Friday, February 8, 2008


Press Release: Act Against Iraq Poverty

The Baghdad section of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign is calling upon the international anti-occupation movements to mobilise in an act of unity and defiance, against the planned elimination of the Iraqi food rationing system. We are making this call, in response to the outcry by the Iraqi media, which has informed the international community, that the regime of Jalal Talabani, The Dawa Party and SCII, plan to eliminate the food rations by June of 2008, a system which was first put in place under the UN Sanctions and have since helped to save millions of Iraqi’s from starvation. Under the rule of Al Ba’ath Party, the United Nations praised the ration system as being “the world’s largest and most effective relief effort” but since the introduction of the US protected death squads in 2003, the Iraqi peoples welfare has been subjected to corruption, hatred, abuse and a deluded form of vengeance. The Iraq Solidarity Campaign has repeatedly warned both Iraqi and Western governments about the growth of poverty in Iraq (see some examples below!), along with the effects which have been brought with it, such as the increase in malnutrition, prostitution, substance abuse and people searching for food from rubbish dumps. We are asking that people consider the seriousness of these cuts and through dignified and peaceful methods mobilise human rights and political organisations, to force the regime and their allies in the fortified Green Zone to change its direction and maintain the ration service.

Sign our new International Petition!


We Support the Troops Who Oppose the War

On the weekend of 13-15 March, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will assemble history's largest gathering of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors. They will provide first hand accounts of their experiences and reveal the truth of occupation. We support Iraq Veterans Against the War and their Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Join us in supporting the effort to reveal truth in the way that only those who lived it can.

Please go to this website to sign the petition to support IVAW.

There's more: "Petitions" >>

Mehdi Army ready to rise up again in Iraq?

Moqtada al-Sadr is calling to extend a six-month cease fire, but many rank-and-file in the Shi’ite force are restive. On the flip side, the International Crisis Group said the Mehdi Army was “unassailable” in its strongholds and the U.S. military should not provoke it.

Too late on both sides, perhaps. The U.S. has arrested several so-called “rogue” members, which certainly has added to the restiveness directed toward Sadr.

There's more: "Mehdi Army ready to rise up again in Iraq?" >>

US Military Admits to Killing Nine Iraqi Civilians

We are told...

The U.S. military said Monday [2/4/08] that it had accidentally killed nine Iraqi civilians during an operation targeting al-Qaida in Iraq — the deadliest known case of mistaken identity in recent months.

The operative word there is "known"... via the establishment media that is. Those who are reading this probably seek alternative sources of information and know the only thing rare about this event is the military admission.

The other word to parse is "accidentally."

As I write, before reading the full AP article, I'm guessing, "hmmm... If this was an air attack by the US, and it probably is, then the military's standard operating procedure is to conduct a collateral damage assessment before bombing. So, is the military saying that it's "accident" was a flawed collateral damage assessment? Did they predict zero civilian deaths, or did they predict only a couple dead civilians rather than nine? An even better question is whether only nine civilians were actually killed."

Sure enough, it was an air attack, the use of which increased five fold from 2006 to 2007.

I grow weary writing about this supposedly rare event, which I've written about before. This is just another government propaganda piece, taking a bad situation and spinning it to give the impression that this is "known" to be a rare "accident." It's not.


Associated Press, 9 Iraqi civilians accidentally killed, LAUREN FRAYER, February 4, 2008.

Originally posted on GDAEman blog.

There's more: "US Military Admits to Killing Nine Iraqi Civilians" >>

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


(Cross-posted to Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time.)

I have said oh so many times that it's the little things, the little things that go seemingly unnoticed that get me. In this case, the thing itself is by no means little but the fact that it seems to have passed unnoticed is some degree of qualification. And by any measure it is a great example of a classic I. F. Stone "shirttail," the good stuff at the tail end of an article.

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen captured after a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. He has been at Gitmo ever since and is now facing a military tribunal there on a boatload of charges relating to the accusation that he threw a hand grenade that killed a US solider in that fight. However, he was 15 at the time, so, Reuters reported, he

should not be tried as a war criminal because he was a child soldier for al Qaeda, too young to voluntarily join its forces, his military defense lawyer told a U.S. war court on Monday.

Navy Lt. William Kuebler asked a military judge to throw out the charges....

"He is a victim of al Qaeda, not a member of al Qaeda," Kuebler said.
It certainly is a story worth knowing if only because it's another case of people having been held for years without trial or even charges. The fact that he was a child soldier and the questions that surround it add to its worth. However, that's not actually the part I'm concerned with. This is the end of that same article:
The court released documents describing the battle in which Khadr was captured. U.S. forces entered the suspected al Qaeda compound after an aerial bombing and were fired upon with a rifle and with the grenade that killed [Sgt. Christopher] Speer, it said.

An unidentified witness, who is apparently a member of the U.S. armed forces, said he found two wounded people still alive inside - a man lying near an AK-47 assault rifle, whom he shot in the head and killed, and Khadr, who was seated on the ground facing away.

The witness said he shot Khadr twice in the back and that Khadr replied repeatedly in English, "Kill me."

Khadr was instead given medical treatment and sent to Guantanamo.
The Miami Herald says the revelation was unintentional and casts doubt on the prosecution's claims.
At issue is, with the revelation that another person was alive and fighting inside the compound, how the military can be certain that Khadr threw a grenade that killed
Sgt. Speer? Yes, that certainly is an issue for the trial. But it's not the issue that struck me hard, one that neither of these articles nor any of the (admittedly few) others I checked addressed:

By the military's own account, a US soldier summarily executed a wounded fighter and shot another wounded, unresisting fighter in the back - twice.

God fucking damn it, these are war crimes! Why isn't that soldier in the dock? Why isn't he in chains in some dark cell somewhere awaiting a trial that maybe will happen someday? More disturbingly, why didn't any account find what he did worthy of notice? And even more disturbingly, even frighteningly, is it because it simply didn't occur to them to question the actions of a US soldier?

And I don't want to hear one bleeping bit of a defense that "maybe they were faking" or "maybe one of them was hiding another grenade" or whatever. By that argument you are saying you are comfortable with a scorched Earth policy or with soldiers going down streets just shooting down everyone they see, because - and you can't deny it - any one of those people "might" have a hidden gun or a grenade. (By the way, if "anything goes" is not right for "them," it's not right for "us." So neither will I accept any defense along the lines of "if you'd even been in combat" unless you're an avowed pacifist arguing that war destroys all vestiges of humanity in its participants and so should not be engaged in by anyone.)

It's been said to death that "9/11 changed everything." But of course it didn't. And contrary to the development of nuclear weapons, which, Einstein said, "has changed everything except our way of thinking," 9/11 actually changed nothing - except our way of thinking, especially regarding the level of decency we expect from ourselves.

There's more: "Untucked" >>

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Today I am The Decider

(Cross posted from Gold Star Mom Speaks Out)

Today is Super Tuesday. 15 primaries and 5 caucuses will take place in 24 states to determine how more than 2700 delegates will be designated in the presidential campaign.

Today I've earned the privilege to make my vote count, to decide who I want to be my president.

Today I am not voting for gender or race.

Today I am not voting because some celebrity told me how to vote.

Today I am the decider.

Today I am voting with hopes that my candidate will end the occupation in Iraq.

Today I am voting to honor those who can no longer vote.

There's more: "Today I am The Decider" >>

Monday, February 4, 2008

On Prestige and Power and War Crimes

I wrote about this only a few weeks ago, but I still can't get my head around how this story played out in the press. (I could cite many more examples of this national noblesse oblige, such as revelations from the Downing Street Memo, on Abu Ghraib, on illegal wiretapping, on secret prisons, etc.)

From the Center for Public Integrity:

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses....

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.

I simply can't understand why this story hasn't gotten more traction. As a matter of sound evidence of governmental deception and war crimes, it couldn't be clearer. Yet, at the mageristerial press conferences and speeches by governmental personnel, we witness continuing deference, and acceptance of lies and spins, with the promise of cocktail parties later for the "in" crowd who never make waves. Is it really all about access to power?

Who has more prestige than the powerful? Where can we find more deception than in the highest echelons of the societal apparatus?

1546, "practicing illusion or magic, deceptive," from L. præstigious "full of tricks," from præstigiæ "juggler's tricks," probably altered by dissimilation from præstringere "to blind, blindfold, dazzle," from præ- "before" + stringere "to tie or bind" (see strain (v.)). Prestige is from 1656, from Fr. prestige "an illusion" (16c.). These words were derogatory until 19c.; prestige in the sense of "dazzling influence" was first applied 1815, to Napoleon. Prestigious with this sense is attested from 1913

Privilege is prestige, and prestige, in its fundamental nature as in the etymology of the word, means deception and enchantment. Again the line of development is continuous from the magician-leader of the simpler societies to the priest-king or god-king of the first civilization, as indeed Frazer showed fifty years ago.

Power was originally sacred, and it remains so in the modern world. Again we must not be misled by the flat antimony of the sacred and the secular, and interpret as "secularization" what is only a metamorphosis of the sacred. If there is a class which has nothing to lose but its chains, the chains that bind it are self-imposed, sacred obligations which appear as objective realities with all the force of a neurotic delusion. (Life Against Death, Norman O. Brown, Vintage Books, 1959, p. 252)

What else but neurotic delusion or mass denial could account for the fact that U.S. citizens have failed to react to the fact that its government has in the past five years killed over one million people? As Reuters reports:

LONDON (Reuters) - More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to research conducted by one of Britain's leading polling groups.

The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 2,414 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that 20 percent of people had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, rather than natural causes....

The margin of error in the survey, conducted in August and September 2007, was 1.7 percent, giving a range of deaths of 946,258 to 1.12 million.

The Reuters story notes the now long-simmering controversy over the Iraq death toll. The OMB poll results are themselves a reduction from a study OMB initially reported last September that found 1.2 million Iraqis had died as the result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A Lancet study in 2004 found 100,000 had died as a result of the initial U.S. invasion. A second study in 2006 reported "654,965 excess deaths related to the war, or 2.5% of the population."

The website Iraq Body Count reports between 80,000 and 90,000 civilian deaths due to the war to date. But then IBC uses a "media-centered" approach to body counting:

The project uses reports from English-language news media (including Arabic media translated into English) to compile a running total. In its "Quick-FAQ" the IBC states: "It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war."

The statistical approach of the ORB is said to have the backing of many statisticians and epidemiologists, who use many of the same techniques in other studies of populations. Indeed, the U.S. Census uses household sampling methodologies, although not without its own concurrent controversies. (See this excellent article at Science News for a relevant discussion of statistical sampling issues.)

To make matters worse, counting Iraqi bodies has become even more difficult since "the surge," i.e., the escalation of the war. the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq discovered early last year, verifying the numbers independently is impossible because, since the U.S. escalation nicknamed the "surge" began one year ago, the Iraqi government has refused to share its raw mortality data with UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] or other outside sources. Many human rights advocates, including UN Human Rights Officer Ivana Vucco, have said this step was taken under pressure from the United States to conceal the real level of violence.

No matter how you want to look at it, the U.S. government is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. And not the government only as a whole, but specific people in the government, individuals who are as directly responsible as the Nuremburg defendents were for the crimes of Hitler's regime. But you wouldn't know it if you watched the mass media spectacle that is modern America.

The famous playwright Arthur Miller is reported to have said that an era only comes to an end when its basic illusions are exhausted. The era of U.S. imperial policy and war hubris is not over. The illusions of much of the population in the goodness and right of the government, and the elite that staffs the top layers of government, remain alive, and seemingly oblivious to change. Yet underneath it all, the worm of change and transformation silently gnaws, and the presitigious apparatus that girds the temples and monuments of power awaits its Ozymandian moment.

Also posted at Invictus

There's more: "On Prestige and Power and War Crimes" >>