Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Lobby Southwark council against the cuts 22 Feb

22ND FEB LOBBY LEAFLET version515feb 5pm

A familiar sound in the skies…

Same pilots, same helicopters, different flag. And the russians pocket the funds. Congratulations to the Pentagon! Doesn’t mention of course that the people they gave Stinger missiles include many of the groups they’re now fighting, including that naughty Saudi fellow Osama bin Laden

U.S. military criticized for purchase of Russian copters for Afghan air corps
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 19, 2010; A01
The U.S. government is snapping up Russian-made helicopters to form the core of Afghanistan’s fledgling air force, a strategy that is drawing flak from members of Congress who want to force the Afghans to fly American choppers instead.

In a turnabout from the Cold War, when the CIA gave Stinger missiles to Afghan rebels to shoot down Soviet helicopters, the Pentagon has spent $648 million to buy or refurbish 31 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. The Defense Department is seeking to buy 10 more of the Mi-17s next year, and had planned to buy dozens more over the next decade.

The spectacle of using U.S. taxpayer dollars to buy Russian military products is proving a difficult sell in Congress. Some legislators say that the Pentagon never considered alternatives to the Mi-17, an aircraft it purchased for use in Iraq and Pakistan, and that a lack of competition has enabled Russian defense contractors to gouge on prices.

“The Mi-17 program either has uncoordinated oversight or simply none at all,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who along with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) has pushed the Pentagon to reconsider its purchase plans. “The results have led to massive waste, cost overruns, schedule delays, safety concerns and major delivery problems.”

U.S. and Afghan military officials who favor the Mi-17, which was designed for use in Afghanistan, acknowledge that it might seem odd for the Pentagon to invest in Russian military products. But they said that changing helicopter models would throw a wrench into the effort to train Afghan pilots, none of whom can fly U.S.-built choppers.

“If people come and fly in Afghanistan with the Mi-17, they will understand why that aircraft is so important to the future for Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera, the U.S. Air Force general in charge of rebuilding the Afghan air corps. “We’ve got to get beyond the fact that it’s Russian. . . . It works well in Afghanistan.”

U.S. military officials have estimated that the Afghan air force won’t be able to operate independently until 2016, five years after President Obama has said he intends to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But Boera said that date could slip by at least two years if Congress forces the Afghans to fly U.S. choppers . “Is that what we really want to do?” he asked.

The U.S. military has been trying to resurrect the decimated Afghan National Army Air Corps since 2005, when it consisted of a few dozen furloughed pilots and a handful of decrepit Mi-17s.

Because Afghan airmen had historically trained on Russian choppers, the Pentagon decided to make the Mi-17s the backbone of Afghanistan’s fleet. The Soviet Union specifically designed the Mi-17 for use in Afghanistan. U.S. officials say it is well-suited for navigating the altitudes of the Hindu Kush mountains, as well as Afghanistan’s desert terrain.

With few reliable roads, helicopters are a primary mode of transport in Afghanistan. U.S. forces depend on them to deploy troops to isolated areas, provide them with supplies and airlift them out when they are wounded. Until recently, Afghan pilots have steered clear of combat but have used their Mi-17s to transport high-ranking Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai. U.S. officials hope the Afghan air corps eventually will be able to defend its own skies and serve the fast-growing Afghan National Army.

Afghans are also training on Mi-35 Russian-made attack helicopters and Italian-designed C-27s, a fixed-wing aircraft used to transport troops and supplies. The air corps has 48 aircraft and 3,300 personnel.

Boera said plans are to expand to 146 aircraft and 8,000 personnel by 2016. Pentagon officials said they had originally projected that Mi-17s would compose half the fleet, but they are considering scaling back.

About 450 U.S. service personnel are in Afghanistan to train and advise the Afghan airmen. Training the air corps has been a painstakingly slow process, much more so than U.S. efforts to train Afghanistan’s national army and police.

Afghan pilot recruits, many of whom are illiterate in their native tongue, are required to learn English — the official language of the cockpit — before they can earn their wings. U.S. officials say it usually takes two to five years to train an entire flight crew.

So far, only one Afghan pilot has graduated from flight school in the United States, although dozens are in the pipeline. That has forced the air corps to rely on pilots who learned to fly Mi-17s during the days of Soviet and Taliban rule.

Gen. Mohammed Dawran, chief of the Afghan air corps, said most of those pilots are in their 40s and set in their ways. Requiring them to start fresh on U.S. copters would be an uphill battle.

“They learned the previous system and different ideas,” he said in an interview. Most of the veterans also don’t know how to fly at night or in poor visibility, when a pilot must rely on an aircraft’s instrument panel to navigate.

The Russian choppers are far more basic birds than U.S. models such as the UH-60 Black Hawk or the CH-47 Chinook. The Mi-17 is steered with a stick and rudder and usually lacks such amenities as Global Positioning System navigation. Afghan maintenance crews, accustomed to making do with whatever materials are handy, are skilled in making repairs with used soda cans and other makeshift parts.

The U.S. government has bought Russian choppers for other allies as well. The Pentagon purchased eight Mi-17s for the Iraqi air force, although defense officials say they have no plans to acquire more. The Defense Department has also purchased or leased 14 Mi-17s for Pakistan, although Islamabad recently returned some after a crash raised questions about their safety.

In addition, the U.S. Special Operations Command would like to buy a few Mi-17s of its own, so that special forces carrying out clandestine missions could cloak the fact that they are American.

“We would like to have some to blend in and do things,” said a senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the clandestine program. “But the Russians know this. Russia has a small monopoly on Mi-17s. They are now exorbitantly priced.”

Critics in Congress said the price per chopper has tripled since 2006, from $6 million to $18 million. Pentagon officials dispute this, saying that the lower prices were for used, less capable Mi-17s, and newer models retail for about $15 million.

Defense officials and analysts said that U.S. helicopter manufacturers, struggling to produce enough aircraft for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, might not have the capacity to make more for the Afghan air corps right away.

Still, under pressure from Congress, U.S. defense officials have indicated that they are leaning away from their Russian buying binge.

“As a ‘Buy American’ kind of individual, I think it’s totally appropriate as we go forward that we continue to assess the program,” Army Secretary John McHugh, whose service oversees foreign helicopter purchases, told the Senate Appropriations Committee in March.

Staff writer Greg Miller contributed to this report.

Lambeth Stop the War Election Hustings

Lambeth Stop the War Election Hustings
A chance for you to ask candidates questions about Afghanistan, Civil Liberties, Nuclear Weapons, Palestine and the War on Terror generally
Monday 19th April
7:30pm – 9pm
The Brix, St Matthews Church, Brixton Hill, SW2 1JF

The confirmed speakers are (in alphabetical order):

  • Rahoul Bhansali – Conservative candidate for Streatham
  • Jeremy Drinkall – Anti Capitalist candidate for Vauxhall
  • Joseph Healy – Green candidate for Vauxhall
  • Daniel Lambert – Socialist candidate for Vauxhall
  • Chris Nicholson – Liberal Democrat candidate for Streatham
  • To advertise this we’re doing:

  • Leafletting Brixton tube station, Thursday 15th April, 6pm – 7pm
  • Stall outside Brixton tube, Sunday 18th April, 2pm – 3:30pm
  • Lots of outreach and leaflets to shops
  • If you can help out at our stalls, or want hard copy publicity, please email us

    John Pilger on the Third World War

    Recent article by John Pilger published by truthout.org

    Have a Nice World War, Folks

    Thursday 25 March 2010

    Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and, now, the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and “bunker-buster” bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

    In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin America, the Obama administration has secured seven bases in Colombia, from which to wage a war of attrition against the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Meanwhile, the Secretary of “Defense” Robert Gates complains that “the general [European] public and the political class” are so opposed to war they are an “impediment” to peace. Remember this is the month of the March hare.

    According to an American general, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not so much a real war as a “war of perception.” Thus, the recent “liberation of the city of Marja” from the Taliban’s “command and control structure” was pure Hollywood. Marja is not a city; there was no Taliban command and control. The heroic liberators killed the usual civilians, poorest of the poor. Otherwise, it was fake. A war of perception is meant to provide fake news for the folks back home, to make a failed colonial adventure seem worthwhile and patriotic, as if “The Hurt Locker” were real, and parades of flag-wrapped coffins through the Wiltshire town of Wooten Basset were not a cynical propaganda exercise.

    “War is fun,” the helmets in Vietnam used to say with bleakest irony, meaning that if a war is revealed as having no purpose other than to justify voracious power in the cause of lucrative fanaticisms, such as the weapons industry, the danger of truth beckons. This danger can be illustrated by the liberal perception of Tony Blair in 1997 as one “who wants to create a world [where] ideology has surrendered entirely to values” (Hugo Young, the Guardian) compared with today’s public reckoning of a liar and war criminal.

    Western war states such as the US and Britain are not threatened by the Taliban or any other introverted tribesmen in faraway places, but by the antiwar instincts of their own citizens. Consider the draconian sentences handed down in London to scores of young people who protested Israel’s assault on Gaza in January last year. Following demonstrations in which paramilitary police “kettled” (corralled) thousands, first-offenders have received two and a half years in prison for minor offences that would not normally carry custodial sentences. On both sides of the Atlantic, serious dissent exposing illegal war has become a serious crime.

    Silence in other high places allows this moral travesty. Across the arts, literature, journalism and the law, liberal elites, having hurried away from the debris of Blair and, now, Obama, continue to fudge their indifference to the barbarism and aims of Western state crimes by promoting retrospectively the evils of their convenient demons, like Saddam Hussein. With Harold Pinter gone, try compiling a list of famous writers, artists and advocates whose principles are not consumed by the “market” or neutered by their celebrity. Who among them have spoken out about the holocaust in Iraq during almost 20 years of lethal blockade and assault? And all of it has been deliberate. On January 22, 1991, the US defense Intelligence Agency predicted in impressive detail how a blockade would systematically destroy Iraq’s clean water system and lead to “increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease.” So, the US set about eliminating clean water for the Iraqi population: one of the causes, noted UNICEF, of the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five. But this extremism apparently has no name.

    Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a “pre-fascist era.” Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. “Fascism” is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is “more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent.”

    This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent. More nuanced perhaps, but the results are both unambiguous and familiar. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, the senior United Nations officials in Iraq during the American and British-led blockade, are in no doubt they witnessed genocide. They saw no gas chambers. Insidious, undeclared, even presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, the Third World War and its genocide proceeded, human being by human being.

    In the coming election campaign in Britain, the candidates will refer to this war only to laud “our boys.” The candidates are almost identical political mummies shrouded in the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. As Blair demonstrated a bit too eagerly, the British elite love America because America allows it to barrack and bomb the natives and call itself a “partner.” We should interrupt their fun.