The Watering Hole: Thursday, March 7, 2013, Report Shows Billions Wasted in Iraq & Afghanistan

Military Spending Waste: Up To $60 Billion In Iraq, Afghanistan War Funds Lost To Poor Planning, Oversight, Fraud

As much as $60 billion in U.S. funds has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates.

U.S. Wasted Billions Rebuilding Iraq

As the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq approaches, the body charged with overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction has issued its final report, capping a tale of spending far too much money for very little results.

There is much more at the two links above.  The question is how will this all turn out to be President Obama’s fault?  George W. Bush stopped being responsible for anything the day President Obama was inaugurated in 2009 according to the GOP.

THIS IS TODAY’S OPEN THREAD.  GO AHEAD AND VENT.

Sunday Roast, February 3, 2013 – Food for Thought

Just some numbers:

Iraq Body Count 2013

341 civilians killed

United States Body Count from gun violence in 2013 (you can use the date range button on the site)

936 civilians killed

Numbers may increase with every click on the link.

We all agree, that Iraq is a postwar society, plagued by ethnic conflicts and a weak government. We all agree that the United States of America is not that. Or do we?

This is an open thread. Comment on this, or on anything else that comes to mind and have a wonderful Sunday everyone.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 26th, 2012: Time to Go, Senator McCain

Wave Bye-Bye Now!


As Rachel Maddow so perfectly pointed out recently, John McCain’s regular – some might say ubiquitous – appearances on so many of the Sunday morning political talkfests only serve to show McCain’s desperation to remain relevant at any cost. Unfortunately, that ‘cost’ seems to be the remnants of McCain’s respectability along with the shards of his integrity.

McCain’s latest insanity is shown in his recent calls for a “Watergate-style” investigation of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice regarding the Benghazi, Libya, attack. McCain’s rabid and, IMHO, unfounded attacks on Ms. Rice (including calling her “not very bright”, and his vow to block her possible nomination as future Secretary of State) were supposedly tempered a trifle yesterday, if by ‘tempered’ one means asking for the same information from Ms. Rice, presumably sans the “Watergate-style” investigation. Regardless, McCain still will not say whether, even if he (undeservedly) receives the requested information from Ms. Rice, he would consider NOT blocking her possible future nomination for Secretary of State.

But in McCain’s interview on Fox Sunday, he shows his characteristic bungling of essential facts:

HOST: You say that you will do everything in your power to block Susan Rice’s nomination if the President decides to name her to be secretary of state . . . . Is there anything that Ambassador Rice can do to change your mind?
MCCAIN: Sure, she can give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. And I’ll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her. Why did she say that al Qaeda has been decimated in her statement here on this program? Al Qaeda hasn’t been decimated. They’re on the rise. They’re all over Iraq.

Yes, John, of course Al Qaeda is “all over” Iraq, sure they are…NOT.

In the same Fox News Sunday interview, on women’s issues, McCain had this to say:

McCAIN:… And as far as young women are concerned, absolutely. I don’t think anybody like me, I can state my position on abortion, but, to — other than that, leave the issue alone. When we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation we’re in.

CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): When you say leave the issue alone, you would allow, you say, freedom of choice?

McCAIN: I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions and I’m proud of my pro-life position and record, but if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views.

So, that would be a ‘NO’ to ‘freedom of choice”?

Since the 2008 Presidential election, when Senator McCain foisted Sarah Palin on us, it seems that his tenuous ties to reality, and his sense of decency and honor, have rapidly strained to the snapping point. I think that we all agree (and I wouldn’t be surprised if many in the Republican heirarchy agree, too), that it’s way past time for McCain to, shall we say, spend a lot more of his time at one of his seven -or was it eight? – homes.

This is our Open Thread. Feel free to discuss this topic, or anything else that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 18th, 2012: Romney’s Foreign to Foreign Policy

While we’re all still on a bit of a contact high from President Obama’s excellent performance in Tuesday night’s debate, the final Presidential Debate, supposedly covering U.S. foreign policy, looms just around the corner. As a follow-up to my post on Monday, I’m offering two pertinent articles from Foreign Policy magazine.

The first is a piece of rather hawkish advice offered to President Obama by David Rothkopf, which, in part, points out the frightening fact that:

“To get to buried Iranian facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordow, would require bunker-busting munitions on a scale that no Israeli plane is capable of delivering. The mission, therefore, must involve the United States, whether acting alone or in concert with the Israelis and others.”

Oy!

The second, as I mentioned on Monday, is a return to Mitt Romney’s recent foreign-policy speech at VMI (Virginia Military Institute.) While I find it disturbing for a Presidential candidate to be obviously undermining his audience’s Commander-in-Chief, even more disturbing were Romney’s comments about the recent tragic attack on our embassy in Benghazi. This line in particular jumped out at me: “These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of 9/11.” I’m still looking, but I have not found ANY independent corroboration of this little tidbit.

The following are a few more excepts. Of course, it figures that Romney is a proponent of an Obama Administration policy with which many of us liberals take great issue.

“Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.”

Anyway, Romney continues…

“It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.”

Based on this attitude, Romney wants to pour an unnecessary and unasked-for $2 trillion-with-a-T into the Department of Defense.

“I’ll work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
I’ll reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security. The world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

Why? The United States of America is NOT the same country, we don’t share the same culture or the same history as Israel; we are not geographical neighbors experiencing common challenges. The Constitution says nothing about our country’s ability to create a new country, nor about then being responsible for that new country forever. The President of the United States swears an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, and that oath does not mention protecting and defending Israel as well. Israel is fully capable of defending itself, having been greatly helped by our military and financial assistance. Isn’t it time to cut the cord and let the allegedly adult sovereign state of Israel be responsible for its own actions? But I digress…

“Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Now, that’s the ultimate lying hypocrisy from Romney, who, in the infamous, supposedly-private “47% speech” to big-money donors, said:

“And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem. I mean, we look at that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it.

In other words, Romney has no plan for the Middle East. Does this mean that Romney’s believes in “hopey-changey”?

I also ran across this interesting and helpful analysis on Romney’s VMI speech, by Andrew Quinn.

This is our daily open thread–what do YOU have to say?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 24th, 2012: Monday Morning Mix

First up today, an article from Foreign Policy Magazine entitled “Why Mitt Romney Can’t Talk About Iraq”. An excerpt:

“According to a University of California, Santa Barbara archive of formal campaign speeches by both candidates, Romney has used the word “Iraq” seven times on the trail (usually in the context of military service) while Obama has referenced the country 76 times (often as part of a stump-speech line about keeping his promise to end the war). The same pattern held true at the conventions: Republicans mentioned Iraq seven times, while the Democrats did so 34 times. Romney didn’t talk about Iraq in his convention speech and made only a passing reference to it in his biggest foreign-policy address of the campaign in South Carolina.

Romney might argue, as he has in defending his failure to mention the Afghan war in Tampa, that it’s his policies that matter, not how many times he mentions particular words in speeches.”

(So, it appears that others have been studying the information at The Presidency Project, to which I had linked in a recent post.)

The article finishes with, “The Romney campaign isn’t about to give the president any more ammunition.

That line sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Ann Romney, when stating that “you people” weren’t going to be allowed to see any more of the Romneys’ tax returns than what was ‘legally required’ – a phrase that both she and Mitt seem to be fond of – because it would just give “more ammunition” to the pundits and political opposition. Too bad…if the TRUTH would give your opponents ammunition against you, then you really aren’t Presidential material.

Next up: I had also recently mentioned an effort by two Catholic groups, Catholics United and Faithful America, to keep politics out of Sunday Mass. Faithful America’s website has an interesting listing of other political causes, working against the radical right-wing religious zealots.

And lastly, a piece from our local Patch online newspaper, which discusses a poll taken of ‘New York GOP Insiders’ regarding Romney’s chances post-“47%” remarks from the recently surfaced Romney fundraising video. Some of the comments here are worth reading.

Speaking of the Romney fundraising video, I would like to thank James Carter IV for his efforts in finding the video and for getting this amazingly damning revelation of Romney’s character into the public arena. And, of course, special thanks to whoever actually made the video.

This is our Open Thread. Speak Up on any topic that you choose.

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 9th, 2012: What’s Iraq Got That We Ain’t Got?

This past weekend, while catching up on a few websites, I ran across this link to a 2005 article in the Washington Post. A commenter at TP, Christopher Buttner, posted it on Friday, with the following comment, on the “5 Consequences of the GOP’s Bill to Repeal Obamacare“:

“Please share this – Republicans started the Iraq War to oust a dictator and install Democracy. Republicans wrote and approved the Iraq Constitution which includes Universal Health Care. Over 4300 AMERICAN MILITARY PERSONNEL WERE KILLED so that Republicans could give ALL Iraqi Citizens Health Care; but Republicans don’t believe that 30 million American Citizens deserve Health Care?
Article 31: “Every citizen has the right to health care. The state takes care of public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and medical institutions”

When I was reading the WaPo article, I noticed that a friend of TheZoo (under her real name) had also linked to the article, so I knew that I had to look into it further.

According to Wikipedia, the Iraq Constitution was drafted by the Iraq Constitution Drafting Committee, whose members were appointed by the Transitional National Assembly, and was adopted on October 15th, 2005, “in a referendum of the people.”

Although the WaPo piece highlights several different Articles in the Iraq Constitution (including several which I list below*, as taken from the full version here,) I picked out a few others that I thought would be good ideas here in the United States:

Article 8: Iraq shall observe the principles of good neighborliness, adhere to the principle of noninterference
in the internal affairs of other states, seek to settle disputes by peaceful means, establish relations on the basis of mutual interests and reciprocity, and respect its international obligations.

Article 9: B The formation of military militias outside the framework of the armed forces is prohibited.

Second: Economic, Social and Cultural Liberties
*Article 22:
First: Work is a right for all Iraqis in a way that guarantees a dignified life for them.
Second: The law shall regulate the relationship between employees and employers on economic bases and while observing the rules of social justice.
Third: The State shall guarantee the right to form and join unions and professional associations, and this shall be regulated by law.

Article 28: Second: Low income earners shall be exempted from taxes in a way that guarantees the preservation of the minimum income required for living. This shall be regulated by law.

Article 30:
First: The State shall guarantee to the individual and the family – especially children and women – social and health security, the basic requirements for living a free and decent life, and shall secure for them suitable income and appropriate housing.
Second: The State shall guarantee social and health security to Iraqis in cases of old age, sickness, employment disability, homelessness, orphanhood, or unemployment, shall work to protect them from ignorance, fear and poverty, and shall provide them housing and special programs of care and rehabilitation, and this shall be regulated by law.

*Article 31:
First: Every citizen has the right to health care. The State shall maintain public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and health institutions.

Article 32:
The State shall care for the handicapped and those with special needs, and shall ensure their rehabilitation in order to reintegrate them into society, and this shall be regulated by law.

Article 33:
First: Every individual has the right to live in safe environmental conditions.
Second: The State shall undertake the protection and preservation of the
environment and its biological diversity.

*Article 34:
First: Education is a fundamental factor for the progress of society and is a right guaranteed by the state. Primary education is mandatory and the state guarantees that it shall combat illiteracy.
Second: Free education in all its stages is a right for all Iraqis.
Third: The State shall encourage scientific research for peaceful purposes that serve humanity and shall support excellence, creativity, invention, and different aspects of ingenuity.
Fourth: Private and public education shall be guaranteed, and this shall be regulated by law.

Of course, the Preamble to the Iraq Constitution begins with “In the name of God, the Most merciful, the Most compassionate” (and doesn’t stray far from religion after that), and the first clause under “Fundamental Principles”, Article 2, states “Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of legislation”, but still…

…wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S. government guaranteed some of those rights to our citizens?

This is our daily open thread — what do YOU think?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole: Operation Iraqi Freedom ends — August 19

On this day, one year ago, combat brigades completed their departure from Iraq, 12 days earlier than anticipated.  It was claimed that the war in Iraq was over — contradicting George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” bullshit from several years earlier — but it was necessary to leave behind 50,000 personnel, because the Iraqi government needed our support.

The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people—a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.
—President Obama’s Address on Iraq, August 31, 2010

Thank goodness that’s over…oh wait.

Number of Iraq coalition fatalities since August 31, 2010:  56 (4792, since 2003)

True cost of Iraq War:  $3 trillion and more

Our country is collapsing into a severe depression — financial and moral. Most of this country’s money is sitting in offshore accounts, and since our Congress won’t actually do anything like raise taxes so we have money, in case the President might get credit, we are effectively broke. Hence, we can’t afford to be at war. Wow, go figure, right?

This is George W. Bush’s unwinnable, endless, deadly folly, which has created more terrorists than we ever killed. Can we stop pretending there can be a positive ending to this, stop pouring our money into this black hole, and bring the troops home?

*crickets*

This is our daily open thread — Discuss among yourselves.

Watering Hole – September 4, 2010

Tony Blair gets rousing Irish greeting

Four people have been arrested following a protest in Dublin city centre this morning where former British prime minister Tony Blair held a public book signing, the first since his memoirs were released this week.

The four were taken to Store Street Garda station where they were charged with public order offences and released. They are due to appear in court on September 30th.

Mr Blair arrived at the Eason store on O’Connell Street shortly after 10.30am. Shoes, eggs and bottles were thrown toward him as he arrived.

Several hundred anti-war protesters staged a demonstration opposite the shop amid tight Garda security.

The pavement area outside Eason and neighbouring stores were sealed off, with a line of gardaí and two sets of temporary railings separating the shop from the demonstrators, who gathered in the traffic island in the middle of O’Connell Street.

A bottle and some smaller missiles were thrown when a motorcade of three silver BMWs and a blacked-out minivan pulled up to the book store and then left. A number of minor scuffles took place throughout the protest, and the four people were arrested by gardaí as a result.

The northbound section of O’Connell Street was closed, and Luas services on Middle Abbey Street was halted. The Eason outlet was closed to the general public while the signing took place, and security shutters were pulled down on the Middle Abbey Street side.

Somehow, I think Bush’s publisher will make better arrangements to prevent this sort of publicity and shield the former President from democratic protests.

This is our Open Thread.

Keith Olbermann and Jeremy Scahill ‘thank’ Bush for the ‘success’ of the Iraq war

Raw Story:

‘They’ say that it really isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up inside. On Wed. evening’s MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the liberal host and his guest, The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill went the healthy route and let it rip.

Discussion centered around President Obama’s address on the Iraq war and the ensuing criticism from neoconswho complained Obama should’ve thanked and praised President George W. Bush for the ‘success’ of the surge in Iraq.

“These people have a Ph.D in lying and a master’s degree in manipulating intelligence,” Scahill says of the neocons, “And it is, it’s really sobering to see this kind of brash historical revisionism happening in real time. The idea that these people want to post some kind of false flag of victory on the corpses of all who have died in Iraq because of their decisions. These people destabilized Iraq, they destabilized the Middle East, with their neo-con vision of redrawing maps, and they didn’t even succeed in their own stated mission. This is a special kind of pathological sickness that these individuals are plagued with.”

Scahill then begins to bust the ‘surge’ myth, “Pardon me for introducing a little bit of fact onto cable news over these 24 hours, but the reality is there was no success of the surge. The fact is that Bush’s policy in Iraq caused massive destabilization, led to a civil war that killed upwards of a million Iraqis; there were ethnic cleansing campaigns. When the surge troops went in there, Baghdad was a walled-off city, the Sunnis had been pushed out and sided with the United States, Muqtada al Sadr responded to the announced timetable for withdrawal that the neocons so opposed by saying he considered it a truce with America and pulled his forces off the street… So, the entire surge myth permeates to this day, and its actually one big lie.”

(Continue reading..)

This was awesome—a MAJOR dose of reality, and well delivered. It’s refreshing to hear somebody say it like it actually happened.. Facts are pesky things…

Last U.S. Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq

Not much hoopala, no fanfares, probably not even a parade, but our Combat troops have left Iraq. Granted, we will still have about 50,000 troops still in Iraq for an unknown period of time. But heck, we still have about 70,000 troops stationed in Gemany, and it’s only been some 65 years since we won WWII. So give it some time, folks.

But my main point is this: We owe our soldiers a big thank you for what they had to go through.

And, we owe them a big apology for putting them through it in the first place.

Afghanistan is Lost!

source:www.defense.gov

This is one major scoop of investigative journalism, just right next to The Pentagon Papers.

Wikileaks has produced over 90’000 partly classified documents covering a six year stretch of the Afghan mission. The Guardian in the UK, Der Spiegel in Germany and The New York Times have each received the documents a while ago for review and released their findings today. As I am writing this I cannot reach the wikileaks webpage, which must be overwhelmed with traffic, I suspect, so I give you a gist of what the three news outlets are making of the documents.

Der Spiegel:

The documents offer a window into the war in the Hindu Kush — one which promises to change the way we think about the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. They will also be indispensible for anyone seeking to inform themselves about the war in the future. (read article)

The newspaper then highlights five issues, one of them the situation in the North where German forces are stationed:

The Germans thought that the northern provinces where their soldiers are stationed would be more peaceful compared to other provinces and that the situation would remain that way.

They were wrong. (read more)

In an interview with the weekly Julian Assange, founder of Wikipedia, says:

Assange: These files are the most comprehensive description of a war to be published during the course of a war — in other words, at a time when they still have a chance of doing some good. They cover more than 90,000 different incidents, together with precise geographical locations. They cover the small and the large. A single body of information, they eclipse all that has been previously said about Afghanistan. They will change our perspective on not only the war in Afghanistan, but on all modern wars. (read full interview)

The Guardian obviously eyes the British side of the conflict:

Questionable shootings of civilians by UK troops also figure. The US compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in Kabul in the space of barely a month, in October/November 2007, culminating in the death of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: “Investigation controlled by the British. We are not able to get [sic] complete story.” (read all)

and more here

The US army’s archives contain descriptions of at least 21 separate occasions in which British troops are said to have shot or bombed Afghan civilians, including women and children.

The logs identify at least 26 people killed and another 20 wounded as a result. Some casualties were accidentally caused by air strikes, but many also are said to involve British troops firing on unarmed drivers or motorcyclists who come “too close” to convoys or patrols. Their injuries result from what are described as “warning shots” or “disabling shots” fired into the engine block, as required by the military’s “escalation of force” regulations.

They explain how they came by the data:

The Afghanistan war logs series of reports on the war in Afghanistan published by the Guardian is based on the US military’s internal logs of the conflict between January 2004 and December 2009. The material, largely classified by the US as secret, was obtained by the whistleblower website Wikileaks, which has published the full archive. The Guardian, along with the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, was given access to the logs before publication to verify their authenticity and assess their significance. (read all and watch video)

The New York Times explains to its readers:

Deciding whether to publish secret information is always difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes chose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times. The documents illuminate the extraordinary difficulty of what the United States and its allies have undertaken in a way that other accounts have not. (read more)

The role of Pakistan in the Afghan war is of special interest to the NYT:

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.

[...]

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the groups years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said Sunday that the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not reflect the current on-ground realities.”

[...]

On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta, the city in southern Pakistan where American and other Western officials have long believed top Taliban leaders have been given refuge by the Pakistani authorities. At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maruf, a district of Kandahar that lies along the Pakistani border. (read more)

There is heaps more in all three newspapers and this story is going to be hot for weeks to come, due to the vast expanse of the information made available. This may well be the final nail into the coffin of the Afghanistan war. There already is growing opposition against the mission and seeing the stark truth will further convince people, that the fight is not worth it. The documents cover the time from January 2004 to December 2009 after Iraq has been attacked on March 20th 2003 and the focus shifted away from the Afghan mission. The leaked documents don’t say anything about the time between October 2001 and 2004. I do hold on to the belief, however, that the Afghanistan mission wasn’t doomed from the beginning. But absolutely after the decision was made to attack Iraq. And again, as it is with most conflicts, the people of Afghanistan have suffered before the war, during the war and will continue to suffer after the international troops have long left.

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Ret. intel officer: US violated rules in Reuters shooting

From Raw Replay:

Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer told MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan that US forces may have violated rules of engagement with the 2007 shooting of two Reuters employees in Baghdad.

I watched this video yesterday on Huffington Post in its entirety. It was very upsetting. The video was obtained by WikiLeaks.

From Huffington Post:

Calling it a case of “collateral murder,” the WikiLeaks Web site today released harrowing video of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 repeatedly opening fire on a group of men that included a Reuters photographer and his driver — and then on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men.

In the Ratigan interview with the gentleman from WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, he (Assange) says there is another similar video (a military whistleblower video) from Afghanistan – from May of last year where 97 people were bombed – that is going to be released through Wikileaks as soon as they “have finished their analysis”.

And the killing goes on..

Again, multiple blasts have rocked Baghdad. Latests news claim 127 people have died and 448 men, women and children have been wounded.

The explosions on Tuesday shook houses across the capital.

Official buildings located near the blasts include the interior ministry, the social affairs ministry, a university and the institute of fine arts.

There were civilian and security force personnel casualties, officials said.

Survivor Ahmed Jabbar, emerging from a damaged ministry building, told AP news agency: “What crime have we committed? Children and women were buried under debris.”

If anybody needs a reminder that not all’s well, even if the media have mostly stopped reporting on the violence unless it’s as devastating as the latest attack, here’s icasualties.com.

US Military suicides set to hit new high in 2009

H/T: Juan Cole

From Reuters:

Suicides in the U.S. Army will hit a new high this year, a top general said on Tuesday in a disclosure likely to increase concerns about stress on U.S. forces ahead of an expected buildup in Afghanistan.

The findings, released as President Barack Obama inches toward a decision to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, show the number of active-duty suicides so far in 2009 has already matched last year’s record of 140 deaths.

“We are almost certainly going to end the year higher than last year,” General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told a Pentagon briefing.

“This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way.”

Another 71 soldiers committed suicide after being taken off active duty in 2009 — nearly 25 percent more than the end-year total for 2008. Some had returned home only weeks before taking their own lives.

Watch this interview with Iraq war vet Adam Kokesh on Russia Today:

Kokesh articulates the reasons very clearly and coherently.

Demjanjuk and the Bush Administration

What’s the connection?

Demanjuk has been extradited to Germany where he has been formally charged with 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder for his role as a guard at one of Hitler’s death camps.

Bush, and nearly everyone involved in the Abu Gahrib scandal, continue to roam freely. It is alleged that Bush led the United States into a war of aggression based on lies. If true, that would be an international crime. Estimates range from over 100,000 to around 1,000,000 Iraqi childrne, women, and men killed as a result of Bush’s war against Iraq.

In an unjustified war of agression, Bush, and all those who carried out his orders, could be held accountable. However, it is likely that low-level soldiers, who neither knew nor could have known the illegality of the war, would be held to criminal charges. Those on the top, however, who knew the intelligence was being manufacured, would not be so insulated.

It may well be that those individuals may be hunted down, much in the same manner as former nazis.

“Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, welcomed the filing of formal charges.

This is obviously an important step forward,” Zuroff said by telephone from Jerusalem. “We hope that the trial itself will be expedited so that justice will be achieved and he can be given the appropriate punishment.”

Therein lies the connection. There is no statute of limitation on international war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The effort to bring Demjanjuk to justice sends a very powerful message that the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator,” Zuroff said.

If Obama fails to hold the Bush Administration accountable, perhaps some future president will have the courage to do so.

The haunting sound of revolution

This video is from Nico Pitney’s live-blogging of the Iranian election protests on Huffington Post.

During the night, protestors shout “Allaho Akbar” to one another, as a sign that their protest still lives.

Part way through the video, a woman speaks.  This is a translation of what she is saying:

The woman in this video is saying something that really touched me. She is saying that they can take our phones, our internet, all our communication away, but we are showing that by saying “allaho akbar” we can find each other. She ends it my saying that tonight they are crying out to god for help.

It sends chills down my back.  I have so much respect and admiration for the courage of the Iranian people.

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Stephen Strong: Army of Me – Basic Training

(A reminder that The Colbert Report is doing a 4 part series on location in Iraq)

Stephen doesn’t get any special treatment when he participates in 10 full hours of basic training.

Stephen Strong: Army of Me – Basic Training Pt. 2
As much as Stephen doesn’t want to admit it, it’s time for him to graduate from basic training.

Bush: The Gift that Keeps on Giving…

if you’re KBR, that is:

In July 2008, the Army said a new dining facility was badly needed at the Camp Delta forward operating base because the existing one was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor.

KBR was awarded a contract in September. Work began in late October as American and Iraqi officials were negotiating the agreement setting the dates for the U.S. troop withdrawal

But during an April visit to Camp Delta, the commission learned that the existing mess hall had just been renovated. The $3.36 million job was done by KBR and completed in June 2008.

This $30 million unneeded dining facility is to be completed on Christmas Day, 2009.

“With American forces scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, the U.S. will use the new facility for two years at most.” In other words, in the waning months of the Bush Administration, when the American economy was “cratering,” the Bush Administration gives a $30 million contract to KBR to build an unneeded and unnecessary dining facility.

How many other multi-million dollar projects Bush gave away in his waning days as President has yet to be seen…

Civilian Contractors, Water, U.S. Soldiers, KBR, and Wastewater Pouring Out of Showers…

Stories of short supplies have haunted the U.S. military throughout the war in Iraq—things like inadequate body armor or unshielded Hummers. But while many soldiers say they had good access to water and even Gatorade, the 11 News Defenders discovered that others, stationed all over the country and during all phases of this desert war, say something else was often missing.

“We were rationed two bottles of water a day,” said Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Robey, referring to 1 to 1.5 liter bottles.

In this report, Robey talks about running out of water and forced to drink water out of faucets in Iraq homes, because that was the only water around.  The problem with that is, most Iraqi water is untreated and can cause illness. As a result, dysentery spread rapidly through his unit, affecting between 50 to 60 men.

They had to resort to stealing water from civilian contractors by taking unsafe routes, with road bombs, to the airport to find pallets of water that had not been distributed.

Another problem facing the soldiers was – unclean water in the sinks and showers in Iraq.

Turns out, at many similar bases, the water was supposed to be processed by Houston-based company KBR. In an internal KBR report, the company sites “massive programmatic issues” with water for personal hygiene dating back to 2005. It outlines how there was no formalized training for anyone involved with water operations, and one camp, Ar Ramadi, had no disinfection for shower water whatsoever.

“That water was two to three times as contaminated as the water out of the Euphrates River,” said former KBR employee Ben Carter.

Carter, a water purification specialist, was the one to blow the whistle on it all. He said he first noticed a problem when he found a live maggot in a base toilet at Camp Ar Ramadi. He subsequently discovered that instead of using chlorinated water, the soldiers’ sinks and showers were pouring out untreated wastewater.

I did some digging and found that this problem goes back to 2004, it was first reported by ABC News in 2006.

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Sifton: “Up to 100 detainees have died in US custody”

Raw Story:

Any torture investigation should focus on the deaths of approximately 100 prisoners who were in U.S. custody, says attorney and human rights investigator John Sifton. Senate torture hearings have examined the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques but Sifton says this is the wrong focus. “Those are the wrong debates to be having right now,” Sifton told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.

“We knew that up to a hundred detainees had died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we had published this information previously. But I brought it up again, because I feel like the debate right now about torture is missing the point,” he said.

“These aggressive techniques were not just limited to the high-value detainee program in the CIA. They spread to the military with disastrous results. They led to the deaths of human beings. And when there’s a corpse involved, when there’s a dead body involved, you can’t just have a debate about policy differences and looking forward or looking backward.”


Read the article in The Daily Beast by John Sifton entitled “The Bush Administration Homicides“.

Obama Trying To Block Prisoner Photos – Fears Backlash Against Soldiers

Gibbs:  Existence of detainee abuse not denoted by the photos.

MichaelMoore.com

Obama decided he “did not feel comfortable” with the release and last week instructed his legal team to fight it in court, said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the president’s decision had not yet been made public.

Obama has instructed administration lawyers to make the case that “the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court,” the official said.

“The president strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan,” the official said.

Military agreement Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq met with Obama at the White House Tuesday to ask the administration not to release the photos. Defense officials say Odierno is “vehemently opposed” to the release because he fears it could create a widespread “backlash” against military forces in both war zones.

Disabled Vet – Told He Would Never Walk Again, Finishes Marathon For Charity

Phil Packer, a British soldier, was injuried badly by a rocket attack in Iraq a year ago.  Doctors told him he would never walk again, incredibly he finished the London Marathon – to raise money for charity.

He completed the race 13 days after it started, walking on crutches for two miles a day — the most his doctor would allow.

Flanked by cheering soldiers and supporters, an obviously emotional Packer had defied medical opinion after his lower spine was badly injured – during a attack sent a vehicle rolling down a sand bank, striking Packer “head on” and dragging him under it.

Packer was in hospital for more than four months and it was then he decided to complete three challenges to help raise $1.5 million for Help for Heroes, a British charity supporting wounded veterans.

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Torture Used to Link Saddam With 9/11

by Marjorie Cohn (Posted with permission)

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks that I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.

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