Category Archives: NATO

Will Trump Policy Unravel Traditional Neocons?

Sharmini Peries speaks to economist Michael Hudson who says Donald Trump’s divergence from the conventional Republican platform is generating indignant punditry from neocons and neoliberals alike. (The Real News)

The 50 American H-Bombs in Turkey

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, writes for The New Yorker:

B-61 nuclear bombs, the same model as those stored by the U.S. at airbases in various NATO countries, often under lax safeguards.[…] According to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, underground vaults at Incirlik hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than twenty-five per cent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The nuclear yield of the B-61 can be adjusted to suit a particular mission. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had an explosive force equivalent to about fifteen kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the “dial-a-yield” of the B-61 bombs at Incirlik can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as a hundred and seventy kilotons.

Incirlik was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the Second World War; when Turkey joined NATO, in 1952, it became a crucial American base during the Cold War. With a flight time of about an hour to the Soviet Union, the base hosted American fighters, bombers, tankers, and U-2 spy planes. And, like many NATO bases, it stored American nuclear weapons. NATO strategy was dependent on nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to the perceived superiority of Soviet conventional forces. The threat of a nuclear attack, it was assumed, would deter Soviet tanks from rolling into NATO territory. And granting NATO countries access to nuclear weapons would strengthen the alliance, providing tangible evidence that the United States would risk a nuclear war for NATO’s defense.

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Growing NATO Buildup Echoes Cold War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

All efforts to make this weekend’s Warsaw summit about the Brexit appear to have failed, and the US has shifted NATO’s focus back to increasing military buildups in Eastern Europe, all the while harping on about Russian “aggression” and the threat of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states.

NATO-Russia relations seem worse than at any time since the Cold War, with many fearing that the continued NATO escalation on the Russian frontier portends another protracted, and costly period of massive tensions with the Russians.

Russian officials, for their part, dismissed the buildup as part of NATO’s “anti-Russia hysteria,” saying the NATO leadership was “absolutely short-sighted” for continuing the moves. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov mocked NATO claims of Russian “aggression,” noting that “we aren’t the ones getting closer to NATO’s borders.”

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Is NATO Necessary?

Stephen Kinzer writes for the Boston Globe:

Secretary of State Dean Acheson signs the Atlantic defense treaty for the United States, April 4, 1949. Vice President Alben W. Barkley, left, and President Harry Truman converse during the signing. (AP Photo)Britain’s vote to quit the European Union was a rude jolt to the encrusted world order. Now that the EU has been shocked into reality, NATO should be next. When NATO leaders convene for a summit in Warsaw on Friday, they will insist that their alliance is still vital because Russian aggression threatens Europe. The opposite is true. NATO has become America’s instrument in escalating our dangerous conflict with Russia. We need less NATO, not more.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949 as a way for American troops to protect a war-shattered Europe from Stalin’s Soviet Union. Today Europe is quite capable of shaping and paying for its own security, but NATO’s structure remains unchanged. The United States still pays nearly three-quarters of its budget. That no longer makes sense. The United States should remain politically close to European countries but stop telling them how to defend themselves. Left to their own devices, they might pull back from the snarling confrontation with Russia into which NATO is leading them.

Russia threatens none of America’s vital interests. On the contrary, it shares our eagerness to fight global terror, control nuclear threats, and confront other urgent challenges to global security. Depending on one’s perspective, Russia may be seen as a destabilizing force in Europe or as simply defending its border regions. Either way, it is a challenge for Europeans, not for us. Yet the American generals who run NATO, desperate for a new mission, have fastened onto Russia as an enemy. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter preposterously places Russia first on his list of threats to the United States. Anti-Russia passion has seized Washington.

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NATO Takes Over US-Built Missile Shield, Amid Russian Suspicion

Yeganeh Torbati and Robin Emmott report for Reuters:

NATO took command of a U.S.-built missile shield in Europe on Friday after France won assurances that the multi-billion-dollar system would not be under Washington’s direct control.

The missile shield, billed as a defense against any strike by a “rogue state” against European cities, is one of the most sensitive aspects of U.S. military support for Europe. Russia says the system is in fact intended by Washington to blunt its nuclear arsenal, which the U.S. denies.

“Today we have decided to declare initial operational capability of the NATO ballistic missile defense system,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

“This means that the U.S. ships based in Spain, the radar in Turkey and the interceptor site in Romania are now able to work together under NATO command and control,” he said, adding that the umbrella was “entirely defensive” and “represents no threat to Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent”.

Russia is incensed at the show of force by the United States, its Cold War rival in ex-communist-ruled eastern Europe.

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The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War With Russia

Professor Michael T. Klare writes for The Nation:

NATO exercise[…] It’s hard to know where to begin when commenting on all this, given the atmosphere of Cold War hysteria. There is, first of all, the question of proportionality: are US and NATO moves on the eastern flank in keeping with the magnitude of the threat posed by Russia? Russian intervention in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is certainly provocative and repugnant, but cannot unequivocally be deemed a direct threat to NATO. Other Russian moves in the region, such as incursions by Russian ships and planes into the airspace and coastal waters of NATO members, are more worrisome, but appear to be more political messaging than a prelude to invasion. Basically, it’s very hard to imagine a scenario in which Russia would initiate an armed attack on NATO.

Then there is the matter of self-fulfilling prophecies. By announcing the return of great-power competition and preparing for a war with Russia, the United States and NATO are setting in motion forces that could, in the end, achieve precisely that outcome. This is not to say that Moscow is guiltless regarding the troubled environment along the eastern front, but surely Vladimir Putin has reason to claim that the NATO initiatives pose a substantially heightened threat to Russian security and so justify a corresponding Russian buildup. Any such moves will, of course, invite yet additional NATO deployments, followed by complementary Russian moves, and so on—until we’re right back in a Cold War–like situation.

Finally, there is the risk of accident, miscalculation, and escalation. This arises with particular severity in the case of US/NATO exercises on the edge of Russian territory, especially Kaliningrad. In all such actions, there is a constant danger that one side or the other will overreact to a perceived threat and take steps leading to combat and, conceivably, all-out war. When two Russian fighters flew within 30 feet of a US destroyer sailing in the Baltic Sea this past April, Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN that under US rules of engagement, the planes could have been shot down. Imagine where that could have led. Fortunately, the captain of the destroyer chose to exercise restraint and a serious incident was averted. But as more US and NATO forces are deployed on the edge of Russian territory and both sides engage in provocative military maneuvers, dangerous encounters of this sort are sure to increase in frequency, and the risk of their ending badly will only grow.

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After Brexit, US Hopes to Get NATO Focus Back on Russia

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A major NATO summit is set to begin later this week in Warsaw, and while the plan was to spend the whole time harping on about “Russian aggression” and making more plans to add more ground troops to the Baltic states.

Then Brexit happened, and as with everyone else, that’s all a lot of summit goers want to talk about these days. Britain’s referendum was on leaving the EU, and not NATO, but that doesn’t mean a lot of officials aren’t predicting the move weakening the alliance, at least so far as joint NATO-EU operations go.

But with constant predictions from US officials of an imminent Russian invasion of Eastern Europe never panning out, the Obama Administration and other hawks on the Russia issue are looking to shift the focus of the summit back.

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Hacked Former NATO General Defends Plotting to Push Obama to Escalate Tensions With Russia

Naomi LaChance reports for The Intercept:

Former NATO commander Philip Breedlove defended himself on Saturday after The Intercept reported on leaked emails that showed him plotting to push President Obama to escalate tensions with Russia.  “I think what you see is a commander doing what commanders ought to do,” Breedlove told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Amanpour asked about emails—originally published by “hacktivist” website dcleaks.com—showing Breedlove seeking help from former Secretary of State Colin Powell on ways to get Obama to be more aggressive in defending the Ukraine against Russian invasion.

“I think POTUS sees us as a threat that must be minimized,” he wrote in a 2014 email, “ie do not get me into a war????”

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Jens Stoltenberg: After Brexit, NATO is Moving Closer to the EU

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, writes for Newsweek:

Jens StoltenbergJust as the financial markets are gauging the impact of the UK leaving the European Union—and scrutinising the “fundamentals”—so those of us working in international security are doing the same. Is the world a more dangerous place today than it was a week ago? Is Europe at greater risk? What future for the North Atlantic Alliance of which the UK is a founding member?

As Secretary General of NATO, I find those questions reassuringly straightforward to answer. Not because I don’t take them very seriously but because I know that we are well-equipped to respond.

There is no denying that the world has become more dangerous in recent years. Moscow’s actions in Ukraine have shaken the European security order. Turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has unleashed a host of challenges, not least the largest refugee and migrant crisis since the Second World War. We face security challenges of a magnitude and complexity much greater than only a few years ago. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding “Brexit”—the consequences of which are unclear—and it is easy to be concerned about the future.

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Russia’s got a point: The U.S. broke a NATO promise

Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson reports for the Los Angeles Times:

Vladimir PutinMosscow solidified its hold on Crimea in April, outlawing the Tatar legislature that had opposed Russia’s annexation of the region since 2014. Together with Russian military provocations against NATO forces in and around the Baltic, this move seems to validate the observations of Western analysts who argue that under Vladimir Putin, an increasingly aggressive Russia is determined to dominate its neighbors and menace Europe.

Leaders in Moscow, however, tell a different story. For them, Russia is the aggrieved party. They claim the United States has failed to uphold a promise that NATO would not expand into Eastern Europe, a deal made during the 1990 negotiations between the West and the Soviet Union over German unification. In this view, Russia is being forced to forestall NATO’s eastward march as a matter of self-defense.

The West has vigorously protested that no such deal was ever struck. However, hundreds of memos, meeting minutes and transcripts from U.S. archives indicate otherwise. Although what the documents reveal isn’t enough to make Putin a saint, it suggests that the diagnosis of Russian predation isn’t entirely fair. Europe’s stability may depend just as much on the West’s willingness to reassure Russia about NATO’s limits as on deterring Moscow’s adventurism.

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A New Cold War? Interview with Sir Tony Brenton

Afshin Rattansi recently spoke to Britain’s former ambassador to Russia, Sir Tony Brenton, about the new Cold War. (Going Underground)

Putin Warns Finland Against Joining NATO

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Following a meeting with his Finnish counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement warning Finland against joining NATO, warning that such a move would mean the end of Russia keeping its troops 1,500 km from their mutual border.

Putin cautioned that in joining Finland would overnight put NATO at the borders of the Russian Federation, adding that “NATO would gladly fight with Russia until the last Finnish soldier,” but that neither Finland nor Russia would benefit from such a thing.

A Finnish government report from back in April was also cautious about the idea of joining NATO, warning it would lead to a “crisis” with Russia, potentially a really economically harmful one for the Finns, who trade heavily with Russia.

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Hacked Emails Reveal NATO General Plotting Against Obama on Russia Policy

Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report for The Intercept:

Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, until recently the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, plotted in private to overcome President Barack Obama’s reluctance to escalate military tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine in 2014, according to apparently hacked emails from Breedlove’s Gmail account that were posted on a new website called DC Leaks.

Obama defied political pressure from hawks in Congress and the military to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian government, fearing that doing so would increase the bloodshed and provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with the justification for deeper incursions into the country.

Breedlove, during briefings to Congress, notably contradicted the Obama administration regarding the situation in Ukraine, leading to news stories about conflict between the general and Obama.

But the leaked emails provide an even more dramatic picture of the intense back-channel lobbying for the Obama administration to begin a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.

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France Fears Brexit Will Harm Regional Military Power

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

French DM Jean-Yves Le Drian made a last minute appeal to Britain to remain in the EU right before last night’s vote, in which Britain ultimately decided to leave the union, Le Drian’s argument was primarily a military one, arguing Britain would be “weaker” without the EU, and the EU would be weaker without Britain.

Other French officials are also expressing concerns about that, now that the vote is in, noting that Britain and French represented the biggest military forces in the EU, and saying they believe post-Brexit Britain might start looking to cut military spending at any rate.

Britain and France also have extremely close military ties, to the point where during discussions on austerity measures, the two had discussed the possibility of “sharing” an aircraft carrier as a way to cut down on expenses.

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With NATO Exercises Encircling Russia, U.S. Might be Sleepwalking into a Doomsday Scenario: Interview with Richard Sakwa

Sharmini Peries speaks to Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at University of Kent and the author of Frontline Ukraine, about U.S. destroyers and warships entering the Black Sea for the first time since the Cold War for NATO’s ten-day military exercises. (The Real News)

Ex-NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen Named as Adviser to Ukraine’s President

AP reports:

A former NATO Secretary-General and Danish prime minister has been named an adviser to Ukraine’s president.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Twitter Saturday that he will do his “utmost to promote security, economic reforms and stronger EU ties.”

A statement on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s website did not specify on what issues Fogh Rasmussen might concentrate.

Fogh Rasmussen described the security situation in eastern Ukraine “alarming” on his Facebook page. Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine for two years and more than 9,300 people have been killed.

Ukraine, which wants to join the 28-nation European Union, also “must implement much needed reforms,” including “enhanced fight against corruption.”

The 63-year-old Dane was NATO chief 2009-2014 after his eight years as Danish head of government.

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Is the EU Anywhere Near Getting Its Own Army?

David J. Galbreath and Simon J. Smith write for The Conversation:

As part of a warning by a group of former military officers that the European Union undermines the UK’s military effectiveness, former General Sir Michael Rose expressed concern at the EU’s plan to set up its own army.

But in a speech on May 9 outlining why the UK would be more secure if it remained in the EU, the prime minister, David Cameron, said suggestions of an EU army were “fanciful” and that the UK would veto any suggestion of it.

As Cameron pointed out, there is a significant gap between the rhetoric and reality of the establishment of a fully functional European army.

The creation of a European army is a long way off and by no means inevitable. Even the most supportive nations, such as Germany, would acknowledge this reality.

As defence falls within the intergovernmental sphere of EU law, any single member state can veto its creation ensuring that the prospect of the UK getting dragged into an EU army against its will is zero. In fact, one could argue that the UK remaining inside the EU would do more to prevent an EU army than a Brexit would.

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NATO Mulls Use of New Drones Near Libya

Nikolaj Nielson reports for EU Observer:

Nato is procuring powerful new Global Hawk drones and may seek to deploy them near the Libyan coast, Euobserver has learned.

“Perhaps if the EU moves more closely to the Libyan shores, as we see what happens in New York with the new Libyan government, we can perhaps have some kind of division of labour with Nato providing situational awareness,” said an official, who asked not to be named, with knowledge of Nato’s plans at a security conference in Brussels on Thursday (26 May).

Nato would still have to seek permission from the Libyan authorities.

He said a team from Nato will be visiting Libya in the next few days to discuss a mandate that includes on-the-ground “capacity defence building”.

“These I stress are just ideas, we haven’t yet come to any particular agreement,” he said.

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NATO Finalises Military Build-Up To Counter Russia

Bryan McManus reports for AFP:

NATO foreign ministers were on Thursday finalising the alliance’s biggest military build-up since the end of the Cold War to counter what they see as a more aggressive and unpredictable Russia.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the two-day meeting would address “all the important issues” to prepare for a “landmark” summit in Poland in July.

There, NATO leaders will formally endorse the revamp which puts more troops into eastern European member states as part of a “deter and dialogue” strategy, meant to reassure allies they will not be left in the lurch in any repeat of the Ukraine crisis.

“We will discuss how NATO can do more to project stability… and at the same time address how NATO can continue to adapt to a more assertive Russia to find the right balance between defence and dialogue,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, attending the Brussels talks, said NATO was building a “robust” defensive posture on its eastern flank and urged member states to meet pledges to increase defence spending.

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Montenegro Receives NATO Invite, Rousing Russian Concerns

The Associated Press reports:

Over Russia’s angry objections, NATO agreed Thursday to expand for only the seventh time in its history, inviting the Balkan nation of Montenegro to become its 29th member.

The decision is still subject to formal approval by the U.S. Senate and the alliance’s other national parliaments.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was the “beginning of a new secure chapter” in the former Yugoslav republic’s history.

Montenegro’s prime minister, Milo Dukanovic, who attended the signing of an accession protocol at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said his country, bombed by NATO warplanes 16 years ago, would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the other members of the U.S-led alliance.

You can count on us at any time,” said Dukanovic.

Russia has accused NATO of trying to encircle it and friendly nations like Serbia, and vowed to do what’s necessary to defend its national security and interests.

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NATO Allies Divided Over Bigger Role In Stabilising Libya

Reuters reports:

Many in NATO are looking to its so-called Active Endeavour counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean, which was set up after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, to switch roles and link up with an EU naval mission.

Diplomats say Libya would have to make a formal request for NATO and the European Union to go after smugglers in Libyan territorial waters and NATO would possibly even a U.N. Security Council resolution, which Russia has said it is unlikely to grant because it believes NATO’s 2011 air campaign went too far.

The EU’s “Sophia” mission is operating in international waters near Libya, but it is too far out to destroy boats used by people smugglers, catch traffickers or head off migrants trying to reach Europe by sea from Libya.

Another area of support for NATO would be helping set up a Libyan Defence Ministry in the lawless country, and to work with the European Union to train police and border and coastguards.

Britain would like to see that training in Libya itself, whereas Germany is adamant its personnel will not be on the ground in the country and that training should be in Tunisia.

The new Libyan government, which arrived has yet to establish itself across the country, is also wary of being seen as a foreign puppet and is keen to show its independence.

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How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS

Carlotta Gall reports for The New York Times:

Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store.

The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.

Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.

Kosovo now finds itself, like the rest of Europe, fending off the threat of radical Islam. Over the last two years, the police have identified 314 Kosovars — including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children — who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State, the highest number per capita in Europe.

They were radicalized and recruited, Kosovo investigators say, by a corps of extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab gulf states using an obscure, labyrinthine network of donations from charities, private individuals and government ministries.

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Is War With Russia Possible? Interview with Stephen F. Cohen

Contributing editor to The Nation Professor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions about the new US-Russian Cold War. Cohen laments that in recent weeks the Obama administration appears to have been undermining cooperation with Moscow on three Cold War fronts: Syria and Ukraine, while also escalating NATO’s military presence near Russia’s borders. (The John Batchelor Show)

Escalations in a New Cold War

Jonathan Marshall writes for Consortium News:

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisior Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)If the United States ever ends up stumbling into a major conventional or nuclear war with Russia, the culprit will likely be two military boondoggles that refused to die when their primary mission ended with the demise of the Soviet Union: NATO and the U.S. anti-ballistic missile (ABM) program.

The “military-industrial complex” that reaps hundreds of billions of dollars annually from support of those programs got a major boost this week when NATO established its first major missile defense site at an air base in Romania, with plans to build a second installation in Poland by 2018.

Although NATO and Pentagon spokesmen claim the ABM network in Eastern Europe is aimed at Iran, Russia isn’t persuaded for a minute. “This is not a defense system,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. “This is part of U.S. nuclear strategic potential brought [to] . . . Eastern Europe. . . Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation.”

Iran doesn’t yet have missiles capable of striking Europe, nor does it have any interest in targeting Europe. The missiles it does have are notoriously inaccurate. Their inability to hit a target reliably might not matter so much if tipped with nuclear warheads, but Iran is abiding by its stringently verified agreement to dismantle programs and capabilities that could allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

The ABM system currently deployed in Europe is admittedly far too small today to threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent. In fact, ABM technology is still unreliable,despite America’s investment of more than $100 billion in R&D.

Nonetheless, it’s a threat Russia cannot ignore. No U.S. military strategist would sit still for long if Russia began ringing the United States with such systems. That’s why the United States and Russia limited them by treaty — until President George W. Bush terminated the pact in 2002.

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Obama Commits More Special Forces to Syria, Pressures Germany to Commit More Troops for NATO Exercises: Interview with Larry Wilkerson

Sharmini Peries talks to Larry Wilkerson,a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, who says he is more concerned about dangerous and provocative posturing on the Ukraine border as President Obama also commits more special forces for Syria. (The Real News)

NATO Seeks Bigger Black Sea Fleet to Target Russia

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Already picking fights with Russia in the Baltic Sea, and deploying ever growing numbers of ground troops in Eastern Europe, NATO’s latest focus in needling Russia is a major increase in naval presence in the Black Sea.

It makes sense from the position of NATO hawks. After all, the Black Sea includes one of Russia’s most historically important ports, at Sevastopol, and NATO is eager to contest Russia’s ownership of the Crimean Peninsula, in which that port is located.

It’s not going to be simple, however, as the effort will mostly have to come without the direct involvement of either the United States or Britain, NATO’s two biggest navies, and the two nations most eager to stick it to Russia.

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Obama Sees Not Intervening Even More in Libya as ‘Worst Mistake’ of Presidency

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Asked about the “worst mistake of his presidency” in a new interview, President Obama insisted it was the lack of further military intervention in Libya after imposing regime change on the nation in 2011, which he still insisted was “the right thing to do.”

Obama made similar comments last month about Libya, at the time bragging that the $1 billion war was “very cheap,” and blaming Britain and France for not doing more in the aftermath, saying British PM David Cameron “got “distracted.”

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A World War Has Begun. Break the Silence.

John Pilger writes:

marshall_test.jpg

I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”

Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated.  Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.

Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.

On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.”  A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.

Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious  superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.

I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us.  The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.

How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.

In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was all fake. He was lying.

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The Big Lie About the Libyan War

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

The Big Lie About the Libyan War In this fifth anniversary week of the U.S.-led Libya intervention, it’s instructive to revisit Hillary Clinton’s curiously abridged description of that war in her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton takes the reader from the crackdown, by Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime, of a nascent uprising in Benghazi and Misrata; to her meeting — accompanied by the pop-intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy — with Mahmoud Jibril, the exiled leader of the opposition National Transitional Council; to her marshaling of an international military response. In late March 2011, Clinton quotes herself telling NATO members, “It’s crucial we’re all on the same page on NATO’s responsibility to enforce the no-fly zone and protect civilians in Libya.”

Just two paragraphs later — now 15 pages into her memoir’s Libya section — Clinton writes: “[By] late summer 2011, the rebels had pushed back the regime’s forces. They captured Tripoli toward the end of August, and Qaddafi and his family fled into the desert.” There is an abrupt and unexplained seven-month gap, during which the military mission has inexplicably, and massively, expanded beyond protecting civilians to regime change — seemingly by happenstance. The only opposition combatants even referred to are simply labeled “the rebels,” and the entire role of the NATO coalition and its attendant responsibility in assisting their advance has been completely scrubbed from the narrative.

In contemporary political debates, the Libya intervention tends to be remembered as an intra-administration soap opera, focused on the role Clinton — or Susan Rice or Samantha Power — played in advising Obama to go through with it. Or it’s addressed offhandedly in reference to the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. special mission and CIA annex in Benghazi. But it would be far more pertinent to treat Libya as a case study for the ways that supposedly limited interventions tend to mushroom into campaigns for regime change. Five years on, it’s still not a matter of public record when exactly Western powers decided to topple Qaddafi.

To more fully comprehend what actually happened in Libya five years ago, let’s briefly review what the Obama administration proclaimed and compare that with what actually happened.

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How Politicians Duck the Blame for Terrorism

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

[…] There has always been a disconnect in the minds of people in Europe between the wars in Iraq and Syria and terrorist attacks against Europeans. This is in part because Baghdad and Damascus are exotic and frightening places, and pictures of the aftermath of bombings have been the norm since the US invasion of 2003. But there is a more insidious reason why Europeans do not sufficiently take on board the connection between the wars in the Middle East and the threat to their own security. Separating the two is much in the interests of Western political leaders, because it means that the public does not see that their disastrous policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and beyond created the conditions for the rise of Isis and for terrorist gangs such as that to which Salah Abdeslam belonged.

The outpouring of official grief that commonly follows atrocities, such as the march of 40 world leaders through the streets of Paris after the Charlie Hebdo killings last year, helps neuter any idea that the political failures of these same leaders might be to a degree responsible for the slaughter. After all, such marches are usually held by the powerless to protest and show defiance, but in this case the march simply served as a publicity stunt to divert attention from these leaders’ inability to act effectively and stop the wars in the Middle East which they had done much to provoke.

A strange aspect of these conflicts is that Western leaders have never had to pay any political price for their role in initiating them or pursuing policies that effectively stoke the violence. Isis is a growing power in Libya, something that would not have happened had David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy not helped destroy the Libyan state by overthrowing Gaddafi in 2011. Al-Qaeda is expanding in Yemen, where Western leaders have given a free pass to Saudi Arabia to launch a bombing campaign that has wrecked the country.

After the Paris massacre last year there was a gush of emotional support for France and little criticism of French policies in Syria and Libya, although they have been to the advantage of Isis and other salafi-jihadi movements since 2011.

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