Category Archives: Military Ops News

US Army used deadly viruses in Europe exercises…

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German newspaper Bild found that the US military used deadly anthrax spores in chemical weapons defense training on a military base in Germany.

In an article with the headline “US Army operated biological weapons in Germany,” Berlin daily Bild revealed that the US military used deadly live anthrax spores in military exercises.

The investigation revealed that several of the US military exercises on German soil involved “incidents” in which live anthrax spores were released. The incidents took place in the town of Landstuhl, near France, Luxembourg and the Ramstein military base. The US military previously sent live anthrax spores to South Korea.

The German defense ministry told the newspaper that the spores were not sent to any German military laboratories. The US military previously admitted that since 2005 it sent anthrax spores to South Korea, Australia and Canada, but not Germany.

“According to current information, Bundeswehr servicemen were not put in danger,” the German defense ministry claimed in an inquiry to Bild.

The spores were supposed to be neutralized at the Dugway Proving Ground in the US state of Utah before being sent to the exercises, but the incident made “some spores even more active,” according to the newspaper.

“Under pressure from superiors to show ‘positive’ results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses — such as with promises of work — killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action”

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In a twisted attempt to show battlefield success against FARC rebels, the Colombian military killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilians between 2002 and 2008, falsely depicting them as slain combatants, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The killings, known as “false positives,” were the source of a huge scandal in 2008, but the new report alleges that the practice was far more extensive and systematic than previously known. Many of Colombia’s highest-ranking military officials either condoned the practice or did nothing to stop it, according to the rights group.

“Under pressure from superiors to show ‘positive’ results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses — such as with promises of work — killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action,” the report states.

The killings amount to “one of the worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in recent decades,” according to the group.

An advance copy of the report was provided to The Washington Post. Human Rights Watch investigators said they would announce their findings Wednesday in Bogota and present them to President Juan Manuel Santos, who is attempting to negotiate a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to end the hemisphere’s longest-running civil conflict.

The report comes at a time of flagging public support for the peace negotiations, now in their third year, taking place in Havana. The talks have made more progress than any previous attempt at armistice, but the two sides have yet to resolve key issues related to troop demobilization and what punishment, if any, the insurgents will face.

False-positive killings allegedly peaked during the period described in the report, when then-President Álvaro Uribe escalated the fight against FARC and took back large swaths of rebel-held territory. Santos served as defense secretary under Uribe between 2006 and 2009, but the two men are now political archrivals.

During that time, commanding officers placed heavy emphasis on “combat kills” as a measure of military success, the report says, in some cases rewarding troops with cash payments and vacation time.

Soldiers abducted rural peasants, drug addicts, the homeless and petty criminals, killing them and dressing them in combat fatigues, then filling out bogus battlefield reports to pad fatality numbers.

“What makes these crimes unique is that they were not about eliminating political opponents or supposed guerrilla sympathizers; they were basically about killing civilians just to boost body count stats in the war on guerrillas,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch.

“What this says about the conflict is that impunity has become so cemented in Colombia that the army believed it could get away with flagrant and systematic murder on a large scale,” he said. “Army officers clearly felt emboldened to kill civilians without any consequences.”

The killings have subsided since 2008, when the false-positives scandal erupted after the abduction and killing of 19 young men from a Bogota slum. The army’s top commander was forced to resign, and three army generals and nearly a dozen officers were fired. Santos, then defense secretary, pledged to investigate.

But the Human Rights Watch report says other military officers have been promoted since, despite evidence of extrajudicial killings under their command. Colombian prosecutors are investigating more than 3,000 allegations of false-positive killings, the report said. Although about 800 soldiers have been charged, most of them are lower-ranking.

The report notes that the current head of Colombia’s armed forces and the top army official formerly led brigades that are alleged to have committed dozens of extrajudicial killings.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), a longtime critic of U.S. military aid flowing to Colombia despite evidence of rights violations, said that he was “deeply troubled” by the report and that it should force a new look at U.S. security assistance.

“As we provided billions of dollars in aid to the Colombian army over many years, its troops systematically executed civilians,” Leahy said in a statement to The Post.

“We have supported the Colombian military because the country has been threatened by an insurgency,” he said. “But unless Colombia’s military leaders are people of integrity, it will be difficult to continue to support an institution that engaged with impunity in a pattern of gross violations of human rights.”

The report urges Santos and his government to do more to protect witnesses testifying in false positive cases, assign more prosecutors to investigate them and go after higher-ranking officers who may bear responsibility, among other measures.

Pentagon declares “unprivileged belligerent” journalists legitimate targets in new manual…

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The Pentagon has released a book of instructions on the “law of war,” detailing acceptable ways of killing the enemy. The manual also states that journalists can be labeled “unprivileged belligerents,” an obscure term that replaced “enemy combatant.”

The 1,176-page “Department of Defense Law of War Manual” explains that shooting, exploding, bombing, stabbing, or cutting the enemy are acceptable ways of getting the job done, but the use of poison or asphyxiating gases is not allowed.

Surprise attacks and killing retreating troops have also been given the green light.

But the lengthy manual doesn’t only talk about protocol for those on the frontline. It also has an extensive section on journalists – including the fact that they can be labeled terrorists.

“In general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents,” the manual states.

The term “unprivileged belligerents” replaces the Bush-era term “unlawful enemy combatant.”

When asked what this means, professor of Journalism at Georgetown Chris Chambers told RT that he doesn’t know, “because the Geneva Convention, other tenets of international law, and even United States law – federal courts have spoken on this – doesn’t have this thing on ‘unprivileged belligerents’.”

This means that embedded journalists, who are officially sanctioned by the military and attached to a unit, will be favored by an even greater degree than before. “It gives them license to attack or even murder journalists that they don’t particularly like but aren’t on the other side,” Chambers said.

Even the Obama Administration’s definition of “enemy combatant” was vague enough, basically meaning any male of a military age who “happens to be there,” Chambers added.

The manual also deals with drones, stating that there is “no prohibition in the law of war on the use of remotely piloted aircraft (also called “unmanned aerial vehicles”).” Such weapons may offer certain advantages over the weapons systems. It states that drones can be designated as military aircraft if used by a country’s military.

The book includes a foreword from the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Stephen Preston, who states that “the law of war is part of who we are.” He goes on to say that the manual will “help us remember the hard-learned lessons from the past.”

The manual is the Pentagon’s first all-in-one legal guide for the four military branches. Previously, each sector was tasked with writing their own guidelines for engagement, which presumably did not list journalists as potential traitors.

The Pentagon did not specify the exact circumstances under which a journalist might be declared an unprivileged belligerent, but Chambers says he is sure “their legal department is going over it, as is the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.”

Pentagon knew about former Army doctor’s macabre training techniques for 10 years…

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The Pentagon knew about a former Army doctor’s macabre training techniques 10 years ago – techniques which led to his license recently being suspended – but continued to hire him to train troops in battlefield medicine.

Dr. John Henry Hagmann allegedly gave trainees drugs and liquor and had them perform disturbing procedures on one another. The Virginia Board of Medicine suspended Hagmann’s medical license earlier this year.

In 2005, the commander of US Special Forces became so alarmed by what his aides observed during one of Hagmann’s training courses that the commander ordered all such private training halted, according to interviews and military documents reviewed by Reuters.

In his order, General Bryan Brown wrote that aides witnessed “potentially hazardous physiological demonstrations” performed on US troops.

Not long after, a Navy captain banned Hagmann from his base, disturbed that the doctor was giving drugs to some trainees so that other students could observe the effects, Reuters reported.

“I refused to let him into my facilities,” said Efren Saenz, a now-retired Navy officer who led a field medical training battalion at Camp Johnson from 2006 to 2009.

Still, the government continued to contract with Hagmann, paying him at least $10.5 million in federal contracts since 2007 through his company, Deployment Medicine International (DMI).

David Morehouse, DMI’s vice president for operations from 2005 to 2011, emailed the Virginia Board of Medicine shortly after Hagmann’s license was suspended.

“Thank you for doing this, for finally stopping this heinous physician who places so many people at risk, and has done so without penalty for decades,” Morehouse wrote in the email, which was obtained by Reuters.

Hagmann often required that those who took or helped teach his courses sign non-disclosure agreements, Reuters reported.

Spokespeople for the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and Special Operations told Reuters that the training techniques described in the Virginia medical board’s report are not appropriate battlefield-trauma training.

Hagmann is expected to appear on Friday in front of the Virginia medical board, which will consider whether to revoke his medical license.

The board alleges that in 2012 and 2013, Hagmann induced shock by withdrawing the blood of students, provided trainees with the hypnotic drug ketamine, performed penile nerve blocks and instructed troops to insert catheters into one another’s genitals. He is also accused of conducting rectal exams for his own sexual gratification.

Hagmann has maintained that he violated no rules and harmed no one, and said his training techniques comply with standard practices for training medical students.

Veterans urge military drone operators to refuse orders to fly…

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An increasing number of United States military veterans are counseling United States military drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance/attack missions – the veterans are even helping sponsor prime time television commercials urging drone operators to “refuse to fly.”

In a letter released today by KnowDrones.com, 44 former members of the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines whose ranks range from private to colonel and whose military service spans 60 years, “urge United States drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/ assassination missions. These missions profoundly violate domestic and international laws intended to protect individuals’ rights to life, privacy and due process.”

Among those signing the letter are retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, who resigned from her State Department post in 2003 over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and former Marine Captain Matthew Hoh, who, in spite of pleadings by Obama Administration officials, resigned his State Department post in Afghanistan in 2009 in protest over U.S. strategic goals and policy there. Also signing are former U.S. Army Captain and CIA official Ray McGovern; former U.S. Navy Lt. Barry Ladendorf, president of Veterans for Peace; and former U.S. Army Sgts. Aaron Hughes and Maggie Martin, co-directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Speaking to the issue of disobeying military orders, the letter says: “Those involved in United States drone operations who refuse to participate in drone missions will be acting in accordance with Principle IV of the Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Judgment of the Tribunal, The United Nations 1950,” that states:

“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him of responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible.”

“The people signing this letter know that they are asking drone operators to take a heavy step,” said Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com, “but we feel it is perfectly legitimate to advise military people to stop taking part in illegal activity that has killed thousands without due process, is terrorizing thousands more and is wracking their own ranks with moral injury and PTSD.”

To advance the “Refuse to Fly” initiative, KnowDrones.com has been airing 15-second television commercials (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESdmex_AA3I&feature=youtu.be) on CNN, FoxNews, MNBC and other networks in areas near drone intelligence and control centers in the U.S. The paid spots, the cost of which has been partially covered by members of Veterans for Peace, show the human toll of drone attacks and urge drone operators to refuse to fly.

The ads have appeared in Las Vegas near Creech AFB and in northern California near Beale AFB. They are currently airing in upstate New York near Hancock Air National Guard base outside Syracuse and the Air Guard base near Niagara Falls; more showings will be scheduled soon elsewhere in the U.S.

“The criminality and recklessness of the foreign policy of Washington and its NATO allies is staggering. A pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russian forces, many of them near populated areas, could claim millions of lives in seconds and lead to a nuclear war that would obliterate humanity. Even assuming that the US officials threatening Russia do not actually want such an outcome, however, and that they are only trying to intimidate Moscow, there is a sinister objective logic to such threats”

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US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is meeting today at the headquarters of the US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany with two dozen US military commanders and European diplomats to discuss how to escalate their economic and military campaign against Russia. They will assess the impact of current economic sanctions, as well as NATO’s strategy of exploiting the crisis in eastern Ukraine to deploy ever-greater numbers of troops and military equipment to Eastern Europe, threatening Russia with war.

A US defense official told Reuters that the main purpose of the meeting was to “assess and strategize on how the United States and key allies should think about heightened tensions with Russia over the past year.” The official also said Carter was open to providing the Ukrainian regime with lethal weapons, a proposal which had been put forward earlier in the year.

Most provocatively, a report published by the Associated Press yesterday reports that the Pentagon has been actively considering the use of nuclear missiles against military targets inside Russia, in response to what it alleges are violations of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Russia denies US claims that it has violated the INF by flight-testing ground-launched cruise missiles with a prohibited range.

Three options being considered by the Pentagon are the placement of anti-missile defenses in Europe aimed at shooting Russian missiles out of the sky; a “counterforce” option that would involve pre-emptive non-nuclear strikes on Russia military sites; and finally, “countervailing strike capabilities,” involving the pre-emptive deployment of nuclear missiles against targets inside Russia.

The AP states: “The options go so far as one implied—but not stated explicitly—that would improve the ability of US nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.” In other words, the US is actively preparing nuclear war against Russia.

Robert Scher, one of Carter’s nuclear policy aides, told Congress in April that the deployment of “counterforce” measures would mean “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.”

According to other Pentagon officials, this option would entail the deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles throughout Europe.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Skewers told AP, “All the options under consideration are designed to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from their violation.”

The criminality and recklessness of the foreign policy of Washington and its NATO allies is staggering. A pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russian forces, many of them near populated areas, could claim millions of lives in seconds and lead to a nuclear war that would obliterate humanity. Even assuming that the US officials threatening Russia do not actually want such an outcome, however, and that they are only trying to intimidate Moscow, there is a sinister objective logic to such threats.

Nuclear warmongering by US officials immensely heightens the danger of all-out war erupting accidentally, amid escalating military tensions and strategic uncertainty. NATO forces are deploying for military exercises all around Russia, from the Arctic and Baltic Seas to Eastern Europe and the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Regional militaries are all on hair-trigger alerts.

US officials threatening Russia cannot know how the Kremlin will react to such threats. With Moscow concerned about the danger of a sudden NATO strike, Russia is ever more likely to respond to perceived signs of NATO military action by launching its missiles, fearing that otherwise the missiles will be destroyed on the ground. The danger of miscalculations and miscommunications leading to all-out war is immensely heightened.

The statements of Scher and Carter confirm warnings made last year by the WSWS, that NATO’s decision to back a fascist-led putsch in Kiev in February, and to blame Russia without any evidence for shooting down flight MH17, posed the risk of war. “Are you ready for war—including possibly nuclear war—between the United States, Europe, and Russia? That is the question that everyone should be asking him- or herself in light of the developments since the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17,” the WSWS wrote .

In March, Putin stated that he had placed Russian forces, including its nuclear forces, on alert in the aftermath of the Kiev putsch, fearing a NATO attack on Russia. Now the threat of war arising from US policy has been confirmed directly by statements of the US military.

These threats have developed largely behind the backs of the world working class. Workers in the United States, Europe and worldwide have time and again shown their hostility to US wars in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Yet nearly 15 years after these wars began, the world stands on the brink of an even bloodier and more devastating conflict, and the media and ruling elites the world over are hiding the risk of nuclear war.

US President Barack Obama is expected to escalate pressure on Russia at the G7 summit this weekend, pressing European leaders to maintain economic sanctions put in place in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year. The latest outbreak in violence in Ukraine this week, which the US blames on Russia, is to serve as a pretext for continuing the sanctions.

Speaking to Parliament on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned of a “colossal threat of the resumption of large-scale hostilities by Russian and terrorist forces.” He claimed without proof that 9,000 Russian soldiers are deployed in rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s military should be ready for a new offensive by the enemy, as well as a full-scale invasion along the entire border with the Russian Federation,” Poroshenko said. “We must be really prepared for this.” He said the Ukrainian army had at least 50,000 soldiers stationed in the east, prepared to defend the country.

Poroshenko’s remarks came a day after renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and Russian-backed separatists resulted in dozens of casualties. This week’s fighting marked the largest breach to date of the cease-fire signed in February.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia believed the previous day’s hostilities had been provoked by Kiev to influence upcoming discussions at the G7 summit this weekend and the EU summit in Brussels at the end of the month. “These provocative actions are organized by Ukraine’s military forces, and we are concerned with that,” he stated.

Each side blamed the other for initiating fighting in Marinka, approximately nine miles west of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. Yuriy Biryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, reported on Thursday that five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the fighting, and another 39 wounded. Eduard Basurin, deputy defense minister and spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), told Interfax that 16 rebel fighters and five civilians had been killed.
Ukrainian forces also fired artillery at the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Wednesday. Shells landed in the southwest districts of Kirovsky and Petrovsky, killing 6 people and wounding at least 90 others. The city’s Sokol market was severely damaged, with several rows of shops burned to the ground.

Responding to Wednesday’s developments, members of the fascistic Right Sector militia have been called to mobilize for battle. Andrey Stempitsky, commander of the militia’s paramilitary battalion, posted a message on Facebook calling on those who went home during the cease-fire to “return to their combat units.” He warned that the Right Sector would “wage war, ignoring the truce devotees.”

“The indiscriminate killing of South Vietnamese noncombatants — the endless slaughter that wiped out civilians day after day, month after month, year after year throughout the Vietnam War — was neither accidental nor unforeseeable”

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As crowds gathered in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung reminded the crowd of the role the United States had played in that war. “They committed countless barbarous crimes, caused immeasurable losses and pain to our people and country,” Dung told the audience in an address.

Given that Vietnam and the United States now enjoy a relatively stable and friendly relationship, it may seem a provocative thing for the prime minister to say. But it’s not hard to understand the reason for Dung’s sentiment.

American estimates say that as many as 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war, while 58,000 Americans were killed. In total, around 3 million North Vietnamese forces and civilians may have died, according to the government. There were acts of extreme cruelty committed by both sides, and American popular culture has established the war as a moral catastrophe.

Events like the My Lai massacre, in which U.S. Army soldiers killed 350 to 500 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam, helped swing the American public against the war at the time. In My Lai, villagers were killed en masse in retaliation for nearby booby traps and mines, and some were burned alive when their huts were set alight.

Yet, even with these acknowledgements, there’s still a sense among some that the United States hasn’t done enough to address the “countless barbarous crimes” Dung mentioned.

While 14 officers were charged by Army prosecutors in the aftermath of the My Lai massacre, only one man was convicted. Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was found guilty of killing 22 villagers, yet in the end served only three years under house arrest and four months in a military stockade after President Richard Nixon intervened. Academics such as Kendrick Oliver have argued that while My Lai caused horror, it mostly prompted outpourings of support for U.S. soldiers rather than for their victims.

And while My Lai is acknowledged, some say that the massacre was only notable because of its scale, and that smaller-scale killings of civilians by U.S. troops were alarmingly commonplace. In his book “Kill Anything That Moves,” journalist Nick Turse argues that American authorities were aware of similar killings and often allowed them.

“The indiscriminate killing of South Vietnamese noncombatants — the endless slaughter that wiped out civilians day after day, month after month, year after year throughout the Vietnam War — was neither accidental nor unforeseeable,” Turse wrote.

In Ho Chi Minh City, atrocities like these feature prominently in the War Remnants Museum, as do the other controversies such as the use of napalm or Agent Orange. These are the sort of “barbaric crimes” that Dung is alluding to. And, since many were not investigated nor punished, the Vietnamese prime minister’s description of “countless” may be accurate.

Over the past week, the dark and disputed moments of the 20th century have been dragged up a few times: Turkey was infuriated by the global discussions of the mass killings of Armenians that began 100 years ago, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing more and more calls to clearly reiterate Japan’s apology for wartime cruelty from over 70 years ago.

On the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, there’s surprisingly little discussion of the painful history there, however. Four decades after the conflict, it may seem like there’s simply too much to lose by bringing up a painful past: A 2014 poll by Pew Research found that 76 percent of Vietnamese had a favorable view of the United States, and 95 percent thought trade with other countries was good.