8th March 2017
8th March 2017
6th Feb 2017
The majority-Muslim country of Kuwait currently has a visa ban on three of the seven countries named in President Trump’s recent executive order, calling into question the alleged Islamophobic nature of the “Muslim ban.” Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, and yet passport holders from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have reportedly not been able to obtain visas to enter the country since 2011.
Kuwaiti officials note the problematic “instability” of the countries – specifically, internal conflict and terrorism – as reasons for the travel restrictions. In 2015, a mosque in Kuwait was bombed, leading to 27 deaths.
Kuwait is not the only Arab state to take a tough stance on travel restrictions from unstable Muslim countries. Lieutenant General Khalfan, Dubai’s head of security even tweeted support for Trump’s executive order:
“We completely support Trump in his ban on entry to those who may cause a breach in America’s security.”
The United Arab Emirates also gave approval to the ban. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said on Wednesday that Trump’s ban was not anti-Islam, and that it was a “sovereign decision” of the United States that must be respected.
It is painfully obvious that there is nothing inherently Islamophobic in Trump’s executive order. The order never uses the word Muslim, and fails to target many of the most populous Muslim countries. The order is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the threat of terrorism coming from these countries.
A threat that Kuwait identified long before Trump.
2nd Feb 2017
A bit of a no-brainer, eh? It has to be the second answer, surely.
Well, you’d think so, but for some it seems, the first option is far worse than the latter.
How else to explain that large sections of the Western liberal-left seem to be more incensed by Donald Trump’s ban on visitors from some Muslim countries (unjust though it is) than they were by the war which destroyed Libya, a country that had the highest living standards in Africa.
In their anti-Trump crusade, some ‘progressives’ appear perfectly happy to link arms and sing ‘Kumbaya’ with the serial warmongers who unleashed the carnage which caused the refugee crisis in the first place?
Trump’s executive order has caused a furious liberal backlash which Obama’s backing of jihadist death squads in Syria never did. It has led to widespread protests in the US and UK. Over 1.7 million people have signed a petition calling for the State visit of the American president to the UK to be called off. In the House of Commons on Monday, Trump was called a fascist and likened to Hitler and Mussolini, while outside Downing Street angry demonstrators shouted ‘Donald Trump has got to go!’ Parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts said the eyes of politician Yvette Cooper were “bulging so much she could have gone to a fancy dress party as Marty Feldman.”
“If the Olympic Games ever goes in for synchronized crossness, we’ll be dead certs for a medal position,” Letts observed.
If you can’t remember this level of ‘synchronized crossness’ during Barack Obama’s bombing of Libya, then it’s not surprising. Similar protests did not occur. There was no talk of a Hollywood strike. Yvette Cooper’s eyes did not bulge; she supported the refugee-making bombing of Libya as she did the refugee-making Iraq war.
You don’t have to be a Trump supporter to acknowledge that ‘Barack O’Bomber’ and his predecessors in the White House have got off very lightly. Deportations? The ‘liberal’ Obama deported more than 2.5 million undocumented migrants between 2009-2015 and a record 438,421 people in 2013.
To the best of my knowledge, Owen Jones organized no protests.
Trump’s executive order didn’t just appear out of thin air, the list of ‘countries of concern’ was, as Seth Frantzman has pointed out, already compiled by the Obama administration. “The media should also be truthful with the public and instead of claiming Trump singled out seven countries, it should not that the US Congress and Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had singled out these countries,” Frantzan says.
The hypocrisy doesn’t end there.
We’ve heard a lot these last few days about how Trump’s ban is an “assault on American values” (Obama himself has said ‘American values’ are at stake) conjuring up an image of the pre-Trump USA whose doors were opened wide for migrants and refugees from all over the world
The truth is that for a long time it’s been pretty tough to get into the US if you’re in possession of the ‘wrong’ kind of passport, and sometimes even if you have the ‘right’ one.
“Americans seem to think it’s alright to subject everyone else to the pointless rigmarole of passing through their Homeland Security but when they travel they expect to be allowed through other countries’ immigration without fuss,” writes Peter Hill in the Daily Express.
We all know someone who’s been turned back at US immigration as they failed one entry requirement or another, and has been sent straight back home on the next flight. The son of Hungarian friends of ours always dreamed of going to the US, and hoped to work there, but he was turned back on arrival as the authorities didn’t believe he had enough money to support himself.
Fair enough, it’s the US authorities’ call; America is a sovereign country, and they set their own rules of entry. This tough approach at the borders didn’t just start on Friday when Dr. Evil aka Donald Trump formally became president.
That said, there are legitimate grounds to object to what the new president has ordered.
Even though he wasn’t responsible for the regime change wars which caused the migrant crisis, and has promised a less meddlesome foreign policy, Trump should at least acknowledge that the US has a moral obligation to take in refugees from countries that the US, under previous administrations, has set out to destabilize.
We can also question why some countries are affected by the temporary ban, and others not. If national security is the issue, why wasn’t Saudi Arabia, the home country of 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, on the list? I’m not suggesting Saudi nationals should be banned from the US, only pointing out the omission.
But unfair as it undoubtedly is, the reaction to Trump’s executive order has been overblown, if we compare it to the non-reaction to far worse things US governments have done. As Bertolt Brecht might have said if he was still around: What’s refusing a visa to a Libyan, compared to bombing him? The Nuremberg judgment of 1946 rightly held that to initiate a war of aggression was the “supreme international crime,” but that seems to have been forgotten today.
Such is the ‘Sorosification’ of the Western liberal-left that to impose controls on immigration is now regarded as a more heinous crime than launching brutal, imperialist wars of aggression, which are a prime cause of the significant level of migration from the Middle East. At the same time, the people who create and propagandize for destructive wars for economic gain against countries of the global south, are regarded as less reprehensible than those who advocate visa restrictions, especially if they come out and condemn visa restrictions.
Liberals, for instance, fawned over the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright when she said she “stands ready” to “register as Muslim” in “solidarity” against Trump. The very same Madeline Albright once declared that the death of half a million (predominantly Muslim) children in Iraq due to sanctions was a price that was “worth it.”
Will Albright be met with large-scale protests next time she comes to the UK for defending infanticide in Iraq? Don’t hold your breath. She’s against ‘The Donald’ so must be a good ‘un.
Serial warmonger John McCain has also come out to blast Trump’s executive order. He’s the man who, when asked what he was going to do about Iran if elected president, sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” to the Beach Boys tune Barbara Ann.
How many Muslims would have been killed if McCain had bombed Iran? But hey, he opposes Trump’s visa ban, so he must be a pretty cool dude. Let’s invite the wannabe bomber of Teheran on the next ’Solidarity with Muslims’ protest, shall we?
In 2015, a report called Body Count, the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, revealed that at least 1.3 million people had lost their lives in the US-led ‘war on terror’ in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.’ As I wrote at the time: As awful as that sounds, the total of 1.3 million deaths does not take into account casualties in other war zones, such as Yemen – and the authors stress that the figure is a “conservative estimate.”
The vast majority of these deaths will have been Muslims. What a pity their deaths, and the deaths of countless others in US-led regime change ops and “liberal interventions,” did not lead to the same level of ‘synchronized crossness’ that Trump’s executive order has.
18th Jan 2017
About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online.
The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists.
The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA.
The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files.
They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland.
The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
Among the more unusual records are documents from the Stargate Project, which dealt with psychic powers and extrasensory perception.
Those include records of testing on celebrity psychic Uri Geller in 1973, when he was already a well-established performer.
Memos detail how Mr Geller was able to partly replicate pictures drawn in another room with varying – but sometimes precise – accuracy, leading the researchers to write that he “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner”.
Other unusual records include a collection of reports on flying saucers, and the recipes for invisible ink.
While much of the information has been technically publicly available since the mid-1990s, it has been very difficult to access.
The records were only available on four physical computers located in the back of a library at the National Archives in Maryland, between 09:00 and 16:30 each day.
A non-profit freedom of information group, MuckRock, sued the CIA to force it to upload the collection, in a process which took more than two years.
At the same time, journalist Mike Best crowd-funded more than $15,000 to visit the archives to print out and then publicly upload the records, one by one, to apply pressure to the CIA.
“By printing out and scanning the documents at CIA expense, I was able to begin making them freely available to the public and to give the agency a financial incentive to simply put the database online,” Best wrote in a blog post.
In November, the CIA announced it would publish the material, and the entire declassified CREST archive is now available on the CIA Library website.
11th Jan 2017
President Barack Obama will step down after eight years as commander in chief with one of the most influential tenures leading the U.S. military, but not necessarily the political support of service members.
His moves to slim down the armed forces, move away from traditional military might and overhaul social policies prohibiting the service of minority groups have proven divisive in the ranks. His critics have accused him of trading a strong security posture for political points, and for allowing the rise of terrorists like the Islamic State group whom the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to silence.
But Obama’s supporters define him as the Nobel Peace Prize winner who ordered the elimination of Osama bin Laden and refocused military strategy while wrestling with an uncooperative Congress and unprecedented budget restrictions. They insist the military is more nimble now, and more prepared to deal with unconventional warfare against non-traditional threats across the globe.
More than half of troops surveyed in the latest Military Times/Institute for Veterans and Military Families poll said they have an unfavorable opinion of Obama and his two-terms leading the military. About 36 percent said they approve of his job as commander in chief.
Their complaints include the president’s decision to decrease military personnel (71 percent think it should be higher), his moves to withdraw combat troops from Iraq (59 percent say it made America less safe) and his lack of focus on the biggest dangers facing America (64 percent say China represents a significant threat to the U.S.)
But more than two-thirds support Obama’s mantra that securing America means building strong alliances with foreign powers. And more than 60 percent think his use of drones and special forces teams for precision strikes — instead of large-scale military operations — has helped U.S. national security.
That’s a conflicted response to a president who entered the White House vowing to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan but instead leaves as the first American president to oversee two full terms with combat troops deployed to hostile zones.
full article here: http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/obama-legacy-military?
10th Jan 2017
Most Americans would probably be astounded to realize that the president who has been painted by Washington pundits as a reluctant warrior has actually been a hawk. The Iran nuclear deal, a herculean achievement, and the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba unfortunately stand alone as President Obama’s successful uses of diplomacy over hostility.
While candidate Obama came to office pledging to end George W Bush’s wars, he leaves office having been at war longer than any president in US history. He is also the only president to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.
President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.
Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.
While most of these air attacks were in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also rained down on people in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. That’s seven majority-Muslim countries.
One bombing technique that President Obama championed is drone strikes. As drone-warrior-in-chief, he spread the use of drones outside the declared battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly to Pakistan and Yemen. Obama authorized over 10 times more drone strikes than George W Bush, and automatically painted all males of military age in these regions as combatants, making them fair game for remote controlled killing.
President Obama has claimed that his overseas military adventures are legal under the 2001 and 2003 authorizations for the use of military force passed by Congress to go after al-Qaida. But today’s wars have little or nothing to do with those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
The twisted legal architecture the Obama administration has constructed to justify its interventions, especially extrajudicial drone killings with no geographic restrictions, will now be transferred into the erratic hands of Donald Trump.
What does the administration have to show for eight years of fighting on so many fronts? Terrorism has spread, no wars have been “won” and the Middle East is consumed by more chaos and divisions than when candidate Barack Obama declared his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.
While the switch from US troops on the ground to airstrikes and special forces has saved US lives, untold numbers of foreign lives have been snuffed out. We have no idea how many civilians have been killed in the massive bombings in Iraq and Syria, where the US military is often pursuing Isis in the middle of urban neighborhoods. We only sporadically hear about civilian killings in Afghanistan, such as the tragic bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz that left 42 dead and 37 wounded.
Pushed to release information about civilian deaths in drone strikes, in July 2016 the US government made the absurd claim it had killed, at most, 116 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between 2009 and 2015. Journalists and human rights advocates said the numbers were ridiculously low and unverifiable, given that no names, dates, locations or others details were released. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has tracked drone strikes for years, said the true figure was six times higher.
Given that drones account for only a small portion of the munitions dropped in the past eight years, the numbers of civilians killed by Obama’s bombs could be in the thousands. But we can’t know for sure as the administration, and the mainstream media, has been virtually silent about the civilian toll of the administration’s failed interventions.
In May 2013, I interrupted President Obama during his foreign policy address at the National Defense University. I had just returned from visiting the families of innocent people killed by US drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, including the Rehman children who saw their grandmother blown to bits while in the field picking okra.
Speaking out on behalf of grieving families whose losses have never been acknowledged by the US government, I asked President Obama to apologize to them. As I was being dragged out, President Obama said: “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”
Too bad he never did.
9th Jan 2017
Five months after his 32nd birthday, Aaron Causey stepped on a bomb. The newlywed from Alabama was on his second overseas Army deployment, working as an explosives technician in Afghanistan. That morning in 2011, Aaron was on the hunt, peering inside tunnels for improvised explosive devices.
Before he saw the small bundle of plastic and copper wires, he had stepped on it. The blast ripped off his legs and traveled through his groin. One testicle was destroyed, only two-thirds of the other remained.
Four days later in a German hospital, Kat Causey walked into her husband’s hospital room. “Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up,” she told herself. The words repeated in her head as she stared at Aaron. How can he still be alive, she wondered. Her husband was in pieces. Surely their plans for having a baby were shattered.
The blast from an IED hits from below. It can hollow out a soldier’s pelvis, shredding the shaft of the penis, obliterating testicles and destroying the bladder and the tubes that carry urine and sperm.
Fighting on the front lines in Afghanistan means hopping out of trucks to walk on foot in terrain too rugged for military vehicles. Experts say service members are more vulnerable to IED blasts than ever before.
That could explain why more than 1,400 U.S. troops suffered injuries to the penis, testicles or bladder from 2001 to 2013 while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their average age was 24. Experts describe the rise of genital injuries from combat as “unprecedented.”
Blasts powerful enough to amputate legs and genitalia used to mean almost certain death. These days, advanced medical care in the field and quick evacuation to specialist trauma centers means soldiers who suffer severe blast injuries have a better chance of surviving.
Surviving means repeat surgeries, re-imagining relationships and wondering if you’ll ever enjoy sex or have children. And while there are more conversations about brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder in troops, experts and families say there’s not enough discussion about the men who return home with the most taboo of injuries.
At his office in the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Army Maj. Steven Hudak tracks the number of wounded military service members. When he’s not treating the injured — Dr. Hudak is a reconstructive urologist — he studies the Department of Defense Trauma Registry to learn what kinds of injuries are afflicting military members across the services.
In a recent paper published in the Journal of Urology, Hudak and colleagues wrote that there are more U.S. service members surviving with genitourinary injuries than ever before in the history of war. They described the different types of genital trauma suffered by young military men and said the range of trauma to the penis and testicles is varied.
“There’s no characteristic pattern among the men who have penile injuries,” Hudak says. “Really every service member that I’ve treated for a penile injury had a different kind of injury.”
Of the more than 1,400 men who suffered injuries to the genitals while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan over a 12-year period, 75 men died from their wounds and were excluded from the analysis.
Hudak found that of the 1,367 wounded service members who survived, 3 out of 4 had injuries to the penis, scrotum or testicles. A third had injuries that were classified as severe and 84 suffered severe injuries to the penis.
In a separate study of soldiers injured in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom between 2001 and 2011, Hudak’s team found 501 men suffered genital and urinary system injuries and that 1 in 5 of them had an injury to the penis.
Overall, the greatest number of severe injuries were among those who had testicular damage, says Hudak. “That obviously has a different set of ramifications with regards to long-term fertility potential.”
28th Dec 2016
Dying at the age of 74, Doris Stauffer had suffered from dementia in her later years. During her time alive, she was cared for by her son, Jim Stauffer.
When the time came to put his mother to rest in 2013, Stauffer made the choice to donate he brain to medical research, hoping to possibly help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Not knowing where to turn, Stauffer took the advice of a nurse and contacted the now-defunct Biological Research (BRC), a company that brokers donations of human remains for the purposes of research. Signing a series of forms (including one prohibiting military, traffic-safety and other non-medical experiments), he watched as his mother was carted away by a BRC vehicle driver.
Ten days later, Stauffer received Doris’ cremated remains, not being told how they were used.
An investigation by Reuters would later show that the ashes Stauffer received were not that of a whole body- but just the hand of his mother. The rest, records show, went to a taxpayer-funded research project for the US Army, testing the effects of roadside bomb blasts (also known as IEDs) on human beings.
Dying an aging civilian in her 70s, Doris Stauffer’s body suffered the fate similar to that suffered by many young service members over the past decade- and then some.
Informed by a Reuters reporter instead of the US Army or the BRC, Jim Stauffer made attempts to hide his horror as he clutched his wife’s arm.
“We did right,” his wife, Lisa, told him. “They just did not honor our wishes.”
Internal records from the BRC and US Army show that 20 other bodies were used in the blast experiments without donor/relative permission, violating US Army policy. The bodies were sold by BRC for a little under six grand each.
Reuters reports that over 20,000 body parts from 5,000 corpses have been sold by BRC in over a decade, eventually resulting in the company going under- with CEO Stephen Gore pleaded guilty to fraud in 2015.
In a statement to Reuters, Gore said he tried to honor the wishes of donors and sent forms when researchers asked for them.
“This was an industry that had no formal regulations,” he said. “Many times I was simply overwhelmed and I tried to do the right thing but often did not.”
Army officials claim never received the consent signed forms from donors or their families, relying on assurances from BRC that families had consented to let the bodies be used in such experiments.
While the case into BRC is a long one, the US Army experiments were a little more cut-and-dry.
In the wake of two long, brutal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, blast research has been a hard-fought and crucial learning curve in the study of IED blasts on the human body. What has been learned so far is that the most vulnerable body parts are those in contact with the inside surfaces of the vehicle.
“It’s your feet, your butt in the seat, and to some extent your back,” said Army project director and civilian engineer Randy Coates, who works at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground.
While crash dummies were initially useful, they were unable to properly collect data on all angles of a blast effect, being unable to determine the effect of blasts from under a vehicle.
Enter the medical cadaver, which was able to sufficiently collect data from all angles. However, while cadavers were better at measuring blast effects, they could not replicate wounds- which prompted the US Army to create a test dummy that could show the effect of explosions. The US Army project that used Stauffer’s mother was such an experiment, which included more than one hundred deceased bodies and included researchers from nine universities.
Coates said that while donated bodies are not obliterated in explosions, the blasts do break bones and spines. In one experiment, two bodies wired to 100 biosensors flailed about but were left intact.
While the US Army has a policy requiring donors and next of kin to consent to the experiments, less than half of 34 people who were donated/self-donated were not informed of the experiments. Of those families, 16 did not want military experiments conducted. Twelve had explicitly rejected violent experiments and four made no choice.
Many families are outraged, including Marla Yale, whose grandfather -Army veteran Kurt Hollstein- had explicitly rejected being used by the government, an act of protest against the poor treatment he was provided by the VA. He died of cancer in 2013.
“This is almost beyond belief that his entire body went somewhere else without his permission, and especially to a place that he absolutely did not want to be,” Yale said after Reuters informed her of her grandfather’s fate. “To go to the Department of Defense is absolutely mind-boggling.”
Coates has rebutted that the Army acted in good faith, as it had believed that the consent forms they received from BRC were valid. When it was discovered that BRC was not acting within the law, the US Army halted the experiments and sent an officer to investigate.
“The Army was a victim of BRC business practices,” he said.
BRC head Stephen Gore had previously worked as an insurance salesman prior to creating his company and had no higher education credentials at the time of the company’s founding.
CHEMICAL experts say blood banks should stop accepting donated blood containing high levels of the potentially deadly chemicals at the centre of the Australian Defence Force contamination crisis.
However, Red Cross Blood Service spokeswoman Rebecca DiGirolamo insists there is “no evidence” to suggest donations with large amounts of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) pose a risk to recipients.
But contamination experts disagree and are urging blood banks to immediately cease using donations containing high levels of the toxins.
The warning came after Adelaide man Geoff Fuller, who had a 36-year career as a firefighter at airports including Adelaide Airport, was informed by the blood service last week that he was no longer allowed to donate blood.
Mr Fuller, a regular donor, said he was told so after tests revealed he had high levels of PFOS and PFOA — part of the per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) group of toxins — in his system.
However, two days later Mr Fuller, of Underdale, was contacted by the service and told staff at the blood bank had overreacted and would resume accepting his blood.
PFOS and PFOA, which have contaminated more than a dozen army, navy and air force bases, including the Edinburgh RAAF base, have been linked to cancer in people and animals in numerous studies across the world.
The toxins, which do not break down in the environment, were used in firefighting foam at defence bases and airports until the early 2000s.
Professor Ravi Naidu, from independent contamination research and assessment organisation CRC Care, was adamant blood banks should not accept donations from people with high levels of PFOS and PFOA in their system.
He warned there was “significant risk” associated with transfusing blood contaminated with the toxins.
“Donations from people who have been exposed to PFAS and who demonstrate presence of PHAS must not be accepted,” Professor Naidu said.
Dr Marianna Lloyd-Smith, from the National Toxics Network, agreed blood donations should not be accepted from people who have been exposed to high levels of PFOS and PFOA.
“They have significantly higher levels and you really wouldn’t want them to be giving blood,” she said.
“I would suggest that they speak to their blood donation officers and tell them. I (also) think the blood banks need to be proactive and ask people.”
Blood testing of some aviation firefighters has found their levels