The Congo Conundrum – Truth Catches Up With Obama

Congo-Kinshasa: The Congo Conundrum – Truth Catches Up With Obama

By Antoine Roger Lokongo,

AllAfrica

Africa is being recolonised. American interventionist activities in the continent’s Great Lakes region provide a perfect example. African peoples must rise up to protect their own interests by demanding a new relationship with the West.

As US President Barack Obama’s re-election bid approaches, his supporters are making sure that ‘the wretched of the earth’, the Africans, accustomed to unending plights (HIV/Aids, ‘civil wars’, poverty, resource curses, corruption, militias…) in their ‘hopeless continent’, as Western media depicts it, boost the chances of the ‘first African president in the White House’ to secure a second term.

The supporters are exploiting Obama’s ‘militarisation policy’ of expanding America’s role in Africa not only to secure Africa’s abundant natural resources needed to revive the American economy hit by the global financial crisis caused by the corruption within the Anglo-Saxon financial system, and for which the whole world is paying a price; but also in order to monitor ‘aggressive’ China in Africa, as secret US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in December 2010 confirmed. [1]

President Obama announced on 14 October 2011 that 100 troops would help Uganda track down the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel chief Joseph Kony and other senior LRA leaders. The fight against the LRA has brought together in the US Congress a consensus from all wings of the political process – from one extreme to the other. The legislation was sponsored by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold and involved almost every humanitarian NGO and outraged citizen groups arrayed against the depredations of the LRA. [2]

This prompted African analyst Dr Gary Bush to raise legitimate questions regarding the new US deployment in Africa: Why now? Why is the US suddenly interested in being militarily involved in the pursuit of the LRA’s Joseph Kony, when in fact the most vicious period of the LRA rampage is years behind? Why now when in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) worst atrocities occur daily, committed by militias far more brutal than the LRA, which were created and sustained by Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame? These two US-backed dictators have been able to siphon billions of dollars of Congo’s wealth by sponsoring mayhem — massacres, mass rapes and mutilations – in the vast country through their allied militias. Rwanda still harbours one of the most sadistic of these killers, Laurent Nkunda. Long considered one of Africa’s most brutal rebel groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda more than 20 years ago. But the rebels are at their weakest point in 15 years. Their forces are fractured and scattered and the Ugandan military estimated earlier in 2011 that only 200 to 400 fighters remain. In 2003 the LRA had 3,000 armed troops and 2,000 people in support roles. Their history is brutish, violent and criminal. [3]

In fact, it is Congo now that is teaching America a lesson. In late 2008, the National Security Council authorised African Military Command (AFRICOM) – or rather Africoma, because it puts African people into a coma; if your only weapon is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, they say – to support a military operation (one of the first publicly-acknowledged AFRICOM operations) against the LRA, which was believed to be in Congo at the time. AFRICOM provided training and $1 million in financial support for ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ – a joint endeavour of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan forces in Congolese territory launched in December 2008 to ‘eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’. According to the United Nations, the offensive ‘never consulted with partners on the ground on the requirements of civilian protection. Stretching over a three-month period, it failed in its mission and the LRA scattered and retaliated against the Congolese population. Over 1,000 people were killed and up to 200,000 displaced. [4] After this disastrous failure, which led to additional massacres of Congolese civilians, the Congolese army on its own managed to chase the LRA out of Democratic Republic of Congo to the neighboring Central African Republic; so much so that the LRA no longer poses a threat in Congo.

‘We have reduced the capacity of the LRA. For us it’s no longer an issue of defense. It’s a public order issue. The Americans are supporting the Ugandans (against the LRA) and the Ugandans want to benefit from that support,’ General Jean Claude Kifwa, who is in charge of fighting the LRA in Congo, told journalists in the capital Kinshasa. [5] The comment followed a complaint by nearby Uganda that Congo was obstructing its US-backed hunt for Kony. [6]

Despite the many civilian casualties and the Ugandan government’s poor human rights record, NGOs such as Resolve Uganda, the Enough Project and Invisible Children have been lobbying Congress for a renewed military operation to help the Ugandan government ‘finish the job.’ ‘Given the close US relationship with key actors in ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ — in particular Ugandan President Museveni and Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir — the United States is uniquely placed to support better targeted military efforts’, wrote Enough and Resolve Uganda in a joint policy brief in January 2009. [7]

And while the above-named US lobby groups characterise LRA leader Joseph Kony as the spoiler who refused to sign a final peace deal, they fail to acknowledge that the Ugandan government itself has not yet signed the agreement. President Museveni has consistently thwarted peace efforts (1985, 1994, 2003) when he sensed that they did not serve his interests, which centre primarily on maintaining power. He has used his close ties to Washington to build and maintain a favourable image, hiring the DC lobby firm The Whitaker Group (TWG) to do his bidding. Between November 2006 and June 2007, Museveni paid the firm $75,000 to publicise the government’s commitment to peace. Jendayi E. Frazer, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Bush, now works for TWG under a $1 million contract with the Ugandan Ministry of Finance. In an August 2009 Wall Street Journal editorial entitled ‘Four Ways to Help Africa’, she called on President Obama to ‘galvanise US efforts to end the militia violence of Rwandan and Ugandan rebel groups still operating in the Congo.’ As a paid consultant for the Ugandan government, Ms Frazer is clearly suggesting Museveni’s preference for a military solution. [8]

As the US presidential election campaign is approaching, San Diego-based ‘not-for-profit group’ Invisible Children does not want to miss a share of the cake out of the billions of dollars American billionaires are pouring into the Obama campaign to support his re-election bid. Invisible Children has just re-ignited a new ‘Stop Kony’ campaign, under the pretext of bringing awareness about the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony by uploading a 30-minute documentary called ‘KONY 2012’ to the YouTube website on 5 March 2012. Celebrities such as actor George Clooney and comedian Chelsea Handler were quick to chime in and voice their support on Twitter using the hashtag ‘STOPKONY.’ [9]

But the reality behind this ‘raging inferno or firestorm spread across the Internet’ as Invisible Children puts it, [10] is that the US wants to have a share in the newly-discovered abundant oil reserves in Uganda, in the Lake Albert fields. Dr Gary Busch suggests that ‘despite being a ruthless and corrupt dictator the US has decided to anoint Museveni’s head with oil; perhaps hoping that he will share the oil with the United States of America’. [11] Yes, Kony is killing in Congo, but so are Museveni and Kagame and as a Congolese, my aim in writing this article is to denounce in the strongest terms possible the United States of America’s selective ‘humanitarian justice’, not just in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also all over the world.

The US-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) is now ethic-cleansing Libya of black Africans; yes, in Libya where Obama has deployed 12,000 troops to safeguards the United States of America’s oil interests. [12] Those black Africans whom the NTC goes so far as caging in a zoo, force feeding them flags, [13] are not the concern of the ‘first black African president in the White House’. Only oil is.

More than 5 million Congolese have been killed as a result of Rwanda and Uganda’s invasion and aggression against Congo. In fact several UN reports have used the word ‘genocide’ in Congo. Why is Barack Obama not lifting a finger to back a special criminal tribunal for Congo to try and punish those responsible for crimes against humanity in Congo? Isn’t it because he is shielding Museveni and Kagame from accountability?

Moreover, we are still waiting for a congressional inquiry following an incident in Congo where Kase Lawal, an Obama-appointed US trade adviser, was linked to an illegal deal in Congolese gold. Lawal, a Nigerian-born US oil tycoon, orchestrated a deal to buy gold worth millions of dollars from the notorious rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda and transferred millions of dollars to him between December 2010 and February 2011 as part of the deal, as a report by the UN’s Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) states. If true, this would be a contravention of UN resolutions banning individuals or organisations from financing illegal armed groups in the war-torn eastern DRC. [14]

Coincidence? A Manhattan federal jury on 2 November 2011 convicted Russian arms trader Viktor Bout of four counts of conspiracy to sell antiaircraft weapons and other arms to purported Colombian rebels to kill Americans. [15] Bout was also involved in many wars in Africa, including in Sierra Leone and Congo but that is Africa, not the US. Moreover, Ukraine is now supplying the UN Mission in Congo with strategic helicopters, but that mission is also involved in the trafficking of minerals and abuses of Congolese women.

Ironically, to safeguard its interests in Congo, the United States has not hesitated to use warlords, terrorists, mercenaries and dogs of war to safeguard those interests. There has been a massive US air presence in Africa, especially in the Congo. After the fall of Stanleyville (now Kisangani) in the hands of Lumumbist forces, the US was prompted to expand it capabilities. This included the delivery of four C-130, a group of B-26 bombers (totaling seven or eight by January 1965), and arms and equipment for Mobutu’s ground troops. Fast patrol boats were provided to intercept arms shipments (and personnel movement) across Lake Tanganyika. Even maintenance was provided, with a staff of 50 to 100 Europeans employed by another CIA proprietary, the Liechtenstein-registered company WIGMO (Western International Ground Maintenance Organization).

The US air power and weaponry supported a force of some seven hundred mercenaries (Europeans, South Africans, and Rhodesians) assembled by Katangan secessionist leader Moise Tshombe, the CIA and the Belgians. Some of the better-known of the Congo mercenaries, like the former French NCO Bob Denard, who took over command of the French-speaking Six Commando that had fought for the Katangans in the war of secession, were later recruited by the United States to work in Angola. The exiled Cuban pilots (anti-Castro) based at WIGMO flew regular bombing runs in B-26 bombers across the Congo and later against regular Cuban forces in Angola. This militarisation extended to the anti-MPLA fortresses in the Caprivi Strip. [16]

Africa is being recolonised under the cloak of humanitarianism in the broad-day light and Africans do not even see it! An exceptional insight about this tragedy came from Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda who raised this issue with former South African President Thabo Mbeki following his address at the Makerere University, Uganda in January 2012. He asked:

‘Whether it is in literature, philosophy, politics, economy or art, there is very little output about Africa by Africans themselves. Our ‘freedom’ today is fought for by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International; our ‘press freedom’ is fought for by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders; our ‘civil wars’ are ended by UN peacekeepers; our ‘refugees’ are fed by UNHCR; our ‘economic policies’ are determined by the World Bank and IMF; our ‘poverty’ is fought by Bill Gates, Bono and Jeffery Sachs; our ‘crimes’ are adjudicated upon by the ICC; our ‘liberation’ is achieved through NATO war planes [our ‘elections are monitored by Europe and America’ and they are the judges]’. [17]

Where is the change after all? Who are the drivers of the ‘African stability’ fought for on our behalf? Are Africans themselves the drivers of that stability? And if they are not, whose interests is that stability safeguarding? $50 billions is siphoned out of Africa every year. Do we have to believe that that money is stolen by ‘African corrupt governments’ alone without Western accomplices? No! Isn’t it like a person who steals the food, eats it to his satisfaction and then rubs the oil around the mouth of a hungry person whom he accuses of having stolen the food?

After Libya and Ivory Coast, we have to change the nature of our relations with our former colonial powers before it is too late and regain our place in the world. We have got to work with China (China has already stood up). I believe we can do it because during this global financial crisis it is China and Africa who are saving the world. China with its huge foreign reserves and natural resources like rare earth and Africa with its abundant natural and energy resources. China is now the second most powerful economy in the world and Brazil has just kicked out Britain to become the world’s sixth largest economy. The Chinese have succeeded because they had to face the pains of relying on themselves after independence (1949). Unless Africa goes through the same pain China went through to determine our own future, we will remain forever last on the queue.

China invests its own money in Africa. I am not sure where the money of Western investors comes from. I am convinced that Western powers who looted Africa for centuries and are still looting the wealth of Congo and other African countries, got very rich out of Africa’s wealth, and now are coming back to Africa with money generated in Africa to ‘invest’ in Africa. We have to live with these contradictions as if there is nothing we can do about it! And what investment are we talking about? They just have to bribe African elites and they get what they want.

We have to speak with one voice and refuse to be used one against the other – divide and rule – as Rwanda and Uganda backed by US and Britain have just invaded Congo, killing 5 million people, looting Congo’s wealth and raping women; and that war was aimed also at kicking China out of Congo; we have to reject the Washington consensus, rely on ourselves in cooperation with our true friends, China, South America…) in order to bust those mechanisms (Churches, IMF, World Bank structural adjustment mechanism, Africom – again, I call it Africoma because it puts Africa into a coma – civil societies and NGOs both local and international all financed from outside , aid agencies…) which have been put in place to keep Africa always down and last on the queue. And as the financial crisis bites, cunning Western powers are adding new mechanisms such as telling African countries ‘to ensure a better environment for business’. That is a ploy, because they want to revive their economies, and as Libya and Ivory Coast demonstrate, they will not hesitate to use military power to grab African resources in order to revive their economies hit by the global financial crisis.

We have to go the South America way. South American countries are succeeding exactly because they have reached their own consensus instead of trusting the Washington Consensus. As Noam Chomsky puts it, in the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss for America. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all U.S. military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organization, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the U.S. and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in American decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as ‘the backyard’. [18]

Antoine Roger Lokongo is a journalist and PhD candidate at the School of International Studies, Centre for African Studies, Peking University, Beijing, China.

[1] BBC. 2010.Wikileaks: US monitors "aggressive’ China in Africa. BBC World-Africa news.

[2] Al-Bulush Samar. 2011. US legislation authorises military action against the LRA in Uganda. Pambazuka News. Pambazuka News.

[3] Busch Gary. 2011. The United States and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Ocnus.net.

[4] Ibid.,

[5] Hogg Johnny. 2012. Kony’s LRA rebels mostly out of Congo, general says. Reuters.

[6] Biryabarema Elias. 2012. In spotlight, Uganda says Congo slows hunt for Kony. Reuters.

[7] Busch Gary, Op. Cit.,

[8] Ibid.,

[9] Santiago, Brandon. 2012. ‘Stop Kony’ campaign ignites firestorm.Hanfordsentinel.com.

[10] Ibid.,

[11] Busch Gary, Op. Cit.,

[12] Algeria-ISP.com. Libye – 12.000 soldats Américains en attente à Malte pour rentrer en Libye. Algeria-ISP.com.

[13] RT.com. 2012. Libyan rebels cage black Africans in zoo, force feed them flags (SHOCK VIDEO). RT.com.

[14] Jones Pete. 2012. Obama-appointed US trade adviser linked to illegal deal in Congolese gold. 5 February.The Guardian. World. News. UK Edition.

[15] Lynch Colum. 2012. Arms dealer Viktor Bout convicted. 3 March. The Washington Post. Word News. Home Edition.

[16] Busch Gary 2012. Uncivil Aviation in Africa. Nigeriavillagesquare.com.

[17] Gyezaho Emmanuel. 2012. Africa: Thabo Mbeki Speaks On African Problems… The Monitor.

[18] Chomsky, Noam. 2012. The Imperial Way: American Decline in Perspective. TomDispatch.com.

The Obama Failure

The Obama Failure

By Garikai Chengu

US intent on securing African oil at all costs

Of late, Western media, social networks and US Congressional hearings are ablaze with talk about major US military deployment into Central Africa to eliminate one Joseph Kony. Kony is the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group that operates in an area the size of France across several African nations.
The LRA is ostensibly fighting for religious freedom for Uganda’s underdeveloped north.
Kony’s murderous gang has been responsible for incalculable massacres, rapes, tortures and civilian suffering since 1989. So why is there a sudden push by the Pentagon, Western media and certain NGOs to send US troops into Central Africa?
Well, all considerations about whether or not to release the dogs of war begin and end with the spoils. Uganda sits atop the geo-strategically important intersection of five oil rich African nations.
Senior US Department of Energy analyst, Sally Kornfeld, has called this region “the future Gulf”. Kornfeld went so far as to say, “I’m amazed by what I have seen in Uganda, it might rival Saudi Arabia.”
Kony is a bad, bad man and no one will shed a tear should he be captured or killed. That said, are hundreds of highly trained US Navy SEALs running around the African bush to stop him or are they there to secure the biggest African onshore oil discovery in history? Two billion barrels no less, found right in Kony’s backyard.
The proximity of this discovery to newly-independent and equally oil-rich South Sudan is also crucial to war considerations in the Pentagon.
It is worth remembering that the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was created for two main reasons, oil and China.
This century America will look to cart three Cs out of Africa: Crude, Capital and China.
The sudden push to stop Joseph Kony is as much about killing an evil man as it is about stopping China’s advance into the most resource-rich continent on the planet.
China controls 97 percent of the Rare Earth Element (REE) market.
The US Geological Survey says Central Africa is home to high-grade full-spectrum REEs, not to mention diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite and uranium, amongst 42 other exploitable minerals.
Some argue that it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. That, despite America’s ulterior resource-driven motives, it is right to deploy US troops to stop the murderous Joseph Kony.
The problem with this argument is that the three previous US military operations in Central Africa ‑ Operation North (1991); Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008-2009) ‑ have been unmitigated disasters.
American intervention has been the military equivalent of poking a bee’s nest with a stick – Kony escaped, and in the ensuing reprisal and rampage 1 900 civilians were butchered and over 100 000 were displaced. As a consequence, local tribal, religious and community leaders all unanimously oppose US military intervention.
From bitter experience, Ugandans know that Kony is bad, but they also know that Tomahawk will only make things worse.
Local leaders propose five-nation all-stakeholder talks, a regional force, pressure on Kony and eventual dialogue to end the nightmare. But alas, this solution remains a dream so long as President Yoweri Museveni, President Obama and the most sophisticated propaganda machine in history, work in concert to drown out local voices of reason.
Further north in Libya, one cherished British imperial rule handed down to the American Empire that displaced it, is being employed: When in doubt, break it up.
At the behest of the West, tribal leaders recently declared oil-rich eastern Libya a semi-autonomous state – Barqa. This new state will have its own Parliament, police force, courts and capital, Benghazi, to run its own affairs.
Never mind Colonel Gaddafi’s dreams of African unity, what of Libyan unity?
In typical divide-and-loot fashion, the West is more concerned with how many barrels of crude it can ship out of Libya than stopping the marauding militia turning neighbourhoods into fiefdoms. Sadly, the Obama Administration has not publicly condemned or taken action over UN reports documenting widespread cases of blacks being murdered, tortured and kept in zoos.
African-Americans at home are just as disappointed with Obama’s Presidency as Africans are abroad. Obama may be the first black President, but John F Kennedy was the first President for blacks. Obama may be the first President of African descent but George Bush Jr was the first President for Africa.
George W Bush championed the AIDS programme PEPFAR as well as the Millennium Challenge for Africa.
In stark contrast, Obama has been more concerned with invading his Mother Africa north, right and centre.
Seeing an African-American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery would be exciting if only black equality indicators were not tumbling. In fact, during the Dark Age of Obama: the black-white median household wealth gap is down to seven black cents on the white dollar. The spread between black unemployment and white unemployment has also widened by four points since President Obama took office.
As Obama rushes from one opulent campaign fundraiser to another – to raise the US$1 billion he needs for re-election – he must realise the farcical tragedy of it all. Half of his people (150 million) are now wallowing in poverty or near poverty low-income status. A disproportionate amount of whom are black. A disproportionate amount of whom voted 91 percent in his favour.
For most Americans, the ongoing economic crisis is a recession. However, levels of poverty and unemployment in black neighbourhoods suggest it is a Great Depression for Blacks.
Amid this Great Depression for Blacks, Obama and his advisors have chosen not to put forward concrete policies targeted at blacks, for fear of the President looking “too black”.
The White House has opted instead for “post-racialism”. Consequently, African-Americans are stuck between a President that can’t be seen to be “too black” and an alternative that is too ghastly to contemplate. Sadly, Obama has put a black face on Martin Luther King Jr’s three interrelated evils: economic exploitation (unbridled capitalism at home), militarism (unprecedented imperialist expansionism abroad) and racism (post-racialism).
No one would have doubted Obama’s ability to govern had he lost the 2008 election. No one would have doubted President Obama’s desire to ameliorate the plight of the black man – at home and abroad – had he remained Senator Obama.
That said, a probable second term for President Obama still offers Africans and African-Americans hope for change they can truly believe in.
• Garikai Chengu is a research scholar at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences

The Mirage of Turkmen Gas Flowing To Ukraine Without Gazprom’s Help


Ukraine-Turkmenistan: an alliance against Russia

Yuri Korolchuk

Yanukovych and Berdymukhammedov agreed to resist the "South Stream"

The era of cheap gas has passed $ 50. And of Turkmen gas as a "lifeline" should be quickly forgotten.

The warming of relations between Ukraine and Turkmenistan, which can be seen in the last six months, is not an accident. The main purpose of the just concluded visit of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in the Ukraine has become a "game" called to convince the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych’s more Russian plans to actively oppose the pipeline "South Stream". At the same time Yanukovych did not take long to convince, because it has long been the position of the failure of gas pipelines bypassing the idea and tries to find support in this matter from the European Union.

Revealing factor is that the first time after a decade hiatus Turkmen president visited Ukraine with official visit. Even earlier, in September last year a visit of President of Ukraine Yanukovich in Turkmenistan. And then the parties also discussed the greater willingness of Turkmenistan does not sell gas to Ukraine – not Russia, it is impossible to do – and the September decision to approve the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. At the same time the European Commission identified the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline most important part of the European project "Southern Corridor" on the transit of Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe.

Apart from offering a more active stand up to Russia on the construction of the pipeline "South Stream", Turkmenistan expressed interest to Ukraine for this purpose provided the public pressure on the European Union. These two important issues for both Ukraine and Turkmenistan discussed for Yanukovych and Berdymukhamedov. All other issues of cooperation were secondary.

Activity of Turkmenistan as a whole is clear. For now attitude to the Russian "South Stream" is not an ultimatum or a hard character, but rather a mild criticism of the intentions of "Gazprom". Indeed, Yanukovych has not lost hope that Ukraine and Russia fail to agree on a gas transport consortium, and a significant reduction in gas prices from the current $ 420 per 1,000 cubic meters. m However, in recent negotiations reached an impasse and has long passed the stage of waiting.

Against this background, Ashkhabad hopes that Ukraine has already ripe for a more critical, demanding, and tough position regarding the "South Stream". Given that Russia seeks to obtain from the EU as a political and financial support to the "South Stream", Ukrainian "sand in the wheels" may actually interfere with Russia’s plans to find common ground with the EU.

The first bells have sounded when the Energy Minister of Ukraine Yuri Boyko wrote an angry letter to the head of the secretariat of the European energy community Slavcho Neykovu : "Despite the desire of Ukraine to create appropriate conditions for the energy security of Europe, unfortunately, today we see the actions of the EU and Energosoobschestva aimed at promoting the project "South Stream" active harmonization of its parameters, in particular, Slovenia. "

Geopolitical "trick" of Turkmenistan lies in the fact that Ashgabat critical interest to the EU has supported the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which plans to pave over the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. In the future Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to connect to one of the routes of Caspian gas to the EU – Nabucco, Transanatoliysky pipeline, Trans Adriatic Pipeline, or ITGI (Turkey-Greece-Italy interconnector). And all of these routes in competition with the Russian "South Stream".

A very important point is that the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to help Turkmenistan to get rid of the growing dependence on China. Over the past five years, Beijing has become the largest partner and the largest creditor in Ashgabat gas issues. The amount of Chinese loans to Turkmenistan has already exceeded $ 8 billion

What benefits can get Ukraine, if together with Turkmenistan would "put pressure" on the EU on the issue of "South Stream"? This may force the "Gazprom" to make concessions on the issue of transit of Turkmen gas through Russia. But here we must understand that even the possibility of a phantom of Turkmen gas supplies will not help Ukraine reduce the price or twice, or even 30 percent.

Today, the price of gas, according to which Turkmenistan sells its gas to Russia is a market, is calculated by the formula, and is about 350 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters. m This is also still need to add the cost of transporting gas. Thus, Ukraine will save a maximum of 10-15 per cent of the price of 420 dollars more to be understood that Turkmenistan would not be able to provide large volumes of gas supplies, as all the volumes are bought in Iran, China and Russia. The maximum that can count on Ukraine – it is up to 5 billion cubic meters. meters of gas annually.

Given all these facts, Turkmenistan, Ukraine is now interested in the first place not as a gas, as well as a trading partner. The era of cheap gas has passed $ 50. And of Turkmen gas as a "lifeline" should be quickly forgotten. Statements as to supply Turkmen gas, which relies Energy Minister Yuriy Boiko, nothing like the muscles before a game "Gazprom" in the context of gas negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

For this reason the President of Ukraine Yanukovich present a proper understanding of what you need to rely on the implementation of construction projects, the participation of Ukrainian companies in the development of gas fields, an increase of commodity turnover between Ukraine and Turkmenistan. But in any case, Yanukovych is also aware of the fact that his geopolitical "pen test" in the direction of the game in Ukraine and Turkmenistan over the "South Stream," Trans-Caspian pipeline, the hypothetical receiving Turkmen gas through Russia – a geopolitical "Russian Roulette", which does not guarantee the sound of coins in his pocket, and the smell of gas in the tube of Ukraine.

About the Author: Yuri Korolchuk – expert of the Ukrainian Institute for Energy Studies.

Source :: The Independent Newspaper

Allegations of issues at Fort Lewis–Wiki

Allegations of issues at Fort Lewis

The alleged shooter was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The medical center at the base is under investigation for downgrading diagnoses of soldiers with PTSD to lesser ailments. Also, military support groups around the base have alleged that base commanders did not give returning troops sufficient time to recover before sending them on further deployments. Furthermore, the groups have alleged that the base’s medical staff is understaffed and overwhelmed by the numbers of returning veterans with deployment-related medical and psychological trauma.[6][7][8]

Soldiers from the base have been linked to other atrocities and crimes. The 2010 Maywand District murders involved JBLM-based soldiers.[9] Also in 2010, a recently discharged AWOL soldier from JBLM shot a police officer in Salt Lake City.[10] In April 2011, a JBLM soldier killed his wife and 5-year-old son before killing himself.[7] In January 2012, a JBLM soldier murdered a Mount Rainier National Park ranger.[9] In two separate incidents, two otherwise unrelated JBLM soldiers have been charged with waterboarding their children.[7] Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of a veterans resource center near Fort Lewis, said that Kandahar’s killings offer more proof that the base is dysfunctional: “This was not a rogue soldier. JBLM is a rogue base, with a severe leadership problem”, he said in a statement.[11]

Madigan Army Medical Center

See also: Madigan Army Medical Center

Madigan Army Medical Center is one of three designated trauma centers in United States Army Medical Department (AMEDD). In 1999, Madigan became the second military hospital to ever receive a perfect score of “100” from Joint Commission.

The alleged shooter in the March 2012 Panjwai shooting spree was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Before and after the massacre questions were raised about the quality of medical treatment and psychological diagnostics at Madigan. The center was under investigation because of allegations that the center’s staff downgraded diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder for 300 service members to lesser conditions.[1] The center’s chief, Colonel Dallas Homas, and mental health chief, William Keppler, were placed on administrative leave during the inquiry. Keppler had reportedly told the center’s staff that a diagnosis of PTSD costs the military $1.5 million over each servicemember’s lifetime in health benefits and disability payments. A forensic psychologist at the center, Juliana Ellis-Billingsley, resigned on 23 February 2012, saying, “I find that I can no longer work in a system that requires me to sacrifice my professional and moral principles to political expediency.”[2]

Military support groups around the base have alleged that base commanders did not give returning troops sufficient time to recover before sending them on more deployments. The groups have also alleged that the base’s medical staff is understaffed and overwhelmed by the numbers of returning veterans with deployment-related medical and psychological trauma. Since 2003, 68 servicemembers stationed at the base have committed suicide, with 16 taking their own lives in 2011. Other US Army bases, however, such as Fort Hood, Fort Campbell and Fort Bragg, have experienced higher rates of suicide.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

 

Afghan Shooter Said To Be Suffering Traumatic Shock, a.k.a., “Battle Fatigue”

[The military’s preferred treatment for “shell shock” and “battle fatigue” remains the same today as it was in WWII–“Man-up, you unpatriotic cowards!” (SEE:  Human Nature Is the Enemy of the State).]

Lawyer: Accused soldier was reluctant to deploy to Afghanistan

John Henry Browne says the possibility that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by injuries and multiple combat deployments will be explored.

By Mike Carter and Hal Bernton

Seattle Times

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Lawyer: Accused soldier was reluctant to deploy to Afghanistan

Seattle attorney John Henry Browne says he spoke by phone to the Army staff sergeant.

A Seattle defense attorney hired to help represent a soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians says the possibility that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by injuries and multiple combat deployments will be foremost among the issues his team will explore.

John Henry Browne said he spoke by telephone to the 38-year-old staff sergeant, an Army sniper, whose demeanor he described as “shocked” and “distant.”

“He certainly wasn’t agitated,” said Browne, who wouldn’t identify the soldier. “I don’t think he knows a lot of the facts that are being alleged.”

He said his client — who is from Joint Base Lewis-McChord — is a decorated soldier who had lost part of a foot in combat in Iraq, and had suffered a head injury during another Iraq tour when his Stryker vehicle crashed after a roadside bomb detonated nearby.

Those injuries and “other reasons” had led the soldier to believe he was not going to be sent to Afghanistan after three previous deployments in Iraq.

Dr. Richard Adler, a Seattle forensic psychiatrist who specializes in PTSD, has been brought in by the defense team. Adler said Thursday that the soldier apparently had undergone a screening for a “concussive head injury” at Madigan Army Medical Center before his most recent deployment in December. Browne said the staff sergeant had sought some counseling, but he did not have the details.

“He did not want to deploy,” Browne said in an interview. “In fact he was told he was not going to go. Then, really almost overnight, that changed.”

The soldier is suspected of going on a shooting rampage in villages near his base in southern Afghanistan early Sunday, killing nine children and seven other civilians and then burning some of their bodies. The shooting, which followed a controversial Quran-burning incident involving U.S. soldiers, has outraged Afghan officials.

Browne said there was other evidence the soldier may have been under stress: A fellow soldier in his unit had reportedly lost a leg in combat the day before the civilian shootings.

The New York Times reported that the soldier had been drinking on the night of the massacre.

He was expected to be flown to the United States as early as Friday, most likely to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., The Times said. The soldier had been held in Kuwait since Wednesday.

He was part of the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a unit of some 4,000 soldiers based at Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. He is married and has two young children, ages 3 and 4, Browne said. He’s originally from the Midwest but has lived in the Seattle area since being assigned to Lewis-McChord, Browne said.

Typically, in years past, the vast majority of soldiers in a brigade have deployed from the base to war zones. But during the deployment last December to Afghanistan, some soldiers deployed, while many others did not.

More than 2,200 of the brigade’s soldiers are in Afghanistan, according to a base official.

Browne said the soldier “did what he was ordered to do. He would have preferred not to deploy. But he did.”

Browne, who in a 30-year career has represented some of the state’s most notorious criminals, including serial killer Ted Bundy and, more recently, Barefoot Bandit Colton Harris-Moore, disputed media reports that the soldier was having marital problems.

Emma Scanlan, Browne’s law partner, said they had met the soldier’s wife and in-laws and that “they support him going forward.”

“Of course, she’s shocked. She hasn’t had an opportunity to speak with him,” Scanlan said.

Browne said he’s working with two Army attorneys who have been assigned to represent the soldier — one in Washington, D.C., and another in Kuwait — and that a priority will be addressing a possible death penalty should the case proceed to a court-martial.

Scanlan said she and Browne bring expertise in handling high-profile homicide cases the military lawyers might not have. Browne said he has handled three or four military cases.

“We don’t know anything about our client’s state of mind. We don’t know anything about the facts of the case, or if they can prove he did what he’s accused of,” Browne said. “If we believe they can, that’s when someone like Dr. Adler comes in.”

On Thursday, The New York Times, citing a senior American official, said the soldier had been drinking alcohol — a violation of military rules in combat zones — and suffering from the stress related to his fourth combat tour and tensions with his wife about the deployments.

“When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” said the official, who has been briefed on the investigation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because the soldier has not yet been formally charged.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the death penalty could be under consideration, and the court-martial would be the most high-profile U.S. military war-crimes case to emerge from the war in Afghanistan.

Plenty of questions remain about how this court-martial could unfold, including where it might be held.

Afghan lawmakers have called for the soldier to be tried in Afghanistan, to show he is being brought to justice. Browne said Thursday “that will not happen now.”

Phillip Stackhouse, a civilian U.S. military defense attorney, said holding the proceeding in Afghanistan would make it much more difficult for defense teams to get expert witnesses to testify, and they could request a change of venue to help give the soldier a fair trial. Moreover, a court-martial there — even at a major base such as Kandahar Air Field — could increase the risks to soldiers serving in the area.

“I think there is very little chance that could happen,” Stackhouse said.

Another option would be for the case to be tried at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which was the court-martial venue last year for four soldiers accused in the 2010 killings of three Afghan civilians.

The Army command could also hold the court-martial at another military installation, according to an Army official.

If the court-martial is held in this country, there are other logistical challenges. Key witnesses would likely be Afghan villagers who saw the shooting, and prosecutors would be expected to put these witnesses on the stand so they can be cross-examined.

“You absolutely have to have that right to confront your accusers,” said Eric Montalvo, a civilian attorney who represented Adam Winfield, one of the four soldiers who were convicted of involvement in the 2010 killings.

The Army legal process includes a formal charging expected in the days or weeks ahead, and then an investigative hearing — known as an Article 32 that gathers more evidence.

In the case of the four soldiers involved in the 2010 killings of the three Afghans, the Army command moved ahead with courts-martial that did not include a death penalty as a possible outcome.

If the Army command opts to keep the death penalty as an option in the staff sergeant’s court-martial, the defense would be offered more resources.

“It actually offers a greater degree of latitude and funding for the defense team,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Russia Slams US-Georgia Military Drills As Provocative

Russia uneasy with US-Georgia military drills

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at State Duma, the country’s lower house of the parliament, in Moscow on March 14, 2012.
Russia has slammed the United States and Georgia’s underway joint military exercises and called it a provocative and unhelpful move in an already unstable region.

Referring to the presence of some 300 US marines in Georgia for the joint training drills, which began last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at State Duma, Reuters reported. Russia’s lower house of parliament, on Wednesday, “I brought this to the serious attention of [the US] Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton], because it all looks somewhat provocative.”

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008 after Tbilisi launched a major offensive against the independence-seeking republic of South Ossetia in a bid to retake its control of the region, it had lost in 1990. The Russo-Georgian relations have ever since remained tense over different issues.

Lavrov warned that the drills were taking place in a ‘very very fragile region.’

He also suggested that Washington’s training the Georgian forces was its way of “rewarding Georgia for sending…its soldiers to Afghanistan.”

Pro-Western Georgia has deployed some 900 forces in Afghanistan.

Russia is wary of the US attempts to use Tbilisi as a proxy against Moscow.

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Calls for Destruction of All Christian Churches In Wahabbi World

Destroy all churches in the Arabian Peninsula – Saudi Grand Mufti

Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh. (AFP Photo / Hassan Ammar)

Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh. (AFP Photo / Hassan Ammar)

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has said that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula must be destroyed. The statement prompted anger and dismay from Christians throughout the Middle East.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah made the controversial statement in a response to a question from a Kuwaiti NGO delegation. A Kuwaiti parliamentarian had called for a ban on the construction of new churches in February, but so far the initiative has not been passed into law. The NGO, called the Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, asked the Sheikh to clarify what Islamic law says on the matter.

The Grand Mufti, who is the highest official of religious law in Saudi Arabia, as well as the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars, cited the Prophet Mohammed, who said the Arabian Peninsula is to exist under only one religion.

The Sheikh went on to conclude that it was therefore necessary for Kuwait, being a part of the Arabian Peninsula, to destroy all churches on its territory.

In February, Kuwaiti MP Osama al-Munawar announced on Twitter that he was planning to submit legislation that would remove all churches in the country. However, he later clarified that existing churches should remain, while the construction of new non-Islamic places of worship would be banned.

Another MP, Mohamemd Hayef, backed al-Munawar, saying the number of churches in the country was already disproportionate to the number of Christians.

As for Saudi Arabia, all religions other than Islam are banned and there are no churches, although a small minority of Christians is theoretically allowed to practice their religion in the privacy of their own home.

The Grand Mufti’s words have caused a heated response from Christians living in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries throughout the Middle East. A number of bloggers also wrote on the issue.

Considering the hysteria that besets the West whenever non-authoritative individuals offend Islam – for instance, a fringe, unknown pastor – imagine what would happen if a Christian counterpart to the Grand Mufti, say the Pope, were to declare that all mosques in Italy must be destroyed; imagine the nonstop Western media frenzy that would erupt, all the shrill screams of ‘intolerance’ and ‘bigot,’ demands for apologies if not resignation, nonstop handwringing by sensitive politicians, and worse,” Raymond Ibrahim of Jihad Watch, a blog critical of extremist Islamic laws, wrote.

The Holy Family Cathedral, Kuwait City, Kuwait (Image from kuwaitdailyphoto.blogspot.com)
The Holy Family Cathedral, Kuwait City, Kuwait (Image from kuwaitdailyphoto.blogspot.com)

Despite the sensational news value of the story, the Western media has been remarkably silent. No major news services have covered the story yet. Ibrahim argues that the Grand Mufti gets a free pass even when he incites Muslims to destroy churches because Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States.

Restrictions on Islam in the West

The Grand Mufti’s words seem to mirror what a number of US politicians have been calling for – only their words were aimed at mosques and Muslims. In January, Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain said Americans have a constitutional right to ban mosques, arguing that Islam combines church and state, which contradicts the US Constitution.

They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people of that community do not like it,” Cain said on Fox News Sunday.

In November, Pat Buchanan, who vied for the Republican presidential nomination on a number of occasions, agreed with radio host Bryan Fischer in promoting limits to immigration from Islamic countries and the construction of new mosques.

In 2009 a constitutional amendment banning the construction of minarets was adopted in Switzerland following a referendum on the subject. Almost 58 per cent of the population said yes to the initiative, although the traditionally leftist French-speaking part of the country rejected it. The construction of new minarets is now banned throughout Switzerland, though the four existing minarets in Zurich, Geneva, Winterthur and Wangei bei Olten are to remain.

In 2010, French legislators banned face-covering headgear in public. The ban meant that women caught wearing the burqa in public could be fined up to 150 euros and/or be forced to participate in citizenship education. Proponents of the legislation argued that face covering was both an issue of security and social integrity, as facial recognition is important for communication. Opponents said the law encroached on personal freedoms.