The New Cold War

 

 

 

MH17 – Sacrificed Airliner

 

by ANDRE VLTCHEK

 

The special train carrying refrigerated corpses from the MH17 catastrophe has left the station of Torez, just a few miles from the crash site. People, who died a terrible death onboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, will soon be reunited with their grieving families. They will receive a proper funeral, and will be laid to rest in the Netherlands, Malaysia and several other countries. They are on their way home, at last.

The Ukrainian rebels handed over the black boxes to international authorities. The investigation can begin. It hopefully will begin, unobstructed by political maneuvering.

Will the Empire allow the investigation to follow its course? The Western propaganda machine is in full gear. The twisting of facts, obscuring of evidence, and maneuvering public opinion all over the world: all this is being done with determination and routinely applied precision.

So much is at stake! Increasing cooperation between Russia, Latin America and China could mean the end of Western neo-colonial control of the world. The creation of alternatives to the World Bank can free billions of human beings from market feudalism and its slavery. Powerful news organizations broadcasting from Russia (RT), Venezuela (TeleSur) and Iran (Press TV) are consistently breaking the depressing and nihilistic monopoly of Western propaganda and control of people’s brains all over the world.

The more liberating these trends and waves are for the world, the more panic there is in Washington, London and Paris, but also on Wall Street and in the City, as well as in the newsrooms of the corporate media.

The West is terrified. Its ‘exceptionalism’, tremendous profits from controlling everything that moves on this planet, the kick of being in charge and holding the whip, all this can disappear if these waves of resistance are not reversed!

And the villains are damned Russia and Putin, who is refusing to yield. Putin is despicable, and a real nuisance in the eyes of the Empire, because he is unwilling to sacrifice, or to destroy his own country as Yeltsin had done two decades earlier. The villains are also those bloody Chinese, because they are sticking to their ideals, to socialism the Chinese way, while lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The other villains are those bastards from Latin America, with their big dreams and humanism, their revolutions and sudden refusal to sacrifice their own people for the wellbeing of the Western elites.

And all of them – these three disobedient parts of the world, three cohorts – are now getting closer and closer together, forging an as yet undefined alliance, but an alliance nevertheless, increasing cooperation, signing treaties, creating alternative organizations, and saying “No!” to the world order. And more countries are looking at all this with hope; more are joining the club of the free. Not absolutely free, but free from Western colonial terror, which is now perhaps the worst kind of terror that exists on this planet (including those horrid derivates of the regime, implanted all over the planet).

To fight these dissident nations openly, to do it on ideological or moral grounds, is impossible. They would most certainly not lose! By now it should be too obvious, it should be too clear who is on the ‘right and wrong sides of history’.

Therefore, the “smear” is the only way for the Empire to advance its destructive cause. Or at least it is the most effective way. The good old way of discrediting one’s enemy, was by dragging him through filth, by turning his achievements into failures, his heroic resistance into hideous crimes. The Brits perfected this, ruling their colonies for centuries, by deceit and perverse philosophical concepts. The German Nazis were fairly effective as well.

The way it stands, there is nothing good that Russia can do. There is nothing decent about China (it is Communist when it suits Western propaganda or ‘more capitalist than traditionally capitalist countries are’, when it fits the bill). Venezuela with its direct democracy is dictatorial. And so on.

And now the plane… The second Malaysian Boeing 777 lost in one single year… Both belonged to one of the best airlines on earth, with a great maintenance record for its equipment! Strange, very strange… But Russia is certainly to blame. Because the President of the United States said so, because the British PM said so… No proof is needed. The Western public is extremely obedient.

Now the bodies are going! From a small Torez station, they are going home, wrapped in bags.

They are victims of something that many decent people all over the world are even afraid to formulate in their minds.

The area of Eastern Ukraine that they – the corpses – are now leaving, is full of local victims, too – those civilian victims of ethnic cleansing, whose only fault is that their maternal tongue happened to be Russian, or that they do not or cannot live in a country run by the pro-Western fascist dictatorship of the ‘Chocolate King’, Poroshenko, and his gangsters.

Now civilians are dying, every day. That does not bother the Western regime. Killing the rebels, their families and neighbors, is encouraged. Burning people in Odessa, burning them alive, is not even criticized in the lackey corporate media. The entire debate and coverage of events has become grotesque and sick.

More then 100,000 people have recently crossed into Russia, seeking refuge from Ukrainian bombers and rockets, or perhaps more, most likely much more.

Russian lives do not count. Asian lives do not count. African lives do not count. Middle Eastern lives do not count. The lives of Latin Americans do not count. That is why the West so freely and without hesitation has murdered tens of millions of ‘unpeople’, for decades and centuries.

The formula is simple: Dutch tourists do count. Ukrainian villagers don’t. It was quite similar during Nazi control of Europe.

***

Right after the tragedy, the legendary thinker and Chief Editor of “The Greanville Post”, Patrice Greanville, summarized the events and predicted what is coming. He did it with deadly accuracy:

The US TV networks —the West’s Ministry of Truth organs—and other media have been blabbering almost nonstop for the past few hours about the Malaysian airliner down in Ukraine.

In the early reports on CBS, ABC, etc., I perceive a marked tendency to suggest “Russia or her proxies did it”, in this case also involving the “Pro-Russia separatists” in East Ukraine, who supposedly “have been shooting at planes” (the implication is indiscriminately) in their struggle against Kiev’s all-out military offensive.

As you probably agree, this is either an outright blatant provocation by the West, or a direct result of Washington’s criminal policies in Ukraine.

It’s easy to determine several scenarios in varying degrees of plausibility and culpability. While it’s plausible the plane was shot down by Eastern Ukraine separatists, it’s also obvious they (and Russia) have little to gain from such an act. So at worst, it can be argued it was simply an error on their part.

Indeed, if the plane was shot down by a missile, it could have been fired accidentally by the East Ukraine rebels—perfectly understandable given the horrible pounding they’ve been taking by Kiev’s air force, etc.

The second type of suspect involves not error but direct intention and therefore complete culpability. Here the lineup is clear, as the shot could have come from Kievan forces in the region, seeking to heighten tensions as per script, or a third party working for the West…

As usual, the larger context, that the US is the principal and very real meta-cause of this tragedy, will be lost to most in America

Welcome to the new, even higher stakes Cold War, courtesy of the usual bastards in Washington, and their accomplices around the world.

The problem for us now is how to counter the inevitable propaganda wave sure to follow. Brace yourselves for the barrage of hypocrisy and sanctimonious accusations to pour out of Washington’s mouthpieces.”

All this was happening while I was working in Cambodia, trying to counter another fully perverse narrative manufactured by the West in this tortured country, several decades ago.

I met my friend, a fellow war correspondent, Andrew Marshall, and asked him, theoretically, about the coverage of similar events. Andrew is the former head of Reuters in Iraq, who later resigned from the agency because it refused to publish his critical findings about the Thai establishment and its ‘elites’ (I will be soon publishing my full interview with him). He offered his thoughts on the issue of the downed passenger jet. The point he was making: whatever the answer to ‘The question’ is (who is responsible for the act itself?), it does not change the wider geopolitical and ethical issue:

There is a tendency in the 21st century World of 24-hour rolling news coverage to overemphasize and dramatize individual incidents in a conflict, subjecting them to intense coverage, while at the same time failing to analyze the underlying causes and patterns of conflict. The task of analyses is to focus on the “signal”, not the “noise”, but most modern media do the opposite. It’s also clearly true that powerful global interests seek to control the narrative by staging events to drown out the signal with noise. Some opponents of this strategy seek to create their own “noise”, trying to undermine the dominant narrative. In many instances it is justified, but a focus on the noise rather than signal can be counterproductive.

For example, I believe the overwhelming evidence of what happened on 9/11 is that men associated with Al Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This was then exploited by the United States to justify a disastrous “war on terror” in the Muslim world.

The modern news media seize on incidents such as MH17, or 9/11, to exemplify a wider struggle. But in fact, in conflict, all sides tend to commit atrocities sometimes, and all sides make mistakes. In any conflict, innocents on all sides, and innocents unconnected with any side, routinely suffer. This is tragic. But sensible analysts need to avoid conflating the horror and blame of specific incidents within a conflict with the overall moral calculus of the conflict. The two are totally unconnected.”

***

Soon, things began to crystalize. As Western propaganda howling reached a crescendo, I contacted another trusted source, Sergei Kirichuk, the leader of the ‘Borodba’ movement, an influential left-wing organization in Ukraine, which is fully opposed to the Kiev junta, but at the same time maintains its independence, and cannot be defined as fully ‘pro-Russian’. He replied at length, and I have translated most of his quote for this essay:

Without any doubt, the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner has become the most significant political event of the last few years. The tragic death of innocent people shook public opinion in Ukraine and in the entire world. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the tragedy and the information related to it, offers more questions than answers. First, and the most important question, is how did a passenger airliner happen to be in the epicenter of the military conflict? In all those days leading to the tragedy, the mass media was carrying stories about attempts by the insurgents (both successful and unsuccessful attempts) to down airplanes belonging to the Ukrainian military. Earlier it was announced that the airspace was declared closed for civilian aviation. Besides, MH17 deviated significantly from its usual flight path; routinely it was flying more to the south. Answers to these questions should be given through an international investigation.

The second important question is based on the claim by the Ukrainian security services, related to some “intercepted communication of the terrorists”, that the ‘terrorists’ were the ones who downed the plane. This communication appears to be a clear fabrication, fake, but were it to be genuine, it would provoke even more questions towards the Ukrainian security services: would it mean that they were able to monitor the communications of their adversaries, were familiar with their plans, but did nothing to prevent the tragedy?

The most terrible thing is that the tragedy of innocent people who lost their lives is being used by Ukrainian mass media as some sort of justification for the loss of lives of the civilian population in Donbas. The onslaught of the Government forces began with renewed zeal, not caring at all, anymore, about the losses among the armed forces or civilian population.

Besides that, pro-NATO elements now believe that there is solid justification for the invasion of Ukraine by Western forces…”

***

But a leading international lawyer, Christopher Black (he has investigated genocides and crimes against humanity all over the world), based in Toronto, Canada, went even further, and declared in a letter to me:

The downing of the Malaysian airliner was either an accident by the Kiev forces or the anti-fascist forces of the Donetsk Republic, in each instance targeting the plane because they thought that it was a military and therefore a legitimate target, or it was a deliberate attack on a known civilian aircraft.  If it was deliberate then it is a case of mass murder and a war crime since it took place in the midst of hostilities. I wouldn’t call it an act of terrorism as some have said as an act of terrorism is designed to create fear and panic in a population. Clearly those who downed the plane had other motives than creating fear and panic among civilians.

Many writers over the past few days have commented that neither the DPR forces nor Russia had either the equipment in place to hit neither the plane nor the motive to deliberately shoot it down. But there is strong circumstantial evidence that the forces of the Kiev regime had the means, the opportunity and the motive. They had the equipment and engaged in very suspicious actions; they had BUK anti-aircraft systems in place for unknown reasons since the DPR forces have no aircraft, the Ukraine Air Traffic Control ordered the plane’s crew to divert from the regular more southerly route to go north over the combat zone, a Ukraine jet fighter was recorded by Russian radar climbing rapidly towards it just before it went down, and, within minutes of the crash, it was the Kiev regime and its masters in Washington and London who cried loudly that it was the DPR and Russians who were to blame without a shred of evidence to support the claim. And now we know that the Ukraine SBU immediately seized the ATC radar tapes and do not appear to have handed them over to international investigators.

Kiev and Washington also had the motive: to smear Russia and the anti-fascist forces and to provoke the EU to abandon its political and economic relations with Russia. It does not take a Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes to conclude the most likely suspects are in Kiev and Washington not in Donetsk and Moscow.

President Putin has insisted on an objective international investigation since the news broke while President Obama and his minions in Kiev have done nothing but call for the head of Putin.  History shows that President Putin has insisted on adherence to international law and civilized behavior consistently throughout his terms in office. His integrity is unquestioned, whereas President Obama has been consistent in his calls for war, war and more war in every region of the globe and insists that the Americans are “exceptional” and above the law and judgment.

It may be that the results of an independent investigation of this tragic and terrible event will have consequences for the United States that are beyond its imaginings and that will erase any remaining influence or credit that it may still have in the world. They have committed many crimes. This may be the one crime too many.”

***

The presentation of logical arguments and proof, by Moscow, by the rebels, and even by some dissidents inside the Western regime, has not changed the dogged and extremist position of the Empire. But why should it, really, if the entire scenario had been, most likely, manufactured (or at least manipulated) by the neo-con mafia in Washington and by their counterparts in European capitals?

At some point, The Wall Street Journal reported in its article, “Russia Presents Its Account of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash,” and it was refreshing that at least some quotes ‘from the other side’ were able to make it into the mainstream Western media:

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday presented its first detailed account of the final moments of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, saying Russian radar had spotted a second aircraft in the vicinity shortly before the crash and that satellite imagery showed Ukraine had moved missile systems into the area before the incident.

At a news conference, air force chief Igor Makushev didn’t say who the ministry thought had fired the missile that apparently brought down the airliner on Thursday.

In an elaborate presentation displaying radar and satellite imagery, Mr. Makushev said it was likely that the second airplane was a Ukrainian fighter jet. He also showed satellite photos allegedly portraying several Buk ground-to-air missile systems in the area close to where the plane crashed. The systems, he said, could only belong to the Ukrainian military. Ukraine has accused Russia of giving the rebels a Buk system, with which they then shot down the passenger jet.

Mr. Makushev said the airplane deviated from its course by 14 kilometers, but then attempted to return to its course, before crashing shortly after.

He said Russia is prepared to hand all of the information it has to European authorities, which included satellite imagery and data from its own radars.”

***

But there was much more to it – proof after proof painstakingly put together by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. And one is only left to wonder how many ‘objective’ and ‘well-informed’ European and US citizens ever read these accounts.

It is becoming clear and obvious, that even at the height of the so called Cold-War, citizens of the Soviet Union, even countries like Romania, were much better informed and knew more about the lines of thought of their adversaries, than the arrogant and thoroughly brainwashed Westerners now know about the points made by the people in the countries designated as their enemies.

But back to the Russian response:

The Wall Street Journal was referring to what occurred on July 21, 2014, at a Special Briefing by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on the crash of the Malaysian Boeing 777 in Ukrainian air space, the speech was given by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant-General A.V. Kartapolov. For those who are interested in what Russia has to say, these briefings are indispensable.

I worked for several hours, on improving the original translation, while trying to keep the original tone in which this was presented.

General Kartapolov argued that:

After the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 accident on July 17, studying the international flight-plan for, Amsterdam – Kuala Lumpur, we can find a quantity of conflicting information. In this case, the Russian Federation Ministry of

Defense considers it necessary to submit the information which is at the General Staff’s disposal. On the scheme you can see the international flight-path. The

Boeing-777 was supposed to fly on this flight-path. Draw your attention to the fact that the aircraft was flying inside the specified air corridor to Donetsk, but then it deviated north from the route. Meanwhile the maximum distance from the left border of the air corridor was 14 kilometers.

Then we can see that the Boeing-777 turned back to the borders of the specified air corridor. Nevertheless, the Malaysian aircrew didn’t perform the maneuver successfully. At 17.20 the aircraft began registering a rate reduction, at 17.23 the aircraft’s point blinked off on the radar. Why did the aircraft cross the border of the air corridor? Was it a navigation mistake, or the aircrew following the Dnepropetrovsk ground control orders? We will find out the answers after the decoding of the “black boxes” and communications. According to our information on the day of the accident, the Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed 3 to 4 artillery batteries of Buk-M1 missile systems not far from Donetsk. The system can hit targets at a distance of up to 35 kilometers, and at an altitude, up to 22 kilometers. Why did the Ukrainian Armed Forces deploy these air defense units in the Donetsk region? As we know militants don’t have any aircraft.

On the scheme we can see that both the projected impact point and the flight-path are inside the air defense battle zone of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Buk-M1 missile system. We have satellite photos of the Ukrainian Air Defense systems deployed in the Southeast of the country.”

Then the photos of the Buk are shown, near Luhansk and Donetsk. The first three photos are dated July 14, 2014. There are photos from that day to the day of the accident: launchers, radar, all belonging to the Ukrainian military.

After the painstaking photo presentation, the General continued:

I want to expose the airspace situation in the Donetsk area that day. In the picture you can see the information of the objective air traffic control between 17.10 to 17.30 Moscow time.

During that period, there were 3 civilian aircraft:

Flight from Copenhagen to Singapore at 17.17;

Flight from Paris to Taipei at 17.24

Flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur… Beside it, the Russian system for air traffic control detected a Ukrainian Air Force aircraft, supposedly a Su-25, moving upwards towards the Malaysian Boeing-777. The distance between two aircraft was 3-5 kilometers.

The Su-25 can gain an altitude of 10,000 meters in a short time. It is armed with an air-to-air missile R-60, which is able to lock-on and destroy a target at a distance of 12 kilometers, and destroy it definitely at a distance of 5 kilometers. What was the mission of the combat aircraft, in the flight-path of civilian aircraft, almost at the same time and same altitude with the civilian craft? We want to have this question answered.

The video of the Rostov Aerial Center of the Joint Air Traffic Management

System can provide the information. The Chief of Staff of the Air

Force, Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev, will comment on the video.”

Then the Chief of Staff of the Air Force of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant-General I.Y. Makushev presents his arguments:

Today the aircraft Air Traffic Control has acquired some objective control materials from the Rostov Aerial Center of the Joint Air Traffic

Management System. The video presents the air control information on the airspace situation in the region of Donetsk in the period from 17.19 P.M. to 17.25P.M., Moscow time, on July 17, 2014. In the upper left corner there is a

Boeing-772 mark, as it was following the route from Copenhagen to Singapore. Under this dot, there is another aircraft – it is marked as Boeing-777, which is on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. And on its right there is a Boeing-778 mark making its way from Delhi to Birmingham. All these three aircraft have been steadily monitored by the three radar stations of the air traffic control of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The Boeing-777 is moving towards the Russian Federation state boundary, and is to cross it at the point of «TONAK». An air traffic control officer has been controlling the aircraft flight and keeps on enquiring for its flight variables to compare them with the given ones. At 17.20 P.M. at a distance of 51 kilometers from the Russian Federation state boundary and the azimuth of 3000 (degrees), the aircraft started to lose its speed inexplicably, which is to be seen quite distinctively on the table of the aircraft characteristics. At 17.21.35 (seconds) P.M. with the aircraft at a speed of 200 km/h, at the point of the Boeing crash, there is a new mark of an aircraft to be seen. The radar stations of Ust-Donetsk and Butirinskoe, during the 4 minute period, steadily monitored the aircraft. The Air Traffic Control officer, having enquired for the characteristics of newly appeared aircraft but couldn’t possibly get them, because it is in all likelihood that the aircraft had no secondary deduction system mounted on it, which is typical of military aircraft. The early detection of this aircraft appeared to be quite impossible because those radars work in a standby mode and usually perform the air situation control. Detection possibilities at the given distance are over 5000 m altitude.

The detection of the aircraft turned out to be possible as soon as the aircraft ascended.

The further aircraft flight variables changed. It was now flying in the area of the Boeing crash and was monitoring the situation. Earlier the Ukrainian officials reported that on the day of the Boeing-777 accident, there were no military aircraft flying in the region. So, as you can see, it does not appear to be true.

…We also have some questions for our US partners. According to the statement of the US representatives, they have some pictures from space supporting that the militants launched the missile. But nobody has seen these pictures.

According to our records from 17:06 till 17:21 Moscow time on the July 17 over the Southeastern territory of Ukraine, a US space satellite flew overhead. This is a special device of the experimental space system designed to detect and track various missile launches. If the US party has photos made by the satellite, please let us ask them to show them to world community for further investigation.

Is it a coincidence or not? However, the time of the Malaysian Boeing-777 accident and the time of the observation done by the satellite over the Ukrainian territory are the same. In conclusion, I would like to mention that all the concrete information is based on the objective and reliable data of the different Russian equipment, in contrast to the accusations of the US against us, made without any evidence. A good example of such facts is that some mass media showed the transportation of a Buk-M1 missile system from Ukrainian to Russian territory. We can clearly see that it is a frame-up. These pictures were taken in the city of Krasnoarmeisk, which is confirmed by a banner situated close to the road. This banner has an address of the car shop situated at No. 34, Dnepropetrovskaya Street. Since May 11th, the Krasnoarmeysk city has been under the control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. That is why we have some questions. What kind of launching system is it? Where is it being transported? Where is it now? Why is it completely unloaded? What was the last time it launched missiles? To end my speech I would like to emphasize that the Russian Federation did not deliver any Buk-M1 missiles systems to the militants, and any other such equipment. All the data compiled by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation will be transmitted today to the experts of the European countries and Malaysia…

The Ministry of Defense will continue to inform you about the newly revealed facts connected with the air disaster of Malaysian Boeing-777.

***

Now why on earth should we not believe this presentation, backed by facts, images and concrete analyses?

Western and Ukrainian lies are piling up: wobbly explanations or no explanations at all for change of 777’s course, lowering altitude, ‘bad weather’, and revealing testimony of the Spanish traffic controller working in Ukraine…

And why should we believe people like the current President of the United States, who openly bragged about US ‘exceptionalism’, at the military academy, which has been responsible for producing countless mass murderers?

And for the sake of objectivity, why would we not listen to the Russians, before imposing sanctions on them, for something that we are, most likely, responsible for, ourselves?

And although it is most likely that the pro-Western Ukrainian military shot down the plane, even if it were to be the other side that did it, the entire conflict began with the EU and the US destabilizing Ukraine, overthrowing the legitimate government, and igniting the war.

Angry Dutch families of the victims should stop pointing fingers at Russia. Instead they should go to Brussels and Washington to express their wrath and to demand justice.

***

And what about Malaysia and Indonesia? Indonesia lost 12 people on that ill-fated flight.

Most of the Southeast Asian countries are historically “client” states of the West, with hardly any independent, non-corporate media. Indonesia has been exactly that since the 1965 ‘events’. Malaysia, pushing for an independent course under Dr. Mahathir’s rule, is presently being lured by the US, which is trying to establish military bases there, or to at least gain access to existing Malaysian ones.

Suddenly, a great amount of US funding has been unleashed, to win over Malaysian intellectuals, some of the most shamefully subservient in the region. Several have already began departing for conferences, cultural exchanges and writer’s retreats, to destinations all over the United States, all expenses paid.

In Kuala Lumpur, there was deadly silence after the downing of MH17. Not one writer or filmmaker that I know and contacted wanted to go on record. One mistaken word and the entire rosy dream of Western ‘funding’ would go up in flames.

Only the official anti-Russian narrative was available.

Two filmmakers spoke, but off the record:

To be honest, Malaysians are completely out of touch with what’s happening or even with the political consequences of the ‘deal’ that our Prime Minister had made to bring the bodies back. No one has even questioned what the deal was. There is no discussion whatsoever, even in the educated circles as it’s taboo to even start talking about anything other than the people who died. All Malaysians care about is that it’s tragedy and that we should feel sad. But largely, Russia and Putin are the villains in the mind of Malaysians.”

In Indonesia, theories vary. Some are far, remote from the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Agus Suhartono, a former aeronautical engineer at PT. Dirgantara Indonesia, thinks that Malaysia has been punished for creating an alternative banking system for the Muslim world:

I think it is bit strange. How could a plane at an altitude of more than 30,000 ft be a mistaken missile target? At that altitude, the plane identification should be very clear. Whoever fired knew perfectly well what he was doing. The question should be why MAS (Malaysia Airlines) again? Did they rub somebody the wrong way? Why was Malaysia the target twice in a row? I think maybe because the financial turnover of the Arab world is centered in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is the gate. The sharia gate of the Arab financial world.”

***

New sanctions are being leveled against Russia. “Cold Warriors” in Canada, Australia, UK and US are back in their saddles, like Major Kong in the unforgettable film, “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, they are ready to cover their skulls with cowboy hats, and stick A-bombs between their legs. Time to ‘go and bomb the Russkies’.

Arabs are not tough enough adversaries, and most of the Muslim world is now in ruins anyway, thanks to the ‘War on… ehm… terror’.

Russia and China are again blocking the West from fully controlling the world. ‘How dare they?’

The most frightening thing is the state of the self-righteousness and self-deception of the Western public. One wants to scream: Don’t they see? Do they refuse to see? Is it more comfortable not to see? How long are they going to pretend that they are blind? Or maybe they are blind…

After the MH17 tragedy and after the way it has been handled by the Western mass media, there is no doubt that we are back to the Cold War again. It is not just a war against Russia. The war is reflected in the arms race that is being accelerated by the US in Asia, from the revolting, racist anti-Chinese propaganda, and from the attempts to overthrow our socialist governments in Latin America.

We should never forget that Western imperialism murdered tens of millions of innocent people all over the world, after the Nagasaki ‘A-bomb’ and the official end of the WWII: all those crimes and horror to satisfy its unbridled obsession with controlling the world.

Tens of millions of lives already lost.

Why should they spare some 298 of those on MH17?

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: Fighting Against Western Imperialism‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

 

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Death toll mounts in Israeli attacks on Gaza

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By Patrick Martin
10 July 2014

The death toll from Israeli bomb and missile attacks on the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip has reached at least 63 since Sunday, when virtually non-stop air strikes on the blockaded territory began. More than 300 people have been reported wounded. Of the 47 dead who have been identified, 41 were described as civilians. Of these, 12 were children.

The latest atrocity overnight Wednesday was the killing of at least eight people at a café in Khan Younis, a Gaza neighborhood, where spectators were watching the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. That bomb injured at least another ten Palestinians.

There were other incidents of multiple killings of children and their families. The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that Nidal Khalaf al-Nawasrah, described as a “toddler,” his brother Muhammad Khalaf al-Nawasrah, 4, and their mother Sumud al-Nawasrah all died when an Israeli missile struck their house. Agence France-Presse reported the death of two brothers, aged 12 and 13, in Shejaiya, and a four-year-old boy and his mother in Zeitun.

The attacks by the Israeli air force are expanding in intensity and frequency. Israeli spokesmen said that 440 strikes had been conducted in the four days ending Wednesday, more than during the entire eight-day assault on Gaza in November 2012.

While Israeli officials invariably cite Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza as the reason for the air strikes, the disproportion is clear. A total of 180 rockets have been fired from Gaza in the course of the last month, since the crisis first flared following the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage settlers on the West Bank. Most of these primitive rockets have fallen harmlessly in open areas, and about 20 percent have been shot down. Not one Israeli has been killed, and there are few reports even of minor injuries.

Meanwhile, Gaza is being laid waste by precision-guided bombs, cruise missiles and other sophisticated and high-powered weapons. Hundreds of tons of high explosives have hit Gaza every day this week.

Israeli government officials and media pundits have become increasingly belligerent in their public comments. Israel Channel 2 reported a “growing sense” that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would order a ground offensive into Gaza, the first such invasion since the December 2008–January 2009 attack that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

The television station cited unnamed sources saying that close aides to Netanyahu are “starting to talk about an incursion into Gaza to try to strip Hamas of its terrorist infrastructure.”

President Shimon Peres, speaking to CNN, said a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip “may happen quite soon.” He continued, “If they won’t stop the missiles, there will be a ground attack. I’m not going to tell you when and where… If they continue, sooner or later, this will be the response.”

Netanyahu himself was less categorical in his public statements, but met Wednesday in Beersheba, at the southern headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces, to review military options with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Sami Turgeman, the IDF’s southern command chief.

He said he had instructed the IDF to “intensify even further” its attacks on Gaza. “The operation will expand and continue until the rocket fire on our cities stops and quiet returns.” Three IDF brigades are now deployed on the Israeli-Gaza border, in position to launch a ground assault.

Netanyahu claimed that Hamas, the party that rules Gaza, “is committing a double war crime when it tries to hurt Israeli civilians and utilizes the Gazan civilian population as a human shield.” In the upside-down world of Israeli propaganda, echoed uncritically by Washington and the American media, the victims of Israeli mass murder are responsible both for their own deaths and for the consequences (however minor) of their efforts at self-defense.

The US government reiterated its support for the Israeli bombardment of Gaza Wednesday, with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is visiting China, speaking with Netanyahu and conveying Washington’s “willingness to engage in helping to stop the rocket fire and restore the 2012 cease-fire as soon as possible,” according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

She added, siding with Israel against Hamas, “No country should be expected to stand by while rocket attacks from a terrorist organization are launching into their country and impacting innocent civilians.”

American imperialism is quite prepared to back an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip if Netanyahu decides on that course. The Wall Street Journal, mouthpiece of the most reactionary and bloodthirsty faction of the US ruling elite, published an editorial Wednesday that argued for full-scale war. It stated:

“Our advice to the Israelis is that if they want to avoid having to go to war over Gaza every three years or so, they will need to destroy Hamas as a political entity and military power. This does not need a permanent re-occupation of all of Gaza. But it will require a land campaign that destroys Hamas’s ability to wage war.”

Given that Hamas is a political movement with mass popular support—it won the 2006 elections in both Gaza and the West Bank—this amounts to calling for near-genocidal levels of violence. You don’t need to reoccupy Gaza permanently, the Journal says, just reduce it to ashes.

The Israeli regime and its US patrons are emboldened by the political isolation of Hamas following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and the establishment of an open military dictatorship, now headed by the “elected” General/President el-Sisi.

The new regime has resumed enforcement of the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza and openly sympathizes with Netanyahu’s campaign to destroy Hamas. An Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said there would be no Egyptian mediation of the current crisis on the model of the intervention by the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Mursi, during the 2012 confrontation.

Meanwhile, the reality of Israeli “democracy” was put on display when three Arab members of the Knesset were dragged out by security guards when they attempted to make speeches denouncing the Israeli military for “purposefully wiping out entire families” in the Gaza bombardment. One Arab MK simply began reading the names of Palestinian victims in Gaza and was shouted down and assaulted.

There is widespread concern among ordinary Israelis about the dangers of another war with the Palestinians, but it is unrepresented in official politics, dominated by Zionist parties that vie with each other in ever more unrestrained appeals to nationalism and anti-Arab chauvinism.

In Shuafat, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where a 16-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and murdered last week by ultra-right Zionist settlers, some 350 Israelis came to the family’s mourning tent Wednesday to offer condolences. Hassan Abu Khdeir, the family spokesman, was quoted in the press welcoming the visitors, “because we like peace, and you stand against the Satan of settlements.” He added, “we stand against your government, and we don’t accept your government’s condolences.”

Seven right-wing Israelis have been arrested in connection with the murder, but three of them are to be released Thursday after denying involvement, police said. Three of the arrested men were said to have confessed.

Everything you need to know about UFOs

On July 2nd avid watchers of the skies celebrate World UFO day—the anniversary of the supposed crash of a flying saucer near Roswell in 1947. Helpfully, the National UFO Reporting Centre, a non-profit, has catalogued almost 90,000 reported sightings of UFOs, mostly in America, since 1974. It turns out that aliens are considerate. They seldom disturb earthlings during working or sleeping hours. Rather, they tend to arrive in the evening, especially on Fridays, when folks are sitting on the front porch nursing their fourth beer, the better to appreciate flashing lights in the heavens (see chart). The state aliens like best is Washington—a finding that pre-dates the legalisation of pot there. Other popular destinations are also near the Canadian border, where the Northern lights are sometimes visible. UFOs tend to shun big cities, where there are lots of other lights, and daylight hours, when people might think they were just aeroplanes.

http://www.economist.com/node/21605918?fsrc=nlw|hig|27-06-2014|5356c2cf899249e1ccaef231|

Flight 370 Story is the New Anti-Journalism

 


All Data, No Real Facts, Endless Theories

Free conspiracies are for sale, with cautious restraint that propels the absence of truth.
But you’re still obsessed, aren’t you?

Well, the plane is somewhere. Although there exists the eerie possibility that it will remain as if nowhere – forever lost.

And that’s just about the best situation that exists for journalism: “missing” stories trump all others for their intensity and stickiness, fueling the imagination of journalists and audiences alike.

Journalism exists to provide information. But what’s really compelling is a lack of information – or what is more particularly being called “an absence of empirical data”.

“It doesn’t mean anything; all it is a theory.” That was the key quote, from an appropriately unnamed “senior American official,” in the New York Times’ front-page story Sunday about the Malaysian government’s sudden conversion to the idea that their plane was snatched. “Find the plane, find the black boxes and then we can figure out what happened. It has to be based on something, and until they have something more to go on it’s all just theories.”

Precisely!

And everyone is entitled to his or her own their own theory – it’s more democratization of journalism – including, but not limited to:

a) Terrorism; b) mechanical failure; c) hijacking; d) mad or rogue pilot; e) meteor; d) aliens; e) reality show promotion (in this, the 239 passengers and crew would have been in on it – each paid for their performance).

The Tweetdeck column flutters like a deranged stock ticker, as furious as it did for the Woody Allen imbroglio, that other recent spike of obsessive interest in the unknowable.

In a way, it’s anti-journalism.

I am hardly the only stick-in-the-mud to observe that the impending takeover of Crimea, a precise piece of geopolitical logistics and confrontation with a full menu of international implications – journalistic red meat – has been blown away by a story with no evident meaning, other than the likely bleak fate of most onboard.

It is, of course, an ideal story for the current journalism era because it costs nothing. Nobody has to go anywhere. Nobody has to cover the wreckage and the recovery. Not only is the story pretty much all just theories – but theories are cheap.

There is, too, a gotcha element.

Mainstream journalism has tried to be cautious about its claims. It has tried to deny or at least hold the line against the unproven – even when the unproven is obvious.

“…as investigators have examined the flight manifest and looked into the two Iranian men who were on the plane traveling with stolen passports, they have become convinced that there is no clear connection to terrorism,” said the Times on Friday night, even as it became more clear by the end of the weekend that somebody had disabled the plane’s identifying signal mechanisms and diverted it from its route and had flown it somewhere!

Such cautious – or absurd – restraint actually propels the story. That the mainstream media is trying not to deviate from mainstream sources (the recalcitrant, in-denial, shell-shock Malaysian government, and the in-the-dark US authorities) maintains something illogical, which in turn agitates or inspires the counter-media (the conspiracists), which was once marginal, but which is now mainstream itself. After 10 days and counting, mainstream outlets along with the Malaysian government catch up with the story that everybody else was onto anyway.

The plane’s been taken! Grabbed. Stolen. Commandeered.

It was only yesterday that the Times acknowledged the “increasing likelihood that Flight 370 was purposefully diverted and flown possibly thousands of miles from its planned route”.

Part of the problem in the story is language itself. “Terrorism” is implicitly connected to al-Qaida and suggests clear cause and effect and tends to trigger a spasm of maximum responses. So don’t go there until you are sure about going there. Hijacking suggests precise demands and an evident aircraft. Mechanical failure needs a crash site.

What words are left, then? Just: diverted. And vanished.

This may be the first wholly data-driven story. There are no first-hand facts. There are only secondary data implications. And so far it has demonstrated not the strength of data – that new religion – but its weakness.

“What investigators are left with is an hourly electronic ‘handshake’ or digital communication, between the airplane and a satellite orbiting 22,250 miles above the Indian Ocean,” says the Times with some poetry. “But the handshake is mostly devoid of data, and cannot be used to pinpoint the plane’s last known location. It is the electronic equivalent of catching someone’s eye in the crowd.”

The data, in other words, merely reinforces the existential.

Indeed, the most telling data point may be that the plane so artfully slipped through the data filters leaving so few data points.

But the plane is somewhere – that’s the only certain data point.

It is at the bottom of the ocean, sunk without a trace, or in a jungle or rainforest with remarkable discrete pattern or wreckage. Or, it is on the ground somewhere – indeed, may have been on the ground somewhere, re-fueled, and gone somewhere else to land again, whereabouts of 239 passengers and crew unknown. It is a new kind of hijacking in which the plane can’t be stormed or hijackers targeted by sharpshooters because plane and hijackers are invisible. Or, a new kind of terrorism, wherein we wait for the plan to be inserted, undetected, back into the air lanes for what terrible purpose we can only guess.

Just when we start to believe that we know all, that systems track us mercilessly, we find we know nothing, and the plot thickens.

 

Michael Wolff is a columnist and author. He wrote the Man Who Owns the News, a biography of Rupert Murdoch.

A Japanese legend bids farewell with a subtle, meditative epic about war, guilt and art

Miyazaki’s haunting farewell:

A dreamer who made warplanes

Miyazaki's haunting farewell: A dreamer who made warplanes
THE WIND RISES. © 2013 Nibariki – GNDHDDTK (Credit: Studio Ghibli)

Human beings have always dreamed of flight, the legendary Italian aeronautical engineer Gianni Caproni tells his young Japanese protégé in Hayao Miyazaki’s elegiac and subtle farewell to filmmaking, “The Wind Rises.” But the dream is cursed: Flying machines will inevitably be used, Caproni says, to wage war and slaughter the innocent. Still, he says, he’d rather live in a world with pyramids. The metaphor is not explained, but like so much else in “The Wind Rises,” its meaning lies just below the surface: Every human endeavor on a large scale is compromised, and no one’s hands are clean. The greatest wonders of the ancient world were built by slaves, to honor tyrants.

Caproni’s soliloquy on the nature of dreams itself occurs in one of several haunting dream sequences in the film, one that finds Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci in the English-language version) and young Jiro Horikoshi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) surveying the world from the uppermost wing of a huge and fanciful triplane. Some people may wish to describe “The Wind Rises” as a restrained or realistic work because it takes place in a recognizable facsimile of 20th-century Japan, rather than a fairy tale landscape or the mythological past, as in “Spirited Away” or “Princess Mononoke” or “My Neighbor Totoro.” But not me. This Oscar-nominated animated film, which Miyazaki has said will be his last as a director, is a work of immense mystery and strangeness, loaded with unforgettable images, spectacular sweeps of color and nested, hidden meanings. It feels to me like a meditative epic about Japan’s traumatic journey into modernity, and a complicated allegory about the innocence, arrogance and culpability of artists. It’s one of the most beautiful animated films ever made, and something close to a masterpiece.

There’s a certain amount of controversy surrounding “The Wind Rises,” which is based in large part on the life story of the real Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the notorious but magnificent Mitsubishi Zero, the lightweight and highly maneuverable fighter plane that enabled many Japanese victories early in World War II (including, of course, the attack on Pearl Harbor). Honestly, though, most of the controversy has come from right-wingers in Japan, who have accused Miyazaki of being insufficiently patriotic for depicting Horikoshi as a man plagued by doubts and apocalyptic premonitions. I’m not quite sure how anyone in the West could see this movie and believe that Miyazaki (a well-known pacifist) is trying to whitewash Japanese war crimes or duck the question of individual guilt. Arguably the question of individual guilt is the movie’s primary subject, or one of them. While Caproni — who also built planes for a fascist government — assures Horikoshi in one of their dream-meetings that airplanes are not instruments of war or ways of making money but “beautiful dreams,” the film’s constant thrum of death-haunted subtext suggests that Miyazaki does not find this sufficient.



While the phantasmagorical encounters between Caproni and Horikoshi (as far as I know they never met in life) are central to understanding this film, and feature its most breathtaking animated landscapes, they aren’t the only aspects of the story that feel like dreams. Miyazaki takes us back and forth between the bucolic, agrarian Japan into which young Jiro is born and the more urbanized and modern landscape his work gradually makes possible, or at least symbolizes. When Jiro goes to work at Mitsubishi in the late 1920s, teams of oxen are still required to haul aircraft prototypes to the airfield, and Japanese engineers have a reputation as second-rate copycats. When Jiro is sent to Germany in the ’30s to study at the Junkers factory, he doesn’t understand the nature of the society he sees there, or the character of the partnership between his own country and that one. He prefers to focus on the strains of Schubert’s “Winterreise” coming from an open window, and not on the boy being chased through the streets for unclear reasons.

While Miyazaki is the most famous of all Japanese animators, and his art and craft are on full display here, he may not get enough credit as an ingenious storyteller, who builds a narrative through hints and inferences and echoes. Jiro’s dreamlike voyage to Germany is echoed later by an encounter with a German tourist in Japan (voiced perfectly by Werner Herzog in the English version), who politely makes clear that Jiro is ignoring the consequences of his work — a brutal invasion of China, a puppet regime in Manchuria — and predicts that both their nations will be destroyed. As a young man, Jiro performs a life-altering act of kindness during the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, one of history’s worst natural disasters, which is unmistakably presented here as a premonitory vision of the destruction that will be visited upon Japan in 1945. Indeed, a deeper parallel may be at work, in that Jiro’s willful naiveté resembles that of the physicists who split the atom — they knew what that discovery would lead to, but also believed it was important in its own terms.

Indeed, I suspect there’s a note of covert artistic autobiography in “The Wind Rises,” whose title refers to a famous line by French poet Paul Valéry, contemplating a graveyard by the sea: “Le vent se lève! … il faut tenter de vivre!” (“The wind is rising! We must try to live!”) I don’t mean that Miyazaki fears his art has been perverted to evil purposes, or anything as blunt as that. It’s more that Miyazaki too has pursued his dreams without thought of consequence, himself fueling a change in the world around him that he doesn’t quite understand. He gives us Jiro as a pure-hearted genius by day, full of love and innocence, and a dark dreamer at night, sending his airplanes out by the thousands to destroy and be destroyed. On the one hand: “Isn’t this lovely?” On the other: “Watch out for what lies below.” Those are the messages Miyazaki has sent us all along, and this tender, ambiguous fable makes the perfect farewell.

“The Wind Rises” is now playing nationwide.

http://www.salon.com/2014/02/28/miyazakis_haunting_farewell_a_dreamer_who_made_warplanes/?source=newsletter

Father of Drone Victim Kidnapped by Pakistani Police

Snatching Kareem Khan

http://defense-update.com/images_new1/reaper_afgan.jpg

by MEDEA BENJAMIN

In October 2012, I was with a CODEPINK delegation in Pakistan meeting families impacted by US drone strikes. Kareem Khan, a journalist from the tribal area of Waziristan, told us the heartbreaking story of a drone strike that killed his son and brother. Since then, Khan has been seeking justice through the Pakistani courts and organizing other drone strike victims. On February 10, he planned to fly to Europe for meetings with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians to discuss the negative impact drones are having on Pakistan. But days before his trip, in the early hours of the morning on February 5, he was kidnapped from his home in Rawalpindi by 15-20 men in police uniform and plain clothes. He has not been seen since.

Terrified, Khan’s wife said the men did not disclose their identities and refused to say why her husband was being taken away.

Khan’s tragic story began on December 31, 2009. He had been working as a journalist in the capital, Islamabad, leaving his family back home in Waziristan. On New Year’s Eve, he got an urgent call from his family: their home had just been struck by a US drone, and three people were dead; Kahn’s 18 year-old son Zahinullah,  his brother Asif Iqbal and a visiting stonemason who was working on the village mosque.

The news reports alleged that the target of the strike had been a Taliban commander, Haji Omar, but Khan insisted that Haji Omar was nowhere near the village that night. Khan also told us that the same Taliban commander had been reported dead several times by the media. “How many times could the same man be killed?,” Khan asked.

Khan’s son had just graduated from high school, and his brother was a teacher at the local school. Khan’s brother taught his students that education was far more powerful than weapons. The drone strike that killed their teacher taught the students a very different lesson.

Khan was the first family member of a drone victim to take the issue into the Pakistani courts. With the help of human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, he sent a legal notice to the American Embassy in Islamabad, detailing the wrongful deaths and accusing the CIA of grossly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speaking outside a police station after he had lodged a legal complaint, Khan asked that Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Islamabad, be forbidden from leaving Pakistan until he answered to the charges against him. (While CIA agents’ identities are secret, Banks’ name had been revealed in the local press.) While the accusation against Banks made headlines in Pakistan, the CIA chief was allowed to flee the country. But in the ensuing months, Khan organized other families of victims and jointly, they have been pressing their cases in several lawsuits now pending in Pakistani courts.

Khan has obviously been an embarrassment to the US government, which is responsible for the drone strikes. And it has put the Pakistani government in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand the Pakistani government—from Prime Minister Zardari to the legislature—has come out publicly against the US use of drones. But Pakistan is heavily dependent on US aid and the government has been unwilling to bring charges against the US in international bodies or send an irrefutable rebuke by shooting down a US drone.

Given the political backroom deals that have obviously been going on between the US and Pakistan, Khan took great risks by speaking out.  “Kareem Khan is not only a victim, but an important voice for all other civilians killed and injured by US drone strikes,” said Khan’s lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is also Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. “Why are Pakistani officials so scared of Kareem and his work that they felt the need to abduct him in an effort to silence his efforts?”

How tragically ironic that someone whose loved ones have been killed by a CIA drone program condemned by the Pakistani government has now been abducted by that very government. Pakistanis we have talked to say this could only happen on orders from the United States, which did not want Khan speaking out in Europe against US policy.

“We are extremely worried about Kareem Khan, a gentle, warm man who opened up his heart to us when we were in Pakistan,” said Alli McCracken, who was on the CODEPINK delegation. “We have launched a campaign to free him, flooding the Pakistani Embassy and State Department with calls.” You can add your voice to the call to free Kareem Kahn by signing this petition, which will be hand-delivered to Pakistani and US government officials.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of www.codepink.org and author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/11/father-of-pakistani-drone-victim-kidnapped-by-pakistani-state/

Making Iowa Into a War Zone

Wednesday, 05 February 2014 08:07

National Guard Poised to Attack From Des Moines Airport

A Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) drone prepares for takeoff. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/48399297@N04/5755016315/in/photolist-9LxXRe-7APiyN-azu8mD-87jUeB-87jUhz-b7X5An-8F25tR-8F5fm7-b4SWDg-bb29fM-aExFGJ-7eNbLz-aCvEBB-dGdTbh-as3NDH-as3Pdv-5MGcXi-azu9te-azu8Nk-dU6DNm-bRjGTX-gRycHh-86MWcr-64Vt3w-8hpF4g-74zcfD-4UKEX5-earFrZ-65vwW6"target="_blank"> UK Ministry of Defence / Flickr</a>)

A Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) drone prepares for takeoff. (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence / Flickr)

BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The F-16 jets of the Iowa Air National Guard that formerly buzzed the city of Des Moines have disappeared and we are told that their base at the Des Moines International Airport is in the process of refitting into a command center for unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly called drones. The MQ-9 Reaper drones themselves will not be coming to Iowa but will be based in and launched overseas. When airborne, these unmanned planes will be flown by remote control via satellite link from Des Moines. Classified by the military as a “Hunter-Killer platform,” the MQ-9 Reaper is armed with Hellfire missiles and 500 pound bombs that according to plan will be launched by airmen sitting at computer terminals in Des Moines.

President Obama, in an address from the National Defense University last May, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from the safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.

All the promises of a new era of better war through technology, however, are proving false. Rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways. The plan to fly drones out of the Iowa Air Guard Base in Des Moines threatens to make a literal war zone in Central Iowa.

In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. “What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.” Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. “Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment,” Hostage said.

Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?'”

The transformation from fighter planes to drones will be marked by changing the name of the Air Guard unit in Des Moines from the “132nd Fighter Wing” to the “132nd Attack Wing.” This change is more than symbolic- a “fight” by definition has two sides. There is such a thing as a fair fight and a fight has some kind of resolution. An attack, however, is by nature one-sided, something that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim. A fighter might sometimes be justified, an attacker, never. Drone strikes rarely catch a “terrorist” in an act of aggression against the US and often occur in counties where the US is not at war. Their victims are targeted on the basis of questionable intelligence or “patterns of behavior” that look suspicious from a computer screen thousands of miles way. More than once, drone victims have been US citizens living abroad, executed without charges or trial.

Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from post-traumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”

When the 132nd Attack Wing is up and running, Iowa’s “citizen soldiers” will be engaged in combat in real time from the Des Moines International Airport. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a similar conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.” Previous foreign postings of the 132nd were always made public, but where in the world the wing will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by the 132nd from its base in Des Moines will make the airport there a military target, putting Iowans at peril.

Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, by bringing drones to Des Moines, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and well-being of our troops, of the people of Iowa or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.

Brian Terrell lives in Maloy, Iowa, and is a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/making-iowa-into-a-war-zone-national-guard-poised-to-attack-from-des-moines-airport

Only Apollo camera to make return trip to the Moon to be auctioned

 

By

February 3, 2014

 

 

The Hasselblad Data Camera from Apollo 15 is the only one to make the return trip to Earth...

The Hasselblad Data Camera from Apollo 15 is the only one to make the return trip to Earth (Image: Westlicht)

 

Sometimes history is preserved by accident rather than design. Thanks to a malfunction during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 that prevented it from being abandoned with its fellows, the only camera used on the surface of the Moon and brought back to Earth will be auctioned by Westlicht Photographica Auction in Vienna. The motor-driven camera is a Hasselblad 500 “EL DATA CAMERA HEDC,” also known as a Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC), that was specially designed for use on the Moon. It’s currently in the hands of a private collector and goes on the block in March.

 

We like to think of space gear as being far more complicated than its terrestrial counterparts, but that isn’t always the case. Based on the the commercial electric Hasselblad camera, 500EL, the Apollo 15 HDC was heavily modified, though this was more a matter of radically simplifying it so it could be operated by a man in a space suit complete with helmet and thick, pressurized gloves.

 

The most visible step taken to make the HDC suitable for the Moon was painting it silver to reflect sunlight and help keep it cool. Since the lubricants normally used on Earth would either boil away in the vacuum on the Moon or stop being lubricants, they had to be replaced. In addition, Carl Zeiss designed a new bespoke lens, and a new, thinner film was developed by Kodak with a special coating of transparent silver to prevent the buildup of static electricity inside the camera as the film wound.

 

Starting bid for the Hasselblad is €80,000 (US$108,000)  (Image: NASA/Westlicht)

 

Because the astronauts couldn’t use the viewfinder, the mirror and secondary shutter were taken out, the focusing screen for the reflex viewfinder was replaced with an opaque plate, and a reseau plate engraved with a precision grid of small crosses was added to aid photogrammetric analysis. In addition, the controls were greatly simplified to accommodate the clumsy gloves. It all worked, but it did mean that taking photos had a huge element of guesswork as far as aiming was concerned.

 

This particular camera, officially numbered no.1038, was carried by Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin during the Apollo 15 mission, which flew from July 26 to August 7, 1971. It spent three days on the Moon, where Westlicht says it took 299 pictures in the vicinity of Hadley Rille in the lunar highlands of Palus Putredinus in Mare Imbrium.

 

A Hasselblad Data Camera with telescopic lens (Image: NASA)

A Hasselblad Data Camera with telescopic lens (Image: NASA)

 

The mission was notable for its emphasis on science, the introduction of the Lunar Rover, and being the first mission to land away from the vast lunar plains, but it’s also distinctive because of camera number 1038. While 13 identical cameras landed on the Moon, only number 1038 came back. The normal procedure was to leave the cameras behind along with other equipment in order to save liftoff weight, which could be used for taking more rock samples back to Earth. Irwin’s camera was the exception because the film magazine jammed, so the camera had to return to remove it.

 

Westlicht says that number 1038 eventually ended up in the hands of private collector Alain Lazzarini, author of the book Hasselblad and the Moon. It comes with extensive documentation and is identified by the number 38 on the reseau plate, which can be seen on photographs taken with the camera, the NASA number P/N SEB 33100040- S/N 103 engraved on the body, and the number P/N SEB 33101018-301 S/N 1003 HASSELBLAD REFLEX CAMERA FILM MAGAZINE on the magazine.

 

The auction will be held on March 22, when the starting bid for the Moon camera will be €80,000 (US$108,000) with estimates of the final price set at €150,000 to €200,000 (US$203,000 to US$270,000).

 

Source: Westlicht via Moon Daily

http://www.gizmag.com/apollo-15-camera-auction/30692/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=2b6dedfc8a-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-2b6dedfc8a-90691461

“If we don’t keep F-22 Raptor viable, the F-35 fleet will be irrelevant” Air Combat Command says

 

Feb 04 2014

 

The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.

 

In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.

 

First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.

 

Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2″ and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.

 

Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35″ since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.

 

But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.

 

Something that seem to confirm what we have written some time ago….

 

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

The Human Body May Not Be Cut Out For Space

http://gcd.larc.nasa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/AstronautScottParazynskiSTS-120071030iss016e007421_HPSC.jpg

 

The human body did not evolve to live in space, and the longest any human has been off Earth is 437 days. Some problems, like the brittling of bone, may have been overcome already. Others have been identified — for example, astronauts have trouble eating and sleeping enough — and NASA is working to understand and solve them. But Kenneth Chang reports in the NY Times that there are some health problems that still elude doctors more than 50 years after the first spaceflight. The biggest hurdle remains radiation. Without the protective cocoon of Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, astronauts receive substantially higher doses of radiation, heightening the chances that they will die of cancer. Another problem identified just five years ago is that the eyeballs of at least some astronauts became somewhat squashed. ‘It is now a recognized occupational hazard of spaceflight,’ says Dr. Barratt. ‘We uncovered something that has been right under our noses forever.’ NASA officials often talk about the ‘unknown unknowns,’ the unforeseen problems that catch them by surprise. The eye issue caught them by surprise, and they are happy it did not happen in the middle of a mission to Mars. Another problem is the lack of gravity jumbles the body’s neurovestibular system (PDF) that tells people which way is up. When returning to the pull of gravity, astronauts can become dizzy, something that Mark Kelly took note of as he piloted the space shuttle to a landing. ‘If you tilt your head a little left or right, it feels like you’re going end over end.’ Beyond the body, there is also the mind. The first six months of Scott Kelly’s one-year mission are expected to be no different from his first trip to the space station. Dr. Gary E. Beven, a NASA psychiatrist, says he is interested in whether anything changes in the next six months. ‘We’re going to be looking for any significant changes in mood, in sleep, in irritability, in cognition.’ In a Russian experiment in 2010 and 2011, six men agreed to be sealed up in a mock spaceship simulating a 17-month Mars mission. Four of the six developed disorders, and the crew became less active as the experiment progressed. ‘I think that’s just an example of what could potentially happen during a Mars mission, but with much greater consequence,’ says Dr. Beven. ‘Those subtle changes in group cohesion could cause major problems.

~Slashdot~

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