TBR News July 15, 2016

Jul 15 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. July 15, 2016 “The international communities with large Muslim populations have been secretly meeting to agree upon corrective steps to deal with the

growing problem of fanatical Sunni Muslim terrorism aimed at the Christian communities. The commission is called ‘Energy Control Commission’ and its members are: The United States, India, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

Russia is now being considered for membership.

This commission has been secretely meeting on a monthly basis in Copenhagen since July of 2006. Its sole purpose is to address the flood of potentially dangerous Muslims into Western countries.

A good deal of intelligence material has surfaced in which telephone and internet communications between various Muslim activist groups point very clearly to deliberate infiltration of non-Muslim countries with the double goal of overwhelming the native populations with numbers and threats of physical violence.

Activist Muslim groups are strongly anti-Christian and are most especially vindictive towards any country that has engaged in military action against any Muslim country. The United States is considered a prime target for infiltration and domestic terrorism while Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden and France are also high on activist terrorist lists.

The general agreement between all parties is that Muslims cannot remain in basically Christian countries because of their often-stated desire to not only take over these countries by population increase but also by the on-going threat of terrorism. Once the final plans for the expulsion of Muslims from member countries, a country will be  opened up as a designated ‘Country of Welcome’ and when this happens, mass deportations of Europe, and America’s, Muslims will begin.

This Islamic Diaspora will be implemented by a joint team of multi-national military personnel using aircraft and shipping that has already been allotted.” …

Truck attacker plows into French crowd, kills 84 celebrating Bastille Day

July 15, 2016

by Sophie Sassard and Michel Bernouin


NICE, France-An attacker at the wheel of a heavy truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing at least 84 people and injuring scores more in what President Francois Hollande called a terrorist act.

The driver, identified by a police source as a 31-year-old Tunisian-born Frenchman, also appeared to open fire before officers shot him dead. The man was not on the watch list of French intelligence services, but was known to the police in connection with common crimes such as theft and violence, the source said.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 18 people were in a critical condition after the attack on Thursday night, when the white truck zigzagged along the seafront Promenade des Anglais as a fireworks display marking the French national day ended just after 10:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET).

According to one city official, the truck careered on for up to two km (1.5 miles). Several children were among the dead.

“People went down like ninepins,” Jacques, who runs Le Queenie restaurant on the seafront, told France Info radio.

The attack seemed so far to be the work of a lone assailant.

Hollande said in a pre-dawn address that he was calling up military and police reservists to relieve forces worn out by enforcing a state of emergency begun in November after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers struck Paris entertainment spots on a Friday evening, killing 130 people.

Only hours earlier he had announced the emergency would be lifted by the end of July. Following the attack, he said it would be extended by a further three months.

“France is filled with sadness by this new tragedy,” Hollande said. “There’s no denying the terrorist nature of this attack.”

Major events in France have been guarded by troops and armed police since the Nov. 13 attacks. But it appeared to have taken many minutes to halt the progress of the truck as it tore along pavements and a pedestrian zone.

One witness said she thought the attacker was firing a gun as he drove.

“I saw this enormous white truck go past at top speed,” said Suzy Wargniez, a local woman aged 65 who was watching from a cafe on the promenade. “It was shooting, shooting.”

A local government official said weapons and grenades were later found inside the rented vehicle.

Nice-Matin newspaper said on Twitter that police were searching the attacker’s home in the Nice neighborhood of Abattoirs. It gave no source of the information.


After the Paris attacks, Islamic State said France and all nations following its path would remain at the top of its list of targets as long as they continued “their crusader campaign”, referring to action against the group in Iraq and Syria.

France is conducting air strikes and special forces operations against Islamic State, as well as training Iraqi government and Kurdish forces.

“We will further strengthen our actions in Syria and Iraq,” Hollande said, calling the tragedy on the day that France marks the 1789 revolutionary storming of the Bastille prison in Paris an attack on liberty by fanatics who despised human rights.

Dawn broke on Friday with pavements smeared with dried blood. Smashed children’s strollers, an uneaten baguette and other debris were strewn about the promenade. Small areas were screened off and what appeared to be bodies covered in blankets were visible through the gaps.

The truck was still where it came to rest, its windscreen riddled with bullets.

There had been no claim of responsibility on Friday morning.

Note: Multiple sources have identified the Nice attacker as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel


France’s terror log: 230+ killed in attacks since 2015, more than previous century of terrorism

July 15, 2016


The terror attack in Nice has shocked the world, but rough figures reveal something even more appalling – far more people have been killed by terrorists in France under president Hollande in the last two years than in the previous 100.

Between 1914 and 2014, some 150 people were killed in bombings, targeted assassinations, and plane hijackings, the deadliest of which occurred in 1961, when 28 people were killed in the bombing of a Strasbourg-Paris train carried out by a far-right paramilitary organization opposed to the independence of Algeria called Organisation de l’armee secrete (OAS).

The Nice truck tragedy is the third terror attack in France in less than two years. The first was an attack on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine in January of 2015, which was followed by the massacre in central Paris in November of the same year. Altogether, the three terror attacks have claimed more than 230 lives.

Charlie Hebdo shooting

The attacks began on January 7, when two Islamist gunmen stormed the headquarters of the controversial satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people and injuring twelve before escaping.

Two days later, on January 9, the police tracked the gunmen to an industrial building in Dammartin-en-Goele, where they took one hostage. Another gunman also shot a police officer on January 8 and took more hostages the next day at a Jewish kosher market near the Porte de Vincennes.

French elite counter-terrorist units GIGN, RAID, and BRI made simultaneous raids in Dammartin and at Porte de Vincennes, killing three attackers along with four hostages, who died in the Vincennes supermarket during the rescue operation. A total of twenty people were killed in the attacks, according to French authorities.

November terror attacks in Paris

On November 13, 2015, a series of synchronized terror attacks took place in Paris and Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of the capital.

In the evening, three suicide bombers exploded their belts near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by separate suicide bomb attacks and mass shootings at cafes, restaurants, and a music venue in central Paris.

The Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had been carried out in revenge for recent French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.

The attack took 130 lives, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre, where the terrorists took hostages, leading to a stand-off with police.

Nice truck attack

Last night in the south of France, a lorry rammed into a festive crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. The driver was able to drive two kilometers while mowing down pedestrians before being shot by police.

According to eyewitness accounts, the lorry driver shouted “Allahu akbar!” before carrying out the attack.

The death toll has shocked many around the world, as 80 people were killed and over 100 injured.


A timeline of recent mass attacks in France

The attack in Nice during Bastille Day festivities is the latest in a string of deadly attacks targeting civilians. Here is a timeline of recent mass attacks – including those foiled – on French soil.

July 15, 2016


11-12 March 2012: Toulouse and Montauban shootings. Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, murders three French paratroopers, a Rabbi and three schoolchildren over a period of 11 days in Toulouse and Montauban. Merah – who acquaintances said suffered psychological problems – had said he was angry about the war in Afghanistan. He was killed by a police sniper.

23 May 2013:  La Defense attack. A French soldier – stationed on the street following the Toulouse and Montauan killings – is stabbed by 22-year-old Alexandre Dhaussy. He makes rambling statements and it is later believed to be a copycat crime based on the stabbing murder of a British soldier Dhaussy is later ruled criminally insane and placed in a psychiatric ward.

20 December 2014: Tours police station stabbings. Knife-wielding Bertrand Nzohabonayo, 20, attacks a police station yelling “Allahu Akbar!” He was shot dead after wounding three police officers.

21 December 2014: Dijon attack. A deranged 40-year-old man drives into a crowd, running down 11 pedestrians in the city of Dijon. Authorities rule the man has severe psychiatric problems and had converted to Islam just days before the attack.

22 December 2014: Nantes attack. A person is killed and nine others injured as yet another man drives his car through a crowded street, this time in Nantes. The unidentified driver makes incoherent statements to police.

7-9 January 2015: Charlie Hebdo attacks. Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi – Islamist gunmen tied to al Qaeda in Yemen – attack the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. A third associate, Amedy Coulibaly, takes hostages at a kosher supermarket. By the end of the day 20 people are dead.

3 February 2015: Jewish community center attack in Nice. Three soldiers guarding a Jewish community center in Nice are slightly wounded after 30-year-old Moussa Coulibaly slashes them with a 20-centimeter (7.8-inch) knife.

19 April 2015: Foiled Christian church plot. A woman is killed after being carjacked by a 24-year-old Algerian student outside Paris. The man accidentally shoots himself in the leg and is captured. Police find evidence he was in touch with militants in Syria who had been helping him plan an attack on two Christian churches in Paris.

26 June 2015: Decapitation attack near Grenoble. Yassin Sahli, 35, delivery driver rams his van into an industrial plant in a failed attempt to blow up the facility. Authorities find the decapitated head of the man’s 54-year-old supervisor with scrawled jihadi slogans near the wreck. Sahli commits suicide in prison.

21 August 2015: Thalys train attack. Four people are hurt in an attempted mass shooting aboard an international Paris-bound train. Ayoub Khazzani, a 25-year-old Moroccan national, is arrested after being overpowered by passengers.

13-14 November 2015: Paris attacks. In the single deadliest attack in modern French history, gunmen open fire inside a crowded rock concert, several cafes and detonate three suicide vests outside a Germany-France soccer match. In all, 130 people are killed and more than 350 wounded

1 January 2016: Valence mosque attack. A 29-year-old Frenchman of Tunisian origin rams his car into a group of soldiers guarding a mosque in Valence. One of the soldiers and a 72-year-old bystander, who had come to pray, are injured.

7 January 2016: Paris police station attack. On the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, a man carrying an “Islamic State” flag storms a police station in suburban Paris with a meat cleaver yelling “Allahu Akbar!” He is killed by police. German police later said the assailant had a criminal history and had been living under several aliases.

13 June 2016: Magananville stabbings. 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, attacks a police commander and his wife in their home in Magnanville outside Paris. The assailant then livestreams video swearing allegiance to the self-styled “Islamic State” before being killed by French commandos. The slain couple’s 3-year-old child is found alive inside the house.

14 July 2016: Bastille Day attack in Nice. At least 84 people are killed and 28 critically injured after a man drives a heavy truck two kilometers through a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in Nice. The man – identified only as a 31-year-old Frenchman of Tunisian origin – is killed in a shootout with police.

Bastille Day truck driver was known to police, reports say

Investigation under way to find out if French-Tunisian man who killed 84 people in Nice acted alone

July 15, 2016

by Peter Beaumont

The Guardian

A massive police operation is under way in France to establish whether a 31-year-old French citizen of Tunisian origin acted alone or with accomplices in his attack on Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

According to police sources and French media reports, the refrigerated truck used in the attack, which killed at least 84 people and injured hundreds more when it drove into crowds on the city’s Promenade des Anglais, was rented two days ago in nearby Saint-Laurent-du-Var.

The driver was shot dead in the truck after reportedly opening fire with a pistol on police who had surrounded the vehicle. Among items recovered from inside were an identity card, mobile phone and bank card, all linked to the driver.

He was formally identified by police on Friday morning as they launched a series of coordinated operations across the city.

The attacker, a 31-year-old Tunisian-born Frenchman who lived in Nice, was known to the police for common crimes – including violence – but not to the intelligence services, a police source said.

His substantial criminal record included domestic violence, theft, violence – including with a weapon – and using threats of violence.

On Friday morning, police forensics officers were combing through the truck, which remained where it stopped, its front badly damaged and riddled with bullet holes, and its tyres burst.

Video footage showed the 19-tonne white truck speeding up as it drove into screaming crowds along the Promenade des Anglais while several people tried to chase it on foot. It mowed through the crowd for almost 2km before the driver was shot dead by police.

According to reports, security camera footage showed that he forced metal security barriers on a road barring access to the celebrations to get through with his truck.

No groups have claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday, but the French president, François Hollande, said it was “terrorist in nature” and would be met by a show of “real force and military action in Syria and Iraq”.

Dramatic details emerged on Friday over how a member of the crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the seaside promenade had tried to stop the lorry just before the driver was shot dead.

“Someone in the crowd jumped on the lorry to try and stop it,” said Eroic Ciotti on Europe 1. “It was at that moment that the police were able to stop the terrorist. He had fired on the police without hitting them and on the person who tried to stop him.”

A witness called Nader told BFM television he had seen the whole attack from start to finish, and had initially thought the driver had lost control.

“He stopped just in front of me after he [crushed] a lot of people. I saw a guy in the street, we were trying to speak to the driver to get him to stop. He looked nervous. There was a girl under the car, he smashed her. The guy next to me pulled her out.”

Nader said he saw the driver pull out a gun and start shooting at police. “They killed him and his head was out the window.”


The Unyielding Grip of Fossil Fuels on Global Life

by Michael T. Klare

Tom Dispatch

Here’s the good news: wind power, solar power, and other renewable forms of energy are expanding far more quickly than anyone expected, ensuring that these systems will provide an ever-increasing share of our future energy supply.  According to the most recent projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, global consumption of wind, solar, hydropower, and other renewables will double between now and 2040, jumping from 64 to 131 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs).

And here’s the bad news: the consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas is also growing, making it likely that, whatever the advances of renewable energy, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global landscape for decades to come, accelerating the pace of global warming and ensuring the intensification of climate-change catastrophes.

The rapid growth of renewable energy has given us much to cheer about.  Not so long ago, energy analysts were reporting that wind and solar systems were too costly to compete with oil, coal, and natural gas in the global marketplace.  Renewables would, it was then assumed, require pricey subsidies that might not always be available.  That was then and this is now.  Today, remarkably enough, wind and solar are already competitive with fossil fuels for many uses and in many markets.

If that wasn’t predicted, however, neither was this: despite such advances, the allure of fossil fuels hasn’t dissipated.  Individuals, governments, whole societies continue to opt for such fuels even when they gain no significant economic advantage from that choice and risk causing severe planetary harm.  Clearly, something irrational is at play.  Think of it as the fossil-fuel equivalent of an addictive inclination writ large.

The contradictory and troubling nature of the energy landscape is on clear display in the 2016 edition of the International Energy Outlook, the annual assessment of global trends released by the EIA this May.  The good news about renewables gets prominent attention in the report, which includes projections of global energy use through 2040.  “Renewables are the world’s fastest-growing energy source over the projection period,” it concludes.  Wind and solar are expected to demonstrate particular vigor in the years to come, their growth outpacing every other form of energy.  But because renewables start from such a small base — representing just 12% of all energy used in 2012 — they will continue to be overshadowed in the decades ahead, explosive growth or not.  In 2040, according to the report’s projections, fossil fuels will still have a grip on a staggering 78% of the world energy market, and — if you don’t mind getting thoroughly depressed — oil, coal, and natural gas will each still command larger shares of the market than all renewables combined.

Keep in mind that total energy consumption is expected to be much greater in 2040 than at present.  At that time, humanity will be using an estimated 815 quadrillion BTUs (compared to approximately 600 quadrillion today).  In other words, though fossil fuels will lose some of their market share to renewables, they will still experience striking growth in absolute terms.  Oil consumption, for example, is expected to increase by 34% from 90 million to 121 million barrels per day by 2040.  Despite all the negative publicity it’s been getting lately, coal, too, should experience substantial growth, rising from 153 to 180 quadrillion BTUs in “delivered energy” over this period.  And natural gas will be the fossil-fuel champ, with global demand for it jumping by 70%.  Put it all together and the consumption of fossil fuels is projected to increase by 177 quadrillion BTUs, or 38%, over the period the report surveys.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of climate science has to shudder at such projections.  After all, emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels account for approximately three-quarters of the greenhouse gases humans are putting into the atmosphere.  An increase in their consumption of such magnitude will have a corresponding impact on the greenhouse effect that is accelerating the rise in global temperatures.

At the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris last December, delegates from more than 190 countries adopted a plan aimed at preventing global warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level.  This target was chosen because most scientists believe that any warming beyond that will result in catastrophic and irreversible climate effects, including the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps (and a resulting sea-level rise of 10-20 feet).  Under the Paris Agreement, the participating nations signed onto a plan to take immediate steps to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and then move to actual reductions.  Although the agreement doesn’t specify what measures should be taken to satisfy this requirement — each country is obliged to devise its own “intended nationally determined contributions” to the overall goal — the only practical approach for most countries would be to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

As the 2016 EIA report makes eye-poppingly clear, however, the endorsers of the Paris Agreement aren’t on track to reduce their consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas.  In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by an estimated 34% between 2012 and 2040 (from 32.3 billion to 43.2 billion metric tons).  That net increase of 10.9 billion metric tons is equal to the total carbon emissions of the United States, Canada, and Europe in 2012.  If such projections prove accurate, global temperatures will rise, possibly significantly above that 2 degree mark, with the destructive effects of climate change we are already witnessing today — the fires, heat waves, floods, droughts, storms, and sea level rise — only intensifying.

Exploring the Roots of Addiction

How to explain the world’s tenacious reliance on fossil fuels, despite all that we know about their role in global warming and those lofty promises made in Paris?

To some degree, it is undoubtedly the product of built-in momentum: our existing urban, industrial, and transportation infrastructure was largely constructed around fossil fuel-powered energy systems, and it will take a long time to replace or reconfigure them for a post-carbon future.  Most of our electricity, for example, is provided by coal- and gas-fired power plants that will continue to operate for years to come.  Even with the rapid growth of renewables, coal and natural gas are projected to supply 56% of the fuel for the world’s electrical power generation in 2040 (a drop of only 5% from today).  Likewise, the overwhelming majority of cars and trucks on the road are now fueled by gasoline and diesel.  Even if the number of new ones running on electricity were to spike, it would still be many years before oil-powered vehicles lost their commanding position.  As history tells us, transitions from one form of energy to another take time.

Then there’s the problem — and what a problem it is! — of vested interests.  Energy is the largest and most lucrative business in the world, and the giant fossil fuel companies have long enjoyed a privileged and highly profitable status.  Oil corporations like Chevron and ExxonMobil, along with their state-owned counterparts like Gazprom of Russia and Saudi Aramco, are consistently ranked among the world’s most valuable enterprises.  These companies — and the governments they’re associated with — are not inclined to surrender the massive profits they generate year after year for the future wellbeing of the planet.

As a result, it’s a guarantee that they will employ any means at their disposal (including well-established, well-funded ties to friendly politicians and political parties) to slow the transition to renewables.  In the United States, for example, the politicians of coal-producing states are now at work on plans to block the Obama administration’s “clean power” drive, which might indeed lead to a sharp reduction in coal consumption.  Similarly, Exxon has recruited friendly Republican officials to impede the efforts of some state attorney generals to investigate that company’s past suppression of information on the links between fossil fuel use and climate change.  And that’s just to scratch the surface of corporate efforts to mislead the public that have included the funding of the Heartland Institute and other climate-change-denying think tanks.

Of course, nowhere is the determination to sustain fossil fuels fiercer than in the “petro-states” that rely on their production for government revenues, provide energy subsidies to their citizens, and sometimes sell their products at below-market rates to encourage their use.  According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2014 fossil fuel subsidies of various sorts added up to a staggering $493 billion worldwide — far more than those for the development of renewable forms of energy.  The G-20 group of leading industrial powers agreed in 2009 to phase out such subsidies, but a meeting of G-20 energy ministers in Beijing in June failed to adopt a timeline to complete the phase-out process, suggesting that little progress will be made when the heads of state of those countries meet in Hangzhou, China, this September.

None of this should surprise anyone, given the global economy’s institutionalized dependence on fossil fuels and the amounts of money at stake.  What it doesn’t explain, however, is the projected growth in global fossil fuel consumption.  A gradual decline, accelerating over time, would be consistent with a broad-scale but slow transition from carbon-based fuels to renewables.  That the opposite seems to be happening, that their use is actually expanding in most parts of the world, suggests that another factor is in play: addiction.

We all know that smoking tobacco, snorting cocaine, or consuming too much alcohol is bad for us, but many of us persist in doing so anyway, finding the resulting thrill, the relief, or the dulling of the pain of everyday life simply too great to resist.  In the same way, much of the world now seems to find it easier to fill up the car with the usual tankful of gasoline or flip the switch and receive electricity from coal or natural gas than to begin to shake our addiction to fossil fuels.  As in everyday life, so at a global level, the power of addiction seems regularly to trump the obvious desirability of embarking on another, far healthier path.

On a Fossil Fuel Bridge to Nowhere

Without acknowledging any of this, the 2016 EIA report indicates just how widespread and prevalent our fossil-fuel addiction remains.  In explaining the rising demand for oil, for example, it notes that “in the transportation sector, liquid fuels [predominantly petroleum] continue to provide most of the energy consumed.”  Even though “advances in nonliquids-based [electrical] transportation technologies are anticipated,” they will not prove sufficient “to offset the rising demand for transportation services worldwide,” and so the demand for gasoline and diesel will continue to grow.

Most of the increase in demand for petroleum-based fuels is expected to occur in the developing world, where hundreds of millions of people are entering the middle class, buying their first gas-powered cars, and about to be hooked on an energy way of life that should be, but isn’t, dying.  Oil use is expected to grow in China by 57% between 2012 and 2040, and at a faster rate (131%!) in India.  Even in the United States, however, a growing preference for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks continues to mean higher petroleum use.  In 2016, according to Edmunds.com, a car shopping and research site, nearly 75% of the people who traded in a hybrid or electric car to a dealer replaced it with an all-gas car, typically a larger vehicle like an SUV or a pickup.

The rising demand for coal follows a depressingly similar pattern.  Although it remains a major source of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, many developing nations, especially in Asia, continue to favor it when adding electricity capacity because of its low cost and familiar technology.  Although the demand for coal in China — long the leading consumer of that fuel — is slowing, that country is still expected to increase its usage by 12% by 2035.  The big story here, however, is India: according to the EIA, its coal consumption will grow by 62% in the years surveyed, eventually making it, not the United States, the world’s second largest consumer.  Most of that extra coal will go for electricity generation, once again to satisfy an “expanding middle class using more electricity-consuming appliances.”

And then there’s the mammoth expected increase in the demand for natural gas.  According to the latest EIA projections, its consumption will rise faster than any fuel except renewables.  Given the small base from which renewables start, however, gas will experience the biggest absolute increase of any fuel, 87 quadrillion BTUs between 2012 and 2040.  (In contrast, renewables are expected to grow by 68 quadrillion and oil by 62 quadrillion BTUs during this period.)

At present, natural gas appears to enjoy an enormous advantage in the global energy marketplace.  “In the power sector, natural gas is an attractive choice for new generating plants given its moderate capital cost and attractive pricing in many regions as well as the relatively high fuel efficiency and moderate capital cost of gas-fired plants,” the EIA notes.  It is also said to benefit from its “clean” reputation (compared to coal) in generating electricity.  “As more governments begin implementing national or regional plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, natural gas may displace consumption of the more carbon-intensive coal and liquid fuels.”

Unfortunately, despite that reputation, natural gas remains a carbon-based fossil fuel, and its expanded consumption will result in a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.  In fact, the EIA claims that it will generate a larger increase in such emissions over the next quarter-century than either coal or oil — a disturbing note for those who contend that natural gas provides a “bridge” to a green energy future.

Seeking Treatment

If you were to read through the EIA’s latest report as I did, you, too, might end up depressed by humanity’s addictive need for its daily fossil fuel hit.  While the EIA’s analysts add the usual caveats, including the possibility that a more sweeping than expected follow-up climate agreement or strict enforcement of the one adopted last December could alter their projections, they detect no signs of the beginning of a determined move away from the reliance on fossil fuels.

If, indeed, addiction is a big part of the problem, any strategies undertaken to address climate change must incorporate a treatment component.  Simply saying that global warming is bad for the planet, and that prudence and morality oblige us to prevent the worst climate-related disasters, will no more suffice than would telling addicts that tobacco and hard drugs are bad for them.  Success in any global drive to avert climate catastrophe will involve tackling addictive behavior at its roots and promoting lasting changes in lifestyle.  To do that, it will be necessary to learn from the anti-drug and anti-tobacco communities about best practices, and apply them to fossil fuels.

Consider, for example, the case of anti-smoking efforts.  It was the medical community that first took up the struggle against tobacco and began by banning smoking in hospitals and other medical facilities.  This effort was later extended to public facilities — schools, government buildings, airports, and so on — until vast areas of the public sphere became smoke-free.  Anti-smoking activists also campaigned to have warning labels displayed in tobacco advertising and cigarette packaging.

Such approaches helped reduce tobacco consumption around the world and can be adapted to the anti-carbon struggle.  College campuses and town centers could, for instance, be declared car-free — a strategy already embraced by London’s newly elected mayor, Sadiq Khan.  Express lanes on major streets and highways can be reserved for hybrids, electric cars, and other alternative vehicles.  Gas station pumps and oil advertising can be made to incorporate warning signs saying something like, “Notice: consumption of this product increases your exposure to asthma, heat waves, sea level rise, and other threats to public health.”  Once such an approach began to be seriously considered, there would undoubtedly be a host of other ideas for how to begin to put limits on our fossil fuel addiction.

Such measures would have to be complemented by major moves to combat the excessive influence of the fossil fuel companies and energy states when it comes to setting both local and global policy.  In the U.S., for instance, severely restricting the scope of private donations in campaign financing, as Senator Bernie Sanders advocated in his presidential campaign, would be a way to start down this path.  Another would step up legal efforts to hold giant energy companies like ExxonMobil accountable for malfeasance in suppressing information about the links between fossil fuel combustion and global warming, just as, decades ago, anti-smoking activists tried to expose tobacco company criminality in suppressing information on the links between smoking and cancer.

Without similar efforts of every sort on a global level, one thing seems certain: the future projected by the EIA will indeed come to pass and human suffering of a previously unimaginable sort will be the order of the day.

The Good News

Yes, we live in tumultuous times – but there’s reason for optimism

July 15, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


These are dark days for the Republic – and the world – what with war clouds looming on every horizon and a miasma of menace hanging over us in our everyday lives. The other day as I considered going to the Sonoma County Fair I was suddenly struck by the not unreasonable fear that Something Might Happen – a deranged shooter, perhaps, out to prove an utterly deranged point. I checked myself: what am I thinking? Is life now totally crazy? Do I want to live in a society where it’s not paranoid to have such thoughts? And yet …

And yet this morning, as I wondered what I’d be writing about today, I scanned the headlines and saw a number of bright spots in otherwise darkening skies. Perhaps they’re underscored by the general bleakness, but in any case they’re there. Here are a few:

A recent NBC News report on the underreported battles taking place in the GOP platform committee informs us:

“Another area of debate emerged between national security hawks and the more libertarian-minded isolationists during a debate over foreign policy. While isolationists tried to pass measures that would have condemned ongoing U.S. involvement in wars in the Middle East and opposed efforts to condemn the shrinking military budget, the hawks won in every instance.”

Yes, we lost – so where’s the “bright spot”? It’s in the fact that this kind of debate is unprecedented: previous Republican platform committees have been the equivalent of a Soviet party congress, where neoconservative orthodoxy was unchallenged and it was only a question of how militaristic the resulting document was going to be. With the rise of – dare I say it – Donald Trump, all that’s changed. The dam is breached, and the waters are pouring forth. Reporter Molly Ball, writing in The Atlantic, gives us a taste of the proceedings, paying much attention to the efforts of “Eric Brakey, a libertarian state senator from Maine “:

“Brakey proposed to condemn the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya and blame it for destabilizing the region and empowering the Islamic State. ‘The deposing of secular dictators in the Middle East empowers our enemies,” his text read. “We oppose the continuing of this failed practice.’

“Defending his views, Brakey summoned Trump: ‘Even our presumptive nominee acknowledges that the decision to take out the secular dictator in Iraq was a mistake,’ he noted. But other delegates said they didn’t like the idea of the GOP ‘defending evil dictators.’ That amendment was defeated, as were several other Brakey proposals aimed at turning the party in a less interventionist direction. Delegates declined to soften the party’s stance toward Russia, to categorically condemn foreign aid, or to call the drug war a failure.”

In defeat there is the promise of a future victory: and of course there’s the presumptive GOP nominee himself, who has said the Iraq war was a monstrous mistake – and, going further than any mainstream politician, declared before an audience of GOP mandarins that we were lied into it.

Trump has also said that we need to ratchet down tensions with Russia, and – yes – maybe even cooperate with them on items of mutual concern, i.e. Syria. And it looks like this common sense approach has even infiltrated the Obama administration, amazingly enough, where a proposal to do exactly that in Syria is in the works.

While a “stepped up bombing campaign” may not exactly seem like good news, the point is that the target of this campaign is Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria that Gen. David Petraeus (and perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton) wanted to team up with in order to overthrow Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. With Petraeus in disgrace, and Hillary out of Foggy Bottom, that harebrained scheme is now in the trashcan where it belongs.

In a larger sense, this proposal – if it goes forward – means the end of Russia’s international isolation and the beginning of a thaw in Russo-American relations – good news for those of us who have been warning of the dangers of provoking the Russian bear.

Think of where we were, oh, say in 2003: the US went charging into Iraq, and the neoconservatives were riding high. They had a regime-change plan not only for that unfortunate country but for the entire region. They were going to turn the Middle East into a Jeffersonian democracy at gunpoint. Today we are living with the tragic results of their hubris – and the nation has learned an important lesson. Yes, even the Republican party has learned it. As Pat Buchanan told Molly Ball in the piece cited above:

“[H]e cannot imagine the Republican Party reverting to its former orientation post-Trump. ‘You can’t go home again,’ he said. ‘Bush Republicanism – globalism, free trade, interventionism, democracy promotion, waging wars to remake the Mideast in the image of Vermont – it’s all over. Neoconservatism, I don’t know how you come back to it. The American people won’t stand it anymore.’”

No, they won’t stand for it – and that’s a big change for the better.

Microsoft Wins Major Privacy Victory for Data Held Overseas

July 14 2016

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

In a landmark decision, an appellate court ruled Thursday that the U.S. government could not obtain personal data held overseas by issuing a domestic warrant.

Microsoft appealed an earlier ruling in the Southern District of New York that held the company in contempt of court because it refused to hand over data stored in Dublin, Ireland, during a narcotics investigation. The target’s citizenship wasn’t disclosed to the court.

The New York-based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in what digital rights advocates are celebrating as a victory for privacy in an increasingly connected digital age — though it’s expected the government will appeal.

“Microsoft’s victory over the U.S. government is a resounding affirmation of the endurance of privacy in an age marked by constant data transfers in the cloud, Internet of Things, and big data applications,” Omer Tene, vice president of research and education at the International Association of Privacy Professionals, said in a statement to The Intercept.

“When, in 1986, Congress passed the Stored Communications Act as part of the broader Electronic Communications Privacy Act, its aim was to protect user privacy in the context of new technology that required a user’s interaction with a service provider,” wrote Judge Susan L. Carney in the decision.

Just because companies routinely conduct business across international borders doesn’t mean a warrant is any more or less powerful, argued the unanimous panel of three judges. “Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the statute envision the application of its warrant provisions overseas.”

To access data across borders, there are other structures in place, called Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, the court argued. Those agreements allow law enforcement to exchange information in criminal investigations — and the U.S. has an arrangement in place with Ireland. (The U.S. government described that process as “cumbersome.”)

The U.S. and Britain are already negotiating an agreement where both partners could directly serve companies with wiretap orders and warrants — to intercept real-time communications and collect stored communications. But neither country has announced a formal agreement yet.

In response to the appellate decision, many are calling for legal reforms to better address the needs of law enforcement to access data overseas and to protect the privacy of citizens worldwide.

“The decision underlines the need for reform to address legitimate law enforcement demands for data stored abroad,” Greg Nojeim, the director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Freedom, Security, and Technology Project, said in a statement. “It should spur Congress to act by finally updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and advancing legislation that would reform the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process.”

The Most Important US Air Force Base You’ve Never Heard Of

July 15, 2016

by Norman Solomon


The overseas hub for America’s “war on terror” is the massive Ramstein Air Base in southwest Germany. Nearly ignored by US media, Ramstein serves crucial functions for drone warfare and much more. It’s the most important Air Force base abroad, operating as a kind of grand central station for airborne war – whether relaying video images of drone targets in Afghanistan to remote pilots with trigger fingers in Nevada, or airlifting special-ops units on missions to Africa, or transporting munitions for airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. Soaking up billions of taxpayer dollars, Ramstein has scarcely lacked for anything from the home country, other than scrutiny.

Known as “Little America” in this mainly rural corner of Germany, the area now includes 57,000 US citizens clustered around Ramstein and a dozen smaller bases. The Defense Department calls it “the largest American community outside of the United States.” Ramstein serves as the biggest Air Force cargo port beyond US borders, providing “full spectrum airfield operations” along with “world-class airlift and expeditionary combat support.” The base also touts “superior” services and “exceptional quality of life.” To look at Ramstein and environs is to peer into a faraway mirror for the United States; what’s inside the frame is normality for endless war.

Ramstein’s gigantic Exchange store (largest in the US military) is the centerpiece for an oversize shopping mall, just like back home. A greeting from the Holy Family Catholic Community at Ramstein tells newcomers: “We know that being in the military means having to endure frequent moves to different assignments. This is part of the price we pay by serving our country.” Five American colleges have campuses on the base. Ellenmarie Zwank Brown, who identifies herself as “an Air Force wife and a physician,” is reassuring in a cheerful guidebook that she wrote for new arrivals: “If you are scared of giving up your American traditions, don’t worry! The military goes out of its way to give military members an American way of life while living in Germany.”

That way of life is contoured around nonstop war. Ramstein is the headquarters for the US Air Force in Europe, and the base is now pivotal for using air power on other continents. “We touch a good chunk of the world right from Ramstein,” a public-affairs officer, Maj. Tony Wickman, told me during a recent tour of the base. “We think of it as a power-projection platform.” The scope of that projection is vast, with “areas of responsibility” that include Europe, Russia, and Africa – 104 countries in all. And Ramstein is well-staffed to meet the challenge, with over 7,500 “active duty Airmen” – more than any other US military base in the world except the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Serving the transport needs of war efforts in Iraq and Syria (countries hit by 28,675 US bombs and missiles last year) as well as in many other nations, Ramstein is a central pit stop for enormous cargo jets like the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster. The Ramstein base currently supports “fifteen different major combat operations,” moving the daily supply chain and conducting urgent airlifts. Last July, when Ankara gave Washington a green light to use Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base for launching airstrikes in Syria, vital equipment quickly flew from Ramstein to Incirlik so F-16s could start bombing.

But these days a lot of Ramstein’s attention is focused southward. The base maintains a fleet of fourteen newest-model C-130 turboprops, now coming in mighty handy for secretive US military moves across much of Africa. With its sleek digital avionics, the cockpit of a C-130J looked impressive. But more notable was the plane’s spacious cargo bay, where a pilot explained that it can carry up to 44,000 pounds of supplies – or as many as 92 Army Airborne “jumpers,” who can each be saddled with enough weapons and gear to weigh in at 400 pounds. From the air, troops or freight – even steamrollers, road graders, and Humvees – leave the plane’s hold with parachutes. Or the agile plane can land on “undeveloped air fields.”

With Ramstein as its home, the C-130J is ideal for flying war matériel and special-operations forces to remote terrain in northern and western Africa. (The Pentagon describes it as “a rugged combat transporter designed to take off and land at austere fields.”) In mid-2014, the itinerary of a single trip got into a fleeting news story when a teenage stowaway was found dead in a wheel well of a C-130J at Ramstein, after the plane returned from a circuit to Tunisia, Mali, Senegal, and Chad. Stealthy intervention has escalated widely in the two years since journalist Nick Turse found that the US military was already averaging “far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country.”

The officers I met at Ramstein in early spring often mentioned Africa. But the base mission of “power projection” hardly stops there.

* * *

In the American foreign policy lexicon, peace has become implausible, a faded memory, a mythic rationale for excelling at war. An airlift squadron at the Ramstein Air Base, which proudly calls itself the “Fighting Doves,” displays a logo of a muscular bird with dukes up. On lampposts in a town near Ramstein’s gates, I saw campaign posters for Germany’s Left Party (Die Linke) with a picture of a dove and a headline that could hardly have been more out of sync with the base: Wie lange wollt lhr den Frieden noch herbei-bomben? “How much longer do you want to keep achieving peace by bombing?” Such questions lack relevance when war is perceived not as a means to an end, but an end in itself.

More than ever, with relatively few US troops in combat and air war all the rage, the latest military technology is the filter of the American warrior’s experience. When Ramstein’s 60,800-square-foot Air and Space Operations Center opened in October 2011, the Air Force crowed that it “comes with 40 communication systems, 553 workstations, 1,500 computers, 1,700 monitors, 22,000 connections, and enough fiber optics to stretch from here to the Louvre in Paris.” (Mona Lisa not included.) A news release focused on “the critical mission of monitoring the airspace above Europe and Africa” and “controlling the skies from the Arctic Circle to the Cape of Needles.” But the Defense Department didn’t mention that the new hyper-tech center would be vital to the USA’s drone war.

Ramstein receives visual images from drones via satellite, then relays the images to sensor operators and pilots at computer terminals in the United States. “Ramstein is absolutely essential to the US drone program,” says Brandon Bryant, a former Air Force sensor operator who participated in drone attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia for five years while stationed in New Mexico and Nevada. “All information and data go through Ramstein. Everything. For the whole world.”

Bryant and other sensor operators had Ramstein on speed dial: “Before we could establish a link from our ground-control station in the United States to the drone, we literally would have to call Ramstein up and say ‘Hey, can you connect us to this satellite feed?’ We would just pick up the phone and press the button and it automatically dials in to Ramstein.” Bryant concluded that the entire system for drone strikes was set up “to take away responsibility, so that no one has responsibility for what happens.”

The US government’s far-flung system for extrajudicial killing uses Ramstein as a kind of digital switchboard in a process that fogs accountability and often kills bystanders. A former Air Force drone technician, Cian Westmoreland, told me that many of the technical people staffing Ramstein’s Air and Space Operations Center are apt to be “none the wiser; they would just know a signal is going through.”

Westmoreland was stationed in Afghanistan at the Kandahar Air Field, where he helped build a signal relay station that connected to Ramstein. He never moved a joystick to maneuver a drone and never pushed a button to help fire a missile. Yet, in 2016, Westmoreland speaks sadly of the commendations he received for helping to kill more than 200 people with drone strikes. “I did my job,” he said, “and now I have to live with that.”

During his work on the drone program, Westmoreland developed “a new kind of understanding of what modern warfare actually is. We’re moving towards more network-centric warfare. So, orders [are] dealt out over a network, and making systems more autonomous, putting less humans in the chain. And a lot of the positions are going to be maintenance, they’re technician jobs, to keep systems up and running.”

Those systems strive to reduce the lag time from target zone to computer screen in Nevada. The delay during satellite transmission (“latency” in tech jargon) can last up to six seconds, depending on weather conditions and other factors, but once the signal gets to Ramstein it reaches Nevada almost instantly via fiber-optic cable. Permission to fire comes from an attack controller who “could be anywhere,” as Bryant put it, “just looking at the same video feeds as us pilots and sensors. He just sits in front of a screen too.” As Andrew Cockburn wrote in his recent book Kill Chain, “there is a recurrent pattern in which people become transfixed by what is on the screen, seeing what they want to see, especially when the screen – with a resolution equal to the legal definition of blindness for drivers – is representing people and events thousands of miles and several continents away.”

For all its ultra-tech importance, the Air and Space Operations Center at Ramstein is just a steely link in a kill chain of command, while a kind of assembly-line Taylorism keeps producing the drone war. “I think that’s part of the strength of the secrecy of the program,” Bryant said. “It’s fragmented.” Meanwhile, “We were supposed to function and never ask questions.”

Worlds away, the carnage is often lethally haphazard. For example, classified documents obtained by The Intercept shed light on a special ops series of airstrikes from January 2012 to February 2013 in northeast Afghanistan, code-named Operation Haymaker. The attacks killed more than 200 people, while only 35 were the intended targets. Such numbers may be disturbing, yet they don’t convey what actually happens in human terms.

Several years ago, Pakistani photographer Noor Behram described the aftermath of a US drone attack: “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.”

Even without a missile strike, there are the traumatic effects of drones hovering overhead. Former New York Times reporter David Rohde recalled the sound during his captivity by the Taliban in 2009 in tribal areas of Pakistan: “The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death.”

But such matters are as far removed from Little America in southwest Germany as they are from Big America back home.

* * *

The American drone war has long been unpopular in Germany, where polling indicates that two out of three citizens oppose it. So President Obama was eager to offer assurances during a visit to Berlin three years ago, declaring: “We do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones…as part of our counterterrorism activities.” But such statements miss the point, intentionally, and obscure how much the drone war depends on German hospitality.

Attorney Hans-Christian Ströbele, a prominent Green Party member of the Bundestag, told The Nation that “the targeted killings with drones are illegal executions at least in countries which aren’t in war with Germany. These illegal executions offend against human rights, international law and the German Grundgesetz [Constitution]. If German official institutions permit this and do not stop these actions, they become partly responsible.”

With 10 percent of the Bundestag’s seats, the Greens have the same size bloc as the other opposition party, the Left Party. “To kill people with a joystick from a safe position thousands of miles away is a disgusting and inhumane form of terror,” Sahra Wagenknecht, co-chair of the Left Party, told me. “A war is no video game – at least not for those who have not the slightest chance to defend themselves…. These extrajudicial killings are war crimes, and the German government should draw the consequences and close down the air base in Ramstein…. In my view, the drone war is a form of state terrorism, which is going to produce thousands of new terrorists.”

A lawsuit filed last year in Germany focuses on a drone attack in eastern Yemen on August 29, 2012, that killed two members of the Bin Ali Jaber family, which had gathered in the village of Khashamir to celebrate a wedding. “Were it not for the help of Germany and Ramstein, men like my brother-in-law and nephew might still be alive today,” said Faisal bin Ali Jaber, one of the surviving relatives behind the suit. “It is quite simple: Without Germany, US drones would not fly.” But the German judiciary has rebuffed such civil suits – most recently in late April, when a court in Cologne rejected pleas about a drone strike that killed two people in Somalia, including a herdsman who was not targeted.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has played dumb about drone-related operations in her country. “The German government claims to know nothing at all,” Bundestag member Ströbele said. “Either this is a lie, or the government does not want to know.” The general secretary of the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Wolfgang Kaleck, sums up the German government’s strategy as “See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.” He charges that “Germany is making itself complicit in the deaths of civilians as part of the US drone war.”

After an uproar over US National Security Agency spying in Germany caused the Bundestag to set up a special committee of inquiry two years ago, it became clear that surveillance issues are intertwined with Ramstein’s role in a drone program that relies on cell-phone numbers to find targets. The Green Party’s representative on the eight-member committee, Konstantin von Notz, sounded both pragmatic and idealistic when I interviewed him this spring at a Berlin cafe. “We assume that there is a close connection between surveillance and Ramstein,” he said, “as data collected and shared by German and US intelligence services already led to drone killings coordinated via Ramstein.”

Left Party CO-chair Wagenknecht was emphatic about the BND, Germany’s intelligence agency. “The BND delivers phone numbers of possible drone targets to the NSA and other agencies,” she told The Nation. “The BND and our foreign minister bear part of the blame. They do not only tolerate war crimes, they assist them.”

The United States now has 174 military bases operating inside Germany, more than in any other country. (Japan is second, with 113.) The military presence casts a shadow over German democracy, says historian Josef Foschepoth, a professor at the University of Freiburg. “As long as there are Allied troops or military bases and facilities on German soil,” he wrote in a 2014 article, “there will be Allied surveillance measures carried out on and from German soil, which means, in particular, American surveillance.”

For surveillance and an array of other spooky purposes, the US government created what would become the BND at the end of World War II. “We grew it carefully,” a retired senior Defense Intelligence Agency official, W. Patrick Lang, said in an interview. “They’ve always cooperated with us, completely and totally.” Intelligence ties between the two governments remain tightly knotted. “When it comes to the secret services,” Professor Foschepoth told a public forum in Berlin last summer, “there are some old legal foundations where the federal [German] government follows the American interests more than the interests of their own citizens.”

Extending such talk to depict the current US military presence as bad for democracy in Germany is a third rail in German politics. When Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg quoted from Foschepoth’s article at the Berlin forum – and pointedly asked, “Why are American troops here still? Why the bases?” – the panelist from the Green Party, von Notz, vehemently objected to going there. “I wouldn’t open the discussion or have in the background that this is still an occupation problem or something,” he said. “It’s not a problem of troops somewhere – it’s a problem of lacking democracy, state of law, controlling our secret services today.”

Nine months later, talking with him at Café Einstein on Berlin’s Kurfürstenstrasse, I asked von Notz why he’d pushed back so heatedly against the idea that US military bases are constraining German democracy. “Germany needs to take full responsibility of what is going on on its territory,” he responded. “The German government can no longer hide behind a US-German relation allegedly characterized by the post–World War II occupation. Germany strictly has to ensure that the US intelligence services comply with the law without ignoring the illegal actions of its own Federal Intelligence Service [the BND].”

* * *

Whatever the state of its democracy, Germany is continuing to enable America’s furtive warfare in Africa. Ramstein’s many roles include serving as home to US Air Forces Africa, where a press officer gave me a handout describing the continent as “key to addressing transnational violent extremist threats.” The military orders come from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters in Stuttgart, a two-hour drive from Ramstein.

At first, AFRICOM – which calls itself “a full-spectrum combatant command” – was to be a short-term guest in southwest Germany, some 800 miles from Africa’s closest shores. A State Department cable, marked “Secret” and dated August 1, 2008, said that “no decision has been made on a permanent AFRICOM headquarters location.” Two months later, just as AFRICOM was going into full-fledged operation, a confidential cable from the US Embassy in Berlin reported that “the German government strongly supported the US decision to temporarily base” AFRICOM in Germany.

Yet at the outset, as US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show, tensions existed with the host country. Germany balked at extending blanket legal immunity under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement to every American civilian employee at the new AFRICOM facility, and the dispute applied to “all US military commands in Germany.” While the two governments negotiated behind the scenes into late 2008 (one confidential cable from the US Embassy in Berlin complained about the German Foreign Office’s “unhelpful positions”), AFRICOM made itself at home in Stuttgart.

Nearly eight years later, the “temporary” headquarters for AFRICOM shows no sign of budging. “AFRICOM will stay permanent in Stuttgart if Germany won’t protest against it,” said the Green Party’s Ströbele, who has been on the Bundestag’s intelligence committee for almost twenty years. He told The Nation: “We do not know enough about the AFRICOM facility. Nevertheless there is the assumption that this facility is used to organize and to lead US combat missions in Africa. Because of this reason no country in Africa wanted to have this facility.” Whatever political hazards might lurk for AFRICOM in Germany, the US government finds those risks preferable to headquartering its Africa Command in Africa. And there are more and more interventions to sweep under rugs.

“A network of American drone outposts” now “stretches across east and west Africa,” reports the Center for the Study of the Drone, which is based at Bard College. One of the new locations is northern Cameroon, where a base for Gray Eagle drones (capable of dropping bombs and launching Hellfire missiles) recently went into full operation, accompanied by 300 US troops, including special-operations forces. In late winter The New York Times reported that the United States “is about to break ground on a new $50 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, that will allow Reaper surveillance aircraft to fly hundreds of miles closer to southern Libya.” In March the Pentagon triumphantly announced that drones teamed up with manned jets to kill “more than 150 terrorist fighters” at an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia.

As drone attacks have widened, they’ve become a growing provocation to a vocal minority of German lawmakers. “We deeply regret Germany’s loss of sovereignty, but the government keeps on acting cowardly,” said Sevim Dagdelen, the Left Party’s leader on foreign affairs. Another member of the party in the Bundestag, Andrej Hunko, told me that “AFRICOM in Stuttgart and the Air Operation Center in Ramstein are very important hubs for drone strikes led by the US military” – but “it is very difficult for German lawmakers to control this issue.”

Hunko and colleagues filed more than a dozen requests for explanation of drone-related policy from the German government, but he says “the answers were always dodgy.” The Merkel government deflects formal queries about Ramstein and AFRICOM by claiming to have no reliable information – a stance abetted by the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), now in its third year of serving as a big junior partner to Merkel’s right-leaning Christian Democratic Union. While Left Party legislators and some in the Green Party denounce the stonewalling, they have scant leverage; the two parties combined are just one-fifth of the Bundestag.

Merkel’s stone wall is strengthened by the fact that some Green Party leaders have no problem with US bases. (Citing the very left-wing pasts of several key figures in today’s party, one peace activist near Ramstein tartly remarked that “the Green Party changed from red to green to olive green.”) In the affluent state of Baden-Württemberg, home to AFRICOM headquarters, the state’s Green minister-president Winfried Kretschmann is a military booster. Likewise, the drone program has nothing to fear from Fritz Kuhn, mayor of Stuttgart, the largest city in Germany with a Green mayor. Kuhn declined to answer any of the questions that I submitted in writing about his views on AFRICOM and its operations in his city. “Mayor Kuhn wants to waive the interview,” a spokesman said.

More than publicly acknowledged, the economic benefits of hosting AFRICOM’s headquarters were major factors in the German government’s decision to allow it to open in the first place, a member of the Bundestag told me. With the US military footprint shrinking in the country, Germany’s political establishment saw the chance to welcome AFRICOM as very good news. Today, AFRICOM says that 1,500 US military and civilian personnel are stationed at its Kelley Barracks command center in Stuttgart.

* * *

“Ramstein is a preparation center for the next world war,” Wolfgang Jung said as we neared the base. War has overshadowed his entire life. Jung was born in 1938, and his childhood memories are vivid with fear and the destruction that came with bombs (from both sides). He lost two schoolmates. His father ended up on the Russian front and died in a POW camp just after the war’s end. As a teenager, Jung saw Ramstein open, and in the decades since then he has become a dogged researcher. The base is not just about drones, he stressed. Far from it.

The entire region is brandishing huge arsenals. Ten miles from Ramstein, the Miesau Army Depot is the US military’s biggest storage area for ammunition outside the United States. In late February the depot received what Stars and Stripes reported as “the largest Europe-bound ammo shipment in 10 years” – more than 5,000 tons of US Army ammunition that arrived while the Pentagon was “ramping up missions on the Continent, particularly along NATO’s eastern flank, in response to concerns about a more aggressive Russia.”

In many ways, this heavily militarized stretch of Germany is now a ground-zero powder keg. The consolidated Allied Air Command, “responsible for all Air and Space matters within NATO,” has been at the Ramstein base since 2013. The command includes a center for missile defense, the nexus of the latest US scenario for a missile shield – which the Kremlin views as a threatening system that would make a first strike against Russia more tempting and more likely. Interviewed by the German newspaper Bild in January, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he saw “striving for an absolute triumph in the American missile defense plans.”

Such matters preoccupy Jung and his wife Felicitas Strieffler, also a lifelong resident of the area. She spoke of Ramstein as a grave menace to the world and a blight on the region. Locals dread sunny days, she said, because roaring warplanes take to cloudless skies for training maneuvers. On a hillside, after climbing a 60-foot tower – a red sandstone monument built in 1900 to honor Bismarck – we looked out over a panorama dominated by Ramstein’s runways, hangars, and aircraft. Strieffler talked about a dream she keeps having: The base will be closed and, after the chemical pollutants are removed, it will become a lake where people can go boating and enjoy the beauties of nature.

Such hopes might seem unrealistic, but a growing number of activists in Germany are working to end Ramstein’s drone role and eventually close the base. On June 11, several thousand protesters gathered in the rain to form a “human chain” that stretched for more than five miles near the Ramstein perimeter. At the Stopp Ramstein Kampagne office in Berlin, a 37-year-old former history student, Pascal Luig, exuded commitment and calm as he told me that “the goal should be the closing of the whole air base.” He added, “Without Ramstein, no [US] war in the Middle East would be possible.” With no hope of persuading the US government to shut down Ramstein and its other bases in his country, Luig wants a movement strong enough to compel the German government to evict them.

* * *

The Pentagon top brass can’t be happy about the publicity in Germany connecting Ramstein to the drone war. “They like to keep these things low key, just because there are points of vulnerability,” former drone technician Cian Westmoreland said, noting that “the military is all about redundancies.” In fact, even while Ramstein’s Air and Space Operations Center was going into action nearly five years ago, a similar facility was on the drawing boards for the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily.

According to some sources, the ultimate goal is to replace Ramstein with Sigonella as the main site for relay of drone signals. (Replying to my inquiry, an Air Force spokesman at Ramstein, Maj. Frank Hartnett, wrote in an e-mail: “There are currently no plans to relocate the center’s activities.” He did not respond to follow-up questions.) An investigative journalist working for the Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso, Stefania Maurizi, told me in mid-spring that progress toward such a center at Sigonella remained at a snail’s pace. But on June 21, she reported that an Italian engineering firm had just won a contract for a building similar to Ramstein’s relay center. Construction at Sigonella could be completed by 2018.

As part of the militarization process in Italy – “the Pentagon has turned the Italian peninsula into a launching pad for future wars in Africa, the Middle East and beyond,” author David Vine observes – Sigonella already has some infrastructure for satellite communication. Another asset is that Italy is even more deferential to the American military than Germany is. “Italy has become the launching pad for the US wars, and in particular for the drone wars, without any public debate,” Maurizi says. “Our responsibilities are huge and the Italian public is kept in the dark.” And when the Pentagon decides to build big in Italy, it doesn’t hurt the momentum that – as Vine documents in his 2015 book Base Nation – the lucrative contracts are routinely signed with Italian construction firms controlled by the Mafia.

In any event, no one can doubt that the Defense Department has become utterly enthralled with drones, officially dubbed Remotely Piloted Aircraft. “Our RPA enterprise” is now “flying combat missions around the globe,” the general running the Air Combat Command, Herbert Carlisle, testified to a Senate subcommittee in March. There was no mistaking his zeal to further expand drone missions, mangled syntax notwithstanding: “They are arming decision makers with intelligence, our warfighters with targets, and our enemies with fear, anxiety and ultimately their timely end.”

General Carlisle said the US military is now flying five times as many drone sorties as a decade ago – a boost that “exemplifies the furious pace at which we have expanded our operations and enterprise.” But he warned that “an insatiable demand for RPA forces has stretched the community thin, especially our Airmen performing the mission.” Today, almost 8,000 Air Force personnel are “solely dedicated” to Predator and Reaper drone missions. “Of the 15 bases with RPA units,” Carlisle said, “13 of them have a combat mission. This mission is of such value that we plan on consistent increases in aircraft, personnel and results.” Several weeks after his testimony, Reuters – citing “previously unreported US Air Force data” – revealed that “drones fired more weapons than conventional warplanes for the first time in Afghanistan last year and the ratio is rising.”

Some in-house government appraisals have concluded that the drone war fails because it creates more enemies than it kills. But the “war on terror” is anything but a failure for many corporations or the individuals who spin through the revolving doors of the military-industrial complex. As a critical node in the Pentagon’s global “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” (ISR) system, Ramstein is integral to ongoing boondoggles for contractors like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, and General Dynamics. The bottomless pit for taxpayers is a bottomless well for firms catering to the Air Force, with its jargon-larded pursuit of “a distributed ISR operation capable of providing world-wide, near-real-time simultaneous intelligence to multiple theaters of operation through…robust reachback communications architectures.”

Looking back at the milieu of his work in the drone program, Westmoreland has concluded that “it’s more or less a for-profit venture. When you get out of the military, you expect to get a job in the defense sector, an executive position. And really it’s about racking up as many awards and decorations as you possibly can.”

At the top ranks, Westmoreland sees a conflict of interest: “They have an incentive to keep wars going.” For the military’s leadership, the available dividends are quite large. For instance, former NSA and CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden – an outspoken advocate of the drone program – received $240,125 last year as a member of the board at Motorola Solutions. That company has an investment in CyPhy Works, a major developer of drones.

Endless war propels an endless gravy train.

* * *

Like the other drone whistleblowers interviewed for this article, former tech sergeant Lisa Ling was careful not to reveal any classified information. But when we met at a coffee shop in California, what she said at the outset could be heard as subversive of the US drone program: “I would like to see humanity brought into the political discourse.” Her two decades in the military included several years of work on assimilating Air National Guard personnel into the drone program. Now she expresses remorse for taking part in a program where “no one person has responsibility.”

The new documentary film National Bird includes these words from Ling: “We are in the United States of America and we are participating in an overseas war, a war overseas, and we have no connection to it other than wires and keyboards. Now, if that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, it does out of me. Because if that’s the only connection, why stop?”

After leaving the Air Force, Ling went on a humanitarian mission to Afghanistan, planting trees and distributing seeds to people she’d previously seen only as indistinct pixels. The drone war haunts her. Ling asks how we would feel if armed drones kept hovering in the sky above our own communities, positioned to kill at any moment.

In the Little America where the Ramstein Air Base is the crown military jewel, such questions go unasked. For that matter, we rarely hear them in Big America. Yet those questions must be asked, or the forever war will be.







No responses yet

Leave a Reply