Posts Tagged ‘Ramstein air base’

Ramstein Air Base anti-drone protests: The Germans taking on the US military

September 10, 2017

A week of protests against the US drone program drew some 5,000 protesters to its most important air base in Europe. DW’s Kathleen Schuster met with several of the people taking on the world’s most powerful military.

Protests at the Ramstein US army base in Germany (picture-alliance/Sputnik/V. Melnikov)“To be or NATO be”: Protesters hoped to capture the attention of the transatlantic military alliance and the German government

Every military specialist agrees that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, are the future of warfare – but what are the major types of drone and who makes them? DW explains. (30.06.2017)

At first it’s difficult to reconcile the week’s itinerary at the “peace camp” — yoga, reggae, poetry slam – with the gray-haired audience gathered in this dusky room.

Taking up every seat and windowsill, the crowd of at least 150 listens intently as each speaker outlines how the US government is leading an ‘illegal war” in their backyard. The city is Kaiserslautern, the Air Force base in question is Ramstein and the war is that waged by US’s drone operations, which they say violate German law.

“Our government must review and prohibit the drone war,” Otto Jaeckel tells the crowd to loud applause. He called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to take action: “Ms. Merkel and Ms. von der Leyen bear personal responsibility here!”

Under the banner of “Stop Ramstein Air Base,” a nationwide campaign has drawn peace activists from across Germany and other countries to Kaiserslautern, calling for the base to be shut down.

The audience of protesters comprises mainly the over-50 crowd, however. The ethics of using drones are the draw for these activists, but for the local organizers, the problem with Ramstein Air Force Base runs deep. To them, drones are just one symptom of a larger problem they’ve been warning about for years.

Read also: A guide to military drones

Silent partner in a silent war

Already controversial for its extrajudicial killing of several thousand suspects on foreign soil, revelations that Ramstein played a vital role in the US’s drone program sparked a frenzy among German politicians and peace activists in 2013.

Upon parliamentary inquiry, the German government said it had no information about the program. Only later did Angela Merkel’s government confirm that no drones were being directed or flown from US’s most important air base in Europe – which is, incidentally, also the headquarters for NATO’s Air and Space program (AIRCOM).

Ramstein does, however, house satellite relay stations, which whistleblower Brandon Bryant, along with subsequent media reports, allege are key to drone operations. According to these revelations, the signal sent from drone operators on Creech Air Force Base in Nevada travel via translatlantic fiber optic cables to Ramstein, where they are then transmitted to satellites positioned above the Indian Ocean — thus allowing them to strike targets in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia by way of drones.

The founding principles of post-war Germany were “never again war, never again fascism,” Konnie Schmidt told DW.

“It’s not only the right, but the duty of every German” to rebel against a government violating these principles. “That’s our inheritance.”

Read also: Berlin powerless to challenge US drone ops at Ramstein air base

In 1983, Germany's then-capital, Bonn, saw massive demonstrations against the atomic weapons held on US bases in Germany (picture-alliance/dpa/H. Wieseler)In 1983, Germany’s then-capital, Bonn, saw massive protests against the atomic weapons held on US bases in Germany

‘Living on a powderkeg’

Schmidt, like many of the peace activists of his generation, marched against the Vietnam War. Revelations during the 1980s of atomic bombs, Pershing-2 ballistic missiles and the storage of poisonous gas at nearby US bases unleashed another wave of peace protests still well-known in Germany today.

The native Ramsteiner, now a retired teacher at 69, shares a similar story to other local activists of how he became aware of the US military presence near Kaiserslautern.

“I’ll put it this way: my mother was very conservative and so was my father. And my mother always said, if things heat up, we’re the ones sitting on the powder keg.”

Ramstein airshow catastrophe in 1988 (picture-alliance/dpa/Füger)Ramstein airshow disaster in 1988 claimed 70 lives

For Erika Christmann, 73, the key moment was in August 1988. Almost 30 years later, she like most locals still shudders at the mention of the air show disaster.

Billed by critics at the time as a display of militarism, the spectacle turned deadly when three Italian fight jets collided while trying to perform a stunt. The collision left 70 people dead and more than 1,000 injured.

“It’s difficult to talk about,” she says, taking a long pause, her rainbow necklace expanding and slowly relaxing around her neck. It’s hope that people are waking up and deep anger about what people do to each other in the name of security that keep her going.

US Air Base Ramstein (Getty Images/AFP/J.-C. Verhaegen)Activists take issue with the existence of the base and the activities carried out there – and thus want it shut down

US ‘protector image’ in question

Indeed, the man credited the most often in local peace activities is Wolfgang Jung, 79. The vivid memories of a childhood shattered by WWII have left the 79-year-old impatient with the military’s agenda.

Along with his wife, the native Ramsteiner documents information about the controversial military base on his own website, Luftpost.de. The log has annoyed many politicians, he says gruffly, then letting a rare smile escape.

The air base scares him for a number of reasons. Although he sued the German government for allowing the US to use Ramstein in its drone operations  a suit he ultimately lost because he personally was not affected by the drones, three different courts ruled — he considers Ramstein’s function as the headquarters of NATO missile defense more dangerous.

He still has hope of informing the public that a continued US military presence doesn’t protect Germany. On the contrary, it puts Germany in the middle of any missile scenario. “They could be dead within five minutes.”

Protests in Ramstein (picture-alliance/V.Melnikov)This was the second year in a row that the Ramstein protest drew thousands

Withdrawal unlikely

Even after years of protest, Jung, like Schmidt and Christmann, consider a US withdrawal unlikely.

The area counts roughly 22,000 military and Department of Defense personnel in total. With family members, it’s 54,000, the largest concentration of US citizens outside of the US.

Local residents and officials see an economic benefit to hosting American troops. Not only do 7,000 German civilians work for the US military, but the housing sector alone brings in an estimated 220 million euros annually, according to a German parliamentary report about Ramstein’s effect on the local economy.

State officials do not have data on how much the military community contributes to the economy annually. However, the 86th Comptroller Squadron in its 2013 Fiscal Report put the number at $2.26 billion, according to the same parliamentary report. Other estimates, for example by the Handelsblatt in 2016, have put the number as low at $1 billion.

Nevertheless, the three have no intention of giving up their decades-long fight. This time it’s a call on the German government to prohibit the drone program.

Or as Jung put it: “I’d like to make the most of the few years I have left and not suddenly sink into an atomic crater, you know?”

http://www.dw.com/en/ramstein-air-base-anti-drone-protests-the-germans-taking-on-the-us-military/a-40432117

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Benghazi, September 11, 2012: “U.S. Air Force Could Have Evacuated Americans If A Decision To Do So Had Been Made in Time”

June 11, 2014

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US spy agencies heard Benghazi attackers using State Dept. cell phones to call terrorist leaders

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Published June 11, 2014

Fox News

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Sept. 11, 2012: The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a terrorist attack.Reuters

The terrorists who attacked the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 used cell phones, seized from State Department personnel during the attacks, and U.S. spy agencies overheard them contacting more senior terrorist leaders to report on the success of the operation, multiple sources confirmed to Fox News.

The disclosure is important because it adds to the body of evidence establishing that senior U.S. officials in the Obama administration knew early on that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and not a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video that had gone awry, as the administration claimed for several weeks after the attacks.

Eric Stahl, who recently retired as a major in the U.S. Air Force, served as commander and pilot of the C-17 aircraft that was used to transport the corpses of the four casualties from the Benghazi attacks – then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – as well as the assault’s survivors from Tripoli to the safety of an American military base in Ramstein, Germany.

In an exclusive interview on Fox News’ “Special Report,” Stahl said members of a CIA-trained Global Response Staff who raced to the scene of the attacks were “confused” by the administration’s repeated implication of the video as a trigger for the attacks, because “they knew during the attack…who was doing the attacking.” Asked how, Stahl told anchor Bret Baier: “Right after they left the consulate in Benghazi and went to the [CIA] safehouse, they were getting reports that cell phones, consulate cell phones, were being used to make calls to the attackers’ higher ups.”

A separate U.S. official, one with intimate details of the bloody events of that night, confirmed the major’s assertion. The second source, who requested anonymity to discuss classified data, told Fox News he had personally read the intelligence reports at the time that contained references to calls by terrorists – using State Department cell phones captured at the consulate during the battle – to their terrorist leaders. The second source also confirmed that the security teams on the ground received this intelligence in real time.

Major Stahl was never interviewed by the Accountability Review Board, the investigative panel convened, pursuant to statute, by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as the official body reviewing all the circumstances surrounding the attacks and their aftermath. Many lawmakers and independent experts have criticized the thoroughness of the ARB, which also never interviewed Clinton nor the under secretary of State for management, Patrick Kennedy, a key figure in the decisions about security at the consulate in the period preceding the attack there.

In his interview on “Special Report,” Stahl made still other disclosures that add to the vast body of literature on Benghazi – sure to grow in the months ahead, as a select House committee prepares for a comprehensive probe of the affair, complete with subpoena power. Stahl said that when he deposited the traumatized passengers at Ramstein, the first individual to question the CIA security officers was not an FBI officer but by the senior State Department diplomat on the ground.

“They were taken away from the airplane,” Stahl said. “The U.S. ambassador to Germany [Philip D. Murphy] met us when we landed and he took them away because he wanted to debfrief them that night.” Murphy stepped down as ambassador last year. A message left with Sky Blue FC, a private company in New Jersey with which Murphy is listed online as an executive officer, was not immediately returned.

Stahl also contended that given his crew’s alert status and location, they could have reached Benghazi in time to have played a role in rescuing the victims of the assault, and ferrying them to safety in Germany, had they been asked to do so. “We were on a 45-day deployment to Ramstein air base,” he told Fox News. “And we were there basically to pick up priority missions, last-minute missions that needed to be accomplished.”

“You would’ve thought that we would have had a little bit more of an alert posture on 9/11,” Stahl added. “A hurried-up timeline probably would take us [an] hour-and-a-half to get off the ground and three hours and fifteen minutes to get down there. So we could’ve gone down there and gotten them easily.”

Bret Baier currently serves as anchor of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” (weeknights 6-7PM/ET), the top-rated cable news program in its timeslot. Based in Washington, D.C., he joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau. Click here for more information on Bret Baier

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/11/cia-heard-benghazi-attackers-using-state-dept-cell-phones-to-call-terrorist/

'Not serious': The U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, LIbya erupted in flames on September 11, 2012 after heavily armed terrorists linked to an al-Qaeda affiliate group launched mortars and grenades and followed up with small-arms fire
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