FRIDAY FOTO (December 17, 2014)

Airpower.

 (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Guerrero)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Guerrero)

This is what U.S. strategy planners are talking about when they discuss projecting power.

Twenty-four big U.S. Air Force cargo airplanes prepare to take off Dec. 6, 2014, from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas in support of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School’s Joint Forcible Entry Exercise 14B. This gathering of eagle includes 11 C-130H Hercules and 13 C-130J Super Hercules heavy lift aircraft The C-130H models are from various Air National Guard units and the C-130J models are from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

In addition to the C-130s, the JFEX included approximately 20 C-17 Globemaster IIIs and various other aircraft.

 

December 19, 2014 at 12:56 am 1 comment

EYE ON LATIN AMERICA: Cuba-U.S. Deal

Cold War Frozen?

Cuba in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico region. (CIA World Factbook)

Cuba in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico region.
(CIA World Factbook)

The United States and Cuba are ending more than 50 years of suspicion and hostility with both countries agreeing to resume diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday (December 17).

There are many angles to this story, good news for banks and maybe American automakers and U.S. antique car collectors and connoisseurs of fine rum and Cuban cigars – and baseball, don’t forget baseball.

But here we’re wondering what the security implications are. Will Venezuela lose another supporter in Latin America? Will Russia? And will this aid the war on drugs? Last year, at a Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, said one of the biggest ideological opponents of the United States in the Western Hemisphere was also one of the biggest allies in the war against illegal narcotics.

Kelly noted that nearly all the navies and maritime police units of U.S.-friendly nations in the region are cooperating in the battle against drug trafficking “but of all the partners we deal with, the Nicaraguans are probably our most effective allies in Central America,” even though “we don’t like them and they don’t like us.”

Despite the political and ideological differences between the two countries, Kelly said he wanted to “give a shout out” to the Nicaraguan Coast Guard and Navy for their aggressive policing of the littoral (shallow)  waters, which forces drug dealers out on to the open sea where they are more vulnerable to U.S. surveillance.

December 19, 2014 at 12:41 am 1 comment

ARCTIC NATION: Denmark’s Polar Claim

The Cold Rush is “On”.

The Greenland ice sheet. (NSASA photo by Michael Studinger)

The Greenland ice sheet.
(NSASA photo by Michael Studinger)

Denmark has joined a growing number of countries in the Far North laying claim to at least a part of the North Pole and surrounding region.

In a statement issued Tuesday (December 16) by Copenhagen, the Danish Foreign Ministry announced that the Kingdom of Denmark together with the government of Greenland (formerly a Danish colony) would file a submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf “to define the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.

“The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark. The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby – ultimately – of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has been a process characterised by the very good cooperation not only between authorities within the Kingdom of Denmark but also with our Arctic neighbours,” the statement said in part.

At stake are rights to fishing areas and maritime commerce transit lanes in the Far North now that climate change has ben steadily melting Arctic sea ice. but also the prospect of huge petroleum, natural gas and other minerals. As much as 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of the is estimated to lie beneath Arctic waters.

All countries’ borders currently end 200 nautical miles from their coasts in the Arctic, leaving a vast patch of land owned by nobody. Denmark is following Norway, Russia and Canada in submitting a claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to a portion of the Arctic, according to the Financial Times.

The five Arctic countries — the United States, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark — all have areas surrounding the North Pole, but only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in it before Denmark’s claim, according to the Associated Press.

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard told the AP that the Arctic nations so far “have stuck to the rules of the game” and he hoped they would continue to do so. In 2008, the five pledged that control of the North Pole region would be decided in an orderly settlement in the framework of the United Nations, and possible overlapping claims would be dealt with bilaterally.

Map of Denmark's polar claim (black lines) and the Lomonosov Ridge in green. (Map courtesy of Kingdom of Denmark)

Map of Denmark’s polar claim (black lines) and the Lomonosov Ridge in green.
(Map courtesy of Kingdom of Denmark)

The area Denmark is claiming consists o approximately 895,541 kilometers beyond the 200 nautical mile limit, 200 nm from the coast of Greenland. The focus of the dispute, according to the BBC,  is the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,800km-long (1,120 miles) underwater mountain range that splits the Arctic in two [see map].

*** *** ***

Defense Dept. photo

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Arctic. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

(Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. For a better look, click on the image to enlarge)

December 17, 2014 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (December 14-December 20, 1814)

Prelude to New Orleans.

U.S. Navy gunboats battle scores of oar-powered Royal Navy barges on Lake Borgne, Louisiana. Painting by  Thomas Horbrook courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy via Wikipedia.

U.S. Navy gunboats battle scores of oar-powered Royal Navy barges on Lake Borgne, Louisiana.
Painting by Thomas Horbrook courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy via Wikipedia.

Most Americans know little about the War of 1812, except, maybe for the Battle of New Orleans – thanks to two movies (in the 1930s and the 1950s) and the popular song recorded by Johnny Horton in 1959.

“The Battle of New Orleans” was written by Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas high school history teacher in 1936, to make learning history more palatable for his students. But at 4GWAR we’ve come to learn that there was no single battle of New Orleans but a series of engagements on land and water between mid-December 1814 and early January 1815.

This week’s post marks the bicentennial of the first engagement, on the swampy waters of Louisiana’s Lake Borgne (thanks to years of erosion, a lagoon now instead of a lake).

December 14

The Americans spot British warships just outside Lake Borgne southeast of New Orleans on December 13. Entry to the lake is guarded by five small U.S. Navy ships — gunboats really — with the awe-inspiring names of Number 5, Number 23, Number 65, Number 162 and Number 163. They are manned by less than 200 sailors under the command of Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones. The lake waters are too shallow to accommodate the 50 warships of the British fleet which arrived a few days previously from Jamaica. So the British pile 1,200 sailors and Royal Marines into 45 longboats and barges, most armed with a cannon in the bow, and row furiously at Catesby Jones’ flotilla.

The lieutenant orders his tiny fleet to withdraw to the Western side of the lake to block a channel into Lake Pontchartrain and lure the British boats under the guns of a small U.S. strongpoint, Fort Petites Coquilles. But in the early hours of December 14, the wind dies and the ebb tide pushes the Americans the wrong way, leaving them becalmed as the faster moving longboats and barges approach.

Map of Battle of Lake Borgne (Courtesy of National Park Service)

Map of Battle of Lake Borgne
(Courtesy of National Park Service)

Beyond the protective range of the Fort Petite Coquilles’ guns, Catesby Jones decides to fight anyway. His U.S. ships open fire around 11 a.m., taking a heavy toll on the open boats, which are firing back. Eventually the British swarm the American ships, clamber aboard and after fierce hand-to-hand fighting, capture all five ships. The Americans suffer six killed and 35 wounded (including Catesby Jones). The toll is even greater for the British: 94 killed and wounded.

The British are now even closer to New Orleans, although the 8,000-man attack force will have to be ferried by rowboats from the entrance of Lake Borgne some 36 miles to the far Western shore where a makeshift British base is set up in an unhealthy, marshy area for the big push against New Orleans about 15 miles away.

*** *** ***

With the loss of the Lake Borgne flotilla, Major General Andrew Jackson has lost his “eyes” on the lake approaches to New Orleans. But that same day, he receives word from Major General William Carroll that he is in Natchez (Mississippi Territory) heading for New Orleans with about 3,000 Tennessee militia and 1,400 muskets and ammunition. He is accompanied by more than 100 Mississippi dragoons under Major Thomas Hinds. On December 20, Brigadier John Coffee arrives from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with some 1,200 mounted infantry. Carroll’s troops arrive the next day. It’s beginning to look like Jackson will have enough troops to hold off the British after all.

Please click on the photos to see a larger image.

December 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 12, 2014)

Big Boat, Big Mission.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen)

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen)

An MH60-S Sea Hawk helicopter takes off from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) as part of at-sea training. Anchorage participated in the first Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) for the NASA Orion program. As you can see from the photo below, the training paid off.

EFT-1 is the fifth at-sea testing of the Orion crew module using a Navy ship’s well deck (the garage-like opening in the Anchorage’s stern) for recovery of the spacecraft that someday will take humans to Mars. The Sea Hawk is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8.

Navy divers attach recovery lines to the Orion spacecraft crew module in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2014. The lines were used to guide the capsule into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage.  (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Seeber )

Navy divers attach recovery lines to the Orion spacecraft crew module in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2014. The lines were used to guide the capsule into the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Seeber )

Please click on the photos to enlarge the image. And before we start getting mail from all the Navy types out there: Yes, we know the Anchorage is a “ship” not a “boat.” Your 4GWAR editor was just exercising a little “alliterative license” in this post’s headline.

December 12, 2014 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

EYE ON LATIN AMERICA: Venezuela Sanctions, Brazil Torture Report, USAID-Cuban Hip Hop Scene

Senate Sanctions Venezuela.

Flag_of_Venezuela_svgThe U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuela officials found to have violated the human rights of demonstrators in that country.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for approval.

The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, if enacted, would direct President Barack Obama to take action against any current of former Venezuelan government official who violated the rights of anti-government protestors this year, according to The Hill newspaper in Washington. Sanctions could include freezing assets and denial of visas to travel to the United States

Passed on a voice vote Monday (December 8), the bill was introduced by Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, after reports of peaceful protestors being tortured and killed. The Venezuelan government said opposition leaders incited protesters to violence and planned a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Thousands of activists taking part in anti-government protests that started February 4, were arrested. More than 40 people were killed in the protests that raged from February to May, according to the BBC.

*** *** ***

Brazil’s Torture and Execution Legacy.

Brazil Map via Wikipedia

Brazil Map via Wikipedia

The Brazilian government routinely used torture, summary executions and forced disappearances against dissidents during that country’s 20-year military dictatorship, according to a National Truth Commission report released Wednesday (December 10).

The three-year investigation concluded the violence of the anti-leftist campaign amounted to official policy. “During the military dictatorship, repression and elimination of political opponents became state policy, designed and implemented from decisions emanating from the presidency of the republic and the military ministries,” the report said, according to the Brazilian newspaper Estadao (according to Al Jazeera).

The report, based on over 1,000 testimonials, was presented to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former Marxist who suffered imprisonment and torture during the dictatorship, which ran from 1964 to 1985. The report documents 434 politically motivated killings and disappearances and provides nearly 400 names of those responsible – including more than 200 military officers, almost 70 of them generals, the Brazilian paper reported.

Other South American countries – Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – have all prosecuted those responsible for atrocities under their own military dictatorships in the 1970s and ‘80s. But Brazil, like South Africa is one of the few whose truth commission named not just the victims but those responsible for the crimes, Al Jazeera reported.

*** *** ***

Rap Ruse Ripped.

Newspapers in Cuba and Venezuela report that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was trying to foment discontent among Cuban young people through music – particularly rap and hip hop.

But Cuban rapper Aldo Rodriguez Baquero, a member of the popular hip hop group Los Aldeanos, says he never received money from (USAID), despite published reports Thursday (December 11) to the contrary, according to the Spanish version of the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald.

The publications cited an investigation by the Associated Press. Rodriguez Baquero said he didn’t know that Serbian promoter Rajko Bozic was a subcontractor of Creative Associates International, which held a contract with USAID. The Cuban rapper said he was unaware the company was working on a project to “recruit” him to “unleash a youth movement against the Cuban government,” according to the AP.

On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the program; they also confiscated computer hardware that in some cases contained information that jeopardized Cubans who likely had no idea they were caught up in a clandestine U.S. operation. Still, contractors working for USAID kept putting themselves and their targets at risk, the AP investigation found.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs a  Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department,  said the conduct described in the AP report “suggests an alarming lack of concern for the safety of Cubans involved, and anyone who knows Cuba could predict it would fail.” Leahy added that USAID “never informed Congress about this and should never have been associated with anything so incompetent and reckless.”

December 11, 2014 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Mali Hostage Freed, Ebola Roundup, Kenyatta Charges Dropped

French Hostage Released.

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in 2013. (Copyright Ministry of Defense)

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in 2013.
(Copyright Ministry of Defense)

A Frenchman kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in North Africa more than three years ago has been freed, the French government announced today (December 9).

Details of the release of Serge Lazarevic were not disclosed but French officials have insisted that no ransom is paid or prisoners released in exchange for any French hostages. At one time 14 French citizens were being held by terrorists in Africa. A Malian security source told AFP that Lazarevic was released at Kidal in northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande said there are “no more French hostages in any country in the world.” Another, Phillipe Verdon, who was abducted with Lazarevic in 2011 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali to halt a revolt by Islamic extremists and nomadic Tuaregs.

While authorities denied or wouldn’t comment on reports that ransom was paid, a retired French anti-terrorism judge, Alain Marsaud, was more frank. He told France’s RTL radio: “There is no reease if there is no payment. Someone paid, if not the government, a business or insurance company.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A Malian newspaper and two sources, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were freed.

A Dutch tourist, Sjaak Rijke, kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, has not been seen or heard from since he appeared alongside Lazarevic in a November AQIM video, the BBC reported.

*** *** ***

Ebola Roundup

The World Health Organization reports new cases of Ebola are still rising in West Africa, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia with the highest number of cases.

Data published Monday (December 8) by the WHO shows Sierra Leone has recorded 7,798 cases of the deadly virus, making it the country with the fastest growing infection rate, according to the Voice of America website. Meanwhile, infection rates are dropping in Liberia, which now has just over 7,700 cases – but Liberia still has more Ebola deaths than any other country: a little more than 3,100.

Overall, Ebola has infected 18,000 people in Africa and killed 6,346. The vast majority of those cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea.

*** *** ***

International Court Drops Kenyatta Charges.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Official photo via Wikipedia)

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta.
(Official photo via Wikipedia)

The International Criminal Court has dropped its case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity.

The prosecution withdrew the charges Wednesday (December 5) against Kenyatta, citing a lack of evidence. But there were also allegations that because the Kenyan government did not cooperate with the international court’s investigation, the case was unable to proceed, according to the Voice of America website.

The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against Kenyatta beyond a reasonable doubt. Bensouda said Kenya’s government failed to provide key documents to the prosecution, which undermined her investigations and “had a severe, adverse impact” on the case. She also said she reserved the right to file charges again if more evidence becomes available.

Kenyatta was charged for his alleged role — before he was president — in the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. More than 1,000 were killed and a half million more were displaced by the violence, which prosecutors claimed Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, incited.

After the ICC dropped the case, Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — called it a “travesty” adding that he felt vindicated, the BBC reported. In the Hague, prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over evidence vital to the case and said officials in Nairobi had intimidated potential witnesses.

 

December 9, 2014 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

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