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unhappycamper

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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
Number of posts: 60,364

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KBR, Guilty In Iraq Negligence, Wants Taxpayers To Foot The Bill

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/kbr-guilty-iraq-negligence_n_2436115.html

KBR, Guilty In Iraq Negligence, Wants Taxpayers To Foot The Bill
Ryan J. Reilly
Posted: 01/09/2013 9:37 am EST | Updated: 01/09/2013 11:49 pm EST

WASHINGTON -- Sodium dichromate is an orange-yellowish substance containing hexavalent chromium, an anti-corrosion chemical. To Lt. Col. James Gentry of the Indiana National Guard, who was stationed at the Qarmat Ali water treatment center in Iraq just after the 2003 U.S. invasion, it was “just different-colored sand.” In their first few months at the base, soldiers were told by KBR contractors running the facility the substance was no worse than a mild irritant.

Gentry was one of approximately 830 service members, including active-duty soldiers and members of the National Guard and reserve units from Indiana, South Carolina, West Virginia and Oregon, assigned to secure the water treatment plant, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sodium dichromate is not a mild irritant. It is an extreme carcinogen. In November 2009, at age 52, Gentry died of cancer. The VA affirmed two months later that his death was service-related.

In November, a jury found KBR, the military's largest contractor, guilty of negligence in the poisoning of a dozen soldiers, and ordered the company to pay $85 million in damages. Jurors found KBR knew both of the presence and toxicity of the chemical. Other lawsuits against KBR are pending.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:10 AM (0 replies)

Hagel and Kerry Mean Obama Is Ready to Leave Afghanistan -- Finally

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-soltz/hagel-and-kerry-mean-obam_b_2440346.html

Hagel and Kerry Mean Obama Is Ready to Leave Afghanistan -- Finally
Jon Soltz
Posted: 01/09/2013 11:34 am

As the Obama adminstration prepares to meet with Hamid Karzai at the White House on Friday, something significant is happening at the White House regarding Afghanistan, and it is good for American security and our troops.

Not coincidentally, it has to do with two combat veterans, with five purple hearts between them. John Kerry as Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense mark the clearest intention to date that President Obama believes there is nothing more we can do in Afghanistan, it is time to bring our troops home (leaving only a counter-terror force in the region), and that it is time to definitively shut down the neocons.

In Hagel and Kerry, he is bringing aboard one man who opposed the surge in Afghanistan, and has long called for a drawdown, and another who quickly realized the surge was not a success, and called for a shift in strategy.

"I disagreed with the President Obama -- his decision to surge in Afghanistan -- as I did with President Bush on the surge in Iraq," Hagel told the Financial Times in 2011. "Of course, no force in the world can stand the sophisticated power of American military. Nobody can stay on the field with you, but that's not the issue. That never was the question. The question is then, 'What happens next? Where is this going? What is the end game? Is this going to lead to a unified nation? Is this going to lead to a national resolution of national governance, of freedom for individuals? Is that what we're buying here?' That's the question."
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:56 AM (2 replies)

The Soul of America

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/the-soul-of-america_b_2439576.html

The Soul of America
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Posted: 01/09/2013 10:04 am

Despite such terminology as "fiscal cliff" and "debt ceiling," the great debate taking place in Washington now has relatively little to do with financial issues. It is all about ideology. It is all about economic winners and losers in American society. It is all about the power of Big Money. It is all about the soul of America.

In America today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, and more inequality than at any time period since 1928. The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while, incredibly, the bottom 60 percent own only 2.3 percent. One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In terms of income distribution in 2010, the last study done on this issue, the top 1 percent earned 93 percent of all new income while the bottom 99 percent shared the remaining 7 percent.

Despite the reality that the rich are becoming much richer while the middle class collapses and the number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high, the Republicans and their billionaire backers want more, more, and more. The class warfare continues.

My Republican colleagues say that the deficits are a spending problem, not a revenue problem. What these deficit-hawk hypocrites won't talk about is their spending. They won't discuss what they did to dig the country into this $1 trillion deep deficit hole. They waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without paying for them. They gave away huge tax breaks for the rich. They squandered taxpayer dollars on the pharmaceutical industry by making it illegal to let Medicare bargain for lower drug prices. They also rescinded financial regulations that enabled Wall Street to operate like a gambling casino, leading to a severe recession that eroded tax revenue and left more than 14 percent of American workers unemployed or underemployed.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:38 AM (1 replies)

Solving the Fiscal Impasse Starts and Ends at the Pentagon

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-barbara-lee/solving-the-fiscal-impass_b_2440632.html

Solving the Fiscal Impasse Starts and Ends at the Pentagon
Rep. Barbara Lee
Posted: 01/09/2013 12:14 pm

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai returns to the United States this week, he will meet President Barack Obama at a time when the overwhelming majority of the American people and a strong bipartisan coalition of Congress believe it is long past time to bring the war to a safe and expedited close. Most Americans realize that instead of spending billions of dollars extending our military presence in Afghanistan, we need to commit to a political settlement, bring all of our troops safely home and invest in jobs as well as nation-building here at home.

Yet for too long, we have given the Pentagon blank checks while neglecting our crumbling roads, our aging water systems and our struggling schools. From 2000 to 2010, overall spending on the base defense budget rose from nearly $300 billion to $700 billion. That massive increase in spending, combined with $1.4 trillion (and counting) spent on two wars, and the projected hundreds of billions in costs to care for our returning veterans, were all committed even as we passed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This is an unprecedented and disastrous policy course that led directly to the debt problem we have today.

After a decade of tax giveaways and extravagant defense spending, Congress has passed more than $1.7 trillion in spending cuts to critical domestic programs on which all American families rely. Most of this came in the summer of 2011 as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling without any revenue. Now, with the fiscal cliff deal behind us, the coming weeks will bring even more heated debate surrounding our budget, across-the-board cuts called sequestration and how to continue growing our economy by protecting the American dream for all. Here is what we should do:

Brings our troops home: Last month, almost 100 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives joined me and the overwhelming majority of the American people in reaffirming our strong conviction to bring the war in Afghanistan to a safe and expedited close. It is long past time to hand over security responsibility to the Afghans and ensure a seamless transition for our brave troops from active duty to civilian life. Doing so would save tens of billions of dollars this year alone.



unhappycamper comment: Other measures Ms. Lee is proposing (in addition to vacating Afghanistan) include job creation, doing something to the obscene pentagon budget and auditing the pentagon which has not been done for decades.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:29 AM (0 replies)

Abu Ghraib Settlement: Defense Contractor Engility Holdings Pays $5M To Iraqi Torture Detainees

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/abu-ghraib-settlement-defense-contractor-pays_n_2435226.html



Abu Ghraib Settlement: Defense Contractor Engility Holdings Pays $5M To Iraqi Torture Detainees
By PETE YOST
01/08/13 06:02 PM ET EST AP

WASHINGTON — A defense contractor whose subsidiary was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to torture detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid $5.28 million to 71 former inmates held there and at other U.S.-run detention sites between 2003 and 2007.

The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Va., marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a U.S. defense contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer.

The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.

The defendant in the lawsuit, L-3 Services Inc., now an Engility subsidiary, provided translators to the U.S. military in Iraq. In 2006, L-3 Services had more than 6,000 translators in Iraq under a $450 million-a-year contract, an L-3 executive told an investors conference at the time.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 09:11 AM (1 replies)

Is the United States Moving to Africa?

http://watchingamerica.com/News/190489/is-the-united-states-moving-to-africa/

Is the United States Moving to Africa?
Milli Gazete, Turkey
By Sadrettin Karaduman
Translated By Dayla Rogers
1 January 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane

This time the U.S. has turned its gaze to Africa. The Pentagon has pushed the button to send troops to 35 African countries in the name of the “war on terror.” Kenya, the homeland of Obama's father, is on the list of nations slated for military intervention.

~snip~

Strategic interests lie beneath the United States' efforts to create such a comprehensive program to threaten Africa's security. It is thought that competition with China drives this military policy.

America wants to prevent China from winning over the African people by preventing a large Chinese population from entering the continent. America has for some time been discomforted by China's activities in Africa. In order to maintain its control of intelligence and logistics in the region, it has boosted its military presence.

One of the world's key sea routes is found within AFRICOM's jurisdiction. Africa produces 7 percent of the world's petrol. Thirty percent of the world's gold also comes from there. South Africa alone is home to 35 percent of the gold reserves in the world. Ever since rich colonialists set foot on African soil 500 years ago, they have left the place destitute. Westerners have controlled the continent more than Africans for centuries. The U.S., in particular, has been interested in these resources in recent years. This is because the U.S. imports 60 percent of the petrol that it consumes, and 15 percent of this comes from Africa. By 2025 this percentage will rise to 25.

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 07:39 AM (2 replies)

Why Has America “Rediscovered” Africa?

http://watchingamerica.com/News/190862/why-has-america-rediscovered-africa/

Why Has America “Rediscovered” Africa?
Huanqiu, China
By Yin Chengde
Translated By Nathan Hsu
4 January 2013
Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

~snip~

For quite some time, the U.S. has viewed Africa as a "backwards" and "failed” continent, and so has largely neglected it. Africa's strategic significance has increased following its revival and accelerated pace of integrated development in the 1990s. As the world began to face an energy crisis and a shortage of natural resources, Africa's value as a treasure trove of energy and resources became especially apparent. It was only then that the U.S. "rediscovered" and began to place greater importance on Africa, as well as make substantial changes to its African policy. In recent years, it has proposed building a "new U.S.-African Partnership" of the 21st century, strengthening every aspect of its operations on the continent. African-American President Obama personally visited Africa after his election, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was even more active with continuous "shuttle diplomacy," bolstering the political links between the U.S. and Africa.

The meat of the U.S. relationship with Africa is in trade. In 2000, the U.S. introduced its African Growth and Opportunity Act, announcing that it would offer unilateral trade benefits for the 48 Sub-Saharan African countries. The 37 countries eligible for benefits were able to export over 6,000 types of products to the U.S. duty-free, and U.S.-African trade increased rapidly. In 2008, aggregate trade between the U.S. and Africa reached $104.6 billion with a year-on-year growth of 28 percent, over three times that of 2001. U.S. aid to Africa has increased correspondingly. In 2005, the U.S. declared that it would increase annual aid to Africa from $4.3 billion to $8.6 billion over the following five years; U.S. aid to Africa stood at 36.2 percent of total foreign aid in 2009.

The U.S. adjusting its African policy to augment its military presence there is both a prelude and an important point in itself. In 2008, it established AFRICOM, something not done even during the Cold War. NATO's 2011 air strikes in Libya were issued and directed by this command. It established military bases and stationed over 1,000 troops in several African countries, and also strengthened its West-African naval force to ensure the safety of oil shipping lanes. In 2012, the U.S. had over 10 military operations and signed military agreements with over 20 states in Africa for the wartime use of airfields and ports. It will deploy over 3,500 soldiers to 35 African countries in 2013.

The basic impetus for this adjustment in U.S. policy and the deepening of relations with Africa lies in reaping greater profits and, in particular, making the control and seizure of African oil and other strategic resources the core objective of its African strategy. Its investments in Africa are primarily concentrated in oil-producing regions. U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil plans to invest $50 billion in Africa over the next 10 years, and Chevron plans to invest $20 billion over the next five years in an effort to expand its African oil production capacity. Outwardly, the U.S. has declared that its increased military strength in Africa is due to "anti-terror" considerations, but in truth, its purpose is to protect U.S. strategic interests in Africa, especially those related to oil. Its military operations in Africa have primarily revolved around energy and natural resource bases and opening up supply lines. The U.S. Army's "anti-terror" operations in Africa have been selective. It only moves against terrorism which threatens its interests, and is content to selectively ignore that which does not, however catastrophic, and simply watch from the sidelines.



unhappycamper comment: It's all about oil. Again.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 07:29 AM (2 replies)

'So many people died'

http://atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/OA10Ae02.html



'So many people died'
By Nick Turse
Jan 10, 2013

~snip~

Pham To told me that the planes began their bombing runs in 1965 and that periodic artillery shelling started about the same time. Nobody will ever know just how many civilians were killed in the years after. "The number is uncountable," he said one spring day a few years ago in a village in the mountains of rural central Vietnam. "So many people died."

And it only got worse. Chemical defoliants came next, ravaging the land. Helicopter machine gunners began firing on locals. By 1969, bombing and shelling were day-and-night occurrences. Many villagers fled. Some headed further into the mountains, trading the terror of imminent death for a daily struggle of hardscrabble privation; others were forced into squalid refugee resettlement areas. Those who remained in the village suffered more when the troops came through. Homes were burned as a matter of course. People were kicked and beaten. Men were shot when they ran in fear. Women were raped. One morning, a massacre by American soldiers wiped out 21 fellow villagers. This was the Vietnam War for Pham To, as for so many rural Vietnamese.

~snip~

In those years, "Vietnam" even proved a surprisingly two-sided analogy - after, at least, generals began reading and citing revisionist texts about that war. These claimed, despite all appearances, that the US military had actually won in Vietnam (before the politicians, media, and antiwar movement gave the gains away). The same winning formula, they insisted, could be used to triumph again. And so, a failed solution from that failed war, counterinsurgency, or COIN, was trotted out as the military panacea for impending disaster.

Debated comparisons between the two ongoing wars and the one that somehow never went away, came to litter newspapers, journals, magazines, and the Internet - until David Petraeus, a top COINdinista general who had written his doctoral dissertation on the "lessons" of the Vietnam War, was called in to settle the matter by putting those lessons to work winning the other two. In the end, of course, US troops were booted out of Iraq, while the war in Afghanistan continues to this day as a dismally devolving stalemate, now wracked by "green-on-blue" or "insider" attacks on US forces, while the general himself returned to Washington as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director to run covert wars in Pakistan and Yemen before retiring in disgrace following a sex scandal.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 06:51 AM (1 replies)

Former leader (Gen. Stanley McChrystal) says U.S. owes Afghans enduring security

http://www.leaderpost.com/news/Former+leader+says+owes+Afghans+enduring+security/7787648/story.html

Former leader says U.S. owes Afghans enduring security
By Kimberly Dozier, The Associated Press January 8, 2013

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said Monday he backs the White House's drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan slated for 2014, but added the United States owes Afghans some sort of enduring security presence to support them.

"We have an emotional responsibility," Mc-Chrystal said of Afghanistan.

He commanded forces there before resigning over a controversial magazine article.

"We created expectations after 2001 in people" that the United States would be there to keep the country from sliding back into the chaos of the Taliban years, McChrystal said.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jan 8, 2013, 08:42 AM (6 replies)

Obama Nominates John Brennan, 'Kill List' Architect, as New CIA Chief

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/07



John Brennan's career spans from the dark days of Bush's torture program to Obama's secretive 'kill list'

Obama Nominates John Brennan, 'Kill List' Architect, as New CIA Chief
Jon Queally, staff writer
Published on Monday, January 7, 2013 by Common Dreams

At a White House ceremony on Monday afternoon, President Obama officially nominated his top counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to be the next director of the CIA.

In his assessment of the decision, the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald argues that it should not be shocking that Brennan—who was withdrawn from consideration for CIA chief in 2008 because of his association with the CIA's torture program under President Bush—has now been brought back by President Obama in 2013.

Greenwald called Obama's nomination of Brennan a "symptom of Obama's own extremism (in the controversial areas of torture, targeted killings, and the US drone policy), not a cause."

Calling it a fitting choice, Greenwald said the decision

is a perfect illustration of the Obama legacy that a person who was untouchable as CIA chief in 2008 because of his support for Bush's most radical policies is not only Obama's choice for the same position now, but will encounter very little resistance. Within this change one finds one of the most significant aspects of the Obama presidency: his conversion of what were once highly contentious right-wing policies into harmonious dogma of the DC bipartisan consensus.




Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jan 8, 2013, 07:46 AM (13 replies)
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