May 31, 2006

Haditha: The War Gets Real

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."
Read The Haditha Massacre by Marjorie Cohn.
An article in yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune which is reprinted from the New York Times News Service, cites a report by "one Marine officer" that "inspectors suspected at least part of the motive for the killings was to send a message to local residents that they would 'pay a price' for failing to warn the Marines about insurgent activity in the area."

Curiously, that paragraph is missing from the same story in both the print and online editions of yesterday's New York Times. For some reason, the Times had second thoughts about that paragraph, and removed it, after the copy had been sent to other papers over the wire.
"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs." "I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."
Willful killing is considered a war crime under the US War Crimes Act. People who commit war crimes can be punished by life in prison, or even the death penalty if the victim dies. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, a commander can be held liable if he knew or should have known his inferiors were committing war crimes and he failed to stop or prevent it.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are knowingly prosecuting a war of aggression in Iraq. Under the United Nations Charter, a country cannot invade another country unless it is acting in self-defense or it has permission from the Security Council. Iraq had invaded no country for 11 years before "Operation Iraqi Freedom," and the council never authorized the invasion.

A war that violates the UN Charter is a war of aggression.

Under the Nuremberg Tribunal, aggressive war is the supreme international crime.
"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs." "I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."
Haditha is likely the tip of the iceberg in Bush's illegal war of aggression in Iraq.

"We have a Haditha every day," declared Muhanned Jasim, an Iraqi merchant. "Were [those killed in Haditha] the first ... Iraqis to be killed for no reason?" asked pharmacist Ghasan Jayih. "We're used to being killed. It's normal now to hear 25 Iraqis are killed in one day."

"We have a Fallujah and Karbala every day," Jasim added, referring to the 2004 slaughter by US forces in Fallujah and bombings by resistance fighters in the Shiite city of Karbala.
"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."
Graffiti on one of the Haditha victims' houses reads, "Democracy assassinated the family that was here."

So much for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

We must pull our troops out of Iraq immediately, and insist that our leaders be held to account for the war crimes committed there.
"I held her out like this," he said, extending his arms, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."
Coalition in Iraq continues to dwindle:
In the months after the March 2003 invasion, the multinational force peaked at about 300,000 soldiers from 38 nations, including 250,000 U.S. troops. But the coalition has shrunk steadily ever since, with Spain and Ukraine among the larger contributors to pull out.

The latest blow to the current 26-nation coalition is Italy's decision to pull its remaining 2,600 troops out by the end of the year...

South Korea, the third-largest contributor of forces, began bringing troops home this week as part of a plan to withdraw about 1,000 of its 3,200 soldiers from northern Iraq by year's end.

Other coalition members are thinking about drawing down their forces.

Lawmakers in Denmark, which has 530 personnel in Iraq, approved a government plan Tuesday to cut the contingent by 80 troops. They also extended the mission to June 30, 2007.

Japan has about 600 non-combat troops doing humanitarian work in southern Iraq, and says it won't decide whether to withdraw them until Baghdad appoints new defense and interior ministers. There has been speculation the Japanese force will be withdrawn this year.

And in Poland, the prime minister said this month that his government was weighing whether to keep troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2006. Poland has 900 troops in central Iraq, where it leads an international force.
Australia, you will notice, does not even rate a mention.
Bush's Supreme Court Rallies Round The King

Bush's Supreme Court rolls over for the Bush Government:
The Supreme Court yesterday bolstered the government's power to discipline public employees who make charges of official misconduct, ruling that the First Amendment does not protect those who blow the whistle in the course of their official duties.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the court ruled that the Los Angeles County district attorney's office did not violate prosecutor Richard Ceballos's freedom of speech by allegedly demoting him after he wrote to supervisors charging that a sheriff's deputy had lied to get a search warrant.

Dissenters on the court, civil libertarians and public-employee unions said the ruling, which extends to all of the nation's public employees, could deter government workers from going to their bosses with evidence of corruption or ineptitude.
The Bush Five: Anthony M. Kennedy, John G. Roberts Jr., Antonio Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Qui Custodiat Custos?

The military began its examination of the killings in Haditha only after Time magazine presented findings of its investigation to a military spokesman in Baghdad in January.

General Chiarelli, an Army officer who had taken command of American ground forces in Iraq in January, learned then that the Marines had not investigated the incident, according to the senior military official.

On Tuesday, the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said that President Bush first became aware of the episode after the Time magazine inquiry.
Nobody is going to be covered in glory here.
An Open Letter To US Soldiers In Iraq

A must read for everyone:
Dear American serviceperson in Iraq,

I am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you--some more extreme than others--are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed.

In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.

The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.

When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.

When that bullshit story about weapons came apart like a two-dollar shirt, the politicians who cooked up this war told everyone, including you, that you would be greeted like great liberators. They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.

What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing whole villages, and commiting rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position to figure out the difference between me--just in country--and the people who had done those things to them.

What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.

My son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids.

So the lie that you would be welcomed as liberators was just that. A lie. A lie for people in the United States to get them to open their purse for this obscenity, and a lie for you to pump you up for a fight.

And when you put this into perspective, you know that if you were an Iraqi, you probably wouldn't be crazy about American soldiers taking over your towns and cities either. This is the tough reality I faced in Vietnam. I knew while I was there that if I were Vietnamese, I would have been one of the Vietcong.

But there we were, ordered into someone else's country, playing the role of occupier when we didn't know the people, their language, or their culture, with our head full of bullshit our so-called leaders had told us during training and in preparation for deployment, and even when we got there. There we were, facing people we were ordered to dominate, but any one of whom might be pumping mortars at us or firing AKs at us later that night. The question we stated to ask is who put us in this position?

In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader that violated their dignity, destroyed their property, and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by people who made these decisions in $5,000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington DC with their fat fucking asses stuffed full of cordon blue and caviar.

They chumped us. Anyone can be chumped.

That's you now. Just fewer trees and less water.

We haven't figured out how to stop the pasty-faced, oil-hungry backslappers in DC yet, and it looks like you all might be stuck there for a little longer. So I want to tell you the rest of the story.

I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either. I started getting pulled into something--something that craved other peole's pain. Just to make sure I wasn't regarded as a "fucking missionary" or a possible rat, I learned how to fit myself into that group that was untouchable, people too crazy to fuck with, people who desired the rush of omnipotence that comes with setting someone's house on fire just for the pure hell of it, or who could kill anyone, man, woman, or child, with hardly a second thought. People who had the power of life and death--because they could.

The anger helps. It's easy to hate everyone you can't trust because of your circumstances, and to rage about what you've seen, what has happened to you, and what you have done and can't take back.

It was all an act for me, a cover-up for deeper fears I couldn't name, and the reason I know that is that we had to dehumanize our victims before we did the things we did. We knew deep down that what we were doing was wrong. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads or hajjis. People had to be reduced to "niggers" here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names, to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the cries of a baby.

Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not get until it's too late. When you take away the humantiy of another, you kill your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way.

So we finish our tour, and go back to our families, who can see that even though we function, we are empty and incapable of truly connecting to people any more, and maybe we can go for months or even years before we fill that void where we surrendered our humanity, with chemical anesthetics--drugs, alcohol, until we realize that the void can never be filled and we shoot ourselves, or head off into the street where we can disappear with the flotsam of society, or we hurt others, esepcially those who try to love us, and end up as another incarceration statistic or a mental patient.

You can ever escape that you became a racist because you made the excuse that you needed that to survive, that you took things away from people that you can never give back, or that you killed a piece of yourself that you may never get back.

Some of us do. We get lucky and someone gives a damn enough to emotionally resuscitate us and bring us back to life. Many do not.

I live with the rage every day of my life, even when no one else sees it. You might hear it in my words. I hate being chumped.

So here is my message to you. You will do what you have to do to survive, however you define survival, while we do what we have to do to stop this thing. But don't surrender your humanity. Not to fit in. Not to prove yourself. Not for an adrenaline rush. Not to lash out when you are angry and frustrated. Not for some ticket-punching fucking military careerist to make his bones on. Especially not for the Bush-Cheney Gas & Oil Consortium.

The big bosses are trying to gain control of the world's energy supplies to twist the arms of future economic competitors. That's what's going on, and you need to understand it, then do what you need to do to hold on to your humanity. The system does that; tells you you are some kind of hero action figures, but uses you as gunmen. They chump you.

Your so-called civilian leadership sees you as an expendable commodity. They don't care about your nightmares, about the DU that you are breathing, about the lonliness, the doubts, the pain, or about how you humanity is stripped away a piece at a time. They will cut your benefits, deny your illnesses, and hide your wounded and dead from the public. They already are.

They don't care. So you have to. And to preserve your own humanity, you must recognize the humanity of the people whose nation you now occupy and know that both you and they are victims of the filthy rich bastards who are calling the shots.

They are your enemies--The Suits--and they are the enemies of peace, and the enemies of your families, especially if they are Black families, or immigrant families, or poor families. They are thieves and bullies who take and never give, and they say they will "never run" in Iraq, but you and I know that they will never have to run, because they fucking aren't there. You are

They'll skin and grin while they are getting what they want from you, and throw you away like a used condom when they are done. Ask the vets who are having their benefits slashed out from under them now. Bushfeld and their cronies are parasites, and they are the sole beneficiaries of the chaos you are learning to live in. They get the money. You get the prosthetic devices, the nightmares, and the mysterious illnesses.

So if your rage needs a target, there they are, responsible for your being there, and responsible for keeping you there. I can't tell you to disobey. That would probably run me afoul of the law. That will be a decision you will have to take when and if the circumstances and your own conscience dictate. But it perfeclty legal for you to refuse illegal orders, and orders to abuse or attack civilians are illegal. Ordering you to keep silent about these crimes is also illegal.

I can tell you, without fear of legal consequence, that you are never under any obligation to hate Iraqis, you are never under any obligation to give yourself over to racism and nihilism and the thirst to kill for the sake of killing, and you are never under any obligation to let them drive out the last vestiges of your capacity to see and tell the truth to yourself and to the world. You do not owe them your souls.

Come home safe, and come home sane. The people who love you and who have loved you all your lives are waiting here, and we want you to come back and be able to look us in the face. Don't leave your souls in the dust there like another corpse.

Hold on to your humanity.

Stan Goff

US Army (Ret.)
Via Milfuegos.
Beyond Haditha: Daily Massacres Go Unmentioned

As Dahr Jamail points out, there have been countless massacres of innocents in Iraq:
Earlier this month, I received a news release from Iraq, which read, "On Saturday, May 13th, 2006, at 10:00 p.m., US Forces accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard attacked the houses of Iraqi people in the Al-Latifya district south of Baghdad by an intensive helicopter shelling. This led the families to flee to the Al-Mazar and water canals to protect themselves from the fierce shelling. Then seven helicopters landed to pursue the families who fled … and killed them. The number of victims amounted to more than 25 martyrs. US forces detained another six persons including two women named Israa Ahmed Hasan and Widad Ahmed Hasan, and a child named Huda Hitham Mohammed Hasan, whose father was killed during the shelling."

The report from the Iraqi NGO called The Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) continued, "The forces didn't stop at this limit. They held an attack on May 15th, 2006, supported also by the Iraqi National Guards. They also attacked the families' houses, and arrested a number of them while others fled. US snipers then used the homes to target more Iraqis. The reason for this crime was due to the downing of a helicopter in an area close to where the forces held their attack."

The US military preferred to report the incident as an offensive where they killed 41 "insurgents," a line effectively parroted by much of the media.

On that same day, MHRI also reported that in the Yarmouk district of Baghdad, US forces raided the home of Essam Fitian al-Rawi. Al-Rawi was killed along with his son Ahmed; then the soldiers reportedly removed the two bodies along with Al-Rawi's nephew, who was detained.

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.
And it is not just the US soldiers who are committing atrocities:
Then there is the daily reality of sectarian and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, which is being carried out by US-backed Iraqi "security" forces. A recent example of this was provided by a representative of the Voice of Freedom Association for Human Rights, another Iraqi NGO which logs ongoing atrocities resulting from the US occupation.

"The representative … visited Fursan Village (Bani Zaid) with the Iraqi Red Crescent Al-Madayin Branch. The village of 60 houses, inhabited by Sunni families, was attacked on February 27, 2006, by groups of men wearing black clothes and driving cars from the Ministry of Interior. Most of the villagers escaped, but eight were caught and immediately executed. One of them was the Imam of the village mosque, Abu Aisha, and another was a 10-year-old boy, Adnan Madab. They were executed inside the room where they were hiding. Many animals (sheep, cows and dogs) were shot by the armed men also. The village mosque and most of the houses were destroyed and burnt."
There is a common link, of course, as Arun Gupta explains:
"The fact is, while I think the militias have, to a degree, spiraled out of US control, it's the US who trains, arms, funds, and supplies all the police and military forces, and gives them critical logistical support. For instance, there were reports at the beginning of the year that a US army unit caught a "death squad" operating inside the Iraqi Highway Patrol. There were the usual claims that the US has nothing to do with them. It's all a big lie. The American reporters are lazy. If they did just a little digging, there is loads of material out there showing how the US set up the highway patrol, established a special training academy just for them, equipped them, armed them, built all their bases, etc. It's all in government documents, so it's irrefutable. But then they tell the media we have nothing to do with them and they don't even fact check it. In any case, I think the story is significant only insofar as it shows how the US tries to cover up its involvement."
Well, what do you expect when you take the murderers who ran the death squads in Honduras and put them in charge of Iraq? There can be no excuse: this is US policy from the top level down.

An optimistic thought from Milfuegos:
When the nature of these crimes are fully discovered, there will be an international call to bring American and British war criminals, including the top political leadership, to justice.
Cindy Sheehan's New Book Dear President Bush (City Lights Open Media).
Human nature never fails to disappoint:
Dutch paedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalisation of child pornography and sex with animals...
Off topic? Not really...
US Media: Don't Mention Withdrawal

Greg Mitchell examines how US Editorials continue to oppose Iraq withdrawals:
All of them, despite voicing strong crtiicism in the same editorials, came out against starting to bring the boys home.

This continues the depressing tradition of newspaper editorials saying most of the right things, and pressing charges against the administration’s handling of the war – while arguing for “more time” or “a few more months” for the latest “turning point” in Iraq to produce a positive outcome. This pattern could – and possibly will – go on nearly forever.

It ain’t funny how time slips away.

As Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist, put it on Monday: "Pretty soon this war in Iraq will have lasted as long as our involvement in World War II, with absolutely no evidence of any sort of conclusion in sight."

Then, on Tuesday, the military announced it was actually increasing troop levels in Iraq, transfering forces from Kuwait to troubled Anbar province. This is progress?
Mitchell has close study of the major papers' Memorial Day editorials here. For example:
Surely the time-to-set-a-deadline call would follow. But no, the Times concluded with: “It's time for Mr. Bush either to chart a course that can actually be followed, or admit that there is none.”

This leaves standing the essential blunder that the Times editorial page, its star columnist Thomas Friedman, and so many other commentators have made: a) trusting that, surely, the president and his team will come up with a wise plan -- and even if they did b) could be trusted to carry it out successfully.

That’s why all of these fine editorials nailing the administration for stupidly and incompetence in regard to Iraq are so hollow—if they are as stupid and incompetent as the Times suggests, why spend even one more day entrusting 135,000 American soldiers to their care?
Haditha: Denial and Disbelief

US Marines react to the Haditha massacre:
Mr. Harper expressed doubt that the marines knowingly committed crimes in Haditha, saying that they undoubtedly acted on instinct, as trained, in the heat of battle.

"When a bullet comes at you and you turn around and half your buddy's head is blown off, it changes the way you think forever," he said.

Jerry Alexander, the owner of G.I. Joe's and a Navy man who served with the Marines for a dozen years, had much the same perspective, saying, "If I saw my buddy laying there dead, there is no such thing as too much retaliation."

While Mr. Alexander said "unacceptable kills" should not be covered up, he worried about the unfairness of judging those who were in Haditha.

"In the heat of combat, you cannot hesitate; he who hesitates is lost," he said. "I would not prosecute these young men because they were just doing their jobs."


"In Iraq, everything you do has to be cleared with a commanding officer," said Cpl. Michael Miller, 25, who has served two tours of duty and fought in Falluja and Ramadi. "You just can't go clearing houses without the permission of higher-ups."

Corporal Miller said he believed that the marines would be vindicated in the inquiry. "I just think the marines did what they had to do," he said. "I don't know why innocent people are dead, but someone must have seen a gun." Several retired senior officers agreed. Col. Ben Mittman of the Air Force, interviewed as he got his regular military buzz cut at the Beachcomber Barber Shop in Oceanside, worried that the young servicemen were being made scapegoats.

"If this thing really happened, they had to radio communication and get the go-ahead," he said. "The frontline grunts these days do not do anything without the commanders knowing, especially something like that."
Is this the end for Magic Bunny?
Civilian Deaths Are Just So-o-o Embarrassing!

The recklessless of US troops in Iraq poses a difficult problem for Iraqi politicians who are trying to win over public support on the one hand, while staying close to Washington with the other. Today the new Iraqi PM says he is sick of US excuses over civilian deaths:
"We are worried about the increase in 'mistakes'. I am not saying that they are intentional. But it is worrying for us," Nuri al-Maliki told Reuters in an interview...

"There is a limit to the acceptable excuses. Yes a mistake may happen but there is an acceptable limit to mistakes," Mr Maliki said.

"We will ask for answers not only about Haditha but about any operation ... in which killing happened by mistake and we will hold those who did it responsible."

Many Iraqis believe unjustified killings by US troops are common, though few have been confirmed by investigations.
Maliki also said he was ready to use force against the "criminal, terrorist gangs" who currently control Basra (often cited as a beacon of hope due to its relative peacefulness, mind you). That should be interesting...

Weep, America. Stare into this mirror and weep for your sins.

Weep for your lies and your bloody murdering wars and you profound incapacity to stop yourself from endlessly repeating this murdering, pyschotic madness.

Damn you, America. Damn your poison. Damn your inflated self-esteem, which values other lives as so much less than your own. Damn your hypocrisy and your endless greed and your profound, unforgiveable carelessness.

Fuck you, America. Fuck your lazy media which never dares tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Fuck the scum you call politicians and the corrupt farce you call Democracy. Fuck your millionaires and your billionaires and your corporate giants and the whole fucking system you foist upon this poor, suffering world.

Fuck your dumb masses, who prefer to watch ice hockey or go shopping while you export your nightmares to places they don't even know exist. Fuck the fat, lazy bastards who walk your streets but cannot even be bothered to vote, let alone change the system that makes their votes irrelevant. Fuck the superficial consumer culture you so aggressively export and the bottom-line profits you so zealously covet.

Fuck what you have done to my country and my world.

Fuck the dumb-ass fool you call a President and fuck every miserable, self-deceiving ignoramus who ever voted for him.

Fuck the lot of you, if you cannot MAKE THIS STOP!

This post has been elevated from the diaries. The following update is based on previous comments):

Fuck my country, Australia, too of course. Fuck all the bastards and bitches who voted for Howard and his ass-kissing war policies. Fuck me for not being able to stop that, and fuck this blog for being so damned ineffective.

People are being killed in cold blood because WE ARE LETTING IT HAPPEN.

All the words mean nothing if we cannot make it stop.

I am sick to death of all this death, and NOTHING REAL is being done about it. All we have is words, an endless stream of words... from bloggers, from the media, from politicians... and yet nothing REAL is being done to stop the carnage and the torture and the wire-tapping and the cronyism and all the rest.

It's time we stirred up the pot and got some changes happening, coz things can't go on the way they are.

These fuckheads killed innocent civilians in cold blood. Their behaviour is inexcusable. However, their actions must be seen in a larger context if we are to ensure this sort of massacre does not continue to occur again and again (as is happening now).

Many of these soldiers in Iraq are just kids. They come from impoverished and uneducated backgrounds, many joined up for the benefits, the pay or the education. Many just wanted to get away from wherever they were. And many never expected, or wanted, to serve abroad as armed combatants. (Others, of course, were just the usual psychotic nut-jobs who join armies all round the world.)

Most of these kids had no idea what was going on in Washington and London leading up to the invasion. They still don't. Zogby did a poll of the military in Iraq a while back which showed that 85 per cent of troops said the US mission was mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks”. Another 42% said they were not really sure what their mission in Iraq was. That's disgraceful. Now consider that many of those same kids have had their return from Iraq delayed time and time again. Many signed up for a certain length of time but have not been allowed to leave. Others thought their sevice was complete, but they were dragged back in.

They get dressed up in all kinds of gear, day after day, and go out to sweat in the hot desert sun, day after day after day. The Iraqi people are openly hostile to them. Kids throw rocks at them. People they cannot even see try to kill them with IEDs. Crowds dance on the burning corpses of their comrades when the IEDs go off.

Under these circumstances, it is HIGHLY PROBABLE that a few screws are gonna pop. More than a few, in fact. Just look at what that kind of pressure did to the kids in Vietnam. If you put kids like that under that kind of prolongued pressure - based on past experience - you simply have to EXPECT a few atrocities. Expecially when you have pro-torture psychos like Cheney and Rumsfeld calling the tune.

The soldiers who committed these atrocities in Haditha are murderers. But their aides and accomplices are in the White House.

We need some accountability. We demand some accountability!

Make. This. Stop.
Signs That Bush Is A Shameless Fool

He lies when he doesn't even need to (i.e. compulsively).

May 30, 2006

Marine 'Massacre' in al-Haditha: Eye Witness Report
About a quarter of an hour after the attack on Iman’s house, Mohammed Basit, 23, an engineering student, said that he watched as Marines entered the home of his neighbour, Salim Rasif, He peered from a window as the family, including Salim’s wife, sister-in-law and their five children, rushed into a bedroom.

“I saw them all gathering in their parents’ room, then we heard a bang which was most likely a hand grenade, then we heard shooting,” he said.
Fearing for his life, he moved away from the window.

Throughout the next day the Americans cordoned off Salim and Iman’s homes, which are located about 20 metres apart. The next night Basit and his father slipped inside Salim’s house.

“The blood was everywhere in Salim’s bedroom,” Basit said. “I saw organs and flesh on the ground and a liver on the bed. Blood splattered the ceiling. The bullet holes were in the walls and in different parts of the house.

“We found an unexploded grenade in the bathroom, which had been set on fire. There was shrapnel and a crater on the floor and the wall of the bathroom.”

Later Basit joined relatives and friends who went to al-Haditha mortuary to pick up the bodies of those whom the Marines had killed. The corpses were zipped in plastic bags. “They were all shot, even the kids. They were shot more than one time, mostly in the chest and the head,” he claimed.

Salim’s daughters — A’isha, 3, Zainab, 2, Noora, 15, and Saba’a, 11 — and his eight-year-old son, Mohammed, were among the dead.
The. System. Is. Broken.

WaPo's in-depth profile of political lobbyist extraordinaire Richard Cohen (of The Cohen Group) is a must-read. The real kicker, a house-buying scandal which couldland in court, is in the final page. But there is plenty of good stuff along the way.
In one form or another, it's a Washington paradigm. Military officers go to work for military contractors, and lawmakers join the lobbies that lobbied them. Though federal law contains some limits on lobbying by former officials, they are for the most part temporary, and there are few restrictions on giving advice.

Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger created Kissinger Associates. Former defense secretary Frank C. Carlucci headed the Carlyle Group, a major investor in defense-related businesses. Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright's Albright Group says it helps clients broker agreements with governments.

And former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger's consulting and lobbying firm describes itself as "leveraging" its relationships with government leaders.
If Fascism is the blurring of business and government, this article charts a sorry tale of ex-government officials moving into the lobbying business.
"Their illustrious careers speak volumes about their integrity and ability to be impartial in all their decisions."
"In Mercenaries 2: World In Flames, gamers play soldiers sent to overthrow "a power-hungry tyrant [who] messes with Venezuela's oil supply, sparking an invasion that turns the country into a war zone"."
Be sure to bookmark my new blog, Fly On The White House Wall.
Haditha: WaPo says video from an unmanned drone and records of radio message traffic will be included in the enquiry.
Mr Nowhere Man The Second

So how is Tony Snow settling into his new job? In today's press briefing Snow talked about "some fairly miraculous developments in Iraq". He said whatever is happening right now is "hugely important":
And I think that's a hugely important milestone, and you've got to look at this as a new beginning and a new opportunity, because there's now somebody to deal with. And I think that's hugely important...
Snow then denies that Bush ever said it would be wrong to impose a deadline for withdrawal of US forces ("I honestly don't think the President has had any comment on it"). He spends a lot of time referring reporters to other people because he cannot answer questions himself. The effect is that he seems to know very little indeed.
Good News From Afghanistan

Only seven people were killed (or maybe twenty, max), and twelve vehicles damaged, after US soldiers lost control of their vehicle when driving through peak hour traffic in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Only about 2,000 locals were involved in the spontaneous rioting which ensued.

Protesters moved through the city center towards the presidential palace and parliament, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai", but only buildings in the diplomatic quarter were ransacked and set alight, including a charity compound. Police vehicles and checkpoints were also attacked, but no police were killed.

There were bursts of heavy gunfire around the US Embassay, but no staff were hurt. 21 European Union diplomats and staff were rescued from their compound by British Royal Marines. The US Military has denied claims that their soldiers were driving recklessly or that they shot at people in the crowd.

When reading the BBC report of this incident, remember that the BBC is known to be an extremely unreliable and anti-American news source. Similiarly, this news report from an eyewitness Times correspondent should not be considered reliable until verified by the US Military:
"We managed to get to within about a half-hour drive of where the accident happened and could hear gunfire. We stopped to ask what was going on.
"The mob crowded around the car and people were shouting: 'Let's get them - let's skin them alive'. We got out of there pretty quickly and as we were leaving we noticed a car was following behind.
"As we came onto a roundabout we ducked behind another car, pulled up onto the pavement and managed to lose him, thanks to the skill of our driver.
"I've been in Kabul for nine months and there has never been anything like this before..."
UPDATE: Juan Cole points out that over 400 Afghans have been killed by US bombing and military actions in only the past two weeks.
Despite Bush administration pledges to reconstruct the country, only six percent of Afghans have access to electricity. Less than 20 percent have access to clean water. Although the gross domestic product has grown by 80 percent since the nadir of 2001, and may be $7 billion next year, most of that increase comes from the drug trade or from foreign assistance... About half the economy of Afghanistan is generated by the poppy crop, which becomes opium and then heroin in Europe. Afghanistan produces 87 percent of the world's opium and heroin, and no other country comes close in its dedication of agricultural land to drug production (over 200,000 hectares).

The government lives on international welfare. Some 92 percent of Afghan government expenditures come from foreign assistance. The Afghan government is worse at collecting taxes than fourth world countries in subsaharan Africa. Unemployment remains at 35 percent. Unemployment is estimated to have been 25 percent in the US during the Great Depression.
Fake War, Fake News, Real Profits

FCC investigating widespread use of selling fake news for profit:
The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items...

The range of VNR is wide. Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City was seen saying "Thank you Bush. Thank you USA" in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad. The footage was actually produced by the State Department, one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items.

May 29, 2006

Bloody Scenes Haunt a Marine - Los Angeles Times
Karen Kwiatkowski looks for a positive:
Haditha is the story of what happens in war. It’s cruel, unjust, ugly, and criminal. Babies get shot, old women massacred. Get used to it. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

And yet, the Haditha horror is a golden opportunity. The American people and the American military brass might use it to ask why American soldiers and Marines are even in Iraq, and what is our mission there? Is it policing? Is it Chapter 7 peacekeeping? Is it nation-building? Is it to provide security for American civilians and politicos in the Green Zone? Is it to occupy and secure the world’s largest (and clearly least needed) embassy, or perhaps the world’s biggest and nicest new military bases? If so, why? Are we there to win? What are we winning? How can we tell? Is there really a prize at the bottom of this Cracker Jack box called Iraq, or just a sticky crumbly mess? Does anyone perceive the prize may actually be the continued destruction, chaos and hate in the region? If this is true, can that be in any way defensible or moral?

Every American needs to really think about each of these questions. We are living with someone’s agenda in Iraq – but is it truly our agenda? Can we say we own it?

A few months after the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush landed on the USS Lincoln and said, "Mission accomplished!" Upon this Bush command, every U.S. general in Iraq should have packed up his troops and sent them home.

Instead, we are building mega-bases, monstrous embassies, forcing false unity governments, and killing children in their homes. We are not picking up garbage, pumping oil, hiring Iraqis, repairing water systems or electric grids, or roads, bridges, and factories.
Three years or more later, Iran controls southern Iraq, while the Taliban control southern Afghanistan. Brilliant, innit?

More at
Bush's USA: Where Entertainment Replaces Reality
"We've turned into this nation of overfed clowns, riding around in clown cars, eating clown food, watching clown shows. We've become a nation of cringing, craven fuckups."

- James Howard Kunstler,
Author, The Long Emergency.
Outraged by the front page status awarded to American Idol while issues like Darfur, Iraq and the steady erosion of US Democracy go barely mentioned, Stephen Pizzo at News For Real says art has stopped imitating life and simply become a substitute for it.

From the comments at Smirky's:
At a jobsite recently I was talking with another worker about a story I'd read about some pending crisis or another (hard to keep 'em straight) when a third worker nearby said "Ya see, that's the problem with the newspeople! They write all that stuff and it gets everybody all worked up and worried!"


I forgot to note that we effectively became a nation of clowns when we elected a clown - Ronnie Reagan of 'Bedtime for Bonzo' fame.


Since more Americans vote for American Idol than vote in elections, why not combine entertainment and news and have politicians sing and dance on tv to get elected. Oh, they do already.


The "Idol" winners have all come from "red" states (Taylor Hicks is from Alabama--and he does a killer Joe Cocker impersonation), presumably because the red staters actually took time out of their lives to cast more votes for something as brutally idiotic as a TV show karaoke contest. They also voted for Bush. Coincidence?
Haditha: Who's To Blame?

Joshua Holland:
The media, hectored by the administration's charges that they don't report the illusory "good news" from Iraq, has shown little stomach for the story.

... the media's uncritical acceptance of the Iraq hawks' spin -- with notable exceptions like Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau -- makes them complicit in crimes like those alleged in Haditha. The editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times have the victims' blood on their hands, and they have no interest in turning Haditha into the Iraq war's My Lai.
Holland cites numerous similar incidents in Iraq which the media have chosen to ignore. No wonder Iraqi citizens have shown little outrage over the Haditha story to date: to them, it is totally expected behaviour from brutish US soldiers.
Paul Rockwell, who interviewed a number of U.S. soldiers who claim to have committed atrocities in Iraq for the book "Ten Excellent Reasons Not To Join The Military," wrote that American troops are not only "expected to follow unlawful orders, they are also expected to bear lifelong burdens of shame, guilt and legal culpability for the arrogance of their own commanders -- who dispense life and death from an office computer."

Incidents like those alleged in Haditha, Ramallah and Fallujah are entirely predictable. In World War I, about four in 10 deaths were civilians; by World War II, civilians made up more than half of those killed; and in the post Cold-War era, about eight in 10 combat deaths have been among civilians. The ultimate moral tragedy is that while some number of soldiers may face prosecution, the real culprits won't be punished. There are just too many of them.

The guilty include not only the Bush administration's hardliners who conjured up this war, but also the Democratic hawks who enabled them and the media that spun their glorious war narrative and convinced so many ordinary citizens to jump on board. It's the Tom Friedmans and Kenneth Pollacks and Peter Beinarts, who only realized the Iraq war was a mistake when it proved to be as disastrous as every other "war of choice." They promised us a clean war; smart bombs would spare the innocent, a high-tech military would be finished in a fortnight and casualties on both sides would be limited.

Those of us who said that the war would be hell on Iraqis were called "pacifists" and "appeasers." The hawks got their war. Now we know that it's not a video game or glowing green explosions on CNN -- it's a bloody and uncontrolled mess and civilians are paying the price, as they always do.
George W. Bush and Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay:
In the 1980s, when Mr. Bush was working in the Texas oil industry, his firm invested in a drilling partnership with Mr. Lay's company, a predecessor to Enron. In 1992, Mr. Lay was co-chairman of the Republican National Convention in Houston that renominated President George H.W. Bush.

Later, Mr. Lay was a major fund-raiser for George W. Bush's political career. He delivered more than $300,000 for his two gubernatorial campaigns, according to Texans for Public Justice. In 1997, Mr. Bush wrote to Mr. Lay: "Dear Ken, One of the sad things about old friends is that they seem to be getting older -- just like you! 55 years old. Wow. ... Laura and I value our friendship with you. ... Your younger friend, George W. Bush."

In the 2000 presidential race, Mr. Lay remained a steadfast ally. Mr. Lay was a Bush "Pioneer" who raised at least $100,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Enron also made its jet available and contributed to inaugural festivities.

Mr. Lay later wrote to the new president and the first lady that he was "so proud of you and look forward to seeing both of you in the White House." But Mr. Lay also found influence in the administration.

Vice President Dick Cheney invited Mr. Lay to take part in his secret energy task force meetings. Mr. Cheney also talked to the Indian government about a debt it owed Enron for the rebuilding of a power plant. Numerous administration officials held Enron stock. Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's chief economic adviser at the time, had sat on Enron's board, receiving $50,000.
Haditha: Why Did Kilo Company Snap?

TIME magazine, which apparently has video footage of the scene post-massacre, looks at The Shame Of Kilo Company:
The outfit known as Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, wasn't new to Iraq last year when it moved into Haditha, a Euphrates River farming town about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad. Several members of the unit were on their second tour of Iraq; one was on his third. The men in Kilo Company were veterans of ferocious house-to-house fighting in Fallujah. Their combat experience seemed to prepare them for the ordeal of serving in an insurgent stronghold like Haditha, the kind of place where the enemy attacks U.S. troops from the cover of mosques, schools and homes and uses civilians as shields, complicating Marine engagement rules to shoot only when threatened. In Haditha, says a Marine who has been there twice, "you can't tell a bad guy until he shoots you."

But one morning last November, some members of Kilo Company apparently didn't attempt to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Instead, they seem to have gone on the worst rampage by U.S. service members in the Iraq war, killing as many as 24 civilians in cold blood...

A military source in Iraq told TIME that investigators have obtained two sets of photos from Haditha. The first is after-action photos taken by the military as part of the routine procedure that follows any such event. Submitted in the official report on the fighting, the photos do not show any bodies. Investigators have also discovered a second, more damning set of photos, taken by Marines of the Kilo Company immediately after the shootings. The source says it isn't clear if these photos were held back from the after-action report or were personal snapshots taken by the Marines. The source says a Marine e-mailed at least one photo to a friend in the U.S.

Almost as damaging as the alleged massacre may be evidence that the unit's members and their superiors conspired to cover it up. "There's no doubt that the Marines allegedly involved in doing this--they lied about it," says Kline. "They certainly tried to cover it up." Three Marine officers, including the company commander and battalion commander, have been relieved of duty in part for actions related to the deaths in Haditha. A lawmaker who has been briefed on the matter says the investigations may implicate other senior officers...

So why did some men in Kilo Company apparently snap? Perhaps because of the stress of fighting a violent and unpopular war--or because their commanders failed them. Military psychiatrists who have studied what makes a soldier's moral compass go haywire in battle look first for a weak chain of command. That was a factor in the March 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when U.S. soldiers, including members of an Army platoon led by Lieut. William Calley, killed some 500 Vietnamese. Says a retired Army Green Beret colonel who fought in Vietnam: "Somebody has failed to say, 'No, that's not right.'" No one, apparently, was delivering that message last November in Haditha.
Bush Can't Wipe The Smirk From His Face

Capitol Hill Blue asks whether Bush's "new humility" is real...
"The unrepentant, stay-the-course, brash Bush would just look completely out of whack with reality and doesn't serve any purpose for him at this point," Taylor said.

"This repentant Bush is politically necessary for him to climb out of the hole and shore up some of the character qualities that Americans once saw in him as positive -- that he is an in-charge, in-control guy."
... then pretty much answers the question by revealing that Bush's recent expression of regret was a scripted response to a planted question:
"Of course, it was very rehearsed, everything from the mannerisms you saw, the upwards glance up at the ceiling for inspiration," Wolffe says. "And for me, the big giveaway was at the end of that answer-I don't know if you could see it on camera, but the president flashed a big grin to those of us sitting in the front rows. It didn't seem that he was quite as contrite as his performance."

According to multiple sources, Blair planted the question with British reporters leaving England and informed the White House. Both Blair and Bush had scripted responses to the question and it was pre-determined that the question would be recognized so he could ask the question.
Ted Rall: Ceci n'est pas un President.
Tom the Dancing Bug: 47 Seconds To Fascism.
Cheney Vetoes Bush Legislation

Another big story from The Boston Globe:
The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.

The officials said Cheney's legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush a dministration's leading architect of the ``signing statements" the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president's right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

The Bush-Cheney administration has used such statements to claim for itself the option of bypassing a ban on torture, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and numerous requirements that they provide certain information to Congress, among other laws.

Previous vice presidents have had neither the authority nor the interest in reviewing legislation. But Cheney has used his power over the administration's legal team to promote an expansive theory of presidential authority. Using signing statements, the administration has challenged more laws than all previous administrations combined.

``Addington could look at whatever he wanted," said one former White House lawyer who helped prepare signing statements and who asked not to be named because he was describing internal deliberations. ``He had a roving commission to get involved in whatever interested him."

Knowing that Addington was likely to review the bills, other White House and Justice Department lawyers began vetting legislation with Addington's and Cheney's views in mind, according to another former lawyer in the Bush White House.

All these lawyers, he said, were extremely careful to flag any provision that placed limits on presidential power.

``You didn't want to miss something," said the second former White House lawyer, who also asked not to be named.

Cheney and Addington have a long history. Addington was a Republican staff member on the congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, while Cheney was the ranking GOP House member.
Much more in the full 4-page article.
Shorter Top 10 Signs of the Impending U.S. Police State:
1. The Internet Clampdown
2. "The Long War"
4. Prison Camps
5. Touchscreen Voting Machines
6. Signing Statements
7. Warrantless Wiretapping
8. Free Speech Zones
9. High-ranking Whistleblowers
10. The CIA Shakeup
Iraq Is the Republic of Fear:
The women and children were herded outside, walking past Sabah, whose nose was broken, and Walid, who had the barrel of a soldier's machine gun in his mouth. The soldiers beat the men with rifle butts, while the Shiite Iraqi translator accompanying the troops exhorted the Americans to execute the Sunnis.

As the terrified family waited outside, they heard three shots from inside. It then sounded to them as though there was a scuffle inside, with the soldiers shouting at each other. Thirty minutes later the translator emerged with a picture of Sabah. "Who is Sabah's wife?" he asked. "Your husband was killed by the Americans, and he deserved to die," he told her. At that he tore the picture before her face.

Walid was then taken away, and inside the house the family found Sabah dead. His bloody shirt showed three bullet holes that went through his chest; two of the bullets had come out of his back and lodged in the wall behind him. Three U.S.-made bullet casings were on the floor.
Blair is still Bush's Poodle:
Prime Minister Tony Blair caved in to White House pressure by sharpening language on Iran and softening it on global warming in a speech he delivered Friday at Georgetown University, according to a British press report Sunday that Blair's office immediately denied.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Blair made "significant" last-minute changes to his major foreign policy address and that "objections by President George W. Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations."

... The paper reported that during the climate change section of the speech, a cellphone rang in the audience and Blair quipped, "I hope that isn't the White House telling me they don't agree with that. They act very quickly, these guys."
HADITHA: "Worse Than Abu Ghraib"

I could be wrong, but I suspect John Murtha may have Donald Rumsfeld's sorry ass firmly in his sights:
"Who covered it up, why did they cover it up, why did they wait so long?" Murtha said on "This Week" on ABC. "We don't know how far it goes. It goes right up the chain of command."

A bomb rocked a military convoy on Nov. 19, killing a Marine. Marines then shot and killed unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot other people, according to Murtha, who has been briefed by officials.

Murtha said high-level reports he received indicated that no one fired upon the Marines or that there was any military action against the U.S. forces after the initial explosion. Yet the deaths were not seriously investigated until March because an early probe was stifled within days of the incident, he said.

"I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened," Murtha said. "This investigation should have been over two or three weeks afterward and it should have been made public and people should have been held responsible for it."
Ken Loach picks up top prize at Cannes :
The 69-year-old film maker told Reuters in an interview earlier in the festival that the Irish fight for independence against an empire imposing its will on a foreign people had resonances with the US occupation of Iraq today.

May 28, 2006

Ugly Americans

The Sunday Times Online has new details of the Haditha Massacre:
PHOTOGRAPHS taken by American military intelligence have provided crucial evidence that up to 24 Iraqis were massacred by marines in Haditha, an insurgent stronghold on the banks of the Euphrates.

One portrays an Iraqi mother and young child, kneeling on the floor, as if in prayer. They have been shot dead at close range.

The pictures show other victims, shot execution-style in the head and chest in their homes. An American government official said they revealed that the marines involved had “suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership”.

The killings are emerging as the worst known American atrocity of the Iraq war. At least seven women and three children were among those killed. Witness accounts obtained by The Sunday Times suggest the toll of children may be as high as six. “This one is ugly,” a US military official said.

May 27, 2006

Here's what disturbs ME about Bush's illegal NSA wire-tapping: how far does it go?

When the wire-tapping stories first started coming out, a lot of people were saying, "Hey! How far does this stuff go?". But I was like, yeah, well, they would say that, wouldn't they? But now I'm like, wait a minute, how far DOES it go? Coz I mean, you know, it could go real far. Right?

Think about that Google case. Google refused to hand over records to the Busheviks and it became a big story. But what if they had just quietly handed over the records? We would never have even heard of it. Most people who work at Google wouldn't even have heard about it. Some dude would have burned a copy of the data to DVD, handed it to some other dude in a suit, and that would have been it.

So we know that three big phone companies handed over data (lots of it) and at least one other held back (Qwest, if you are thinking of swapping carriers, which you probably should be if you are with Verizon, AT&T or Bell South). But what about all the other US phone carriers? Have they been approached? If so, did they say yes or no?

Now stick with me...

What about the energy companies? Has the NSA asked them for your records? Does anyone know? Has anyone asked? Given that they are such friends with Dick Cheney, I doubt you would have to ask them twice. Your electricity and gas records are almost surely in the NSA database, IMHO.

What about the banks? From an NSA POV, there's real gold in the banks' databases. Hopefully the banks would draw the line somewhere on exactly what they would hand over, but where would they draw the line? "We'll give out balances, transaction records, credit histories and loan details, but no passwords, OK?" Have NSA approached the banks? Have the banks said yes? Does anybody know?

What about travel agents? Real estate agents? Hmmn???

Think I am being paranoid? Well, just think about WHY they want this data. They want to be able to track EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN THE USA to look for ANY signs of unusual behaviour.

Obviously, the more information you have on an individual, the easier it is to notice an abnormality. If I suddenly make an international phone call to Istanbul, that's one thing. But if I've just taken $20,000 out of the bank and terminated my lease the same day, that's another. See what I mean? (Never mind that I may have just fallen madly in love with a Turkish girl who's gone back home: from the NSA's point of view, it's something that NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED).

So here's my question: are there any reporters out there in Bush's USA who have done their jobs and chased down all the major banks, power companies and other database-assimilating business? Are they on the record somewhere as saying they have/have not been approached by the NSA and have/have not supplied information to the NSA?

How big is this thing?
Good stuff from Annalee newitz in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
Here's what disturbs me: In light of recent revelations that the National Security Agency has been illegally collecting vast databases of information about every single phone call made in the United States since late 2001, only 53 percent of US citizens polled by Newsweek think the government has gone too far in its efforts to stop terrorism. That's a majority, but not a very large one. And in the same poll, 41 percent said they thought spying on phone calls made to and from everyone in the country was necessary.

This arouses the same sinking feeling I got many years ago when I was a young graduate student at UC Berkeley, grading my very first set of papers. From that sample, and many others in subsequent courses, I learned that 70 percent of college students in an upper-division English course at a top university cannot construct a coherent argument using evidence taken from books they've read. That's what convinced me that most people, even highly educated ones, go through their lives without ever examining the way rhetoric works, and the way evidence is used (or abused) in its service. These people weren't stupid by any stretch of the imagination. They simply didn't understand how narrative persuasion works, in the same way that many people who are smart nevertheless don't understand how their car works.

And just as technical naïveté makes you vulnerable when your car breaks down on a deserted road, so too does narrative ignorance when your nation is breaking down right before your eyes.
Time ordered to give documents to Libby. Sounds like more wierd legal ground to me, but hey! I'm no lawyer...
Piss Off And Die, Tony

The latest flavour of WARMONGERING CRAP is called "progressive pre-emption". Seriously, why should we be expected to even listen to "new" (i.e. repackaged) ideas from anyone whose international policies have led to the deaths of 200,000 people, the destruction of at least one entire country, disintegration of international alliances and treaties that survived since WWII, yadda yadda....???
Maureen Dowd: "Don't Become Them"

From behind the firewire (till Salzberger quits the NYT), Maureen Dowd looks at the Haditha Massacre. I wish she didn't have to start of with a little personal story to make it all a bit less painful for that arrogantly proud US collective consciousness... This was a fucking MASSACRE folks! And not the only one that's been going on in Iraq these past three years! Wake up!
When I started in newspapers, I shied away from police brutality stories, letting other reporters cover them.

I knew there were cops who had no right to be cops. But I also knew, because my dad was a detective, the sort of blistering pressure men and women in uniform were under as they made snap life-and-death decisions. I'd cringed at the 60's refrain that the military and the police were "pigs."

After my dad killed a robber in self-defense — the man had tried to shoot him point-blank in the face, but that chamber of the gun was empty — he told a police psychologist that he could not swallow or eat because he felt as though he had fish bones in his throat.

So I felt sickened to hear about the marines who allegedly snapped in Haditha, Iraq, and wantonly killed two dozen civilians — including two families full of women and children, among them a 3-year-old girl. Nine-year-old Eman Waleed told Time that she'd watched the marines go in to execute her father as he read the Koran, and then shoot her grandfather and grandmother, still in their nightclothes. Other members of her family, including her mother, were shot dead; she said that she and her younger brother had been wounded but survived because they were shielded by adults who died.

It's a My Lai acid flashback. The force that sacked Saddam to stop him from killing innocents is now accused of killing innocents. Under pressure from the president to restore law, but making little progress, marines from Camp Pendleton, many deployed in Iraq for the third time, reportedly resorted to lawlessness themselves.

The investigation indicates that members of the Third Battalion, First Marines, lost it after one of their men was killed by a roadside bomb, going on a vengeful killing spree over about five hours, shooting five men who had been riding in a taxi and mowing down the residents of two nearby houses.

They blew off the Geneva Conventions, following the lead of the president's lawyer.

It was inevitable. Marines are trained to take the hill and destroy the enemy. It is not their forte to be policemen while battling a ghostly foe, suicide bombers, ever more ingenious explosive devices, insurgents embedded among civilians, and rifle blasts fired from behind closed doors and minarets. They don't know who the enemy is. Is it a pregnant woman? A child? An Iraqi policeman? They don't know how to win, or what a win would entail.

Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, who has flown to Iraq to talk to his troops about "core values" in the wake of Haditha and a second incident being investigated, noted that the effect of this combat "can be numbing."

A new A&E documentary chronicles the searing story of the marines of Lima Company, 184 Ohio reservists who won 59 Purple Hearts, 23 posthumously. Sgt. Guy Zierk recounts kicking in a door after an insurgent attack. Enraged over the death of his pals, he says he nearly killed two women and a 16-year-old boy. "I am so close, so close to shooting, but I don't." he says. "It would make me no better than the people we're trying to fight."

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, one of those who called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, told Chris Matthews that blame for Haditha and Abu Ghraib lay with "the incredible strain bad decisions and bad judgment is putting on our incredible military."

While it was nice to hear President Bush admit he had made mistakes, he was talking mostly about mistakes of tone. Saying he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" would have been O.K. if he had acted on it, rather than letting Osama go at Tora Bora and diverting the Army to Iraq. At his news conference with a tired-looking Tony Blair, Mr. Bush seemed chastened by Iraq, at least. But he continued to have the same hallucination about how to get out: turning things over to the Iraqi security forces after achieving total victory over insurgents and terrorists.

Stories in The Times this week show that Iraqi security forces are so infiltrated by Shiite militias, Sunni militias, death squads and officers with ties to insurgents that the idea of entrusting anything to them is ludicrous.

By ignoring predictions of an insurgency and refusing to do homework before charging into Iraq on trumped-up pretenses, W. left our troops undermanned, inadequately armored and psychologically unprepared.

It was maddening to see the prime minister of Britain — of all places — express surprise at the difficulty of imposing a democracy on a country that has had a complex and ferocious tribal culture since the Gardens of Babylon were still hanging.
Hat tip to Tennessee Guerilla Women.
Top story at USAToday today:
Now we know what it takes to make Congress mad enough to stand up for constitutional rights.

When the government snoops on your phone calls and records without warrants, lawmakers barely kick up a fuss. But when the target is a fellow congressman - one under investigation for taking a bribe, no less - they're ready to rumble...

If only those leaders were as profoundly disturbed about executive branch incursions on the rights of average citizens. You certainly have to wonder where they've been for the past several years while the Bush administration ran roughshod over the legislative branch and launched anti-terror programs of questionable legality...

A more appropriate response from congressional leaders would have been remorse over their failure to do anything meaningful to make members act ethically....

What a pity that Congress' leaders haven't used their clout to protect the public's rights as eagerly as they defend their own.
Suddenly, It's a Steel-Cage Match With the White House

May 26, 2006

Smell The Fear: Emotions Run High

Good work from WaPo's Dan Eggen and Jim VandeHei:
President Bush ordered the Justice Department yesterday to seal records seized from the Capitol Hill office of a Democratic congressman, representing a remarkable intervention by the nation's chief executive into an ongoing criminal probe of alleged corruption...

Tempers rose so high this week that some House Republicans threatened to seek the resignation of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, although GOP leaders said the idea was not seriously considered.

The agreement also marked a setback for the FBI and Justice Department, which had refused demands to return the materials — and had resisted pressure from the White House to cordon them off, according to several officials familiar with the debate.

Bush signaled in his statement, however, that he expected the documents to eventually be made available to prosecutors. "Those who violate the law — including a Member of Congress — should and will be held to account," Bush said. "This investigation will go forward, and justice will be served."
Notice how Bush talks about "a" Member of Congress? That would be Jefferson, the Democrat, of course. And his "justice" is the Alberto Gonzales GOP version.

VandeHei's piece are often packed with news to chew on. Check this out:
Another potential entanglement with the FBI arose yesterday when the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that federal agents are seeking to interview top House members from both parties as part of an investigation into leaks about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program to the New York Times...

Bush has been under heavy pressure from Hastert since Monday, when the president and the speaker appeared together at a Chicago speech, according to accounts from senior White House officials, who requested anonymity. On the ride home aboard Air Force One, Hastert was adamant that the Justice Department had violated the Constitution, and he implored the president to intervene, the sources said.

The next day, the two spoke by phone and Hastert told Bush that he and other leaders would only intensify their campaign to stop Justice from sifting through the materials seized in the weekend search, according to the accounts.

White House officials worked late into the night Wednesday and Thursday, trying to find a middle ground. One person said efforts to get the department to strike a compromise failed.

"Obviously, emotions were running high," the official said. "There was a sense of urgency."

Bush had Vice President Cheney call Hastert to inform him of his decision.
WTF? That last sentence rings all kinds of bells!

And how's this for a tongue-in-cheek sign-off:
Gonzales said in a statement that Bush's order will "protect the integrity" of the investigation, while providing "additional time to reach a permanent solution."

Legal experts said that Bush clearly has the legal authority to direct his Justice Department to do anything lawful with regard to an ongoing investigation.
Yesterday's Men
Subdued and understated, the two politicians most responsible for beginning a war now highly unpopular with both their publics acknowledged sour notes during a news conference at the White House on Thursday night, possibly their last joint appearance. Bush displayed almost none of his trademark backslapping bonhomie. Blair looked dour even when reporting hopeful signs from his trip to Iraq this week.

Both men were euphoric in victory when their military juggernaut dethroned Saddam Hussein. The three years since then have been costly, and both leaders talked remorsefully about mistakes made.
Bush even admitted that his 'Bring 'em on' taunt was a big mistake:

At a joint news conference with Blair, after three years of war that has killed more than 2,400 Americans and thousands of Iraqis, Bush said that remark was "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong message to people."

"I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know. "Wanted, dead or alive"; that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted," he said.
A bit late, you fool. But maybe we should blame the fools who elected you.
Nobody loves a neo-con:
Douglas J. Feith's table at the Georgetown University faculty club is shaping up as a lonely one.

The move to a teaching position at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown by Mr. Feith, a former Pentagon official, set off a faculty kerfuffle, with 72 professors, administrators and graduate students signing a letter of protest, some going as far as to accuse him of war crimes.
This is a place that happily accepted George "Medal of Honour" Tenet, so Douglas "stupidest guy on the face of the earth" Feith is sure sucking floor here.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Feith said he welcomed debate "in a proper, civil and rigorous way." But he called the accusations that he had politicized intelligence, advocated torture and attacked the Geneva Conventions as "false," "flatly false" and "outrageous."
Sorry, Doug, the evidence is against you:
Joining the Bush administration in 2001, he set up two Defense Department units that have drawn scrutiny. One was the Office of Special Plans, which took the lead in the Pentagon's preparation for a postwar Iraq, planning that has been widely faulted.

Mr. Feith also oversaw the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a small unit of intelligence analysts who examined possible links between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda. Although the Central Intelligence Agency disputed such ties, Mr. Feith's group produced a classified report that argued that the links were clear.
I wonder what the students think of him?
Err, Mack...?

So much for giving the US Military the benefit of the doubt... Sounds like panic in the Marines:
The top US Marine Corps general has flown to Iraq to tell his troops they must kill "only when justified," as the US military investigated whether Marines killed civilians in two incidents.

The trip by General Michael Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, to meet with marines at bases in Iraq showed his personal concern over recent allegations about the actions of marines in combat, the Marines said in a statement.

Military officials were to brief members of Congress about a criminal probe into a November incident in which marines are suspected of killing numerous civilians in Haditha, Iraq last November.
Meet Dr. Rice
What does evil look like?

Evil wears a black designer suit and is trailed by a gaggle of aides and security personnel.

Evil doesn't enter a room until the bomb sniffing dog has made a pass and the guys with the nice suits and earpieces know exactly who is inside waiting.

Evil keeps a tight schedule, and doesn't linger in the room any longer than necessary.

Evil recites the talking points and doesn't allow you to get a word in edgewise.

Evil invites you to come to one of the fanciest hotels in the world on a Sunday afternoon to get lied to.
Just one of the gems at The Smirking Chimp.
Book 'Em, Pat!

Murray Waas says Novak and Rove may have collaborated to obstruct and mislead the Fitzgerald enquiry:
On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men. . . .

Rove and Novak, investigators suspect, might have devised a cover story to protect Rove because the grand jury testimony of both men appears to support Rove's contentions about how he learned about Plame.
There are also indications that Cheney may testify at the Libby enquiry:
Fitzgerald said Cheney's "state of mind" is "directly relevant" to whether I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former top aide, lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity and what he subsequently told reporters.

Libby "shared the interests of his superior and was subject to his direction," the prosecutor wrote. "Therefore, the state of mind of the vice president as communicated to (the) defendant is directly relevant to the issue of whether (the) defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury regarding when and how he learned about (Plame's) employment and what he said to reporters regarding this issue."
Much more at TPM muckraker.
Book 'Em, Danno!

Alberto Gonzales gives himself room to move:
President Bush stepped into the Justice Department's constitutional confrontation with Congress on Thursday and ordered that documents seized in an FBI raid on a congressman's office be sealed for 45 days.

The president directed that no one involved in the investigation have access to the documents taken last weekend from the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, and that they remain in the custody of the solicitor general.
There are a lot of powerful people who are very scared by this Justice Department move. Dennis Hasert (GOP), who is making the most noise, is himself under FBI investigation. Nancy Pelosi (Dem), who recently said Dems would not impeach Bush, is also strangely shrill.

Funny how easily everybody "moved on" from Bush's illegal wire-tapping, but now they are screaming blue murder about the legality of this DOJ move:
"Our government has not faced such a dilemma in more than two centuries," the president said.
Sure, George, whatever.

Book the lot of 'em, Danno.

May 25, 2006

The Fadhil brothers scream: "Please don't cut our funding!"
Yet another criminal probe ordered into alleged killing of Iraqi civilian by US marines:
It is the latest in a flurry of probes into killings of civilians by US troops.

The most serious incident to date are allegations that marines shot and killed at least 15 civilians in the western town of Haditha in November and then claimed they were killed in a roadside explosion.

Representative John Murtha, a Democrat, charged recently that about 24 civilians -- not 15 -- were killed in "cold blood" at Haditha.

Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said last week that two investigations into the Haditha incident were expected to be completed next month.

They included the criminal probe and a separate investigation on how it was reported up the military chain of command.

The military also investigating a March 15 incident in the village of Al Bu Seifa, north of Baghdad near the town of Balad in which at least four civilians -- two women, a child and a man -- and as many as 11 civilians were killed.
Tony Blair's Son Set To Be Tapped For Skull And Bones

My Way and the New York Post:
SOMETIMES the apple does fall far from the tree. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's eldest son, Euan, has shunned politics - walking away from a gig as an intern at a congresswoman's office - to pursue a master's degree at Yale. And he's going for free on a full scholarship, The Post's Lukas I. Alpert reports. The younger Blair left the internship after just two weeks at the D.C. office of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). Some say Blair left because he found the work "boring," while others say he found Harman's office too left-wing. So now Euan is off to study international relations at the prestigious Ivy League school where President Bush and former President Clinton studied.
US anti-war mum Cindy Sheehan in Melbourne, Australia.. Go see her if you can.

May 24, 2006

2500 Iraqis Dead in 2 Months

Last, last, last throes:
Acts of violence have killed nearly 2,500 people and forced more than 85,000 to flee their homes in Iraq, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq said in a March-April report on the human rights situation.
Galloway, v. Rumsfeld:
i could wish for so much. i could wish that in january of this year i had not stood in a garbage-strewn pit, in deep mud, and watched soldiers tear apart the wreckage of a kiowa warrior shot down just minutes before and tenderly remove the barely alive body of WO Kyle Jackson and the lifeless body of his fellow pilot. they died flying overhead cover for a little three-vehicle Stryker patrol with which i was riding at the time. i could wish that Jackson's widow Betsy had not found, among the possessions of her late husband, a copy of my book, carefully earmarked at a chapter titled Brave Aviators, which Kyle was reading at the time of his death. That she had not enclosed a photo of her husband, herself and a 3 year old baby girl.

“those things i received in the mail yesterday and they brought back the tears that i wept standing there in that pit, feeling the same shards in my heart that i felt the first time i looked into the face of a fallen american soldier 41 years ago on a barren hill in Quang Ngai Province in another time, another war. someone once asked me if i had learned anything from going to war so many times. my reply: yes, i learned how to cry.


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