Over 25% Rise In Sexual Assault Cases At US Military Academies: Pentagon

WASHINGTON: Incidence of sexual assault in US military academies rose again last year, the Pentagon said Thursday, despite efforts to combat the problem.

During the 2018-2019 school year, there were 149 sexual assaults officially reported to authorities at three military academies -- where students prepare for futures as military officers -- compared to 117 during the previous school year, marking an increase of more than 25 percent, the Pentagon said in a report.

This year's count only covered sexual assault cases reported to authorities, which the Pentagon says makes it difficult to determine if the rise in cases is due to better reporting or if sexual assaults did indeed occur more frequently than the year before.

Every two years, the nearly 13,000 students at the three schools -- the army's US Military Academy at West Point, New York, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado -- are also able to fill out anonymous questionnaires about sexual assaults that were not reported to authorities, including cases of sexual harassment or unwanted sexual contact.

This report did not include results from the questionnaires.

West Point counted the most student cases, with 57 sexual assaults reported, and the Naval Academy counted the fewest reports at 33. There were 40 cases of sexual assault reported at the Air Force Academy. The rest of the reports came from non-student cases.

"This report is a reflection of what we already know," said retired Colonel Don Christensen, former Air Force prosecutor and head of the organization Protect Our Defenders. "The Pentagon has repeatedly failed to address the sexual assault crisis gripping its ranks and, as a result, the problem continues to grow."

"Year after year, military leadership has lauded a focus on prevention despite zero evidence that preventative measures are working. In fact, the opposite is true," he said.

Christensen called out the Pentagon's lack of "military justice reform" in not putting sexual assault cases "in the hands of professionals."

"Their continued obstruction of reform has led to a dramatic increase in sexual assaults and harassment, not only affecting those who bravely serve in our military, but its next generation of leaders as well," he said.

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‘Disposal complete’: ISIS chief al-Baghdadi buried at sea, like bin Laden, but photo & video proof remains classified – Pentagon

The US got rid of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s body mere hours after a swift DNA test confirmed the terrorist’s identity, Pentagon officials said, adding that all evidence of the raid and his burial at sea remains classified.

Following the US special forces operation in northwestern Syria, in which Washington claims al-Baghdadi was eliminated, the mutilated body was immediately taken “to a secure facility to confirm his identity with forensic DNA testing,” Army General Mike Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing.

The disposal of his remains has been done and is complete and was handled appropriately.

Just like al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group chief was reportedly given a proper burial at sea in accordance with Islamic tradition, with all Muslim religious rites afforded to him. While the raid and subsequent processes of identification and body ‘disposal’ were documented in numerous photos and videos, they are yet to go through a “declassification process,” according to the US general.

We are not prepared at the time to release those.

Also on rt.com ‘All we have are Trump’s words’: UN isn’t confirming elimination of IS chief al-Baghdadi...

Even though Donald Trump said earlier he was considering making “certain parts” of the video from the raid available to the public – presumably with al-Baghdadi “was whimpering, screaming, and crying” as he met his end – it remains unclear how much of footage would see the light, if any.

The Obama administration never publicly released any video footage of the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, or photos of his body, claiming they could pose a “national security risk.”

Washington’s public announcement that al-Baghdadi had finally been neutralized, this time for real, sounded “confident,” but has yet to be backed up by hard evidence, the UN Monitoring Team on terrorist groups said previously. Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry questioned at least parts of the story, noting that despite Trump’s claims, it never opened up the Syrian air space under its control to US jets, and didn’t record any US coalition airstrikes in the area.

Also on rt.com Where is the proof? We’ve been here before, Al Baghdadi’s been reported dead or fatally injured many times....

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Pentagon silent on Turkey’s S-400 delivery as Congress demands immediate sanctions

As Turkey beamed out images of Russian S-400 air defense systems being delivered, US lawmakers demanded immediate sanctions against Ankara, while the Pentagon and the State Department remained strangely silent.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel (D-New York) and ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) reacted to the delivery of the missiles by declaring that Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “must face stiff consequences.”

“President Erdogan was given a very clear choice. Unfortunately, he has clearly made the wrong one. That a NATO ally would choose to side with Russia and Vladimir Putin over the alliance and closer cooperation with the United States is hard to fathom,” the duo said in a statement on Friday. 

Also on rt.com Russia starts delivery of S-400 to Turkey as US ramps up pressure on Ankara over deal (VIDEO)...

They demanded of the Trump administration to “terminate” Turkey’s participation in the F-35 stealth fighter program and “sanction Turkish individuals doing business with the Russian defense sector, as required by law.”

Under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), passed in 2017 over President Donald Trump’s objections, the US has to penalize countries that buy weapons systems from Russia.

Their pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears at the Pentagon and the State Department, however. The Department of Defense only confirmed that the subject of the S-400s came up in the 30-minute conversation between Acting Secretary Mark Esper and his Turkish counterpart, but offered no further details.

The Pentagon has not done on-camera briefings for a while, and the press corps got excited when they heard one was scheduled for Friday, expecting it would address the issue. To their great disappointment, however, it was “postponed indefinitely.”

Washington is taking Ankara’s “betrayal” especially hard, since their anti-Soviet alliance predates even the founding of NATO. Following an attempted military coup in July 2016 – which Erdogan blamed on the cleric living in the US under CIA protection – he began turning towards Russia, negotiating the purchase of the S-400s and justifying it by the US withdrawal of Patriot missile batteries.

Ankara has responded to US threats to cut it off from the F-35 program by saying that it would go against the terms of the deal to manufacture the fifth-generation fighter. Turkey is part of the multinational consortium developing and producing parts for the troubled Lockheed Martin jet, and was expected to buy 100 of them. Dropping it from the program might negatively impact production and further increase the cost of the already overpriced war machine.

Washington fears that the S-400 could reveal the ‘secrets’ of the F-35 to Moscow and render the secretive stealth fighter vulnerable to Russian countermeasures.

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US heavily investing in Asia to counter China: Pentagon chief

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has accused China of undermining the sovereignty of other countries, warning that the administration of President Donald Trump is investing "significantly" in programs needed to ensuring stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

The acting Pentagon chief told Asia’s premier defense forum, Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore that the region remained a priority for Washington amid threats from China and North Korea.

"The Indo-Pacific is our priority theater. We are where we belong. We are investing in the region," he said on Saturday.

"We want to ensure no adversary believes it can successfully achieve political objectives through military force," he said, noting that
the Pentagon has requested an all-time high of $104 billion  for research and development in the next fiscal year plus $125 billion in operational readiness.

"When we talk about preparedness, we mean having the right capabilities in the right places to respond to crises, and to compete with and deter high-end adversaries," said the Pentagon chief on Saturday.

Shanahan then went on a an extensive anti-China rant by accusing "actors" of violating international rules in the region.

“Perhaps the greatest long-term threat to the vital interests of states across this region comes from actors who seek to undermine, rather than uphold, the rules-based international order," he said, without naming China.

“We’re not going to ignore Chinese behavior and I think in the past people have kind of tiptoed around that,” the acting pentagon chief added.

Shanahan then called for an end to Beijing's conduct, which he claimed "erodes other nations' sovereignty and sows distrust of China's intentions.”

"If the trends in these behaviors continue, artificial features in the global commons could become tollbooths; sovereignty could become the purview of the powerful," he said, in what seemed to be a carefully-worded version of the longtime US claim that China has been militarizing reefs and artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Washington has long challenged China's sovereignty claims over most of the strategic waters, which act as gateway to trillions of dollars in annual maritime trade. This is while the sea's other littoral states such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia also claim parts of the sea.

Washington regularly dispatches its warships and warplanes to the waters to protect what it calls “freedom of navigation,” a move which Beijing denounces as provocative.

During his first major speech since taking over as acting defense secretary in January, Shanahan said that his main priority would be “China, China, China.”

Shanahan made the remarks a day after holding talks with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, during a meeting both sides called "constructive.”

The South China Sea is not the only source of contention between the two countries. The Trump administration has also launched an escalated trade war against Beijing while accusing it of espionage and posing threats to America's space assets.

Shanahan renews US accusations against Huawei

Earlier this month, Trump took the escalating tensions with China to another level by adding Huawei Technologies to a list of firms with which US companies cannot engage in trade unless they get a license from authorities.

Washington charges that Huawei uses its leading position in developing sophisticated 5G technology to spy for the Chinese government, an allegation strongly denied by both the firm and Beijing.

During his speech in Singapore, Shanahan became the latest senior US official to call out the Chinese telecoms giant, saying Huawei was too close to the Chinese government.

The remarks were expected to draw response from his Chinese counterpart, who was due to address the summit later in the day.

Standoff over Taiwan

Wei was also expected to bring up the issue of Taiwan, the self-ruled island which has been caught in the middle of the tensions.

Washington maintains extensive military ties with Taiwan, selling advanced military hardware to the island despite having no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei.

Shanahan said in his speech that Washington would continue to meet its military obligations to Taiwan.

Beijing has constantly warned that it would not tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the mainland.

The Trump administration has drawn fire from Beijing for continuing its arms deals with Taipei and sending warships through the Taiwan Strait.

China's defense ministry recently warned Washington against escalating tensions after Taiwanese national security chief David Lee met with his US counterpart, John Bolton, during his 13-21 May visit to the US.

"With these actions the United States is playing with fire and undermining the continued development of Chinese-American relations, as well as peace and stability in the region", Wu Qian said during a briefing on Thursday.

Since taking office three years ago, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, has refused to embrace the position that Taiwan and China are part of a single country.

This has cost her several diplomatic allies, who cut ties with Taipei in favor of mainland China. El Salvador became the fifth nation, who decided to sever ties with Taipei and turn to Beijing last year. 

China endorses ties with El Salvador

Also on Friday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Qin Gang hailed the establishment of diplomatic relations with El Salvador, saying that “exchanges and cooperation between the two sides in various fields have developed rapidly and presented broad prospects for development.”

"The facts prove that China and El Salvador establishing ties accords with the trend of the times, has enjoyed popular support and is the right decision" the ministry on Saturday cited Qin as saying.

The statement also cited El Salvador’s new president Nayib Bukele as saying that the new government in San Salvador was committed to continuing development of ties with Beijing and would "correctly handle Taiwan-related issues.”

Bukele, who takes office on Saturday, has formerly been critical of the benefits his country received after establishing ties with Beijing, a decision former president Salvador Sanchez Ceren had strongly defended.

The US which is increasing unnerved by China’s growing influence around the world, particularly by its Belt and Road Initiative, accused Beijing in August of luring countries with incentives that "facilitate economic dependence and domination, not partnership.”

US should accept China's continued growth: Singapore

The US stance toward Beijing’s has drawn reaction from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who ruled out the possibility of preventing Chin’s global growth.

"Countries have to accept that China will continue to grow and strengthen, and that it is neither possible nor wise for them to prevent this from happening,” he said during the security forum.

“New international rules need to be made in many areas" in which China should have a bigger say, he added.

“China will expect a say in this process, because it sees the present rules as having been created in the past without its participation. And this is an entirely reasonable expectation,” he added.

Singapore and China have recently announced plans to move forward on stepping up defense ties by the end of the year.

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Guaido’s ‘envoy’ set to meet Pentagon officials to plan ways of bringing ‘democracy’ to Venezuela

A representative of the Venezuelan opposition leader in the US will meet members of the Southern Command next week to discuss strategy for regime change in the Latin American country, Juan Guaido has confirmed.

“The meeting will be held on Monday,” the self-proclaimed interim president said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I understand it will be at the State Department, and our ambassador will tell us what is the result of that meeting.”

El presidente encargado de Venezuela, , aseguró que la reunión con el Comando Sur está avanzando e informó que el próximo lunes se estarían dando resultados sobre la conversación. por:

Over the weekend, Guaido’s ‘envoy’ to the US, Carlos Vecchio, sent a letter addressed to US Adm. Craig S. Faller of SOUTHCOM requesting a “meeting with a technical delegation to advance in strategic and operational planning” in order to “restore democracy” in Venezuela.

: following instructions of Interim President , we officially requested the a meeting with a technical delegation to advance in strategic and operational planning with the priority goal of stopping our people's suffering and restoring democracy.

Just prior to the opposition’s call for US military assistance, Faller stated that he “looks forward” to discussing how the US can “support the future role” of dissidents to “restore constitutional order.”

When invited by & the legitimate gov't of , I look forward to discussing how we can support the future role of those leaders who make the right decision, put the Venezuela people first & restore constitutional order. We stand ready!

The government of Nicolas Maduro, which has long accused the US of stopping at nothing to bring about a regime change, slammed Guaido for his efforts to entice foreign troops into a breach of Venezuela’s sovereignty.

“We reject the letter by one of the coup leaders asking for military intervention in Venezuela, on behalf of a group of coup plotters who carry out terrorist activities to create confusion and destabilize our homeland,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez noted earlier this week.

Also on rt.com Guaido asks US military for meeting to plan ‘restoring democracy’ in Venezuela...

The president of the National Assembly, which has no real power in Venezuela, challenged Maduro’s seat in January. Despite bold, flashy statements that Venezuelans are ready to rise up, the US-backed coup has so far failed to secure the support of the wider public and the military, who continue to stay loyal to the Bolivarian ideals. Yet Washington, which has repeatedly stated that “all options remain on the table,” is firmly committed to “restoring democracy” in Venezuela by bringing the opposition leader to power.

Also on rt.com Guaido tells supporters he wants ‘direct relationship’ with Pentagon

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Welcome to coup university: A Pentagon scholar’s guide to overthrowing governments

With the Venezuela crisis making regime change once again the talk of the town in Washington, the US Special Operations Command has published a paper chronicling the highs and lows of seven decades of foreign interference.

The 250-page study, entitled “Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness,” was penned by Army Special Forces veteran Will Irwin, and published by the Joint Special Operations University, where Irwin is a resident senior fellow.

Few nations have universities dedicated to the art of the coup, but few nations have a history of foreign intervention quite like the US. Since the end of World War II, the United States has brought its military might to bear on dozens of countries and sponsored scores of insurgencies and regime change operations worldwide. Irwin was first faced with the task of whittling down the list to something manageable.

Also on rt.com Hawks at the wheel: Bolton and Pompeo ‘steering US towards confrontation everywhere’...

After discounting coups that involved no resistance movements – like those in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 – as well as those that involved actions against non-state actors, the researcher was left with 47 cases. Recent US proxy wars, like those in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, were also discounted.

Sponsoring foreign resistance movements transcends partisan divisions. “Even presidents who, prior to their election, looked upon such activity with disfavor, found themselves compelled to use it after taking office,” Irwin wrote glowingly.

What’s the magic formula?

So everybody does it, but what makes a successful coup a successful coup? To the untrained observer, the US’s willingness to get into bed with shady ‘resistance’ fighters seems to be marked by a persistent inability to learn from the past.

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both armed the Afghan mujahedin in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s, only for US forces would be shot at with the same weapons just two decades later. That experience didn’t deter Barack Obama from arming hand-selected ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria just five years ago. Shockingly, many of these weapons ended up in the hands of Al-Nusra and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists.

Irwin identifies mixed results. Of the 47 cases studied, 23 were deemed successful and another 20 failures. Two were marked as “partially successful,” and another two “inconclusive.” Attempts to outright overthrow governments failed 71 percent of the time, as was the case for the CIA’s ill-fated ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion of Cuba.

Attempts to strong-arm foreign governments into toeing the line were more successful, working in three-quarters of instances – as was the case when the Carter and Reagan administrations sponsored Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s, as a means of coercing the country’s communist-leaning government into halting arms shipments to neighboring El Salvador.

"Disruptive” actions – like the failed parachuting of anti-communist guerillas into Yugoslavia in 1948 to stir up resistance – failed just less than half the time. In 1948, the Chetnik guerillas literally fell into the hands of the Yugoslav authorities, who were waiting at the drop zone with weapons drawn.

No matter what the purpose of the action, Irwin found that operations carried out “under wartime conditions” were twice as successful as those carried out in peacetime. Support to nonviolent civil resistance was also more likely to succeed, but that too was "most effective when conducted in direct support of a military campaign,” rather than as a standalone operation.

Long term consequences

For Irwin, the success or failure of a foreign intervention was judged on one simple criterion: Did it achieve the strategic objectives the US set out to achieve? However, as shown in the Afghanistan example mentioned above, short-term victory can have long-term consequences. The defeat of the Soviets led to the rise of a US-armed and battle-tested mujahedin, many of whose members would later join Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Irwin admits this seemingly obvious contradiction, writing that intervention and regime change “most often addresses immediate issues and short-term rather than longer-term interests.”

Fast forwarding to the present day, what lessons can be learned from Irwin’s how-to manual? The United States is currently providing political support to opposition leader Juan Guaido in Venezuela. Under Irwin’s definitions, Washington is sponsoring (for the most part) non-violent resistance during peacetime, an approach more successful than outright guerilla warfare, but less effective than if it were carried out alongside a military attack.

Also on rt.com Guaido tells supporters he wants ‘direct relationship’ with Pentagon...

Not that military action doesn’t have its supporters. State Secretary Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and President Donald Trump have all repeatedly uttered the phrase “all options are on the table” when it comes to dethroning Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

With soft support for Guaido thus far failing to dislodge Maduro from power, and with Washington increasingly agitated at Moscow for its support for Maduro’s regime, there are plenty of opportunities for things to escalate in Venezuela.

However, the hawks in Washington would do well to remember the abiding lesson from 'coup university': Success is never guaranteed, and short-term victory comes with long-term consequences.

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Pentagon’s top secret ‘ninja bomb’ revealed, Twitter asks if it’s really necessary

The CIA and Pentagon have apparently found a new solution to their high civilian casualty rates from drone strikes – a targeted ‘ninja bomb’ which doesn’t explode. Twitter, however, is far from convinced.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the top secret Hellfire R9X has no explosive warhead, with the US military opting instead for a payload of 100lbs of metal in the form of six blades that deploy from the body of the missile moments before impact, shredding everything in the immediate area, and bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘surgical strike.’

Drones used missiles with knife warhead to take out single terrorist targets

@Charles_Lister NEW - @WSJ confirms the @CIA & @DeptofDefense have a new "secret" missile - the R9X, or "flying Ginsu" - which kills a selected target with 6 blades, but no explosive payload.

-- "To the targeted person, it's as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky."https://www.wsj.com/articles/secret-u-s-missile-aims-to-kill-only-terrorists-not-nearby-civilians-11557403411 

The laser-guided sword has reportedly been deployed on at least six occasions to target Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders who used women and children as civilian human shields, including a January 2019 US Air Force strike against Jamal al-Badawi, the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing that killed 17 sailors and wounded at least 40, and a 2017 CIA strike against Al-Qaeda leader Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri.

The R9X was also considered as a plan B for killing Osama bin Laden.

Also on rt.com ‘We did not expect the world to be silent’: US continuing to kill civilians with impunity...

Dubbed the “the flying Ginsu,” after a brand of knives sold via TV commercials in the US in the 70s and 80s, the weapon was reportedly in development as far back as 2011, as the Obama administration sought to limit civilian casualties during its record-setting drone operations.

Obama quickly developed a legacy as the ‘drone president’, with 541 drone strikes throughout his time in office killing an estimated 3,797 people, including 324 civilians. Current US President Donald Trump has rescinded the Obama-era mandate to report civilian casualties by drone strike outside war zones.

Since the revelations about the new weapon emerged, many on Twitter have questioned the need for the blades given that a laser-guided, 100lb chunk of metal dropped from several thousand feet would, in and of itself, be enough to obliterate a human target.

Others, however, keenly bought into the branding and shared memes and movie references.

They should went with “ Knifey McKnife Face”. My guess is someone already owns the domain name.

Also on rt.com Love, death & robots: Obama snuggles with Merkel, recalls old droning times at VIP gala in Germany...




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Pentagon threatens Turkey with ‘grave consequences’ for buying Russian S-400

The US has threatened Turkey with “grave consequences” unless it cancels the purchase of S-400 systems from Russia, with a Pentagon spokesman advising Ankara to seek “better solutions” and warning of “broader implications.”

“Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system will have grave consequences for the US defense relationship with Turkey,” Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon told Ahval news on Monday.

The US ally’s plan to buy the S-400 has been a major concern for the entire NATO alliance, with Washington claiming that its deployment alongside US-made weaponry, such as the F-35 stealth jets, undermines the alliance’s ‘interoperability’ and could reveal ‘secrets’ to Russians. Amid persistent pressure and threats of sanctions, the Trump administration last month temporarily halted the transfer of 100 F-35 jets to Turkey.

Also on rt.com Talks on Patriot missiles get rocky, no step back from deal with Russia – Erdogan...

Turkey for its part refused to bow to US pressure, insisting that diversifying military spending was crucial to national security. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week expressed his hope that Washington would “change its mind.” Yet the US continues its consultations with Ankara to help it “find better solutions,” and inform it of the “broader implications of purchasing Russian S-400s,” Pahon stressed.

Also on rt.com Turkey still keen to get Russia’s S-400 missiles despite rival US offers – top MP

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