by Hans-Peter Richter

"Bombodrom" is the Russian word for a bombing training range. The "bombodrom" I speak about is located in Brandenburg (one of the federal countries in Germany). It is 80 km to the south to Berlin and 120 km to the north to the Baltic Sea. From north to south the area is 19 km long and from west to east between 5 km and 10 km, altogether 142 square km.

If you look to the map you find that there are many lakes, forests, heathes and nature reserves; it is very attractive for tourists, especially for canoeists and kayak riders.

This area was Soviet occupation zone and later German Democratic Republic. In the 50s the Soviets began to erect here a bombing training range. The private and public owners were forced to lease their soil for money, a very low sum. The area was not officially confiscated, but after the forced leasing the owners were not allowed to enter their property.

Until 1993 the Soviet and later Russian Air Force used the bombodrom for training low level flights and bombing. The people living in this area had to suffer a lot and called this area "Stalin's bombodrom". They hoped that after the reunification of Germany their suffering would end. At this time the land register still showed that the property belonged to the owners before the military use. So the owners hoped to get their land back. But in December 1993 the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) declared they want to use this area again. They built barriers and marked the area with hundreds of signposts saying that this is military area, which must not be entered. From 1994 to 2000 the bombodrom was used for low level flights but not form bombing training.

The inhabitants were very angry. Was the injustice of Soviet times be prolonged in the new democratic state?

In Germany citizens can file a suit to the administrative courts if they think they are treated unjustly by the state and its administrative authorities. All the concerned communities did this. From 1994 until today the court procedures go on and on, probably for the next five years. The highest administration court decided in 2000 that this area belongs to the state, because it was used for military reasons. But in the same judgement also declared that the use for the military is forbidden, because the Bundeswehr didn't made a hearing of all the concerned communities and didn't declare what they need the area for. A rather strange judgement! In the following years the Bundeswehr made the hearings afterwards in a superficial manner.

In July 2003 the minister of defence ordered to use the bombodrom now for the Bundeswehr and the allied forces. Against this order the concerned communities filed suits again to the administrative courts. The courts interim orders prohibit the military use again, mainly because of the noise. A expertise showed that the noise can have the power 115 dB(A), which means that a single low level flight can cause a lasting damage of human health. The main proceedings will last 5 years probably.

In the order from July 2003 you find details of the flight routes. Low level flights are possible down to 30 m (100 feet). There are some restricted areas where the minimum flight altitude is 450 m (1500 feet). These are the villages and one of the main tourist areas.

Military aspects

According to our minister of defence the whole world is area of operation. The Bundeswehr is changing rapidly from a strictly defensive army into an intervention force.

How is the Bundeswehr training for the future wars?

The Bundeswehr will be reformed until 2010 in three parts:

1) Intervention forces

2) Stabilization forces and

3) Support forces,

altogether 240,000 soldiers (now 250,000) and civil 75,000 employees (now 120,000).

The intervention forces are 35,000 Hi-Tech-soldiers:

- 15,000 for the NATO Response Force (NRF)

- 18,000 for the EU intervention forces (battle groups)

- 2,000 for UN-standby arrangements and national evacuating actions.

Stabilization forces are 70,000 soldiers for long time operations, like KFOR, SFOR, ISAF, etc.

Support forces are 135,000 soldiers and 75,000 civil employees.

Intervention forces of NATO and EU

26 Nations establish the NATO Response Force with 21,000 soldiers, which has today 9,000 soldiers. The NRF is for intervention outside the NATO territory. Germany contributes to the NRF with 6,000 soldiers, 6 Tornado-warplanes, 2 frigates and 2 minesweepers

The EU is establishing an intervention force (rapid task force) with 80,000 soldiers in 2012. Today the EU had failed to fit the timetable, because of lack of soldiers and equipment. The goal of the EU is that 80,000 soldiers can be deployed within 60 days to any place in the world for an intervention which lasts 1 year. This 80,000 soldiers are recruited from a pool of 100,000 soldiers. For this pool Germany even offered 33,000 soldiers, which is biggest contingent of all EU states. The EU intervention force will have 4 aircraft carriers, 7 submarines, 17 frigates, 2 corvettes and 70 other ships, 336 warplanes and 64 other planes.

Inside the EU France, Great Britain and Germany have decided to have 13 super fast units called "battle groups", each with 1,500 soldiers. This is the plan, in brackets the year of readiness:

DEU + FRA (first half of 2006)
DEU + NED + FIN (first half of 2007)
DEU + SPA + FRA (first half of 2008) (leaded by Spain)
DEU + POL + SLK + LET + LIT (first half of 2010) (leaded by Poland)

Germany will have the lead in 3, which is unknown yet.

This battle forces were also part of the draft for an European constitution, within the frame of "structural cooperation" (see Art. I-41, 6+7 und Art. III-312, Art. III-309,1).

Nuclear sharing arrangements within the NATO

The USA have deployed about 150 nuclear bombs in Germany, 20 in Büchel and 130 at the US-base Ramstein. In Büchel German air force soldiers train together with their US-colleagues in the frame of nuclear sharing arrangements how to drop nuclear bombs from Tornado bombers.

NATO's doctrine of the nuclear first strike is still valid. Just recently at the NATO's Nuclear Planning Group on June 9. – 10. the USA did not change anything. They claim these weapons are extremely important for peace. When the German minister of defence asked very timidly for a withdraw of the US-nuclear bombs his proposal was swept aside adamantly by his US-colleague Rumsfeld.

Also the recently failed Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference indicates that the USA are not willing to question their nuclear arsenal and don't want to fulfil their obligation for nuclear disarmament and for nonproliferation into countries, which have no nuclear arsenal, like Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Turkey. In this countries the USA deployed 480 nuclear bombs.

New German law for dispatch troops

For sending German troops into a war it was necessary to get the permission of the German parliament. But this is too difficult. So the German government made a new law which makes it possible to send troops immediately. This law with the nice name "parliament participation law" passed the parliament on March 18., 2005.(In Germany most names of a law have very fine names, but often have an opposite content, so also in this case). After our troops are fighting already on foreign soil the parliament can decide afterwards. This law makes it easier for the government to make preventive wars.

Details of the military use of the "bombodrom"

For the details of how all this is becoming reality I look now into the "manual for the use of the air/surface bombing training range Wittstock" which was issued by the Bundeswehr on January, 20., 2003. This 7-pages-paper and a fine map show, where the training war planes come in, fly their circles and drop their bombs, of course only training bombs. According to the manual the war planes make low level flights and come down to 30 m (100 feet). Above villages and one very attractive tourist area with sanatorium they must keep the distance of 450 m (1,500 feet), in the night 360 m (1,200 feet).

On the ground there will be a shooting range, a infantry range and installations for the electronic warfare, air-defence-rockets, radar- and other communication, fire brigade and commandant's office.

On 200 days per year, each week the training is on 25 hours in the daytime and 10 hours in the night.

What planes are training for what purpose?

In the manual you find the war planes of the Bundeswehr, which are:

a) Tornado and

b) Eurofighter, also the warplanes of the "allied forces", which are

c) A-10,

d) Mirage and

e) F-16

a) The Tornado is especially for low level flights for flying below the enemy's radar and to eliminate the anti aircraft rockets of the enemy. His weapons are:

- cannon,

- bomb drop tank,

- laser guided bomb GBU 24 (also with ground support),

- GPS guided bomb GBU 32,

- air to air rockets (AMRAAM, Sidewinder, later the German IRIS-T),

- ECR-Harm-rockets (air to surface),

- nuclear bomb B61-10,

- German cruise missiles "Taurus".

b) The Eurofighter is designed for medium and high altitude. To avoid high costs training is mostly in the simulator. His weapons are:

- laser guided bomb GBU 24 (also with ground support),

- GPS (later Galileo) guided bomb GBU 32,

- air to air rockets (AMRAAM, Sidewinder, later the German IRIS-T),

- German cruise missiles "Taurus".

c) The A-10 is a low velocity armored plane for fighting against tanks. It uses ammunition with depleted uranium (DU). This plane has caused many radiated victims in the wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Training for nuclear bombing

In the manual for the bombodrom you find in the footnote 5 the description of the "Loft procedure", this is exactly the procedure for nuclear bombing. In this case the warplane has to make a special move up and then release the bomb, so that the bomb cannot fall down directly but must make a bow and therefore needs much more time before it explodes. In the manual the Bundeswehr describes the "Loft procedure" necessary to get out of the area of anti aircraft rockets. But as we know the nuclear bombing was trained before in Siegenburg and Nordhorn and this bombing ranges are to be replaced by the bombodrom, it is obvious that nuclear bombing is to be trained on the bombodrom. In the map there is a special blue dashed line to show the rout of the nuclear bombers.

Where are the German air force training areas?

- Siegenburg (4 km2): standard procedures,

- Nordhorn (22 km2): standard procedures, low level simulator, emergency cases,

- Bombodrom (142 km2): standard procedures, low level flight, reaction to antiaircraft rockets, laser- and GPS (Galileo) guided bombs,

- Sardinia (Italy): additional air-fights, short distance rockets

- USA, Nellis Air Base: air to surface rockets, fighting tactical ballistic rockets, all air to air rockets, cruise missiles, "international high value training", know-how-transfer from USA.

- Canada, Cold Lake: complex air war scenarios.

In the bombodrom only a part of the training program is possible. Much training is done in the simulator anyway. Although it is the biggest air force bombing range in Germany it is too small for low level flights to avoid permanent health damages of the concerned inhabitants, especially by the unbearable noise. 80 % of the bombodrom is nature reserves as acknowledged EU-Habitat.

Legal aspects concerning the "allied forces"

In Germany there are 74 US-military bases. They are de facto exterritorial areas. The US-expert Chalmers Johnson wrote:

"America-s 703 officially acknowledged foreign military enclaves (as of September 30, 2002), although structurally, legally, and conceptually different from colonies, are themselves something like microcolonies in that they are completely beyond the jurisdiction of the occupied nation[1]. The United States virtually always negotiates a "status of forces agreement" (SOFA) with the ostensibly independent "host" nation, including countries whose legal systems are every bit (and perhaps more) sophisticated than our own... Rachel Cornwell and Andrew Wells, two authorities on status of forces agreements, conclude, "Most SOFAs are written so that national courts cannot exercise legal jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel who commit crimes against local people, except in special cases where the U.S. military authorities agree to transfer jurisdiction."[2].

You can find the legal frame for Germany in the NATO-Status of forces agreement (SOFA) from June, 19., 1951. There are Additional Agreements to SOFA (ZA-NTS) between Germany, Canada, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium and France, which have been modified 1993. The bombodrom is no official US military bases, but it can be used by "allied forces", which are bound to the ZA-NTS. There are special agreements for admission and coordination of manoeuvers from March 18., 1994.

Also for three US-German training shooting and bombing ranges there are administration agreements, which adapt regulations to the practice of the Bundeswehr. The same happened with three common UK-German, and one common range with Belgium, France and Netherlands.

The question is if the "allied forces" will obey this regulations, and if not what happens. I remind the incident in 1998 in Cavalese (Italy) where a US warplane killed 20 people of an alpine funicular. A US-military tribunal found them not guilty.

This is an experience everywhere in the world with US bases, violators and criminals will not be punished. They act in this awareness and make the military bases an outlaw area. Even worse is that using the military bases means breaking international law. In his expertise from September 10., 2002 the German federal judge Deiseroth proves that the German allowance for the use of the US bases in Germany for the illegal US war against Iraq violated the German constitution and the international law.

There are no flights from the bombodrom into war zones, it is "only" training. But here is also training for an illegal war of aggression, what you can see by some kinds of weapons: nuclear bomb B61-10 and

German cruise missiles "Taurus" and the training for DU ammunition.

Therefore this training is the preparation of a war of aggression, which is prohibited by the German constitution and international law.

But never would a German or a US-government admit a "war of aggression". In 1999 this was a "humanitarian intervention" and "prevention of a genocide". The summit of dialectic and perfidiousness was reached when our minister for foreign affairs justified the NATO war against Yugoslavia by "No more Auschwitz!" Today's justifications are "war against terror" (also in the draft for an European constitution!) and "defence of Germany in Hindukush". These justifications are deception. All this wars are violating the ban of violence in the charter of the United Nations, they are no case of defending a member of the alliance and no case of self defence, they are against our constitution and the international law. Even the resolutions of the UN afterwards don't change this.

International law and national constitutions are disregarded by all SOFAs and additional agreements.

Here some examples: On May 28., 2005 the USA forced Turkey to give the military base of Incirlic "for logistic reasons", "transport of military material and personal" included. By this agreement the Turkish government violates article 92 of its own constitution.

Another example is Japan. According to the SOFA Japan must support every military action of the USA "in the area surrounding Japan", give all military bases, fuel, water and the whole infrastructure. This is a blatant violation of article 9 of the Japanese constitution. which forbid all military bases.

Another violation of international law is the deployment and training with nuclear weapons in Germany. This is prohibited by the NPT and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Hague (IGH) from July 8., 1996. As mentioned above there are nuclear weapons in Büchel and Ramstein.

If we look to the foreign military bases we see a global net of outlaw areas. Every year the number of countries is growing, which allow US military bases. The outlaw areas are growing globally like cancer. When wars begin and afterwards there are official and unofficial tribunals to punish war crimes, but right before our eyes new war crimes are prepared all the times.

In this global net the bombodrom is not one of the important military hubs like Rota(Spain) or Incirlic (Turkey) or Ramstein and Spangdahlem (Germany), but the bombodrom is part of the global network for the preparation of illegal wars.

Political aspects

There are three citizen movements. First was the so called "FREIe HEIDe", which is a German mixture between the words "free heath" and "freedom". Since 1992 FREIe HEIDe has organized 95 protest marches directly to the bombodrom, disregarding the barriers and signposts. Tradition became the Easter marches. In 2005 10,000 people participated.

Another movement was founded by the local undertakers called "undertakers association for a healthy economical development" PRO HEIDE. The undertakers discovered that the use of the bombodrom would cost working places and hinder the local development.

Another initiative is FREIER HIMMEL, which means "free sky". This initiative is located in the federal country Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This country is concerned because of noise pollution during low level flights.

By permanent lobbying these initiatives have succeeded to convince not only 90 % of the population against the bombodrom, but also the government of the federal countries Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin and 260 mayors in the region.

If some day the usage of the bombodrom starts, they are willing to occupy the area.

On June 1., 2005 23 parliamentarians from the social democrats, 33 from the green party and 2 from the socialists made a common appeal to the German parliament, to use the area of the bombodrom only for civil purposes. But the parliament refused the appeal, mostly with votes from the social democrats.

The agenda

As shown above we witness an erosion of international law. All the time new wars will be prepared and new justifications will be found. Breaking international law becomes a matter of course. The charter of the United Nations is neglected more and more. Some politicians tell us the charter must be further developed, and they mean future wars must be possible more easily. This development must be stopped. In the contrary all of us have the task to influence the public opinion for a peaceful world.

How is it possible that we allow our politicians to make treaties which violate international law:

- giving military bases for illegal wars,

- allowing the deploying of nuclear arms,

- allowing the training with banned weapons,

- allowing the training of war of aggression.

After several wars there have been official and unofficial tribunals about war crimes. It is far better to hinder the training of wars of aggression. That means we have to close all foreign military bases in our countries and we must hinder our own military forces to train with weapons of aggression.

And all politicians who violated the charter of the United Nations and other international law and the constitution of their own country must be punished by national and international courts.

I know that this is only a vision. In practice power has the priority over law. Just recently (June 11.) we had an international conference in Berlin, organized by the German Republican Lawyers Association (RAV) and the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR, New York) "Global constitution against Realpolitik" to find a way for punishing everyone for the violation of human rights, also US citizens like US minister of defence Rumsfeld. In Belgium, Spain and Germany war criminals and violators of human rights can be accused independent from where they have committed their crimes. The topics Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the "nuclear participation" and the preventive war are now discussed in the media. I f we succeed in the public opinion we shall overcome also a superpower.

14.6.2005, Brussel

[1] The number of 703 U.S. military bases located in other people's countries is from the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), Base Structure Report (A Summary of DoD's Real Property Inventory) (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2003), The figure for 2001 was 725. For details and analysis of these reports, see Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004), pp. 151-60. The figure 703 seriously underestimates the actual number since it omits secret intelligence bases, those disguised by national identities (e.g., Royal Air Force bases in Britain), those omitted in order to avoid embarrassment to foreign governments, and most of the bases in the Balkans, Persian Gulf, and Central Asia acquired in recent American wars.

[2] Rachel Cornwell and Andrew Wells, "Deploying Insecurity," Peace Review 11:3 (1999), p. 410.

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