American Samizdat Guernica
Saturday, May 08, 2004
During yesterday's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the Iraq prison abuse scandal, Donald Rumsfeld
warned the committee that the worst was yet to come. He said he had looked at the full array of unedited photographs of the situation at Abu Ghraib for the first time Thursday night and found them “hard to believe.”

“There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he said. “... It’s going to get a good deal more terrible, I’m afraid.”

Rumsfeld did not describe the photos, but U.S. military officials told NBC News that the unreleased images showed U.S. soldiers severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to death, having sex with a female Iraqi female prisoner and “acting inappropriately with a dead body.” The officials said there was also a videotape, apparently shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping young boys. [more]
I imagine this will be getting a lot of play in the media soon.
Friday, May 07, 2004
iraq — where the myth of america is finally overtaken by the reality of america; where the america the world knows becomes obvious even to americans; where saying "i told you so" only brings tears to my eyes; where i'm so fucking sorry that a fine young iraqi woman like riverbend has to say what she says; where riverbend says more than all the pundits and talkings heads in the world; where americans are not worthy of licking the bottom of the foot of a single iraqi

I don't understand the 'shock' Americans claim to feel at the lurid pictures. You've seen the troops break down doors and terrify women and children… curse, scream, push, pull and throw people to the ground with a boot over their head. You've seen troops shoot civilians in cold blood. You've seen them bomb cities and towns. You've seen them burn cars and humans using tanks and helicopters. Is this latest debacle so very shocking or appalling?

The number of killings in the south has also risen. The Americans and British are saying that they are 'insurgents' and people who are a part of Al-Sadir's militia, but people from Najaf are claiming that innocent civilians are being killed on a daily basis. Today the troops entered Najaf and there was fighting in the streets. This is going to cause a commotion because Najaf is considered a holy city and is especially valuable to Shi'a all over the world. The current situation in the south makes one wonder who, now, is going to implement a no-fly zone over areas like Falloojeh and Najaf to 'protect' the people this time around

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.
"Just a good ol' girl, never meanin' no harm..."
Racism, Imperialism, and Iraq.

Props to ddjango for pointing this one out. Some clips:

POINTING crudely at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi, the petite brunette with a cigarette hanging from her lips epitomised America’s shame over revelations US soldiers routinely tortured inmates at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker’s daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call “a backwoods world”.

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

“A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq,” Colleen Kesner said.

“To the country boys here, if you’re a different nationality, a different race, you’re sub-human. That’s the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

“Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you’re hunting something. Over there, they’re hunting Iraqis.”

In Fort Ashby, in the isolated Appalachian mountains 260km west of Washington, the poor, barely-educated and almost all-white population talk openly about an active Ku Klux Klan presence.

There is little understanding of the issues in Iraq and less of why photographs showing soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, mostly from around Fort Ashby, abusing prisoners has caused a furore.

Like many, England signed up to make money and see the world. After her tour of duty, she planned to settle down and marry her first love, Charles Graner.

Down a dirt track at the edge of town, in the trailer where England grew up, her mother Terrie dismissed the allegations against her daughter as unfair.

“They were just doing stupid kid things, pranks. And what the Iraqis do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, do they apply to everybody or just us?” she asked.

She said she didn’t know where her daughter was being held, but had spoken to her on the phone.

“She told me nothing happened which wasn’t ordered by higher up,” she said.

“They are trying to pin all of this on the lower ranks. My daughter was just following orders. I think there’s a conspiracy. “

A colleague of Lynndie’s father said people in Fort Ashby were sick of the whingeing.

“We just had an 18-year-old from round here killed by the Iraqis,” he said.

“We went there to help the jackasses and they started blowing us up. Lynndie didn’t kill ‘em, she didn’t cut ‘em up. She should have shot some of the suckers.”

It's useful to understand the context in which human rights abuses, such as torture, occur. In the case of the dingbat dominatrix of Abu Ghraib, ignorance and racial prejudice were likely already part of her background. Granted the racism inherent in Pvt. England and cohorts' actions is rather crude, but that same ignorance and racism (albeit in a more "refined" form) is inherent in the Iraq occupation from the get-go. Whether that racism manifests itself in the idealistic-sounding manifest destiny pronouncements of bringing Democracy to our little brown brothers and claims that we are occupying Iraq to "help" the Iraqis (which begs the question: who are we to assume they need our "help"?) or the more belligerent claims that the Iraqi people are "savages" who must be tamed by force as that's all they presumably understand, it is still a profound insult to fellow humans who would probably just as soon do without US interference. It is in this context that torture of human beings occurs. It is in this context that soldiers and mercenaries can bomb or shoot civilians without batting an eyelash.

Who are the savages really? My guess is that those who have been supporting Junior Caligula's war need look no further than their reflections in their own mirrors.
The UN Headline:
The 191-member United Nations General Assembly today overwhelmingly affirmed the need to enable the Palestinian people "to exercise sovereignty and to achieve independence in their State, Palestine."

The world community has voted to give Palestinians not only a voice and place at the table concerning control of their lands currently occupied by the state of Israel but affirming their sovereign rights over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

This comes as a slap in the face to Mr Bush who just last month told Ariel Sharon that Israel could hold West Bank territory. Although Mr Bush is appointed President of The United States he has no authority to represent the Palestinian people in negotiating their affairs with the occupying power. Mr Bush was snubbed by US ally King Abdullah immediately after the troubled President supported Sharon's attempts to annex Palestinian territory housing illegal Israeli settlements. He met with the King of Jordan yesterday:
After a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, the president did not repeat the assurances he gave Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last month that he supports Israel's retention of some population clusters on the West Bank as part of an overall agreement with the Palestinians.

All such issues must be negotiated against the backdrop of 1967 and 1973 UN Security Council resolutions that called for Israel to withdraw from captured land, Bush said at a joint news conference with the king.

"The United States will not prejudice the outcome of those negotiations," Bush said...

Reading media reports of this is very instructive. Compare the reporting of The Jerusalem Post with the more center Ha'aretz and then read the account in Maariv International. Just the distance between what is reported in each Israeli media source makes it appear that the reporters are witnesses to different but similiar events, especially in light of the UN headline offered above.

Reuters, a respected information source offers up a clear picture:
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly, in a rebuke to President Bush, overwhelmingly affirmed on Thursday the right of Palestinians to sovereignty over their territory seized by Israel in 1967.
The 191-nation assembly voted 140-6, with 11 abstentions, to adopt a resolution that Arab diplomats said was meant to refute Bush's position that Israel could not be expected to give up all its West Bank settlements or accept the return of Palestinian refugees in a Middle East peace deal.

The resolution also made clear that Israel could not speak for the occupied territories at the United Nations, they said.

Palestinian U.N. Observer Nasser al-Kidwa said the measure was "of extreme importance" as it reaffirmed that Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East War was "territory under military occupation" and that the Palestinian people "have the right to self-determination and to exercise sovereignty on their territory."

The UN vote was 140 to 6- the US, Israel, and the tiny Pacific island countries of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau voting against world opinion supporting Palestinian soveriegnty. The countries thay abstained from the vote were Australia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Serbia and Montenegro, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

The most comprehensive and unbiased reportage on this important UN resolution I found is at Electronic Intifada , where you can read about the process as well as the perspectives of different ambassadors and their votes given within the context of the "Quartet" (Representatives of the United Nations, Russia, the European Union, and the United States) "Road Map" to Middle East Peace.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
"Starting Saturday, the minimum retail price of milk, which has been climbing steadily this year, will take a big jump. A gallon of whole milk will cost at least $2.90 -- 50% more than a year ago. And in major supermarkets, a gallon could command more than $4.

{Now more than ever, America must drink paddy milk.}

"Dairy farm expert Michael Marsh blames what he calls the 'pizza factor.' The improving economy has apparently unleashed pent-up demand for pizza and other items dependent on cheese, and a surge in cheese buying by food processing companies and restaurants has sent the value of most dairy commodities soaring on the futures market. California's regulated milk prices are tied to the futures prices of those commodities, especially cheddar cheese and butter, traded in Chicago.

"But there's more behind the fortification of milk prices. For starters, there's something of a dairy-cow deficit. Because droughts have made for poor grazing, many dairy farmers have balked at paying for extra feed and have instead sold some animals for slaughter, lured by record prices for beef, made popular recently by the high-protein diet craze.

"What's more, the discovery last year of a case of mad cow disease in Canada [uh, that cow was found in WA, guy] closed off the U.S.' biggest source of replacement dairy cows, doubling the price of milk calves. And because of manufacturing glitches, there's a shortage of the genetically engineered growth hormone that enables cows to make more milk [oh no! what will we do w/o rBGH?]; that alone is expected to reduce the nation's total milk output by 2% to 3% this year."

Huh. I just realized that this dairy situation, when viewed alongside the gov't's ambitions toward hegemony, now confronts us with the choice between producing more guns or butter.
Deeper into the abyss
The Iraq torture scandal just keeps getting worse. Much worse.

Contractors and the CIA are coming under close scrutiny for their role in all this, which should not be a surprise. The hallmark of this war has been the heavy dependence on private companies to provide just about everything.

And as for the CIA, torture is in their blood. Vikram Dodd points out in today's Guardian that we have every reason to believe that the operators of US detention centers are just following the same script that's been in place for over 40 years, the advice from two historic CIA manuals for "interrogation" -- one from 1963, the other from 1983.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Mickey Mouse to block film exposé of Goofy

Dammit. And this was one of the best, off-the-cuff collages I'd done in years.

"Less than 24 hours after accusing the Walt Disney Company of pulling the plug on his latest documentary in a blatant attempt at political censorship, the rabble-rousing film-maker Michael Moore has admitted he knew a year ago that Disney had no intention of distributing it.

"The admission, during an interview with CNN, undermined Moore's claim that Disney was trying to sabotage the US release of Fahrenheit 911 just days before its world premiere at the Cannes film festival.

"Instead, it lent credence to a growing suspicion that Moore was manufacturing a controversy to help publicise the film, a full-bore attack on the Bush administration and its handling of national security since the attacks of 11 September 2001."
I usually link to or excerpt Rafe Colburn's comments because I have little to add to their incisiveness. But in this case, there is more to say:

"I want to talk about Ted Rall's latest effort, not because I want to join the huge chorus of people who love to bash Ted Rall, but rather because I want to bash cynicism.

Rall's cartoon, if you haven't yet seen it, says that Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who joined the Army in 2002, is basically an idiot who made the fatal mistake of choosing to serve in the military because he believed our lying President. In four short panels, he also manages to accuse Tillman of racism as well. Rall's cartoon isn't funny -- Rall is rarely funny -- but it also fails even to serve as pointed commentary.

You don't have to be a very good cynic to come up with ways to disparage Pat Tillman; honestly when I heard that he'd joined the Army a couple of years ago, and again when I heard that he'd died, the bad reasons (he) might have joined came to mind only a few seconds after the good reasons he might have joined. Ultimately, we have no way of knowing what motivated Tillman to enlist. Any of us can imagine impure motives that may have led to him doing so -- it doesn't behoove us to callously point them out.

Sometimes saying things that most people keep to themselves doesn't make you courageous or iconoclastic, it makes you an ass." [paragraph divisions added for readability — emg] rc3

First of all, Rall's cartoon has served an important purpose if it gets thoughtful people like Rafe Colburn to concede and discuss thoughts like that that they usually keep to themselves. Let me go on record; even though I don't have a clue about Tillman's motives for enlisting and hardly knew who he was until he died, the thoughts I kept to myself were about how his death serves as a graphic illustration of the consequences of misguided patriotism. There is a venerable tradition in antiwar literature and film of rendering the tragic, misguided emptiness of the high-minded ideals for which young men are swindled into becoming cannon fodder in old men's wars. I am surprised Colburn doesn't appreciate this.

Tillman's case is useful precisely because most of the other deaths in Bush's misguided lethal adventurism have been anonymous faces, and because the relentless dysadministration spin about the usefulness of these deaths, empty rhetoric that it is, has been so persuasive. Rall is grappling, I think, with the devilish problem opponents of the US invasion have, of how to open the eyes of the American public to the horrors that are being done in their name ... to Afghanis and Iraqis and, yes, to American young men and women as well. The desperation many of us feel at the fact that this nation of sheep stands a good chance of reelecting Bush (oops, I forgot for a moment of course, he wasn't elected the first time) despite (or because of?) all it should by now be clear he has done calls for desperate measures. Rall's is a cry of that despair and outrage. If this be cynicism, then there is probably no higher calling at the moment.

If Rafe accepted that Rall is using Tillman as an icon, because of his name recognition, for all the faceless U.S. GIs, then he wouldn't think Rall is calling him racist per se. The American premise for the war effort is racist, Rall is saying. Debasing American ecumenism by inciting a once-great nation to collective anti-Arab hatred will turn out to be one of Bush's most execrable legacies. If you have any doubts about that, look again at the Abu Ghraib photographs.

Finally, Rall is making the precise point that needs to be made about the degradation of the notion of heroism. It is tragic, not heroic, to die for the neo-conservatives' delusions of grandeur. They have shown in spades that they are willing and eager to sacrifice Americans of all walks of life for their misguided aims — GIs dying in a war based on lies and all the US civilians who are exposed to vastly heightened risk of terrorist attacks because of the rage the US has engendered in the eyes of all the angry dispossessed of the Third World, the monumental squandering of any good will and credibility the US had by one deceitful, intellectually crippled, morally decrepit and grossly incompetent leader. The adulation of every hapless American victim — from 9/11 onward — as a hero is a malignant effort by the leadership of the country to absolve itself of its responsibility for the pointless deaths.

One may think it cruel to Tillman's family and friends to diminish the worship of the fallen hero. But the families who, grieving the loss of their loved ones on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan, increasingly are embracing and proclaiming the pointlessness of it all and the emptiness of George Bush's grand designs are equally heroic.

Agitprop artists like Ted Rall have done their job if they stimulate precisely this sort of troubled and troubling discussion among the rest of us.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
A Heartbreaking First-Hand Account Of Abu Ghraib Abuse
I'm currently watching Mosaic on Worldlink. Abu Dhabi TV interviewed one of the released Abu Gharib prisoners. He had his head covered to disguise his identity. Here's a translation of his statement:
"They brought us a bucket of water, and the American men urinated in it, so we did not drink from it. So they brought Hajj Muhammad - they beat him to death. They did not know how to control us ... hitting and putrid smells. Then after about two days or three - God have mercy - two or three days, one guy came and he urinated on us and then left. After a while, they took one of us - they put us inside a room, naked. I swear, this is the truth. God is my witness. The American soldiers came in, and one of them would sodomize a prisoner. The Americans would sodomize the Iraqis. They would yell at us. They would masturbate on us, and urinate on us. They urinated on a guy whose name was Sheikh Ali. They urinated on him. They hit us."
The person being interviewed was clearly fighting back tears as he spoke, and finally broke down and sobbed.

The program can be viewed on the web. Click here and select "Monday, May 3rd" from the "Recent Coverage" bar on the left side of the page. The account is about 5 or 6 minutes into the broadcast. (Quicktime required.)

The recent expose of torture in Iraq is being treated as an unpleasant anomaly. In fact there is a long American tradition of engaging in and supporting torture. Those who have overseen it, or have endorsed those who have, ranged from Jimmy Carter to George Bush. Those who have supervised institutions that taught or engaged in torture have included General Wesley Clark and the police chiefs of Philadelphia and Washington DC. It has been celebrated in popular movies, defended in the Atlantic Monthly, and turned into a reality show by Fox. Nearly half of Americans say they support its use against terrorism. And those who have defended it have included not only rightwingers but Alan Dershowitz and Eric Alterman.

To give a sense of its ubiquity in American politics and culture, we have assembled some of the stories we have run on the subject over the past few years. TORTURE FILE
"...will document and correct conservative misinformation in each news cycle. Media Matters for America will monitor cable and broadcast news channels, print media and talk radio, as well as marginal, right-wing websites that often serve as original sources of misinformation for well-known conservative and mainstream media outlets." (via)
Monday, May 03, 2004
"The chief of the U.S. Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services.

"The proposal, which the agency's acting director Lewis Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34, up from 25.

"The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concern that U.S. military forces are stretched thin because of worldwide commitments.

"Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, U.S. forces have fought and won [won? really?] two wars, have established a major military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are now taking on peacekeeping duties in Haiti [not to mention maintaining bases in more than 100 countries].

"The plan, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, highlights the extent to which agency officials have planned for an expanded military draft in case the administration and Congress authorize one in the future.

[Congress needs to spend less time planning wars and spend much more time providing justice, just treatment and monetary assistance to poor nations. There won't be waves of jihadis to fight off if our country stopped exploiting and killing people (directly, or by proxy) and fill their bellies instead. This is my full moon wish*.]

"'In line with today's needs, the Selective Service System's structure, programs and activities should be re-engineered toward maintaining a national inventory (ah, yes, evidence that the gov't regards our bodies as simple units of labor) of American men and, for the first time, women, ages 18 through 34, with an added focus on identifying individuals with critical skills,' the agency said in a Feb. 11, 2003, proposal presented to Pentagon officials.

"The agency acknowledged that they would have 'to market the concept' of a female draft to Congress, which would have to authorize such a step. Agency spokesperson Dan Amon said the Pentagon has taken no action on the proposal.

"'These ideas were only being floated for department of defence consideration,' Amon said. He described the proposal as 'food for thought' for contingency planning."

* -- Meditation for the May 4th Lunar Eclipse: "If you pick the wrong path, just backtrack and try a new one."

U.S. officials have for months publicly promoted the notion that foreign fighters and terrorists are playing a major role in the anti-American insurgency in Fallujah and the rest of Iraq.

By blaming foreigners, U.S. authorities hope to quash the idea that Iraqis are rising up against military occupation and frame the conflict as part of the wider war on terror. However, foreigners play a tiny role in Iraq's insurgency, many military experts say.

In Fallujah, U.S. military leaders say around 90 percent of the 1,000 or more fighters battling the Marines are Iraqis. To date, there have been no confirmed U.S. captures of foreign fighters in Fallujah - although a handful of suspects have been arrested.

Those who have spent time inside Fallujah have described a city consumed with the fight - fathers and sons fighting for the local mujahedeen and wives and daughters cooking and caring for the wounded.

"The whole city supports this jihad," said Houssam Ali Ahmed, 53, a Fallujah resident who fled to Baghdad when his neighborhood was caught in the fighting. "The people of Fallujah are fighting to defend their homes. We are Muslim mujahedeen fighting a holy war."

Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. military commanders say foreigners have an even smaller role in the insurgency. [more]
Sunday, May 02, 2004
From today's Washington Post:

In the Style section last summer we profiled a Los Angeles writer named Micah Ian Wright, who'd just published a shrill antiwar poster book called "You Back the Attack! We'll Bomb Who We Want!" In his book, he described himself as a veteran of combat, a former Army Ranger whose experiences during the 1989 invasion of Panama turned him into a peacenik. In interviews with The Post and other media, he played up that background.

Wright, it turns out, is a liar. He never served in the military -- and confessed that last week to his publisher, Seven Stories Press, after we insisted on evidence of his service. Pursuing a tip from real Rangers who'd never heard of Wright, we filed three Freedom of Information Act requests with separate Army commands -- and last month finally confirmed that Wright never served.

"I feel awful about it. It was a lie that just grew and grew and grew," Wright, 34, told us Friday. He said mounting combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, including that of Ranger Pat Tillman, compound his sense of remorse: "I plan to make a public apology on my Web site []."
Even if you haven't looked at You Back the Attack!, you've probably seen Wright's posters somewhere on the web. This is a damn shame.
"The short answer is no-one knows, but even the oil industry suspects the world 'peak' is now approaching.

"The industry says it has 40 years of proven reserves at the moment -- but it also said that 30 years ago."
Timothy J. Burger
Sunday, May. 02, 2004

According to sources, Bush said Clinton "probably mentioned" terrorism as a national-security threat "but did not make it a point of emphasis." Clinton earlier told the panel that he had ranked bin Laden as the No. 1 problem the new Administration would face; he made the same point in a speech in New York City last October.

How did I know this was going to happen? It's plainly obvious these 'gentlemen' need to testify in public, and separately.
A top Administration aide explained this was one reason Cheney accompanied Bush at the session—"because they were both a part of that day."

And any law officer or prosecuting attorney will tell you the reason they interview people who were together at the scene separately. I know I'm only stating the obvious here, but this just annoys me to no end.

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