Category Archives: Military

A fascinating conversation with Oliver Stone


Few American filmmakers arouse more controversy than Oliver Stone, both from his eclectic choice of subject matter to the content of the films themselves.

In his 1986 film Salvador, he explores a repressive regime through the eyes of a U.S. photojournalist drawn to Latin America in hopes resurrecting his fading career. In the much more financially successful Platoon, released in the same year, he captures the deep systemic corruption of a war that would tear two nations apart through the eyes of a naive young solider. In JFK he captures the dark uncertainty at the heart of an epochal event still shrouded in uncertainty.

Most of his other films are similar dissections of the American psyche and the contemporary Zeitgeist, ranging from with two Wall Street films, to Nixon, W, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, and Talk Radio.

His newest film, slated for release 16 Star, is Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role.

In this, the latest episode of Conversations with History, Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, conducts a fascinating conversation with the director, with the topics ranging form Stone’s approach to the cinematic arts to his own views of the American system.

It’s well worth your time.

From University of California Television:

Movies, Politics and History with Oliver Stone — Conversations with History

Program notes:

Published on May 23, 2016

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes filmmaker Oliver Stone for a discussion of his career as director, screenwriter, and producer. Stone describes formative experiences, talks about different aspects of the filmmaking process including working with actors, writing screenplays, and postproduction. He focuses on the themes that have drawn him, and emphasizes the distinction between a historian and dramatist who works with historical materials. He concludes with a discussion of recent works including Alexander and the 10-part documentary on The Untold History of the United States.

Quote of the day: A case of genocide in California


From a Los Angeles Times op-ed by UCLA historian and genocide scholar Benjamin Madley, author of the just-published An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873:

California’s Legislature first convened in 1850, and one of its initial orders of business was banning all Indians from voting, barring those with “one-half of Indian blood” or more from giving evidence for or against whites in criminal cases, and denying Indians the right to serve as jurors. California legislators later banned Indians from serving as attorneys. In combination, these laws largely shut Indians out of participation in and protection by the state legal system. This amounted to a virtual grant of impunity to those who attacked them.

That same year, state legislators endorsed unfree Indian labor by legalizing white custody of Indian minors and Indian prisoner leasing. In 1860, they extended the 1850 act to legalize “indenture” of “any Indian.” These laws triggered a boom in violent kidnappings while separating men and women during peak reproductive years, both of which accelerated the decline of the California Indian population. Some Indians were treated as disposable laborers. One lawyer recalled: “Los Angeles had its slave mart [and] thousands of honest, useful people were absolutely destroyed in this way.” Between 1850 and 1870, L.A.’s Indian population fell from 3,693 to 219.

The U.S. Army and their auxiliaries also killed at least 1,680 California Indians between 1846 and 1873. Meanwhile, in 1852, state politicians and U.S. senators stopped the establishment of permanent federal reservations in California, thus denying California Indians land while exposing them to danger.

State endorsement of genocide was only thinly veiled. In 1851, California Gov. Peter Burnett declared that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged … until the Indian race becomes extinct.” In 1852, U.S. Sen. John Weller — who became California’s governor in 1858 — went further. He told his colleagues in the Senate that California Indians “will be exterminated before the onward march of the white man,” arguing that “the interest of the white man demands their extinction.”

Whistleblower retaliation claim backs Snowden


While both Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton insists whistleblowers have nothing to fear in they take their allegation of official abuse through official channels, new revelations back up Edward Snowden’s contention that he acted out of fear of retaliation if he followed the official doctrine.

From the Guardian:

Edward Snowden has called for a complete overhaul of US whistleblower protections after a new source from deep inside the Pentagon came forward with a startling account of how the system became a “trap” for those seeking to expose wrongdoing.

The account of John Crane, a former senior Pentagon investigator, appears to undermine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other major establishment figures who argue that there were established routes for Snowden other than leaking to the media.

Crane, a longtime assistant inspector general at the Pentagon, has accused his old office of retaliating against a major surveillance whistleblower, Thomas Drake, in an episode that helps explain Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency disclosures. Not only did Pentagon officials provide Drake’s name to criminal investigators, Crane told the Guardian, they destroyed documents relevant to his defence.

Snowden, responding to Crane’s revelations, said he had tried to raise his concerns with colleagues, supervisors and lawyers and been told by all of them: “You’re playing with fire.”

Whistleblowers, including Drake, had exposed the secret NSA programs implemented after 9./11 intercepting, without legally mandated warrants, the communications of American citizens.

There was strong pressure for prosecution of the others even after Drake had plead guilty and received no jail time.

From Der Spiegel, an account of what happened next, during the Obama administration:

John Crane remembers his boss, in an internal meeting, presenting the idea of passing the names of the whistleblowers on to the Justice Department officials investigating the case. Crane says he objected at the time and noted that this would be in violation of the legally guaranteed protection of anonymity for whistleblowers. The dispute continued outside the meeting room and he finally even pulled out his pamphlet with the law written on it. Crane says his boss answered by saying that he was in charge of relations with the Justice Department and that he would deal with it as he saw fit.

Those affected, the Pentagon and the Office of the Inspector General declined to respond in detail to SPIEGEL inquiries about the events. Crane’s former boss cited his oath of confidentiality. He said he was confident that an investigation into the events would show he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Crane’s suspicions continued to grow, especially after important documents pertaining to the Drake case disappeared from the inspector general’s office. Drake’s lawyer Jesselyn Raddack asked the court to demand the documents, saying they would prove that Drake was only in possession of the NSA documents on his private computer because he wanted to provide them to the inspector general. This would have granted Drake source protection and prevented him from prosecution.

But the files could allegedly no longer be found in the Office of the Inspector General — it was claimed that they had been shredded. Staff had accidently “fucked up,” Crane remembers one of his superiors telling him before adding that Crane needed to be a “team player.” Crane’s superior told the judge that the disappearance of the files had resulted from an error made during the routine elimination of files. Crane didn’t believe a word of it. He was convinced that that files had been deliberately destroyed. “Lying to a judge during criminal proceedings is a punishable offense,” he says.

Crane decided against being a “team player.” He stopped toeing the line, he countered and complained. He also sent the message that he would not keep silent. As had been the case with Drake, this would result in painful personal consequences for Crane. In 2013, the then-inspector general ordered him into her office and slid his termination papers across the table. In front of the office, a security guard stripped him of his ID card.

The Empire Files: Turning troops into lab rats


In the latest episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin turns her critical gaze to aother national shame: The exploitation of America’s military as experimental subjects of testing on everything from nerve gasses and biological warfare agents to mind-altering drugs and nuclear weapons.

Not only does America’s military brass treat soldiers as experimental animals; they also deny what they’ve done and refuse to pay the medical treatments needed to alleviate the miseries they’ve induced.

And they’ve been doing it for more than a century, as she searingly documents.

What marks this episode as particularly notable is the dramatic change of format, evidence of Martin’s skills as a visual artist [you can see some of her painting and photography here]. The result is a new fusion, and, we hope, a measure of things to come.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Used & Betrayed – 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats

Program notes:

On Memorial Day, politicians will speak at ceremonies all over the country and repeat their favorite mantra: “Support the troops.”

This pledge is hammered into the American psyche at every turn. But there is a hidden, dark history that shows that the politicians are in fact no friend to service members–but their greatest enemy.

An easy way to prove this truth is to look at how they so quickly betray and abandon their soldiers after purposely ruining their lives, and even after using them as literal lab rats.

In this disturbing chapter of The Empire Files, Abby Martin documents decades of experimentation on US troops—from nuclear tests to psychotropic drugs—as well as knowingly exposing them to deadly poisons, from sarin gas to Agent Orange.

Most damning is that the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking help from the government for the side-effects are always met with lies and denial.

FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles // @AbbyMartin // @telesurenglish

LIKE // facebook.com/TheEmpireFiles

Original music by Anahedron

Israle veers harder Right with change at the top


Following a blistering criticism of Israel increasing hard Right turn, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was removed for his post, and he, in turn, has removed himself from Israel politics, resigning from both his political party and the national legislature.

His replacement comes from a small party that’s to the Right of Likud, the party of both Ya’alon and the man who deposed him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The result will be a heating up of tensions both within and without Israel, given that the new defense minister is avowedly bloodthirsty and in the past has called for military strikes against Iranian facilities suspected of processing fuel for nuclear weapons.

From Vice News:

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon resigned on Friday, saying that “extremist and dangerous elements” had hijacked the nation after the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved to replace him with the leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

In a televised speech outside the defense ministry a grim-faced Yaalon, who spent four years in the post, said he was stepping down following “difficult disputes over matters of principle and professionalism” with Netanyahu and several members of the cabinet.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence, and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and also trickling into the IDF [Israel Defense Forces],” he continued. “Sadly, leading politicians in this country chose the path of inciting and dividing between parts of Israeli society, instead of uniting and joining [them].”

The Washington Post has more from the press conference:

In a press conference Friday, Yaalon, a fellow member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, warned that Israel was drifting dangerously toward extremism.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and trickling into the armed forces, hurting it already,” he said.

Yaalon appeared to be referring to widespread support by Israeli leaders for a combat medic who shot to death a wounded Palestinian attacker as he lay on a street in Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv and proclaimed the soldier a hero. Israeli human-rights activists called it a cold-blooded execution. The killing was captured on video.

More from the London Telegraph:

Mr Ya’alon said he had spent his career fighting extremism, violence and racism, but that they were threatening the “sturdiness” of society and trickling into the IDF.

“The state of Israel is patient and tolerant toward the weak among it and minorities,” he said. “But to my great regret extremist and dangerous elements have overrun Israel as well as the Likud party, shaking up our home and threatening harm to those in it.”

He added that he had “recently found myself in strong disagreement on moral and professional issues with the prime minister, a number of ministers and several MPs”.

Mr Ya’alon’s dismissal as defence minister came after months of disagreements with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

From the Independent, terms of agreement:

Yaalon is also a Likud politician who shares Netanyahu’s dim views on the prospects for a long-term accord with the Palestinians. But they clashed this month over the trial of a soldier who shot dead a wounded and supine Palestinian assailant, with Yaalon coming out against public calls for clemency while Netanyahu took a more circumspect position.

A poll aired by Israel’s Channel 10 television on Thursday found that 51 percent of Israeli Jews saw Yaalon as best suited for defence minister. Twenty-seven percent preferred Lieberman.

U.S. officials have declined comment on the prospect of dealing with Lieberman as Israeli defence minister, but one Egyptian diplomat told Reuters on Thursday that Cairo was “shocked” at the idea.

Defense News translated Ya’alon’s resignation speech, and here’s a key section:

“[T]o my great regret, extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud party and are shaking our national home and threatening to harm its residents.

“This is not the Likud movement that I joined — the Likud of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. And it is proper that the decisive majority of Likud voters and the sane public and responsible governing establishment understand the deep rifts and gathering ominous winds that are seizing the movement.

“I hope that also the public at large — from the right and the left — will understand the grave significance of the extreme minority overtaking the center and will fight against this phenomenon.

“To heartsick regret, senior politicians in the country have chosen a path of attack and separation from parts of Israeli society rather than uniting them.

“It is intolerable in my eyes that we will disintegrate into cynical and power-lusting factions. I’ve expressed my opinions on this subject out of candid concern for the future of Israeli society and generations to come.”

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Colorado homeowners win big nuke cash award


Why? Because a plant producing plutonium cores for America’s nuclear weapons program was run by corporate executives who failed to protect the workers and the public from what became a $7 billion catastrophic radioactive waste disaster.

The huge settlement awarded nearby homeowners will be added onto the $7 billion already spent to clean up the mess.

From the Denver Post:

Thousands of homeowners who lived downwind of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and the operators of the controversial facility have settled a lawsuit to the tune of $375 million, more than a quarter century after the legal action was first filed.

The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, brings to an end a 26-year legal saga that began when homeowners living east of Rocky Flats accused the plant’s operators, Rockwell International Corp. and Dow Chemical Co., of devaluing their properties due to plutonium releases from the plant.

The lawsuit, which included as many as 15,000 homeowners in an area largely encompassing neighborhoods surrounding Standley Lake, was first filed in 1990.

In court papers filed Wednesday, the lawsuit was described as “quite possibly the largest docket of any District of Colorado case to date.”

Accompanying the article is this map of the area of contamination.

CD0520BROOMFIELD

But don’t expect the companies to foot the bill, at least if they have their own say, reports Seeking Alpha:

The companies said ROK’s [Rockwell’s] share of the settlement was $244M and Dow’s was $131M, but they expect the Energy Department to repay them in full; the Energy Department says it is liable for some claims, but it is not yet clear if it would be the full amount.

So what happened at Rocky Flats?

It’s a story we followed, since we lived within 40 miles of the site for eight years during our youth and often drove by the plant when it was in operation.

Here’s the Wikipedia summary of the contamination problem, and it’s remarkably accurate:

The Rocky Flats Plant, a former U.S. nuclear weapons production facility located about 15 miles northwest of Denver, caused radioactive (primarily plutonium, americium, and uranium) contamination within and outside its boundaries. The contamination primarily resulted from two major plutonium fires in 1957 and 1969 (plutonium is pyrophoric and shavings can spontaneously combust) and from wind-blown plutonium that leaked from barrels of radioactive waste. Much lower concentrations of radioactive isotopes were released throughout the operational life of the plant from 1952 to 1992, from smaller accidents and from normal operational releases of plutonium particles too small to be filtered. Prevailing winds from the plant swept airborne contamination south and east, into populated areas northwest of Denver.

The contamination of the Denver area by plutonium from the fires and other sources was not publicly reported until the 1970s. According to a 1972 study coauthored by Edward Martell, “In the more densely populated areas of Denver, the Pu contamination level in surface soils is several times fallout”, and the plutonium contamination “just east of the Rocky Flats plant ranges up to hundreds of times that from nuclear tests.” As noted by Carl Johnson in Ambio, “Exposures of a large population in the Denver area to plutonium and other radionuclides in the exhaust plumes from the plant date back to 1953.”

Weapons production at the plant was halted after a combined FBI and EPA raid in 1989 and years of protests. The plant has since been shut down, with its buildings demolished and completely removed from the site. The Rocky Flats Plant was declared a Superfund site in 1989 and began its transformation to a cleanup site in February 1992. Removal of the plant and surface contamination was largely completed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Nearly all underground contamination was left in place, and measurable radioactive environmental contamination in and around Rocky Flats will probably persist for thousands of years. The land formerly occupied by the plant is now the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Plans to make this refuge accessible for recreation have been repeatedly delayed due to lack of funding and protested by citizen organizations. The Department of Energy continues to fund monitoring of the site, but private groups and researchers remain concerned about the extent and long-term public health consequences of the contamination. Estimates of the public health risk caused by the contamination vary significantly, with accusations that the United States government is being too secretive and that citizen activists are being alarmist.

For an excellent report on events at the plant and the scale of the cleanup, see this 25 March 2000 Denver Post report by Mark Obmascik.

Among the challenges of the then-ongoing cleanup he noted:

  • Finding 1,100 pounds of plutonium that somehow became lost in ductwork, drums and industrial gloveboxes. The amount of missing plutonium at Rocky Flats is enough to build 150 Nagasaki-strength bombs.
  • Cleaning 13 “infinity rooms” – places so radioactive that instruments go off the scale when measurements are attempted. One infinity room is so bad that managers welded its door shut in 1972. Another room was stuffed with plutonium-fouled machinery and then entombed in concrete.
  • Trucking out dangerous materials. In the next two years, an estimated 16,000 pounds of highgrade plutonium must be moved through metro Denver to South Carolina. On top of that, to meet the planned 2006 cleanup completion date, Rocky Flats must ship out more than three truckloads of radioactive waste each day; the plant now moves only two truckloads a week.

By the time the federal government announced completion of the site cleanup on 13 October 2005, costs had soared to $7 billion.

For more background, here’s a 1996 video by nuclear physicist Dr. Thomas B. Cochran, Senior Scientist of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Nuclear Program, prepared during the litigation and posted by YouTube by user r3VOLt23:

Nuclear Weapons Plant: Malpractices at Rocky Flats

Program notes:

Tom Cochran is a nuclear physicist and an expert in the process of manufacturing nuclear weapons. He is Director of the Nuclear Program at the National Resources Defense Council and served on boards for the DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He was asked to analyze some of the practices at Rocky Flats for the class-action lawsuit, Merilyn Cook et al vs. Rockwell International Corporation and the Dow Chemical Company. (1996)

Quote of the day II: Hillary, just another killer


The hand of American imperialism is covered in blood, and Hillary Clinton is well suited to picked up the sanguinary presidential gauntlet.

From journalist John Pilger, writing at his website:

Since 1945, some 69 countries – more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – have suffered some or all of the following. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted and their people bombed. The historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. With the demise of the European empires, this has been the project of the liberal flame carrier, the “exceptional” United States, whose celebrated “progressive” president, John F Kennedy, according to new research, authorised the bombing of Moscow during the Cuban crisis in 1962.

“If we have to use force,” said Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the liberal administration of Bill Clinton and today a passionate campaigner for his wife, “it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”

One of Hillary Clinton’s most searing crimes was the destruction of Libya in 2011. At her urging, and with American logistical support, NATO, launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, according to its own records, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. See the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. Read the UNICEF report on the children killed, “most [of them] under the age of ten”.

In Anglo-American scholarship, followed slavishly by the liberal media on both sides of the Atlantic, influential theorists known as “liberal realists” have long taught that liberal imperialists – a term they never use – are the world’s peace brokers and crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. They have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed it with a jargon that serves warmongering power. Laying out whole nations for autopsy, they have identified “failed states” (nations difficult to exploit) and “rogue states” (nations resistant to western dominance).