Saturday, September 29, 2007

Time to Step Up

Sergeants Mora and Gray stepped up.

Sergeants Mora and Gray spoke up.

Sergeants Mora and Gray paid the ultimate price.

Now it is our turn to step up. Comments from Left Field is hosting a fundraiser for Fisher House in honor of Sergeants Mora and Gray.

Kyle at CFLF says it quite well. I will let him make the case. Read his words, then go donate.

You don’t have to agree with the Iraq War to support the brave men and women in our armed forces. You don’t have to agree with the politics. The way I see it, it all comes down to that oath, and what it stands for.

These soldiers took a simple oath, they stood up and said that the ideals of America were bigger than they were, and that for those ideals, they would without question sacrifice their lives.

That’s what this is all about. From one day to the next we can bicker and argue over whether a certain war is right or wrong, but at the end of it all, there must be an understanding that men and women like Sgt. Gray and Sgt. Mora, despite the partisan battles that go on back home, continue to day in and day out perform their duties as soldiers.

Remember the closing words of their OpEd, “As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

We as Americans have much we can stand to learn from soldiers such as Yance and Omar. Least of which is that this very same spirit of fidelity fuels not only the flame from which this country was born, but exists to this day.

This taken into consideration, I do not wish to honor their service, I am compelled to. I cannot personally look at myself in the mirror unless I have been a part of something to commemorate their passing, and show my gratitude for their service.

As a result, we at Comments From Left Field, in cooperation with Conservative Thinking, are as of this day beginning a fund drive In Honor of Sgt. Omar Mora & Sgt. Yance T. Gray.

After exploring several options, we have decided to donate 100% of the funds to the Fisher House charity, an organization we have worked with in the past. Fisher House has a simple goal; to build houses near military medical facilities. Here loved ones of those who have been injured in the line of duty can stay free of charge while their service member undergoes necessary treatment.

We urge you to give what you can to this noble cause for only in this way can Omar and Tell continue to make the lives of their fellow soldiers better even after their passing. I can think of no honor more fitting of a soldier.

- Kyle E. Moore

Contribute to the fundraiser here.

There's more: "Time to Step Up" >>

Friday, September 28, 2007

al-Maliki: Senate Proposal "a Catastrophe"

Iraq PM: Senate Proposal "a Catastrophe"
CBS News/The Associated Press
via t r u t h o u t, Friday 28 September 2007

Prime Minister sharply rejects government decentralization plan pushed by Biden, others.

Baghdad - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Friday rejected a U.S. Senate proposal calling for the decentralization of Iraq's government and giving more control to the country's ethnically divided regions, calling it a "catastrophe."

The measure, whose primary sponsors included presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions for the country's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities in a power-sharing agreement similar to Bosnia in the 1990s.

In his first comments since the measure passed Wednesday, al-Maliki strongly rejected the idea, echoing the earlier sentiments of his country's vice president.

"It is an Iraqi affair dealing with Iraqis," he told The Associated Press while on a return flight to Baghdad after appearing at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. "Iraqis are eager for Iraq's unity. ... Dividing Iraq is a problem and a decision like that would be a catastrophe."

More at truthout ...
When will they learn?

The Washington Consensus Of Iraq Reality Is Delusion:
Every time Iraqis kill another American soldier, it is, in my view, a "request" to Washington to withdraw all the troops. Some of the puppet government of Iraq would deny that I think. But they are a puppet government, and a large percentage of the social groups in Iraq are rejecting that puppet government and doing their damnedest to force it to collapse.

Iraqis don't want US troops in their country, and they don't want a US puppet government running their country for the benefit of America.
Will they learn?

There's more: "al-Maliki: Senate Proposal "a Catastrophe"" >>

The Real Deal

[Cross-posted from Army of Dude]

Blue Girl directed me to a very interesting story about Rush Limbaugh, who called veterans opposed to the war phony soldiers. Of course, this is the same Rush Limbaugh who threw a fit about the Petraeus ad, calling it "contemptible" and "indecent." Apparently anyone in the military is above criticism as long as they agree with Rush's brave belief that we should be in Iraq "as long as it takes." And I use the term 'we' loosely, as I believe the closest Rush has ever gotten to combat was watching We Were Soldiers with surround sound.

When I was a kid I watched Rush with my dad every morning when he was still on TV and always found him pretty funny and clever. Over the years I didn't have a very concrete opinion about him, I just knew him as the kooky conservative radio host who defended Bush at every turn (and hey, so did I). What did Rush and I have to lose when the war in Iraq started in 2003? I didn't have any family in the military, and all my friends were too young to even enlist. Why not go kick the shit out of a country, as long as someone else was doing it?

This was the last time Rush and I would agree on the war, so here's my opinion of you, Rush: you're as smart, selfless and courageous as I was as a 17 year old high school senior.

You make a good point that people who joined the military during the war knew they were going and shouldn't be against it. As I've seen since I joined in 2004, everyone in the military is gung ho to a certain extent, at least in the beginning of their career. I was part of a large group of new guys who got to a unit that just got back from a year long deployment. After our hazing sessions became less and less frequent in the following months, we listened to the stories all of them were telling, of vicious firefights and rescue missions. We all wanted to do our part, we all wanted to get some too. We were going to see what it was like to take a life. Too bad Rush missed his chance to do so, or maybe he'd be singing a different tune. In 1992, APC newsman Jeff Greenfield posed a question to Rush, asking if he had ever served in the military during the Vietnam War. Here is what Rush had to say:

I had student deferments in college, and upon taking a physical, was discovered to have a physical- uh, by virtue of what the military says, I didn't even know it existed- a physical deferment and then the lottery system came along, where they chose your lost by birth date, and mine was high. And I did not want to go, just as Governor Clinton didn't.
As a phony civilian hoping to be a phony soldier, I tried to enlist in the military after I graduated high school in 2003. In 2002 I had a Nissen fundoplication operation to repair a hiatal hernia caused by severe acid reflux, preventing esophageal cancer later in life. I was immediately flagged on my attempt to enlist because of this surgery, as there was a chance that a physically stressful job such as Army infantry would complicate it. I had to be cleared by the surgeon general before entering the service. As the war kept on, so did I. I waited for a little over a year to get my results back: I would finally be able to join despite the surgery I had two years prior. As Rush found after dropping out of his first year of college at Southeast Missouri State University in 1969-1970, he found himself on draft status. Nothing that a claim of an old football injury or a boil on the ass can take care of, though! The medical deferment he was referring to was a pilonidal cyst, which apparently is a clump of severely ingrown hairs. That barred him from enlistment, and I'm sure he was ecstatic. After all, there was a war on. Here's a first hand account of the surgery that was done to correct it. She claims that in eight weeks, it was perfectly healed. Rush is willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans in Iraq but not his own ass (literally) in a simple surgery. I waited a year to get in, and he didn't try. Boy, do I really give an effort at being a phony soldier!

Speaking of phony soldiers, I wanted to show Rush a few that I know:


This was taken on a rooftop during a firefight on March 24 in Baqubah. One guy lost a leg up to his knee and another lost a foot in an IED blast that day. Talk about sacrifices! Out of seven Americans on that rooftop, one is going to reenlist! The rest decided to get out to avoid going to Iraq again, despite what Mike from Olympia, Washington said on your show about what real soldiers say, like "they want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country." All I see is a bunch of phonies!


This is Matt tugging on a buried wire connected to a massive IED underneath the road. In Baqubah they were so prevalent that the explosive ordnance disposal dudes couldn't take care of them all in the city, so we started finding them and blowing them up ourselves. Matt just finished his second tour, in which he was deployed a total of 27 months. This coward that followed wires to huge bombs in the road is getting out in a few months. And that's a good thing, as this military could use a lot less phony soldiers.


Here's Bill, digging up a grave containing a woman with her two daughters in a field in Baqubah. They were executed by gunshot and buried in the same hole. We took turns digging as the brave men of the Iraqi Army watched and joked. Bill also served 27 months in combat and like Matt, will be getting out of the Army in a couple months. Good riddance, phony!


I'm not above self-criticism. This is me on the last patrol we did in Old Baqubah on August 20. Like a coward I stayed in Iraq only fifteen months. We heard rumors that the 1920s might ambush us on our last patrol. Too bad they didn't, or they would've sent a lot of phonies home in body bags!

Get your ass back to Iraq phonies!

This picture makes me sick to my stomach. I photographed a bunch of cut-and-runners boarding a plane during a pit stop in Ireland on our way back to the states on September 12. Hello, don't they know there's a war going on? These phonies left Iraq before the job was done! Seriously, we need soldiers who want to be in Iraq for as long as it takes.

And finally:

This is Chevy in Baghdad. Brian Chevalier was going to reenlist but decided against it before he was killed on March 14 during our first mission in Baqubah. His phony life was celebrated in a phony memorial where everyone who knew him cried phony tears. A phony American flag draped over his phony coffin when his body came home. It was presented to his phony mother and phony daughter.

I would be in awe if I ever met a real life soldier, and not a phony one like Bill, Matt or Brian Chevalier. Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for telling me the difference. I hope your ass is ok.


There's more: "The Real Deal" >>

At Least One Democrat "Gets It"; When Will The Rest?

(Cross posted from BFD Blog!)

New Mexico governor and presidential hopefull Bill Richardson blogging at The Huffington Post today:

Come January, Americans are going to have to start making a very important choice: do we want to end this war or keep it going? Do we want a President who will end this war or not?

At the DNC Dartmouth debate on Wednesday night, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all refused to commit to getting our all of our troops out of Iraq by 2013.

...Congress can end this war, they have the power to end this war, but so far they aren't getting it done. If they won't do it, our next President has to -- not in 2017, or 2013, but in 2009.
So Hillary, Barack, John, et al, when are YOU going to GET IT?

There's more: "At Least One Democrat "Gets It"; When Will The Rest?" >>

Tide Of Resistance Could Sweep Military Again

Iraq Veterans Against The War member Geoffrey Millard reports for Truthout:
"A major factor in the end of the Vietnam war was the resistance within the armed forces that all but halted the ground war. While at the Veterans For Peace conference this year I spoke with the next generation of GI resisters, who are being compared with the soldiers successful at shutting down the military in Vietnam."

There's more: "Tide Of Resistance Could Sweep Military Again" >>

Lots of stuff you wanted to know about Blackwater, but couldn't bring yourself to ask...

The fallout continues from the deadly rampage by Blackwater mercenaries against Iraqi civilians on September 16 that left at least 11 Iraqis dead. Blackwater insists that their employees fired in response to coming under attack. The Iraqis claim the Blackwater personnel were unprovoked when they opened fire on civilians at a busy traffic circle while escorting a State Department convoy through Baghdad.

The September 16 incident set off a firestorm and at one point the government of Iraq said all Blackwater personnel had to leave the country and the company had to cease operating inside Iraq. This edict did not stand and Blackwater is once again roaming the streets, terrifying the populace with their mere presence and undermining whatever the hell it is the mission is supposed to be, and sowing seeds of hostility with the populace that prompt attacks against all Americans, thereby putting American G.I.’s at heightened risk.

The DoD on Wednesday announced that the Pentagon has sent a team of investigators to Iraq to probe security contractors and their operations in Iraq. In addition, a memo was sent to the commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan reminding them that they have the prerogative to court martial mercenaries working under contract with the U.S. military if/when those mercenaries violate the Rules of Engagement that govern the U.S. military. Gates wanted to make sure that the mercenaries and commanders all understood that the military can prosecute their contractors. Gates, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Wednesday said he also wanted to know whether the military has the resources to investigate private security personnel under contract with the DoD for alleged crimes. "My concern is whether there has been sufficient accountability and oversight," Gates said.

In the memo, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told military commanders that they're responsible for monitoring contractors under their control and charging those who violate rules of engagement.

"Commanders have UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) authority to disarm, apprehend, and detain DoD contractors suspected of having committed a felony offense in violation of the RUF (Rules on the Use of Force)," Gordon wrote. The memo was dated Tuesday.

England said commanders should review contractors' standard operating procedures and make any necessary changes to the way they authorize force to "minimize the risk of innocent civilian causalities or unnecessary destruction of civilian property."

The State Department hasn't distributed a similar memo, and it is unclear what, if any, U.S. law applies to the actions of its contractors.

So far, no Defense Department contractor has been charged under U.S. law, and no security contracts have been suspended for violations, Morrell said.

Yeah. It really is as thoroughly and completely fucked up as it sounds.

Four and a half years into Iraq, and six years into Afghanistan, they have decided it’s time to determine what, exactly, to do with mercenaries who attack and murder civilians without provocation, or otherwise commit actions that undermine the efforts of the United States to salvage something – anything – from this clusterfuck so we can claim some sort of semblance of a shadow of a specter of a pale imitation of victory™ and get the hell out of there.

(Keep Reading)

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has sent the investigation of the incident to a magistrate and is looking at possible criminal charges, although they may be hamstrung by the ghost of Paul Bremer and the CPA, in the form of Order 17, which essentially gave mercenaries immunity to run amok, unencumbered by the rule of law. Under Order 17, mercenaries can kill at will, with little or no fear of legal, or even civil, repercussions.

This week, Iraqi lawmakers began considering a proposal that would withdraw the provisions of Order 17 from Iraqi law and make security contractors/mercenaries accountable under the Iraqi system of justice. Iraqis have complained bitterly for years that the mercenary army is unnecessarily aggressive and damages property with impunity and mistreats and kills Iraqis with reckless abandon.

Point of Clarification: The mercenaries involved in the September 16 violence were under contract to the State Department, and that incident is under joint Iraqi – State Department investigation. DoD has no authority to investigate or try the Blackwater mercenaries involved. Gates, being competent, and not beholden to nor under the sway of Cheney or Bush, is looking for problems before someone else finds them and uses them against him. (I don't like the man, but I can not help but respect the talent). At State, on the other hand, the inept and outpaced Condi is still carrying her bosses water, overtly and contemptuously stonewalling congressional oversight into the incident. While the DoD does have contracts with Blackwater, the State Department outspends the DoD on Blackwater contracts at a rate of approximately 8:1.

The private-army aspect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been controversial since the first days in Afghanistan, and there has been no shortage of animosity between the professional military and the mercenary army. To date, no personnel under DoD contract have been charged under U.S. law, and no contracts have been suspended for violations. The military has been taken to task though. Two Air Force officers were brought up on charges of assault and conduct unbecoming following a run-in between the officers and Blackwater personnel on a road outside Kabul in September 2006. The charges were later dismissed.


The bloodletting two weeks ago has set up a clash between the Pentagon and the State Department. The tensions have been long-simmering, and the events of September 16 turned up the heat. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," said one senior military official in Iraq. "This is a nightmare. We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term."

In interviews involving a dozen U.S. military and government officials, many expressed anger and concern over the shootings in Nisoor Square, in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Some worried it could undermine the military's efforts to stabilize Iraq this year with an offensive involving thousands of reinforcements.

"This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

Most officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there are at least three ongoing investigations of Blackwater's role in the shootings. There are also sensitive discussions between various U.S. agencies and the Iraqi government over the future of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.

Teddy Spain, a retired Army Colonel was willing to speak on the record. “I personally was concerned about any of the civilians running around on the battlefield during my time there. My main concern was their lack of accountability when things went wrong.”

Several commanding officers spoke frankly on condition of anonymity.

…"Given their record of recklessness," said the senior U.S. commander, "I'm not sure any senior military officer here would want responsibility for them."

…"They are immature shooters and have very quick trigger fingers. Their tendency is shoot first and ask questions later," said an Army lieutenant colonel serving in Iraq. Referring to the Sept. 16 shootings, the officer added, "None of us believe they were engaged, but we are all carrying their black eyes."

…"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control," said a senior U.S. commander serving in Iraq. "They often act like cowboys over here . . . not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."

…"Many of us feel that when Blackwater and other groups conduct military missions, they should be subject to the same controls under which the Army operates," said Marc Lindemann, who served in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division and is now an officer in the New York National Guard and a state prosecutor.

…"The deaths of contractors from Blackwater helped precipitate the debacle in Fallujah in 2004 and now the loss of Blackwater is causing disruptions in the war effort in 2007," a military intelligence officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Why are we creating new vulnerabilities by relying on what are essentially mercenary forces?"

The lousy reputation Blackwater has among members of the U.S. military has led to renewed debate over whether the DoD should handle State’s security contracts. The Department of Defense (understanding what security protocols should involve) has a more strident procedure for licensing and oversight of personnel under contract to their agency, the DoD also has more detailed incident reporting procedures when weapons are discharged. In addition, the military investigates promptly when incidents occur or allegations are made against mercenaries in their employ.

A Pentagon source insisted that "We are really making State respond, conduct an investigation and come up with recommendations." The source said that in Washington the atmosphere surrounding the confrontation between State and the pentagon is calm and professional but, referring to Iraq, said, "There is probably a bit more emotion going on in theater."


As if Blackwater needed another revelation (they are also under investigation for smuggling weapons into Iraq that ultimately ended up pointed at American G.I.’s) the New York Times reported Thursday that mercenaries from Blackwater USA have been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding and escorting American diplomats than other companies providing comparable services.

The rate of Blackwater violence is at least twice that of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the other security companies operating in Iraq. Blackwater’s hired guns are just that, discharging weapons, on average, twice every convoy. (The other companies frequently escort convoys completely without incident.)

“You can find any number of people, particularly in uniform, who will tell you that they do see Blackwater as a company that promotes a much more aggressive response to things than other main contractors do,” a senior American official said. “Is it the operating environment or something specific about Blackwater?” asked one government official. “My best guess is that it is both.”

While the bloody rampage at the Nisour traffic roundabout was the most shocking in the level of wanton killing, the modern-day Pinkerton's of Blackwater are under investigation in six other episodes that left ten people dead and at least 15 wounded.

Slowly, American officials are accepting the position that Blackwater's behavior in Iraq is counterproductive to the stated 'mission' by fueling resentment among the local population.

“They’re repeat offenders, and yet they continue to prosper in Iraq,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who has been broadly critical of the role of contractors in Iraq. “It’s really affecting attitudes toward the United States when you have these cowboy guys out there. These guys represent the U.S. to them and there are no rules of the game for them.”


Secretary of Defense Gates was in front of Congress asking for $190 Billion for the war effort for FY 2008. Congress is hammering out the budget now.

While the American public may not yet be ready to cut off funding to the U.S. military for the occupation of Iraq, I seriously doubt that there would be great wailing and bleating and rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth if, just for starters, the monies in the budget allotted to Blackwater fell victim to Congresses one true power.

There's more: "Lots of stuff you wanted to know about Blackwater, but couldn't bring yourself to ask..." >>

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chickenhawks, Chickenshits, Cowardly Candidates and a Craven Congress, Aint That America?

The progress being made in our 4 1/2 year war of terror on Iraq is phenomenal. So impressive are our recent gains that the "top tier" Democratic candidates who have lined up in competition to become the heirs of this great struggle for freedom, for Middle Eastern democracy, for oil and gas rights for western corporations and of course for lucrative contracts in arms sales and private security for campaign contributors, last night went way out on a limb and declared their goal of removing our troops from the quagmire in Mesopotamia by the end of their first term in office in 2013.

Despite their boldness, they did not report whether or not they could guarantee the colonization of Mars, a cure for cancer, or flying pigs within that time frame.

The Congress of the United States of America, a legislative body established by the American Constitution over two centuries ago has declared itself to be toothless, spineless and ultimately meaningless. Yesterday they condemned a reputable political organization for running a completely truthful newspaper ad and voted to declare the military of a sovereign nation a terrorist organization in order to present their Fuhrer with a gift wrapped excuse for his next adventure.

They were asked by Bush's Defense Secretary for an additional 190 billion ($190,000,000,000) dollars to continue their criminal enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan and despite the fact that a sizable majority of the people of our country want to end this war, the cowardly swine will approve it. That will bring the total publicly reported expenditures to 800 billion dollars ($800,000,000,000). Most of this has been spent, squandered, swindled, bamboozled away since our chief arrogant little asswipe stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declared that the mission had been accomplished.

Hell, they sacked one of our principle Generals at the outset of this insanity for declaring that the war would cost as much as 25 billion when Rumsfeld and Cheney's various staff were reporting that it could be done for seven billion which would be financed through the sale of, get this,Iraqi Oil.

Congress will of course, make another face saving gesture and ask for full progress reports, which will be dutifully drawn up by the neocon advertising/marketing/propaganda staff in the white House and fed to an "ass kissing little chicken shit" general for presentation to our parliament of gutless wonders and we will continue, down the same path following some vague vanishing point into a future where the only things that are certain are the deaths of thousands more of our troops and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Since our current crop of wars of empire are progressing so swimmingly (as planned at the highest levels) they now are preparing to embroil us in another war with Iran and this time they plan to pull out all the stops and use the nukes that they have been slathering over all these long years.

Last week on television, I witnessed a room full of mostly young college students sit pacifically and watch passively as a half dozen hired goons brutalized another student with Tasers, for speaking. For Speaking.

I felt that I was seeing a vision of America's future.

No matter what this criminal government and their corporate masters do, no matter what the excess, no matter what the crime, no matter what horrors they commit in our name the people of this country are sitting, sitting as acquiescently as that room full of meek children, sitting and cowering in the face of authority.

America in the first decade of the twenty first century is beginning to look a lot like Germany in the third decade of the last century and I'm beginning to be relieved that this is my last decade.

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust

There's more: "Chickenhawks, Chickenshits, Cowardly Candidates and a Craven Congress, Aint That America?" >>

On Partitioning Iraq

[Cross-posted from The Motley Patriot]

There seems to be those in the United States Congress that believe it is up to the United States to decide the fate of Iraq. The "conventional wisdom" in Washington DC, to which I compare to "military intelligence", is that Iraq never knew how to govern itself before the U.S. invasion and, that Iraqi's will not be able to govern themselves after we leave so it is our right, our duty, to govern them.

Even some Democrats, both political and in the blogosphere, now say that we have to do "something - anything". Unfortunately, this mentality of "just do something", of "do anything", is no different than being stuck on a cliff and because you feel you have to do something - do anything - you jump to your death.

Iraq was the cradle of civilization. The region has seen the rise and fall of the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures. The region, like any other during the time of Empire, saw its share of war. The region was conquered, ruled over, and then conquered again; Persia, Hellenistic, Parthians, and then Sassinid Persians all took their turns ruling over the region. The region was decimated by the Mongols and then annexed by the Ottomans, who lost the region, then regained it, only to lose it again after WWI when the League of Nations put the region under British rule.

Historians recite the history of Iraq like some justification to treat the region just as everyone else treated it; a prize to be won or lost. Yet, the turbulent history of the region is no different than any other. It was the dawning of civilization and of empire. An empire expanded, conquered, and then fell. Civilizations began and ended. Land had few borders other than what could be competently defended. Iraq was granted its independence in 1932 and then re-invaded by the British in 1941.

Like any country, Iraq had its share of political problems. The Hashemite monarchy was overthrown in a military coup. The cycle of regime, coup, regime ended when the Ba'ath Party took power in Iraq and Saddam Hussein rose to control Iraq. Few countries haven't seen this cycle of regime, coup, regime, and at times, it was the United States government itself that performed the coup; Chile, Guatamala, Iran, among the few.

The region of mesopotamia survived during a time before America was even born. The country of Iraq, once granted its independence from foreign rule and occupation, governed itself. The people of the region, and the country, have endured hardship and war before. They have risen from the ashes before and they can, they will, do so again.

The people of Iraq do not need our government trying to tell them what is "best" for them; that is what put the people of Iraq into the situation they are in now. President Bush told the world that the people of Iraq would be better off if Saddam Hussein wasn't the ruler of Iraq, and, we invaded. We destroyed their infrastructure, their livelihood, their families, their culture, and their system of government.

The abuses of Saddam Hussein were but one of the many changing justifications for the U.S. invasion in 2003. Dissidents to the government were jailed, tortured, and even killed. Names like Hitler and Stalin are frequently tossed out when talking of dictators who abused, tortured, and murdered its citizenry. Abuses such as secret prisons, people "disappearing", secret police, torture, and unfair trials are frequently cited by those who decry those rulers, yet, in America under President Bush, our own CIA has kidnapped innocent people off the street, tortured them, kept them in secret prisons, and then started "military tribunals" to get their desired verdicts.

President Bush did not have the "good" of the Iraqi people in mind when he invaded or the reconstruction efforts would not have been the sham they became. Iraqi's have now lived under Saddam Hussein's Abu Ghraib and America's Abu Ghraib; there has been little difference. Iraqi's have now lived under Saddam Hussein's militaristic rule and America's military occupation; there has been little difference since Iraqi's were gunned down in the street by Saddam's military and our own American troops/contractors do the same. Yet, our nation feels like we have some moral authority to decide the fate of Iraq? We believe that we can arbitrarily decide that partitioning Iraq would be "best" for them after we destabilized their entire culture, government, and tossed their country into anarchy?

Our Congress cannot even govern our own country effectively. While hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and millions lose their homes due to the rising disparity of income to cost of living, our Congress is voting to censure a political groups advertisement. Any real legislation is squashed while our Congress debates hip-hop lyrics. As more children go uninsured due to the rising cost of insurance premiums that provide less and less benefit, our Congress works to give immunity to corporations who violated established law. This is the government that is going to tell another country how to govern and what is "best" for their people?

The fact of the matter is that our invasion destabilized an entire country. It threatens to destabilize an entire region. We cannot fix the mess that we caused but we can do more damage and, it seems, we are hell-bent to do exactly that now that Sen. Biden believes that Iraq should be partitioned into three states; Shia, Sunni and Kurdish. When did Sen. Biden have the authority to make any decision that effected any country other than the United States? Since when did the American Congress decide Iraqi political matters? Where is that in our Constitution?

This is the exact reason that the people of the world hate Americans now; our belief that we control the world; that we can decide the fate of other, sovereign nations; the pure hubris and hypocrisy under which we live in this country while trying to tell every other nation how to behave and live.

The Iraq war has been the downfall of two countries; America and Iraq. The Iraq war has been the downfall of political leaders who supported it in America, Spain, Italy, and England. The Iraq war has been a travesty from day one and there is but one thing left to do; get out and stay out. We can leave no military forces at any base that we usurped or built in Iraq. We can leave no Embassy in Baghdad that will see the home of the CIA, American forces, and, as an afterthought, American diplomats. It is time for the Iraqi people to govern themselves without interference just as they did for centuries before our invasion.

There's more: "On Partitioning Iraq" >>

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How To Dig A Hole In Iraq

There's more: "How To Dig A Hole In Iraq" >>

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TBI: Worse than we thought

Research scientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered that the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from exposure to bomb blasts are even more devastating than previously believed. The newest research shows that even when there are no outward signs of injury, brain cells can be altered, the cellular metabolism changed. Metabolic changes lead to a cascading effect, cells experience premature aging, and the result is neuronal death. Neurons do not replicate. Once a neuron is lost, it is gone forever.

The effects of this cellular demise are symptoms that may not be evident for months, or even years. The symptoms can range from vertigo, memory deficits and headaches to disorders of affect, such as anxiety, lethargy, and apathetic demeanor. "These soldiers could have hidden injuries with long-term consequences," says Ibolja Cernak, a scientist with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

This latest research underscores the suspicion that many have expressed, that the number of Soldiers and Marines who have experienced or will experience the “signature injury” of this war may have been vastly underestimated up to now. Now consider that exposure to violent percussive incidents is not isolated in occurrence, but instead happens almost routinely. Some Soldiers and Marines have been exposed to up to twenty five separate blasts.

(more after the flip)

The most recent findings are the result of percussive experiments conducted on animals, then the animals were sacrificed and the brain tissue examined microscopically. In the animal studies, scientists have discovered a fundamentally different injury than the “concussion” wound that has traditionally been ascribed to exposure to explosions. A concussion is essentially a bruise on the brain that generally heals with time.

Brain damage at the cellular level is likely permanent – and will almost certainly lead to further neurological degradation over time. Put bluntly, G.I.’s afflicted by TBI are not likely to get better, and in fact will almost certainly get worse.

Since the first wounded veterans began returning, clinicians treating the wounded have noticed a pattern of symptoms emerging over time. Patients have been screened and found to be healthy; only to return with emerging symptoms at a later date.

To complicate matters further, because the physiological damage that underlies the symptoms occurs at the cellular level, the damage is undetectable by any imaging technique. "This is a new beast," said one San Francisco-based traumatic brain injury specialist who treated soldiers this year at an Army hospital in Germany.

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Observing Our Government Through Blackwater

Observing Our Government Through Blackwater
By David Swanson

Jeremy Scahill, author of a terrific book on the Blackwater mercenary army, spoke in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Tuesday to a packed hall. He took questions at the end, and one man asked something to the effect of "Why does the government want to privatize the military? We taxpayers have been paying for the Army." I wished Scahill had pointed out that it's the tax payers who are now paying the private corporations, but the answer Scahill gave was critical.

"There's a cynical answer and an honest answer," he said, "and I think they're the same answer." He said that the Pentagon is useless to politicians because it doesn't make campaign "contributions". But when you take a big chunk of that enormous military budget and give it to private companies, you free it up to come back (some portion of it) to politicians every campaign season.

Scahill has the ability to tell the story of one little corner of corruption and through it provide an understanding of the overall military industrial media congressional complex. The corner of corruption he focuses on is Blackwater.

Scahill described the recent "Bloody Sunday" incident in Baghdad in which Blackwater mercenaries shot and killed approximately 28 Iraqi civilians, including women and children, in a square. The Iraqi government claims to have video proving the shooting was unprovoked. Witnesses corroborate that story.

Within hours of the incident, Condoleezza Rice phoned Iraqi President and Bush puppet Nouri al Maliki. Within 5 days Blackwater was back on the streets.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman plans to hold a hearing on October 2nd and has asked Blackwater CEO Eric Prince to testify, but has not subpoenaed him. He's asked Prince to testify before, and Prince has refused.

The State Department has told Waxman that any information it provides Congress on occupation contractors will be classified. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has herself refused to comply with a subpoena. It might be possible to compel Prince to comply, but Waxman has not subpoenaed him. Beyond the power of subpoena, Waxman has made clear he will never support using the power of impeachment. For several months now he has sent frequent requests to the State Department without receiving compliance.

Scahill described the size of the problem. There are 181 security companies in Iraq and 180,000 private contractors, tens of thousands of whom are mercenaries. And they are unaccountable. When a Blackwater mercenary shot and killed the Iraqi Vice President's body guard, Blackwater snuck the shooter out of the country. In February of this year, Waxman held hearings and invited Prince to testify. Prince did not show up, but sent his lawyer instead. Rep. Dennis Kucinich noted at the hearing that Blackwater appears to be complicit in the flight of a murder suspect.

Blackwater has frequently found itself in gun battles with Iraqis, as recounted by Scahill. The U.S. Embassy, Scahill said, lied when it recently said it had never had complaints about Blackwater. The Iraqis have complained frequently. But the US wants shock troops, Scahill said. "They want Iraqis to have the fear of god in them if they try to approach Ryan Crocker or Condoleezza Rice."

A US soldier can be court martialed. There have been 64 courts martial for murder charges in Iraq, which Scahill finds stunningly low, given that in his estimate there have been 750,000 Iraqis killed. (I don't know why Scahill disagrees with the studies that now place the number over a million.) Mercenaries are not prosecuted under Iraqi or US law or courts martial.

Scahill said that when he recently testified before Congress, the whole issue seemed to be brand new to congress members. After four years of slaughter and wild west tactics in Iraq, Scahill said, two freshman senators have finally proposed establishing a system of justice for mercenaries.

Scahill seems to be of two minds about this proposal. He recognizes that mercenaries, aggressive wars, and foreign occupations are illegal to begin with, making their regulation a dubious endeavor. He recognizes that the mercenary companies are themselves supporting the proposal, and that this is a good indication of how worthless it is. Yet, he finds something encouraging about the fact that there is a proposal and a discussion underway. I am less encouraged, largely because any bill that was actually worth passing would be vetoed.

Scahill recently gave a talk in Eric Prince's home town in Michigan (a town described well in Scahill's book). Prince published an op-ed in the local paper claiming that Blackwater is not a mercenary company. But, Scahill explains, Blackwater has hired soldiers from countries like Chile whose democratically elected governments opposed the occupation, and sent those soldiers to fight in Iraq. Employing soldiers to fight for a foreign power, such as Chileans for the United States, is the very definition of mercenary used by Prince himself.

The Democrats in Congress are asleep on this issue, says Scahill, and he blames the financial "contributions" they receive from the war industry.

Scahill says that the count of 1,000 or more private contractors killed in Iraq is almost certainly undercounted dramatically, because it includes only those eligible for federal aide.

Britain may put in more mercenaries as it pulls out troops, Scahill said. The US may put in more mercenaries when it pulls out troops. And more and more of the mercenaries may be hired from poor nations around the world, including Iraq. (And yet the best talk in Congress is still of "redeploying" troops, never troops and mercenaries.)

Scahill also discussed Blackwater's connections with the Bushes and the radical right. With Blackwater guards now bigger targets in Iraq than the people they are guarding, why would the US keep them on? The answer, Scahill suggests, is the role the Prince family has played in funding the religious right and rightwing political movements in the United States. All of this, including the story of Blackwater's creation and rise to power, is well told in Scahill's book.

And it's not just the Princes. The number two man at Blackwater, Cofer Black, formerly of the CIA, is part of the power that Blackwater has over the State Department as well, Scahill surmises. He has been in charge of capturing Osama Bin Laden and in charge of the extraordinary rendition program. It's unclear whether Blackwater's planes have been used in that program. The number three man at Blackwater is Joseph Schmitz, former Pentagon Inspector General under Rumsfeld. Blackwater's lawyers include Fred Fielding, former White House Counsel, and Kenneth Star, former investigator of Bill Clinton's oral sex.

The main problem, as Scahill says, is that companies have a profit motive in launching and escalating wars. And nobody in Washington, other than Dennis Kucinich, will talk about it, Scahill says.

Someone in the audience Tuesday night asked whether Scahill was concerned about what role American mercenaries in Iraq will play when / if they're brought home. Scahill agreed that it should be a major concern, and said that he's seen a glimpse of it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He talked to Israeli private security guards for a company called Instinctive Shooting International who were operating an armed checkpoint on behalf of a wealthy individual. Mercenaries are for hire by billionaires as well as by the government.

Scahill also warned that he expects an increase in attacks on mercenaries in Iraq as retaliation for the recent massacre.

Scahill dodged the obligatory 9-11 theories question but answered a question on whether the four famous Blackwater deaths in Fallujah had been an intentional set-up to spur revenge attacks. Scahill believes that was not the case, that Blackwater was simply rushing recklessly to fill a contract.

Someone also asked what everyone in the room could do when they got home. Based on Scahill's response, I posted the following call to action on a local website:


Jeremy Scahill discussed Blackwater tonight in Charlottesville. Someone asked what we could do, and he suggested that we all phone Congressman Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California and the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. We should ask Waxman to subpoena Blackwater CEO Eric Prince. Waxman's number is 202-225-3976.

A little background: Waxman has subpoenaed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and she has refused to appear. Unless Waxman backs impeachment of her (the House Judiciary Committee passed an article of impeachment against Nixon for refusal to comply with subpoenas) he has no leverage over Rice. Waxman has asked Prince to testify before, and he refused. There is a chance that Waxman could compel Prince to obey a subpoena or hold him in contempt or inherent contempt. The State Department has told Waxman that any information it provides is classified. Waxman should ignore that announcement, hold open hearings, and subpoena Prince and other heads of mercenary companies. He should expose to the public what their contracts are and what their crimes have been, including the recent Blackwater bloody Sunday massacre, of which Waxman should obtain the video from the Iraqi government and air it.

There's more: "Observing Our Government Through Blackwater" >>

Wiff-Dra Fr-Um Eye-Rak

Why President Bush Refuses To Withdraw From Iraq; Just A Matter Of Phonetics

As reported by ABC News, on-air, and on their web site in an article titled "Bush's UN Speech Full of Fone-eh-tick Pronunciations for World Leaders".

But this year, a glimpse of how the President sees his speeches was accidentally placed on the UN website along with the speechwriters' cell phone numbers.

Pronunciations for President Bush's friend French President Sarkozy "[sar-KOzee]" appeared in draft #20 on the UN website. Other pronunciations included the Mugabe "[moo-GAHbee] regime" and pronunciations for countries "Kyrgyzstan [KEYRgeez-stan]" and "Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a]."
So now we know how to get George W. Bush to listen to the people and get engaged in withdrawing our troops from Iraq, we need to put a Teleprompter in front of him and spell it out phonetically, so he can read it out loud to himself:

Wiff-Dra Fr-Um Eye-Rak

Maybe then he will understand the concept.

Cross posted from BFD Blog!

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Little Russ Got It Wrong

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

This morning I watched Tim Russert of Meet the Press, interview Senator Hillary Clinton. As one might expect, Russert challenged Clinton's numerous contortions about Iraq since 2002. Russert did a good job and perhaps I’m nitpicking but this error on his part stuck in my craw. Russert replayed Senator Clinton’s October 10, 2002 speech on the Senate floor. It’s a speech many of us bloggers have heard or read many times before, this passage in particular:

“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.”
After playing the video Russert noted that:
“As we sit here this morning, Saddam rebuilding a nuclear weapons program, just not true; giving aid and sanctuary to al-Qaeda, debatable. .”
It is not debatable whether Saddam gave aid or sanctuary to Al Quaeda. The Washington Post, which has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the neocons, and the Iraq War from the beginning reported the following on June 17, 2004:
“The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no 'collaborative relationship' between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.”
Perhaps Russert misspoke when he said, “debatable” but the record needs to be corrected. Far too many Americans continue to believe Al Quaeda and Saddam Hussein had a relationship and justify the Iraq War because of it. This is not “debatable.”

Click here to let Tim Russert know he made a mistake and has a responsibility to correct the record.

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