Saturday, September 20, 2003

The deadlier legacy of Aids

Paris - Already a human disaster of almost unimaginable proportions, Africa's Aids pandemic is also fast emerging as a security concern, with fears it will breed regional wars, civil strife and terrorism.

Experts speaking ahead of a major conference on Africa's Aids crisis opening in Nairobi on Sunday said the disease is inflicting such grim costs that more countries may join Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the list of sick, war-ravaged states.

South of the Sahara, about 30 million people have Aids or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes it, according to the UN agency UNAids. Last year alone, 2.2 million Africans died of the disease.

In seven southern African countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) at least a fifth of the adult population has the virus.

A whole generation

In these worst-hit countries, a whole generation of human capital is being wiped out by Aids.

The economic and social cost is such that their stability is at threat, the experts say.

Fields are lacking labourers to sow and harvest. Schools are going without teachers. Hospitals are losing their doctors and nurses. Business is losing entrepreneurs who bring dynamism and investment.

The decimation of the rural workforce creates a vicious circle, for it adds to the food shortages in famine-stricken countries, UNAids chief advisor for Africa, Michel de Groulard, said. People with HIV, who are the least resistant to malnutrition, are often the first to die.

Army of orphans

They leave behind a ragged army of Aids orphans, whose numbers are set to reach some 20 million by the end of this decade.

These children, uneducated and shunned, are easy targets for criminals and militias, de Groulard said.

"These children fall prey to all kinds of organisations and manipulators, who can turn them into child soldiers or eventually terrorists. It's a genuine risk," he said.

Put together, these ingredients are a potent formula for dislocation and civil violence, de Groulard said.

"This especially concerns southern Africa - Mozambique, Zimbabwe and to a lesser degree Botswana. All of this zone is very vulnerable in that respect," he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the security forces which underpin stability in many African countries are getting progressively weaker.

A military conference in Gaborone, the Botswanan capital, was told last week that in southern African countries as many as 60 percent of troops have HIV.

The pandemic "could be a source for intra- and interstate conflict," Botswanan Major General Bakwena Oitsile said.

"If the security forces become weaker due to ill health, the countries' constitutions could be easily challenged. The political structures that ensure democratic governance could be threatened."

Terrorist havens

Devastated, turmoil-ridden countries, where law and order have broken down and the economy amounts to little more than a black market, are ripe for becoming terrorist havens, as was the case in Somalia, US analyst Patrick Garrett said.

"If an economy implodes as a result of massive Aids prevalence, then certainly terrorism can take root," Garrett, an associate at Washington thinktank, said.

Such worries clearly figure in the thinking behind the five-year, $15bn US initiative to help African and Caribbean countries against Aids.

In February, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief George Tenet branded the pandemic a threat to US national security for its ability to "further weaken already beleaguered states."

"It's not just a health crisis, it's a crisis of nation states. Nations will collapse if they don't fix this problem," US Secretary of State Colin Powell warned in May.

The six-day Nairobi forum, the International Conference on Aids and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in Africa, known as Icasa, is the biggest regional forum on the continent's Aids problems. It is held every two years, alternating with the International Aids Conference.

Bush will wait before setting goals for NASA

Saying "the more we explore, the better off America is," President Bush said Tuesday that he was not yet prepared to outline a specific vision for NASA's future or what space exploration should entail.

Instead, Bush said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel and reporters for 11 other newspapers, he will wait for recommendations from a panel of advisers before outlining a vision for America's space program.

"We've got an interagency study going on now that will enlighten us as to the best recommendations necessary for NASA to proceed in a way that is a good use of taxpayer dollars," Bush said, adding that he has not decided whether the study's goals should include manned exploration of other planets and beyond.

"I really don't have an opinion on Mars, but I do have an opinion that the more we explore, the better off America is," he said. "I believe in pushing the boundaries."

Bush's first public statement on his vision for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration comes less than a month after an independent board sharply criticized the lack of a unified vision for NASA, saying it was a factor in the agency's culture that contributed to the Feb. 1 crash of the space shuttle Columbia, killing all seven astronauts on board.

The president's statement met with immediate skepticism about whether the administration is committed to space exploration.

"Well, it's not John Kennedy," said John Pike, a space expert who runs the think tank

Kennedy, president when NASA launched the first manned spaceflights, set a goal in 1961 to place an American on the moon by the end of that decade. NASA landed its first astronauts there July 20, 1969.

"These are not decisions that can be made by committees," Pike said. "Considering that he's been president for three years, if he does not have developed views on these matters yet, it doesn't sound like it's likely to change."

Others said it was notable that Bush is not supporting a manned Mars mission, because his father, George H.W. Bush, set that goal in 1989 during his presidency. Congress bagged the idea as too costly and never funded it. Bush said he has a top-level administration group -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and White House science adviser John Marburger -- working on space policy.

O'Keefe, appointed to head the space agency in 2001 largely because of his experience at the White House budget office reining in federal spending, said Bush's comments indicated strong support for NASA.

"I am certain the president will make a proper decision, whatever that is," said O'Keefe, who attends the group's meetings but would not discuss specifics.

Since Columbia broke apart as it headed toward a Florida landing, Congress has been waiting to hear the president's goals for NASA before committing the huge sum of money experts say is needed to right the space agency.

The options range from speeding up development of an orbital space plane to augment the aging fleet of three remaining shuttles to setting a Mars mission as a long-term goal.

Sending astronauts to Mars likely would cost $100 billion, Pike said -- roughly the same, after adjusting for inflation, as the cost of the Apollo moon program Kennedy launched.

Whatever mission emerges for NASA, Bush said, it must be strong enough to gather broad-based support.

"It's very important for NASA to have a clear set of goals that are justifiable so that, when we go to Congress, the funding will come," he said.

The first President Bush ran into problems when, on the 20th anniversary of the first lunar landing, he announced the Space Exploration Initiative, focused on a Mars mission. The Democrat-controlled Congress refused to pay for the program.

The current President Bush has not made space a high priority, said space expert Roger Handberg, political-science professor at the University of Central Florida.

"The administration is supportive of human spaceflight," Handberg said, "as long as it doesn't cost much."

The nation has long lacked leadership on space issues, according to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which spent seven months on a wide-ranging probe of the causes of the Columbia tragedy.

"The U.S. civilian space effort has moved forward for more than 30 years without a guiding vision, and none seems imminent," the board wrote in its report. "In the past, this absence of a strategic vision in itself has reflected a policy decision, since there have been many opportunities for national leaders to agree on ambitious goals for space, and none have done so."

Pike said only a president can commit the nation to a project as expensive as sending astronauts to Mars. The mission is complicated and expensive because of the length of time and distance traveled.

Handberg said Bush is like many members of Congress in not having a viewpoint on whether to go to Mars. Beyond the "dreamers" at NASA and among space advocates, the cost of going to Mars is unrealistically high, he said.

Bush said he had no specific timetable for the White House space panel but wanted suggestions from it "sooner rather than later."

Said O'Keefe: "We've got instructions to be expeditious."

Tamara Lytle can be reached at 202-824-8255 or

Reservists say they remain in Iraq with no mission

Members of a Fort Eustis reserve unit say they were sent to fly perilous missions over Iraq with outdated night vision goggles, old missile-avoidance systems and communications equipment they were unable to use.

They had to secretly borrow higher-quality night-vision goggles from a Navy source who ``probably put his career on the line to do something that our chain of command was unwilling to do,'' they say.

In a letter to Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-1st District, the soldiers say they were treated like second-class citizens when compared with active-duty military, even though they were involved in the search for weapons of mass destruction during combat.

``Our air crews asked, `Why are the active units getting the extra protection and we are not, are we not as valuable? Is our mission not as important?' '' the letter asks.

It points out that some of the soldiers were issued bulletproof vests without the insertable ceramic plates that make them bulletproof and mittens with wool inserts -- ``knowing that the average temperature from April through October is 120 degrees.''

And though their mission ended June 24, they say they are being kept at a tented compound in Camp Udairi, Kuwait, ``without a purpose,'' a deployment the Army said probably will not end until next year.

The letter was written by Chief Warrant Officer Bill Basabilbaso of Newport News, a pilot and flight instructor in the unit. It echoes concerns raised by many other reservists, whose call-ups have increased dramatically since the United States launched its war on terrorism in 2001.

Basabilbaso said he sent the letter to Davis ``for her eyes only, not for public consumption.''

He said he wrote to Davis ``hoping she could initiate an investigation that will result in better funding and better training for the reserve soldier and better management of the reserve soldier once deployed.''

``This is a serious situation,'' Chris Connelly, Davis' chief of staff, said Friday. He said Davis will ask the secretary of the Army to review the issues raised in the letter.

Friends and family members of the 45-man Army aviation detachment said the letter expresses concerns shared by unit members and their families.

``It is disturbing to know that our men and women in uniform are being sent to fight a war without the proper equipment,'' said Kerry Bannon, a Norfolk resident whose fiance, Spc. Gregory Robinette, is a member of the unit.

Bannon said she supports the president, but the letter's questions need to be answered. She sent a version of the letter to Virginia's two U.S. senators, John Warner, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and George Allen; and Rep. Ed Schrock, who represents the 2nd District.

In response, Schrock is ``drafting a letter to go to Army legislative affairs to try to find out what the problems are,'' said Tom Gordy, Schrock's chief of staff, on Friday. ``We often see that active-duty components have more modern equipment, and the reserve components sometimes have equipment that does not meet standards. A lot of times the reserves get the hand-me-downs.''

The disparity between equipment used by reserve and active-duty components ``is an issue we're going to have to address to reduce friendly-fire incidents and make sure we do things most efficiently,'' Gordy said.

Allen responded to Bannon on Sept. 5, saying he was sending a copy of the letter to the Department of the Army ``for their consideration, and I have asked them to keep me informed of their progress.''

Warner spokesman John Ullyot said Friday that the senator ``is looking into the matter.''

The reserve unit -- Detachment 1, B Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment -- is made up of pilots who fly Chinook CH-47D helicopters and their support crew, including flight engineers, technicians and mechanics.

Most of the unit's members live in Virginia. They include college students, policemen, medical evacuation pilots, business owners and current and former airline pilots.

The part-time soldiers were mobilized Feb. 2 and arrived in Kuwait March 7, accompanied by four disassembled Chinooks the men reassembled at Camp Udairi, a U.S. air base in Kuwait, about 15 miles south of the Iraqi border.

The unit's battalion commander said last week that their deployment has been extended to a year under a new Pentagon policy that will mean longer duty assignments for Army reservists and National Guardsmen in Iraq and Kuwait. The unit's activation orders called for the members to spend no more than 179 days overseas.

The unit's aviators logged about 400 hours of daytime and nighttime flying during their mission, which was supporting the 75th Exploitation Task Force in the unsuccessful search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the letter said. Much of the mission was conducted under combat conditions after the March 20 Iraqi invasion. The unit suffered no casualties.

These are among the issues addressed in the letter:

Night-vision goggles

The unit unsuccessfully lobbied superiors to buy upgraded goggles long before deployment to Kuwait because the goggles that had been issued, called Type 1, are obsolete, the letter said.

``The Type 1 style were responsible for the many losses of aircraft and crews during Desert Storm,'' the letter said.

During a 10-year period starting in the mid-1980s, more than 183 aviators were killed and hundreds were injured in 88 crashes in which night-vision goggles were used, according to news reports. Flyers were wearing Type 1 goggles when some of those crashes occurred, according to those reports.

The head of the Army's aviation night-vision program said it would be an oversimplification to blame crashes and deaths solely on goggles. But he said the Army does not encourage the use of Type 1 goggles in combat.

Few Type 1 goggles remain in the Army's inventory, and most of them probably belong to reserve units, said Master Warrant Officer Dennis J. McIntire, who heads the Army's Aviation Night Vision Devices Branch at Fort Rucker, Ala.

He said the Fort Eustis unit should have upgraded to newer goggles before deployment. ``We want the guys who are on the front to have the best stuff,'' he said.

The detachment's commanders ``made every attempt'' to acquire upgraded goggles before deployment but were unsuccessful, said Lt. Col. Mark C. Smith, who commands the 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment. Smith responded from Kuwait to a series of written questions.

About a week before deployment, the reservists borrowed higher-quality goggles to use in the Middle East from a man who works for the Navy's night-vision goggles branch.

The special goggles amplify tiny particles of light and heat images, affording aviators a green-hued view of nocturnal landscapes that are virtually indiscernible to the unaided eye.

Still, flying in a low-light desert environment at night, especially under hostile conditions, ``is incredibly dangerous, the most dangerous helicopter flying you can do,'' said Tim Brown, a senior fellow with the Washington think tank

There's little room for error when a pilot is traveling at more than 100 mph, Brown said, hugging the ground under radar at an altitude of 50 feet or less. ``You want the best equipment there is for that,'' he said.

Outmoded communications and safety equipment.

The unit's helicopters are equipped with outdated missile-avoidance systems, and commanders turned down aviators' requests for newer ones, the letter said.

It added that the latest equipment can help aviators avoid heat-seeking missiles used by Iraqi soldiers. The aging systems still installed on the unit's Chinooks were designed to combat missiles used in the 1970s and early 1980s, according to the letter.

Those systems are effective ``only under the best conditions, i.e. seeing the missile when it is launched and then being able to fly the helicopter behind something that will mask our huge heat signature such as a large sand dune or building (unlikely).''

The new systems cost about $80,000 each. Unit members said they were told that the Army provided only active-duty units with the systems.

Smith said the battalion asked to be moved up on the Army's ``Force Modernization Plan'' to obtain the systems but was unable to get them before deployment.

However, Smith said, the current equipment ``is an effective system and provides adequate protection for our helicopters.''

Most of the soldiers in the unit deployed without desert flight suits and flight boots, the letter said. Many of the soldiers, including ground crewmen, were not given protective inserts for their bulletproof vests, though flight crews were provided with the proper vests before taking part in the search for weapons of mass destruction, a member of the unit said.

``We even had to take money out of our own pockets to get oil and oil filters for the military vehicles we were taking with us,'' the letter said.

The unit members also complained that they were not properly trained to use on-board radios and other communications equipment that could help distinguish friend from foe in combat conditions.

``Since we operated out of Kuwait far into Iraq,'' the letter said, ``we had no way to relay problems, or get changes to our mission as they arose.''

More importantly, ``we had no way to relay a message if we had problems, or forced landings, unless we were in a location where we could contact the patrolling AWACS,'' or reconnaissance aircraft, the letter said.

Smith responded that the detachment was without a communications officer for more than a year before mobilization. Shortly before the unit was mobilized, it was assigned a replacement officer ``who has done an outstanding job'' providing training on high-frequency radios and other communications equipment, he said.

Unfortunately, he said, some of the training was provided after Detatchment 1 had departed.

Defense analyst Brown said he is not surprised when he hears that reserve units are not as well-equipped or highly trained as active components of the armed forces.

``Generally the Guard and reserve are the last to get the new stuff,'' he said. ``The active-duty guys . . . they always get the new stuff.''

Stuck in Kuwait

In Kuwait, the men in Detachment 1 spend their nights sleeping in air-conditioned tents and their days battling boredom, relatives and friends said. They kill time hanging out at the morale welfare center, watching football games on TV, playing video games on an Xbox and making day trips to Camp Doha, family members said.

Families and friends of the unit's members said earlier this month that they were issued orders to be sent home in September, but those orders were revoked without explanation.

Smith said he requested that the detachment be extended ``to assist this battalion in accomplishing this mission.'' He did not describe that mission.

Now the men are part of the Pentagon's new policy, which means that Army reservists will spend one year in the Middle East unless the U.S. Central Command decides to send them home early, Smith said.

Smith said he understands the soldiers' disappointment. ``But I consider them vital to the success of this unit's mission in support of the global war on terrorism.''

The Virginian-Pilot recently contacted more than a dozen family members and friends of the men in the unit, but most were reluctant to talk, saying they feared reprisals from the military.

One who did talk is Amanda Harris of Wise. She is the wife of a helicopter mechanic in the unit, Spc. Brian Harris. The two wed on Jan. 30, three days before he left Southwest Virginia for Fort Eustis.

``Neither one of us would be so frustrated if he had a mission there, but their mission is over,'' said Amanda Harris, 21.

In their letter, the unit members noted that their continued deployment in Kuwait without a mission ``will damage the retention of good experienced soldiers in the unit.''

The letter concludes: ``We did our mission; it is time for us to return to our lives, because we know that soon enough, we will be called again to serve for an extended period of time.''

Some may not want to send troops

Even if the Bush administration gets a new United Nations resolution authorizing an international force, many world leaders face formidable problems in trying to convince their people of the wisdom of sending troops to a country where U.S. soldiers are attacked almost daily.

"Think of the domestic politics for those who are considering sending troops," says Ellen Laipson, president of the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank specializing in national security. "Even if there is a U.N. mandate, they're facing a much more dangerous security environment."

Bush shifted course last week when he proposed to cede some control over postwar Iraq to the United Nations in hopes of persuading allies to send more peacekeeping troops.

Public opinion polls in France, Germany, India, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey, some of the nations the Pentagon hopes will supply troops, show that people remain strongly opposed to the Iraq operation.

Pentagon planners are counting on a second multinational force, besides one led by Poland, to replace the Army's 101st Airborne in February, but no country has emerged to lead that division, and no forces have been identified as replacements.

The most prized troops are from nations that have trained with U.S. forces, have modern weapons and are well-funded.

"You need pretty capable troops, like northern Europeans, who are well-trained for this," says Nancy Soderberg, a former U.N. ambassador and President Clinton's director of the National Security Council. "This is a war, and the Third World countries who are good at peacekeeping when there is peace to keep will not work here."

Even if the U.N. Security Council authorizes a force, that won't solve the other problems that stand in the way of finding and getting more troops to Iraq:

• Political opposition. Parliaments in Turkey and India have rejected sending troops, and a U.N. resolution might not sway or overcome their opposition. India said Friday that it wouldn't send troops even with a resolution.

• Lack of available, well-trained troops. There are 15 U.N. peacekeeping missions underway around the world, plus non-U.N. multinational forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Those deployments have drained troops from countries with well-trained forces.

• Transportation. Because most military forces are designed to defend the homeland, few have the capability to transport forces any substantial distance.

For example, a U.N. force for Congo, largely from Uruguay, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nepal, took nearly four months to arrive.

• Open-ended mission. Defense analysts say a nation generally needs three times the number of troops it will send on a foreign mission to ensure a rotation of fresh soldiers. Under that guideline, a nation would need 15,000 available troops to send 5,000 to Iraq. Few countries have that kind of flexibility for an Iraq mission with an unknown end date.

• Ineffective forces and Iraqi political opposition to troops from certain nations. For example, "Pakistani troops have proven incapable of policing their own border with Afghanistan, and the image of (Hindu) Indian troops effectively stabilizing a Muslim population is difficult to sustain," says Andrew Krepinevich, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. "The Russian experience against Muslims in Chechnya could render them most unwelcome in Iraq."

NATO members such as Denmark and the Netherlands that backed the U.S. effort have few additional troops to spare but are trying to increase their commitment. The Danish parliament is considering increasing its 422-troop deployment in Iraq by a few hundred.

"Clearly, this is not the time to say it is horrible down there and let's pull out and not send any more. This is the time for the opposite, namely to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and the Iraqi people," said Karen Eva Abrahamsen with the Danish Embassy.

All that could leave the Pentagon to cobble a force with troops from less advanced militaries, something experts say wouldn't work.

Eastern European nations in line to join NATO and others looking to win favor with the United States are making contributions but are already facing problems in Iraq.

The Bulgarians, for example, have found their older weapons and communication systems breaking down in the harsh elements.

"Some of these nations want to help, but their military and equipment is obsolete for a desert environment," says Patrick Garrett, an analyst with, an Alexandria, Va., defense study group. "They cannot handle the rigors of the climate as well as the rigors of an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)."

Some participating countries would want to negotiate memorandums of understanding with the United States specifying the duties their troops would perform. That leaves open the possibility that some nations would insist on staying out of high-risk areas or would refuse to participate in policing and anti-terrorist activities that have caused serious problems for the U.S.-led coalition.


Fighter pilots aboard the George Washington have stopped flying as investigators arrived on the Norfolk-based carrier to investigate why a cable failed to catch an F/A-18 Hornet on Thursday.

Navy officials said the cable, known as an arresting wire, on the carrier's flight deck broke during the jet's landing. The Hornet then went overboard, forcing the pilot to eject and injuring about a dozen sailors.

But key details - how the accident happened and how sailors on the flight deck were injured - remained undisclosed.

The George Washington has been underway and off the coast of Virginia since Tuesday, testing new pilots' ability to take off and land on the 4 1/2-acre flight deck. The pre-deployment process is known as carrier qualifications for the Atlantic Fleet Replacement Squadron, some of the Navy's newest pilots.

The pilot involved in the accident was rescued safely from the water, but five of the injured were flown off the carrier to local hospitals, officials said.

Portsmouth Naval Medical Center treated and planned to release three sailors Friday, said spokeswoman Lt. Jackie Fisher. The sailors declined to be interviewed, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, a spokeswoman for the Atlantic Fleet's Naval Air Force.

One of the sailors brought to the trauma unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital was moved Friday to Portsmouth Naval because the patient's condition had improved, Fisher said.

The other sailor at Norfolk General was still listed in serious condition Friday. The Navy has not released the names of the injured.

According to officials, the Hornet pilot approached the carrier at around 4 p.m. and tried to latch his tailhook to the flight deck's fourth and last arresting wire. The wire did not hold.

About 12 sailors were injured, officials said. Most had cuts and bruises. The Navy did not say whether the unsecured wire struck the sailors directly. An F-14 Tomcat fighter jet and an E-2C Hawkeye early-warning plane were also damaged during the accident, officials said.

All of the injured sailors "are doing fine," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark told reporters Friday after a briefing he received on the accident. Clark, the Navy's top officer, was in Virginia Beach as keynote speaker for the establishment of the Navy's Human Performance Center at Dam Neck.

"My immediate interest is the speedy recovery of those sailors," he said. "The second order of business is to find out how this happened. Something like this hasn't happened in years and years."

Since 1980, there have been three deaths, 12 major injuries and five minor injuries associated with arresting gear-related accidents, according to data compiled Friday for The Virginian-Pilot by the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk. The data included Thursday's accident.

Two teams intend to explore the accident's aftermath, Robertson said. One group would look at the arresting wire gear; the other would serve as an investigation team into the accident.

The George Washington, a Nimitz-class carrier, is essentially a floating airport, capable of launching as many as four aircraft per minute. The ship's four catapults and four arresting gear engines can launch and recover aircraft simultaneously.

The four arresting wires, each consisting of thick cables connected to hydraulic rams below deck, bring landing aircraft going as fast as 150 mph to a stop in less than 400 feet, according to, an independent Web site specializing in defense information.


Links with al-Qaeda. Decades of human rights abuses in East Timor. Now violently suppressing Aceh independence movement at a cost of 12,000 lives. BUYING: Since 1997 Labour government has approved 377 arms export licences to region. UK-built Scorpion tanks and Hawk jets being used in Aceh, breaking contractual agreements.


Al-Qaeda known to operate in Pakistan. Offered undercover journalists anti-personnel landmines after meeting at DSEi 1999. BUYING: Despite conflict over Kashmir with nuclear rival India, British government approved military sales worth £15million, while also arming India. SELLING: PM Pervez Musharraf recently admitted Israel was only country he would be reluctant to sell arms to. Pakistan Ordnance Factory makes landmines, bombs, grenades, machine guns and rifles.


Despite breaking dozens of UN resolutions in conflict over Palestine, Britain doubled defence contracts to £22million in 2001. BUYING: In 2002, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw bent UK regulations to allow sale of parts for US-built F16s used in attacks on Occupied Territories. SELLING: Israel Military Industries sells cluster bombs, sub-machine guns, machine guns, missiles, mortar ammunition. IMI was asked by MoD not to display cluster bombs this year but could still tout for future business. Pressure group claims Rafael's Haifa operation is site of a nuclear weapons design lab.


Invited by government but declined to attend. Labelled rogue state by US because of suspected illegal chemical weapons programme and links with terror group Hezbollah.


More than one million Kalashnikovs left Bulgaria after Cold War, ending up with some of world''s most brutal armies, militants and gangsters.

A 1999 Human Rights Watch report called country''s defence industry an "anything goes weapons bazaar"." Allegedly broke UN embargo on selling weapons to Sierra Leone in 1998. SELLING: Arsenal Co. makes assault rifles, grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns.


BUYING: British government approved military sales worth £118million to India in 2002, when country was teetering on brink of nuclear war with Pakistan over Kashmir.

Saudi Arabia BUYING: British arms exports to Saudi were worth about £63million in 2002, despite abusive regime.


Long suspected of selling weapons on to rogue states, despite a partial arms embargo. SELLING: Norinco make rifles, sub-machine guns, machine guns.


Turkey remains key military ally in the Middle East, despite appalling human rights record against Kurds. BUYING: Human Rights Watch reported weapons sold to Turkey by UK, US, Germany and Russia were used to commit atrocities. Also suspected of selling on UK military technology to rogue states. SELLING: MKEK, makes ammunition, small arms, rockets, hand grenades, pistols, artillery rockets and explosives, multiple launch rocket systems and chemicals for arms production.


Al-Qaeda known to operate in Morocco. War on Want has called for ban on weapons which could be used to support Morocco''s armed occupation of Western Sahara, such as gun parts sold by Britain in 2001. Belgium

SELLING: FN Herstal, Rifles, machine guns, small arms ammunition. In 2002, company won contract to export 5,500 machine guns to Nepal.


SELLING: Despite Britain''s ratification of anti-landmine Ottowa Treaty in March 1999, Romanian defence firm Romtechnica openly used DSEi that autumn to promote its anti-personnel landmines.

South Africa

BUYING: Currently spending more than £3.5billion on major defence contracts with European firms, including 24 BAE Hawk jets. SELLING: Thirty-six South African companies will have stalls at fair including Dene which makes missiles, infantry weapons and ammunition. Secured £18million deal with Algeria in 1998 when government there was involved in conflict with Islamist opponents.


BUYING: The British government approved a £28million BAE contract to sell an air traffic control system in 1998, opposed by Chancellor Gordon Brown and the World Bank.

United Kingdom

SELLING: BAE Systems, Britain''s biggest defence firm has been caught up in controversy over its high pressure sales tactics, boardroom antics. It has been forced to issue stern denials of bribery in deals with India, the Czech Republic and South Africa and against UN allegations it broke sanctions to sell to Robert Mugabe''s regime in Zimbabwe. Best- known for Hawk jets, naval vessels and missile defence technology, but also sells artillery, small arms and mortars to 50 countries through subsidiary RO Defence. Heckler & Koch has factories in Nottingham and sells under licence in Pakistan, Turkey and until recently, Iran and Myanmar. Rifles, sub-machine guns and machine guns in use in 90 countries. Alvis, UK sold Scorpion tanks to Indonesia which were deployed in violent suppression of independence movement in Aceh, breaking restrictions placed on their use in a Labour- government backed 1997 £100million contract.

America's growing network of bases

For a symbol of the way that America's overseas presence has changed since September 11, 2001, look no further than the Peter J Ganci air base.

Named after a New York fire chief killed when the World Trade Centre collapsed, this small but strategic base is in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. This used to be no more than a smudge on the post-Soviet map until it was transformed by the war on terrorism.

Ganci is a different beast from the sprawling American air bases of East Anglia, Germany, Italy or Japan, which resemble transplanted slices of small-town America.

Instead it is essentially temporary, ready to be mothballed or closed should the threat to the United States shift elsewhere. For bases like Ganci, and dozens more that have sprung up since 2001, impermanence is the whole point. They are heavily guarded and discreet to avoid provoking often hostile local populations. There are no wives or children to be seen: only air force technicians, soldiers or special forces.

The other constant is the presence of contractors from the private corporations that provide logistics to the US military.

Some outsiders have watched the astonishing spread of US power across the globe and accused America of building a new empire.

Ganci lies at the heart of what Pentagon planners call "the arc of instability" - a band of troubled, poor or failed states taking in the drug-producing areas of Latin America, much of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and South-East Asia.

Before September 11, few in Washington gave much thought to these unhappy regions. Since the attacks, the United States has moved with speed and stealth to secure air bases, landing rights, and military agreements across the arc.

"Since September 11, 2001, the United States has built, upgraded or expanded military facilities in Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Bulgaria, Romania, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Djibouti, the Philippines and Diego Garcia," said Patrick Garrett, who tracks US military deployments for a Washington clearing house for strategic intelligence,

The United States is reportedly seeking bases in Mali and Algeria, and permission to refuel in Uganda and Senegal. There is also talk of bases in Singapore, Australia and even Vietnam.

It certainly looks like a new empire. But empires imply a desire to hold and defend vast territories. The United States wants only to land, fight - then leave, if need be.

Pentagon chiefs envisage a global network of "lily pads" or "warm bases", forward depots which would hold enough weaponry, vehicles and supplies to equip large rapid reaction forces, which would fly in at short notice through a handful of large air hubs, such as Ramstein in Germany. Other equipment would be kept in floating warehouses at sea.

Strike forces would head for "virtual bases", airfields in any of a wide range of countries to have granted the United States emergency access rights.

So, far from entangling the United States in imperial alliances, the new doctrine is instead born of distrust, and America's fears of being let down by even its oldest allies, argues Celeste Johnson Ward, a fellow of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In the long term, the Pentagon's dreams are more radical still.

Its research arm recently solicited bids for a new breed of space-based unmanned hypersonic bombers, capable of taking off from American soil and striking targets on the far side of the globe within two hours, without waiting for permission to use bases, or for overflight rights.

The ultimate aim is to leave America's enemies in fear of a strike from a clear blue sky at any second or, in the Pentagon's words, "to hold adversary vital interests at risk at all times".

History of Camp Shelby

A history of Camp Shelby Army National Guard Training Site:

1917: Camp Shelby activated as training camp for World War I troops. Named in honor of Isaac Shelby, Indian fighter, Revolutionary War hero and 1st Governor of Kentucky, by the first troops to train there, the 38th Division.

1918: Camp Shelby deactivated at end of World War I.

1934: State of Mississippi acquires Camp Shelby for use as National Guard summer camp.

1940: Camp Shelby reopens as federal installation, with its population exceeding 100,000 troops at one time during World War II. The base also housed a prisoner of war camp for members of the German Afrika Corps. Camp Shelby is closed at conclusion of war.

Korean War: Camp Shelby becomes emergency railhead facility.

1956: Continental Army Command designates Camp Shelby as a permanent training site.

1958: Congress allocates money for first permanent-type barracks at Camp Shelby.

Here comes the space competition
With China embarking on an ambitious program to put one of its own in orbit, the skies won't be just ours and the Russians' for long

The first rocket man came from China, and so may the next.

Around 1500, the legend goes, a man named Wan Hu strapped himself into a chair, had assistants light the fuses of 47 attached rockets and took off into the sky.

Next month, if all goes according to plan, another man, or possibly two, will climb into the more modern Shenzhou 5 spacecraft and blast off once again for space.

Whether Wan Hu made it or blew himself to bits remains lost in myth. But if these new rocket men succeed, China would officially join the United States and Soviet Union as the only nations to put people in orbit.

China's planned launch isn't the only flight activity stealing the space spotlight from the United States. Europe sent its first mission to Mars in June and plans to launch a lunar probe by the end of this month. India recently announced that it intends to launch a moon mission in 2008. And Brazil was trying to launch South America's first satellite when the rocket exploded on the launch pad on Aug. 22, killing 21 technicians.

How these foreign efforts fare could affect how NASA copes with the aftermath of the Columbia shuttle disaster. A successful launch by China, for instance, might reinvigorate U.S. politicians to formulate a national vision for space.

"Some of us specialists down in the trenches, we can see an overall impact way down the road that will force the administration to make real decisions about the future of space flight," said Charles P. Vick, a space analyst and consultant with the Web site globalsecurity .org.

In the near term, no country can threaten NASA's role as the world's premier space agency. "But the question is, what happens if NASA starts looking lame compared to China?" said astronomer Jonathan McDowell, author of an online newsletter about space launches.

For the most part, information about China's space program is limited to government releases through state-run media. Still, Western observers have cobbled together what they believe is a fairly comprehensive picture of what to expect this fall.

Decades of work

The Shenzhou 5 launch is the latest accomplishment of a space program that China has worked on for decades, said Phillip Clark of Molniya Space Consultancy in England.

China launched its first satellite in 1970, but its manned space flight program didn't take off until the government began Project 921 in 1992, as part of a national push to invest in science and technology. For help, China looked to Russia's expertise, sending its astronaut candidates to a Russian training camp and purchasing old Soyuz spacecraft, the mainstay of Soviet and Russian manned space flight.

Chinese engineers have since designed the series of Shenzhou, or "heavenly vessel," spacecraft. Some parts, such as the booster rockets, are technologically original, said Phillip Saunders, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. Other aspects are adapted and expanded from Russian designs; from the outside, the Shenzhou looks like a Soyuz, but it is larger, more powerful and more maneuverable.

The first Shenzhou flew in secrecy in November 1999. It lifted off from the main launch pad at Jiuquan, in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China, and landed after orbiting Earth for a day, said Mr. Clark, who analyzed orbital data from NASA for each of the Chinese flights.

Three following flights each lasted a week and grew progressively more complex: Shenzhou 2 did its first maneuvers in orbit in January 2001, Shenzhou 3 carried a dummy astronaut in March 2002, and Shenzhou 4 had a complete life-support system on its flight in December 2002.

Shenzhou 5 is supposed to fly sometime this fall, according to Chinese media reports. Oct. 1 marks the anniversary of the government's coming to power, and many space observers have targeted Oct. 10 as a possible launch date.

Because the Chinese space program has gone forward so slowly and carefully, it may very well pull off the Shenzhou 5 launch without the kind of setbacks that plagued the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s, said Mr. Clark. The real question is whether anyone in the West will notice.

"It may be a two-day news story wonder," he said.

Whichever man China chooses - and all the candidates are reportedly men - he will join the ranks of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and astronaut Alan Shepard as his country's first representative in space. (Gagarin made one full orbit of Earth in 1961; Shepard and Gus Grissom made suborbital flights before John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.)

The taikonauts or yuhang yuans, as Chinese space fliers are called, will probably become national heroes as astronauts and cosmonauts were in the 1960s, said Dr. Saunders. "This is something that is seen as a tremendous achievement, both for Chinese science and technology and for the Chinese system," he said.

What will happen after Shenzhou 5 remains a mystery. China isn't due to release another five-year plan for its space program until nearly 2006. But the government has floated ideas of a manned space station, an unmanned lunar probe, or even a manned trip to the moon.

"You can assume they will start working on a manned lunar landing," said Mr. Vick of "That becomes a different game where they're in effect taking us on."

Expensive goal

But to do so, China would have to develop a new launch vehicle that could break out of Earth orbit - something that would take many more years and a lot more money. China currently spends an estimated $ 2 billion annually on its entire space program; the United States spent $ 7 billion each year, in modern dollars, just to develop the Apollo program to the moon.

Instead, China may take Russia's approach and develop a space station like the now-defunct Mir, Mr. Clark said. Such a station would give taikonauts a platform for doing long-term scientific experiments and a base for further exploration. (China has made overtures to join the 16-nation International Space Station, now in orbit, but was rebuffed by members of Congress including Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chair of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics.)

As for going to the moon, no official announcement has been made, much less any sort of schedule set.

"I've always had the view that the Chinese have penciled in 2020 or thereabouts as being the time that they'd like to have their first people on the moon," said Mr. Clark. "In July 2019, there won't be anyone else there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's landing."

In essence, China is now where the United States and Soviet Union were four decades ago - practicing the first steps into space and perhaps harboring dreams of further exploration. But in the earliest of those steps, space experts see no problems with the Shenzhou 5 launch going off as planned.

"The things that could set it back would be technological problems on their side," said Dr. Saunders, "or if there is a renewed focus on safety concerns, not just in light of the U.S. shuttle disaster but also the Brazilian launch."

Brazil's rocket tragedy has decimated its technological workforce, said Dr. McDowell, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. It was Brazil's third attempt at launching a satellite aboard its own rocket. Government officials have not pinpointed a cause for the disaster, but the country has pledged to continue its space program even as the investigation continues.

Joining the crowd

Nine other countries have gone where Brazil has not yet, launching their own rockets successfully. In 2002, according to Dr. McDowell's satellite catalog, the launch roster looked like a list of ethnic restaurants: 23 were Russian, 18 American, 11 European, four Chinese, three Japanese, one Indian and one Israeli. That breakdown roughly corresponds to current list of space powers in the world, a list once dominated solely by the Soviet Union and the United States.

France and Great Britain have also launched their own satellites, but now work under the aegis of the European Space Agency, or ESA. Fifteen countries belong to ESA, which is based in Paris. Its members have worked smoothly together as a freestanding agency in which countries can spend money on as many or as few projects as they like, said Alasdair McLean, a space policy analyst in Aberdeen, Scotland.

ESA's new Mars Express mission, and its upcoming SMART-1 probe to the moon, reflect how Europe has always emphasized science over manned space flight, he said. ESA does maintain a small group of astronauts in Germany who hitch rides into space aboard U.S. or Russian launch vehicles.

"Europe is just getting to the point now where it's competing as an equal, but it's definitely Avis to NASA's Hertz," said Dr. McDowell.

The last guest astronaut to go into space was Israel's Ilan Ramon, who died in February aboard Columbia. The next will be Spain's Pedro Duque, who is slated to launch to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 18.

Mr. Duque will fly up with U.S. astronaut Michael Foale, a veteran of the Mir station, and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri. Mr. Foale and Mr. Kaleri will replace the current two-man space station crew, while Mr. Duque will come back to Earth after a week in space.

The ever-changing roster aboard the space station continues to reflect that most of the money for the station comes from the United States and most of the long-term space experience from the Russians, said Dr. McDowell.

Even the new U.S.-Russian cooperation may not set the standard in space for long. Decades ago, Arthur C. Clarke envisioned such a pairing in his novel 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. But as the Americans and Russians fly together to Jupiter, they are caught offguard by another mission - a spaceship from China.


FILE 1963/Associated PressThe crowded frontier

October 1957: Soviet Union launches Sputnik, kicking off modern space race.

January 1958: United States launches its first satellite, Explorer 1.

April 1961: Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbits Earth, the first human in space.

May 1961: Alan Shepard becomes first American in space.

December 1964: Italy becomes third nation to send a satellite into space

November 1965: France launches its first satellite.

July 1969: Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.

February 1970: Japan launches its first satellite.

April 1970: China launches its first satellite.

April 1971: Soviet Union launches Salyut 1, first of many Russian space stations.

October 1971: Great Britain launches first satellite, after government has already shut down its space program.

May 1973: Skylab, the United States' first and only space station, is launched.

July 1980: India launches its first satellite.

April 1981: United States flies its first space shuttle, Columbia.

September 1988: Israel launches its first satellite.

November 2000: Two Russians and one American become first residents of International Space Station.

October 2003: China is expected to launch its first man into space

SOURCES: Space Almanac, Dallas Morning News research

Hit By A Mistake,
A Marine Asks Why; Marine Facing Recovery After Bombing Accident While Assigned to Anti-Terrorism Duty in Africa

Marine Cpl. Steven Johnson is another wounded soldier back from war.

But Johnson's war was different. While other members of his reserve company from Greensboro went to Kuwait and Iraq this winter, he agreed to serve as a helicopter radio operator in Djibouti, a small desert country in Eastern Africa that coalition forces use as a base for the war on terrorism.

From the time that nine 750-pound bombs dropped around him the morning of June 22, Johnson said, he realized that his company had been hit by the U.S. Air Force. The Marines had been participating in a training exercise with the Air Force, he explained, and there were no enemies in the area.

One Marine died and seven others and one sailor were injured that day. Johnson, severely burned and with numerous bones broken, almost died. After two months in a military hospital, he returned to his home in Kannapolis on Aug. 29.

What awaits Johnson now is at least a year of therapy. His dream of being a police officer is on hold.

And he has had a different homecoming from most wounded warriors. Though Johnson has been honored in his community, medals traditionally aren't handed out for training injuries.

"A bomb's a bomb, I don't care whether your friends drop it or your enemies drop it," said Johnson, who is 22. "I was still doing my duty."

Air Force officials have not contacted him or his family. Johnson said he knows that the bombing was an accident, but he is left with questions about why it happened during an exercise designed to enhance communication procedures between air and ground forces.

"The investigation is still pending, awaiting final approval," said Lt. Gary Arasin, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, Air Force. "It's one of those things. You train your folks, you equip them, you try to prevent accidents from happening. But we're in a dangerous business. That's basically it." Crawling from the wreckage

Military accidents, whether in training or combat, can be as dramatic as a bombing or as commonplace as a Humvee crash. Accidental deaths have long outweighed those in combat. During 1991, the year that included the first Gulf War, 931 service people died in accidents and 148 died in "hostile" incidents, according to the Department of Defense.

By the time Johnson joined Junior ROTC at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, the number of accidental deaths had been dipping for years, thanks to enhanced technology and safety measures.

After graduating from high school, Johnson enlisted in the reserves and studied at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

In January, he said, his sergeant called from Greensboro and said that the coalition forces in Djibouti needed a radio operator. Johnson went, figuring that he would soon be bound for Iraq anyway.

His mother said she felt a sort of relief at the news.

"If he had to go somewhere, this would maybe be a safer place," Patricia Johnson said.

Johnson was with a Marine helicopter squadron at Camp Lemonier Djibouti. There was a lot of boredom and training, Johnson said, but he also took part in some activities that he is not allowed to talk about.

That's not unusual for those serving in Djibouti, said Patrick Garrett, an associate analyst for, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Alexandria, Va., that studies defense and other issues.

"The only time you hear about what they're doing is if they make an enormous mistake or have an enormous success, like killing an al-Qaida member in Yemen last year," he said.

The accident in June was a mistake that made national news.

It was similar to three other training exercises that the Air Force and Marines had held in Djibouti since December.

Two choppers had just landed at an observation point near the bombing range. Johnson was monitoring radio traffic in one of them when the Air Force B-52 dropped the bombs.

Somehow, Johnson said, he dragged himself from the burning helicopter and ran about 15 feet, with his shin bone popping out of his right leg, before he fell among some rocks.

The Marine captain who had been piloting his chopper, Capt. Seth Michaud of Hudson, Mass., was lying on the sand near him, Johnson said. He had massive chest and stomach injuries, and he died about half an hour later. He was 27 and left behind a wife and young son.

Johnson suffered second- and third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body, a broken right leg, two broken arms, a shattered left elbow, nerve damage in his left arm, and numerous injuries from shrapnel. He later learned that he had lost 40 percent of the hearing in his right ear, but doctors said that he should get most of his hearing back.

Apparently, the observation point was mistaken for the target point, said Michaud's father, Francis Michaud of Hudson.

In the minutes after the bombing, Johnson said, he struggled to survive.

"Boot camp'll give you this mentality; you almost think you're invincible," he said. "The first bomb hits, you figure you're not invincible. That mentality did save my life, though."

He said he didn't feel so much pain as weariness. Fellow Marines urged him to stay awake, and Johnson said he did so by talking about his fiancee and his parents.

He was flown to a Djibouti hospital, where he finally passed out. He doesn't remember anything else, he said, until waking up at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, on July 4.

For a month, Johnson was in intensive care. His 5-foot, 10-inch frame shriveled from 160 pounds to 128.

He spent his final month there going through twice-daily cleansing of his burns, an ordeal in which nurses stripped away his dead skin. He learned how to stand and then to walk again.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stopped by to see Johnson during a visit to the hospital. But no one from the Air Force has made any effort to apologize, visit or console him, which bothers some in Johnson's family.

"You'd have thought they'd send a letter," said Melissa Moser, Johnson's older sister.

There are reasons that Air Force officials haven't contacted Johnson, said Dan Goure, the vice president of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., a think thank that deals with military issues.

"Don't dismiss the Air Force as being a bunch of insensitive slobs,'' he said. "It may bureaucratic or it may even be legal.... In the United States, an apology may be a legal admission of guilt."

Defense analysts and military historians note that the Air Force has a strong history of investigations that hold its pilots accountable when warranted. Such investigations are especially sensitive when they involve the accidental bombings of American troops.

Johnson and Francis Michaud said they are ready for the investigation to be over.

"Hopefully, they can understand what happened, to save some future lives," Michaud said.

He is not worried about possible penalties against those whose errors may have cost his son's life.

"It doesn't change the outcome," he said.

Carrying scars

Johnson is settling back into civilian life now, splitting his days between therapy paid for by the government and time with his fiancee, Jamie Jenkins. He said that his doctors tell him that after more surgeries he should make as much as a 95 percent recovery. But getting there is hard.

Jenkins sometimes tries to help him handle his cutlery at meals, but he rebuffs her efforts, saying that he wants to do it himself. She cleans his wounds, and recently she pulled from his ear a piece of shrapnel that had worked its way to the surface.

He will carry several other pieces in his body the rest of his life, Johnson said.

He carries emotional scars as well, moments in which he said he is back inside the burning chopper, seeing the flames, smelling the gas and hearing the live ammo packed inside begin to explode.

Occasionally, he and his family talk about the bombing.

Patricia Johnson emphasizes that accidents happen, but said that "it reeks" that her son didn't get a medal for incurring his injuries. Seth Michaud was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but there was no posthumous medal for him.

"Was he any less patriotic or dedicated or whatever than somebody who died due to enemy fire?'' Michaud's father asked. "He made the ultimate sacrifice, and is that lessened by the fact that it was friendly fire rather than enemy fire that killed him? I struggle with that. But I'm not sure that a medal would mean anything."

Several military scholars said that medals and awards should be reserved for combat.

Richard Kohn, a professor of military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that training deaths are a tragedy but "most of the time, we give awards for something positive happening."

Steven Johnson didn't know the crew of the B-52, which he said was probably flying from a base on the Indian Ocean. He doesn't get mad about the accident. But his best friend, Matthew Gobble of Concord, does.

Gobble, also a Marine corporal, said that friends of his were killed when the Air Force accidentally bombed them during a March 23 fight for a bridge in Nasiryah, Iraq.

Gobble, who was near that bombing, said he found it tough to look at Johnson and his wounds.

"It brought back some bad memories," he said. "It was hard.... I'd just lost friends to stupidity, pretty much."

Johnson is more reserved in talking about his bombing.

He said he believes in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq and that it was worth all of his injuries to take part in that fight. Still, he can't help but wonder.

The training exercise in which he was bombed had been planned for at least a week, he said, so why couldn't the error have been anticipated and corrected?

"I mean, normally, they check and double-check these things two or three times," he said.

Nor is he sure that he is ready to forgive the bombers.

"If they feel remorse about it, yes," Johnson said. "If they're cold-hearted about it, no."

GRAPHIC: Journal photos by Ted Richardson , Steven Johnson visits with his fiancee, Jamie Jenkins. He is home after two months of treatment at a hospital in San Antonio.

1. Johnson begins therapy with Diane Wassum at Carolinas Medial Center in Charlotte. A8: Steven Johnson and Jamie Jenkins survey some of the leg burns he suffered while serving with the Marines in Djibouti.

2. Johnson and his mother, Patricia Johnson, go through some "welcome home" mail he has received since returning from a Texas hospital, where he was treated for burns and fractures.

3. Matthew Gobble of Concord visits with Johnson at Johnson's home in Kannapolis. Gobble served as a Marine in the war in Iraq.

How much longer can U.S. pretend it has no empire?

There is a very cunning after-dinner board game called SPQR that involves the defense of the Roman Empire at its height. The board itself is a map of Europe and the Mediterranean, showing Roman cities and ports and the military roads and sealanes that connect them. The game involves the "senators and populace" moving selected Roman legions (there were 27 of them in, say, 80 A.D.) along those internal lines in response to new threats, whether they arise from Syria, Scotland or across the River Danube. There were few places along the borders of the empire where one legion was further than a 10-day march from reinforcing another--which was just as well, since Rome's expansion had given it many enemies and a legion that was based in Sicily one year might find itself in the north of England, guarding Hadrian's Wall, the next.

I thought of SPQR while reading "Where Are the Legions? Global Deployments of U.S. Forces," published by Global Security, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research group based outside Washington, ( The message of the article is clear, and very disturbing: There may not be many U.S. troops coming home soon, perhaps not for a long time.

Currently, the United States has stationed military forces in about 130 countries, fighting in some of them, peacekeeping in others and training foreign militaries in yet others. One can hear former U.S. President George Washington spinning in his grave.

To be sure, the United States has had standing military commitments abroad since the end of World War II--the occupations of Germany and Japan, the Korean War and the global rivalry with the Soviet Union made sure of that. But when the Warsaw Pact collapsed, it was generally assumed that things would be different. Alas, that simply is not so. The fight against Al-Qaida, the war and guerrilla resistance in Iraq, the implosion of Liberia, the continued unrest in Afghanistan, instability on the Korean Peninsula and the need to reassure Japan of a strong U.S. presence in the western Pacific have all conspired against a drawdown of U.S. forces in the far corners of the globe. On the contrary, they have very much been "drawn up."

Using official statistics, the editors at Global Security report that there are 155 combat battalions in the U.S. Army. Before October 2001, only 17 of these were deployed on active combat service, presumably in Kosovo and a few other hot spots (garrison deployment in Germany and Japan is not regarded as active combat service). Today that figure stands at 98 combat battalions deployed in active areas. Even a nonmilitary expert can see that this is an impossibly high number to sustain over the longer term, which is why, in addition to the 255,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard forces deployed in combat and peacekeeping missions abroad, we have sent an additional 136,000 troops from the national guard and reserves. Most of the ships belonging to U.S. carrier fleets are now back at their bases being refitted after the defeat of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but we still have 40,000 sailors afloat and on mission. Meanwhile, U.S. Army generals are asking for more troops to be deployed to Iraq, and the Pentagon has just diverted three warships to the coast of Liberia. The U.S. Defense Department now has to play the game of SPQR.

These are not comfortable facts, and they should surely be giving our congressional representatives cause for thought. It is true that the Pentagon is putting immense pressure on any government that counts itself as a friend of the United States to send forces to Iraq, Afghanistan and Liberia, but the results so far are unspectacular. Really, the only ground troops with heft and logistical capacity are the British, and, given all their other peacekeeping commitments (from the Balkans to Sierra Leone), they are probably more overstretched than the United States. Poland has assumed responsibility for running a relatively quiet (so far) zone in Iraq, but as the Wall Street Journal reported July 28, had to go to 22 countries to drum up the 9,000 troops for that zone and will rely heavily on U.S. technical support to function there at all. One wonders what utility U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz really accord a battalion of Latvian grenadiers in central Iraq. And what happens when they become the targets of grenade attacks?

Militarily--and let's forget for a moment the political debate about whether we should have gone into these countries in the first place--these awkward facts point to two equally awkward conclusions:

First, given the military overstretch, the United States needs a few more heavy hitters, along with the British. It needs armies with substantial punch that could send 25,000 troops to southwest Asia. But of the 190 national armies of the world, you can count the substantial ones on the fingers of one hand. Israel cannot play; China and Taiwan won't play. South Korea is pinned down at home and remains a drain on U.S. troop deployments. Japan is too psychologically and constitutionally restricted. A Pakistani presence alongside the United States in Iraq might lead to massive internal convulsions. A large Turkish contingent would see a retaliatory Kurdish uprising. This leaves India, Russia, France and Germany, and perhaps Italy, but four of those five opposed the Iraq war in the first place, and if we need them now, there will be a price to pay. This is as obvious today as it should have been in September. Of course, the United States can always "go it alone," but it does so at some cost. Only U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., seems to have realized that.

Second, the U.S. services, and the U.S. Army in particular, must come up with some long-term rotation scheme. They may have to move to a sort of Cardwell System, which was devised in the late 19th century by then British War Secretary Edward Cardwell to deal with the constant calls upon troops to serve abroad. One battalion of the British regiment was rotated out, perhaps to Afghanistan or Mesopotamia, for two or three years; the second battalion stayed home in the regimental barracks, recruiting fresh volunteers until its turn came to go abroad. The system worked, just as the SPQR system worked, because both combined regular rotation (helping troop morale) and strategic flexibility. Occasionally, there were horrible reverses: for the Romans in the German forests or the British in the Khyber Pass. But the structure was strong enough to allow for recovery, often for further advances. These were empires that were in it for the long haul.

Is that the U.S. democracy's future, to have its troops stationed for an undefined time on the Northwest Frontier or in a disease-ridden port in West Africa? We frantically deny that we have imperial ambitions, and I believe those denials to be sincere. But if we increasingly look like an empire and walk like an empire and quack like an empire, perhaps we are becoming one just the same.

Kennedy is the Dilworth professor of history at Yale University and the author or editor of about 16 books, including "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]