Sunday :: Sep 25, 2005

Were You There?

by pessimist

With the recent news coverage abating over Hurricane Rita, things are getting back to 'normal' while the weathermen look ahead to signs of the next storm forming. Should they discover one, the warnings will go out, and (we hope, by now!) all the right things will happen in the right way, and death and destruction will be as minimal as possible.

Similar early warnings are being issued by experts who should know. Are we going to listen, or will we reap the whirlwind in our folly?

Albright Warns Dark Days Ahead in Iraq

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright issued a stern warning Saturday about the continuing U.S. role in Iraq, saying "there are no good options at this point and the worst days may be ahead of us."

Many Iraqis are suspicious that the United States is occupying the country to assure itself access to Mideastern oil, she said. "Instead of winning friends for America, it has poisoned our relations with many countries in the Mideast and the Muslim world," Albright told a conference on the role of citizens in shaping the nation's image abroad.

Albright argued that American diplomacy must be based firmly in the best interests of the United States, but it also must include an understanding of the needs of other countries. "Certainly the unilateralism we have seen in recent years hasn't worked," she said.

Considering the following testimony, should there be any reason to expect that it would?

Soldier's chilling testimony fuels demonstrations against Iraq war

A former American soldier who served in Iraq and filed for conscientious objector status has given an extraordinary insight into the war's dehumanising effects ­ an insight that helps explain why the British and American public has turned sharply against the occupation. The rare insight into the chaos of the combat ­ including an order to open fire on all taxis in the city of Samawa because it was believed Iraqi forces were using them for transport ­ comes as US support for the war in Iraq slumps to an all-time low. Polls suggest that 60 per cent now believe the war was wrong.

Hart Viges has told how indiscriminate fire from US troops is likely to have killed an untold number of Iraqi civilians. "I don't know how many innocents I killed with my mortar rounds," Mr Viges, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, said during a presentation this week at American University in Washington. Despite his growing horror with what he was experiencing, it was only when he watched Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, that he decided to file for conscientious objector status. "I consider myself a Christian and I thought Jesus wasn't talking smack," he told the American-Statesman newspaper, in his current home of Austin, Texas.

He's not alone. Someone with more to lose has chosen to follow his beliefs and not his orders:

Officer's Road Led Him Outside Army

* When Army Capt. Ian Fishback told his company and battalion commanders that soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention, he says, they told him those rules were easily skirted.

** When he wrote a memo saying Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was wrong in telling Congress that the Army follows the Geneva dictates, his lieutenant colonel responded only: "I am aware of Fishback's concerns."

*** And when Fishback found himself in the same room as Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey at Ft. Benning, Ga., he again complained about prisoner abuse. He said Harvey told him that "corrective action was already taken."

At every turn, it seemed, the decorated young West Point graduate, the son of a Vietnam War veteran from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, whose wife is serving with the Army in Iraq, felt that the military had shut him out. So he turned to those he knows best. He sought guidance from fellow infantry commanders and his West Point classmates, and learned that they agreed with him that abuse of prisoners was widespread and that officers weren't adequately trained in how to handle them.

*** Then, in a lengthy chronology obtained Saturday by The Times, recounting what he saw in Iraq and his numerous efforts to get the Army's attention, he wrote that "Harvey is wrong."

** He wrote that Army guidance was 'too vague for officers to enforce American values'. He asked the Army's inspector general at Ft. Bragg for an analysis of the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners. "He listens to me and agrees to give me an IG investigation summary," Fishback wrote. "It is very incomplete and provides no information that I need."

* He concluded that violations of the Geneva Convention were "systematic, and the Army is misleading America." He called the International Committee of the Red Cross for an interpretation of the Geneva Convention, and found it "much closer to my West Point education."

"He's a very decent, fine young man," said Col. Dan Zupan, who teaches the rules of war at West Point and was one of Fishback's mentors. "He doesn't have an ax to grind. He's just in search of the truth."

A former soldier close to Fishback, who asked not to be identified out of respect for Fishback's own decision not to talk to the media, said Fishback 'really doesn't care what happens to him'. "He wants to stay in the Army. But he also says, 'This is bigger than me. I've got to do the right thing here.' "

Large numbers of the miltary come from Red States, and citizens of the Red States are more likely to hold strong religious beliefs. Imagine the dilemma - abide by your religion, or succumb to the temptations of a steady income and the power of life-and-death. What Would Je$u$ Jone$ of Rocky Top, Tennessee do?

You might be surprised - the Army certainly is:

How to Pitch the Military When a War Drags On?

With the brutal realities of the ground war in Iraq contributing to a well-publicized drop-off in recruitment, the federal government will roll out a sophisticated and expansive marketing campaign on Oct. 17 that will rely on advertisements like this one to convince parents - mothers in particular - that military service remains a wise choice for their children.

The armed forces have brought billions of dollars to bear on recruitment since the 1970's. Last year, the federal government ranked 25th in Advertising Age's annual rankings of the country's major marketers, spending about $1.2 billion - a large portion of which, analysts say, was related to the military. That put the government ahead of such big spenders as Microsoft, Wal-Mart and Gillette and in the same league as PepsiCo, Home Depot and Merck.

The Army has had the most difficulty of any of the services in finding recruits, even though its ad spending has almost doubled since 2000, to about $290 million this year, according to Army data.
The Army is also courting "influencers" like parents, trying to reach them through ads and by sponsoring rodeos, all-star high school football games and Nascar races. Influencers - that is, parents - have emerged as resistant gatekeepers, according to members of the armed forces and marketing analysts. A Navy spokesman said that a study conducted by the Campbell-Ewald advertising agency recently found that about 49 percent of mothers exposed to the Navy's message in mid-2003 were inclined to encourage military service to their children. By December of last year, the study showed that only 29 percent of mothers surveyed would do so.

And the Army is Web-savvy. Besides offering recruitment information, its Web site,, gives visitors realistic digital war games that they can download to personal computers.

Don't we have a campaign to underway to take such violent and varcarious experience away from our kids? Whose side is the military on? Not ours! If we don't respond as desired, then it is all our fault:

"If we go into a draft this will be one of the biggest marketing failures ever, because it would mean the government, the military, the ad agencies and society had failed to provide a compelling rationale to serve," said Clarke L. Caywood, a public relations professor at Northwestern University and a Republican political consultant. "It would be saying that their whole message had failed, abjectly."

But the military still relies on those 30-second spots to open parents' doors. And in coming months, the Army's marketing and recruitment machine will be challenged to prove wrong the old joke that even the best ads cannot sell a troubled product.

"I think people in the armed services are racking their brains to come up with new recruiting messages," David R. Segal, a sociologist at the University of Maryland and an expert on military recruiting, said. "But I don't know that they've come up with anything that's worked."

This isn't just an American problem! Tony Blair, King George's Killer Attack Poodle, struggles mightily to keep his country in the Coalition of the Wilting - when he's not trying to save his phoney-baloney job:

Britain to pull troops from Iraq as Blair says 'don't force me out'
Sunday September 25, 2005

British troops will start a major withdrawal from Iraq next May under detailed plans on military disengagement to be published next month, The Observer can reveal. The document being drawn up by the British government and the US will be presented to the Iraqi parliament in October and will spark fresh controversy over how long British troops will stay in the country.

It is hoped that a clearer strategy on Iraq will quieten critics who say that the government will not be able to 'move on' until Blair quits. Yesterday, about 10,000 people demonstrated against the army's continued presence in the country.

Britain has already privately informed Japan - which also has troops in Iraq - of its plans to begin withdrawing from southern Iraq in May, a move that officials in Tokyo say would make it impossible for their own 550 soldiers to remain.
The continuing preparations for a military withdrawal come, however, as officials are bracing themselves for a new political crisis in Iraq next month, with what many regard as the inevitable rejection of a new constitution by a two-thirds majority in three provinces, sufficient to kill the document and trigger new elections.

Last week Blair's own envoy to Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, warned that Britain could be forced out if Iraq descends so far into chaos that 'we don't have any reasonable prospect of holding it together'.

After the jailbreak of two commandos by British forces, this planned departure becomes even more likely:

Anger Grows in Basra After British Raid

Waving pistols and assault rifles, Iraqi police officers led an angry anti-British demonstration in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday, and the provincial council voted unanimously to stop cooperating with British forces in the area until Britain apologized for storming a police station to free two of its soldiers.

Later, Basra's 41-member provincial council voted unanimously to "stop dealing with the British forces working in Basra" until it received an apology for the raid on Monday, The Associated Press reported. [T]he provincial council's vote threatened to worsen the increasingly volatile atmosphere in Basra, where the British had prided themselves on their good relations with the Iraqi authorities. The incident has already been an embarrassment for Britain, with Iraqi officials accusing the British command in Basra of imperial arrogance and "barbaric" behavior in the raid.

Want to see barbarism? Billmon has just the thing for you:

Heart of Darkness

The website has become a stomach-churning showcase for the pornography of war -- close-up shots of Iraqi insurgents and civilians with heads blown off, or with intestines spilling from open wounds. Sometimes photographs of mangled body parts are displayed: Part of the game is for users to guess what appendage or organ is on display . . . - The Nation, The Porn of War, September 22, 2005

I didn't go to the big anti-war demo in Washington today -- and not just because I have the normal responsibilities of a middle-aged parent with a house, a mortgage, a dog and a backyard that badly needs mowing. I could have evaded all of those things. I decided not to go because up I've been deeply conflicted about the morality of supporting a rapid U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

That is, up until now.

I came across the Nation article on, which meant I had to take a good, hard look at the psychopathic side of the American spirit, and consider its implications not just for the war on terrorism and the occupation of Iraq, but its role in the emergence of an authentically fascist movement in American politics - one which feeds on violence and the glorification of violence, and which has found an audience not just in the U.S. military (where I think -- or at least hope -- it's still a relatively small fringe) but in the culture as a whole.

The truth is, I don't give a tinker's damn about the war on terrorism any more -- not when it's set next to the agony the war in Iraq is inflicting on the people of Iraq. The American people chose this war, and whether it was out of ignorance, fear, or a blind, hysterical patriotism is really beside the point. In a democracy (even one as puerile and corrupt as ours) people get the kind of government they deserve. And so the American people deserve the consequences of failure in Iraq -- whether it's another 2,000 dead soldiers, or $10 a gallon gas, or the transformation of the Sunni Triangle into the world's biggest terrorist training camp. We've earned them all, the hard way.

My personal opinion is that having started the war, and uncorked the bottle of religious fanaticism and communal savagery, America is morally obliged to do whatever it can to minimize the suffering and death its actions have caused -- and will continue to cause for years to come.
CIA counterinsurgency specialist Michael Scheuer warned ... in his book Imperial Hubris:

Progress will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts. Not the fatuous body counts of Vietnam, but precise counts that will run to extremely large numbers. The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms.

Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertile plants and grain mills -- all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy its support base. Land mines, moreoever, will be massively reintroduced to seal borders and mountain passes too long, high, or numerous to close with U.S. soldiers, As noted, such actions will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugees.

Again, this sort of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world.

There was a time when I would have argued that the American people couldn't stomach that kind of butchery -- not for long anyway -- even if their political leaders were willing to inflict it. But now I'm not so sure.

As a nation, we may be so desensitized to violence, and so inured to mechanized carnage on a grand scale, that we're psychologically capable of tolerating genocidal warfare against any one who can successfully be labeled as a "terrorist."

Remember those video 'games' that the Army is giving away? That is the very reason those 'games' exist, to desensitize and dehumanize, to kill our innate feelings toward killing and to make it easier for us to kill. And 'terrorist' isn't the only word that will work. Plug in 'liberal' and see how well that would work for some people!

Certainly, with 'games' like Halo III and Grand Theft Auto out there being snapped up by unthinking dolts who don't care what their little Johnny gets to play with as long as he shuts up and doesn't disturb the football game, the Army can't be the sole target of blame. That belongs to the population of this nation for allowing us to sink so deeply into depravity.

For all the recent hype about the 60th anniversary of the end of the most barbaric behavior this world has yet seen from humanity, we didn't learn a single lesson about what that war was all about. If anything, we've amplified the impulses and improved the technology, making it all the easier to leave our humanity behind as we practice inhumanity toward our fellow man.

Christians like to ask 'What Would Jesus Do?' I think it's about time they think about what the soldiers presented above - Ian Fishback and Hart Viges - have to say about the King George's Oil War, and what they decided to do rather than violate their beliefs any longer.

Who Would Jesus Torture? Who Would Jesus Kill? Would Jesus approve of this?

April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him, first you saw him wallowing along in the water like a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water, audience shouting with laughter when he sank. Then you saw a lifeboat full of children with a helicopter hovering over it. There was a middle-aged woman might have been a jewess sitting up in the bow with a little boy about three years old in her arms, little boy screaming with fright and hiding his head between her breasts as if he was trying to burrow right into her, and the woman putting her arms round him and comforting him although she was blue with fright herself, all the time covering him up as much as possible as if she thought her arms could keep the bullets off him.

Then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among them terrific flash, and the boat went all to matchwood. There was a wonderful shot of a child's arm going up up up right up into the air - a helicopter with a camera in its nose must have followed it up - and there was a lot of applause from the party seats, but a woman down in the prole part of the house suddenly started kicking up a fuss and shouting 'they didnt oughter of showed it not in front of kids they didnt it aint right not in front of kids it aint' until the police turned her turned her out.

I don't suppose anything happened to her - nobody cares what the proles say - typical prole reaction . . .
- George Orwell 1984

The Internet already has such videos for the 'entertainment' of those who still think Iraq is about fighting terrorism.

Who Would Jesus Condemn to Hell? Would He Condemn You?

It might be time to ask that of yourself, but be honest - lying is a violation of the Ten Commandments!

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