Thursday, December 09, 2004


But I'm forced by personal/family circumstances to take a short break from posting for a few days. I'll be back no later than Monday.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Torture, With a Side Order of Intimidation

Link via Bad Attitudes. CNN reports that

U.S. special operations forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq threatened Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who saw the mistreatment, according to government memos released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Another memo says the special forces once confiscated photos of a prisoner who had been punched in the face.

The special operations forces also monitored e-mails sent by defense personnel and ordered them "not to talk to anyone" about what they saw, said another memo written by the Defense Intelligence Agency chief, who complained to his Pentagon bosses about the harassment.

The intimidation speaks volumes--they KNEW the abuse and mistreatment of prisoners was wrong. They may have even known about the specific provisions in the Geneva Conventions prohibiting these practices. So they tried to strong-arm outside observers into shutting up.

Call it what you want, but neither liberation nor democracy fit the description.
Rummy's Pep Talk

CNN reports on the Donald's chat with the troops:

Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" [Army Spc. Thomas] Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rumsfeld replied that, "You go to war with the Army you have," not the one you might want, and that any rate the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device.

Later, when asked about the stop-loss "program," Rumsfeld "said that this condition was simply a fact of life for soldiers at time of war.

'It's basically a sound principle, it's nothing new, it's been well understood' by soldiers, he said. 'My guess is it will continue to be used as little as possible, but that it will continue to be used.' "

Goddamn if Rumsfeld isn't the 21st century embodiment of The Grim Reaper--a hollowed out shell, more skeleton than human. If there was any justice in the world, he'd be begging the soldiers for forgiveness before being cast into the dark recesses of hell...except that hell probably wouldn't even make him break into a sweat.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

One Can Always Hope

Sadly, it's just satire, but Urban Legends notes that Google News ran with it for at least a short while.

Off topic, but: it's not all that easy to type when you've got a cat who's sleeping (and dreaming) on your lap.
How NOT to Conduct a House Raid

The L.A. Times provides details on the court-martial of two US Soldiers charged with murder...

Since I've lifted so heavily from the article, I'll post my own thoughts up here--then read the piece yourself if you're interested.

The unit in question, the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, as the article states, is also involved in the accidental shooting of kids hauling refuse--followed by the very deliberate shooting of one teenager who was deemed beyond hope of saving by a soldier (as opposed to a medic). Yes, there is a BIG fucking problem when soldiers go around either "putting people out of their misery" or cold-bloodedly pulling the trigger then taking pictures of their handiwork, not to mention the bizarre Shane-like scenario Sgt. Williams allegedly initiated in the other murder case.

If this is indicative of how the war is being conducted, then we're in a shitload of trouble. Red-state America may be willing to spend the lives of their kids basically forever, and they may also be willing to spend the country into bankrupcy (or, more likely, stagflation), but failure to recognize the consequences of their actions will not make the final, ignominous end any less of a problem. Iraq has the potential of making the economic problems of the late 1970's (brought about by a combination of rising energy prices and paying the cost of Vietnam) look like a minor inconvenience.

Oh--and here's Patrick Cockburn's latest--the insurgents attacking "collaborators" about three blocks away from the Green Zone, Mosul's mix of insurgencies finding common ground, and so on. Team Bush better curtail the gloating and get down to governing--otherwise, events will overtake them...

BAGHDAD — U.S. military prosecutors alleged Monday that American soldiers shot to death two unarmed Iraqi men in their homes, then tried to cover up their crimes by claiming that the Iraqis had reached for guns.

In a makeshift courtroom here, the prosecutors and other soldiers described in chilling detail how the two accused servicemen casually executed the Iraqis in August even though the civilians posed no immediate danger.

Sgt. Michael P. Williams, 25, of Memphis, Tenn., and Spc. Brent W. May, 22, of Salem, Ohio, are the second pair of soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment of Ft. Riley, Kan., to face murder charges stemming from separate incidents in August...

Two soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, have testified that rogue members of the unit showed so little regard for the lives of Iraqis that they felt obligated to complain to superiors about criminal conduct that included murder, mistreatment of a corpse and firing at a truck whose occupants were waving a white flag.

Some soldiers in the unit bragged about their misdeeds, the witnesses said.

One of the Army whistle-blowers had to be transferred to another unit for his safety.

"It was a real moral dilemma," said Pfc. Gary Romriell, who testified that he switched units after complaining about his fellow soldiers' conduct.

"On the one hand, my friends and associates were involved in the crimes. On the other hand, it was wrong."

Williams and May were charged in September, but details of the killings were made public for the first time Monday at a preliminary court-martial hearing for May.

Monday's hearing focused on the killing of an unidentified Iraqi on the morning of Aug. 28 as the regiment's Charlie Company conducted house-to-house searches in Sadr City. At the time, the Baghdad slum was the site of daily skirmishes between U.S. troops and black-clad members of the Mahdi militia, who follow radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr.

Soldiers approached a small, one-story home and found a family sleeping on blankets in the courtyard because of the summer heat, several soldiers from the unit testified Monday.

Soldiers detained the family — a father, mother, daughter, son and baby — in the courtyard while they searched the home.

Soldiers found a revolver and an AK-47 rifle. Because of the lack of security in Iraq, it is not uncommon for Iraqi families to keep guns in their homes. The law permits each household to have one weapon for protection.

At least one soldier testified that he suspected that the occupants had used the weapons to attack U.S. troops.

After the weapons were found, Williams, who was the squad leader, and May motioned for the father to follow them inside, soldiers testified.

Once inside, Williams and May stood in front of the Iraqi.

"You know what you have to do," Williams told May, according to military attorneys' account of the incident.

"Can I shoot him?" May asked Williams. "Shoot him," Williams replied, according to military attorneys.

May fired two shots.

"I shot him in the head twice, took a picture of him, and walked outside," May told a military investigator, Special Agent James Suprynowicz, in a sworn statement several weeks later. It was read in court Monday.

After the shooting, May bragged about the incident to fellow soldiers, prosecutors alleged.

"Spc. May was pretty hyped up," testified Spc. Joshua R. Sickels, a member of the battalion. "He was excited. He said he'd never shot someone that close up before."

When his commanding officer asked him what had happened, May replied that the Iraqi tried to grab a gun. In the sworn statement later, May admitted that he fired two shots at the unarmed man, according to Suprynowicz.

May told investigators that he shot the man "because I was ordered to," Suprynowicz testified.

After soldiers dragged the bleeding man from the house, his wife became hysterical, wailing, throwing dirt in the air and beating herself with her hands. Soldiers watched in shock as she laid her baby on top of the dying man.

"We were all taken aback by that," said Lt. Col. David Batchelor, task force commander of the 1-41st, who arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting. "I'll never forget that."

Batchelor ordered his medic to treat the man's head wound and considered calling for a medical evacuation, but he said he doubted that the man could be saved.

At the time, he said he suspected the Iraqi was a militia fighter because May had told him that the man was shot after reaching for a gun.

Batchelor said he decided to order soldiers to leave the scene because he was "pressed for time," and the unit needed to get to its next mission. As they left, soldiers saw a motorcycle drive up. Some Iraqis from the area put the wounded man in the motorcycle's sidecar and drove away.

Military investigators visited the house about a month later, but the family had moved away, leaving behind blood-spattered rugs and furniture. Military investigators say they have been unable to identify the victim or his family.

Soldiers who took part in the raid said they immediately suspected that their two colleagues had murdered the man.

When May and Williams took the Iraqi back into the house, "we figured something fishy was going on," testified Spc. Tulafono Young, a team leader in Charlie Company. "Sgt. Williams wanted to kill the guy."

Under cross-examination, Young admitted that he is under investigation in a separate incident for shooting at passengers in a truck waving a white flag and that he initially lied to investigators in that probe.

The other Aug. 28 killing occurred less than 30 minutes earlier, soldiers testified, after troops discovered an AK-47 rifle while searching another house down the street.

When the rifle was found, Williams ordered that the Iraqi man who lived there, who had been handcuffed and was being kept on his knees in front of the house, be brought inside, according to military attorney Capt. Daniel Estaville, who summarized the statements of witnesses.

Williams cut off the man's plastic handcuffs, laid the rifle near the Iraqi and said aloud to other soldiers in the room, "I feel my life has been threatened."

Williams then shot the man twice, Estaville said. The victim has not been identified.

Keith Higgins, a civilian attorney from Massachusetts who is representing May, declined to comment on his client's guilt or innocence.

May was not implicated in the earlier killing. Higgins said that at the time of the shooting, May was struggling to cope with stressful combat conditions in Sadr City. He added that evidence would show that May was ordered to kill the Iraqi by Williams, his superior officer.

Attorneys for Williams could not be reached for comment. Williams' preliminary hearing is expected to take place this week.

Higgins said that the alarming number of allegations of murder and other misconduct against soldiers in the 1-41st suggested a systemic problem.

He noted that two additional soldiers from the unit were facing murder charges in the U.S. for killing two of their colleagues.

"One instance might point to the individual," Higgins said. "But when you see multiple separate instances, you have to start looking for the common denominator. You've got to look to the command."

Military officers with the 1-41st have declined to comment on the murder cases.

In September, military prosecutors filed murder charges against two other soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, after an Aug. 18 incident in which they attacked teenage trash collectors, killing seven people and wounding eight.

The soldiers said they believed the youths' dump truck was filled with insurgents who were planting roadside bombs.

Charges of premeditated murder were filed after the soldiers admitted that they shot a wounded Iraqi lying on the road after the initial attack because they believed he was suffering and going to die anyway.

Officials said they investigated that shooting after a soldier slipped an anonymous note under the door of the unit's commander alleging that "soldiers had committed serious crimes that needed to be looked at."

In September, prosecutors in Kansas charged Sgts. Eric J. Colvin, 23, of Papillion, Neb., and Aaron R. Stanley, 22, of Bismarck, N.D., with the shooting deaths of Staff Sgt. Matthew H. Werner, 30, of Oxnard, and Spc. Christopher D. Hymer, 23, of Nevada, Mo., at a home 30 miles from Ft. Riley.
Ein Volk, Ein Reich...

Faux News inked a deal to provide news to Clear Channel--whod've thunk it?

TBogg's reaction to the "marriage" made me laugh out loud: "I hear they're registered at Crate & Jackboots..."
Bete Noel

John Scalzi offers The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. Examples:

A Muppet Christmas with Zbigniew Brzezinski (1978)

A year before their rather more successful Christmas pairing with John Denver, the Muppets joined Carter Administration National Security Advisor Brezezinski for an evening of fun, song, and anti-communist rhetoric.

While those who remember the show recall the pairing of Brzezinki and Miss Piggy for a duet of "Winter Wonderland" as winsomely enchanting, the scenes where the NSA head explains the true meaning of Christmas to an assemblage of Muppets dressed as Afghan mujahideen was incongruous and disturbing even then. Washington rumor, unsupported by any Carter administration member, suggests that President Carter had this Christmas special on a repeating loop while he drafted his infamous "Malaise" speech.

Noam Chomsky: Deconstructing Christmas (1998)
This PBS/WGBH special featured linguist and social commentator Chomsky sitting at a desk, explaining how the development of the commercial Christmas season directly relates to the loss of individual freedoms in the United States and the subjugation of indigenous people in southeast Asia.

Despite a rave review by Z magazine, musical guest Zach de la Rocha and the concession of Chomsky to wear a seasonal hat for a younger demographic appeal, this is known to be the least requested Christmas special ever made.

Christmas with the Nuge (2002)

Spurred by the success of The Osbournes on sister network MTV, cable network VH1 contracted zany hard rocker Ted Nugent to help create a "reality" Christmas special. Nugent responded with a special that features the Motor City Madman bowhunting, and then making jerky from, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree, all specially flown in to Nugent's Michigan compound for the occasion. In the second half of the hour-long special, Nugent heckles vegetarian Night Ranger/Damn Yankees bassist Jack Blades into consuming three strips of dove jerky. Fearing the inevitable PETA protest, and boycotts from Moby and Pam Anderson, VH1 never aired the special, which is available solely by special order at the Nuge Store on

Check out the rest here.

Thanks to my friend Ben for providing the link to, who discovered this just in time for the holidays.
Bad News, Worse News

Actually, the bad news isn't terrible; however, it doesn't quite qualify as GOOD news--the company of soldiers who refused to go on a suicide run to deliver tainted fuel in Iraq won't be court-martialed, either as individuals or as a group. However, they will face administration discipline, including loss of rank, forfeiture of pay and/or benefits, and so on.

As the father of one of the soldiers noted: "I'm glad it's over with. I don't care if he comes back as a private or a general. I just want him to come back."

That might be more difficult--this New York Times article reveals that two intelligence officers sent reports back to Washington indicating that the situation in Iraq is far more dire than the public has been led to believe, and that prospects for improvement are limited.

Then there's the assessment from outer space, aka, Bush's brain, where he likened the situation in Iraq to pre-Civil War America:

At the White House on Monday, President Bush himself offered no hint of pessimism as he met with Iraq's president, Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar. Despite the security challenges, Mr. Bush said, the United States continues to favor the voting scheduled for Iraq on Jan. 30 to "send the clear message to the few people in Iraq that are trying to stop the march toward democracy that they cannot stop elections."

"The American people must understand that democracy just doesn't happen overnight," he said. "It is a process. It is an evolution. After all, look at our own history. We had great principles enunciated in our Declarations of Independence and our Constitution, yet, we had slavery for a hundred years. It takes a while for democracy to take hold. And this is a major first step in a society which enables people to express their beliefs and their opinions."

Well, I'll leave it to the historians to correct Mr. Bush's math. As for his policies, it's evident that he's going even further up a river in Egypt.
Hamid's 15 Minutes Coming to a Rapid End

With his inauguration as "president" of Afghanistan, look for Hamid Karzai's name to fade from the media, unless something tragic happens.

Recall: a year ago, the Bush administration simply forgot about Afghanistan when it came to doling out foreign "aid" (and remember that "aid" in this case tends to ultimately end up in the hands of US firms, who provide the products and services procured by this money). Sure, Cheney and Rumsfeld can stop by Kabul, watch the ceremony, and feel good about themselves. But let's be real: Karzai is, at best, a mayor--and maybe not even mayor of all of the capital.

Afghanistan is turning into a narco-state (who says Bush doesn't think fondly of his misspent youth?), and real authority is held at the local and provincial levels. Karzai's power is limited to the largesse of his donors, who's history of generosity is lacking just a bit.

Good luck, Hamid--you're going to need it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Forecast: More Lies on the Horizon

Apologies once again for the late start--yet another busy day here. Anyway, at long last I've been able to catch up with the blogs and the news...a number of links here have probably been seen by most folks already, but...

I began my readings over at Crawling Westward, who sent me over to Atrios. Dr. Black has been writing quite a bit lately. The story that caught my eye was a series of Washington Post articles about the death of Pat Tillman, the esrtwhile American-rules football player who was killed in Afghanistan. The crux is that the military deliberately withheld the details of Tillman's death--even to the man's own family--for a number of weeks, while choosing instead to propagate a myth that was a great deal more convenient than the reality: Tillman was killed by friendly fire, in the kind of accident that is unfortunately all to common in the "fog of war."

Of course, myths, once firmly embedded in the public mind, tend to overcome any unpleasant truths...

Speaking of myths, take a look at not only the latest set of photographs showing the military engaged in, um, less than heroic actions--but make sure to click on each pic for the comments. Gallons of Kool-Aid were consumed in the course of these writings. Juan Cole has some important comments on this. While at Professor Cole's site, go ahead and hit his main page for more about the ongoing violence in Iraq. Elections in January? As Cole notes, proceeding with voting at this point will do little beyond solidifying the armed opposition.

Over in Saudi Arabia, a US consulate office was attacked in Jeddah--which isn't particularly good news for the Saudis or the United States.

On the subject of fundamentalism, Hullabaloo links to an interesting article noting the similarities between Islamic and Christian varieties--paternalism, lack of pluralism, the importance of indoctrination, a longing for "the good old days' (which never really existed), and a rejection of history. These are taken from a study called The Fundamentalism Project, a worldwide effort focused on this type of behavior. Digby takes the position that maybe the liberal/left in this country can gain additional support by speaking out against the Islamic versions of this, hopefully relying on the implicit parallels among the Christian version to undercut the dangerous trends on the horizon here. That's a nice idea, but I wonder of the American public is ready to grasp something so subtle.

One thing that the public MIGHT be able to see, however, is the extraordinary degree to which the military is screwing those who volunteered for service--by "volunteering" them for additional time following the termination of their agreement. The New York Times reports on 8 individuals suing the government over the "stop-loss" back door draft, which is about as close to breach of contract as I've ever seen, well, with the possible exception of the military calling back IRR personnel, including those smart enough to resign their commissions. As one noted on 60 Minutes last night, he was told to report regardless of this fact--and, if he had, he would have simply "lost all rights." Welcome to the land of the not-so-free.

Of course, they've still got it better than the liberated Fallujans, who, according to this article, will be press ganged into work teams in order to reconstruct the city. Oh, and cars will be henceforth banned until further notice...

Patrick Cockburn has some interesting things to say about the mess in Mesopotamia in a Counterpunch interview. He notes that Fallujah, for all the hype, is actually a pretty small piece of the puzzle, albeit a piece roughly a half-hour away from the capital (and therefore of some strategic value). However, the rebel takeover of Mosul during the Fallujah operation was perhaps even more important, given that the northern city is far bigger in size, and far more prone to inter-ethnic strife--which the US is fomenting dramatically with heavy reliance of Kurdish peshmergan forces throughout the country.

Speaking of forces--DailyKos has the latest on the "coalition" troops. A grand total of about 24,000 (including the British forces numbering over 10,000) are participating in the grand adventure, although I rarely see any reports of non-US or British troops on the front line. Kos also links to this David Hackworth piece that shows the degree to which efficiency is cherished at the Pentagon: letters of condolence for families who've lost relatives in the wars are receiving not just a form letter--but a form letter with a machine signature. Rummy must be busy writing poetry.

Finally, I'll close this post by linking to today's Rude Pundit, who does a nice job of drawing an analogy of his own, noting that, while apparently abuse of Arabs and/or Muslims hardly seems to make the true believers bat an eyelash, it'd be interesting to see what would happen if the US adopted the same measures in order to "prevent another Oklahoma City." Funny enough, but I'll bet Oklahoma City isn't even on those folks' radar screens anymore...