Updates on Libyan war/Stop NATO news: August 19, 2011

19 August 2011 — Stop NATO

  • FAIR: NATO Air Strikes, Libyan Deaths And Media Silence
  • U.S. NATO Quad Partners Demand Regime Change In Syria
  • Israeli Missile Chief Briefs U.S. Space/Interceptor Missile Conference
  • War Training In Eastern Europe: U.S. National Guard ‘Partners’ With 65 Nations
  • U.S. Army Plans $1 Billion 100 Unmanned Helicopter Fleet
  • Canada Restores Monarchy To Military
  • NATO Tanker Set Ablaze In Balochistan

FAIR: NATO Air Strikes, Libyan Deaths And Media Silence


Fairness & Accuracy in Media
August 18, 2011

Libyan Deaths, Media Silence
Were Dozens Killed in Majer NATO Airstrikes?

Allegations of Libyan civilian deaths as a result of NATO bombing have often been covered in the corporate media as an opportunity to scoff at the Gadhafi regime’s unconvincing propaganda (FAIR Blog, 6/9/11).

But dramatic new allegations that dozens of civilians were killed in Majer after NATO airstrikes on August 8 have been met with near-total media silence.

According to Libyan officials, 85 civilians were killed in Majer – a town south of Zliten, a site of frequent clashes and NATO airstrikes. There is no reason journalists should take this claim at face value. But reports from the scene suggest that something significant happened. According to Agence France Presse (8/9/11), ‘Reporters attended the funerals of victims and saw 28 bodies buried at the local cemetery….In the hospital morgue, 30 bodies – including two children and one woman – were shown along with other bodies which had been torn apart.’

The AFP report included NATO denials, with a spokesman claiming that the target ‘was a military facility clearly.’

A Reuters correspondent (8/9/11) ‘counted 20 body bags in one room, some of them stacked one on top of the other….In total, reporters saw about 30 bodies at the Zlitan hospital.’ The New York Times (8/10/11) ran a 170-word version of a Reuters dispatch which noted: ‘There was no evidence of weapons at the farmhouses, but there were no bodies there, either. Nor was there blood.’

Amnesty International has called for an investigation, which led to this mention from CNN anchor John King (8/11/11):

‘Amnesty International is demanding that NATO investigate whether a Monday strike on Moammar Gadhafi’s forces killed 85 Libyan civilians including 33 children. NATO says it has no evidence of civilian casualties at this point.’

A Nexis database search yields very little coverage in U.S. outlets beyond that brief comment. But that is not because no reporters were present. CNN correspondent Ivan Watson covered a mass funeral after the strikes. But his report aired only on CNN International (8/10/11). Watson reported a visit to ‘three or four houses that had been demolished by some kind of missiles from the sky.’

He added:

‘We were also shown a morgue where there were the bodies of at least 25 people. Many of them appeared to be men. There were some women and children included among those corpses.’

Watson noted that it was ‘impossible for us, from this perspective, to confirm whether or not 85 people were in fact killed, but it does appear that at least some women and were among those hurt in this deadly strike.’ (You can watch Watson’s report here).

Watson’s CNN.com report (8/10/11) included an interview with a Libyan who claimed that nine members of his family were killed in the attack, including his two-year old daughter. Watson also interviewed a man who was burying his daughter.

It is curious that Watson’s reporting was shared with CNN’s international audience, but not broadcast to its domestic audience.

But Watson did appear on CNN a few days earlier from the scene of another NATO strike in Zliten. The point of that report (8/5/11) was to suggest that official claims of civilian deaths were suspicious. In that segment, Watson noted that on a visit to a law school that had been attacked by NATO forces, he found what ‘appear to be uniforms over here, these olive green pants. And then we have got boxes here that look an awful lot like they could have been holding ammunition.’

Reporting that undermines Libyan claims of civilian casualties has been a staple of the war so far – as evidenced by headlines like ‘Libya Government Fails to Prove Claims of NATO Casualties’ (Washington Post, 6/6/11) and ‘Libya Stokes Its Machine Generating Propaganda’ (New York Times, 6/7/11).

Is Majer being ignored by the media because it is just more clumsy Libyan propaganda? Or is it because the story might conflict with the media’s overriding message that Libyan civilians aren’t dying in NATO’s airstrikes? In any event, corporate media outlets that have so diligently sought to debunk Libyan claims of civilian deaths should investigate what happened in Majer. On the BBC website, reporter Matthew Price published one such effort (8/11/11), headlined ‘What really happened in Libya’s Zlitan?’ There should be more like it.


U.S. NATO Quad Partners Demand Regime Change In Syria


Xinhua News Agency
August 19, 2011

France, Germany, Britain jointly urge Syrian president to quit

PARIS:- French, German and British leaders on Thursday called for further sanctions against Syrian authorities on the European level, quoting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost ‘all legitimacy’ and should step down from power.

In a joint statement published by the Elysee Palace, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the months-long military operations and mass arrests in Syria.

The leaders ‘actively support further strong EU sanctions against the regime of President Assad,’ and urged the Syrian authorities to immediately stop violent conflicts with protestors, and allow a UN team to assess the situation in Syria, the statement said.

The three countries believe that al-Assad ‘has lost all legitimacy and no longer claimed to lead the country,’ it added, calling on al-Assad to ‘step down, in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people.’

The statement followed similar calls by U.S. President Barack Obama and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the same day.


Israeli Missile Chief Briefs U.S. Space/Interceptor Missile Conference


Huntsville Times
August 18, 2011

Israeli missile development chief updates SMD conference on missile threats
By Mike Kelley

-Rubin directed the development in the 1990?s of Israel’s Arrow anti missile program, in partnership with Boeing.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama: The head of Israeli missile defense knows something about defending against rocket and missile attacks…

Dr. Uziel Rubin, Founder and first Director of the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, gave an overview of Israeli missile defense and the status of missile development efforts among some of its middle eastern neighbors as the luncheon speaker at the 14th Annual Space and Missile Defense Conference Wednesday.

…Rubin said six Middle Eastern nations: Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen, have carried on missile development programs in recent years.

At least four of those six states – Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Eqypt – have stockpiles of perhaps thousands of rockets and a variety of short to medium range missiles…

Iran, said Rubin, is a major threat with its advanced Shahab II and III missiles having ranges up to 2000 kilometers. Another missile system, the Sejjil, may have a range of up to 3000 kilometers. He said these could be used by Iran to effectively seal off the Persian Gulf.

The weapons could also become a threat to the southern United States, since Iran is suspected of providing them to the regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. ‘The move from the middle east to the Caribbean could be the next big threat in missile defense,’ to the U.S., he said.

Rubin directed the development in the 1990?s of Israel’s Arrow anti missile program, in partnership with Boeing. These missiles, he said, have been a major boon to Israel’s security, with eight kills on nine incoming rockets in one period this past April.


War Training In Eastern Europe: U.S. National Guard ‘Partners’ With 65 Nations


Stars and Stripes
August 18, 2011

Officials: National Guard’s role in Eastern Europe vital
By John Vandiver

-‘I think the State Partnership Program is a perfect example of how we should be using military forces in this 21st century,’ Stavridis said.
-The training runs the gamut, from infantry tactical collaboration to fighter jet operations that prepare air forces to operate together. Another focus in Europe is on preparing allies for missions in Afghanistan, where guard units frequently deploy alongside European partners.

STUTTGART, Germany — The mission started small: three National Guard units matched with military units from three former Soviet bloc nations.

Nearly two decades later, U.S. European Command and Guard officials are touting the program — which today pairs militaries of 65 nations with state Guard units — as an efficient way to conduct joint training at a time of looming budget cuts. Twenty-two of those programs are in Europe.

…Military officials from the U.S. and 22 European countries wrapped up the 2011 United States European Command and National Guard Bureau State Partnership conference in Garmisch on Thursday, which focused on ways to bolster training missions across the region.

‘This is exportable,’ said McKinley. ‘It’s something that can grow.’

For EUCOM, the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, has long been regarded as a force multiplier. The Guard currently conducts nearly half (46 percent) of security cooperation activities in the EUCOM theater of operation, according to Guard statistics.

EUCOM chief [and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe] Adm. James Stavridis, who hosted the event in Garmisch, told the conference’s attendees that the Guard’s citizen soldiers have played a key role in strengthening relations between the U.S. and eastern European militaries. Going forward, the Guard’s citizen soldiers also could play an important role by bringing their private sector expertise to challenges such as cyber security, he said.

‘I think the State Partnership Program is a perfect example of how we should be using military forces in this 21st century,’ Stavridis said.

[W]hile officials discussed the need for more attention to disaster response planning, the core of what the Guard does today in Europe remains rooted in more traditional military functions.

The training runs the gamut, from infantry tactical collaboration to fighter jet operations that prepare air forces to operate together. Another focus in Europe is on preparing allies for missions in Afghanistan, where guard units frequently deploy alongside European partners.

In Afghanistan, a team of Pennsylvania guardsmen and Lithuanian soldiers is now deployed to advise a group of Afghan national police officers. The mission’s commander is a Lithuanian major.

‘It’s the only one (Guard mentor team) I know of that’s under command of a foreign officer,’ said Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Guardsmen and Lithuanian troops have been working side-by-side for 18 years as one of the three founding partnerships of the program. In that time, much mutual trust has been built up, according to Maj. Gen. Arvydas Pocius, Lithuania’s chief of defense.


U.S. Army Plans $1 Billion 100 Unmanned Helicopter Fleet


Bloomberg News
August 16, 2011

U.S. Army May Start $1 Billion Helicopter Drone Project in 2012
By Brendan McGarry

The U.S. Army is proceeding with development of a minimum $1 billion program to buy at least 100 unmanned helicopters, an official said.

The service plans to award two initial contracts valued at between $100 million and $125 million each as part of a competition slated to start sometime after Jan. 1, 2012, according to Tim Owings, deputy project manager for the Army’s unmanned aircraft systems.

‘We are moving forward with that program,’ Owings said, referring to the vertical takeoff and landing, or VTOL, unmanned aerial vehicle program. Owings spoke today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington.

He said eight companies responded to the Army’s request for information, including Chicago-based Boeing Co. (BA), whose A160 Hummingbird helicopter drone was on display in the exhibit hall.


Canada Restores Monarchy To Military


August 18, 2011

Canada restores monarchy to military
Commentary: Restoring the ‘Royal’ moniker to military a silly ideaStories By Bill Mann

VANCOUVER, B.C. — ‘I love Canada,’ said the Sikh student at the University of British Columbia, ‘but this is a very bad idea. My family remembers all too well what it was like in India under British rule. This name change brings back some bad memories.’

To younger Canadians — both immigrants and native-born — this week’s decision to restore the Royal designation to Canada’s navy and air force reminds them more of a popular, long-running CBC TV comedy sketch show, ‘The Royal Canadian Air Farce,’ than anything.

The name change announced this week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government Defence Minister Peter MacKay to restore the names Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force to those two armed services after being dropped four decades ago (in favor of the generic-sounding Canadian Forces) caught most Canadians by surprise. Canada’s Land Force Command, aka Canada’s army, will be also renamed to, well, the Canadian Army.

The recent Royal ‘honeymoon’ tour by Prince William and his new bride Kate to Canada was a big hit, but not THAT big a hit, many in Canada would argue. The name change is a silly idea, it seems to me, and runs a real risk of opening old wounds and further alienating residents of Quebec, a hotbed of anti-monarchism, as well as the official opposition New Democratic Party.

The NDP was already decidedly cool to the British monarchy even before it won most federal parliamentary seats from Quebec in May’s national elections.

I was in Olympic Stadium in Montreal and heard Queen Elizabeth booed when she opened the 1976 Summer Olympics there.

An online poll of 1,016 Canadians conducted by Ipsos-Reid between June 20 and 27 suggested that 67% of Quebecers want to get rid of the monarchy while only 42% of Canadians outside the province support such a move.

Long live the king?

Support for the monarchy was up in Canada, according to the poll, with 58% wanting to maintain it once Queen Elizabeth’s reign ends, up from 50% in a similar poll in 2010. The poll also found that most Canadians believed the royal visit did boost the monarchy’s popularity.

This impending name change came right after I’d watched a well-done CBC made-for-TV film, ‘Trudeau,’ starring Ontario actor Colm Feore as the late Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. It was Trudeau who dropped the monarchy from the military.

Paul Hellyer, Trudeau’s Defence Minister, oversaw getting rid of the ‘Royal’ designation from the navy and Air Force in 1968 and creating the Canadian Forces.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador was a British colony until 1949 when it finally joined Canada. But one Newfoundland Member of Parliament, the NDP’s Jack Harris, was not thrilled with MacKay’s royal decision, either.

‘It pleases people who are strong loyalists or monarchists or with a great attachment to the United Kingdom, but it doesn’t please people who see themselves as Canadians with a separate country,’ he said

As I’ve reported, poll after poll has shown most Canadians indifferent to the monarchy, especially younger Canadians, who overwhelmingly see it as irrelevant to their lives.

MacKay pointed to an online petition signed by 6,000 people supporting the Royal reversion as proof that there’s support to restoring the former name dropped in 1968.

But Tom Freda, director of anti-monarchist group Citizens for a Canadian Republic, blasted the move, saying the announcement was made when parliamentarians were on summer vacation, adding:

‘We’ve had gradual, incremental changes toward putting our colonialist symbols into the dustbin of history, and this is the first time a government has taken steps to restore it. This is wrong-headed and they’re making a mistake. Canadians don’t think the monarchy is appropriate for the 21st century.’

Immigrants from former British colonies, like the Sikh man above interviewed on a Vancouver TV newscast, won’t be thrilled by the royal ‘restoration,’ he adds:

‘They immigrate to Canada for a better life and lo and behold, they’re surprised to find, there it is again. There is that colonialism they left behind decades ago.’


NATO Tanker Set Ablaze In Balochistan


Daily Times
August 18, 2011

NATO tanker set ablaze in Quetta

QUETTA: Unidentified armed men set fire to a NATO container in Mian Ghundi, a suburb of Quetta, on Wednesday, police said.

The NATO container was carrying goods for NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan and was returning from Kandahar to Karachi when unidentified armed men set it on fire. The men also fired at the container, but the driver and cleaner remained unhurt.

A case has been registered against the unidentified people and investigations are underway. No one had claimed responsibility for the attack until the filing of this report.

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