Category Archives: Warfare

Nuclear waste blast: Nation’s most costly mess


We begin with an excerpt from a 24 April 2014 post:

Valentine’s Day was anything but happy for workers at the at the Department of Energy’s New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant [WIPP] near Carlsbad Caverns. At 11:14 p.m., alarms shrieked warning of a radiation release from an exhaust vent moving air out of the underground storage facility.

Part of the waste stored in the interim facility [no permanent repository has yet been approved as each site, in turn, proved vulnerable to leaks] hailed from the nearby Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where University of California  scientists work with others to build next generation nuclear weaponry.

What happened that day was an explosion caused by [really] organic cat litter used to fill out drums containing deadly radioactive waste.

The blast and subsequent fire released plutonium, the deadliest substance on the planet, and reminded us that in our hubris, we have yet to devise safe ways of containing the products of the military/industrial. academic complex.

And now we’re discovering that the Valentine’s Day disaster [previously] is the most costly yet in the nation’s always-troubled nuclear program.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Energy Department officials declined to be interviewed about the incident but agreed to respond to written questions. The dump is operated by Nuclear Waste Partnership, which is led by the Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM. The company declined to comment.

Federal officials have set an ambitious goal to reopen the site for at least limited waste processing by the end of this year, but full operations can not resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021.

The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion. The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned.

An Energy Department spokesperson declined to address the cost issue but acknowledged that the dump would either have to stay open longer or find a way to handle more waste each year to make up for the shutdown. She said the contract modification gave the government the option to cut short the agreement with Nuclear Waste Partnership.

It costs about $200 million a year to operate the dump, so keeping it open an additional seven years could cost $1.4 billion. A top scientific expert on the dump concurred with that assessment.

Graphic Representation: Politics, with art & music


Today’s graphic offerings look at American politics from the other side of the pond.

Our first offering, from the Guardian, translates an Olympic phenomenon and takes it to the political arena:

Ben Jennings: The cupping of Uncle Sam

BLOG Eurotoon Jennings Trump

And the Independent watches The Donald’s transformation:

Dave Brown: Lighter than air

BLOG Eurotoon Bronw Trump

Finally, from the Guardian once again:

Martin Rowson: Celebrating Syrian airstrikes

BLOG Eurotoon Rowson Syria

We love European cartoonists, in part because their works so often reference great artists of the past.

In this last case, Rowson is playing on a remarkable image created by a German artist in the wake of a succession of continent-wide sieges of bubonic plague the century before which had killed about 80 percent of the population of his country. Smaller outbreaks were still continuing at the time a German artist created one of the most memorable images in the history of art:

Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, from folio CCLXI recto of Hartman Schedel’s Historia mundi, printed in Nuremberg in 1493.

Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, from folio CCLXI recto of Hartman Schedel’s Historia mundi, printed in Nuremberg in 1493.

The Danse macabre was a frequent motif in Medieval art, with the earliest known instance appearing in a Paris cemetery in 1424, and it has stopped fascinating artists since.

One artist inspired by the dance of death was French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, and his work is one you’re already familiar with, because you’ve heard it on the soundtrack of countless movies.

Saint-Saëns took his inspiration from the poem by Henri Cazalis [1840-1909], translated thusly by Wikipedia:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

Forthwith, and from the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Euege Ormandy conducting:

Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre


You can also hear it played by a classical guitar trio, a Finnish accordion maestro, a bass clarinet quartet [and damn, those clarinets are YUGE], and a Korean viola quartet, all all-saxophone orchestra, and a 1930’s Argentine jazz band [grooovy].

Finally, the Danse Macabre itself [not the Saint-Saëns version] also attracted the attention of Walt Disney’s animators way back in 1929.

Enjoy [via Geoffroy Biencourt]:

Silly Symphonies – La Danse Macabre

Morales unveils the anti-School of the Americas


The School of the Americas [previously], rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is where the U.S. Army schools Latin American soldiers and police [more than 60,000 to date] on the fine art of suppressing dissidents and rebels.

Needless to say, most of those soldiers came from countries that allowed American corporations to exploit their resources, something those dissidents and rebels didn’t take kindly to.

Many of those soldiers participated in massacres, and some used their training to reach high ranks and even the presides of their countries. Two graduates founded Mexico’s notorious Los Zetas cartel.

And now Bolivia’s president has launched a new academy designed precisely to counter Washington’s agenda.

From teleSUR English:

Bolivian President Evo Morales opened Wednesday a new regional military defense school—a kind of anti-School of the Americas—which will offer courses on a wide range of subjects meant to counter the U.S. imperialist presence in the developing world, including the Theory of Imperialism, Geopolitics of Natural Resources and Bolivian Social Structures.

The new school, which will be based in the city of Santa Cruz in eastern Bolivia, and named after former President Juan Jose Torres. will have an initial enrollment of 100 students. Morales, a socialist and Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, has been a strong critic of US imperialism in Latin America, and throughout the world.

“Empires,” he said at Wednesday’s ceremony, “exhibit cultural racism because they do not believe in the popular sovereignty of the people.”

The Bolivian military academy is intended as a direct rebuttal to the infamous U.S. School of the Americas in Georgia , which provides military training to U.S. allies in Latin America, and whose graduates include a “Who’s Who” of Cold War era military figures who carried out some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America.

U.S. bombers up the ante in the Game of Zones


Tensions are once again ratcheting up in the Asia waters around China, as nations makes claims and counterclaims for vast swathes of the Japan and China seas [see today’s earlier post].

The U.S. has been pushing its Asian allies to block Chinese moves, and in the process the Pentagon is rearming Vietnam and pushing Japan towards a more aggressive military policy.

And now the U.S. is making a new military move of its own, simultaneously with moves in Europe which are bring NATO forces right up to the Russian border.

From the Japan Times:

In an apparent bid to reassure Asian allies and deter potential adversaries, the three types of U.S. Air Force strategic bombers — B-1, B-2 and B-52 — will fly simultaneously in the Pacific for the first time.

The B-1s, which arrived at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Aug. 6, will replace the B-52s in support of the U.S. Pacific Command’s so-called continuous bomber presence mission. The swap is expected to wrap up at the end of this month as the B-1s return to Guam for the first time since April 2006.

In addition, three B-2 stealth bombers also arrived in Guam for “a bomber assurance and deterrence deployment,” Pacific Command said in a statement on its website. It said both the B-1 and B-2 deployments “are part of a long-standing history of maintaining a consistent bomber presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in order to maintain stability and provide assurance to U.S. allies and partners in the region.”

“For the first time ever a B-52, B-1 & B-2 are simultaneously in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility conducting integrating operational missions,” U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James wrote on Twitter last week.

Expect for things to get even hotter as China responds.

Greeks ready report on German occupation costs


With Greece reeling under demands to repay debts to German banks, Greece is preparing demands that Europe’s economic giant should make good on the costs of German looting, extortion, and other damage inflicted during World War II.

From Ekathimerini:

The findings of the intra-party committee which was set up to look into Greek claims for German war reparations are expected to be submitted to Parliament in early September, reports said on Friday. The committee wrapped up its probe on July 27.

Greece is demanding 269 billion euros – adjusted to inflation – for damages incurred during the Nazi occupation in World War II, including forced loans plus interest.

According to German magazine Der Spiegel, the 77-page report recommends that Greece employs diplomatic means to persuade Germany but doesn’t rule out legal action if that fails.

The reparations issue has been repeatedly raised by the SYRIZA-led coalition and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras timed an appeal last week – to European leaders for solidarity over the country’s debt burden – to coincide with the anniversary of the so-called London Debt Agreement in 1953, which secured West Germany a write-down of more than 50 percent of the debts it accumulated during the two world wars.

Given that much of the money extracted from Greece in recent years went to Germany, debts that have driven the nation deep into economic misery because of austerity measures imposed by the German-dominated European Central Bank and the European Commission, plus the International Monetary Fund, we think the Greeks have an excellent case.

Add in the fact that much of that debt comes from contracts to German firms, companies that extracted the wealth by criminally bribing officials of previous conservative Greek governments, there’s goof cause for debt relief, and reparations is a good first step.

Game of Zones heats up, confrontation looms


From BBC News, one of the venues for the Game of Zones in Asian waters.

From BBC News, one of the venues for the Game of Zones in Asian waters.

The Game of Zones, our term for the escalating multinational confrontations in the China Seas, are reaching the boiling point, with military encounters between China, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines occurring on a daily basis as a nuclear-armed North Korea watches from the sidelines.

The looming crisis is the result of the Asian Pivot, a strategy created by Barack Obama and his then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Five tears ago, Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, dissected the Obama/Clinton Asian policy for The Nation:

The South China Sea has had increased prominence in Washington’s strategic calculus in recent years as China has asserted its interests there and as its importance as an economic arena has grown. Not only does the sea sit atop major oil and natural gas deposits—some being developed by US companies, including ExxonMobil—it also serves as the main route for ships traveling to and from Europe, Africa and the Middle East to China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Chinese say the South China Sea is part of their national maritime territory and that the oil and gas belongs to them; but Washington is insisting it will fight to preserve “freedom of navigation” there, at whatever cost. Whereas Taiwan once topped the list of US security challenges in the western Pacific, Hillary Clinton said on November 10 that “ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” is now Washington’s principal challenge.

Focusing on the South China Sea achieves several White House goals. It shifts the emphasis in US security planning from ideological determinism, as embedded in the increasingly unpopular drive to impose American values on the Middle East and fight a never-ending war against Islamist jihadism, to economic realism, as expressed through protecting overseas energy assets and maritime commerce. By dominating sea lanes the United States poses an implied threat of economic warfare against China in any altercations by cutting off its access to foreign markets and raw materials. And, through its very location, the South China Sea links US strategic interests in the Pacific to its interests in the Indian Ocean and to those of the rising powers of South Asia. According to Secretary Burns, a key objective of the administration’s strategy is to unite India with Japan, Australia and other members of the emerging anti-Chinese bloc.

Chinese officials following these developments must see them as a calculated US effort to encircle China with hostile alliances. How, exactly, Beijing will respond to this onslaught remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it will not be intimidated—resistance to foreign aggression lies at the bedrock of the national character and remains a key goal of the Chinese Communist Party, however attenuated by time. So blowback there will be.

Perhaps the White House believes that military competition will impede China’s economic growth and disguise US economic weaknesses. But this is folly: China has far greater economic clout than the United States. To enhance its position vis-à-vis China, America must first put its own house in order by reinvigorating its economy, reducing foreign debt, improving public education and eliminating unnecessary overseas military commitments.

Ultimately, what is most worrisome about the Obama administration’s strategic shift—which no doubt is dictated as much by domestic as foreign policy considerations, including the need to counter jingoistic appeals from GOP presidential candidates and to preserve high rates of military spending—is that it will trigger a similar realignment within Chinese policy circles, where military leaders are pushing for a more explicitly anti-American stance and a larger share of government funds. The most likely result, then, will be antagonistic moves on both sides, leading to greater suspicion, increased military spending, periodic naval incidents, a poisoned international atmosphere, economic disarray and, over time, a greater risk of war.

The Obama/Clinton push for a remilitarized Japan

The push for a Chinese confrontation has only grown stronger, and a key element is Japanese militarization, a full reversal of longstanding U.S. policy that began with the Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the U.S.-imposed military governor of Japan after World War II.

MacArthur’s chief accomplishment was a new national constitution, embraced by the Japanese, in which the nation was barred from creating all but a token military, one designed only for self-defense — hence the name, the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

But no more, as Roll Call’s Rachel Oswald reported in May:

In recent years, Japan, eager to show its commitment to working with the U.S. military, has moved past the strictly pacifist security posture it adopted after World War II. A little over a year ago, the United States and Japan finalized new defense cooperation guidelines allowing deeper military collaboration.

In September, Japan’s parliament, the Diet, approved legislation that would, in the words of the Abe government, “reactivate Japan’s innate right to collective self-defense,” authorizing the country’s Self-Defense Forces to come to the defense of threatened allies, namely the United States.

Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia, said “2015 was a historic year for us and for the alliance,” and the United States wants “to ensure that momentum continues.”

Japanese officials are trying to demonstrate to Washington they are working overtime to modernize their regional defense posture.

“Japan is the most determined military partner of the United States,” said Yoji Koda, a retired vice admiral of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. But Koda and others worry there is little awareness of Japan’s role in world security efforts. “Washington always complains, ‘free rider.’ But if there were no Japan, U.S. world strategy doesn’t function.”

The crisis begins to boil

The confrontation between China and the Japanese/U.S. partnership is heating up, with the latest developments especially troubling.

From BBC News:

Japan’s foreign minister has warned that ties with China are “significantly deteriorating”, after Chinese vessels repeatedly entered disputed waters in the East China Sea.

Fumio Kishida said he had called China’s ambassador to protest against the “incursions”.

On Friday, about 230 Chinese fishing boats and coast guard vessels sailed near islands claimed by both countries.

Beijing has been increasingly assertive about waters it believes are Chinese.

The Japan-controlled, uninhabited islands – known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China – are the source of a long-running dispute.

The Japanese coast guard said on Monday that about 13 Chinese coast guard ships, some of them armed, had been seen near the islands, higher than the usual number.

“The situation surrounding the Japan-China relationship is significantly deteriorating,” Mr Kishida told Cheng Yonghua, Beijing’s envoy to Tokyo, according to a statement on the foreign ministry website.

“We cannot accept that [China] is taking actions that unilaterally raise tensions.”

Much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Both Clinton and Trump will give us more war


From The Real News Network, an interview with Larry Wilkerson, a retired army officer who served as chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and now teaches national security courses at the College of William & Mary and George Washington University.

It’s yet more confirmation that both major party presidential candidates are likely to bring us yet more, which in turn will produce the rise of still more terrorism, which in turn will lead to more wars. . .ad infinitum.

From The Real News Network:

Wilkerson: The Danger of a Clinton or Trump Presidency

From the transcript:

PAUL JAY: And when I said Robert Kagan and others of his ilk are supporting Hillary, the thing they find most supportive in her, the thing they want to support, is her bellicose language about Russia, and that she’s not afraid to–she made a point of this in her own speech to the DNC, to take on, confront Russia. This kind of aggressive rhetoric about Russia, how serious are the neocons about this?

LARRY WILKERSON: She was present at the creation, as it were. She was there when her husband Bill Clinton decided to abrogate, completely abrogate, the promises of H.W. Bush to [inaud.], the Soviet foreign minister, and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet premier at the time, that if they acceded to the reunification of Germany and its retention at NATO, a monumental diplomatic achievement, perhaps the greatest at the end of the 20th century, that they would not move NATO one inch further east. That’s Jim Baker’s actual words: not one inch further east.

But what Bill Clinton did was not just move it an inch further east, he began to incorporate the former Soviet satellite states in NATO, and even hinted at Georgia, Ukraine. And George W. Bush came along and actually gave a speech in Georgia, indicating Georgia would later be a member of NATO. This is what has caused Putin, a great power leader, to do what he’s done. Not any great desire to fight the United States. Certainly no desire to fight NATO. But a desire to keep his [near abroad], as they call it, think about these northern states of Mexico, the southern provinces of Canada, indeed, vis-a-vis us, intact and not a threat to him. That’s the way he looks at it.

So this is the first lady of those eight years. I’m not confident she’s going to handle the U.S.-Russia relationship as well as it should be.

>snip<

JAY: So just quickly, finally, given two terrible choices here, what scares you more?

WILKERSON: That also frightens me about, as you pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s position on Iran. Because I see it as being almost the opposite of President Obama’s. As you pointed out, he thinks it was a diplomatic achievement of the first order, as do I. And I think historians will, too. She thinks it came about because of massive U.S. power, at the top of which is military power. And so when it starts to unravel, which the Congress is working hard to make it do, she’s going to go to the military power.

JAY: So too horrible choices on foreign policy. Who scares you more?

WILKERSON: You won’t get me to answer that question. I have to say, I don’t know where Donald Trump stands. Some of the things he said, a re-examination of NATO, more equitable burden sharing, a re-examination, indeed, of all our security alliances, has been necessary since 1991. And we haven’t done it.

So those are cogent, reasonable, well-thought-out positions, though the playbook doesn’t agree with them. But I don’t know if he really believes in them. I don’t know if he just concocted them for the moment, or whether he really thought about them and he believes them. Other things he said make sense, too. But I don’t know, as I said, if he really believes in them or he’s just opportunistically throwing them out there as bait for what he considers to be those who might vote for him.