News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: November 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

War Crimes: Words, Concepts, Death

One of the truly terrible things about the modern age is the fact that words quickly lose their meaning. THey jingle and jangle around the news media for a few hours or days and by the time you hear them again they just come to mean "blah-blah-blah."

You'd think, though, that some words and concepts should never lose their meaning. They should always remain "real" and fresh with meaning like the reality they supposedly embody or reflect. These include words like love, hate, fear, joy.

In the modern world, after the Holocaust, after the Gulags, after Cambodia, after Rwanda--you'd like to believe that such a concept as "war crime" would be one of those sacrosanct, holy words only to be used sparingly and with much fear and trembling, as the Good Book calls it.

But perhaps that fact that there have been so many historical instances where war crime odes apply has made it so useless, so empty and desolate of meaning is the reason why it just slides off the TV or computer screen with such ease.

"I mean, how much monstrosity and suffering done in the name of whomever can a person take, right? What am I supposed to do about; in fact, I can't do anything about it, so that's what I'll do--nothing."
So, when someone comes out and says someone else, in this case a leader of our country, is guilty of war crimes, it probably does not register much on the communal psyche ( assuming for the moment that such a thing actually exists). Indeed, these words are flung around so much these days by wack-jobs that perhaps the first response is to assume that the messenger of the news is another one of those.

But let's look at the statement by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (ret.), who just accused VP Cheney of having created an environment in which war crimes were committed. And since he is the leader, the one responsible for enabling this environment, he himself is responsible of war crimes.

Under Mr Cheney's protection, "the Secretary of Defence moved out to do what they wanted to do in the first place". Asked whether the Vice-President was guilty of a war crime, Col Wilkerson said it was "an interesting question". It was certainly a domestic crime "to advocate terror", and "I would suspect it is ­ for whatever it's worth, an international crime as well".
A serious, devastating statement by a man who has spent most of his life serving his country, following orders and asking few questions--even to the point of death, should he be asked to do so.

This former aide-de-camp of Gen. Colin Powell (ret.), the former Bush Secretary of State, has not questioned his own superiors and their motives for executing this war. Remember, this is a man who is a "lifer," military jargon for someone who has spent the majority of their life in the armed services. He was trained as a teenager to follow the orders of his superiors, to never question the wisdom or reason for their decisions.

This is a man who spent the last few years atthe highest levels of government--he was an insider's insider--in on the planning, execution, and follow-up on the war in Iraq. And he never asked any questions, but dutifully went about performing his job.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, a few months ago he caused a stir in the citadels of power. He publicly announced that the White House had been hijacked by a cabal. The cabal included VP Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. He had farther than even his old boss, Gen. Powell, would never had gone. Powell has always maintained the military code of never publicly criticizing the commnader-in-chief.

But here you have Powell's right-hand man doing exactly that. Was he voicing wrods Powell thought and felt? Was Wilkerson, perhaps, giving vent to years of frustration at seeing his former boss' ideas and criticisms about the war ridiculed and dismissed in the official meetings held by the Bush elites? Perhaps... perhaps not. Powell has never publicly said anything to contradict his commander.
So you've spent most of your adult life doing what you believed was right. You're accustomed to the give-and-take, rough and tumble world where you have to fight for what you believe in. Nothing's taken for granted, since if it is, people might die. There's a give and take between rigid, mechanistic following of routine and the encouragement to improvise and be creative. That's what Wilkerson learned to do and to love in the Army.

Then he followed his leader, or was asked to follow his leader, to the State department. He was aksed to act as front-man for one of the great generals and military ment of our time. This was not the world of orders and routines and rigidly defined regulations. Instead, it was the world of informed consent and debate and democratic principle.

How disillusioned this former military man then was, when he watched the person HIS commander-in-chief, the man he had voted for and believed in, surrorunded by know-nothing toadies and lock-step drones. yet, this was a new world and he followed--never questioning, like that poem, "into valley of death rode the 600."

He remembers:
Until recently, Col Wilkerson said, he had tended to accept the White House explanation that ­ along with the intelligence services of Britain, Germany and other countries ­ the CIA and other US agencies had simply been fooled over Iraq's presumed weapons threat. "You begin to wonder, was this intelligence spun? Was it politicised? Was it cherry-picked? I am beginning to have my concerns," Col Wilkerson said.
Like coming down from a high or being on a drunk, the realization begins to hit home that he was lied to, deceived, manipulated. Something a man who has always prided himself for his self-reliance finds hard to stomach.

The realization takes months and turns into years. And when he finally realizes the extent of the decpetion, like the man of honor he is, he realizes that he cannot sit back and remain silent. He must speak out. He must let others see the danger he has seen--the danger to all that he was ready to fight and die for. The danger that his government had been hijacked by men whose hypocrisies begin to verge not simply on treason but on the worst that one can say about another human being: "crimes against humanity." Read more!

Bush Uses His BIG Voice to Do the "Vision Thing," Part 23

"I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I had a choice, I'd rather go to war." -- George W. Bush, in Houston Chronicle, January 2002

I am listening to Pres. Bush orate and declaim the prepared speech his writers have devised for him about a new plan to win in Iraq. The logic behind the words is somewhat different than before. But the old standards are here as well: 1) we're in Iraq, so the terrorists won't get over here, 2) only absolute victory counts as victory, 3) we're staying the course.

What's news in the speech is how the Pres's writers and ideologists have tried to rewrite who's fighting against us: there's more detail about the enemy as the administration sees it. These include: 1) those Sunnis who are jealous of the Shias, 2) those former Sunni leaders who are jealous of the Shia leaders, and 3) the "real" terrorists who are jealous of us, America, and of our "freedom."

Now this tactic of appealing to self-interest means something to Americans. In our way of thinking we like to reduce things to what people want and how they go about getting it. It appeals to the sense that we have that people are always seeking their own, fighting for what they will get out of it. The problem is, is it a given that people in other societies--especially a society based on tribal, communitarian ideals--think the same way? I wonder.

Bush also appeals to the even deeper sense that Americans have of seeing what others have and comparing ourselves to them to see how far we have gotten in life. In abstract terms, this is called envy. In this way of looking at life, the goal is to make sure that no one is better than us and they should not be better off than we are. It even means that we resent others for enjoying stuff that we don't have. Again, the question is whether people who don't live in a world like ours think and feel this way.

Sure envy and resenentment are universal, but they play differently, depending on some basic assumptions made in a society. In a tribally based society, there's an inherent sense that those who have influence or power are given that by birth or God or the implied acceptance of other members of the tribe. They deserve respect because they have it by a natural right that does not depend on simple self-interest.

He's also listing the good things that the Iraqis are doing to become soldiers and defend themselves so we can leave. This is a good list, it's good to hear people doing things right, getting stuff done, making things fit into place. But it's my guess--and I might be stretching it here--that if the Pres can read off a list in a few minutes about hwat's gone right, that's not a good thing. It's not a good thing because to run a democracy or civil society, the list would run on for days--all those little and big things that make a society run right and fairly. The problem is, Mr. Bush's laundry list of "What's Right in Iraq" sounds like that's about it. Finito.

In his new speech, he has also put a "time-frame" in place. This is so nebulous and ill-defined, however, like his last plans, that it essentially means nothing. One question I always come away from in hearing this simple man from Texas speak BIG is, "what did he just say." Why is that? For a guy who cares so much about coming across as just a simple man, why is it that when he speaks BIG, it often makes little sense?

According to many inside sources, Bush is not the kind of guy who gets involved in the tiny details of planning. He's a player and a "big hitter" so he doesn't get his hands dirty with all that fuss and dust related to fine-tuning something. When I hear him talk BIG like, wanting to sound "historic" and "deep" and trying to make the heart-strings resonate with his vision of the way things are, it sounds a dead knell.

This war on terrorism is a debacle of Biblical proportions, the worst military mistake in 2,000 years, according to an historian whose books are required reading at West Point and other military academies. And staying there just botches it more.

Bush doesn't know this, or won't let himself believe it, but those in the military and intelligence know it. They're leaving the government and military in disgust because Bush refuses to acknowledge reality. He just blows up and gets emotional when anyone counters his rosy-glassed picture of reality. Read more!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Mistake That Wasn't

So now you have Democrats running around beating their chests, wearing hair-shirts and singing mea culpas over the "mistake" they made in voting for the wra in Iraq. I was there--I remmeber, don't you? I remmeber that no one--no one from the inside--of these Monday Night penitents ever said anything to forestall the vote on the War.

They didn't ask questions, they didn't say stopm, "let's think about this before we make a mistake." No, they did it because they wanted to go along to get along. They wanted to llok tough and patriotic and save their image so they could hold on to their jobs.

Ricahrd Cohen today in the Washington Post puts it well:

But so, too, are those from Democrats who say they made a "mistake" in supporting the war. What sort of mistake? It's not a mistake to be misled. But it is a mistake, if that's even the right word, to lack the courage of your convictions, to get swept up in the zeitgeist and dig in your heels even harder -- not as a consequence of hardening conviction but of accumulating doubt. This is a mistake of great consequence, a failure of judgment or political courage, and it needs to be explained.
That's right. Without putting too fine a point on it, the Democrats are gutless, spineless shills that every politican from every party in the US is. The Democrats should be doing more than simply living parasitically off the decayed corpse of the Bush war plan. They should be thinking creatively and big ideas to get us out of this mess.

And if there's one person who I believe has really truly shown courage in this debacle it is John Murtha--who voted for the War but has had the guts and honesty to really realize how much of a mistake he made and how of a mistake this war was and is. He has also presented a real plan--a plan for real victory, taking on the terrorists for real instead of spreading fear and deceit all over the globe. Read more!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Trophy Video

Train I ride, sixteen coaches long
Train I ride, sixteen coaches long
Well that long black train got my baby and gone

Train train, comin' 'round, 'round the bend
Train train, comin' 'round the bend
Well it took my baby, but it never will again (no, not again)

Train train, comin' down, down the line
Train train, comin' down the line
Well it's bringin' my baby, 'cause she's mine all, all mine
(She's mine, all, all mine)
-- "Mystery Train" (words & music by H. Parker - S. Philips)

It appears that some mercenaries contracted by the British govt. in Iraq have taken the Hemingway wisdom that hunting humans is the greatest sport to heart. The British newspaper, the Independent, reports that two mercenaries are under investigation for randomly shooting Iraqi citizens.

Investigators allegedly have a "trophy video" in hand. This video shows the mercenaries riding around Baghdad (?) in a a car with Elvis Presley singing "Mystery Train" in the background. It shows the passengers of the car shooting others in cars behind them. You can tell when the shots hit their mark, because the cars suddenly stop, crash into the curb, or ram another car. As one site has already remarked, the banality of the evil shown in this video is insidious.

You sit there watching, trying to figure out what's happening--maybe many would not even realize what actually unfolds before them--and it slowly dawns on you what's happening. And you're not shocked, at least at first, until you actually "think" about it. Otherwise, it just seems like somebody is videotaping their drive down main street Anywhere.

The incident, if true, has some chilling ramifications; according to the article:

The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
Yes, you read right--not just wacko, rogue elements are involved in these war crimes. This article says that the security companies themselves are responsible. If true, this invovles crimes against humanity.

For anyone with a historical consciousness, it will also remind them of bounty hunters contracted by the US govt to hunt and scalp native Americans. I was also reminded of the recent scandal involving a porn site that was used by American soldiers to trade pictures of dead Iraqis they had killed.

Unfortunately, this does not surprise me, although I am surprised that it has occurred so openly and in such a cowardlyway. Anyone familiar with the NY Times TV show, Off to War, can hear the hatred and disgust that many soldiers end up feeling for all Iraqis.

In the last episode of this show, a National Guard sergeant about to go back home to his job as a policeman recounts how he must take some time to unwind. He says that if he doesn't, he's afraid that if he meets a "swarthy" middle easterner on a traffic stop, he cannot say what he might do to him.

Thus does war make of the most responsible among us murderers.

Update 11/29: Breaking: Tim Spicer stonewalling Civilian Iraq shootings inquiry?

For those who with a strong stomach, you can download the video in Windows format. Read more!

Military Ethics Teacher Commits Suicide in Iraq

There's much to this story about a respected military ethics teacher who went to Iraq, found corruption and deceit and the betrayal of military honor. His family cannot live with the idea that he committed suicide and rightfully call for an investigation into his death--especially since he was found in a contractor compound, surrounded by those he had accused of corruption.

There is, however, enough pathos and tragedy in his suicide note to warrant reflection on the entire Iraq war enterprise as a campaign in illusion and spiritual corruption of our political leaders. Beyond this, though, there is something under the surface that is ugly and dark about the soul of the American spirit that bubbles and threatens to crack open like an odious tumor.

I leave you to read Helena Cobban's well-turned musings on the letter. It is time that each of us begins to question what conditions in our way of life has brought this upon us. Read more!

American Theocracy

People in my Religion After 911 class must have thought I was insane or a conspiracy nut when I'd claim that there is a form of American jihadism that calls for Christian theocracy in the US. Called Christian Reconstructionism (aka Theocratic Dominionism), it is a very stealthy, behind the scenes movement that is very good at hiding its intentions and politico-religious agenda. Indeed, I had read a review of a Pat Robertson book, in which he was reported to have advocated a form of stealth campaign to gain control of the government by Chrisitan fundamentalists.

I first read about the movement in Mark Juergensmeyer's book, Terror in the Mind of God. I did some googling and web searching on the movement and found precious little. The websites that espouse this view seemed conservative but relatively innocuous. You don't read anything in there that espouses the takeover of the govt and the institution of the Old Testament as the basis for law and order in the US. And some of the articles that purport to expose the evil dimensions of the movement seem somehwat overblown and short on substance and long on hysteria.

Yet, the fact that Juuegensmyer, a resepcted scholar, had covered it left me with some suspicions about the true tactics and goals of this movement. Recently, an article appeared in Mother Jones magazine about Roy Moore who is running for governor in Alabama. According to this artilce, Moore could well win that state. This would result in the first known candidate with direct ties to the Christian Reconstructionist's agenda.

Yet, this candidate's run for governor does not mark the suddent appearance of Chrisitan Reconstructionism on the political scene. As the article notes, there are many politicians in Washington, as well as other religious denominations who buy into the Reconstructionist ideology:

Reconstruction is the spark plug behind much of the battle over religion in politics today. The movement’s founder, theologian Rousas John Rushdoony, claimed 20 million followers—a number that includes many who embrace the Reconstruction tenets without having joined any organization. Card-carrying Reconstructionists are few, but their influence is magnified by their leadership in Christian right crusades, from abortion to homeschooling.

Reconstructionists also exert significant clout through front organizations and coalitions with other religious fundamentalists; Baptists, Anglicans, and others have deep theological differences with the movement, but they have made common cause with its leaders in groups such as the National Coalition for Revival. Reconstruction has slowly absorbed, congregation by congregation, the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (not to be confused with the progressive Presbyterian Church [USA]) and has heavily influenced others, notably the Southern Baptists.

George W. Bush has called Reconstruction-influenced theoretician Marvin Olasky “compassionate conservatism’s leading thinker,” and Olasky served as one of the president’s key advisers on the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bush also invited Reconstructionist Jack Hayford, a key figure in the Promise Keepers men’s group, to give the benediction at his first inaugural. Deposed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, though his office won’t comment on his religious views, governs with what he calls a “biblical worldview”—one of Reconstruction’s signature phrases. And, for conspiracy buffs, two heavy contributors to the Chalcedon Foundation—Reconstruction’s main think tank—are Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt, both of whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software. Ahmanson is also a major sponsor of ultraconservative politicians, including California state legislator and 2003 gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock.
So maybe I do sound like a conspiracy nut. As the paranoid is wont to say, however, "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get me." And just because we live in America and feel that it "can't happen here," you have to realize how deeply passionate these religionists are about their belief in the moral decadence of America. A decadence, they further believe, that can only be cleansed by a Xtian theocracy.

And as at least one recent poll shows, many Americans who believe that religion is "under attack." The Reconstructionists, no doubt, can ride that belief a long way into the corridors of power in Washington. Read more!

Willy Pete--When Night Becomes Day

Usually, when you hear someone say something like, "when night becomes day," you think they're talking about a time when things miraculous will happen. In the case of white phosphorus, called Willy Pete by soldiers in Iraq, the miraculous comes in the form of seeing the enemy mvoing around so you can pick them off.

I've spent several weeks writing about the use of white phosphorous in the US military siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. I've linked to numerous articles from Iraqi, Italian, Pentagon, and other sources. These sources conflict on the exact nature of how this substance was uued in the siege of the city. At first, I called it a "chemical weapon," believing that 1) phosphorus is a chemical and 2) it was used as a weapon of war.

My simplistic way of looking at the world can't seem to capture the intricacies of what constitutes a weapon to military experts and especially munitions folk--those who spend their lives either designing these weapons or deploying them for use in the "theater of war." These intricacies do not categorize Willy Pete as a weapon at all. Instead it is simply an "incendiary device" used to illuminate the skies during night battle.

Yet, as some reports from Iraq have shown, when Saddam Hussein used the chemical, the US intelligence agencies called it a chemical weapon. It also came out--after repeated denials--that the US military had used the incendiary devices during its siege of Fallujah--but not against civilians, in compliance with international laws and treaties. As several commentators have shown, the language in those documents refers to anyone human, not just civilians. Unless you categorize combtatants as non-human, then using the weapon against them must be illegal.

The evidence for the use of Willy Pete as a combat weapon is widely disputed still. Those Iraqi doctors and others who reported seeing civilians and others burned to the bone are accused of lying by the Pentagon. The word of anyone in Iraq--unless they have an American uniform and speak English--carries no weight.

Given these circumstances, we may never really know what happened at Fallujah, and whether you believe it happened or not a matter of faith which will ultimately depend on some form of misplaced allegiance: either to a mindless pacifist mentality or a mindless "love America or leave it" schizophrenia.

In other words, it has the potential to become something like an updated version of the 1,001 nights: another mirage emanating from the desert war and its terrible flames. But such a poetic image cannot and should not keep us from seeing that this story says something about all of uss. Not just about "us," the US, those in power,or some ill-defined ghost that cannot take responsibility for anything. No, this crime is my fault, your fault, and those we know's fault. It is our fault that we let our soldiers go over there, for letting ourselves be decieved because we were afraid--afraid for ourselves but not afraid enough for the innocents in those other places.

Yes, we all have blood on our hands. Blood for creating and living in a society that sees killing other human beings as somehow justified as a natural result of war--when they do not die naturally at all, but at the end of a gun or bomg pulled or dropped by us. Yes, let's look into our own hearts and ask what it is in our way of life that makes killing such a matter of mechanical necessity. For,no matter how precise the weapons are, and how restricted their devatstating effects, innocents still die. And we have the gall to turn away our spiritual gaze by calling them "collateral damage," like so much trash or road-kill discarded along the highway of death called American freedom and democracy.

Now see the NY Times Editorial: Shake and Bake, November 29... After an article that whitewashed the use of this weapon at Fallujah, this editorial provides important perspective on the political implications of using this weapon, as well as some of the ehtical aspects:

The United States should be leading the world, not dragging its feet, when it comes to this sort of issue - because it's right and because all of us, including Americans, are safer in a world in which certain forms of conduct are regarded as too inhumane even for war. That is why torture should be banned in American prisons. And it is why the United States should stop using white phosphorus.
Now, all that needs to be done is for the Pentagon to take the advice in the article and to investigate what happened at Fallujah with regard to Willy Pete. The story has made the rounds of the media worldwide--suck it up, Rumsfeld, and show that the US is honest when it comes to its own use of weapons that "look like" those same weapons you and the President accused Saddam Hussein of using.

For an excellent analysis of the international and US conventions and laws dealing with the use of Willy Pete, see her recent article, "White Phosphorus, the CWC, and U.S. legislation," at 'Just World News'.

Related story: Use of Chemical in Iraq Ignites Debate -- This is a good background report but it does not refer to 1) the Pentagon calling Willy Pete a chemical weapon when Hussein used it, 2) the eyewitness account of Dahr Jamail, an unembedded reporter at Fallujah, and 3) the words of US soldiers themselves that were quoted in an Italian documentary on the use of the weapon at Fallujah. In most cases the article is too dismissive of counter-charges--but then the evidence is either dead, an enemy combtatant, or Iraqi.

Also see US Used Chemical Weapons Against Iraq, Compiled by Sunil K. Sharma Read more!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lies within Lies: The Iraq War News Wonderland

The lies continue to pile up from the Bush team. The problem is, most people want to give the pres. and his minions the benefit of the doubt. Why? It could be simple sense for civility, the feealing that no one likes to call someone else a liar, or maybe it's something Freudian--we don't like to think of daddy as telling fibs.

Whatever the case may be, there is growing evidence that the Pres lied or allowed himself to be deceived by his underlings. Again, with the press passing around so many stories, it's hard to keep your head on straight and keeping the different views in persepctive is sometimes like living in Wonderland.

That's why it's always helpful to hear from someone who seems to have their feet on the ground. I have always found Andrew Greeley one such person. It also helps that he's a priest--one who had spoken out loudly against papal abuses and priestly sexual abuses. So, it's somewhat possible that when Greely speaks he speaks with a voice that cuts through the BS and puts it all on the line. As I think he does in the following article:

Not only did the Bush administration deceive the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq, it is now deceiving them about the deceptions. In a burst of political tantrums, the president and the vice president have shouted that it was "irresponsible" to assert that there had been deception and it was unfair to the troops fighting in Iraq.

Is the administration lying about its lies? That many of the arguments in favor of the war were false is beyond question.
Read more!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What Did They Know?When Did They Know It?

An accusation flying around the debate over why the US went ot war in Iraq is whether those who voted for the giving the President the authority to go to war has as much intelligence as he did. The Bush admin asserts that those who are now criticizing the war had the same information as the President did. Many critics now question that assertion.

One person who should know is former Florida Senator, Bob Graham. He was head of the Senate intelligence committee at the time that the Congress was deciding on this issue. In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, he published something of a "smoking gun" detailing how Bush and his administration twisted and tortured the Iraq intelligence to fit their pre-conceived plan to invade Iraq.

There were troubling aspects to this 90-page document. While slanted toward the conclusion that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites, it contained vigorous dissents on key parts of the information, especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. As to Hussein's will to use whatever weapons he might have, the estimate indicated he would not do so unless he was first attacked. -- Quoted by Ivo Daddler
To Graham's credit, he voted against the war in Iraq, feeling that the US had left business unfinished--finding and arresting Osama bin-Laden--in Afghanistan. In an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Graham further asserted that the one responsible for misocnstruing intelligence is the President.

In giving reasons why he voted against the war in Iraq, he noted that there are a lot of bad guys, terrible guys in that part of the world. Taking out Saddam Hussein seemed beside the point.

See further: Who is Lying About Iraq WMD Intel?NOvember 25 Entry Read more!

Torture Spreads in Iraq

While VP Cheney lobbies for extending to the CIA the right to torture suspected terrorists, revelations about its use by the ruling Iraqi govt has brought back memories of Saddam Hussein's torture chambers. However, not only does the US torture, but the news media are filled with stories about the Bristish using drills to torture Iraqi detainees.

Meanwhile, Col. Wilkerson, the former Powell aide who has publicly declared that Cheney/Rumsfeld formed a cabal to take over democratic processes in the admin, has now said that VP Cheney himself set the "tone" and lax moral environment in which torture was came to birth.

Wilkerson's statements follow former CIA chief Stansfield Turner's accusation that Cheney is the VP of torture. Read more!

Some US Left Find Fallujah Chemical Weapons Story Politcally Incorrect

It's a moral and ethical indictment against the US press that the story about the US military using white phosphorus in last year's siege of Fallujah has not earned more widespread media coverage.

You might find this recent "Talking Points" post interesting. It covers the question of why the US press has ignored the issue. Of even more interest, perhaps, are the rationalizations by "liberal" commenters to this piece about why the Left should NOT be following up on this story. Is this hypocrisy or what?

On the other hand, there are some liberals with military background who do raise some important questions. For example, the Armchair General takes recent reports to task for bad reporting and for being ill-informed about munitions. But note his consternation that the Pentagon itself has acknowledged using the weapon:

UPDATE: Well, evidently the Army IS using WP in a direct-fire mode against combatant targets. I'm somewhat surprised, the munition wasn't designed for that, and there is definitely the risk of collateral damage that they're ignoring. But it still isn't chemical warfare...
In doing so, he links to this article.

From Italy: Italian Gov't Claims Ignorance About WP
Indie Press: Fallujah: The War Crimes Keep Piling Up, by Dave Lindorff Read more!

The Underbelly of Occupation

With the invasion of Iraq and its chaotic aftermath, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled their homes and sought refuge in safer havens. The places they choose is itself telling. They choose to enter camps where there are no human amnities avaialable, simply to flee the threat of death and brutality by either insurgents, trrorists or US soldiers.

The major point to bear in mind ins that there are hundreds of thousands of people who choose to flee a country they once called home. They have chosen refugee circumstances because they realize that the conditions in their homes are unsafe and outright threatening.
Silent exodus leaves 500,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria in need of protection and aid
Report, Refugees International, 15 November 2005

Little known to the rest of the world, the recent war in Iraq has created large numbers of refugees who have fled to Syria, escaping the lawlessness, harassment, and persecution that has followed. Iraqis, some accused of supporting the Americans, cite attacks, kidnappings, and threats of murder by insurgent groups upon themselves and their families as reasons for their flight. “I was threatened that if I didn’t quit [a job with U.S. supported employer], they would kill me. For our security, I brought my family to Syria,” one recent arrival told Refugees International (RI). Others were maimed by the war, lost family members, and could not find employment, making the likelihood of their survival alone amidst the general insecurity in Iraq a near impossibility. ... Read More

Also see Iraqis flee war, persecution Read more!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Army Called White Phosphorus a "Chemical Weapon"

Now comes the revelation that the Pentagon--contrary to ALL its previous statements--ITSELF called white phosphorus a "chemical weapon," after it was used by Saddam Hussein against Kurdish villagers.

Obviously, such a position is either blatant hypocrisy or simple addledness. Or is it rather more case of "if they use it, it's a chemical weapon, but if we use it, it's 'an incendiary device'?"

Recent news reports in the US Press have followed the lead of much smaller media outlets, although the British press has given the story greater recognition.

Today the NY Times covered the story. Its report, however, was flawed and amounts to something of a whitewash since it merely calls the Pentagon's efforts at dealing with this story a type of "PF failure."

This is not "PR." This story is about burning men, women, and children alive with chemicals.

One of the inconsistencies in the Pentagon's PR campaign has been the contention that white phosphorus is not a "chemical weapon." However, we now learn that the Pentagon itself classfified this weapon as a "chemical weapon" in the 1990s. I quote from a recently declassified Pentagon document. Here's the quote:


I believe that the flip-flopping and inconsistency between the Pentagon's statements, as well as the gravity of the accusations, require some form of congressional inquiry.

The Iraqi government is already investigating this incident and British politicans have said the UN should look start asking some questions--now I think our own leaders need to look at it.

Read more: Declassified Pentagon Document Describes White Phosphorus As ‘Chemical Weapon’ Read more!

"Confusion Will Be [Our] Epitaph"

And I thought that the Bush admin might really have manipulated, "cherry-picked," warped, misconstrued, maliciously withheld important intelligence about Saddam Hussein's WMDs. The threat posed by the former Iraqi distator has come under intense questioning lately.

Some say that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld misused in some way the intelligence that was available in order to make a case for war. These are serious accusations, and the administartion has come out swinging against those critics who have gone so far as to call the administration liars.

I must say that from the time when this war was being not-debated in Congress, I have said that the Bush administration misused intelligence--much of which was even available on-line to the many journalists who joined in lock-step with the calls for this war.

Be that as it may, recent statements by VP Chenery and Defense chief Rumsfeld give me pause about the exact consciousness involved in any deception perpetrated by the admin. Just today, for example, the VP said:

Those who advocate a sudden withdraw from Iraq should answer a couple simple questions. Would the United States and other free nations be better off or worse off with Zarqawi, Bin Laden and Zawahiri in control Iraq? Would we be safer or less safe with Iraq ruled by men intent upon the destruction of our country.
Now, as much as I disagree with and find Cheney's recent lobbying for torture reprehensible, I find his statement arresting. Indeed, I don't want the Islamo-fascists running things in the mideast. I also don't want to see Osama bib-Laden appointed the caliph of Islam. Yet, I also know that the majority of those fighting against the US are Iraqis and that foreign terrorists make up only a small portion of the ilk blowing up men, women, and chidlren.

Still, let's give the VP a benefit of the doubt for a minute. His comments imply that the Iraqi army and polics are simply not up to snuff and will be incapable of defeating the jihadists in Iraq. Notwithstanding the fact that Congress has been pulling teeth to get the admin to talk staright about this very issue, maybe the VP's right.

Then he better talk to Donald Rumsfeld. That's because just yesterday Rumsfeld said that the Iraqis were ready to take over and that we could start to at least conceive of the possibility of pulling our troops out. Of people who pooh-pooh the idea that the Iraqis are ready to take responsibility for their destiny, Rumsfeld said:
People who denigrate their [the Iraqi Army's and ploice] competence and capability are flat wrong. They’re making a mistake. They either don’t understand the situation or they’re trying to confuse it, but the Iraqi security forces are well respected by the Iraqi people. They’re doing a very good job.
This comes on the--to me--shocking revelation that Rumsfeld was against the invasion of Iraq, as he asserted on TV yesterday.

As I say, I used to think it was duplicity on the admin's part that got us to war. Now I am starting to entertain that it is just dumb confusion--something like the "left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing" or worse. Read more!

NY Times Whitewashes Fallujah

The NY Times today is taking the administartion's stance on the use of chemical weapons in the Iraqi city of Falluja. The Times article does not provide the timeline and required context for undertsanding the lies behind the US military's 1) denial of using white phosphorus 2) acknowledgement of using it, and finally 3) the notion that it was used but not on civilians.

The Times seems to take the approach that, while some mistakes were made, the REAL mistake were in the military's PR response to the first reports:

While he said he could not rule out that white phosphorus hit some civilians, "U.S. and coalition forces took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties in Falluja."

However, George Monbiot provides a balanced analysis of both the timeline of lies coming out of the Pentagon, but also the moral implications of having used these weapons not just on civilians, which are proven, but also "human beings" in general.

The ramification of the US attack on Fallujah may never come to light, since the US military will never admit that its commanders and soldiers used every means possible to expedite the destruction of insurgents. As many within and outside the Pentagon wioll argue, "war is hell, mistakes are made in the heat of the moment, and no one can be held responsible for doing what was needed to kill and keep from being killed."

As embedded journalist Darrin Mortenson of California, who was at the attack on Fallujah, notes, however, the ramifications of this devastating attack on Fallujah perahps served as the one major source for the growth of the Iraqi insurgency:
The latest revelations that U.S. forces used white phosphorus, however legal or however justified in military terms, could not have helped staunch the flow of new blood to the cause. Nor could the appearance that the U.S. tried to deny it.

In Iraq, the troops say they have had a hard time trusting the Iraqis. It's equally hard to trust that a tactical military victory will translate into a strategic one.

And as the world outside America continues to shake its head over the use of force in Fallujah, it's fair to ask again whether the assault really broke the back of the insurgency or gave it wings to fly.

The question continues to dog those of us sitting here back home with out loved ones put into circumstances where they must kill or be killed. What terror must they see, must they be forced to commit by nerves, fear, or accident? What innocence is lost on both sides--civilains and soldiers--in body and soul? Read more!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

‘Q eidat ilmu’ti’aat’:The Strange History of Franken-Laden

While this article is written by a conspiracy buff, it is well-documented and does quote some respectable authorities. What I find intriguing abou this article is that so much can be learned when you follow the history of words.

This one is particular is of interest: "al-Qaeda," and its roots in the Afghani war against the Soviets and the CIA funding of ‘Q eidat ilmu’ti’aat’.
Al-Qaeda the Database Unbound
Saturday November 19th 2005, 9:12 am

In a lengthy excerpt posted on Wayne Madsen’s site, Pierre-Henry Bunel, a former agent for French military intelligence, explains the origins of the word “al-Qaeda.” As previously noted by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, “al-Qaeda” has nothing to do with a terrorist organization, as the neocons and the corporate media tell us over and over, ad infinitum, but is in fact a database. “In the early 1980s the Islamic Bank for Development, which is located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, like the Permanent Secretariat of the Islamic Conference Organization, bought a new computerized system to cope with its accounting and communication requirements,” Bunel explains. ... Read More Read more!

Training Ground for Terror

With this report, we see that there are not as many terrorists in Iraq as the Bush admin. would have us believe. Ninety percent of the insurgents are home-grown, and therefore are fighting the presence of troops in the country--not fighting for Jihad.

But this does mean that bin-Laden can use Iraq to train his followers in tactics that they will them export to other countries. No doubt, this is what we saw with the bombing in Amman, Jordan.

If the US pulled out of Iraq, the Iraqi insurgents would stop fighting and begin to integrate back into society. With this integration, they could then fight the real terrorists and make them leave. Then the terrorists would have to find new places to train.

But they would also lose a rallying point to recruit new followers: the US in Iraq.
New study details Iraq insurgency

Up to 3,000 foreign insurgents may be fighting in Iraq, but they remain a small part of the overall rebellion, a US military analyst has suggested. ... Read more!

White Phosphorus: An Iraqi's Worst Nightmare

Conventional Terror...
It sat on my PC desktop for five days.

Few Iraqis ever doubted the American use of chemical weapons in Falloojeh. We’ve been hearing the terrifying stories of people burnt to the bone for well over a year now. I just didn’t want it confirmed.

I didn’t want it confirmed because confirming the atrocities that occurred in Falloojeh means verifying how really lost we are as Iraqis under American occupation and how incredibly useless the world is in general- the UN, Kofi Annan, humanitarian organizations, clerics, the Pope, journalists… you name it- we’ve lost faith in it.

I finally worked up enough courage to watch it and it has lived up to my worst fears. Watching it was almost an invasive experience, because I felt like someone had crawled into my mind and brought my nightmares to life. Image after image of men, women and children so burnt and scarred that the only way you could tell the males apart from the females, and the children apart from the adults, was by the clothes they are wearing… the clothes which were eerily intact- like each corpse had been burnt to the bone, and then dressed up lovingly in their everyday attire- the polka dot nightgown with a lace collar… the baby girl in her cotton pajamas- little earrings dangling from little ears. ... Read More

For a detailed discussion of the jargon and double-talk involved in talking about these weapons, see
'Banned weapons', 'conventional' warfare and some other inapt terms
Read more!

Xtian Jihad

American Christian Fundamentalist Leader Calls For Global War
By Yoginder Sikand

Texas-based author and preacher Michael Evans is one of the most notorious American Christian fundamentalist preachers today, a passionate advocate of war in the name of Christ. In a recently published book, titled 'Beyond Iraq: The Next Move-Ancient Prophecy and Modern-Day Conspiracy Collide' (Whitestone Books, Florida, 2003), he spells out a grand design for American global hegemony, blessed in the guise of a holy global war. Key players in this 'divine' plot include the CIA, the American government and army, and Israel, besides various Christian fundamentalist outfits. The book is dedicated, among others, to what Evans describes as 'two old friends', Ehud Olmert, former Israeli Vice President, and the former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Equally revealingly, the book begins with a quotation which graces the lobby of the original headquarters of the CIA.

Evans is no petty crank who claims to be God-possessed, although his writings might seem to suggest that. ... Read more Read more!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Stand Up and Be Counted: Congressman John Murtha

I wrote this letter to Congresmman John Murtha as he awaits his stand against those who try to revile him and make a fool out of him tonight on the floor of the House of Representatives:

Congressman Murtha:

I want to thank you for showing the courage necessary in this time of deceit, lies, and evil. The Bush administration has tried to usurp power in the US and you have shown the backbone that many in Congress cannot or will not display.

They will attempt to pillory you and revile you and turn you into a laughing-stock. Please realize that some respect you and wish God's strength in your fight with this moral cowardice. You are a hero in more than one way, and I believe that the Republicans and others in your own party who disparage your brave words and stand must look at themselves in the mirror someday and see the liars and dceivers they are. Of these traitors to America, we can echo the prophet Ezekiel's words:

[There is] a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Eze 22:25

It's time for Democrats to stop sounding like Dr. Evil "Mini-Me"s and promote a winning strategy for the soldiers and for the country. You are right to voice the pain and sense of betrayalthat the over 40,000 who have lost limbs, faces, eyes, noses feel and live with each day. You have heard the cries of the dispossessed, what the Bible calls the widows and orphans. They "devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation." Luk 20:47

I look forward to hearing your words as you stand against the hypocrisy and deceit that passes for justice in our government.

For a more skeptical analysis of Murtha's stand, see
'Hawks' and 'chickenhawks': yet more discursive detritus Read more!

The Pope and Evolution (Cont'd)

I don't know that this leads to Deism since the Church believes in revelation over reason. A minimalist understanding of their position is that there is no inherent and irreconcilable disconnect between reason and revelation. The church sees itself as a continuing source of divine revelation.

The church embodies the Holy Spirit and as such can continue to reveal to humans what is God's will and meaning. The church sees itself as containing a revelatory power on par with holy scripture. What they see is that the Bible is a collection of stories, meant to edify humans and present the revelation of God, a revelation that the church is uniquely positioned to interpret and operationalize, given the concept of apostolic succession.

Does evolution rule out that election? How? I don't think so. Nor does it somehow negate the divinity of Jesus--that is, if one incorrectly sees Jesus as a "son of adam." Jesus is the new Adam--He precedes Adam, at least from the perspective of divine governance.

Does the theory of evolution or the Church's acceptance of it somehow negate its fight against the many heresies thruout history? There were/are many heresies. I do not see how the theory of evolution and the church's acceptance of it somehow affirms these heresies. Again, though, many of these heresies were pretty diverse--so being specific about which heresy one is talking about is important.

I'm not about to support the Catholic Church's position on this issue--one way or the other. While I think they're right, I see it in a completely different light--evolution just is, it's happened and the way scientists understand will change and be refined over time. I just don't see the basic framework as being wrong.

The disconnect comes in thinking that the Bible must or should somehow accord with the findings of science. Christianity, at least to my mind, teaches that God is spirit and as Spirit He rules over the spiritual/material human, should they see it that way. If not, then fine.

In a non ID way, I think the Catholic Church's position does say that humans were created by God. But remember, ID gets into the facts of evolution and tries to prove its points from there by disputing those facts. The Catholic position does not do that, as far as I can tell.

Read more Read more!

Look in The Mirror, Mr(s). Pro-Iraq War

John Murtha has seen the ones who get wheeled around, and he voices their pain and sense of betrayal by their own President: the over 40,000 who have lost limbs, faces, eyes, noses... Look in the mirror and imagine it in their place. Can you even look for more than a few nanoseconds? Read more!

Fitzgerald To Ask for New Grand Jury

Perhaps Fitzgerald is taking an open letter by Former White House Counsel John Dean seriously.
CIA leak probe extended, By Adam Entous
Fri Nov 18, 2005 5:12 PM GMT162

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.

In filings obtained by Reuters on Friday, Fitzgerald said "the investigation is continuing" and that "the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. ... Read More Read more!

Most Americans Support Torture: Pew Research Survey

According to a Pew research study, most Americans support the use of torture against terrorists. This report has been skewed in the mainstream media to emphasize the isolationism question. The following analysis from provides links to the original survey results.

Related Article: CIA agents reveal interrogation tactics
War In Context Comment

Pew's latest survey (PDF) of American opinion leaders and the general public has been reported in many ways. Most US newspapers, like the New York Times, focus on the increased level of isolationism and choose to bury the issue of the public approval of torture. (The Times leaves it the final sentence.) Even among the foreign media that highlight the torture numbers, most, like South Africa's News 24, highlight the lower number (the combination of 15% who says that torture should often be used on terrorist suspects and 31% who say it should sometimes be used). Yet the stark fact is that among those Americans polled only 32% say that torture should never be used on terrorist suspects. Discounting the "don't knows" that means -- with differing degrees of frequency -- 63% accept the use of torture. No doubt, Dick Cheney and his advisors will take heart from these numbers. ... Read more Read more!

How Many Civilians Die in Iraq?

In response to an article written by Gil Eliot in the Guardian newspaper, the researchers of the Lancet Report respond to his misconstrual of the actual number of civilian deaths in Iraq.
Taking responsibility for Falluja
Thursday November 17, 2005
The Guardian

Gil Elliot's critique of the Lancet study into Iraqi deaths (Letters, November 10) is misleading and adds little to the debate. The figure of 98,000 deaths is not extrapolated from 21 violent deaths, as Elliot suggests, but from all-cause mortality outside Falluja (89 deaths). The high mortality observed in Falluja should not be surprising given the bombardment the city endured, and the gender bias is acknowledged and discussed in the paper. It is important to remember that 98,000 deaths is based on conservative assumptions and careful sampling. It is statistically the most likely number of excess deaths. Given the data, there is a 90% chance that the true value is greater than 44,000 and a 50% chance that it is greater than 98,000. This study is now a year old and the violence continues unabated, claiming more lives. We must have a full and independent inquiry into excess mortality in Iraq.
Tom Yates, Dr Judy Cook, Dr jack Piachaud
Medact Read more!

Pakistan Daily News: "Democracy Through Napalm"

What the many reports coming out on this issue miss is that the original wording of the international convention banning these weapons says they should not be used against "people," not just "civilians." Unless you buy into the fallacious argument of the Bush administration that the Iraq insurgents are somehow less than human, this means that the use of these weapons is outlawed pure and simple.
EDITORIAL: Democracy through napalm

All governments resort to dissembling in varying degrees. However, there is a difference between dissembling and petty lying. The governments in the United States and the United Kingdom seem to be trying to elevate petty lying to an art form. Take the case of the news reported by Italian state TV channel RAI that US troops used white phosphorous bombs against insurgents and civilians in Fallujah in November last year. ...

Even if we accept that US troops did not use these munitions against civilian targets, though it is difficult to see how they could have deployed them so accurately against insurgents holed up in the city, we still have to contend with the fact that the US government lied blatantly when it denied it had such munitions. ... See more Read more!

Kerry Mealy-Mouths Murtha

If there's a person who has courage these days of treason and decpetion, it has to be John Murtha, Democrat from Pennsylvania. A retired Army colonel who fought in VietNam and received bronze stars and purple hearts, Murtha courgaeously changed his position on the war in Iraq. He did so after speaking to real men and women in the field and after discussing the military situation with commanding officers.

In other words, he did some soul-searching, sought out the facts, and realized his mistake. That's how courage is shown--not in following the party line or marching in lock-step when your deluded leaders tell you to.

Now John Kerry comes out and mealy-mouths Murtha's plan to immediately leave Iraq. Sounding like the old Bostonian mandarin that he is, he talked down to Murtha and put forward a plan that he espoused in his campaign and which the voters knew was not different from the Bush plan already in play.

It's time for Democrats to stop sounding like Dr. Evil "Mini-Me"s and promote a winning strategy for the soldiers and for the country. Get the troops out now.

Update: Kerry has redeemed himself today by lashing back at Murtha's critics, especially Se. Dennis Hastert. Read more!

The Wizard Behind Bush's Oz, or: The Ghost in the Slime Machine

It's a given that all government officials lie and try to manipulate the facts. Everything you read in the news is immediately suspect and should be questioned in this type of environment. The Ubu Bush Oz machine has gone further in this effort. They have secretly hired a PR firm to use intelligence information and turn into a marketable product, much as one seels a movie or TV Show.
The Rendon Group: Proof The Administration Manipulated Intelligence

From “Saddam Hussein’s Development of Weapons of Mass Destruction” [White House website]:

In 2001, an Iraqi defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, said he had visited twenty secret facilities for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. … Mr. Saeed said Iraq used companies to purchase equipment with the blessing of the United Nations - and then secretly used the equipment for their weapons programs.

None of al-Haideri’s claims were true. Today’s Rolling Stone reveals that the administration’s use of al-Haideri’s lies to justify the Iraq war were “the product of a clandestine operation…that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling a war.” ... Read More Read more!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Putting the Lie to the Pentagon's Defense of "Fire-Bomb"

In a well-written article that tackles the assertions in the recent Defense Department's acknowledgement and defense of using white phosphorus in Fallujah, Mark Kraft burrows into the misinformation dissmeintaed by the PR team at the Pentagon.

Especially significant are the following paragraphs:

"What the [Army] article does not say, however, is that there is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature.

This claim of "shake and bake" is further confirmed in a news article by an embedded journalist at the time. (See... [article])

"Bogert is a mortar team leader who directed his men to fire round after round of high explosives and white phosphorus charges into the city Friday and Saturday, never knowing what the targets were or what damage the resulting explosions caused. . . they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call "shake 'n' bake" into a cluster of buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week."

With some of the mainstream press finally reporting this story (CNN ran a flawed segment), many are relying on the official military communiques, which contain slanted and skewed information at best.

Also see the _The Independent_ article that rebuts much of the disinformation being into play by the defense Department. Read more!

Dahr Jamail Remembers the Massacre of Fallujah

I am still following up on this story which, you may have noted, CNN misreported. They made numerous errors about the timing of the Defense Dept.'s acknowledgement of using the weapon, as well as the restrictions relating to its use.

Anyway, the following comes from Dahr Jamail, an unembedded reporter in Iraq. The original article includes photos he took of the carnage, as well as several links to the original articles he wrote immediately after the siege of Fallujah.
Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches -
Fallujah Revisited
November 14, 2005

Nearly a year after they occurred, a few of the war crimes committed in Fallujah by members of the US military have gained the attention of some major media outlets (excluding, of course, any of the corporate media outlets in the US).

Back on November 26, 2004, in a story I wrote for the Inter Press Service titled 'Unusual Weapons' Used in Fallujah, refugees from that city described, in detail, various odd weapons used in Fallujah. In addition, they provided detailed descriptions such as “pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt the skin even when water was thrown on the burns.” ... Read more Read more!

Repentant Republicans with Ears to Hear and Eyes to See

Those who are now re-thinking their stand on Iraq might wish to read the following from a founder of the Republicans for Humility.

Confessions of a Repentant Republican, by William Frey, M.D.

This essay explores many of the issues that led me personally to the recognition that the policies I was supporting in Iraq were not consistent with the justifications made for the invasion in the spring of 2003, that implicit in our post-invasion actions was the goal of permanent occupation, which would ensure endless war and the resultant degradation of our liberty, our security, and our moral authority. ... Read more Read more!

Former Soldier Tells How US Tortures--Asks Forgiveness

The following link accesses a transcript that details Tony Lagouranis' experiences as an interrogator for the military. He describes abuses and his frustration with his superiors who refused to listen to his misgivings about the interrogation methods.

Mr. Lagouranis asks the Iraqis to forgive him for what he and his fellow soldiers and the US has done to them and their country. This is an act of courage from a man who has done and seen things that will haunt him for the rest of his life. BY asking forgiveness he has gone some way in being healed, I believe. Would only those leaders who turn blind eyes to torture find their souls this way before it's too late.
Former U.S. Army Interrogator Describes the Harsh Techniques He Used in Iraq, Detainee Abuse by Marines and Navy Seals and Why “Torture is the Worst Possible Thing We Could Do”

With deep remorse, former U.S. Army interrogator Specialist Tony Lagouranis talks about his own involvement with abusing detainees in Iraq and torture carried out by the Navy Seals. He apologizes to the Iraqi people and urges U.S. soldiers to follow their conscience. Lagouranis returned from Iraq in January and until now had given no live interviews. But Lagouranis says he now feels it his duty to speak out about what he witnessed in Iraq:

* His use of harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners in Iraq including dogs, sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation and dietary manipulation.
* How Navy SEALS induced hypothermia by using ice water to lower the body temperature of prisoners.
* Serving in Fallujah and going through the clothes and pockets of some 500 dead bodies to try and identify them.
* The corpses on men, women and children in Fallujah, which had been lying in the streets for days and had been "eaten by dogs and birds and maggots," were then stacked up in a warehouse where U.S. soldiers ate and slept. ...

AMY GOODMAN: And to someone who is in Iraq right now, what would you say to them, and what would you say to Iraqis?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I'd like to apologize to Iraq honestly, because I think we have done so many things wrong over there. I think the military guys wanted to go over there and really liberate Iraq, and we have just really screwed it up. So, that's terrible, but to the military guys in Iraq, I would say, follow your conscience, and don't do what everybody else is doing just because it seems like that's the right thing to do. It's not. ... Read more Read more!

28 Ways to Warp the Facts (and more)

This site lists 28 statements by Darth Cheney that have been proven either wrong or grossly biased.


Public Statement of Vice President Richard Cheney:

"His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us."
Source: Vice President's Remarks at 30th Political Action Conference, White House (1/30/2003).

Why This Statement is Misleading:

This statement was misleading because it asserted that Iraq was providing support to al Qaeda. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community had conflicting evidence on this issue and was divided regarding whether there was an operational relationship. This statement also was misleading because it evoked the threat of Iraq providing al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, the intelligence community had "low confidence" in that scenario, and Iraq appeared to be "drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks" against the United States for fear of providing cause for war. ... Read more

Related Story: In challenging war's critics, administration tinkers with truth, by James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay Read more!

Exit Strategy

There are many plans--some slow, some quick. Whatever the plan, get it in place and get out. The sooner the better. As Ghandi told Bristish diplomats when they said that the Indians would destory themselves if the British left: [Paraphrasing] "Then it will be our war, our race problem."

It's time for the US to recognize that these people have to build their own lives. If there's one thing that the west has never done in the region, it is to allow these people to determine their own destiny. Now it is time for the US to live up to its rhetoric--let them decide for themselves.

If they kill each other, then they will be responsible for it--not us. Let them practice their own "creative destruction," not that of US puppet masters, who direct and channel the destruction to their own interests.
Hawkish Democrat turns against the war, expected to make policy shift

Just as liberals in the Democratic Caucus are intensifying their campaign to sharpen the party’s message on ending the Iraq war, a leading Congressional defense hawk and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) closest confidant on military affairs planned today to announce a major shift in policy on the war, ROLL CALL reports Thursday. Excerpts.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense and one of Pelosi’s top advisers, is widely expected this morning to tell his colleagues in a special Caucus meeting that he has a new perspective on the Iraqi conflict and that the United States must now put an exit strategy in place. ... Read more!

So What's Wrong with Melting Skin Off People?

The BBC, of course!, By Gabriele Zamparini (*)

"If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course, they don't know and can't know”. - David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1917“The US has now admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year, after earlier denying it” the BBC reports (sic!) (1)

The BBC – in its notorious role of advocate of “national interests” continues: “The substance can cause burning of the flesh but is not illegal and is not classified as a chemical weapon.”

Burning of the flash!? Much Ado About Nothing, one would say!

But let’s keep reading. Read more!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Peeling Away the Lies of Fallujah

This story is incisive in its analysis of the recent Defense Depat's acknowledgement of having used white phosphorus at Fallujah.
Phosphorus was used for Fallujah bombs, admits US, By David Charter, Michael Evans and Richard Beeston

US Marines' revelations caused Pentagon's change of heart
TAKE one white phosphorus mortar round, normally used to illuminate enemy positions. Add half a stick of C4 explosive. Wrap three times with detonation cord.

Under the headline, “Some of the lessons learned during the battle for Fallujah”, the US Marine Corps Gazette is clear about the practical uses of phosphorus, which ignites on exposure to oxygen and produces an intense heat: “Used when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out.” ... Read more Read more!

US Defends Use of "Fire-Bomb", the online version of Forbes magazine, is now reporting that the US Defense department is defending the use of white phosphorous in Fallujah.
US defends use of white phosphorus against Iraq insurgents

WASHINGTON (AFX) - The US today defended the use of white phosphorus munitions against insurgents in Iraq last year but denied civilians were targeted.

The toxic agent was used during what a US army journal called 'shake and bake' missions against insurgents in the battle for Fallujah last year.

'It's part of our conventional weapons inventory. We use it like we use any other conventional weapon,' said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. ...
Read more Read more!

Down the Rabbit Hole

The military tactics and strategies used by the US reminds me of the way the US has always conducted its wars. Consider the wars against the Indians pursued by the US govt., which not only introduced the practice of scalping but also of putting bounties on Indian leaders' heads. Of course, the strategy of quelling the Indians was the model used by both Hitler and the Afrikaaners in their "final solutions."

Every time I hear Bush slam the "islamofascists" and Osama "where are you" bin-Laden, I am struck how much of what he says about them/him could be said about the US/him and its policies in the mid-east. It's like listening to a mirror image talking to itself. Very weird.

Two things in particular come to mind: Bush has derided several times in his speeches the fact that Osama does not blow himself up or put himself into the front lines. Of course, the same can be said for Bush, right? If he's going to use that as an example, it reflects back on himself pretty poorly.

In fact, I do believe that there is some evidence that bin-Laden has seen "military action" during the Afghan war against the Soviets. Again, this reflects badly on George, who was found AWOL in Viet Nam, a war he "supported."

I also believe that bin-Laden's sons have fought in the US war in Afghanistan--perhaps one even died in action (I will have to look this up). Of course, any question about whether George's daughters might end up fighting for a cause their father believes in so passionately is beyond the pale.

I'm not about to praise bin-Laden, although I think that from one angle what he says about western decadence has some truth to it. In my book, bin-Laden is a throwback "medieval" fanatic who wishes to introduce a form of Islamism that would become totalitarian equal to the Nazi regime, the current US empire, or the Soviets. I am not denying the "power" of his message--somewhat like a Luther--but the ramifications of his vision are distinctly headed in the wrong direction.

The gist, I guess, is that those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Read more!

Words of a Priest

How ironic is it that in a secular age one has to go to a priest to hear the plain truth?

Greeley calls Cheney/Libby "war criminals." Since the US is not a signatory to the world court, they cannot though be indicted and shipped off to the Hague.
Lying's just the tip of the iceberg, BY ANDREW GREELEY November 4, 2005

Since it is apparently not a crime to deceive the American people into supporting a foolish and unjust war, one must be content with the indictment of I. Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice. The indictment is an example of a mountain laboring two years to bring forth a molehill. Libby will have the best trial lawyers money can buy and stands a good chance of acquittal. If he is convicted, the president will surely grant him a pardon before he leaves office.

.... Granted Cheney's serious fear that jihadism has created another cold war situation, such legislation would still reduce the United States to a country that willingly supports savagery -- an ineffective strategy at that. The war is Cheney's war, and the 2,000 American dead and the 32,000 Iraqi dead are Cheney's victims. The torture is Cheney's torture.

With this background, the indictment of Libby looks kind of silly. One relatively minor player in Cheney's war will have to suffer through a trial and perhaps some time in prison. The conspiracy to go to war pushed forward by the White House Iraq Group will continue even if it has lost one of its more dedicated members.

There is nothing in the American legal system that permits the indictment of public officials for war crimes. Thus, perjury and obstruction of justice must suffice as a substitute. Yet it seems evident that both Cheney and Libby are war criminals. They fed the country false information to seduce it into a war that was both unnecessary and incompetent. And there is very little the American people can do to end the war for several more years. Read more!

The Narcosis of Power

Very rarely do we get a deep insight into the secret workings of our government. The disconnect between what we the public read in the news and the real story or facts behind the story is chasmic. You have to dig deep and long to find anything that is not merely "spin" or hype.

The following description of VP Dick Cheney is important for its detail and the depth of its understanding of the psychology of an "insider" and man of power.
Vice Grip, By Joshua Micah Marshall
Dick Cheney is a man of principles. Disastrous principles.

Cheney is conservative, of course, but beneath his conservatism is something more important: a mindset rooted in his peculiar corporate-Washington-insider class. It is a world of men--very few women--who have been at the apex of both business and government, and who feel that they are unique in their mastery of both. Consequently, they have an extreme assurance in their own judgment about what is best for the country and how to achieve it. They see themselves as men of action. But their style of action is shaped by the government bureaucracies and cartel-like industries in which they have operated. In these institutions, a handful of top officials make the plans, and then the plans are carried out. Ba-da-bing. Ba-da-boom.

In such a framework all information is controlled tightly by the principals, who have "maximum flexibility" to carry out the plan. Because success is measured by securing the deal rather than by, say, pleasing millions of customers, there's no need to open up the decision-making process. To do so, in fact, is seen as governing by committee. If there are other groups (shareholders, voters, congressional committees) who agree with you, fine, you use them. But anyone who doesn't agree gets ignored or, if need be, crushed. Muscle it through and when the results are in, people will realize we were right is the underlying attitude. ... Read more Read more!

Iraq to Investigate Falluja "Fire-Bombing", Story Hits US Newsstands

This story will not go away, as it shouldn't. The use of "fire-bombs"--chemical weapons by any other name--is a serious offense and crime against humanity. The key point in deciding whether it was a chemical weapon is whether it was used on humans or not.

According to the Scotsman newspaper, "Professor Paul Rodgers of the University of Bradford's department of peace studies said white phosphorus probably would fall into the category of chemical weapons if it was used directly against people."

The use of this weapon by US troops is hideously ironic; after accusing Saddam Hussein of using them on his population, US troops then turn around and use them against people. This is worse than hypocritical.

The story itself has finally made it into the US mainstream press. The "Mercury News" is running an AP wire version of the story. The Ledger in Lakeland, FL has also run the AP story.

Overseas, the British BBC ran the story on their website and also ran it as their second segment on TV. Now the BBC reports that the Iraq government is investigating reports that this weapon was used at Falluja.

Related Stories

Incendiary weapons: The big white lie US finally admits using white phosphorus in Fallujah - and beyond. Iraqis investigate if civilians were targeted with deadly chemical

UK used white phosphorus in Iraq

Q&A: White phosphorus
Iraq probes US phosphorus weapons

An Iraqi human rights team has gone to the city of Falluja to investigate the use of white phosphorus as a weapon by US forces, a minister has told the BBC.

Acting Human Rights Minister Narmin Uthman said her staff would examine the possible effects on civilians.

The US has now admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year, after earlier denying it. ... Read more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

BBC Reports: Pentagon Confirms Use of "Fire-Bomb"

US used white phosphorus in Iraq
BBC News

The Pentagon has confirmed that US troops used white phosphorus during last year's offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Falluja.

"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC - though not against civilians, he said.

The US earlier denied it had been used in Falluja at all.

A spokesman at the UK Ministry of Defence said the use of white phosphorus was permitted in battle in cases where there were no civilians near the target area.

But Professor Paul Rodgers of the University of Bradford department of peace studies said white phosphorus could be considered a chemical weapon if deliberately aimed at civilians.

He told PM: "It is not counted under the chemical weapons convention in its normal use but, although it is a matter of legal niceties, it probably does fall into the category of chemical weapons if it is used for this kind of purpose directly against people." ... Read more Read more!

Making Enemies

It's so easy to say that going to war will stop the killers in their tracks. That "over there" we can get them so they won't come "over here." The shallowness of this agument is belied by a misunderstanding of Arabic culture. Arabs in the mid-east often belong to strong clans and follow tribal codes. In this code, it is incumbent to maintain one's own and one's family's honor.

What some under the heading of terror is often difficult for modernized, secular Americans to understand. The idea that another man might touch my sister or wife or aunt, if that man is in uniform, would raise few eyebrows in the right circumstances. In Iraq, for example, this would be a dishonor--and a male family member would feel impelled to efface the shame that had been visited upon his family by such behavior.

All of this goes to point up my presentiment that America--in going into Iraq--is setting the stage for a future where many chickens will come to roost. I hate to say this, but I believe that this means that many soldiers and their families will be threatened by actions that soldiers did while in combat situations. I hope this does not come true--but I fear that tribal and blood ties run very deep and will not be quickly forgotten when they are threatened.

One example of this is the recent bombing in Jordan. There, the woman terrorist has recounted that her reasons for wanting to carry out this attack was because her brothers had been killed by American soldiers in Falluja. I wonder how many of the attacks on American soldiers are attempts to even up a matter of shame? I note, for example, the story of an Iraqi sniper who followed two American soldiers for several days and finally killed them. Read more!

The "Logic" of Torture

The following article takes on the "ticking bomb" argument often used to justify the use of torture. That is, if you knew that this guy knew where the bomb is wouldn't you do everything to get the information out of him, including tear his heart out? There are variations to the scenario, often involving your family.

This the best discussion I have seen taking on that "24 Hours" logic [I refer to the TV show that makes bucks feeding the paranoia related to terror.]

Wasn't the lie put to such "frontier justice" thinking profoundly rebutted by that great old film, the Ox-Bow Incident?
IMAGINARY IMPERATIVES ... And why it should never be one, By Larry C. Johnson

I think Dick Cheney has been watching too many Hollywood flicks that glorify torture. He needs to get out of his undisclosed location and talk to the people on the ground. ... Read More Read more!

PlameGate: The Jigsaw Puzzle

The news media continue to piece together the puzzle that is PlameGate. Conservative newspeople continue to muddy the waters with mis/disinformation. What's the real story? The following article attempts to fit together the pieces as they are now known.

No doubt, once/if there's a Libby trial, more information will be available. That will not stop the "spin" meisters, though--there are some things people simply just do not want to know.
Yellowcake to 'Plamegate'
How mishandled intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war led to an indictment in the White House.
By Peter Grier | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor Read more!

The Lies Our Leaders Tell

In his recent speeches to US troops and veterans, Pres. Bush has implied that those who are now questioning both the reasons for going to war and the plan to get troops out of Iraq are undermining troop morale.

This message is subtle, is implied, rather than stated outright. The message is that anyone who asks questions or seeks answers about these issues is somehow playing into the terrorists' hands. For example, Pres. Bush said in his speech to veterans:

"As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that, whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united and we will settle for nothing less than victory."

This statement is disingenuous if not outright scandalous. It implies that those who oppose this war do not care about the soldiers and their welfare.

If there is anything that soldiers who are fighting for freedom do is to ask questions. For the President to suppose that our troops are simply mindless drones who do not question and seek answers for they kill starngers or are killed by strangers is simply a disservice to our soldiers at the least or a simple refusal to see the reality that the soldiers see.

The soldiers themselves want to know why they are there, strangers in a strange land, called upon to carry out acts that many will experience nightmares about for years, many of whom will not be able to live with themselves perhaps as long as they inhabit this realm of life.

I wish the President could hear these words, expressed simply but powerfully, by a young Arkansas soldier on leave who is sitting around with his buddies "shooting the breeze":

MATT HERTLEIN: And right now, man, the people that are over there that are dying -- I mean, sure, I’m not -- you know, they’re patriots and they're dying for their country and everything, but I think they're dying for the wrong cause.

Do you hear that, Mr. President? The soldiers want to know why they are dying.

Related Story: Burn in Hell, Mr. President
GOP senator hits Bush for attacking war critics; Hints Congress endorsing another Vietnam by staying silent Read more!

The Decline of America

Such a shocking title is obviously quite easy to write, and members of the left and right are prone to smear each other as being the cause of this decline. So, it seems obvious that to throw around such words as decline probably does not register on the communal consciousness much. Yet, when a former US President describes the rot and decay that embody such a decline, I think it is wroth the time to prick up your ears and try to listen--strain to hear the words through the static that forms the background of this era in American history.
This isn't the real America, By Jimmy Carter
[You will have to look for the article at]

JIMMY CARTER was the 39th president of the United States. His newest book is "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis," published this month by Simon & Schuster.

IN RECENT YEARS, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility. ... Read more!