Bret Stephens: ‘Thank God for the Atom Bomb’

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t merely horrific, war-ending events. They were lifesaving.

Bret Stephensrenocol_BretStephens writes: The headline of this column is lifted from a 1981 essay by the late Paul Fussell, the cultural critic and war memoirist. In 1945 Fussell was a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who had fought his way through Europe only to learn that he would soon be shipped to the Pacific to take part in Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands scheduled to begin in November 1945.

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Then the atom bomb intervened. Japan would not surrender after Hiroshima, but it did after Nagasaki.

I brought Fussell’s essay with me on my flight to Hiroshima and was stopped by this: “When we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live.”

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“Would the Japanese have been awed into capitulation by an offshore A-bomb test? Did the Soviet Union’s invasion of Manchuria, starting the day of the Nagasaki bombing, have the more decisive effect in pushing Japan to give up? Would casualties from an invasion really have exceeded the overall toll—by some estimates approaching 250,000—of the two bombs? We’ll never know.”

In all the cant that will pour forth this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs—that the U.S. owes the victims of the bombings an apology; that nuclear weapons ought to be abolished; that Hiroshima is a monument to man’s inhumanity to man; that Japan could have been defeated in a slightly nicer way—I doubt much will be made of Fussell’s fundamental point: Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t just terrible war-ending events. They were also lifesaving. The bomb turned the empire of the sun into a nation of peace activists.

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“We only know that the U.S. lost 14,000 men merely to take Okinawa in 82 days of fighting. We only know that, because Japan surrendered, the order to execute thousands of POWs in the event of an invasion of the home islands was never implemented. We only know that, in the last weeks of a war Japan had supposedly already lost, the Allies were sustaining casualties at a rate of 7,000 a week.”

I spent the better part of Monday afternoon with one such activist, Keiko Ogura,who runs a group called Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace. Mrs. Ogura had just turned eight when the bomb fell on Hiroshima, the epicenter less than 2 miles from her family home. She remembers wind “like a tornado”; thousands of pieces of shattered glass blasted by wind into the walls and beams of her house, looking oddly “shining and beautiful”; an oily black rain.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

And then came the refugees from the city center, appallingly burned and mutilated, “like a line of ghosts,” begging for water and then dying the moment they drank it. Everyone in Mrs. Ogura’s immediate family survived the bombing, but it would be years before any of them could talk about it. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Gerson: How the Nuclear Deal will Fund Iran’s Imperialism

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In the administration’s attempt to secure support from a third of the Congress, the truth is likely to get its hair mussed. But it is rare for an argument to be this comprehensively wrong.

Michael Gerson writes: The realist’s argument for the Iran nuclear agreement is that it is the least bad deal that a conflict-weary United States could secure. Now, with the nuclear issue parked (at least for a decade), we can get down to the business of strengthening friends in the Middle East and pushing back against Iran’s regional ambitions.

“Over the past few decades — without a nuclear umbrella and without a world-class military — Iran has pursued a highly effective, asymmetrical campaign to spread its influence and destabilize its enemies. Early on, the Iranians noted that many Middle Eastern militaries are relatively weak.”

A variant of this position claims that the nuclear deal would actually weaken Iran’s strategic position. In this view, the regime, faced with sanction-caused economic ruin, was forced to give up the nuclear umbrella that would have acted as cover for its export of subversion. An Iran thus defanged is a fundamentally weak country, with little conventional military capacity. The $60 billion windfall Iran would net from the lifting of sanctions is paltry (the argument goes) compared with the strategic blow of giving up its nuclear ambitions. A “yes” vote on the agreement is therefore a contribution to containment.

“Iranian operatives — often through the Quds Force, created for this purpose — have set out to exploit local grievances, encourage sectarian solidarity and export their version of anti-American, anti-Semitic, revolutionary Islamism.”

In the administration’s attempt to secure support from a third of the Congress, the truth is likely to get its hair mussed. But it is rare for an argument to be this comprehensively wrong.

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

Over the past few decades — without a nuclear umbrella and without a world-class military — Iran has pursued a highly effective, asymmetrical campaign to spread its influence and destabilize its enemies. Early on, the Iranians noted that many Middle Eastern militaries are relatively weak. In some conflicts, the addition of several thousand well-trained, well-led militia members could have a disproportionate, even decisive, influence. So Iranian operatives — often through the Quds Force, created for this purpose — have set out to exploit local grievances, encourage sectarian solidarity and export their version of anti-American, anti-Semitic, revolutionary Islamism. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] John Kerry: Iran Deal Not A Treaty Because Getting Senate Consent Has ‘Become Physically Impossible’


The White House did not pursue the nuclear agreement with Iran as an international treaty, because getting U.S. Senate advise and consent for a treaty has “become physically impossible,” Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers on Tuesday.

 

 


The Top-Secret Flights that Ended the War

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70 years after the atomic bombings, time stands still on the island of Tinian

 writes:Imagine disembarking on the shore of a remote tropical island. Walking cautiously past swaying palm trees into the heavy undergrowth, you soon encounter what appears to be the fossilized bones of an enormous prehistoric creature. The thick parallel lines might have been ribs, and the long straight stretches its spine or appendages. Naturally you’re moved to wonder how it appeared when alive, how it moved about and what it ate.

For dyed-in-the-wool history buffs or those merely looking for an exotic place off the beaten track to relax, Tinian beckons. It’s an easy trip from Japan. If you take a Delta Airlines flight to Saipan during daylight hours, be sure to request a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. On the plane’s approach to neighboring Saipan, you’ll get a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the “ribs” of that prehistoric creature — the four runways of North Field — which in the waning months of World War II was the largest operational U.S. air base in the world.

Home to barely 3,000 people, the 101-sq.-km island of Tinian is one of three inhabited islands of 14 that make up the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Over a period of half a century — between 1899 and 1944 — Tinian went from being controlled by Spain to Germany, Japan and finally the U.S., which in July 1944 captured the island in an eight-day campaign that was largely overshadowed by the bigger and bloodier battle on Saipan, located just 9 km to the north.

From the late 1930s, Japan had begun to augment its military presence in the Nampo Shoto (groups of islands south of the main archipelago), sending 1,280 convicts from Yokohama Prison to Tinian to expand Hagoi Field, located at the north end of the island, with a 1,450-meter-long runway.

Once in American hands, teams of U.S. Navy construction battalions (known as “CBs” or “Seabees”) swarmed over the island, eventually moving an estimated 11 million tons of coral to build runways, taxiways, buildings and some 145 km of roads. The former Japanese airstrip was extended for use by the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range B-29 bombers, adding three more 2,440-meter runways.

It was from North Field’s runway, “Able,” that a specially modified B-29 christened Enola Gay, took off in the early hours of Aug. 6, 1945, to drop the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima.

Retracing history

I’d visited Tinian once before in 2007, but left to my own devices failed to find several of the places I’d wanted to see. This time I had much better luck, thanks to an introduction to the island’s resident historian, Don Farrell.

Farrell, who’s married to a native of Tinian, has taken up the story of his new home with gusto. In addition to publishing an illustrated guidebook for visitors in 2012 titled “Tinian: A Brief History,” he’s currently nearing completion of his magnum opus, a detailed history of the atomic bomb project that promises to shed new light on Tinian’s role in the war.

Arriving at the lobby of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino clad in sandals, Bermuda shorts, aloha shirt and a baseball cap, Farrell appears like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe — if Crusoe had driven a Mazda pickup truck.

“What would you like to see?” he asks me while delivering a firm handshake.

“What do you say we retrace the actual route the bomb parts took from their arrival on the island?” I suggest.

After stopping for bottled water and gasoline, we head north. Our first destination is Tinian’s small port, where the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, on a top-secret mission, delivered the housing and key components of the uranium bomb on July 26, 1945. (Four days later a Japanese submarine would sink the ship east of the Philippines, with great loss of life.)

No ships, or people, are in port and there’s little left to see. We turn around and head northward on a bumpy, but still negotiable, road marked “8th Avenue.” (The roads in Tinian, named after streets in Manhattan, also include Broadway, Columbus Avenue and Riverside Drive.)

On our way north, we deviate up an overgrown hillside leading to the ruins of the Rasso Jinja, a Shinto shrine at the top of Mount Lasso, which at 171 meters marks the highest point on Tinian. Little remains of the shrine or the B-29 homing tower that stood close by. What can be seen is the concrete foundation of the old U.S. Army hospital. Read the rest of this entry »


Arms Race: U.S. Greenlights Sale of 600 Patriot Missiles to Saudi Arabia

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That could be bad for regional security, but it’s a boon for defense contractors who have already cut deals with Middle Eastern states worth roughly $6 billion in the months leading up to the historic nuclear accord.

Saudi Arabia is having a tough summer; all while Lockheed Martin has a banner year. The latest confluence of these trends came Wednesday as the U.S. State Department approved a $5.4 billion sale of 600 Lockheed-made PAC-3 missiles to Saudi Arabia, alongside an additional half billion dollars in ammunition for various smaller weapons. The deals still have to be approved by Congress, but such deals typically are.

“It marks the first major arms deal since the Iran nuclear deal struck earlier this month raised the prospect of reduced sanctions against the state. The deal would lift Iran’s conventional arms embargo within five years and leave the country free to pursue long-range missile technologies within eight.”

“The proposed sale will modernize and replenish Saudi Arabia’s current Patriot missile stockpile, which is becoming obsolete and difficult to sustain due to age and limited availability of repair parts,” the Pentagon said in it’s written notification to Congress of the pending deal. “The purchase of the PAC-3 missiles will support current and future defense missions and promote stability within the region.”

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Also see -$1.5B contract goes to Lockheed Martin for Patriot interceptors

“I think we saw quite clearly at Camp David when President Obama met with several of the Gulf partners back in May that missile defense cooperation would be a prime area of investment going forward as a way to bolster partner defense.”

— Melissa Dalton, a Middle East defense and security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

The sale of so many PAC-3 missiles—the most advanced missile for the Patriot missile launcher and built by Raytheon is the latest in a string of high-priced, high-profile arms deals between the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Cooperation Council allies in the region. It marks the first major arms deal since the Iran nuclear deal struck earlier this month raised the prospect of reduced sanctions against the state. The deal would lift Iran’s conventional arms embargo within five years and leave the country free to pursue long-range missile technologies within eight.

[Read the full text here, at Fortune.com]

That could be bad for regional security, but it’s a boon for defense contractors who have already cut deals with Middle Eastern states worth roughly $6 billion in the months leading up to the historic nuclear accord. U.S. defense companies like Boeing, and General Dynamics [fortune-stock symbol=”GD”] are all poised to reap the benefits of a Middle East arms race. Given the threat, (or at least the perceived threat) posed by Iran’s collection of ballistic missiles, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin look to have a busy year ahead. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! Top French Official Jacques Audibert Contradicts Kerry on Iran Deal

 writes: Secretary of State John Kerry has been painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Congress killed the Iran nuclear deal. Among other things, he has warned that “our friends in this effort will desert us.” But the top national security official from one of those nations involved in the negotiations, France, has a totally different view: He told two senior U.S. lawmakers that he thinks a Congressional no vote might actually be helpful.

His analysis is already having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.

Jacques Audibert

The French official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande. Before that, as the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014, he led theFrench diplomatic team in the discussions with Iran and the P5+1 group. Earlier this month, he met withDemocrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both top members of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Iran deal. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was also in the room.
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“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage…He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”

— Loretta Sanchez

According to both lawmakers, Audibert expressed support for the deal overall, but also directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to the bomb without restrictions.

“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or frenchmantwo, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage,” Sanchez told me in an interview. “He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”

[Read the full text here, at Bloomberg View]

(Before the publication of this article on Thursday, Jacques Audibert, the Elysee Palace office and the French Embassy in Washington were asked for comment, and did not respond. After its publication, the embassy released a statement saying it “formally denies the content of the remarks” attributed to Audibert by the two members of Congress, and U.S. Ambassador Hartley described them as “inaccurate.” Audibert tweeted that he “never said or suggested that a no vote from Congress … might be helpful or lead to a better deal,” and has not responded to requests for an interview.  Read the rest of this entry »


Bombs, or Bonds: Why Not Both?

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I’m Making Bombs and Buying Bonds! (victory loan drive) « Je fabrique des bombes et j’achète des obligations! » : campagne d’obligations de la Victoire


[VIDEO] Kerry: We Can’t Reveal Contents of Secret Side Deals to American People

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Daniel Halper writes: Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can’t be made public.

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 “Why can’t we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It’s not a sensitive U.S. government document.”

— Senator Tom Cotton

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“We don’t have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement…”

— Secretary of State, recreational windsurfer, John Kerry

Watch the exchange:

“So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?”

— Senator Tom Cotton

Hassan Rohani and Ayatollah Ali Khameni

“I’d like to stick with you, Secretary Kerry,” Cotton said….(read more)

[Also see – Cotton And Pompeo Reveal Stunning Secret Nuclear Side Deal As Khamenei’s Anti-US Rhetoric Continues]

The Weekly Standard


Democrats Own the Disaster in the Middle East

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“If you break it, you own it. That’s the supposed rule that Democrats imposed on the Bush administration as it allowed Iraq to descend into bloody chaos. If George W. Bush owned the Iraqi disaster, Barack Obama owns the implosion of America’s position in the Middle East.”

Read more…

Noah Rothman – Commentary Magazine


[VIDEO] John Kerry: Lawyer to the Mullahs

Secretary of State John Kerry goes to bat for Iran as he tries to sell the legitimacy of the nuclear deal.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani laughs as he speaks during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society in New York, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford (


Richard Whittle : Military Exercise ‘Black Dart’ to Combat Nightmare Drone Scenario

Three images here of Outlaw G2 made by Griffon Aerospace. Photos provided by JIAMDO. For Sunday PostScript story on drones.

Richard Whittle writes: Sweat the small stuff.

A nuclear power station in France. In October and November, French security officials were investigation a wave of drones that illegally flew over more than a dozen nuclear plants across France.Photo: Reuters

That’s the unofficial motto for this year’s edition of the military exercise Black Dart, a two-week test of tactics and technologies to combat hostile drones that begins Monday on the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County in California.

Steam rises at night from the cooling towers of the Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power station in Dampierre-en-Burly, France in this March 8, 2015 file photo. French power utility EDF is expected to hold its AGM this week.   REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Files   GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE - SEARCH "BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD MAY 18" FOR ALL IMAGES

The military categorizes Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by size and capability, from Group 5 drones that weigh more than 1,320 pounds and can fly above 18,000 feet like the Reaper, down to Group 1, mini- and micro-drones less than 20 pounds that fly lower than 1,200 feet. Previous Black 51pQLTbdHvL._SL250_Darts have covered threats to troops overseas and targets at home posed by drones of all sizes.

Order Richard Whittle’s book “Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution” from Amazon.com

But small drones are this year’s focus, said the director of this 14th edition of Black Dart, Air Force Maj. Scott Gregg, because of worrisome incidents since the last exercise.

Gregg cited the quadcopter that a drunk crashed onto the White House lawn in the wee hours of Jan. 26 and sightings of unidentified small drones flying over nuclear reactors in France. In the wake of those events, he said, “Even though we’ve been looking at [the small drone threat], it’s taken on a new sense of urgency.”

Gregg also could have mentioned how, to protest government surveillance, the Pirate Party of Germany flew a small drone right up to the podium as Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in Dresden two years ago. Or how in Japan last April, a nuclear-energy foe landed a drone carrying radioactive sand on the roof of the prime minister’s residence. And there was a report last week that British officials are worried ISIS may try to bomb festival crowds using small drones.

Target practice

The drones that Black Dart participants will attempt to shoot down.Photo: Post Illustration

The drones that Black Dart participants will attempt to shoot down.Photo: Post Illustration

The United States enjoyed a near-monopoly on armed drones for much of the past 15 years, but with more than 80 countries now buying or building drones of their own, and with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS known to have used unarmed drones in the Middle East, that advantage has evaporated.

[Read the full story here, at the New York Post]

Few countries and no terrorist groups are likely to emulate the complex and costly US system of undersea fiber-optic cables and satellite earth terminals in Europe that allows crews in the United States to fly drones carrying missiles and bombs over Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

The 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System was successful at Black Dart 2011.Photo: U.S. Navy

The 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System was successful at Black Dart 2011.Photo: U.S. Navy

But anyone can buy a Group 1 drone for a couple of hundred dollars and put it to nefarious use. Arm it with plastic explosives, radioactive material, biological or chemical agents, and it can be crashed, kamikaze-style, into a target.

“I’d say for the Department of Homeland Security, it’s one of the biggest concerns,” Gregg said.

The threat isn’t imaginary. Former Northeastern University student Rezwan Ferdaus is now serving 17 years in prison for plotting to pack C-4 plastic explosives into 1/10 scale radio controlled models of F-4 and F-86 fighter jets and fly them into the Capitol and Pentagon. Ferdaus also supplied cellphone detonators for IEDs to people he thought were agents of al Qaeda but turned out to be working for the FBI….(read more)

What’s worked

 Innovations that have previously found success at Black Dart.Photo: Post Illustration

Innovations that have previously found success at Black Dart.Photo: Post Illustration

This year the surrogate threats will include three Group 1 drones — a Hawkeye 400 hexacopter, a Flanker and a Scout II — and one Twin Hawk drone from the Group 2 category (21 to 55 lbs., slower than 250 knots, lower than 3,500 feet). Six Group 3 drones, all of them 13.5-foot wingspan Outlaw G2s made by Griffon Aerospace, also will be targets. Read the rest of this entry »


Iran Bitch-Slaps Kerry’s ‘Empty Threats’

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Tehran (AFP) – Iran hit out Friday against US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of threatening military action against Tehran if it fails to respect a historic nuclear deal sealed on July 14.

“Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of ‘the ability of the US for using military force’,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement.

Zarif decried what he called the “uselessness of such empty threats against the nation of Iran and the resistance of the nation of Iran”, and said such remarks should be consigned “to the last century”.

Zarif

“Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of ‘the ability of the US for using military force’.”

Despite the agreement reached with Iran on putting the nuclear bomb out of Tehran’s reach, several US officials, including Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, have signalled that military force remains on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Read the rest of this entry »


Marxists vs Jihadists: Perfect if Both Sides Lose

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SINJAR MOUNTAIN, Iraq—Nine years ago, Zind Ruken packed a bag and left her majority-ethnic-Kurdish city in Iran, escaping a brutal police crackdown and pressure to marry a man she’d never met.

“America’s association with a terror-listed Maoist-inspired militia, even if indirect, shows how dramatically Syria’s conflict has reconfigured regional alliances and eroded once-rigid borders.”

Now the 24-year-old is a battle-hardened guerrilla, using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to fight Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.

She has deployed to reverse their advances on self-governing Kurdish communities. Last summer, she says, she helped rescue Kurdish-speaking Yazidis besieged on Sinjar Mountain. Her unit has fought Islamist insurgents and conventional armies in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq—countries where an estimated 30 million Kurds live.

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant looks through the scope of his rifle in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Though best known for its horrific brutalities _ from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women _ the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines. (Militant website via AP)

“Constantly shifting alliances in the region mean the PKK’s rise isn’t certain to continue. But the guerrilla group’s growing stature has alarmed Turkey, a crucial North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the U.S., with whom the PKK has fought a three-decade war costing some 40,000 lives.”

Ms. Ruken’s journey provides a glimpse behind the remarkable rise of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the cultlike Marxist-inspired group she fights for and whose triumphs against Islamic State have helped it evolve from ragtag militia to regional power player.

The PKK and its Syrian affiliate have emerged as Washington’s most effective battlefield partners against Islamic State, also known as ISIS, even though the U.S. and its allies have for decades listed the PKK as a terrorist group. The movement in the past has been accused of kidnappings, murder and narcotics trafficking, but fighters like Ms. Ruken have presented the world an appealing face of the guerrillas—an image of women battling as equals with male comrades against an appallingly misogynist enemy.

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“Obama administration officials acknowledged the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG.”

U.S. war planners have been coordinating with the Syrian affiliate—the People’s Defense Units, or YPG—on air and ground operations through a joint command center in northern Iraq. And in two new centers in Syria’s Kobani and Jazeera regions, YPG commanders are in direct contact with U.S. commanders, senior Syrian Kurdish officials said.

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“There’s no reason to pretend anymore,” said a senior Kurdish official from Kobani. “We’re working together, and it’s working.”

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

By contrast, Ankara agreed only on Thursday to allow coalition airstrikes from an eastern-Turkey air base, after months of negotiations in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ’s government resisted international calls to enter the war with Islamic State. U.S. officials said the base deal shouldn’t affect U.S. air support to Kurdish fighters in Syria and may help increase collaboration with the YPG because jets and drones will be closer to the battlefield. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Palace Intrigue: Chinese Soldiers Storm Replica of Taiwan Presidential Office

Chun Han Wong reports: Is Beijing doubling down on its longstanding threat to reclaim Taiwan by force? That’s a concern for some Taiwanese after China’s state broadcaster showcased a recent military drill that featured soldiers storming an apparent replica of the island’s presidential palace.

“The Chinese Communist Party hasn’t given up on armed assault on Taiwan, and their military preparations are still geared toward the use of force against Taiwan.”

— Major Gen. David Lo, spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense

Officials in Taipei have denounced the drill as harmful to the rapprochement of recent years between Taiwan and China, after decades of hostility following a civil war in the middle of the last century. Political and military experts, meanwhile, say the apparent targeting of an important political symbol for Taiwan marks Beijing’s latest bid to sway Taiwanese voters ahead of a key presidential poll next January.

“Militaries routinely practice fighting in combat scenarios based on their operational priorities and strategic realities. For the PLA, this would mean missions in the South China Sea, in the East Sea, and of course Taiwan.”

— Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military scholar

The newsreel in question, first aired by China Central Television on July 5, featured dramatic footage of an annual military exercise in northern China—spanning fiery artillery barrages, imposing armored columns and infantry assaults on a mock-up city. The video went largely unnoticed until Wednesday, when a Shanghai-based media outlet said it demonstrated how Beijing “would use force to solve the Taiwan issue.”

A screenshot of the CCTV report, which shows soldiers storming a structure that bears a resemblance to Taiwan’s presidential palace. youtube.com

A screenshot of the CCTV report, which shows soldiers storming a structure that bears a resemblance to Taiwan’s presidential palace. youtube.com

The CCTV report swiftly struck a nerve in Taiwan, where President Ma Ying-jeou’s engagement policies with China have proved divisive, compounding the declining public support his ruling Nationalist Party is experiencing over economic and social fairness issues.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Many commentators on Taiwanese media directed their ire on segments from the newsreel that appeared to show Chinese troops advancing toward a red-and-white structure that closely resembled Taiwan’s Presidential Office—built in a distinctive European-style in the 1910s by Japanese colonial administrators.

A photo of the actual presidential palace. Bloomberg News

A photo of the actual presidential palaceBloomberg News

 “By making the threat more recognizable and immediate than missiles fired off Taiwan’s northern and southern tips, or drills simulating an amphibious assault, Beijing may hope to engage ordinary Taiwanese not at the intellectual and abstract level, but on an emotional one.”

— J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute

The implied assault on Taipei was “unacceptable for the Taiwanese public and the international community,” Major Gen. David Lo, spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, told local media Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »


PANIC: ISIS Wants to Use Unmanned Flying Machines to Drop Explosives on Large Crowds

drone-panic

Terrorists want to use the unmanned machines – available for as little as £100 on the high street – to drop explosives on large crowds at popular sporting and cultural gatherings.

Defence chiefs fear they could launch a multi-drone attack carrying several bombs, even using airborne cameras to film the bloody carnage below for twisted propaganda videos.

“Isis is obsessed with re-creating the horror of 9/11 and believes this may be possible by launching a multi-drone attack on large numbers of people in a synchronised attack.”

Senior MI5 figures believed that Isis has already tested how much plastic explosive the flying machines can carry, getting as far as experimenting with detonation devices.

“They want the spectacular devastation of such a raid, which would cause murder and maiming in a crowd, while filming it for a sick video.”

A counter-terrorism source said: “Islamist plotters have been trying to launch a drone-borne bomb attack for some time, as these machines are getting more hi-tech every year. Read the rest of this entry »


Syria Crisis: ISIS Deadly Return to Kobane

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The ISIS attack on Kobane began with militants detonating a car bomb, followed by an assault from dozens of fighters from a number of directions.

Islamic State fighters have attacked the Syrian city of Kobane, months after being driven out in a symbolic battle that made international headlines.

They detonated car bombs and launched an assault. Kurdish media say at least 50 civilians have been killed, including 20 in a nearby village.

ISIS has recently suffered a string of defeats to Kurdish forces.

But in another attack on Thursday, it seized parts of the key north-eastern city of Hassakeh.

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The apparent two-pronged IS offensive came as Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) cut a major supply line for IS near Raqqa.

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the caliphate whose creation IS announced a year ago after it captured large swathes of northern and western Iraq.

Kobane still matters to ISIS. It was never important strategically, but this latest attack shows that its loss, after five months of heavy street-to-street fighting and coalition aerial bombardment, still hurts ISIS.

The injured have been brought to hospital in Kobane

The injured have been brought to hospital in Kobane

As was the case last November when a huge vehicle bomb exploded at the same spot, questions are being asked if the attackers made it in from the Turkish side, and if so, why Turkey didn’t stop them.

Thursday’s assault is a reminder, too, that ISIS, despite recent losses in the area, is still very much active and capable of offensives. Overnight they also attacked Hassakeh to the east, a far bigger prize.

[Read the full text here, at BBC News]

Despite the narrative of the last few weeks, ISIS is far from being on the back foot.

Smoke rises over Kobane

Smoke rises over Kobane

The ISIS attack on Kobane began with militants detonating a car bomb, followed by an assault from dozens of fighters from a number of directions. Read the rest of this entry »


White House Lets Guard Down, Accidentally Agrees to Fly U.S. Flag at Half-Mast to Honor Marines Killed in Tennesee Shooting

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Breaking news from CNN’s Jake Tapper: President Obama has ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the four Marines and one Sailor killed in the recent systemic assassinations in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The news came just a few hours after Tapper fact-checked Donald Trump’s email blast to the media noting that Trump had ordered all flags at Trump properties around the country to be flown at “half-mast.” So, just to be sure: even Donald Trump ordered flags lowered before President Obama did?

white-house-podium

@TheLeadCNN @jaketapper What took so long?

— Winningest (@winningatmylife) July 21, 2015

@TheLeadCNN took him long enough

— Jim Polk (@JimPolk) July 21, 2015

Read the rest of this entry »


Body Count: Nearly 90 People Have Been Shot in Military ‘Gun Free Zones’ in the Last 6 Years

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From The LA Times:

…The attack is the third act of domestic terrorism carried out on U.S. military facilities since 2009. A fourth attack not considered an act of terrorism, in which 12 people were killed and three wounded at the Washington Navy Yard, occurred just two years ago.

In June 2009, Muslim convert Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad killed one soldier and wounded another at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark. In November of that year, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan carried out an attack at Ft. Hood, Texas, that left 13 dead and 32 wounded.

Last year, another shooter at Ft. Hood killed three people and wounded 16.

These combined attacks at military facilities bring the casualty count to 33 dead and 55 wounded by gunfire since 2009.

…One of the easiest safeguards would be for the Obama administration to revise the gun rule that has made military targets such easy prey to armed attackers.

Every military recruit has had basic weapons training, and many officers and non-commissioned officers are trained and regularly qualify to use the military’s standard-issue handguns….(read more)

This dream of military members being able to protect themselves might become a reality very soon. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Media Isn’t Sure of Chattanooga Killer’s Motive

They have ideas, but media members just aren’t sure what compelled Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez to kill four Marines in Chattanooga.


Will Slain Marines Mean an End to the Department of Defense’s Gun Ban?

Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Most military personnel, except for those on field maneuvers or MPs, are not allowed to be armed on base.

Mike Glenn writes: On Friday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved what the Pentagon referred to as “immediate force protection steps” in the wake of Thursday’s mass shootings in Chattanooga, Tenn. that left four U.S. Marines dead and a Navy Sailor wounded. A press release from the Defense Department did not elaborate on the measures.

One of the shootings was at a local recruiting station. I’ve heard some people say these offices – where young people usually get their first notion of what military life is all about – should have security barriers to prevent such tragedies. Beyond the fact that the accused Chattanooga shooter never went inside the office, I think that’s going to be a non-starter for an obvious reason.

Military recruiters rely on casual walk-in traffic to help make their quota. That’s why the offices can often be found in strip shopping centers or malls. If you start forcing potential Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen to pass through x-ray machines and take off their shoes like they are going through a TSA line at the airport before they ever step foot in the office, many of them are simply going to take a pass on a hitch in the military

Carter also asked the military services to give him suggestions for ensuring the safety of service members at military installations. But will he allow service members to defend themselves?

Most military personnel, except for those on field maneuvers or MPs, are not allowed to be armed on base. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan’s Peaceful Self-Defense

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Shinzo Abe moved closer Thursday to securing passage of legislation that will allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense. After seven decades of sheltering under the U.S. security umbrella, the Prime Minister’s move would give Tokyo the ability to fight alongside an ally when either one is threatened, while protecting stability and democracy in East Asia.

The Cabinet adopted a new interpretation of Japan’s postwar Constitution last July allowing this cooperation. In April the U.S. and Japan announced new defense guidelines to put it into practice. On Thursday the lower house of the Diet approved the plan, and now the legislation moves to the upper house.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Progress hasn’t come easily. Most Japanese oppose the plan, and according to an Asahi poll, Mr. Abe’s approval rating has fallen sharply to 39%. There have been tussles on the Diet floor and raucous protests outside it. Mr. Abe will need the support of coalition partners with pacifist tendencies to prevail in the upper house, though he could still overcome a defeat there with a two-thirds majority in the lower one. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking with the Past, Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years

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Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military.

TOKYO — Jonathan Soble reports: Defying broad public opposition and large demonstrations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a crucial vote in Parliament on Thursday for legislation that would give Japan’s military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts for the first time since World War II.

“The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression.”

Mr. Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Mr. Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

“These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe.”

— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Mr. Abe, a conservative politician who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

“Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.”

Mr. Abe has pressed this agenda, though, against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries it once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

— Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, condemning the package

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.

Mr. Abe has spent considerable political capital pushing the bills through. Voters oppose them by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys, and the government’s support ratings, which were once high, fell to around 40 percent in several polls taken this month.

[Read the full text here, at The New York Times]

Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. Read the rest of this entry »


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