Saturday, June 03, 2006  

Let's talk about...Military accountability

Ok. That's it. No more being measured in my comments. I don't care how many nice marines there are out there. I am sorry the marine photographer was traumatized by the photos and carrying the bodies out. (actually, thank god, at least he was able to feel something related to human decency- there is hope for him yet). I know Oceanside exists in large part because of the Marines, but COME ON, PEOPLE.

The Marines KNEW within two days of Haditha and DARED to put out reports that they had "killed insurgents" and that civilians had "died" in a bombing.


They came, they saw, they killed.

And, do not try my patience with the bad apple theory.
In a previous post, I stated that I thought higher ups had to have known, in part, based on the photographers and the drone. And today, the New York Times has this to say:
WASHINGTON, June 2 — Marine commanders in Iraq learned within two days of the killings in Haditha last November that Iraqi civilians had died from gunfire, not a roadside bomb as initially reported, but the officers involved saw no reason to investigate further, according to a senior Marine officer.

The commanders have told investigators they had not viewed as unusual, in a combat environment, the discrepancies that emerged almost immediately in accounts about how the two dozen Iraqis died, and that they had no information at the time suggesting that any civilians had been killed deliberately.

But the handling of the matter by the senior Marine commanders in Haditha, and whether officers and enlisted personnel tried to cover up what happened or missed signs suggesting that the civilian killings were not accidental, has become a major element of the investigation by an Army general into the entire episode.

You can read the rest here


Well, well...

Was that idiotic phrase:

if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear...
Check this out:
the feds want records of your internet activity in case you might do something.
What did I tell you?


Let's talk about...torture...

This is Anti-Torture Month

Timing is everything. Haditha is hitting the fan and bloggers and others are putting the spotlight on torture in hopes that people (especially the US) will wake up to both the fact that the military and others employ torture and that silence on the subject implies complicity.

For more on anti-torture sources, check out Torture Awareness.

Torture, unlike beauty, is not in the eyes of the beholder. It has, in fact, been defined, listed, and banned in a number of places.

One of the documents which makes the international position on torture quite clear is The Geneva Conventions of which the US is a signatory.

Contrary to what Alberto Gonzales wants you to think, the Geneva Conventions are binding on the US because of Article 6 in the Constitution that makes all treaties the US has ratified the law of the land. So, that makes Abu Ghraib a crime against the Consitution. Hmmmm.

Interestingly enough, the UN created a Convention Against Torture in 1985. Guess who signed but did not ratify until 1994? Nous? Mais oui! Article 6 of the US Consitution also makes this binding.

Gonzales felt the Convention Against Torture doesn't apply to US treatment of people overseas.

Which makes you wonder:

How long does it take to get really good at such a narrow reading of this Convention?
And does this mean, Gonzales could be persuaded that government-sponsored domestic torture could be possible under certain circumstances?
Get this man a pretzel!

UN Convention Against Torture:
(note:bold is my emphasis)
Part I
Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war , internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 3
1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

What is so unclear about this?

To put this in some recent perspective, here are some examples of what the Convention is designed to prevent:

Article 1:

from the testimony of "Salaam":
They tied me into a pose called the `Scorpion,' where they made me lie on my stomach and tied my hands to my feet behind me so my back was curved. They kept me like this for ten to fifteen hours at a time.

"One soldier kicked me in the jaw while I was lying down, and broke two of my teeth. After two days, I couldn't eat anything and they took me to an Iraqi doctor inside the prison. He treated me with injections and tablets. After fourteen days, my teeth were not improving so he removed them. My lips were badly swollen from being crushed during the kicking.

Article 2:

Marjorie Cohn questioning Janis Karpinski, January 21, 2006
MC: How high up do you think the orders for that torture went?
JK: I think that it’s was very likely or certainly possible that Secretary Rumsfeld, the Vice President, and under Secretary Cambone, Sanchez and all of them, knew about the harsher techniques because General Miller and General Sanchez would not have implemented a new set of techniques without the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense would not have authorized without the approval of the Vice President. And so it filtered down. And it never filtered down to me because I wasn’t responsible for interrogations. But ultimately they had the most convenient scapegoat and seven soldier scapegoats as a result of that process.

Article 3:
From Benyam Mohammed's diary. Mohammed was arrested in Karachi and flown to Morocco where:
They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Maybe an inch. At first I just screamed ... I was just shocked, I wasn't expecting ... Then they cut my left chest. This time I didn't want to scream because I knew it was coming.

One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. "I told you I was going to teach you who's the man," [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.

Doctor No 1 carried a briefcase. "You're all right, aren't you? But I'm going to say a prayer for you." Doctor No 2 gave me an Alka-Seltzer for the pain. I told him about my penis. "I need to see it. How did this happen?" I told him. He looked like it was just another patient. "Put this cream on it two times a day. Morning and night." He gave me some kind of antibiotic...I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: "What's the point of this? I've got nothing I can say to them. I've told them everything I possibly could."

"As far as I know, it's just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you'll have these scars and you'll never forget. So you'll always fear doing anything but what the US wants."

These are the kinds of things that the US government does in violation of its ratification of the Convention Against Torture.

Survivors International is one organization that helps torture survivors from around the world.

You can check them out here

Another is Survivors of Torture International which you can learn about here

Check out the bloggers against torture site for links to more information about torture and what you can do to help prevent it.


Let's talk about...the war at home...

I cannot tell you how disgusted I am by remarks made by people such as this teacher
Literacy and reading comprehension teacher Tonya Trepinski spearheaded the project, called "Operation Iraqi Heroes," early in 2005. Trepinski's brother, Sgt. Tim Hutchings, is a member of the battalion, and she is a former U.S. Marine.

"I wanted the kids to know they're fighting for freedom so we can have freedom,"she said. "(The project) teaches them to care about something other than themselves."

What freedoms do these people have in mind? What, exactly, are these soldiers defending?

let's see:
No Fly Lists
Which includes thousands of names. And if you are on it, you cannot find out why.
And the list has several tiers. Every time you fly somewhere, your information is entered into a database and you are tracked.

NSA Surveillance of Telephones and Internet Use
The ACLU has a report on how that surveillance works. The Washington Post reported that Bush authorized domestic spying in 2002 and believes that warrents, etc, do not apply.

We have since learned that thousands of conversations have been recorded.

Of course the NSA didn't listen. Oh, and I suppose most people who smoke pot don't inhale. How much was that beachfront property in Montana again?

Turns out Verizon, ATT etc. rolled over like eager puppy dogs and gave up your phone information. Just like Yahoo and several other search engines (but not Google for now) gave up your internet info.

If you are reading this blog and others like it, your reading habits are being tracked by the NSA because certain words in this blog have tripped the watch dogs.
You have been warned....

Don't believe me? Check out the map below for where hits have come from.

No Child Left Behind
If you think this is about making sure every Juan, Peter and Tae-ho learn to read, you are in for a surprise.
This charming piece of legislation links military recruiter access to federal funding for every publically funded high school and city college, etc. This means military recruiters have the right to access every child's home phone, cellphone, address, etc, and to contact that child at school and at home unless parents sign an opt out form (learn more here). Parents have complained about the aggressiveness of recruiters, some of whom appear every day at some high schools. In California, two recruiters were accused of rape.

********* A digression on military recruiting of students **************

It would be instructive to look at the target population of recruiters in a given city because it would provide a look at what the military considers vulnerable populations. The Washington Post found that recruiters target depressed areas and minorities with limited educational opportunities.

Here's an interesting thought: using San Diego, California as an example:
California is near the bottom of school systems in the US and San Diego, with a few exceptions, is near the bottom of that.
Do recruiters haunt La Jolla High, in a wealthy section of San Diego? No, of course not. Are they seen on campuses with less-affluent immigrants and other non-Whites? You bet.

And if California continues to linger near the bottom and San Diego is happy to hover in its position, then there will be a nearly guaranteed supply of young people with limited prospects, limited critical analytical skills and economic means. And that provides a supply of soldiers for the endless War on Terrorism.

That coupled with the up-coming immigration legislation will push the sons (and some daughters)of immigrants (often immigrants themselves) into the arms of recruiters who also dangle citizenship incentives, again, setting up a recruiting practice that targets the under-privileged and vulnerable.
So, the next time someone feels like criticizing illegals, consider the following: the first 10 of California casualties were greencard soldiers, many with illegal parents.
For more on the casualty lists, read here.
Presidential Accountability
Bush, the decider, has decided that the Congress doesn't need to be informed of various activities he and the FBI cook up. This is unconstitutional and is clearly in contravention of the concept of the three branches of government concept- you know, one of the things you should have learned in school, were you there that day AND paying attention: the idea that the Legislative (umm, that would be Congress), the Executive ("W") and the Judicial (the Supreme Court) are EQUAL and provide Checks and Balances.

While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, there should be enough here to give pause.

And here's a thought: if these soldiers are really "defending freedom," maybe they need to be defending us (we the people- hey, that's you and me!) from those busy dismantling our freedoms and Constitutional rights.

But hey, they're in Iraq, killing people.


Let's talk about...war, torture and other fun things to do in another country...

"It's time," the walrus said, "to talk of many things..."

First of all, the caveats that go with this post:
* I actually don't want to write these caveats but feel that I should because the intellectual atmosphere (such as it is) surrounding these issues is so caustic.
* I feel sorry for anyone serving in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
* I think this goervment is screwing over the vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.
* I have never been to Iraq but I have lived in North Africa, speak some Arabic and have been active in Middle Eastern cultural and political issues for awhile.
* I have worked in TV news for a conservative station.
* I do not believe that anyone fighting for the US in Iraq is preserving their freedom, my freedom or civil rights in this country. Period. And I will address that either in this post or a following one.

First of all, I have been reading a number of letters to the editor and comments from people who feel that reports filed on Memorial Day about Haditha were inappropriate for Memorial Day. Apparently these people feel that information about dead children, marines gone beserk and attrocites against civilians in addition to the references to Abu Ghraib and Mai Lai were disrepectful to the dead.

The last time I checked, the First Amendment is still in force (although many Americans are either not aware of what it actually says or don't really care), so, I salute them for using their right to free speech.

But I also (a little less repectfully, it's true) strongly disagree with them. Yes, Memorial Day is for appreciating the sacrifice of men and women in times of war for this country. We seem to have had a lot of those in the last 60 years,and yet, what seems to glow in the collective memory is not the national confusion (mixed with shame for some) of the Vietnam War, not the dash and grab of Panama nor the inglorious exercise that was Gulf War I, but the "good fight"of WWII and WWI.

Fine. WWI was fought as the war to end all wars. Obviously it didn't and I am not going to go into the reasons for WWII, although theVersaille Treaty and the starvation and humiliation of Germany had something to do with it. But it did whet the appetite of the US to engage in armed conflicts which boost the economy, hold the attention of the population to an extent, and enrich certain groups of people.

For those of us with vets in the family from WWI and WWII, I think we need to ask ourselves and them if they are living, what they believe honor and duty entail for the US Armed forces. Knowing my relative as I did (he now is dead), I know that list would not include the following: rape, armed robbery, group thuggery, torture, murder of civilians,lying about the previous actions, and endless occupation. A simple man, my relative believed strongly in the sanctity of family and hated communists. He also hated Mai Lai.

Another relative who served during the Korean War, looked at the pictures from Abu Ghraib and thought they were a sick joke because he could not imagine another human being doing this to others.

This country is full of honorable vets (both dead and living) whose service is sullied by the crimes in Bagram and Abu Ghraib, the killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and the crimes by servicemen in Japan and other countries where they are stationed. It is an insult to their honor for the military to report that "15 insurgents were killed in a fierce fight" when, really, marines massacred a number of civilians, including women and children.

And to object to having this reported on Memorial Day is to engage in empty patriotism that salutes the flag, makes loud proclamations about civil liberties and then turns away when the government spies on their neighbors without warrents or legal justification. Frankly, to use a rather extreme example, it's like telling the child who was molested by the "funny uncle" to sit next to him at the table and behave since, damnit, it's Christmas and this is about family.

To turn away and to allow this government to deal in hyperbole and supposition (they "may have"committed a crime, the women they shot "may have been pregnant...") is criminal and spits on the tradition of honorable service to this country. And the more we cling to the "a few bad apples" theory, the more the rest of the barrels rot.

This is not "the greatest generation" engaged in a "moral war" come again. "Moral" cannot be applied to Iraq and Afghanistan and this "generation" has been abysmally misused by its leaders, has been taught that the value of human life is relative, and encouraged to look at this conflict as one black and white videgame where your hand is permanently on the trigger.

Friday, June 02, 2006  

Uppity Muslim Girls

Laila Lalami has written a very thoughtful piece in The Nation about two books which are creating quite a stir, The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and The Trouble With Islam Today by Irshad Manji.

About Ali's book, Lalami says:
The overarching argument in The Caged Virgin is that there is insufficient freedom for the individual in Islam. This, Hirsi Ali argues, is because one of the fundamental tenets of the religion is the submission of the individual to God, which creates a strict hierarchy of allegiances. At the top of this hierarchy is God, then His Prophet, then the umma, then the clan or tribe and finally the family. The individual, she insists, is simply not valued. Whatever one thinks of this hierarchy, however, it is hardly unique to Islam; one can make the same argument about other monotheistic religions. Furthermore, many Muslim countries are in fact secular or military dictatorships (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt), while others are to one extent or another theocracies (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan). Religious hierarchy does not play the same societal role in Turkmenistan as in Saudi Arabia. On top of this, there are political, national and linguistic considerations to take into account, particularly when one is making claims about fifty-seven nations spread out across Asia and Africa. But Hirsi Ali addresses none of these. In her view, they simply do not matter. Rather, she sees Islam itself as the problem and its fundamental tenet of obstructing individual freedom as the very reason the Muslim world is "falling behind" the West.

and this:

Along the same lines, Hirsi Ali seems to believe that Muslims are deficient in critical thought: "Very few Muslims are actually capable of looking at their faith critically. Critical minds like those of Afshin Ellian in the Netherlands and Salman Rushdie in England are exceptions." The work of Khaled Abou El Fadl, Fatima Mernissi, Leila Ahmed, Reza Aslan, Adonis, Amina Wadud, Nawal Saadawi, Mohja Kahf, Asra Nomani and the thousands of other scholars working in both Muslim countries and the West easily contradicts the notion. In any case, why the comparison with Rushdie? Have fatwas become the yardstick by which we measure criticism? If so, this suggests that the people who offend Islamists are the only ones worth listening to, which is ridiculous. The most shocking statement, however, comes from the essay "The Need for Self-Reflection Within Islam," in which Hirsi Ali writes: "After the events of 9/11, people who deny this characterization of the stagnant state of Islam were challenged by critical outsiders to name a single Muslim who had made a discovery in science or technology, or changed the world through artistic achievement. There is none." That a person who has apparently never heard of the algebra of Al-Khawarizmi, the medical prowess of Ibn-Sina and Ibn-Rushd, or the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Umm Kulthum is considered an authority on Islam is proof, if ever one was needed, of the utter lack of intelligent discourse about the civilization and the cultures broadly d

and about Manji's book:
to her credit, Irshad Manji appears to be acutely aware of the audience question, and tackles it on the first page of The Trouble With Islam Today. The book is written as an open letter, addressed directly to Muslims, both in and outside the West. And it also helps the critical reader that Manji backs her claims with source notes, which are listed on her website, The Trouble With Islam Today is a chronicle of Manji's personal journey of introspection and discovery about her faith, prompted in part by the constant stream of horrendous news about repression that seems to pour out from (the region of) Islam. "When I consider all the fatwas being hurled by the brain trust of our faith, I feel utter embarrassment," she writes.

Unlike Hirsi Ali, Manji has not openly renounced her faith, although, she says, "Islam is on very thin ice with me." She attributes her skepticism to her childhood experiences at the madrassa she attended in Vancouver. In the orthodox, gender-segregated school, she could not visit the library freely; instead, she had to wait for all the men to clear the area where it was located in order to be able to browse the offerings. The imam was a stern man who discouraged questions and proffered dogma. So woeful was the training Manji received that she did not know that Islam was an Abrahamic religion until after she left the confines of the madrassa. Later, when she purchased an English-language Koran, she finally embarked on her own journey of learning.

Much of what Manji describes will be familiar to those who have read reform-minded books on Islam. For instance, she questions the assumption that the Koran is the inviolate word of God and has remained so for fourteen centuries, without a single diacritic or vowel-length change. She tells the controversial story of the "Satanic verses" (also known as hadith al-gharaniq) to show that this point is debatable. According to some scholars, the Prophet had included verses that referred to Meccan goddesses while reciting lines from the Koran. Later, realizing they were not inspired by revelation, he abrogated them from the sacred text. This, of course, establishes a precedent that the Koran was changed at least once. Why is it so hard to imagine, she asks, that other human beings could have added their own changes? She rightly argues that both the terrorists and the peacekeepers among Muslims find scriptural support for their views in the Koran. (Incidentally, this is no different from the Bible, whose most peaceful and most violent verses have been used at various points in history to back up the institution of slavery as well as abolition and the civil rights movement.) A significant portion of the book consists of calling on Arabs and Muslims to be responsible for their own destinies, and to stop blaming the West or Israel for their problems. The style here may be very blunt, but the proposition is wholly unoriginal. One can read similar statements in commentary and op-ed pieces of many newspapers across the Arab world.

You can read the rest here

Lalami seems to be less critical of Manji than of Ali though she does accuse both of extrapolating from a very narrow set of experiences and making blanket statements.

I have encountered this before with films on women in Islam done by South Asian or African women who claim to look at women in Islamic traditions in general. Interestingly enough, the whole Arab experience is entirely missing in many of these films and there is a sense of extreme disconnect. While these films are interesting and many are very well done, they are ultimately looking at an Islam which is an inherited expression, that is, brought by traders and others and overlaid on another tradition several centuries after Islam sweeps through the Arab world and North Africa. And to leave the Arab experience out is to give an incomplete- and if you are pitching to a Western audience, a misleading presentation.

The problem with some of this work is, to refer to Uma Narayan, the sense of the Monolithic Other as authentic voice, especially in the West, which currently has little or no information on which to base a critical reading of these texts. And so, the West has no idea if the "informant" is knowledgeable, has an axe to grind (legitimate or not), or is simply spouting nonsense.

Lalami also mentioned the concept of the "silent native." Nowhere is that more problematic than in the realm of non-translated "Other" materials. For example,in my work on North African film, I have the advantage of being able to read French and to reference native speaker readers for Arabic texts. As a result, I use as many "indigenous" texts as possible because I want to promote that voice in my work. So I end up reading North African film critics, Arab feminist writers, North African and Arab sociologists, etc. Read an analysis of, for example, the Moroccan film Door to the Sky,and 9 times out of 10, none of this is brought to bear on the text.

One way to overcome this is to encourage more translation of texts from these tradition. Hirsi Ali is interesting in that she is a voice in the dialog, but to infer that she is the voice is to ingnore countless others that round out the dialog.

One example of a text that openly struggles with the idea of the "silent witness" and Muslim women in need of the Great Western Hope is Elizabeth Fernea's In Search of Islamic Feminism (Anchor/Doubleday, 1998, 1999, 2001). It's a fascinating book for several reasons:a) who is interviewed and b) the sense one has that Fernea (maybe disingenuously) is surprised to find a locally produced form of feminism that is organic to the region rather than a group of desperate women waiting for the West with bated breath.

I haven't read much of Manji's book nor of her other writings to have much comment on them. For Arabic and Urdu speakers, Manji's site Muslim Refusenik has free links to the Arabic and Urdu editions of her book.

I am pleased to note that Manji is promoting the idea of Ijtihad or the tradition of independent thought in Islam (akin, in my mind, to the command of Gabriel to Mohammed-"Read in the name of the Lord thy God who made you!" (rough translation)- which to me suggests that reading is a good thing in Islam).The tradition was revived in modern form in the democracy/independence movements, which were later undermined or squashed outright when it became obvious to the ruling party, former colonial masters and the US that gasp there was a clear danger of the country going democratic and oh, no! the people interested in governing themselves.

However, when it comes to Ali, I feel she is more than a little suspect. In Holland, she aligned herself with the very right-wing Theo Van Gogh and has indicated that she will soon be joining the American Enterprise Institute, credited with shaping a number of Bush's policies as well as linked to the Heritage Foundation.

Given the current climate, coupled with the information and attitudes that are going to come out in the coming trials of the Camp Pendleton Marimes for the murder of Iraqi civilians, the alliance of Hirsi Ali with the Institute is basically a pact with the devil.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  

About time

Finally, some reaction from local papers.
Early reports from Haditha are horrific enough

From the San Diego Union Tribune

May 31, 2006

Terrible atrocities and other crimes against humanity have been the byproducts of many wars. Especially when you inject an army into a civilian environment, some very bad things can happen.

Yet that doesn't mean Americans should become so immune to these horrible occurrences that we fail to register outrage whenever and wherever they surface. Were that to happen, we would be no different than the tyrants, bullies and evildoers we hunt down around the world.

Just based on what we already know, Americans should be outraged over reports that a handful of Marines based at Camp Pendleton and now serving in Iraq killed at least 24 civilians last November in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha. Americans should be outraged that, according to the results of a preliminary inquiry, the Marines may have been motivated by nothing more noble than vengeance over the killing of a fellow Marine. And, not least of all, Americans should be outraged that they are just learning about all this because Time magazine obtained photos showing dead women and children and obtained quotes from Iraqis who said the victims were innocent.

Read the rest here

And in a op-ed piece today from the same paper:

Predictable atrocities?

History shows that combat has sad consequences

By Wade R. Sanders
May 31, 2006

Recently the press reported that last fall, United States Marines entered Iraqi homes in the city of Haditha and shot 24 unarmed individuals, including 15 members of two families, and a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed one of their own.

It must be remembered that this matter is still under investigation, and conclusions as to this incident would be premature pending the outcome of that process. However, any report of our troops killing unarmed civilians in guerilla or counterinsurgency wars, where there are no clearly defined battle lines and easily identifiable enemies, should come as no surprise. Unless one has routinely patrolled in this unpredictable and deadly environment, where it is the enemy that chooses the time and place to strike, it is impossible to appreciate the unique pressures and the intense and constant fear soldiers live and die with. One is little more than a target and there are no “fair fights.” Every moment and every man, woman or child one encounters carries the potential for death.

The overwhelming reality: You never know who is coming to kill you. It could be that child standing by the side of road, or that woman carrying what might be a baby or a bomb. No amount of training and discipline is completely effective in dealing with these pressures.

You can read the rest here

I have a real problem with Every moment and every man, woman or child one encounters carries the potential for death. which sets up the idea of us good, every single damn one of them is out to get us. In other words, blame the victim, no matter who it is.

What Sanders appears to forget, disregard or outright ignore, is that many of these people were unarmed, killed in their our houses, and pleading for their lives . In fact, according to a surviving child of one family, some of the men of the family were forced into an armoire and that armoire sprayed with gunfire. In addition, Time has reported that there were no bullet holes indicating an exchange of gunfire, and that a number of the bullet holes were the result of bullets ripping through their victims and then embedding themselves in the walls.

Sanders appears to feel that incidents like this are predictable and expected and do not represent military policy.

I strongly disagree with him on the first, and would like to think that the second is true, but too many things like this have happened in Iraq and I don't feel that the "bad apple" explanation holds water. Here are two elements to the story that suggest higher ups have some idea (if not outright know) what is going on: a) two marines were turned into combat photographers to photograph the scene, b) military drones were flying overhead taking pictures.

From the North County Times:

An article leads with comments by Rep. Duncan Hunter. You can read it here

Buried down near the bottom is an indication of why something like this is possible:

Lance Cpl. James Crossan of North Bend, Wash., who was injured in the attack in Haditha, told a TV station that some of the Marines might have snapped after seeing one of their own killed in action.

"So, I think they were just blinded by hate ... and they just lost control," Crossan told NBC affiliate KING-TV, which aired the interview Tuesday.

Crossan said he felt bad for those who may have been involved in killing civilians but tried to rationalize what happened.

"Probably half of them were bad guys and we just never knew, so it really doesn't cross my mind," he said.

You hear this time and time again, to justify crimes against Iraqi civilians. When you have a mindset that already condemns a population (see Sanders' column above) as "bad guys" or as potential walking bombs, then an incident like Haditha is not only predictable, but expected. And the question is where does this attitude come from and who fosters it? It is impossible to imagine that higher ups do not make these kinds of statements nor that they do not regard the Iraqi people in general as ungrateful, recalcitrant bastards who can be divided into really bad guys and people who will be bad guys if the get a chance.

Yes, the Marines and the Army have codes of conduct. But codes of conduct on the books and what is taught and encouraged can be two different things.

Remember Abu Graib? Every single one of those accused (and those who wiggled out of it) were aware of the Geneva Conventions- in fact, their ids carry the words Geneva Conventions. So, what the hell were they thinking? That the Geneva Conventions are some pretty words on some piece of paper which Attorney General Gonzales thinks is a quaint anachronism? And common sense doesn't tell you that sexualy humilitaing prisoners, sodomizing them, etc. is torture?

Just like common sense doesn't seem to tell them that shooting little children and elderly wheelchair bound men in the head is murder.

Obviously the "Code" isn't being emphasized strongly enough, or someone, somewhere, higher up is saying screw the Code. In war, anything goes, including war crimes against an occupied population.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006  

And something happened at No Go Ri, too...

Only this was 56 years ago and everyone pooh poohed the survivors and discredited their stories. And the American public was incensed that anyone would say that American soldiers did this.

And this is what survivors said they did, and the Army said they didn't:

Over a period of three days, airplanes and ground soldiers targeted and shot civilian refugees as they streamed overa bridge and then shot the survivors who tried to hide under the bridge. The Army estimated maybe 100 dead, while Korean estimates were much higher, about 400.

The Army claimed No Go Ri was a) the work of a few panicked soldiers and then b) the work of someone, not the army,and anyway, no one wold have given orders to do this.

Well, looks like they might have done it after all.

The Associated Press takes a look at a just released document that says
"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote Ambassador John J. Muccio, in his message to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

AP did a little investigating and came up with a front page investigative piece on No Go Ri. I'm having trouble accessing the original AP story from 1999 but here is a link from that will tell you a little bit more.


Putting Haditha in perspective

Dahr Jamail in Truthout makes a point that a number of people, including myself, have suggested, namely that Haditha is a known mass murder, behind which are all the other mass murders and killings of civilians by US military personnel:
Similarly, in the city of Samara on May 5, MHRI reported, "American soldiers entered the house of Mr. Zidan Khalif Al-Heed after an attack upon American soldiers was launched nearby the house. American soldiers entered this home and killed the family, including the father, mother and daughter who is in the 6th grade, along with their son, who was suffering from mental and physical disabilities."

This same group, MHRI, also estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 US assault on Fallujah. Numbers which make those from the Haditha massacre pale in comparison.

Instead of reporting incidents such as these, mainstream outlets are referring to the Haditha slaughter as one of a few cases that "present the most serious challenge to US handling of the Iraq war since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."

In a related statement:

Al Maliki said his patience was wearing thin from excuses that killed civilians by mistake,Reuters reports. One can be forgiven for thinking his patience should have worn thin, oh, say, several 100 Iraqis ago.


Silence is...

You might think that the ever-growing coverage of Haditha might provoke some kind of reaction in the local press in San Diego, where the various companies under investigation are based.
the San Diego Union Tribune editorial page
Editorial =0
Letters to the Editor= 0
The North County Times
Where Camp Pendleton is based....

Editorial= 0
Letters to the Editor =0

It's as if Haditha is only played out in the newsrooms of some journalists far, far away.

The allegations are very damning and now a marine photographer (also based in Pendleton) has come forward with some pretty gruesome eye-witness accounts. So, this isn't going to go away.

There is a very big elephant in San Diego's livingroom that is actually eclipsing the fact that San Diego, "America's Finest City," is possibly going into bankruptcy and is rated below junk bond status. And now, the marines, of which this region is so proud, harbors several murderous companies who can't tell the difference between an unarmed two year old and a grown insurgent. And, to cap it all off, many of the victims are reported to have been shot in the head, execution-style.

Where is the outrage, the dialog, the debates in San Diego?

This silence speaks volumes, and what is says is no compliment to San Diego.

Monday, May 29, 2006  

Simply fun stuff

Meet Sergio, my new llama :>

adopt your own virtual pet!


Haditha Coverage

Coverage about Haditha: This from the Washington Post of testimony by survivors.It says someof the Camp Pendelton marines who were involved are in the brig. Already the spin from the military seems to be the insurgency made them do it but take a close look at the description of the victims who range from 3 years old to an elderly man in a wheelchair. And This from Tony Perry of the LA Times which includes an interview with someone from the "clean-up crew" from Camp Pendleton unit — Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

You will need to register (free) with the new York Times to read the article.

Another element of the story at NPR which talks about the pall over the feneral arrangements for Marine Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, Jr. whose death sparked the rampage. It is a shame that the Terrazas family cannot mourn his death without having it associated with this attrocity.

Several outlets, including Al Jazeera are comparing Haditha with Mai Lai. Included in the Al Jazeera story is a press release from the United for Peace and Justice Organization.

An excellent reprint from Editor and Publisher of an article on Marine morale written prior to Haditha.

More analysis by Time Magazine

And still no letters to the Editor in the San Diego Union Tribune about Haditha. And this from the region where Camp Pendleton is located.

Sunday, May 28, 2006  

Haditha II

This from the article by Tony Perry in the LA Times:
The case may be the most serious incident of alleged war crimes in Iraq by U.S. troops. Marine officers have long been worried that Iraq's deadly insurgency could prompt such a reaction by combat teams.

Iraq's deadly insurgency could prompt such a reaction


Shooting unarmed people as they beg and plead for their lives in their own homes is murder plain and simple.

No but sir, the insurgency made me do it!

That would be mass murder in the US and in Iraq...oh, I forgot...Iraqi lives aren't worth a plugged nickel.

What is interesting is that in San Diego, which is so quick to laud the fallen in Iraq and reach out to the widows and children (as well they should, don't get me wrong on this), there is barely a peep out of the community at this act of mass murder performed by three companies from Camp Pendelton.

Why is that?

What is wrong with Sparta by the Bay that it cannot see and will not condemn these men for what they have done?

Cunningham helped turn the San Diego region into a defence contractor money whore and these marines, who walk as murderers among them, have turned San Diego into a craven apologist.

According to reports, some of the victems were shot fromless than 5o ft away.
Tell me, how does this bring democracy abroad and make this country more secure?


Memorial Day

As we begin to observe Memorial Day and witness observations great and small, I would like to suggest the following:
* That we pause for a moment and reflect on the nature of war.
* That we appreciate the sacrifice of those who died in service- but also ask why.
* That we look at our present engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan and ask- why are we there?
* That we carefully listen to the rhetoric of this administration as it prepares to drag us into yet another theater of conflict.
* That we respect the choices of those who volunteered for service in Iraq and also make it clear that we do not tolerate crimes against humanity, torture, rape, murder, and other unacceptable behavior by American military personnel.
* That we consider what it means when a nation links educational opportunties to military recruitment- is No Child Left Behind really about education? Or is it about institutionalizing recruiter access to high schools and colleges?
* That we demand that the government provide adequate assistance and treatment to returning vets - especiallly those exposed to chemical weaponry such as depleted uranium, white phosporous and those who have mental health issues- they volunteered and sacrificed and no matter what one thinks of the military- these people deserve the best their country can give them.
* That we ask ourselves why in such an "advanced" industrialized nation are vets from the current conflict joining the ranks of the homeless?
* That we look at the erosion of our freedoms, the spying on citizens, the corruption in Congress, and the endless, dark war against "terrorism" that Bush has promised us and ask ourselves is this what American war vets died for?

This government has broken the convenant with the people that is laid out in the Constitution.

Use Memorial Day as a day to reflect on what the US stands for and what is possible to restore the respect and honor for which these vets sacrificed.

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