In Russia Little Picketers Protest the War

In St. Petersburg there is a new kind of protest that so far has not been stopped by the authorities.

Participants make tiny protesters out of clay, paper, wire or other craft material. Most of them hold placards against the war in Ukraine.

After they are made, their creators – all anonymous – place them in spots about the city and take a photograph, which can be found on an Instagram account: http://www.instagram.com/malenkiy_piket/

Now the little picketers are appearing in other Russian cities. So far, there have been no arrests.

Full story with more photographs @ The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/03/28/in-russia-little-picketers-protest-the-war-a77071

Russia Uses Banned Antipersonnel Landmines

(Berlin, March 29, 2022) – Russian forces fighting in Ukraine have used banned antipersonnel mines in the eastern Kharkiv region, Human Rights Watch said today. 

The antipersonnel mines were located by Ukrainian explosive ordnance disposal technicians on March 28, 2022. Russia is known to possess these newly deployed landmines, which can indiscriminately kill and maim people within an apparent 16-meter range. Ukraine does not possess this type of landmine or its delivery system.

“Countries around the world should forcefully condemn Russia’s use of banned antipersonnel landmines in Ukraine,” said Steve Goose, the arms director of Human Rights Watch. “These weapons do not differentiate between combatants and civilians and leave a deadly legacy for years to come.”

Full Report from Human Rights Watch @ https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/29/ukraine-russia-uses-banned-antipersonnel-landmines

Russia Harassing, Arresting Ukraine War Dissidents

(Berlin) – Russian authorities have cracked down on journalists, human rights defenders, and activists in an effort to silence any criticism of the war in Ukraine, Human Rights Watch said today.

The authorities have arbitrarily detained, judicially harassed, raided, and engaged in smear campaigns against critics. Unidentified assailants have physically attacked activists and damaged human rights organizations’ offices. In recent weeks, various high-level officials, including President Vladimir Putin, labeled people critical of the war “national traitors.”

“Having already intensified a crackdown against critics in 2021, the authorities are escalating their witch-hunt even further to punish all anti-war sentiment,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government portrays independent journalists and activists as traitors and treats them as a threat to the state.”

Full Report from Human Rights Watch@ https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/24/russia-arrests-harassment-ukraine-war-dissidents

Russian Opposition Figures Form Anti-War Committee from Exile

Some of Russia’s leading opposition figures have launched an anti-war committee to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from exile.

In videos shared on social media Wednesday, eight of the country’s leading opposition voices — including former oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Alexei Navalny ally Lyubov Sobol and former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov — called on Russians to resist Kremlin propaganda and push back against the war on Ukraine. 

“We all represent different political movements. But we have merged into one anti-war committee, because we believe that our country does not need this war,” said Khodorkovsky. 

Full Story @ The Moscow Times https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/03/23/exiled-russian-opposition-figures-unite-to-form-anti-war-committee-a77046

Ominous Parallels – Iraq & Ukraine

by Gene Berkman

On February 24, 2022, under orders from President Vladimir Putin, Russian military forces undertook a violent invasion of independent Ukraine.

Another invasion. More people killed. There are lots of parallels with many previous invasions. Many times over many years, many countries have violently invaded their neighbors, or even countries far removed. Still some specific parallels come to mind.

In 2003, US military forces undertook a violent attack on Iraq, based on claims that the Hussein regime had or was developing atomic, chemical or biological weapons. Iraq, they claimed, posed a future threat to the US, despite no evidence of Iraqi nukes or poison gas.

To head off a future threat, President Bush announced a preemptive military strike on Iraq, called an “operation” not a war. Yet the announced goal of the “operation” went beyond disarmament. The goal was regime change.

When President Putin announced the Russian “operation” in Ukraine, the stated reasons include a charge that Ukraine might in the future join NATO – a move Putin considered a threat. To deal with this threat – still much in the future – Putin ordered a preemptive strike.

The US preemptive strike on Iraq began with a barrage of Tomahawk missiles and thousands of precision guided weapons. The Russian preemptive strike has relied on barrages of rockets that lack precision guidance. These Soviet era weapons cannot be precisely targeted, and some have blamed this lack of guidance for the many hits on civilian targets. Still, so many civilian targets have been hit by Russian rockets and artillery that such targeting cannot be dismissed as accidental.

Claiming that hits on hospitals or neighborhoods are “accidental” is no defense. If the actions of the Russians consistently result in new civilian casualties, the Russians are morally obligated to stop their murderous activity. If you accidentally kill someone because your car has faulty brakes, you don’t get to keep driving the faulty car. They do take your drivers license away from you.

Of course there is no license to kill civilians. It was wrong when the US military used precision guided weapons to destroy neighborhoods. It is wrong when the Russian military makes attacks on civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure the main tactic of its invasion.

Russian forces have targeted civilians in past military actions – in Ukraine, in Georgia, in Chechnya, in Afghanistan and in Syria. In Russian military strategy, killing civilians is a feature, not a bug.

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

The US government sent teams of inspectors to many parts of Iraq from 2003 to 2005, searching for weapons of mass destruction, or programs to develop WMD. No nukes were found. No chemical weapons were found – just fertilizer and pesticides.

When Russia began its invasion on February 24, WMD were not mentioned. When Ukraine gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were Soviet missiles located at bases in Ukraine. These missiles were believed to have nuclear warheads. Ukraine contacted international agencies and asked to have the nuclear tipped missiles removed from its territory. The missiles were returned to Russia, the successor state of the USSR.

The USA and Russia agreed to guarantee the security of Ukraine. Russia is clearly in violation of that agreeement.

Ukraine is the only country that has had possession of nuclear weapons and given them up. The only country to implement nuclear disarmament.

Putin and the Russian general staff know that Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons. So they felt safe invading with superior conventional forces. President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld all knew that Iraq did not possess nukes -or poison gas. They felt an invasion – excuse me, an “operation” in Iraq with superior conventional forces would prevail.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third week, mass popular resistance continues against Russian forces. Russian attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have increased as the Russian advance has stalled. And now, the Russian foreign minister and other Russian spokesmen have made claims about WMD in Ukraine. They claim that Ukraine has petitioned international authorities for permission to weaponize plutonium produced in its nuclear power plants. No Russian spokesman has presented evidence to support this claim.

Russian spokesmen have also made claims that Ukraine has a research program for developing biological weapons. It does appear that Ukraine is engaging in medical research on viruses – as many institutes throughout the world are. There is no evidence that Ukraine has developed or is developing biological or chemical weapons, or has any program to do so. Russia’s claims are war propaganda, intended to convince the rest of the world that Russia’s brutal incursion in Ukraine is justified.

Russia does have nuclear weapons, and Putin has made statements that imply a willingness to use them. He has threatened any country that would help Ukraine defend itself. Putin has repeated his threats on more than one occasion in recent weeks. The USA has had nuclear weapons since 1945, and used them on Japan. The USA did not make threats to use nuclear weapons in Iraq, in Yugoslavia or in Afghanistan, so that parallel breaks down.

Russia has chemical weapons, which it has used against Chechen rebels, and in Syria against opponents of the Assad regime. The USA does appear to have chemical weapons, which many Americans oppose. The US military has not used chemical weapons in any conflict since World War II.

PEOPLES WAR IN FINLAND AND UKRAINE

In other specifics, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has different parallels. The resistances of the Ukrainian people has prevented a Russian victory for 3 weeks. The people’s war carried on by Ukraine has parallels to Finland’s defiance of Soviet Russia in 1940. Finland too faced long odds, going against the Soviet Red Army which was bigger and had many tanks, more artillery and more planes than did Finland. In 3 months, the Finns convinced Stalin he should end his intervention. Stalin relied on the intimidating power of Russian military strength to force Finland to give up its independent foreign policy, which seems to be the most minimal of Putin’s goals for Ukraine.

The Finns put on a mighty struggle against a stronger power, and did better than anyone expected. Ukraine has advantages that Finland did not have:

(1) International sanctions on Russian state enterprises and state banks, along with voluntary boycotts and withdrawal from the Russian market by numerous American and European companies.

(2) Other countries are providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. When American B-52s were raining destruction on Hanoi and the countryside of Vietnam – north & south – the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was able to obtain surface to air missiles from East Europe, to defend itself from bombardment. Now Ukraine is being supplied with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to enable its defense against air attack, and with Javelin anti-tank missiles to deal with Russian armor.

(3) Ukraine has something going for it that Finland also had -the Russian army is dispirited, soldiers are badly treated by their government, and they are equipped with inferior Russian made equipment.

It is clear that Russia cannot conquer Ukraine, cannot impose a new state on the people of Ukraine. The main question is how many innocent Ukrainians will die, how many Russian conscripts will die in a war they don’t understand, and how much of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure will be destroyed by the invading Russian army.

The related question: how many Americans who claim to oppose war will jettison the non-aggression principle to become defenders of and apologists for Putin’s War of Choice?

“Americans Must Learn To Reject Unjust And Unnecessary Wars” – Larison

Danny Sjursen calls for remembering the original meaning of Armistice Day:

My fellow veterans don’t necessarily need more thanks. We need, instead, your attention, your support, your careful deployment of our energies and sacrifices only in defense of the most vital national interests and the homeland itself. Most of all we need the reinvigorated dream of Armistice Day—-a holiday imbued with hopes and dreams for a better world. At the very least, for a nation that chooses not to wage forever war.

The standard for sending Americans to war should be a very high one, and even a cursory glance at the many military interventions of the last three decades shows that almost none of them has even come close to meeting it. From the invasion to Panama to the unending war in Afghanistan, the U.S. has been hyperactive in using force in other parts of the world for the last 30 years and very little of it has had anything to do with vital interests or the defense of the United States. Instead of “careful deployment,” we have tended to see reckless and irresponsible deployments of U.S. troops who are tasked with carrying out vague, impossible, and sometimes illegal missions.

Virtually every intervention in that time has been a war of choice, and most of the time it has been the wrong choice.

The U.S. has frequently engaged in hostilities against other states in this period because our government could and not because it had to. There are very few instances in which the U.S. used force as a last resort. In several cases, U.S. intervention has been flagrantly illegal under international and/or U.S. law. The U.S. resorts to force too quickly and too easily and with far too little consideration for the consequences it will have for the people serving the military and the people living in the affected countries. Unlike people from a century ago, many of us have lost our disgust with war, whose human costs are obscured from view or simply ignored. Despite our extraordinary security, many Americans readily accept their leaders’ threat inflation. Preventing more unnecessary wars and bringing the current ones to an end will require a constant effort to counter the alarmist and fear-mongering claims about foreign threats.

Steven Katz makes a similar case for how Americans can best honor veterans:

This year, as one of thousands of veterans who suffered moral injury in the Iraq War, I ask that in addition to the annual “thank you for your service” that you also “thank” veterans by helping us avoid waging unjust wars.

To that end, Americans have to learn an abhorrence for starting wars. Preventive war is inherently unjust, and it needs to be rejected on principle. We need to understand that the Iraq war wasn’t simply a “mistake,” but a terrible crime that should never be repeated. Preventive war is not just another “option” that our government can choose, but rather something illegitimate and wrong by its very nature. When politicians and pundits entertain the idea of launching aggressive attacks on Iran or North Korea or any other country, they need to be shamed and ridiculed as the warmongers they are. The U.S. should never engage in aggressive warfare again. Until Americans and our leaders learn that lesson from the Iraq debacle, we will not have learned the most important lesson.

Source:Daniel Larison @ American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/americans-must-learn-to-reject-unjust-and-unnecessary-wars/


Jason Ditz:”Jeff Bezos Puts the Pentagon on His Monopoly Board”

Speaking at the Wired 25th anniversary last month month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company will continue to accept Pentagon contracts. That includes a very controversial cloud-computing contract that Google and Microsoft have already backed out of due to vocal employee opposition to working with the U.S. military.

Amazon was long considered the front-runner for this contract, but Bezos’s rationale for taking it goes well beyond its being low-hanging fruit. He’s argued that the government’s job is to “make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular,” and that large tech companies should support those decisions irrespective of politics.

The $10 billion tied to the contract can’t hurt either. Whatever his motivation for sucking it up and taking one for team tech, Bezos’s public justification is a poor one, and it isn’t hard to see why. The Pentagon has a long history of immoral and reckless behavior, actions that objectively aren’t beneficial to the defense of the United States. Any company that blindly works with them does so at its own peril.

Employees at Google and Microsoft have already made a powerful case for why tech giants shouldn’t collaborate with the Defense Department. They don’t want to be responsible for developing technology that causes substantial harm, surveils others in violation of international norms, or contravenes human rights. The Pentagon can be counted on to do all three, and more.

Furthermore, the Pentagon’s growing interest in artificial intelligence (A.I.), particularly as it relates to warfighting, sounds out of the preamble for a dystopian novel. Hence why Google employees forced their company not to renew a controversial Pentagon contract in June involving A.I. While Amazon will be signing on to cloud computing, not A.I., it’s still more than a little concerning that Bezos was so adamant about the virtues of the DoD. (For what it’s worth, Amazon already works with the CIA.)

But Amazon has an interest that extends far beyond this single deal. The real prize is to become the military’s sole procurement source for off-the-shelf components. Disdainfully labeled Amazon.mil by critics, this initiative is a result of a congressional mandate that the Pentagon shift procurement to a single online marketplace.

The mandate is supposed to save the Pentagon money when buying run-of-the-mill items like bottled water. It would also give Amazon, the presumptive facilitator, a virtual monopoly on selling a vast array of items to a government department with nearly limitless money that’s notorious for overpaying for things.

Amazon is one of very few online companies that could even claim to provide this sort of service. In eagerly contracting with the Pentagon elsewhere, Bezos is laying the groundwork for this much bigger relationship.

Full Commentary by Jason Ditz @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/amazon-joins-the-military-to-further-its-dominance/

Daniel Larison on “Trump’s Nuclear Arms Race”

Trump just threatened to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal:

President Donald Trump told reporters Monday that the United States would increase its nuclear arsenal until other nations “come to their senses,” threatening an arms race days after he said he would withdraw the US from a Cold War nuclear treaty.

“Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump said from outside the White House.

The U.S. doesn’t need to build more nuclear weapons, and increasing the arsenal will not make America or the world the slightest bit safer. On the contrary, a new nuclear arms buildup would cause other nuclear weapons powers to increase their own arsenals. Building more nukes would be extremely expensive, and it would make the world less secure by heightening international tensions, casting aside decades of arms control and arms reduction work, and encouraging more states to develop nuclear weapons for their own protection. This wouldn’t cause other governments to “come to their senses,” but it would show the world that our government has completely lost its own.

Trump seems to think that other states will be intimidated by a new buildup of nuclear weapons, but it is much more likely that they will be terrified into responding in kind. There is no way that the U.S. will be able to make any progress with North Korea if our government is simultaneously developing new kinds of nuclear weapons and increasing the number of weapons that it possesses. Other would-be proliferators may take this as a cue to pursue their own weapons programs. If reneging on the JCPOA was a body blow to the cause of nonproliferation, a new arms race could prove to be a fatal blow.

The cost of what Trump is proposing would be exorbitant at a time when the U.S. already spends far too much on the military. There could nothing more senseless and gratuitously militaristic than expanding a nuclear arsenal for its own sake. The U.S. needs to be be building on the successes of existing arms control agreements to get the world’s largest nuclear weapons states to cut back on their arsenals. It won’t be able to do that if it is throwing countless billions of dollars down a black hole of wasteful spending on new weapons that the U.S. doesn’t need.

Source:The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/trumps-nuclear-arms-race/

Utley:”The Lies Behind America’s Interventions”

Official Washington and those associated with it have misrepresented the facts numerous times in the service of military actions that might not otherwise have taken place. In the Middle East, these interventions have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab civilians, brought chaos to Iraq and Libya, and led to the expulsion of a million Christians from communities where they have lived since biblical times.

The most famous of these episodes, of course, was the U.S. government’s assurance to the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which formed the basis for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The government also insisted Saddam had ties to al-Qaeda, bolstering the call to war. Of course neither was true.

But even before that there was the first Iraq war in 1991, justified in part by the story of Iraqi soldiers reportedly dumping babies out of incubators to die in a Kuwaiti hospital. The 15-year-old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador cleverly lied to a set-up congressional committee. The Christian Science Monitor detailed this bizarre episode in 2002.

There were also the lies about the Iraqi army being poised to invade Saudi Arabia. That was the ostensible reason for the U.S. sending troops to Kuwait—to defend Saudi Arabia. Writing in the the Los Angeles Times in 2003, Independent Institute fellow Victor Marshall pointed out that neither the CIA nor the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency viewed an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia as probable, and said the administration’s Iraqi troop estimates were “grossly exaggerated.” In fact, the administration’s claim that it had aerial photographs proving its assertions was never verified because, as we later learned, the photos never existed. The Christian Science Monitor also reported on this in 2002 ahead of the second Iraq war.

America attacked Iraq in 1991, bombing and destroying that nation’s irrigation, sanitation, and electricity plants. (See here regarding Washington’s knowledge of and planning for the horrific mass contamination of Iraqi drinking water.) Then we blockaded reconstruction supplies for nine years while some half-million children died of disease and starvation. We blamed it all on Saddam, although we controlled Iraq’s money flows through the UN food-for-oil program. Fortunately, we have a rare admission by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes about what was done.

full post by Jon Basil Utley@ The American Conservative http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-pretty-little-lies-behind-americas-interventions/

Sen. Rand Paul: Why I’ll Fight Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo Nominations

Since President Trump took office, our country finally seems to be heading in the right direction. In just the past year, the American people have seen enormous tax cuts, more judges appointed who take the Constitution seriously, relief from the massive regulatory state, and an economy rapidly gaining strength and offering greater opportunities for those seeking to turn their dreams into reality.

But when it comes to our place on the world stage, we are at a crossroads. We can continue to build on our recent successes by reaffirming America’s role as a trusted, powerful nation guided by principle. Or we can throw it all away by allowing neocon interventionists to infiltrate our leadership and make America the purveyor of destruction.

For decades, we have failed to bring about real peace thanks to a foreign policy guided by the idea that war and intervention are the answers. “Blow up and rebuild” has been the battle cry of those determined to keep us perpetually in conflict.

It was the battle cry of Hillary Clinton, who supported military intervention in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. I supported President Trump during his campaign because he advocated for less military intervention. He opposed the Iraq War. He acknowledged that nation-building doesn’t work. He understood the damage previous foreign policy missteps have caused, including helping to strengthen ISIS.

I want to continue making America great again. That won’t happen if we give power-hungry neocons the reins to our nation’s foreign policy.

People already distrust the CIA. So why on earth has this administration picked someone to run the Agency who was instrumental in running a place where people were tortured and then covered it up afterwards?

Multiple undisputed accounts have detailed how Gina Haspel not only ran a CIA “black site” in Thailand but also destroyed video evidence of torture.

Full Commentary by Sen. Rand Paul @ http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/rand-paul-why-ill-fight-gina-haspels-and-mike-pompeos-nominations/