Once again Western media has rushed to judgment over a “Russian submarine”, this time in an incident off the coast of Ireland. But maybe they should have done their homework on this one. Britain and the US have worse track records in the Irish Sea.
Last week, while out and about in the waters of the Irish Sea a few miles off County Down, a fishing trawler “almost sank” when it was hit, presumably by a submarine.
The vessel, named the Karen, was hit and then “pulled backwards very violently.”
Skipper Paul Murphy told Down News that the boat had been travelling at just a couple of knots and then all of a sudden he was nearly knocked off his feet. “The crew were just in shock after this incident. It really was a close call,” he said.
Shaken from the day, and no doubt influenced by the deluge of Russian-subs-and-jets-are-coming-to-get-you propaganda in British newspapers, Murphy immediately hypothesized to the journalist that it could have been a Russian submarine. No wonder Stockholm couldn’t find it.
After I read the story, I posted the link to Facebook and then promptly forgot about it. It was only by chance, while reading an article in the Guardian about Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent program and the “unpredictable Putin” that I happened upon another mention of it.
It seems the Russian sub theory has spread beyond the Down News to the Guardian, the BBC and beyond. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a theory entirely without merit. It very well could have been a Russian submarine.
Security analyst Tom Ripley, who writes for Jane’s Defence magazine, agreed. He told BBC Radio Ulster that the Russians “are famous for liking to watch these things [NATO exercises] and it is a strong possibility that they have sent one of their submarines to watch this activity.”
James added that, had it been a British submarine, Royal Navy protocols would have required it to “immediately surface to check on the health and welfare of the people involved,” and this submarine did not do that.
Subsequently, the initial media coverage of the incident seems to have been peppered with the assumption that while the Brits would never be so rude as to not surface and say hello, the horrible Russians wouldn’t feel bound by such niceties. It’s this fact alone — that the sub never surfaced to check the damage — that seems to have immediately convinced the entire British and Irish media that it could not have been a British vessel.
But let’s skip back for a moment, to April 18, 1982.
On that otherwise calm day at sea, a British submarine dragged the Sharelga, an Irish fishing boat for two miles before it eventually sunk and all five crew members were forced to jump overboard. They were, luckily, rescued by crew members of nearby boats.
The British sub did not surface and the British government denied any involvement in or knowledge of what had happened to the Sharelga. Only weeks later did they finally admit that in fact the Irish boat’s fishing net had been caught by the British submarine HMS Porpoise, which itself had been trying to spot Soviet submarines in the Irish Sea.
Four years later, the crew members finally received compensation, although according to the skipper Raymond McEvoy, it “didn’t even match half” of what he paid for the boat.
It took so long, likely in part because the Irish government didn’t want to, shall we say, rock the boat by getting too involved in a diplomatic entanglement with Britain. A document released decades later revealed that the Government was not interested in acting as “a party to the dispute” between the men and the British government.
The sinking of the Sharelga happened during a period of the Cold War that saw the Irish Sea earn the nickname ‘Submarine Highway’, so frequent was sub activity in Irish waters.
Seven years after the Sharelga sank, a Belgian trawler, the Tijl Uilenspiegel, sank approximately 25 miles south-east of the Isle of Man, presumably also by a submarine.
The incident prompted a discussion about submarine activity in the Irish Parliament in March 1989. Hugh Byrne, a member of parliament at the time, used his speaking time to deliver a chronological list of incidents to highlight the dangers to both fishermen and those on recreational vessels.
Here are some of the incidents he listed:
● In 1983, a yacht was struck and sunk by a submarine believed to be the British HMS Opossum, off County Wexford
● In 1984, a fishing vessel, the Algrie, became entangled with the HMS Spartan off the Cornwall coast
● In 1984, a US submarine surfaced in the middle of a fishing fleet near Kilmore Quay, prompting fishermen to flee in fear of their lives
● In 1984, Scottish fishing vessel the Mhari L disappeared with no distress call. A damaged British submarine entered Faslane base 24 hours later, but the Ministry of Defence denied involvement
● In 1987, the Summer Morn was towed for hours by a US submarine
● In 1988, the HMS Oberon collided with a yacht named the Drum
● In 1988, the Dalriada was sunk by the HMS Conqueror off Northern Ireland
● In 1989, a fishing trawler was struck by the USS Will Rogers.
Those are just a handful of incidents involving the damaging, sinking or disappearance of Irish and British boats in the waters surrounding the British Isles. Notably, none of the examples Byrne gave referred specifically to Russian submarines.
Occasionally the tragedies were blamed on “freak” waves, as in the case of the Boy Shaun off County Donegal and the Inspire off the Welsh coast, both of which were sunk while submarines were known to be operating nearby.
Overall, 50 fishermen lost their lives over nine years as a result of war games being played out in the Irish Sea. It’s important to note that the national identities of the subs were not confirmed irrefutably in every case, but a search through Irish government debate archives seems to suggest that Britain was regarded as a major, if not the major culprit. It’s not a particularly unusual assumption either, given that Britain (and its bases) is quite considerably nearer to Ireland than Russia, last time I checked.
During his comments, Byrne said that despite pleading with the British government, they continued to “ignore the loss of life and to respond with a ‘how dare you ask questions?’ attitude”.
“The attitude of the British Government, who contribute most to this devastation, baffles me because of their arrogance towards their people, particularly towards their fishermen,” he said.
Later in the same year, after a sonar buoy towed by a British submarine became entangled in the nets of a fishing vessel in the Irish Sea, the issue was raised in government again.
Member of the government at the time Peter Barry said that “as long as the NATO base [Holy Loch] remains located in Scotland,” and as long as NATO submarines were being shadowed by submarines from other superpowers, the danger would remain.
None of this information is readily available to your average consumer of news today, unless they go searching through old archives, which most people are not wont to do — and so it’s easy for the likes of the BBC, Sky News and the Guardian to bang out article after article about ‘Russian submarines’ with little to no historical context, let alone evidence to back up their assertions.
None of the reports on the latest incident with the Karen off the coast of Down last week made reference to the relevant history of dangerous British sub activity in the Irish Sea. Either the journalists didn’t do their homework or they felt that the frankly questionable British and American track records in the Irish Sea were not worth mentioning. It’s not that they needed to deliver an entire history of events in the interest of balance, but even a line or two would have been enough.
The argument by some against the relevance of this history will be that the 1980s were a different time and that surely if a British submarine inadvertently dragged a fishing boat today, they would immediately surface to check on the crew. It could also be argued however, that unfortunately today isn’t really as different from 1982 as we’d perhaps like to believe when it comes to NATO vs. Russia war games.
Despite a perhaps misplaced presumption of British courteousness, there are still plenty of reasons to assume a British sub would stay hidden after such an incident today, chief among them the fact that it just wouldn’t look good to admit such a mistake — particularly at a time when Russian military irresponsibility and “aggression” is the accepted bogeyman of the day.
Having to admit to almost capsizing a fishing boat in the Irish Sea would not look great given the current British government’s tendency to fear-monger over Russian jets and subs at any given opportunity and to use routine military maneuvers as a NATO rallying cry.
When I asked Dick James of NIFPO about the drop-off in incidents after 1990, he said it was likely due to the protocols being in place and of course the closure of the Holy Loch base after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which reduced submarine activity.
As for the identity of the sub that hit the Karen last week, when I asked if the media had been quick to judge, he accepted that it “could be NATO or not” adding that the British Ministry of Defence was being “reticent”. The Royal Navy later issued a statement claiming it was not one of their own.
But the question is: If Britain refused to acknowledge the mistakes of their submarines during periods of heightened tensions before, why would today be any different?
None of this is to assign blame or to claim that it wasn’t a Russian sub which dragged the Karen and shook her crew members last week. It very well could have been — but that theory is no more or less likely than the theory that says it was a British one.
Follow Danielle Ryan on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
Rasmussen’s case for war is built on a stack of lies
In his op-ed in Project Syndicate, ex-NATO chief and former Danish PM Anders “Fog of War” Rasmussen calls for war against Russia in the name of democracy and the ever so elusive “Western values”. “The current conflict between Russia and the West is, at its core, a clash of values,” he announces to start with, but then through a seriously convoluted brain process arrives at the conclusion that “It is about democracy.” In his mind the latter must be the distilled sublime product of the former. And since it is about democracy, Mr. Fog of War reasons, “the West must respond accordingly.”
I cannot fathom why on earth this concept, “democracy”, this linguistic abstraction, stirs such passions in a man who, by all formal counts, should rank among the best that his nation, with its long traditions of progress, has produced. Isn’t this guy in actual fact taking us a thousand years back and calling for a Holy Crusade against Russia? The crusades were military campaigns in the name of a God and true interpretation of the scripture. They were sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages with the ostensible goal to restore Christian access to holy places in Jerusalem. In reality, they were aggressive Western expansion attempts driven by economic and political reasons, fueled by personal ambitions and served to the European sheeple packaged in lofty religious causes.
Rasmussen, the former High Priest of NATO, is driven by all these exactly same considerations. He is supporting the NATO war effort to take a stranglehold of Russia with the actual aim to create a global hegemony led by the Western elite. As in the Middle Ages, so today, the idea of a war for the sake of pure conquest does not sell with the herds — if the pasture is good enough, then why bother — therefore, all you need to do is replace God with Democracy and the Ten Commandments with Western Values. (What easy work for the modern day apostles, the Western stink tanks — they do not actually have to spell out what these “values” are, not even in a list of ten).
I will not here expound on my view of what democracy is; suffice to say that it cannot be defined as a concept but rather as a result of social practices and societal conditions which enable the practices. I have elaborated on this in my book All is Art, where the second part is dedicated to this question under the title “Democratic Competition”. (From page 182 of this file).
Instead I will here treat you to a sample of what kind of “values” Rasmussen stands for as evidenced by the op-ed in question. These values are all firmly rooted in lies, as we will see.
1. Rasmussen writes: “Russian authorities recently threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if Denmark joins NATO’s missile-defense system. This was obviously an outrageous threat against a country that has no intention of attacking Russia.”
In fact: Denmark is part of an anti-Russian war coalition which is — through vicious propaganda, economic warfare and military actions — continuously closing in on Russia with the aim to conquer it or force a regime change that would install a pliant Western puppet leader.
2. Rasmussen: “Russia’s leaders know very well that NATO’s missile defense is not directed at their country. … we repeatedly emphasized that the purpose was to defend Alliance members from threats originating outside the Euro-Atlantic area [Iran]”.
In fact: We all know this is total baloney.
3. Rasmussen: “Recall how the Ukrainian conflict began: Tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens from all parts of society demanded, in overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations, an association agreement with the European Union.“
In fact: We know very well that the protests were not peaceful and amounted to a Western managed, violent coup d’état.
4. Rasmussen: “No one was calling for a pogrom against Ukraine’s Russian-speakers, despite the Kremlin’s claims to the contrary.”
In fact: From the very beginning of Maidan, the protests where fiercely anti-Russia and soon resulted in unheard of physical harm and mass-murder against the population that identified themselves as Russian.
5. Rasmussen: “And NATO membership was not part of the deal.”
In fact: It was very much so.
6. Rasmussen: “Yet Russia reacted swiftly and harshly. Long before violence engulfed the protests, Russian officials began accusing the demonstrators of being neo-Nazis, radicals, and provocateurs.”
In fact: It is proven beyond any doubt that the most active part of the demonstrators were precisely neo-Nazis, radicals and provocateurs. And that the regime that came into power very much adopted their war cries and utilized those forces in their terror campaign all across Ukraine.
7. Rasmussen: “As soon as Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin began engineering the annexation of Crimea.”
In fact: Here Rasmussen has a point, save for the word “annexation”. Funny, though, as the common Western line was always that Putin had been “scheming” this for years.
8. Rasmussen: “For Russia, the threat posed by the Ukrainian protesters was existential. In demanding change, freedom, and democracy – right on Russia’s doorstep, no less – the protesters challenged Putin’s model of “sovereign democracy,” in which the president eliminates all opposition, restricts media freedom, and then tells citizens that they can choose their leaders. The Kremlin feared that if the Ukrainians got what they wanted, Russians might be inspired to follow their example.”
In fact: So much nonsense that it does not deserve a comment. Shortly, we have seen what kind of “change, freedom, and democracy” they got under the new Western backed oligarch and neo-facsist regime.
9. Rasmussen: “That is why Russia’s leaders have been so keen to label Ukraine’s leaders as Russophobes and fascists.”
In fact: Russia does not need to do any labeling here; the Ukraine leaders and their subservient media speak for themselves.
10. Rasmussen: “It is why they have portrayed the Baltic States for years as dysfunctional oppressors of their Russian citizens.”
In fact: The Baltic states have, ever since their independence, run an oppressive apartheid system denying vast portions of their populations – mainly Russian ethnic nationals – even citizenship. And Fog of War knows that very well, coming from a neighboring country.
11. Rasmussen: “And it is why they are now portraying the EU as decadent, immoral, and corrupt.”
In fact: I have not seen Kremlin engaged in this, although I definitely think they should more actively call out these ignominious characteristics of the EU, which Rasmussen so correctly identified.
12. Rasmussen: ”The Kremlin is trying desperately to convince Russians that liberal democracy is bad, and that life under Putin is good. That requires not only spreading damaging lies at home, but also sowing violence and instability among its neighbors.”
In fact: Russia under Putin is much more a true liberal democracy in the classical sense of the concept. Life under Putin may not be as good as we all would like it to be, but it is for sure better than ever in Russian history and continuously improving, which cannot be said for the EU countries. “Sowing violence and instability in the world” — that is clearly the business of NATO and its member states.
After having enumerated this list of lies, Rasmussen concludes: “Despite whatever pain we incur, we must maintain – and, if necessary, deepen – sanctions against Russia and reinforce NATO’s front line. “
How long will the good Europeans be willing to sacrifice all they have for these warmongering lies?
Sixteenth Anniversary of the Attack on Yugoslavia: Nish
As a member of a delegation documenting NATO war crimes in 1999, I visited Nish, the third largest city in Yugoslavia. NATO attacked this appealing old city on forty occasions, destroying approximately 120 buildings and damaging more than 3,400.
On the night of our second stop in Nish, we attended a meeting with university professor Jovan Zlatich. During the NATO war, Dr. Zlatich served as commander of the city’s Civil Defense Headquarters. In his discussion of the bombardment of Nish, he focused particular attention on the use of cluster bombs. Nish had the misfortune of being the target of several CBU-87/B cluster bombs, a weapon designed to open at a predetermined height and release 202 bomblets. These smaller bombs burst in a furious repeating series of explosions, spraying thousands of pieces of shrapnel over a wide area. Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. While causing relatively minor damage to structures, they inflict frightful damage on human beings.
According to Dr. Miodrag Lazich of the surgical department at Nish University Hospital, “Cluster bombs cause enormous pain. A person standing a meter or two away from the cluster bomb gets the so-called air-blast injuries, coming from a powerful air wave. The body remains mostly intact while internal organs like liver, brains or lungs are imploded inside. Parts of the exploding bombs cause severe injuries to people standing 15 to 20 meters away, ripping apart their limbs or hitting them in the stomach or head.” The starting speed of the explosive charge in a cluster bomb is more than three times that of a bullet fired from an automatic rifle. Consequently, as shrapnel strikes its victim, the combined kinetic energy and explosive power is capable of causing a wound up to thirty times the size of the fragment itself. Because the bomblets are dispersed, they can cover an area as large as three football fields with their deadly rain.
Dr. Zlatich showed us photographs of his city’s cluster bomb victims. We viewed page after page of civilians lying in pools of blood, and then – much worse, pre-autopsy photographs. What cluster bombs do to soft human flesh is beyond anything that can be imagined, and an anguished silence fell over the room as Dr. Zlatich flipped through the photos. Viewing such scenes was unbearable. Finally, Dr. Zlatich looked up at us and softly said, “Western democracy.”
We had the opportunity to visit these sites. On three separate occasions, we walked down Anete Andrejevich Street and talked with residents. It was on this street at shortly after 11:30 AM on May 7 that cluster bombs fell. At one end of Anete Andrejevich Street is a marketplace, and on the day of the bombing the area was busy with shoppers. The street was narrow, lined with buildings that were old and charming. Evidence of the attack was unmistakable. Almost every house was pockmarked, and shrapnel had gouged hundreds of holes in the walls of the more heavily damaged homes. There was no place for pedestrians to hide on that day. One parked car had not moved since the day of the bombing. It was still there, riddled with punctures and resting on flattened tires, its windows covered with plastic. Memorials to the victims were posted at the spots where they had been killed.
Home on Anete Andrejevich Street, pockmarked by cluster bomb fragments. Photo: Gregory Elich.
As cluster bombs descended on this neighborhood, a violent and rapidly repeating series of explosions sounded as the bomblets sprayed razor-sharp shrapnel by the thousands. Seventy-three-year-old Smilja Djurich was inside her home when the attack came. “It went blat-blat-blat,” she recalled. “I didn’t know where I was. I was completely stunned. If I had been in the street, I would have been dead. When it began, we rushed to the cellar. People were screaming afterwards.” She sobbed as she told a reporter, “I survived World War II, but I haven’t seen anything like this.”
A young man was killed near her doorstep, sliced to pieces and lying in a pool of blood. Nearby, an elderly woman, her forehead pierced by shrapnel, was stretched out in the street, a bag of carrots beside her. Zhivorad Ilich was selling onions and eggs on a cardboard box that served as a makeshift stall when flying metal killed him. Slavica Dinich explained how she managed to survive. “We ducked for cover under the bed. One bomb fell through the roof of the upper floor of our house.”
Bozidar Panich reported, “I was in my garden when I heard something crack.” He saw smoke rising from the street. “Then I looked at the sky above and saw a small parachute with a yellow grenade descending toward me. Instinctively, I threw myself to the ground and covered my head with my hands. The bomb landed and exploded beside me so that everything shook. I remember that I was all covered with soil. I ran out into the street to look for my son, who had gone out minutes earlier. On the street, it was chaos. The dead and wounded were lying all over the place… People were crying out for help, in shock, and the cars and roofs of houses were burning.”
At the corner of Jelene Dimitrijevich and Shumatovachka Streets, a memorial for Ljiljana Spasich was posted on a brick wall at the place where she was killed while walking home from the market. Only 26 years-old and seven months pregnant, she was just one month away from completing her fifth and final year at medical school. She had planned her life well, expecting to give birth shortly after graduation. But NATO had other plans for her, and an exploding cluster bomb canister killed both her and her unborn baby.
Memorial to Ljiljana Spasich, posted at the spot where she was killed. Photo: Gregory Elich.
Accompanying Spasich on that day was her mother-in-law, Simeunka Spasich, who recalled, “We were 300-400 meters from our apartment and some 100 meters from the market when we heard planes. Suddenly, bombs were falling all around us. It was terrible. Explosions, smoke, leaves, branches… I felt a blow on my head, and blood leaking. Then I fainted. Several times I regained consciousness. I looked around me and realized that I was lying in the street, my right leg was broken as well as my right arm. People around me were dead or injured. It was terrible. Right next to me I saw my daughter-in-law Ljiljana, who was lying motionless. She was dead. At that moment, I thought her to be alive, but later they told me she had been killed on the spot, and the child could not have been saved.”
When the ambulance picked up Spasich, she lapsed back into unconsciousness. “I finally gained consciousness at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade. My left leg was amputated below the knee, and my right hand was seriously injured. I could not move it. I was told that I would have to endure several operations more… My son, who came to visit me, told me that they did not believe I would stay alive, since my intestines had spilled.”
Two memorials to Pordani Seklich were posted on the front door window of the restaurant where she was employed as a waitress. She was in the kitchen when whizzing shrapnel tore through the roof and killed her where she stood. Our hotel, located across the Nishava, overlooked the neighborhood around Anete Andrejevich Street, and we had walked extensively throughout the area. It was an entirely residential neighborhood, with nothing that could be construed as a military target.
Only ten minutes after the cluster bombing of the marketplace neighborhood, a NATO warplane dropped an incendiary cluster bomb on the parking lot of the Clinical Center. A ball of fire engulfed the parking lot, igniting cars and sending thick clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Several homes on the adjacent block were damaged. Shrapnel by the hundreds shot through the hospital, causing the roof over the classroom to collapse. It was the everyday routine for staff to meet in the classroom at noon to discuss the war while eating lunch. Had the attack come twenty minutes later, all would have perished. In one room alone, over ninety holes from bomb fragments were counted.
Parking lot of Clinical Center, target of incendiary cluster bomb. Photo: Gregory Elich.
The incendiary effect of the bomb brought to mind Djakovica, where NATO attacked a column of Albanian refugees who were returning to their homes in Kosovo. According to a wartime report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Pentagon was anxious to introduce the newly developed CBU-97 cluster bomb. This weapon was designed to spray shrapnel heated to an intense temperature and ignite everything within its blast radius. The charred remains of the automobiles in the parking lot indicated that this was probably the weapon used at the Clinical Center. Djakovica was another site that served as a testing ground for the CBU-97, where it proved a rousing success, killing 73 civilians and dismembering and incinerating most of them beyond recognition. Survivors of that attack scattered and sought cover in nearby homes. NATO pilots, spotting this, launched missiles on the houses, adding to the death toll.
The photographs I saw of the victims were horrifying. We were later to talk with Albanians in Belgrade who served in the Yugoslav government or held prominent positions in the society. One of them mentioned his anger over the slaughter at Djakovica, as well as other instances where NATO warplanes killed his fellow Albanians. “The man who could command NATO to bomb people is not human. He is an animal. After the bombing of Djakovica, I saw decapitated bodies. I have pictures of that. It is horrible, terrible. I saw people without arms, without feet.”
Office building of So Produkt, a distributor of salt products. Photo: Gregory Elich.
The state-owned DIN cigarette factory in Nish was one of Yugoslavia’s largest manufacturing facilities, employing 2,500 workers. It was bombed on four occasions. The factory’s deputy managing director, Milovoje Apostolovich, told us that cluster bombs were among the munitions dropped on DIN. Workers found two cluster bomb fragments with messages scrawled on them: “Do you still want to be Serbs?” and “Run faster.” Apostolovich estimated damage to his factory at $35 million. A cigarette factory clearly lacked military utility. The only reason DIN was attacked was because it was the largest employer in Nish. We strolled through the factory’s grounds. A cruise missile had completely flattened the tobacco storehouse. Two of the larger buildings were substantially demolished. Merely to clear away the rubble would be an imposing task. Many of the smaller buildings had also sustained substantial damage. Bricklayers were busily rebuilding the canteen. Across the lane, the façade of the large financial and computer center bore the marks of a cluster bomb, with hundreds of gouged holes spread across its face.
Reconstruction continued at the state-owned DIN until it was made fit for privatization by a new Western-friendly government, as 1,400 employees were thrown out of work. In October 2003, DIN was purchased by Philip Morris, which six years later eliminated a third of the remaining workforce, terming those it laid off as “technological surplus.”
Several requests were filed by various parties with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to investigate NATO war crimes, including the cluster bombing of Nish. Established at the behest of the United States, from which it received the bulk of its funding, the ICTY was not an entirely disinterested party. Compelled to deflect persistent complaints about NATO actions, the ICTY Prosecutor’s Office formed a committee it authorized to conduct an “investigation” to determine if there was a basis for legal action against NATO.
Not surprisingly, the Prosecutor’s committee found no basis to charge NATO for any of its actions. In regard to the cluster bombing of Nish, it correctly pointed out that there is no treaty prohibiting or restricting the use of cluster bombs. The Prosecutor’s office added that it indicted Serbian Krajina leader Milan Martich for launching a cluster bomb missile at Zagreb because it “was not designed to hit military targets but to terrorize the civilians of Zagreb.” NATO cluster bombs, evidently by their inherent nature, cannot be so characterized. “There is no indication cluster bombs were used in such a fashion by NATO,” the Prosecutor’s report asserts. The Office “should not commence an investigation into the use of cluster bombs as such by NATO.”
Bridge over the Nishava River. Photo: Gregory Elich.
The report goes on to explain that military commanders are obliged to “do everything practicable to verify that the objectives to be attacked are military objectives,” and to refrain from striking purely civilian targets. Against all evidence, the Prosecutor’s Office claimed that most of NATO’s targets were “clearly military objectives,” and “military objectives are often located in densely populated areas.”
The evidence for arriving at that determination was clear, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. “It has tended to assume that the NATO and NATO countries’ press statements are generally reliable and that explanations have been honestly given,” despite the fact that when it asked NATO about specific incidents, replies were vague and “failed to address the specific incidents.” Only one conclusion was possible: “On the basis of the information reviewed, however, the committee is of the opinion that neither an in-depth investigation related to the bombing campaign as a whole nor investigations related to specific incidents are justified.”
Try telling Ljiljana Spasich’s widowed husband that his wife and unborn baby were legitimate military targets.
Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute.
The US Army has joined Estonian soldiers in NATO ‘Tornado’ drills just before the largest training in Estonia’s history, the Siil war games. A laser training system will be used for simulating actual battle.
“On Monday, nearly 2,000 soldiers of the First Infantry Brigade of Estonian Defense Forces, as well as divisions of US paratroopers, will begin five-day Tornado drills, which will demonstrate the level of their readiness for larger Siil [Hedgehog] military exercises,” the General Staff of the country’s Defense Forces said in a statement.
The Siil war games involving up to 13,000 soldiers will be held in early May.
The MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) system will be used during the Tornado exercise for training purposes, with different versions of MILES systems available to US and international militaries. The system uses lasers and blank cartridges to simulate actual battle. Soldiers carry small laser receivers, placed over their outfits, which detect when the soldier has been illuminated by a firearm’s laser. Each laser transmitter meanwhile mimics the effective range of the weapon on which it is used.
The presence of US soldiers in the Baltic region is a part of the military operation Atlantic Resolve, a demonstration of US commitment to NATO members across Eastern Europe through international training and security cooperation.
NATO has been building up its military presence along Russia’s western border in the wake of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly warned that NATO’s growing expansion towards Russian borders could only escalate tensions and destabilize regional security.
“The Alliance exerts pressure on the Russian Federation and the deployment of additional military capabilities along our borders is nothing but an attempt to assist military pressure on Russia,” Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said in February.
The Russian General Staff said on Thursday there was a sharp increase in the intensity of NATO troops training near the borders of Russia last year, with a clear anti-Russian orientation of these activities. According to Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, NATO’s operational and combat training activities grew by 80 percent in 2014.
“During this period, NATO created a grouping of its member states’ forces in the Baltic States, consisting of over 10,000 troops, about 1,500 armored vehicles, 80 planes and helicopters and 50 warships,” Kartapolov stated, adding that strategic bombers from the US Air Force were used to perform strategic tasks during those exercises.
He also said the US plans to supply its Eastern European allies with JASSM-ER long-range aviation cruise missiles, which will enable NATO warplanes to hit targets 1,300 kilometers inside Russian territory.
The head of the Main Operation Directorate of the General Staff has warned that in the case of a military conflict, critical facilities on the territory of “almost the entire European part of Russia will be vulnerable to NATO’s air attack, with the flight time of the missiles reduced by half.”
The Prime Minister of Finland has acknowledged the victory of the opposition Centre Party in Sunday’s general election. With most of the votes counted, Centre has 21 percent support, which translates to a potential 44 seats in the country’s parliament.
“It appears the Centre has won. Congratulations,” PM Alexander Stubb, a staunch EU backer, said, according to Finnish broadcaster Yle.
However, with only 44 seats, Centre will have to form a ruling coalition. “This result will enable several possible coalition combinations”, party leader Juha Sipila told reporters.
The Centre has several potential allies to choose from. These include the nationalist Finns Party, which is currently second with 17.6 percent of the vote. Like the Centre, the Finns are against NATO membership for Finland, with the Finns also striving for more independence from the EU.
They are closely followed by the National Coalition Party (NCP), with 18.1 percent. The NCP is the only party in the top four which advocates both NATO membership and closer ties with the EU.
The Social Democratic Party, at fourth place with 16.7 percent, is another potential member for the ruling coalition. Like Centre and the Finns, it is against NATO – as many as 91 percent of its members saying they are oppose it.
Other runners include the Greens, the Left party the pro-minority Swedish People’s Party and the Christian Democrats, none of which got more than eight percent of the vote.
The commander of US-NATO forces, the vigorously vocal General Breedlove, stated on April 7 that the military alliance’s planners “have been working tirelessly to enhance NATO’s Response Force and implement the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and today our progress is manifested in the rapid deployments we see happening in locations across the Alliance.”
Breedlove is the man who declared on March 5 that Russia had sent combat troops and massive quantities of military equipment into Ukraine. He said that President Putin had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine by deploying “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery.” His military opinion was that “What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”
He spoke absolute drivel, because the ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the east of the country was working, albeit shakily, and things were quietening down. The last thing that was needed was provocation. Silence and, or at the most, calm, reasoned comments were essential if both sides were to be encouraged to cool it.
But this man, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man who has the trust of the American president, the prime nuclear button-shover, told a deliberate lie intended to increase tension.
The manufactured tension built up and on April 7 Breedlove’s HQ announced that the militaries of “11 Allied nations, Germany, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia tested their Headquarters’ response to alert procedures,” while “in the afternoon of 7 April, the 11th Air Mobile Brigade in The Netherlands and the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Czech Republic were given orders to rapidly prepare to deploy their troops and equipment” in a maneuver called “Noble Jump” which conjured up an image of a missile-wielding April bunny leaping into the fray against a coyly unnamed enemy who could be no other than Russia. (Although perhaps Russia need not be too troubled about some of NATO’s war preparations. My sources told me that the practice mobilization of the Dutch brigade was a shambles.)
While the ground-based martial bunny-hops were going on there was an aerial provocation in progress, this time involving a US Combat Sent RC-135U spyplane which was on a mission against Russia and flew along its Baltic Sea coastline. To prevent identification its transponder had been switched off — just like those of the aircraft in the 9/11 hijackings and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which disappeared mysteriously a year ago.
All aircraft have transponders which report their speed, height, heading and identification to air traffic controllers and other aircraft in order to avoid aerial confusion, so when Russian radar detected a large aircraft without such a signal but obviously using transmission devices to collect their radar and other electronic emissions, including civilian commercial communications, they sent up a fighter plane to have a look. Washington threw up its hands in mock horror and issued statements about how dangerous this was. Then the western media went into overdrive with a cavalier disregard for balanced reporting.
The Daily Mail of Britain is a garbage newspaper which maintains enormous readership because it specializes in glamorizing Britain’s sad, tacky and pathetic Celeb culture while concurrently condemning it, sometimes in the most portentous terms. The paper’s masses of online readers try to rationalize their attraction to vulgarity by glancing at items on international affairs and were told breathlessly that “In a maneuver with ominous echoes of the Cold War, a Russian fighter jet ‘aggressively’ intercepted an American plane over Poland, the Pentagon claims. Filing an official complaint to Russia, the State Department alleges a U.S. RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft was flying near the Baltic Sea in international airspace when a Russian SU-27 Flanker cut into its path.”
The average Daily Mail reader might not be able to question the absurdly conflicting phrases “near the Baltic Sea,” “over Poland,” and “in international airspace,” but that doesn’t matter. The message was being spread around by the US-NATO propaganda apparatus that the dreaded Russkies were menacing the Free World. The media lapped it up.
Little attention was paid in the West to the Russian announcement that “an Su-27 fighter on duty was scrambled, approached the unidentified aircraft, flew around it several times, identified it as an RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft belonging to the U.S. Air Force and read its side number, and reported it to the command. After having been intercepted by the Russian fighter, the U.S. Air Force aircraft changed its course and moved away from the Russian border.”
What the Russians didn’t say was that the aircraft’s “side number” was 4849 and that it had been photographed the previous day in Eastern England at the Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall which houses a USAF tanker squadron, about 200 US special forces soldiers with Osprey aircraft and operatives from such elements as 97 Intelligence Squadron.
No doubt the Russians know that last October it was noticed that US RC-135U spy plane number 4849 carries on its side some eye-catching decals. A photograph taken by Gary Chadwick at Mildenhall shows the “mission markings applied above the crew entry hatch, on the left hand side of the RC-135U Combat Sent 64-14849 ‘OF’ with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron/55th Wing of the U.S. Air Force : five hammer and sickle symbols.”
These symbols may be stickers or stencils, but whatever they are they cost money and take time and effort to apply on the side of an airplane to which they add neither beauty or distinction. So why are they placed there?
It might be thought strange that a US military aircraft in 2015 should have Soviet-era hammer and sickle decals on its side in order to publicly indicate a military exploit involving achievement of an objective of some sort. And it is interesting that one of the images has been added recently, because when a photograph of 4849 was taken last year there were only four such symbols. What enterprising and gallant mission merited the fifth hammer and sickle? Another addition was a fourth depiction of an aircraft carrier, signifying, no doubt, a successful electronic spying mission involving one of these ships that was not of the United States Navy. What nationality could it have been?
The anti-Russian spy-antics of the US are fully in line with the war-talk of Breedlove and his NATO colleagues who are beavering away in their brand-new billion dollar combat palace in Brussels to justify existence and expansion of their war machine. Russia’s actions have been propagandized accordingly, and the US spy flights are intended to provoke Moscow into taking action which can be used to escalate tension yet further. It would all be childishly funny were it not for the fact that Breedlove and his people are playing with the future of Europe and indeed the world. They are leading us to the nuclear threshold, and must be reined in before they stumble into ultimate confrontation.
Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.
Russia says the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing the ground for the use of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear countries in contradiction to the Western military alliance’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“NATO, contrary to the obligations taken under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, is still conducting preparations for the use of nuclear weapons by countries that are non-nuclear states,” Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said at the Fourth Moscow International Security Conference on Thursday.
The NPT, which was ratified in 1970, constitutes the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to open up access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Non-nuclear signatories to the treaty have agreed not to seek to develop or acquire nuclear arms.
The Russian official further accused the military bloc of seeking to revive the Cold War ideology.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu told the conference that NATO military exercises in the Arctic and Eastern Europe are against Russia.
The minister also warned that the participation of NATO’s non-nuclear states in the drills stimulate “the use of US tactical nuclear weapons” in violation of the NPT.
In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to increase from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000 the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force. They also announced plans to set up six new command posts in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Western military bloc has over the past year increased its presence and conducted several drills in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine. Moscow, however, has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup near Russia’s borders.
Moscow-West relations have been extremely tense in recent months. The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly denied by the Kremlin.
Sixteenth Anniversary of the War Against Yugoslavia: Zastava
One of the main features of NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 was the deliberate targeting of factories and manufacturing plants. As a member of a delegation travelling throughout Yugoslavia shortly after the end of the war, I could readily see that such targeting had been methodical and thorough. Wherever we went, there was no military value in the facilities that NATO chose to destroy. Indeed, the common criterion was that state-owned and worker cooperative factories and plants that supported many people were singled out. The apparent intent was to drive much of the population into destitution and make people more amenable to demands to install government eager to do the West’s bidding.
The largest and most significant factory complex in the Balkans was Zastava, producing over 95 percent of the automobiles operating in Yugoslavia. Centrally located in the city of Kragujevac, this diverse factory complex also manufactured tools and machinery.
Workers at Zastava recognized that it was far too tempting a target for NATO planners to ignore. Determined to save their factory, they decided to form a human shield by occupying the factory complex around the clock. Three days after NATO began its war, workers and management issued an open letter which was sent to trade unions abroad and U.S. President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and other Western leaders. “We, the employees of Zastava and freedom-loving Kragujevac, made a live shield,” the statement proclaimed. “Even at the shift end, even at the alarm sound, the Zastava workers did not leave their workshops, but remained to protect with their bodies what provides for their families’ living, that in which they have built in years-long honest work in order to provide for their better future.” The letter warned NATO leaders, “We want you to know that the attack on our factory shall mean a direct death to thousands of men and women and an enormous spiritual and material loss to their families.”
Letters of support poured in from trade unions in Third World countries, while those in the West remained silent. As the days passed, it became increasingly evident that NATO was systematically destroying factories and work sites. NATO had also wasted little time in demonstrating its contempt for human life. Wisely, the workers at Zastava chose to modify their human shield by moving outdoors and forming a ring around the factory plants, rather than occupying them. Work inside the plants, however, continued.
Shortly after 1:00 AM on April 9, NATO responded to the workers’ letter by sending a volley of cruise missile flying into Kragujevac. Dragan Stankovich, export director for Zastava, was in his apartment when he felt the first detonations, which he likened to a strong earthquake. The sky turned red, and his first thought was to hope that the factory had not been hit. His apartment was close to Zastava, so he walked hurriedly over there. Ten minutes after the first attack, the next wave of missiles struck. “I was very close,” Stankovich told us, “but I couldn’t see the bombs. Only a series of mushroom clouds. You could see the explosion and big fires only. You couldn’t hear anything. Strong light and fire. Like an atomic bomb. Like mushrooms.” The power, assembly, and paint and forging plants were all demolished in the assault. In all, 124 workers were wounded, but miraculously, no one was killed. Ambulances and fire trucks arrived quickly at the scene and retrieved the injured. At the local hospital, a woman, her head bandaged, defiantly told a reporter, “I can only tell Clinton – we will build a new factory. He cannot destroy everything.”
Three nights later, another wave of missiles struck Zastava at 2:45 AM and then yet again ten minutes later. The factories were lightly staffed by this time, and only 16 workers were wounded. As a result of the two attacks, the six largest plants at Zastava lay in ruins. Interestingly, the one plant that manufactured assault rifles was untouched, underlining the fact that NATO’s motivation was the deindustrialization of Yugoslavia. One woman was quoted as saying: “When we saw it burning, we all wept. It was the same feeling as if someone had burned down your home.”
Stankovich told us that the factory complex in Kragujevac employed 28,000 workers, and another 8,000 in associated Zastava factories throughout Yugoslavia, most of which were also bombed. “Of all the catastrophes that befell us,” he said, “we consider the humanitarian catastrophe to be the biggest.” One of the salient aspects of the disaster, he felt, was that workers in many other factories depended on Zastava. There were many plants throughout the nation that supplied components to Zastava. With Zastava in ruins, workers and at these plants and their families, some 200,000 people in all, were left without a means of livelihood.
Zastava’s director, Milosav Djordjevich, ruefully observed, “For the workers, the factory is life. On the nights of the 9th and 12th of April, all our dreams were destroyed in a mere fifteen minutes of bombing.” He told us that he found it difficult to believe that there were people who could inflict death and destruction on others. After months of listening to the gloating of Western leaders over the slaughter they were carrying out, I had no such difficulty.
The power plant supplied electricity, compressed air, hot water and steam for production at Zastava. But its destruction had a wider impact as well, for the plant also provided heat and energy to a large sector of the city. “About 15,000 flats, schools, hospitals, and other institutions depended on the Zastava power plant for their heat,” Stankovich explained. One of the missiles exploded about 20 to 30 meters above the plant, ripping the roof from the building and destroying transformers, turbo-compressors, and the control room. “Smashed,” a worker told us. “Everything was smashed. We have removed everything to be repaired.” Resumption of production at the power plant was an urgent task. Workers had already removed the rubble in this plant by the time of our visit, and two of the eight turbo-compressors had already been repaired. But the destruction of the plant’s transformers sent two tons of highly toxic PCB pyralene pouring onto the ground and into a nearby river.
Offices at Zastava forging plant. Photo: Gregory Elich.
The forging plant was a ruin after being hit four times. When the plant was in operation, components were formed for automobiles, agricultural machinery, and railways. The roof was gone. Mounds of rubble, damaged machinery, and twisted girders confronted us. Scraps of metal debris hung in clumps from isolated and deformed steel bars. The three-story office section of the forging plant had taken a direct hit, and a large section of its façade was blown away. What remained of the upper floors sagged alarmingly. Adjacent to it, the older forging plant presented a stark appearance. The plant’s heavy concrete walls bore the scars from explosions, and its roof was mostly missing. When a missile exploded on the building, concrete columns fell on the heat treatment area, and large chunks of concrete were hurled about, injuring several workers. NATO “had drawings, coordinates, everything,” Djordjevich remarked, “as if they played us with joysticks.”
Djordjevich regarded the paint plant as the pride of Zastava, housing as it did modern robotic production lines. Here, the devastation was even more terrible than in the other plants. It was shocking. Four missiles had left the plant roofless and buried in a carpet of debris. Mountains of twisted and jumbled wreckage rose above the rubble, resembling in some sections abstract sculptures. Djordjevich lovingly described the advanced technology utilized by the plant. “They hit this directly, as you would hit a man in the heart.”
Damage to the automobile assembly line plant was also severe. Merely to clear away the rubble would be a daunting task. Fifty-four workers in this plant were injured when a blast caused the roof to collapse on them. The plant “was very beautiful to see when it was functioning,” Djordjevich told us. “Now look at it. It’s a sorrow to see.”
Zastava automotive paint plant. Photo: Gregory Elich.
It was nearing 9:00 PM, and it had become too dark to view the truck plant and tools factory, both of which had been completely demolished. We were instead taken to the computer center, where the headlights of our vehicles were projected onto the building. It was a ruin. The explosive force of two missiles was so strong that the building was lifted from its foundation before collapsing. Two IBM computers, costing a total of $10 million, were lost. Because the computer center was not operating on the night of the attack, only two people were inside, both hiding in the shelter after the air raid siren had sounded.
In all, destruction at Zastava was estimated to amount to $1 billion, straining the Yugoslav government’s ability to finance its reconstruction. But that did not deter efforts. By January 2000, eighty percent of the rubble had been cleared at Zastava, a monumental endeavor in itself. Before long, small-scale production resumed, which could only have been accomplished through efforts on a heroic scale.
Reconstruction continued, but after CIA-backed regime change in October 2000, the direction of Zastava’s future followed a different path. Hell-bent on privatizing the entire economy, the new government issued an ultimatum to workers at Zastava plants: accept a plan in which two-thirds of the workforce would be laid off, or Zastava would be closed down altogether. “We tried to sharpen our teeth on this one,” privatization minister Aleksandar Vlahovich explained.
Zastava power plant. Photo: Gregory Elich.
In a society where the loss of economic facilities, sanctions, and a privatization program had rendered much of the working population redundant, employees at Zastava worried about the prospects of ever finding employment again. Serbian finance minister Pavle Petrovich contemptuously dismissed their concerns: “It is high time that people learn there won’t be any life support systems anymore.” Workers were left with little choice and acceded to the government’s demands, and those who lost their jobs received a pittance for sustenance.
Zastava was privatized in 2008, and soon after became a subsidiary of Fiat. It eventually was fully owned by Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles. Once ownership passed to Fiat, the Italian firm ignored its pledge not to dismiss workers, and immediately cut the remaining workforce in half. Protesting workers occupied City Hall, to no avail. They were quickly defeated.
With workers mocked as lazy parasites, neoliberal propaganda was in full swing. The government, which had long derided state-owned Zastava for relying on state subsidies, saw no contradiction in offering Fiat monopoly status, subsidies of ten thousand Euros per worker, and subsidies to support sales over for the first year. Fiat was also granted an exemption from paying any taxes whatsoever for a period of ten years, and land was given gratis to Fiat’s foreign component partners. A duty-free industrial zone was created for Fiat, with the government providing cost-free infrastructure. In all, these gifts to Fiat dwarfed any subsidies that state-owned Zastava ever received.
Back in 2001, privatization minister Vlahovich observed, “Zastava became an example, I hope, of tomorrow’s successful restructuring of the whole country.” And so it did, as foreign corporations now dominate the economy, the nation’s workforce subsists on abysmally low wages, and unemployment is at depression levels. For those who once proudly worked at Zastava, their economic rape is complete.
Militarism and military spending are everywhere on the rise, as the new Cold War propaganda seems to be paying off. The new “threats” that are being hyped bring big profits to military contractors and the network of think tanks they pay to produce pro-war propaganda.
Here are just a few examples:
The German government announced last week that it would purchase 100 more “Leopard” tanks – a 45 percent increase in the country’s inventory. Germany had greatly reduced its inventory of tanks as the end of the Cold War meant the end of any threat of a Soviet ground invasion of Europe. The German government now claims these 100 new tanks, which may cost nearly half a billion dollars, are necessary to respond to the new Russian assertiveness in the region. Never mind that Russia has neither invaded nor threatened any country in the region, much less a NATO member country.
The US Cold War-era nuclear bunker under Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, which was all but shut down in the 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, is being brought back to life. The Pentagon has committed nearly a billion dollars to upgrading the facility to its previous Cold War-level of operations. US defense contractor Raytheon will be the prime beneficiary of this contract. Raytheon is a major financial sponsor of think tanks like the Institute for the Study of War, which continuously churn out pro-war propaganda. I am sure these big contracts are a good return on that investment.
NATO, which I believe should have been shut down after the Cold War ended, is also getting its own massively expensive upgrade. The Alliance commissioned a new headquarters building in Brussels, Belgium, in 2010, which is supposed to be completed in 2016. The building looks like a hideous claw, and the final cost – if it is ever finished – will be well over one billion dollars. That is more than twice what was originally budgeted. What a boondoggle! Is it any surprise that NATO bureaucrats and generals continuously try to terrify us with tales of the new Russian threat? They need to justify their expansion plans!
So who is the real enemy? The Russians?
No, the real enemy is the taxpayer. The real enemy is the middle class and the productive sectors of the economy. We are the victims of this new runaway military spending. Every dollar or euro spent on a contrived threat is a dollar or euro taken out of the real economy and wasted on military Keynesianism. It is a dollar stolen from a small business owner that will not be invested in innovation, spent on research to combat disease, or even donated to charities that help the needy.
One of the most pervasive and dangerous myths of our time is that military spending benefits an economy. This could not be further from the truth. Such spending benefits a thin layer of well-connected and well-paid elites. It diverts scarce resources from meeting the needs and desires of a population and channels them into manufacturing tools of destruction. The costs may be hidden by the money-printing of the central banks, but they are eventually realized in the steady destruction of a currency.
The elites are terrified that peace may finally break out, which will be bad for their profits. That is why they are trying to scuttle the Iran deal, nix the Cuba thaw, and drum up a new “Red Scare” coming from Moscow. We must not be fooled into believing their lies.
In this excerpt from Bob Coen and Eric Nadler’s film “Shadow War of the Sahara”, broadcast on the Franco-German channel ARTE charts the rise of the U.S.military’s AFRICA COMAND (AFRICOM). This excerpt reveals why AFRICOM’s chief critic, Libya’s Mohammar Gaddafi, had to be removed from power for the project to succeed.
There’s a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It’s a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. This is one of four ground stations, each intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.
Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.
I spoke with Fabio D’Alessandro, a juornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. “I’m part of the No MUOS movement,” he told me, “a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I’m part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities.”
“It is very sad,” said D’Alessandro,”to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It’s all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines.”
“There are many reasons to oppose MUOS,” D’Alessandro told me, “first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.
“Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don’t want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don’t want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military.”
What have you done thus far, I asked.
“We’ve engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we’ve cut through the fences; three times we’ve invaded the base en masse; twice we’ve entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We’ve blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions.”
The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?
“We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests.”
I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied “Nowhere.” Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?
“Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us.”
Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?
“We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa.”
What would you most like people in the United States to know?
“The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy.”
A top Russian diplomat has promised that his country would push for removal of all foreign military specialists and illegal paramilitary groups from Ukrainian territory after US confirmed its plans to send about 300 instructors to train pro-Kiev troops.
Moscow is urging the removal of all foreign military formations from Ukraine, including the instructors from the United States and NATO, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.
“We know that hundreds of US and NATO servicemen are planning to come to Ukraine to train the National Guard. The training camps are being set up not only in western Ukraine, but also in other parts of the country. This is a dangerous process. We would push for all foreign and illegal military units to be removed from Ukraine,” Karasin said.
In mid-March, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told the media that about 290 servicemen of the 173 Airborne Brigade will arrive to western Ukraine in late April to train three battalions of the Ukrainian National Guard. The planned location of the exercises was disclosed as the Yavoriv army training center near Lvov.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk promised that his government would sign a number of agreements with NATO concerning military-technical cooperation. These would include a memorandum on communications and intelligence that would pave the way to Ukraine’s deeper participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
Russia has previously denounced the increasing buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe as well as US plans to supply weapons and non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. The criticism became especially sharp when the House of Representatives in Washington passed a non-binding resolution calling on President Barack Obama to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, despite the ceasefire agreement between pro-Kiev forces and federalists in the east of the country.
Several Russian lawmakers have called the US Congress’ call to send “lethal aid” to Ukraine a threat to the peace process and a direct provocation aimed at Russia.