Category Archives: Military

Syria’s devastated hospitals

In the ongoing conflict that began in March 2011, Syrian healthcare facilities are significant military targets. There have been 454 air attacks on hospitals, 91 percent of the raids were carried out by aircraft under the control of the Assad government and Russia. The rate of attacks on hospital facilities is said to be increasing. In April 2017, there were 25 attacks on health installations. Between March 2011 and February 2017, over 800 healthcare workers and hundreds patients have been killed as a result of air strikes. Although the UN Security Council has condemned attacks on medical facilities, the repulsive goal of the Assad government (and its supporting Russian air power) is to stop the delivery of medical services to the inhabitants of areas controlled by the opposition.

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Russia’s cyber war on America

I posted about this topic earlier this year. McClatchy News: Russia uses ‘bots’ and trolls for information war against U.S..

Now Time magazine’s cover story this week takes a deep-dive look Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America:

On March 2, a disturbing report hit the desks of U.S. counterintelligence officials in Washington. For months, American spy hunters had scrambled to uncover details of Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 presidential election. In offices in both D.C. and suburban Virginia, they had created massive wall charts to track the different players in Russia’s multipronged scheme. But the report in early March was something new.

It described how Russia had already moved on from the rudimentary email hacks against politicians it had used in 2016. Now the Russians were running a more sophisticated hack on Twitter. The report said the Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department. Depending on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.

As they scrambled to contain the damage from the hack and regain control of any compromised devices, the spy hunters realized they faced a new kind of threat. In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States? At any given moment, perhaps during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. As each tweet corroborated another, and covert Russian agents amplified the messages even further afield, the result could be panic and confusion.

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What the Trump administration knew about Michael Flynn, and when they knew it

I have said from the beginning the White House cover story that Gen. Michael Flynn was fired for “misleading” Trump transition team chairman Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia and his being an undisclosed foreign lobbyist for Turkey smelled to high heaven of bullshit.

Then acting attorney general Sally Yates notified White House counsel that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI, and the White House did nothing for 18 days. It only became an issue after the Washington Post reported the story. If not reported by the media, Flynn would still be in his job.

Now we learn that the Trump transition team was informed by Gen. Michael Flynn himself that he was under investigation by the FBI even before Donald Trump named him as his mational securty adviser.

There is no credible scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence,  the Trump transition team chairman, was not also fully apprised of the facts by Trump transition team lawyers. Both Trump and Pence knowingly hired a man they knew was under investigation by the FBI and was compromised by his foreign entanglements. Mike Pence has some splainin’ to do under oath.

The New York Times reports that the Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House:

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

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Will brinksmanship lead to a renewed Korean war?

North Korea has yet another anniversary on Tuesday, the founding of its military, and the world appears to be on edge today in anticipation that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon on Tuesday and Donald Trump, who opted for a brinksmanship foreign policy, will be forced to respond with a military strike as he said he would in order to to save face and to demonstrate ‘resolve” — renewing the Korean war, with massive civilian casualties as a predictable consequence.

There are some troubling headlines today. President Trump to host unusual meeting with UN Security Council:

President Trump will host members of the United Nations Security Council at the White House Monday, a highly unusual meeting made even more startling because of his harsh criticism of the international institution during the campaign and since taking office.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is serving this month as the President of the Security Council, a role that rotates each month among the five permanent members: the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia.

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Haley will be attending before the group returns to New York for scheduled Security Council meetings on Tuesday.

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Trump’s phantom ‘armada’ leads to mockery and distrust in South Korea

The Trump White House and the Pentagon were either deliberately deceiving the American people last week, or they were so incompetent that they just didn’t know what they were doing. It’s likely a combination of both. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker reports, Donald Trump, North Korea, and the case of the phantom armada:

Some degree of delusion always has to be factored in with Donald Trump: when he referred to “the aircraft carriers” and, in another interview, with Fox Business, said that “we are sending an armada, very powerful,” he was widely understood to be referring to a single aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, and its support ships. In fairness, the Vinson would have been powerful and provocative enough—if it had, in fact, been speeding toward the Korean Peninsula, or the Sea of Japan, or even just the Pacific Ocean, which it was not. It was in the Indian Ocean, headed in the opposite direction, for exercises with what might be described as the Australian Armada. Just when you think you see the contours of Trump’s phantom menace, he comes up with a Phantom Fleet.

[T]he movements of a carrier group can’t be so hard to conceal, except, perhaps, from the people in charge of America’s foreign policy. Trump wasn’t alone on this one; it’s not a case of him just causing trouble with his phone and Twitter account, rambling about bad hombres. As the timeline makes clear, it’s even worse. (The Wall Street Journal and the Times have good versions.) On April 9th, three days before Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview, the Navy had said that it had ordered the Vinson “to sail north”; H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, reiterated that news on the same day, framing it as a response to North Korea’s own provocative moves. Secretary of Defense James Mattis followed that up on April 11th by saying that the Indian Ocean exercises were off, and said that the Vinson was “just on her way up there.” That was false. The next day, the Navy said again that the Vinson had been “ordered north”; it added that the effects of that deployment on “other previously scheduled activities are still being assessed during the transit.” The Pentagon is now trying to sell that last bit as a quiet correction of Mattis, which the press mysteriously missed—but that is, simply put, ridiculous. For one thing, there’s the phrase “during the transit,” which assumes that transit had begun. Or is the idea that the Vinson was on its way to the Sea of Japan, in the sense that we are all on our way from cradle to grave, or that Trump is in transit from the Oval Office to choosing items for the gift shop in his Presidential library? A lot can happen in between.

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North Korea – U.S. tensions could spin out of control this weekend unless cooler heads prevail

Things may get very real very fast on the Korean peninsula this weekend. The hermit kingdom of North Korea is about to celebrate a birthday bash on Saturday, with a nuclear test for the candle on the birthday cake. A U.S. Navy strike group is patrolling off the coast of North Korea to snuff out their birthday candle should they try to light it. If this scenario plays out, we are going to need a lot more than Team America: World Police.

The Los Angeles Times has a good introduction in North Korea says it’s ready for war, but Pyongyang remains a city of orderly calm:

North Korea is expected to test a missile or nuclear weapon as early as Saturday — the 105th birthday of the country’s late founder Kim Il Sung — and anxiety is mounting.

President Trump has moved a Navy strike group to the Korean peninsula. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to travel to South Korea on Saturday. Japan has issued a warning over North Korea’s suspected chemical weapons capabilities, with officials in Tokyo discussing how to evacuate the country’s 60,000 citizens from North Korea.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned Friday morning of “storm clouds” gathering over the Korean peninsula, saying that “tit-for-tat threats between the United States and North Korea with daggers drawn has created a dangerous situation worthy of our vigilance.”

In Pyongyang, vice minister Han Song Ryol accused the United States of fomenting the trouble and vowed, “We will go to war if they choose.’’

NBC News reports, U.S. May Launch Strike if North Korea Reaches for Nuclear Trigger:

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

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