August 27, 2006

Steven Higgs

Before Bush administration officials can drop a nuclear bomb on an underground Iranian nuclear facility, they would like to know if the bomb will work. And one federal agency has decided that a Lawrence County stone quarry could be the place to find out.

After public opposition overwhelmed its plans to conduct a nuclear-simulation blast in Nevada — military code name: Divine Strake — the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has set its sights on a southern Indiana quarry near Bedford, according to an Aug. 24 report on ValleyWatch.com.

In that report, John Blair, environmental group Valley Watch president and news site editor, said a DTRA spokeswoman told him that nothing has been ruled out as a possible test site for the "explosion of more than 1.4 million pounds of non-nuclear material." Among the possibilities is a Rogers Group stone quarry where the military has conducted smaller test explosions.

"There is considerable concern that such a massive explosion would irrevocably contaminate groundwater, as well as release large volumes of toxic chemicals into the air," Blair reported. "An Environmental Assessment released by the Department of Defense earlier this year did show that numerous poisons would reach the atmosphere by the bomb, which would send a mushroom cloud into the air 10,000 feet high."

August 27, 2006

Amnesty International

Amnesty International today published findings that point to an Israeli policy of deliberate destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure, which included war crimes, during the recent conflict.

The organization's latest publication shows how Israel's destruction of thousands of homes, and strikes on numerous bridges and roads as well as water and fuel storage plants, was an integral part of Israel's military strategy in Lebanon, rather than "collateral damage" resulting from the lawful targeting of military objectives.

The report reinforces the case for an urgent, comprehensive and independent UN inquiry into grave violations of international humanitarian law committed by both Hizbullah and Israel during their month-long conflict.

July 2, 2006

It's more than half a century since I wore the green fatigues, but once a Marine, always a Marine.

Or, Semper Fi.

What's a faithful old Marine to think about the news that a squad of Marines will be tried for the massacre of two dozen innocent Iraqis in a town called Haditha?

What I think about it is that I'm heartsick that it happened, and I'm mad as hell at the scheming fools who put those Marines and the Iraqi victims in that crazy situation.

"Crazy," in French, is "fou." In Scottish, "fou" means drunk."

April 23, 2006

Magnequench is an Indianapolis-based company. It specializes in the obscure field of sintered magnetics. Essentially, it makes tiny, high-tech magnets from rare-earth minerals ground down into a fine powder. The magnets are highly prized by electronics and aviation companies. But Magnequench's biggest client has been the Pentagon.

The neodymium-iron-boron magnets made by Magnequench are a crucial component in the guidance system of cruise missiles and the Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM bomb, which is made by Boeing and had a starring role in the spring bombing of Baghdad. Indeed, Magnequench enjoys a near monopoly on this market niche, supplying 85 percent of the rare-earth magnets that are used in the servo motors of these guided missiles and bombs.

But the Pentagon may soon be sending its orders for these parts to China, instead of Indiana. On September 15, 2004 Magnequench shuttered its last plant in Indiana, fired its 450 workers and began shipping its machine tools to a new plant in China. "We're handing over to the Chinese both our defense technology and our jobs in the midst of a deep recession," says Rep. Peter Visclosky, a Democrat from northern Indiana.

It gets stranger. Magnequench is not only moving its defense plants to China, it's actually owned by Chinese companies with close ties to the Chinese government.

April 9, 2006

Jeffrey St. Clair is the co-editor of CounterPunch (online at ...) and the author of numerous books, most recently Grand Theft Pentagon: Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror (Common Courage Press 2006). He recently spoke with Joshua Frank about his latest book.

JF: Jeff, it's been three long years since the U.S. invaded Iraq and there has been a mountain of speculation as to the real motives for the war and occupation: Was it for oil, Israel? No WMDs have turned up, and there weren't any connections between Saddam and Bin Laden. After reading Grand Theft Pentagon, however, it's hard not to think that perhaps a larger reason the U.S. invaded was to benefit economically. Can you talk about this a bit? Why the heck are we in Iraq anyway?

March 26, 2006

Brian Steidle is a former Marine who was charged with "observing" and documenting the conflict as the U.S. representative to the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Darfur from September 2004 to February 2005.

Following this fact-finding mission in the region, Steidle decided to devote his time to speaking out about what he experienced, sharing his records with the public and promoting strategies for action.

Steidle's current Tour for Darfur: Eyewitness to Genocide is a 21,000-mile speaking tour of 22 cities in 11 states to promote the "Million Voices for Darfur" campaign, sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition and more than 150 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations.

The tour will stop in Bloomington on March 30 and 31, where Steidle will speak at the Kelley School of Business and the First Presbyterian Church.

March 26, 2006

Three years into the war in Iraq and now about two out of three Americans are against it, as against about one out of 50 elected politicians.

In Iraq 2,315 Americans have died, and 17,100 wounded, many of them with limbs lost, some facing a lifetime in a wheel chair. Of the tens of thousands who have returned from combat to army bases or civilian life here, around 2.5 percent suffer from severe post traumatic stress syndrome and are powder kegs, menaces to themselves and their families.

There will be psychic as well as physical wreckage across America for years to come.

January 1, 2006

The Bush administration's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is generating fierce opposition from groups affiliated with U.S. servicemen and women. Members of Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, Veterans Against the Iraq War and Iraq Veterans Against the War have gained national prominence as principled opponents of current U.S. military operations overseas.

Opposition group spokespersons like Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey perished in Iraq, bring authority and passion to public debate on the topic of military withdrawal as well as the issues related to the human, economic and diplomatic costs of war.

In the new edition of his 1975 book Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, recently reissued by Haymarket Books, David Cortright reminds us that the efforts of military opposition groups, combined with those of the country's diverse peace and social justice movement, were successful in ending U.S. wars of aggression in the past.

January 1, 2006

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $685 million loan for Iraq on December 24. Now the country's war-torn economy will be fully integrated into the global economy -- indefinitely. The reconstruction of Iraq will soon be open to even more industrialized nations and interests.

Iraq will not be sovereign or independent in the near future, even if President Bush says so. The country's financial future will instead be dictated by a new colossal economic occupation, complete with ground forces, tanks, foreign military bases and the like -- all thanks to the United States, Britain and the IMF.

The new loans will soon be the focus of Iraq's future "economic stability." Of course, the desire to capitalize on war's misfortunes is at the heart of this occupation, as well as the IMF's gracious assistance. This is undoubtedly what the Bush administration and their allies have wished for all along.

September 4, 2005

You most likely haven't heard of a feisty woman named Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse, even though you pay her salary. For over 20 years now, Greenhouse has overseen contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers. And up until last Saturday, Greenhouse was the highest-ranking civilian member of the Army Corps of Engineers. She has been demoted for "poor job performance," despite an untarnished career as one of the country's highest-ranking procurement officers. And from what you'll see, her performance has been anything but "poor."

So why did she get shoved out of her position? Well, she did a bad thing. She raised a little hell over the Pentagon's no-bid contracts to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the fully owned subsidiary of Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton. The Greenhouse/KBR debacle all started back in the early months of 2003, when KBR was awarded a handful of government contracts in anticipation of the invasion of Iraq. One of KBR's major prewar contracts, the one that got Greenhouse in hot water with the good old boys, was allotted to rebuild Iraqi oil fields.

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