Showing posts with label war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war. Show all posts

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Scientists issue a final warning to humanity



THEN……

1992 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity

Scientist Statement: World Scientists' Warning to Humanity (1992) (PDF document)

Some 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued this appeal in November 1992. The World Scientists' Warning to Humanity was written and spearheaded by the late Henry Kendall, former chair of UCS's board of directors.

Introduction
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.

NOW……

WILLIAM J. RIPPLE, CHRISTOPHER WOLF, THOMAS M. NEWSOME, MAURO GALETTI, MOHAMMED ALAMGIR, EILEEN CRIST, MAHMOUD I. MAHMOUD, WILLIAM F. LAURANCE, and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries

Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (see supplemental file S1).

These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.

The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm. The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future (Crist et al. 2017). They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse (figure 1, file S1). Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production— particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014). Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.

Humanity is now being given a second notice, as illustrated by these alarming trends (figure 1). We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats (Crist et al. 2017). By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.

As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources.

Read the full Second Notice here.

ALL THE WHILE THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK IS TICKING.......

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 25 January 2018:

It is now two minutes to midnight

Editor’s note: Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains. A printable PDF of this statement, complete with the President and CEO’s statement and Science and Security Board biographies, is available here.

To: Leaders and citizens of the world
Re: Two minutes to midnight

Date: January 25, 2018

In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.

The greatest risks last year arose in the nuclear realm. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.
But the dangers brewing on the Korean Peninsula were not the only nuclear risks evident in 2017: The United States and Russia remained at odds, continuing military exercises along the borders of NATO, undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), upgrading their nuclear arsenals, and eschewing arms control negotiations.

In the Asia-Pacific region, tensions over the South China Sea have increased, with relations between the United States and China insufficient to re-establish a stable security situation.
In South Asia, Pakistan and India have continued to build ever-larger arsenals of nuclear weapons.

And in the Middle East, uncertainty about continued US support for the landmark Iranian nuclear deal adds to a bleak overall picture.

To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger—and its immediacy.
On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now. Global carbon dioxide emissions have not yet shown the beginnings of the sustained decline towards zero that must occur if ever-greater warming is to be avoided. The nations of the world will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse gas emissions to keep climate risks manageable, and so far, the global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.

Beyond the nuclear and climate domains, technological change is disrupting democracies around the world as states seek and exploit opportunities to use information technologies as weapons, among them internet-based deception campaigns aimed at undermining elections and popular confidence in institutions essential to free thought and global security.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board believes the perilous world security situation just described would, in itself, justify moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight.

But there has also been a breakdown in the international order that has been dangerously exacerbated by recent US actions. In 2017, the United States backed away from its long-standing leadership role in the world, reducing its commitment to seek common ground and undermining the overall effort toward solving pressing global governance challenges. Neither allies nor adversaries have been able to reliably predict US actions—or understand when US pronouncements are real, and when they are mere rhetoric. International diplomacy has been reduced to name-calling, giving it a surreal sense of unreality that makes the world security situation ever more threatening.

Because of the extraordinary danger of the current moment, the Science and Security Board today moves the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to catastrophe. It is now two minutes to midnight—the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.

The Science and Security Board hopes this resetting of the Clock will be interpreted exactly as it is meant—as an urgent warning of global danger. The time for world leaders to address looming nuclear danger and the continuing march of climate change is long past. The time for the citizens of the world to demand such action is now:

#rewindtheDoomsdayClock.

The untenable nuclear threat. The risk that nuclear weapons may be used—intentionally or because of miscalculation—grew last year around the globe.

North Korea has long defied UN Security Council resolutions to cease its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, but the acceleration of its tests in 2017 reflects new resolve to acquire sophisticated nuclear weapons. North Korea has or soon will have capabilities to match its verbal threats—specifically, a thermonuclear warhead and a ballistic missile that can carry it to the US mainland. In September, North Korea tested what experts assess to be a true two-stage thermonuclear device, and in November, it tested the Hwasong-15 missile, which experts believe has a range of over 8,000 kilometers. The United States and its allies, Japan and South Korea, responded with more frequent and larger military exercises, while China and Russia proposed a freeze by North Korea of nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a freeze in US exercises.

The failure to secure a temporary freeze in 2017 was unsurprising to observers of the downward spiral of nuclear rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program will reverberate not just in the Asia-Pacific, as neighboring countries review their security options, but more widely, as all countries consider the costs and benefits of the international framework of nonproliferation treaties and agreements.

Nuclear risks have been compounded by US-Russia relations that now feature more conflict than cooperation. Coordination on nuclear risk reduction is all but dead, and no solution to disputes over the INF Treaty—a landmark agreement to rid Europe of medium-range nuclear missiles—is readily apparent. Both sides allege violations, but Russia’s deployment of a new ground-launched cruise missile, if not addressed, could trigger a collapse of the treaty. Such a collapse would make what should have been a relatively easy five-year extension of the New START arms control pact much harder to achieve and could terminate an arms control process that dates back to the early 1970s.

For the first time in many years, in fact, no US-Russian nuclear arms control negotiations are under way. New strategic stability talks begun in April are potentially useful, but so far they lack the energy and political commitment required for them to bear fruit. More important, Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea and semi-covert support of separatists in eastern Ukraine have sparked concerns that Russia will support similar “hybrid” conflicts in new NATO members that it borders—actions that could provoke a crisis at almost any time. Additional clash points could emerge if Russia attempts to exploit friction between the United States and its NATO partners, whether arising from disputes on burden-sharing, European Union membership, and trade—or relating to policies on Israel, Iran, and terrorism in the Middle East.

In the past year, US allies have needed reassurance about American intentions more than ever. Instead, they have been forced to negotiate a thicket of conflicting policy statements from a US administration weakened in its cadre of foreign policy professionals, suffering from turnover in senior leadership, led by an undisciplined and disruptive president, and unable to develop, coordinate, and clearly communicate a coherent nuclear policy. This inconsistency constitutes a major challenge for deterrence, alliance management, and global stability. It has made the existing nuclear risks greater than necessary and added to their complexity.

Especially in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, allies are perplexed. While President Trump has steadfastly opposed the agreement that his predecessor and US allies negotiated to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he has never successfully articulated practical alternatives. His instruction to Congress in 2017 to legislate a different approach resulted in a stalemate. The future of the Iran deal, at this writing, remains uncertain.

In the United States, Russia, and elsewhere around the world, plans for nuclear force modernization and development continue apace. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in US defense plans and lower the threshold to nuclear use. In South Asia, emphasis on nuclear and missile capabilities grows. Conventional force imbalances and destabilizing plans for nuclear weapons use early in any conflict continue to plague the subcontinent.

Reflecting long decades of frustration with slow progress toward nuclear disarmament, states signed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the ban treaty, at the United Nations this past September. The treaty—championed by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work—is a symbolic victory for those seeking a world without nuclear weapons and a strong expression of the frustration with global disarmament efforts to date. Predictably, countries with nuclear weapons boycotted the negotiations, and none has signed the ban treaty. Their increased reliance on nuclear weapons, threats, and doctrines that could make the use of those weapons more likely stands in stark contrast to the expectations of the rest of the world.

An insufficient response to climate change. Last year, the US government pursued unwise and ineffectual policies on climate change, following through on a promise to derail past US climate policies. The Trump administration, which includes avowed climate denialists in top positions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and other key agencies, has announced its plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. In its rush to dismantle rational climate and energy policy, the administration has ignored scientific fact and well-founded economic analyses.

These US government climate decisions transpired against a backdrop of worsening climate change and high-impact weather-related disasters. This year past, the Caribbean region and other parts of North America suffered a season of historic damage from exceedingly powerful hurricanes. Extreme heat waves occurred in Australia, South America, Asia, Europe, and California, with mounting evidence that heat-related illness and death are correspondingly increasing. The Arctic ice cap achieved its smallest-ever winter maximum in 2017, the third year in a row that this record has been broken. The United States has witnessed devastating wildfires, likely exacerbated by extreme drought and subsequent heavy rains that spurred underbrush growth. When the data are assessed, 2017 is almost certain to continue the trend of exceptional global warmth: All the warmest years in the instrumental record, which extends back to the 1800s, have—excepting one year in the late 1990s—occurred in the 21st century.

Despite the sophisticated disinformation campaign run by climate denialists, the unfolding consequences of an altered climate are a harrowing testament to an undeniable reality: The science linking climate change to human activity—mainly the burning of fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—is sound. The world continues to warm as costly impacts mount, and there is evidence that overall rates of sea level rise are accelerating—regardless of protestations to the contrary.

Especially against these trends, it is heartening that the US government’s defection from the Paris Agreement did not prompt its unravelling or diminish its support within the United States at large. The “We Are Still In” movement signals a strong commitment within the United States—by some 1,700 businesses, 250 cities, 200 communities of faith, and nine states, representing more than 40 percent of the US population—to its international climate commitments and to the validity of scientific facts.

This reaffirmation is reassuring, and other countries have maintained their steadfast support for climate action, reconfirmed their commitments to global climate cooperation, and clearly acknowledged that more needs to be done. French President Emmanuel Macron’s sober message to global leaders assembled at December’s global climate summit in Paris was a reality check after the heady climate negotiations his country hosted two years earlier: “We’re losing the battle. We’re not moving quickly enough. We all need to act.” And indeed, after plateauing for a few years, greenhouse gas emissions resumed their stubborn rise in 2017.

As we have noted before, the true measure of the Paris Agreement is whether nations actually fulfill their pledges to cut emissions, strengthen those pledges, and see to it that global greenhouse gas emissions start declining in short order and head toward zero. As we drift yet farther from this goal, the urgency of shifting course becomes greater, and the existential threat posed by climate change looms larger.

Emerging technologies and global risk. The Science and Security Board is deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves—a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered. Attempts to intervene in elections through sophisticated hacking operations and the spread of disinformation have threatened democracy, which relies on an informed electorate to reach reasonable decisions on public policy—including policy relating to nuclear weapons, climate change, and other global threats. Meanwhile, corporate leaders in the information domain, including established media outlets and internet companies such as Facebook and Google, have been slow to adopt protocols to prevent misuse of their services and protect citizens from manipulation. The international community should establish new measures that discourage and penalize all cross-border subversions of democracy.

Last year, the Science and Security Board warned that “[t]echnological innovation is occurring at a speed that challenges society’s ability to keep pace. While limited at the current time, potentially existential threats posed by a host of emerging technologies need to be monitored, and to the extent possible anticipated, as the 21st century unfolds.”
If anything, the velocity of technological change has only increased in the past year, and so our warning holds for 2018. But beyond monitoring advances in emerging technology, the board believes that world leaders also need to seek better collective methods of managing those advances, so the positive aspects of new technologies are encouraged and malign uses discovered and countered. The sophisticated hacking of the “Internet of Things,” including computer systems that control major financial and power infrastructure and have access to more than 20 billion personal devices; the development of autonomous weaponry that makes “kill” decisions without human supervision; and the possible misuse of advances in synthetic biology, including the revolutionary Crispr gene-editing tool, already pose potential global security risks. Those risks could expand without strong public institutions and new management regimes. The increasing pace of technological change requires faster development of those tools.

How to turn back the Clock. In 1953, former Manhattan Project scientist and Bulletin editor Eugene Rabinowitch set the hands of the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight, writing, “The achievement of a thermonuclear explosion by the Soviet Union, following on the heels of the development of ‘thermonuclear devices’ in America, means that the time, dreaded by scientists since 1945, when each major nation will hold the power of destroying, at will, the urban civilization of any other nation, is close at hand.”

The Science and Security Board now again moves the hands of the Clock to two minutes before midnight. But the current, extremely dangerous state of world affairs need not be permanent. The means for managing dangerous technology and reducing global-scale risk exist; indeed, many of them are well-known and within society’s reach, if leaders pay reasonable attention to preserving the long-term prospects of humanity, and if citizens demand that they do so.

This is a dangerous time, but the danger is of our own making. Humankind has invented the implements of apocalypse; so can it invent the methods of controlling and eventually eliminating them. This year, leaders and citizens of the world can move the Doomsday Clock and the world away from the metaphorical midnight of global catastrophe by taking these common-sense actions:

• US President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, recognizing the impossibility of predicting North Korean reactions.

• The US and North Korean governments should open multiple channels of communication. At a minimum, military-to-military communications can help reduce the likelihood of inadvertent war on the Korean Peninsula. Keeping diplomatic channels open for talks without preconditions is another common-sense way to reduce tensions. As leading security expert Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University recently wrote: “Such talks should not be seen as a reward or concession to Pyongyang, nor construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. They could, however, deliver the message that while Washington fully intends to defend itself and its allies from any attack with a devastating retaliatory response, it does not otherwise intend to attack North Korea or pursue regime change."

 • The world community should pursue, as a short-term goal, the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years. Over time, the United States should seek North Korea’s signature on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty—and then, along with China, at long last also ratify the treaty.

• The Trump administration should abide by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program unless credible evidence emerges that Iran is not complying with the agreement or Iran agrees to an alternative approach that meets US national security needs.

• The United States and Russia should discuss and adopt measures to prevent peacetime military incidents along the borders of NATO. Provocative military exercises and maneuvers hold the potential for crisis escalation. Both militaries must exercise restraint and professionalism, adhering to all norms developed to avoid conflict and accidental encounters.

• US and Russian leaders should return to the negotiating table to resolve differences over the INF treaty; to seek further reductions in nuclear arms; to discuss a lowering of the alert status of the nuclear arsenals of both countries; to limit nuclear modernization programs that threaten to create a new nuclear arms race; and to ensure that new tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons are not built and that existing tactical weapons are never used on the battlefield.

• US citizens should demand, in all legal ways, climate action from their government. Climate change is a real and serious threat to humanity. Citizens should insist that their governments acknowledge it and act accordingly.

• Governments around the world should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so they go well beyond the initial, inadequate pledges under the Paris Agreement. The temperature goal under that agreement—to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—is consistent with consensus views on climate science, is eminently achievable, and is economically viable, provided that poorer countries are given the support they need to make the post-carbon transition. But the time window for achieving this goal is rapidly closing.

• The international community should establish new protocols to discourage and penalize the misuse of information technology to undermine public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in the existence of objective reality itself. Strong and accountable institutions are necessary to prevent deception campaigns that are a real threat to effective democracies, reducing their ability to enact policies to address nuclear weapons, climate change, and other global dangers.

• The countries of the world should collaborate on creating institutions specifically assigned to explore and address potentially malign or catastrophic misuses of new technologies, particularly as regards autonomous weaponry that makes “kill” decisions without human supervision and advances in synthetic biology that could, if misused, pose a global threat.
The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear.

The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world.

They can #rewindtheDoomsdayClock.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

International Criminal Court: cause and effect?


“As detailed in previous reporting, the Office has found that the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that crimes under articles 7 and 8 of the Statute have been committed in the situation in Afghanistan, including crimes against humanity of murder under article 7(1)(a), and imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty under article 7(1)(e); murder under article 8(2)(c)(i); cruel treatment under article 8(2)(c)(i); outrages upon personal dignity under article 8(2)(c)(ii); the passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court under article 8(2)(c)(iv); intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians under article 8(2)(e)(i); intentionally directing attacks against personnel, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance under article 8(2)(e)(iii); intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to education, cultural objects, places of worship and similar institutions under article 8(2)(e)(iv); and treacherously killing or wounding a combatant adversary under article 8(2)(e)(ix).” [International Criminal Court (ICC), The Office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2015), p27]

It is hard not to suspect a link between the International Criminal Court and Austraiian Defence Force investigations, given that the preliminary ICC investigation would have begun sometime between 2013 to 2015 and the Australian Government would have been aware that it might become one of the nations under formal criminal investigation.

CAUSE?

On 30 October 2017 the Presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague was notified by the Prosecutor and on 3 November the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was assigned to Pre-Trial Chamber III with the following composition: Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua ,Judge Chang-ho Chung and Judge Raul C. Pangalangan.

The New York Times, 3 November 2017:

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor said Friday that she would request permission to open an Afghanistan investigation, a step that may lead to the court’s first indictments of Americans for war crimes.

The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has been collecting information on the war in Afghanistan for years. She has suggested before that she has evidence for a prosecution — not only of allegations of atrocities committed by combatants in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, the Afghan armed forces and the United States military, but of related crimes in other countries where C.I.A. operatives once held and tortured Afghan prisoners.

Ms. Bensouda said she would ask the judges in the court, which is based in The Hague, for authorization to pursue a formal investigation. If they agree, the Afghanistan investigation and any resulting indictments could pose a legal test for the United States — which does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction — to cooperate with it, especially if any defendants are American.
“In due course, I will file my request for judicial authorization to open an investigation, submitting that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan,” Ms. Bensouda said in a statement.

Should the judges grant her request, she said, her office will conduct an independent and impartial investigation into accusations of atrocities “committed by any party to the armed conflict.”

EFFECT?

ABC News, 11 July 2017:

Hundreds of pages of secret defence force documents leaked to the ABC give an unprecedented insight into the clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan, including incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children.

The ABC can reveal that some of the cases detailed in the documents are being investigated as possible unlawful killings.


The documents, many marked AUSTEO — Australian Eyes Only — suggest a growing unease at the highest levels of Defence about the culture of Australia’s special forces as they prosecuted a bloody, secretive war against insurgents across a swathe of southern Afghanistan.

One document from 2014 refers to ingrained “problems” within special forces, an “organisational culture” including a “warrior culture” and a willingness by officers to turn a blind eye to poor behaviour.

Another document refers to a “desensitisation” and “drift in values” among elite Special Air Service soldiers serving in Afghanistan, while others allude to deep divisions between the two elite units which primarily comprise the special forces - the SAS based in Perth and 2 Commando Regiment based in Sydney.

A large proportion of the documents are reports on at least 10 incidents between 2009-2013 in which special forces troops shot dead insurgents, but also unarmed men and children.

The Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force is investigating at least two of the incidents as part of its inquiry into the conduct in Afghanistan of special forces, which includes alleged unlawful killing.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Just in case you missed it: civilian deaths in Mosul


Crikey.com.au, 2 October 2017

The Australian Defence Force revealed on Friday its troops had been involved in incidents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that are believed to have resulted in the deaths of eight civilians, including two children. The first incident was in March this year. An aircraft that was part of the coalition forces (that include Australia, the US, the UK and others) bombed a residential building in Mosul, which resulted in the deaths of seven civilians. Australian aircraft weren’t involved, but a member of the ADF was part of the “decision making chain” that authorised the strike, which was targeting Islamic State forces thought to be 300 metres from Iraqi forces. In an incident in June, Australian hornet aircraft were called to assist Iraqi forces, with a strike on a residential building. 

“They [the Iraqi forces] found themselves within 20 metres of a building in which Daesh fighters were,” Vice Admiral David Johnston told the media.

“They were engaged by small arms fire and were pinned down, unable to move.

“We had a pair of hornets that were airborne at the time … they performed a strike, it was a single precision guided weapon, a low-collateral weapon.”

It is believed a child was killed in that incident.

This was covered on the front page of The Age (after an AFL wrap-around of 20 pages) and the The Australian — we’re not in any way suggesting journos weren’t doing their jobs. But issues like this don’t stick in the minds of the public when there’s footy to watch and barbecues to attend. The report was embargoed until midnight on Saturday. It’s also possible the announcement, while coming months after the actual incidents, was timed to coincide with an announcement from the US’ Combined Joint Task Force, which detailed investigations of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria.

Friday, 22 September 2017

US President Trump continues to chase 'his' war


It is becoming clear that Donald Trump wants an all-stops-out war with North Korea and damn the global consequences.

The Atlantic, 20 September 2017

President Donald Trump dispensed with diplomacy at the United Nations, vowing in his maiden speech to the General Assembly that the United States “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if it is forced to defend itself or its allies.

The remarks, reminiscent of those of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s vow in 1968 to “bury” the West, is likely to raise tensions with North Korea, whose nuclear-weapons and missile programs have raised the alarm in Asian capitals and Washington. North Korea, with its regular battery of missile tests, as well as a recent nuclear test, is believed to be close to—if it doesn’t already possess—the ability to strike the United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a nuclear warhead.

“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump said at the UN on Tuesday, a reference to Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader. “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”……

Before Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, his administration, after several false starts, appeared to have coalesced around a common message on North Korea: one that favored diplomacy to defuse the threat posed by Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs, while keeping all options on the table. After the president’s remarks, it’s once again unclear what the U.S. policy on North Korea is.

BACKGROUND


Monday, 21 August 2017

This Is The Face Of The Greatest Threat To World Peace in 2017


NOTE: This post will be updated throughout 2017

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” [United States President Donald John Trump, Associated Press, 8 August 2017]

NORTH Korea has retaliated to Donald Trump’s warning of “fire and fury like the world has never seen” by threatening a missile strike on a US Pacific territory frighteningly close to Australia.
The reclusive state announced it was “carefully examining” a plan to attack Guam, just hours after the US President issued an apocalyptic warning following reports North Korea had produced a missile-ready nuke.
Kim Jong-un plans to fire intermediate range ballistic missiles at the Micronesian island, which is situated in the Western Pacific 4447 kilometres north of the Australian coast, according to state-run media. [news.com.au, 8 August 2017]

"The people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe. And I will tell you this: North Korea better get their act together or they're going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.....Maybe it wasn't tough enough. They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years. And it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries." [United States President Donald John Trump, doorstop announcement, 10 August 2017]

"The Bible gives President Trump the moral authority to use whatever force necessary including assassination or even war to take out an evildoer like Kim Jong-un and I think most Christians understand that." [Pastor Robert Jeffress, personal spiritual adviser to Donald Trump speaking on Fox News, 10 August 2017]

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said Trump in recent days has been restless to share his thoughts on what she termed “one of the juiciest, newsiest periods of his presidency.” [The Washington Post, 10 August 2017]

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” [U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Twitter, 11 August 2017] 

The S&P500 fell 1.5% and volatility spiked over tensions between US and North Korea
Gold rose to a two-month high and is predicted to soon top $US1300 if tensions grow [The Sydney Morning Herald at 4:38pm on 11 Aug 2017]

NORTH KOREA has warned Australia it has committed a “suicidal act” by pledging its allegiance to the US and sending defence force members to join military exercises with American and South Korean forces.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last week told 3AW that an ANZUS treaty would be invoked and Australia would send troops to the aid of the US “if there is an attack” on the ally.
“In terms of defence, we are joined at the hip,” Mr Turnbull said.North Korean news agency KCNA has since reported that Australia’s allegiance to the US and its decision to take part in a military drill in South Korea was a “suicidal act”. [news.com.au, 21 August 2017]

“I worry about frankly, you know the access to nuclear codes. If in a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un there is actually very little to stop him.  The system, the whole system’s built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there is very little in the way of controls you know over exercising a nuclear option. Which is pretty damn scary”
[James Clapper, national security analyst & former US Director of Intelligence, CNN Tonight (@CNN) 23 August 2017]

“Military action would certainly be an option.  Is it inevitable?  Nothing is inevitable.  It would be great if something else could be worked out.  We would have to look at all of the details, all of the facts.  But we've had Presidents for 25 years now -- they've been talking, talking, talking -- and the day after an agreement is reached, new work begins in North Korea, continuation on nuclear. So I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen.  Our military has never been stronger.  We are in a position now -- and you know the new orders.  You see the new numbers just like I see the new numbers.  It’s been tens of billions of dollars more in investment.  And each day new equipment is delivered -- new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world, the best anywhere in the world, by far. Hopefully we're not going to have to use it on North Korea.  If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”  [United States President Donald John Trump, White House press conference, 7 September 2017]

We will respond to the barbaric plotting around sanctions and pressure by the United States with powerful counter measures of our own.” [North Korea government representative, Third Annual Eastern Economic Forum in Russia, 7 September 2017] 

'We've been kicking the can down the road, and we're out of road. For those ... who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option.' [White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster report quoted by Sky News, 16 September 2017]

‘Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the US and make the US rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK.' 
 [North Korean state agency report quoted by Sky News, 16 September 2017]

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” [U.S. President Donald John Trump, speech at 72nd Session of United Nations Assembly, 19 September 2017]

"The speech made by the US president in his maiden address on the UN arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.

"Shaping the general idea of what he would say, I expected he would make stereo-typed, prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment as he had to speak on the world's biggest official diplomatic stage.

"But, far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors.

"A frightened dog barks louder.

"I'd like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.

"The mentally deranged behavior of the US president openly expressing on the UN arena the unethical will to "totally destroy" a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure.

"His remarks remind me of such words as "political layman" and "political heretic" which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign.

"After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.

"His remarks which described the US option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.

"Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.

"Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.

"As a man representing the DPRK and on behalf of the dignity and honor of my state and people and on my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK.

This is not a rhetorical expression loved by Trump.

"I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue.

"Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.

"I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire." [Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un, quoted in The Independent, 22 September 2017]

The Pentagon says B-1B bombers from Guam and F-15 fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, have flown a mission in international airspace over the waters east of North Korea.
The U.S. says it’s the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula that any American fighter or bomber has flown this century.
Defense Department spokesman Dana White says in a statement that the mission shows how seriously the U.S. takes what he calls North Korea’s “reckless behavior.”
His statement says the flights are a “demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message” that President Donald Trump “has many military options to defeat any threat.”
White says “we are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies. [Associated Press, 24 September 2017]

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!” [U.S. President Donald J. Trump, tweet, 24 December 2017]

US President Donald Trump has declared war on North Korea, Pyongyang says, adding that it reserves the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down US bombers even if they are not in its air space.
"The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country," Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.
"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.
"The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then," Mr Ri added in a direct reference to a tweet by Mr Trump on Saturday.
In response, the Pentagon said it would be providing Mr Trump with "options" on how to deal with Pyongyang.
"If North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, you know, we will make sure that we provide options to the President to deal with North Korea," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said. [Representatives of North Korea and United States of America, ABC News, 26 September 2017]

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Turnbull Government not exactly charging ahead in latest Newspoll - which is unlikely to foster calm and considered decision making on the part of the prime minister



These polling numbers represent a dangerous period for the people of Australia.

We already have Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull quickly popping over to a war zone this month for a photo opportunity in a flak jacket (left) and he is scheduled to meet with President Trump on 4 May 2017 to talk about the Korean situation, China and whatever thought bubble is exercising the U.S. president's mind at the time.

No prizes for suspecting Turnbull will offer more support for Trump's attempt to force a breakdown of the almost 64 year-old military armistice agreement between the United Nations and Korean People's Army & Chinese People's Volunteers and, a recommencement of the hostilities with North Korea.

After all, becoming a war leader is almost always good for polling numbers - at least in the first heady rush into combat - and both Turnbull and Trump have persistently low voter satisfaction levels which neither can currently shake off as well as unhealthy budget deficits and/or public debt levels*.

Both the U.S. governing Republican Party and the Australian governing Liberal-Nationals Coalition go the ballot box again in 2018, with mid-term elections for the U.S on 6 November and a general election in Australia anytime from 4 August 2018 through to 18 May 2019.

* In January 2017 the US Government budget deficit was an est. US$559 billion and public debt stood at est.US$14.8 trillion. While the Australian Government budget deficit stood at est. AUD$42.5 billion and public debt at AUD$323.8 billion net

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Before the flag waving hype over Trump's latest bombing in Syria gets out of control, think about this......



It's not just the Syrian Government, Russia, ISIS or rebel groups killing innocent civilians, it is also the US-led Coalition and the nations which support it.

That includes Australia which is involved in the air war in Syria.

On 9 September 2015, Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated that Australia would expand its commitment to Syria, with RAAF airstrikes to be extended to Islamic State targets there, following a request from the US Government. Prime Minister Abbott noted that the extended operations would mirror the efforts of other allied nations already operating in Syria to 'help protect Iraq and its people from [Islamic State] attacks inside Iraq and from across the border'. The expansion of operations to Syria was justified on the basis that the anti-Islamic State effort directly relates to Iraq's collective self‑defence and the continued commitment of humanitarian efforts in the region. The Syrian state's inability to exert control over that area and address the Islamic State threat, negates its right to object under the circumstances. [www.aph.gov.au, Parliamentary Library Briefing Book: Iraq and Syria]

The Federal Government says it will continue Australia's bombing missions over Syria in the wake of a mistaken operation that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers…..
[SBS News, 19 September 2016]

Perspectives on the situation on the ground......

The Telegraph, 7 April 2017:

US missile strikes on a Syrian air base [al-Shayrat] have reportedly killed nine civilians - including four children - as Donald Trump launched the first direct American attack on Bashar Assad's regime.

RT, 7 April 2017:

The governor of Homs province, Talal Barazi, said the US strike on a Syrian airfield 
has led to civilian casualties in a village near the base, as well as the airbase itself. At least five people have been left dead and seven wounded, he told RT.

Politicus USA, 7 April 2017:
For most people who have lost innocent loved ones to violence, the means of their relatives' demise is completely irrelevant; a senseless death is a senseless death. It doesn't matter if innocent civilians are killed as a result of terrorism, civil unrest, a civil war, or an American caused human catastrophe; a needless death is exactly that, a needless death.
Over the past couple of days Americans, including Trump, have made an issue over the deaths of innocent Syrians, and displaced Iraqis, allegedly killed by the Syrian military using chemical weapons. Of course it is a big issue, but while the Americans and the international community are outraged over the deaths of an estimated 86 innocent civilians in Syria, no-one is the least bit concerned, much less outraged, over the estimated 1,472 civilian casualties, all Muslim casualties, in the month of March alone and all at the hands of the United States of America under the Trump regime.
One can fairly say it would be a sure and safe bet that none of the family members of either the 86 innocent Syrian civilians or 1,472 innocent Syrian and Iraqi civilians really care about how their innocent loved ones were massacred; they just know their loved ones died. And yet all the attention is being focused solely on the 86 deaths by chemical weapons as opposed to 1,472 civilians killed by American-made and delivered bombs in the month of March alone.
As an investigative journalist who heads a British monitoring group, "Airwars," Chris Woods reported:
"This is worse than anything we have ever seen from the coalition, and it's up there with the levels of allegations we saw against Russia a year ago. Something is shifting — a lot more [innocent Muslim] civilians are dying, and it's happening on Donald Trump's watch."
It is believed by many international experts and a few American pundits unafraid of being labeled "un-American" that the "dramatic jump in civilian casualties" is the direct result of a Trump order to change the "risk/reward calculations" when determining how many innocent civilians, innocent Muslim civilians, are acceptable casualties when America launches airstrikes against what it certainly knows are heavily-populated civilian areas.
It is worth reiterating that Trump pledged during the campaign that if he was controlling America's military, he would direct them to "bomb the shit" out of ISIS'; in Trump-speak ISIS means Muslims. And, it is noteworthy to mention that despite the outrageous numbers of innocent Muslim civilians killed as a result of Trump "bombing the shit" out of "them," neither he, his administration's spokespeople, or Republicans have uttered even one word about the catastrophic deaths of innocent civilians under Trump.

Newsweek, 31 March 2017:

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria may have already killed 1,484 civilians in just Iraq and Syria this month alone, more than three times the number killed in President Barack Obama's final full month in office, according to British monitoring group Airwars. For the first time, the number of alleged civilian casualties in events carried out by the U.S.-led coalition has exceeded the death toll of attacks launched by Russia.

Vox, 28 March 2017:

Syria, too, has been hit by US airstrikes with some remarkable civilian casualties this month. A US strike in a rural area of Raqqa province killed up to 30 noncombatants who had taken shelter in a school last week, according to residents' reports. And the week prior, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that 42 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed by a US bombing in the town of Al Jinah, in what it deemed a "massacre." The US military said it had a legitimate military target in the area, but noted it would investigate possible civilian loss of life.


- Government forces: 417
- Russian forces: 224
- ISIS: 129
- Armed opposition factions: 14
- International Coalition forces: 260
- Other Parties: 84
- Kurdish Forces: 11
[my yellow highlighting]

UPDATE

The New York Times reported that the direct US attack on Syrian Government forces and property ordered by Donald Trump was internationally an illegal act and domestically may be a breach of US law. According to The Guardian “Malcolm Turnbull has hinted that Australia may be involved in an expanded US-led military strike on Syria, after outrage at Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Idlib”.