic tragedy in Syria, another tragedy — a hidden one — has been consuming the children of Yemen.

Battered by the twin evils of war and hunger, every 10 minutes a child in Yemen dies from malnutrition, diarrhea, or respiratory-tract infections, UNICEF reports. And without immediate medical attention, over 400,000 kids suffering from severe acute malnutrition could die, too.

Why are so many of Yemen’s children going hungry and dying?

Since 2014, Yemen has been wracked by a civil war — a war that’s been exacerbated by intervention from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally. Since 2015, the Saudis have been pounding this nation, the poorest in the Middle East, with cluster bombs and explosives.

And the U.S. has been helping, selling the Saudis advanced weapons and providing intelligence and logistical support.

This nearly two-year-old bombing campaign has killed thousands of innocent Yemenis and sparked a severe humanitarian crisis. A desert country, Yemen imports 90 percent of its food. But thanks to a Saudi naval blockade and the bombing of the country’s main port, imports have dried up.

Subsequent shortages have led food prices to soar. Meanwhile, the war has left millions of people unemployed and displaced. Unable to buy the high-priced food, they’re forced to depend on humanitarian aid for their survival.

UN and private relief organizations have been mobilizing to respond to the crisis, but a staggering 18.8 million people — out of a population of 25 million — need assistance. The situation is only getting worse as the war drags on and the winter cold sets in.

At the same time, the UN Refugee Agency has received less than half the funds it needs.

The nation’s health system is also on the verge of collapse. Less than a third of the country’s population has access to medical care, and only half of its health facilities are functional. Diseases such as cholera and measles are spreading, taking a heavy toll on children.

The only way to end the humanitarian crisis is to end the conflict. That means pushing harder for a political solution and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Until that happens, the United States should stop its military support for the Saudi regime.

Despite the repressive nature of the Saudi regime, for decades U.S. administrations have supported the Saudi government both diplomatically and militarily. Under Obama alone, weapons sales to the Saudis reached a whopping $115 billion.

Concerned over the high rate of civilian casualties, on December 12 the White House took the rare step of stopping the sale of 16,000 guided munition kits. This is a great step forward, but it represents only a small fraction of total U.S. weapons sales to the Saudi regime.

In fact, at the same time the White House announced it was blocking this $350 million deal, the State Department announced plans to sell 48 Chinook cargo helicopters and other equipment worth 10 times as much.

Moreover, the coming Trump administration might well restore all sales. That’s why it’s important for Congress, which has the authority to block weapons sales but seldom actually does, to step forward and take a stand.

Selling weapons to a repressive regime should never be allowed. And today, when these weapons are leading to the death of a Yemeni child every 10 minutes, the sales are simply unconscionable. The time to stop them is now.

— source otherwords.org By Medea Benjamin