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Posts tagged ‘Iraq’

Rutgers Prof. Bell: Condi Rice Supported Torture in Iraq.


A Rutgers University history professor says he helped circulate a petition to ban former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from giving this year’s commencement address because she allegedly promoted torture and lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“We believe she was deeply co-involved in the authorization of what she [called] extended, expanded or enhanced interrogation but which we call torture and in violation of international human rights,” Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Bell told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“We also think that she played a critical role in perpetrating the misinformation and outright lies concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which led to a war for no purpose.

“[It] resulted in the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis. So, we don’t think she’s an appropriate commencement speaker.”

Story continues below video.

On Friday, Rutgers University President Robert Barchi reaffirmed the selection of Rice as commencement speaker.

“On May 18, we will welcome former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver the 2014 Rutgers University–New Brunswick commencement address,” Barchi wrote in a note to the university.

It was his first comment on Rice’s upcoming appearance since a faculty group called on Rutgers to pull the invitation.

Bell said his information is based on “a variety of sources” including New York Times reports and official documentation.

“Certainly, nobody doubts that there was water boarding,” he said.

Bell added that he is not against Rice visiting Rutgers on other days.

“She’s welcome to come to campus tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, any day she wants. Anything but commencement, I welcome her,” he said.

“We welcome academic freedom. She is welcome to give a talk and we should then in response ask her questions. That’s what academic freedom is about. Not being a commencement speaker.”

See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Bill Hoffmann

Israeli Bomb Shelters: 8-Year-Olds and Architecture.


 

The Feldsteins' bomb shelter in Israel.
The Feldsteins’ bomb shelter in Israel. (Jonathan Feldstein)

One of the fascinating things about parenting is that as much as parents are supposed to teach their kids, often I find myself learning from mine. Kids are always interesting, and it’s always fascinating to look at things from a kid’s perspective, often seeing things through a prism that’s simpler and less encumbered by the bias we grow to incorporate in how we see things as adults.

Being the parent of six kids ages 8 to 20, I often consider that I have nearly 100 years of collective parenting experience and have certainly done my share of learning. Maybe one day I’ll actually perfect it, just in time to be a grandfather.

Early Saturday mornings are one of my favorite times of the week. Most of my kids are sleeping so the house is quiet, and there’s hardly any noise outside except for birds waking up. Living in what is largely an Orthodox Jewish community, no cars are heard, no lawnmowers and no TV. Just quiet. It’s one of the most restful points in the week, a time to read, think, pray, get ready for my weekly Shabbat observance, including synagogue worship, and family time and fellowship with friends.

Often on Saturday mornings I wake up first and have the house to myself. It’s a time of serenity I relish. Usually I am joined by my 8-year-old son, though sometimes he wakes up first. He plays or reads quietly, and I read and have coffee quietly.

Every now and then, we find ourselves in conversation on any number of things—Torah and religion, soccer, current events. He certainly may not know as much as I do, but sometimes he teaches me things all the same.

A recent Shabbat morning, out of nowhere, he asked me why all the rooms in our house have windows. I have no idea what made him think of this, but it’s almost as if he was leading up to the next question.

“Why do we have a window in the milkat [bomb shelter]? It’s not safe if a terrorist were to get out there and try to hurt us.”

First of all, yes, we have a bomb shelter in the house. Actually, we have two. It’s part of standard construction in Israel since the Gulf War in the early 1990s, when Iraq fired dozens of missiles at Israel because they were fighting a war in the Gulf. Go figure.

Then there are public communal bomb shelters that are standard in most communities, but because of the treat of WMD (another story as to where they went), Israelis were issued gas masks and outfitted “sealed rooms” to prevent deadly gas from doing what a direct hit from a scud missile would have done.

Today, homes and buildings built before the early 1990s are having bomb shelters attached to their homes, especially those on or near the front line, in range of rocket fire from any of our Arab neighbors who are prone to send them flying. Sadly, there are far too many such experiences, and the need has not diminished. And sadly, we are all in range.

Now, back to my son. I told him that although our bomb shelter has a window, there’s also an outer steel window that we can close in a case of emergency, making us safe inside, if needed. Of course, he never noticed this, so he had to check. In pajamas, he went outside to see for himself. Satisfied, that was the end of the conversation.

But I kept thinking about it. I was glad that he knew what the bomb shelter was for. I am glad that he is aware that there are threats we face that others don’t, in order to be ready, just in case. I’m also glad, I think, that he’s not aware that the need behind our bomb shelters is not a terrorist in the backyard but bombs. Or, more accurately, rockets in the front yard.

Living across a valley from Bethlehem, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which has been less than warm toward the idea of making peace and living side by side with Israel as a Jewish state, we don’t think about the risk every day, but the risk is out there, literally, in our front yard.

None of my kids know what Israelis went through during the Gulf War, when air raid sirens were commonplace. For weeks, families lived in close proximity to their sealed rooms, gas masks ready to be put on at a moment’s notice. And when out of the house, gas masks were in tow with them, wherever they went.

Decades later, Israelis still suffer post-traumatic stress from the sound of air raid sirens, even when we know that it’s just a test. In sharing this video, produced to expose some of the risks we face living here, with friends who went through the Gulf War, it brought back fears and memories that they’d rather have not remembered.

Oh, and yes, we have gas masks in our bomb shelter too, small, medium and large. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, sort of.

Hopefully my kids will grow up and be aware of the global threats against us—all of us. To be naïve is to be ill-prepared. While our neighborhood may be safe for now, other kids their age know the sound of air raid sirens and the anxiety this produces regularly. All their lives, this is all they’ve known.

But hopefully we will live to see a day that these threats are no longer, that our bomb shelters are just extra rooms with thicker doors and strange windows, a place for a computer, extra bed and storage, and that the only thing unusual about our bomb shelters will be that they have different windows.

Maybe one day a grandchild will ask me why that is without knowing the threats we faced in the past and still today.

JONATHAN FELDSTEIN

Jonathan Feldstein is the director of Heart to Heart, a unique virtual blood donation program to bless Israel and save lives in Israel. Born and educated in the U.S., Feldstein emigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for Charisma’s Standing With Israel. You can contact Jonathan atfirstpersonisrael@gmail.com.  

Hagel Calls for Urgent Crackdown on Military Scandals.


Concerned that ethical problems inside the military might run deeper than he realized, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered service leaders Wednesday to add urgency to their drive to ensure “moral character and moral courage” in a force emerging from more than a decade of war.

Almost a year into his tenure as Pentagon chief, Hagel had been worried by a string of ethics scandals that produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel decided to push for a fuller accounting.

Last month the Air Force revealed it was investigating widespread cheating on proficiency tests among nuclear missile launch officers in Montana, and numerous senior officers in all branches of the armed forces have been caught in embarrassing episodes of personal misbehavior, inside and outside the nuclear force. The Air Force also is pursuing a drug use investigation.

At the same time, hundreds of soldiers and others are under criminal investigation in what the Army describes as a widespread scheme to take fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.

The steady drumbeat of one military ethics scandal after another has caused many to conclude that the misbehavior reflects more than routine lapses.

“He definitely sees this as a growing problem,” Hagel’s chief spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday after Hagel met privately with the top uniformed and civilian officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

“And he’s concerned about the depth of it,” Kirby said. “I don’t think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn’t have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it.”

Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, had launched an effort to crack down on ethics failures more than a year ago, and the matter has been a top priority for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, for even longer.

Kirby said Hagel has come to realize that he needs to investigate as well.

“We don’t fully know right now what we’re grappling with here and how deep and serious it is,” Kirby said. “And I think, you know, for a leader at his level with the responsibilities that he carries every day, not knowing something like that is something to be concerned about. And he wants to know more.”

Hagel believes that the vast majority of military members are “brave, upright and honest,” and he is encouraged by efforts already under way to curb misconduct, including sexual assaults, Kirby said.

But Hagel told the service leaders Wednesday that he “also believes there must be more urgency behind these efforts” and that all Pentagon leaders must “put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force.”

Kirby was asked whether Hagel believes ethics lapses are a symptom of over-use of the military for the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He believes that that is a factor that should be looked at,” the spokesman said.

A significant portion of the concern about military misbehavior is aimed at two segments of the nuclear force: the Air Force’s land-based nuclear missile corps, and the Navy’s training program for operators of nuclear reactors used as propulsion systems for submarines and aircraft carriers. Neither of those fields was directly involved in significant ways in either of the wars since 2001.

The Navy announced on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into cheating allegations against about 30 senior sailors representing about one-fifth of its instructors at a Charleston, S.C.,-based school for naval nuclear power reactor operators.

Unlike an Air Force cheating probe that has implicated nearly 100 officers responsible for land-based nuclear missiles that stand ready for short-notice launch, those implicated in the Navy investigation have no responsibility for nuclear weapons.

The Navy said its implicated sailors are accused of having cheated on written tests they must pass to be certified as instructors at the nuclear propulsion school. A number of them are alleged to have transmitted test information to other instructors from their home computers, which if verified would be a violation of restrictions on the use and transmission of classified information.

The matter is being probed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Separately, Kirby announced that the Pentagon has picked two retired officers to lead an independent review of personnel problems inside the Air Force and Navy nuclear forces. They are Larry Welsh, a former Air Force chief of staff, and John Harvey, a retired Navy admiral and nuclear-trained surface warfare officer.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

German TV Claims NSA Spied on Merkel’s Predecessor Too.


U.S. intelligence spied on former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder from 2002, NDR television reported Tuesday, adding fuel to the flames of a row over spying on incumbent Angela Merkel.

Schroeder, the Social Democrat chancellor who served from 1998 to 2005, appears on a list of names of people and institutions put under surveillance by the US National Security Agency from 2002, at the start of his second mandate as German head of state.

At the time Germany was opposing intervention in Iraq.

The NSA has been at the heart of a spying scandal which erupted last year.

US-German ties soured amid revelations leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden that US intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on Merkel and collected vast amounts of online data and telephone records from average citizens.

The dispute has threatened to derail negotiations on a sweeping transatlantic free trade agreement known as TTIP.

Schroeder said he was unsurprised by the latest spying report.

“At the time the idea would never have occurred to me, but now it doesn’t surprise me,” he told NDR and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

US President Barack Obama in a recent interview assured that Merkel was no longer under surveillance.

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Friday that relations with Germany had gone through a “rough period” over the NSA snooping but said that shared interests would help put ties back on track.

Kerry, speaking in Berlin, said then that the United States took Germany’s anger over revelations that US intelligence monitored Merkel’s mobile phone seriously.

Asked whether the US administration would sign a no-spying agreement that Germany has demanded in the wake of the scandal, Kerry said only that Merkel and Obama were in “consultations” on the issue.

 

© AFP 2014
Source: Newsmax.com

Ayotte: Why Was $29M Army Recruiting Fraud Not Spotted Earlier?.


Image: Ayotte: Why Was $29M Army Recruiting Fraud Not Spotted Earlier?

By Todd Beamon

Sen. Kelly Ayotte pressed Army officials on Tuesday on why a massive scheme involving a National Guard recruiting program that has been estimated to cost taxpayers at least $29 million was not spotted earlier.

“Where was the oversight of this?” the New Hampshire Republican asked at meeting of a Senate Homeland Security oversight subcommittee charged with investigating the scandal. “How were we … conducting oversight of these contractors?”

The top Army officials disclosed the massive fraud to legislators on Tuesday. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians are under criminal investigation in the scheme, which involved taking fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.

The fraud cost the U.S. at least $29 million and possibly tens of millions dollars more, the officials said.

The investigation involves as many as 200 officers, including two two-star generals and 18 colonels, who are suspected of participating in schemes to take advantage of the Army National Guard’s Recruiting Assistance Program, a referral program that paid out cash bonuses of $2,000 to $7,500 per recruit.

None of those top National Guard officers has been been imprisoned, lost benefits or resigned for fraud, said Maj. Gen. David Quantock, head of the Army’s Criminal Investigation and Corrections commands. So far, however, 16 people have been convicted and jailed in the scandal.

Overall, more than 1,200 people — including civilians with military ties and men and women in uniform — are being examined by at least 60 full-time investigators. The program began in 2005 to boost flagging enlistment during the Iraq War.

Only nine cases were investigated from 2007 to 2009, Quantock said. It wasn’t until 2010, when 10 cases indicated “that we have a major problem here,” USA Today reports.

“That’s a long time when you’ve got fraud going on,” Ayotte said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the subcommittee’s Democratic chairwoman, called the inquiry “one of the largest that the Army has ever conducted, both in terms of the sheer volume of fraud and the number of participants.”

“These are criminals that have dishonored the uniform we are all so proud of,” she said.

Lt. Gen. William Grisoli, director of Army Staff, told the panel of a “fundamental breakdown” in establishing and executing the program, which had relied on contractors.

Officials told legislators that the fraud was believed to be so widespread that they may not complete their inquiry until as late as 2016 because of the number of potential cases.

The Recruiting Assistance Program was created to increase enlistment when wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had left the military below recruitment goals, the officials told the subcommittee. The program offered cash bonuses to civilian recruiting assistants for referrals.

Uniformed recruiters were supposedly prohibited from receiving the cash payments. But investigators have since found recruiters worked around that prohibition by myriad means, and for several years did so virtually undetected.

In addition, some recruiting assistants eligible for the payments were coerced into splitting their bonuses with military recruiters. Other military recruiters did not inform civilian assistants about the bonuses but registered them for the program.

The military recruiters would then substitute their own bank information for that of the civilian assistants.

In one case alone, Quantock told legislators,  five people split about $1 million.  Investigators have clearly identified $29 million in fraudulent bonus payments and were investigating another $66 million in potential cases.

Officials said the program brought in more recruits, so much so, that they were furious when allegations of fraud threatened that success.

Auditors shut down the program in 2012 after watchdogs found evidence of widespread abuse.

In all, the Army National Guard paid upward of $300 million for roughly 130,000 enlistments, the officials said.

Besides Grisoli and Quantock, Ayotte also questioned Joseph Bentz, the Army’s chief auditor, as to why the fraud was not detected sooner.

“When the money starts going out the door a lot faster, how was it within the command structure that we didn’t pick up on that as a raw indicator, right there, that something wasn’t quite right — as oversight within the system?” she asked, according to a transcript provided by her office.

Bentz acknowledged that “oversight of the contract was insufficient.”

“The contracting officers’ representatives that were responsible for that oversight — they believed that the contractor was responsible for the oversight and control of the program,” he added.

“They thought the contractor [was responsible for oversight and] they didn’t realize that … we had to oversee the program?” Ayotte asked.

“Correct,” Bentz responded.

Grisoli, in his written remarks to the subcommittee, acknowledged that, “funds were lost due to systematic weaknesses, a general breakdown in sound business processes and wrongdoing.”

Ayotte then asked: “How can we have confidence that the Army doesn’t have similar problems in other programs when we’re talking about systematic problems?”

He noted that the Army was investigating whether similar problems existed in other programs.

“The way we prevent something like this happening in the future is we have what we call program management reviews,” Grisoli said. “We had our procurement executive do a program management review on the overall contracting system of the National Guard Bureau.

“We are working very closely with them to implement that now,” he added. “They’ve provided us a corrective action plan. We have accepted that plan and now they are implementing that plan.”

The senator then returned to questioning Quantock about the lax oversight.

“Why is it [that] … when the money started going out the door on a faster rate and that wasn’t flagged … , why wasn’t it that somebody before it got to you all asked the question, ‘Well, why is this money going out the door so much faster than we thought it would last us?'”

He acknowledged that the internal controls regarding the program “and properly providing that oversight to track that … that was another weak area.”

“So, someone just wasn’t tracking that … or was it not flagged?” Ayotte asked.

Quantock said that the Army’s contracting officer’s representative examined the “burn rates” — meaning how quickly the funds were being paid out — but that “they just did not call flags based on what they saw … on the burn rates.”

“That didn’t flag for them?” Ayotte asked.

“That didn’t flag,” Quantock responded.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Army Sees Sharp Drop in Suicides.


The U.S. Army is reported a notable decrease in the number of active-duty soldiers committing suicide last year, saying the number fell from 185 in 2012 to 150.

According to Start and Stripes, the reduction represented a 19 percent drop and reversed what had been referred to by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as an epidemic of suicides. There were weeks and months when more soldiers killed themselves than were felled in combat, the newspaper that military affairs noted.

Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, chief of Army personnel, expressed cautious optimism over the numbers. “I’m not declaring any kind of victory here,” Bromberg said. But he added, “It’s looking more promising.”

The Army has invested millions in a comprehensive effort to develop ways to head-off suicides and bolster emotional resilience among soldiers. It has also been collaborating with the National Institutes of Health on suicide prevention. One experimental program involving 30 soldiers at Fort Carson in Colorado showed a 60 percent reduction in attempted suicides.

“I think we’ve hit the turning point where people are really, really talking about behavioral health and the fact that it’s OK to have problems,” Bromberg said.

Some attribute the decline in suicides to the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.

“I get the sense when I work with military people now, they just don’t seem as burnt out as they used to be,” psychologist Craig Bryan at the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies told Stars and Stripes.

The Army suicides were included in a preliminary report of all presumed and actual suicides across all branches of the service in 2013. The figures show that suicide deaths were down from 351 across all military branches in 2012 to 284 overall last year.

But the preliminary data also shows that suicides among those who are no longer on active duty remained at record levels. The Army reported 151 suicides among members of the National Guard and reserves, an increase from 140 suicides in 2012.

Related Stories

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Obama: Gates Did an Outstanding Job for Me.


President Barack Obama says former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did an outstanding job while at the Pentagon and calls him a good friend.

Obama responds to Gates’ book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” saying that his administration’s policy in Afghanistan was the right one. In his book, Gates questions Obama’s commitment to his war policy and details discord among the team that made key decisions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama says that part of his job as commander in chief is to, quote, “sweat the details” on policies that send men and women into harms’ way.

Obama spoke Monday as he concluded a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

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