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US War Has Littered Afghanistan with World’s Deadly Garbage April 10, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I recall the ubiquitous chant from the days of Vietnam anti-war protests: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  Viet Nam still hasn’t recovered from Agent Orange and other toxins, but at least they didn’t have to face plutonium bullets, and they will recover much sooner than America’s more recent victims in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.  The killing of children goes on, in the name of democracy and financed with U.S. citizens’ tax dollars.

 

Afghan children and poorest citizens most vulnerable to unexploded bombs and toxic materials of thirteen-year war

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A concrete wall marks the beginning of the Bagram air base firing range. Some of the firing ranges left behind by U.S. forces will be transferred to the Afghan army. About 40 ranges belonged to nations in the international coalition, and they will have to determine whether to clear them. (Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/For The Washington Post)

As in the abandoned battle fields and scarred countrysides of southeast Asia a generation ago, the U.S. military’s footprint in Afghanistan is leaving a deadly legacy of unexploded ordinances and toxic materials that will continue to kill and permanently harm the nation’s children and others for years to come.

According to the Washington Post on Thursday:

As the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan, it is leaving behind a deadly legacy: about 800 square miles of land littered with undetonated grenades, rockets and mortar shells.

The military has vacated scores of firing ranges pocked with the explosives. Dozens of children have been killed or wounded as they have stumbled upon the ordnance at the sites, which are often poorly marked. Casualties are likely to increase sharply; the U.S. military has removed the munitions from only 3 percent of the territory covered by its sprawling ranges, officials said.

Clearing the rest of the contaminated land — which in total is twice as big as New York City — could take two to five years. U.S. military officials say they intend to clean up the ranges. But because of a lack of planning, officials say, funding has not yet been approved for the monumental effort, which is expected to cost $250 million.

“If the Americans believe in human rights, how can they let this happen?” asked Sayed Sadeq, whose teenage son and his friend were both killed when one of them stepped on an unexploded grenade near a U.S. firing range in Ghazni province.

Spokespeople for the U.S. military confess that cleaning up the garbage of the U.S. military occupation has not been a priority.

“Unfortunately, the thinking was: ‘We’re at war and we don’t have time for this,’” Maj. Michael Fuller, the head of the U.S. Army’s Mine Action Center at Bagram Airfield, told the Post.

According to the UN, too little has been done to address the problem even as the statistics soar.

The Post reporting continues:

Even before the U.S. military arrived in 2001, Afghanistan was the most heavily mined country in the world. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989 after a 10-year occupation, they left about 20 million pieces of unexploded ordnance scattered nationwide. The munitions have killed and wounded thousands of children. The U.S. government has helped fund efforts to clear those devices, a massive project expected to be completed in 2023.

The firing ranges aren’t the only places where U.S. military explosives may be lying undetonated. There are 331 known sites of battles against the Taliban where some American ordnance probably remains, especially from airstrikes. U.S. officials say they will not attempt to clear those sites.

“We’re probably never going to be able to find those [munitions], because who knows where they landed,” said another U.S. official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The United Nations says a more robust effort to clear those sites is necessary.

“The battles happened in areas where people live, work and attempt to earn their livelihoods. The contamination needs to be addressed,” said [one UN official].

In response to reports of civilian casualties, the U.S. military has posted additional barricades around some firing ranges. But American officials have refused to construct fencing, which they said would be prohibitively expensive and probably ineffective.

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Afghan Elections for Another Fake Regime April 6, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democracy.
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Roger’s note: Democracy U.S. style in action.

 

Afghanistan’s national election held this week is a sham. A group of candidates, handpicked by the US, will pretend to compete in an election whose outcome has already been determined – by Washington.

The candidates include US groomed politicians, and drug-dealing warlords from the Tajik and Uzbek north. Chief among them, Rashid Dostam, a major war criminal and principal CIA ally who ordered the massacre of over 2,000 Taliban prisoners.

Such is the rotten foundation on which Washington is hoping to build a compliant Afghan “democracy” that will continue to offer bases to US troops and warplanes. Afghanistan’s majority, the Pashtun tribes, have little voice in the election charade.

The largest, most popular party in Afghanistan, Taliban, and its smaller ally, Hisbi-Islami, have been excluded as “terrorists” from the current and past elections. They are boycotting the vote, rightly claiming it will be rigged and run by the western powers and their local collaborators. We see this same pattern of faux democracy across the Mideast.

If an open vote was held today, Taliban would probably win. Americans have no problem it seems working with Afghan Communists, war criminals, and drug kingpins. In fact, under American rule, opium, morphine and heroin production in Afghanistan has surged to all-time record highs. This is called “nation-building.”

After 12 years of using everything in its arsenal short of nuclear weapons, the mighty US military has failed to defeat lightly-armed Taliban forces. The Pashtun tribes are almost certain to keep on fighting indefinitely. A favorite Taliban saying: “the Americans have watches; we have time.” The Pashtun defeated four British attempts to colonize Afghanistan, the Soviet effort in the 1980’s, and now the US occupation.

Afghanistan has proved the longest war in America’s history. As US troops and heavy bombers attacked Taliban position, I wrote in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers that invading Afghanistan was a terrible mistake, a war that would not be won. Not surprisingly, I was widely denounced.

My column of 26-years was blacklisted by a major newspaper chain after I dared to say the war was lost and a waste of blood and money.

I knew this having been in the field with the Afghan mujahidin during the 1980’s Great Jihad (holy war) against Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers – recounted in my “War at the Top of the World.”

A few years later, I was present at the birth of Taliban. The Pashtun movement arose during the early 1990’s Afghan civil war to fight the mass rape of Afghan women, and combat foreign-backed Afghan Tajik and Uzbek Communists.

Washington’s current plan is to install a new, post-Karzai Afghan client regime in Kabul, and keep control of the 400,000-man Afghan police and army who fight for US dollars. The tame Afghan regime will then “invite” some 16,000 US soldiers and airmen, plus large numbers of tribal mercenaries, to stay on and keep Taliban at bay.

The key to ongoing US control of Afghanistan is airbases at Bagram, Kandahar, Herat, and Shindand, supported by bases in Central Asia, Pakistan and the Gulf. The US and its allies could not retain their bases across Afghanistan without mounting hugely expensive 24-hour combat air patrols that respond within minutes to any Taliban attacks. Without constant resupply and support from the air, western forces would be quickly cut off and defeated.

This is one big reason why the war in Afghanistan has so far cost the US $1 trillion dollars. Billions have disappeared due to massive corruption. Without a steady stream of US dollars, the Afghan regime in Kabul would collapse. Pakistan has been paid over $18 billion since 2001 to fight its own Taliban and allow US military operations.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s efforts to cut US occupation forces in Afghanistan are being openly and brazenly challenged by his own insubordinate military commanders who cannot face admitting defeat at the hands of Taliban – the ultimate humiliation for the high-tech US forces.

But now that China and Russia have challenged the US, the Pentagon has found a new foe and reasons for ever-bigger budgets. So it may reluctantly abandon the Afghan misadventure. After all, who remembers the Vietnam War and the disgraceful flight from Saigon?

Report: Thousands of Iraqi Women Illegally Detained, Tortured, Raped February 7, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War, Women.
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Roger’s note: A US invasion of your country to bring prosperity and democracy is a gift that keeps giving.  Iraqi security forces, trained by Americans, have learned to treat women the way that we do in order to earn their confidence and respect.  Of course Iraq continues to be plagued by sectarian violence and the destruction of their infrastructure, which for some reason that no one can understand, has not been reconstructed despite the lucrative contracts given on a no-bid basis to American corporations.  A real mystery.

Many analysts believe that Iraqi women were better off under Saddam (as brutal as his regime was in other respects).  This report tends to support that conclusion.
    

Published on Thursday, February 6, 2014 by Common Dreams

“The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq.”

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Iraqi security forces are illegally detaining thousands of women, subjecting many to torture, abuse, rape, and forcing them into confessions, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.

“The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq,” says Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. (Photo: James Gordon/cc/flickr)

In ‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System, HRW reveals a pattern of systemic abuse within a failed judicial system characterized by corruption.

The report estimates that over 1,100 women are detained, often without a warrant, in Iraqi prisons or detention facilities. Frequently, the women are arrested not for their won alleged actions but for those of a male relative.

Sexual abuse during interrogations of women is so common that Um Aqil, an employee at a women’s prison facility, told HRW, “[W]e expect that they’ve been raped by police on the way to the prison.”

On top of rape, many arrested women are subjected to electric shocks, beatings, burnings, being hung upside down and foot whipping (falaqa).  Following the torture the women may be forced to sign a blank confession paper or one that they are unable to read.

In the video below published by HRW, one woman reveals her story of abuse:

The report authors write that the failed criminal justice system revealed in the report shows that “Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government has so far failed to eliminate many of the abusive practices that Saddam Hussein institutionalized and United States-led Coalition Forces continued.”

“The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq,” adds Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement from the organization. “These abuses have caused a deep-seated anger and lack of trust between Iraq’s diverse communities and security forces, and all Iraqis are paying the price.”

 

COMMENTS

  • Mairead

    If I recall correctly, things were better for women during Sadam’s regime because he kept the pseudo-religious predators mashed flat.

    • Avatar
      tom johnson  Mairead

      You recall correctly.

      Despite all his dictatorial and excessive practices, during the regime of Saddam Hussein, many women played important roles in all facets of Iraqi society (except in the fundamentalist religious groups).

      Also religious sectarianism became muted and people of different religions intermingled, lived together and inter-married frequently creating new Iraqi citizens who recognized the nation, rather than a tribe or sect as their central organizing principle.

      It is ironic (and instructive) that only after it became apparent that his allies in the West were going to terminate Saddam Hussein did he revert to the worst forms of tribalism and adopted the language of religious fundamentalism.

      The lesson is simple and obvious: despite the fact that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, the nation of Iraq was internally strengthening as a nation and eventually the Iraqi people would have ended the dictatorship in their own ways.

      Of course the West could not allow that because it would be a threat to the hegemony of Israel (the forward operations base for US/EURO governments and corporations0 and the control of Iraqi oil.

      And of course Iraqi women and children pay the highest costs for the Western-created insanity.

      see more

      • Avatar
        Le Franco Nord Americain  tom johnson

        one Big Mistake there tom. It was not the West that could not allow that, it was what your President called the “Coalition of the Willing”. It consisted of the U.S., the Brits, the Aussies, Spain and a couple of other bit players. It did not include Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavian countries and a host of others. Iraq invasion was NOT sanctioned by the U.N. or NATO. Don’t get confused with UN, NATO sanctioned mission to go after you might remember who in Afghanistan. Too many Americans forget this.
        With his Iraq lies and decision, Bush brought world support for reprisal against Bin Ladden for 9-11 attacks to majority of world identifying U.S. as biggest threat there is to world peace. A distinction the U.S. still holds. Other than lining the pockets of his Corporate friends, creating the world’s biggest private run army (Blackwater), making a mockery of international law and human rights, and destroying democracy everywhere, etc. U.S. public voted him back into Office for a 2nd term and today let’s him sleep in peace making more money on the rubber chicken circuit.

      • Avatar
        cuja1  tom johnson

        The terrible dictator was one of the friends of G.H.W.Bush for 8 years until he refused an order. Bush enticed him to invade Kuwait then told him to get his butt out, ..if you remember the headlines in the paper. The reason being Bush expected Kuwait to be thankful to him, he intended to bring down the Kuwait monarcy, and have the right to put in the oil pipe line… It backfired.
        The reason Bush Sr. did all he could to have his son made president, to illegally invade Iraq out of revenge.

    • Avatar
      belphegor69  Mairead

      Yes I read Riverbend’s book some years back and she said women could wear makeup and dresses, hold civil servant jobs, did not have to cover their heads, and could tell the religious fruitcakes who stopped them on the street to eff off and there wasn’t a thing they could do about it.
      Now of course…not.

    • Avatar
      Really?  Mairead

      You must be wrong, because everywhere the US militarily intervenes, part of the rationale is to help women.

  • Avatar
    plantman13

    I read the official military history of SOG…special operations group…a program designed to infiltrate spys and saboteurs into North Vietnam. The incompetent manner in which the program was run by US Special Forces resulted in 100% of the participating South Vietnamese recruits being killed or captured (and then killed). Upon hearing of the miserable performance of the program one ranking general said we might as well skip all the training, save a few bucks, take them out back and shoot them ourselves. This is what it means to be a “friend” of the US. Much better to be our enemy…at least then one has a fighting chance. Those we “care” about are on the short end of the stick. Look at what a wonderful job we have done in Iraq. I think we surpassed the number of Iraqis killed by Saddam long ago. Our own govt. kills more Americans through various policies than the 911 terrorists could ever dream of.

  • Avatar
    tom johnson

    Made in the USA.

  • Avatar
    Atomsk

    The best way towards religious fundamentalism is to suppress and destroy all the more advanced and complex ideologies by force. This is a direct result of Western persecution of every even remotely left-wing movement and unifying ideology, especially Communism. It is possible – and even easy – to destroy the more complex stuff. It is almost impossible to destroy religion.

  • Avatar
    puja

    good comments below. the only thing to add is an action plan.
    the reasons are obvious. only the plan remains to be implemented.
    the longer the status quo has to improve their machinery of suppression and their technology of spying the more difficult the change will be. talk is cheap. time for everybody, all at once,
    to work together to “throw the bums out”. no more 2 party system.
    vote 3rd / 4th parties if possible or don’t vote and tell anyone who will listen why.

  • Avatar
    Ithurielspear

    100% the responsibility and fault of the us gov and bushies

    • Avatar
      Randy Herrman  Ithurielspear

      There were international interests, notably in energy and banking. Britain holds a large share of the blame as well.

      http://www.caseyresearch.com/c…

      “The Iraq war provides a good example. Until November 2000, no OPEC country had dared to violate the US dollar-pricing rule, and while the US dollar remained the strongest currency in the world there was also little reason to challenge the system. But in late 2000, France and a few other EU members convinced Saddam Hussein to defy the petrodollar process and sell Iraq’s oil for food in euros, not dollars.”

__________________

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Book Review: Empire’s Ally: The U.S. and Canada February 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: to some degree Canada has always been a subservient servant to U.S. economic and geopolitical interests.  But when I arrived here in 1968 as a Vietnam war resister, it was a different country politically than it is today.  Of course, for that matter, so is the United States.  I never romanticized Canada as the perfect peace loving nation.  Few do any more.  But there was a time when the Canadian government at least did not “go along” with American imperial adventures.  Stephen Harper and what my friend Charlie calls the suposi-TORIES have changed all that.  Today, more than ever Canada is the 51st state, politically, economically, culturally, and with respect to Orwellian surveillance.  Nothing less than a tragedy for peace an justice loving Canadians.

 

By  (about the author)OpEdNews Op Eds 1/31/2014 at 17:44:38

Source: Dispatches From The Edge


(image by Amazon)

Book Review
Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan
Edited by Jerome Klassen and Greg Albo
University of Toronto Press
Toronto Buffalo London 2013

Americans tend to think of Canadians as politer and more sensible than their southern neighbors, thus the joke: “Why does the Canadian chicken cross the road? To get to the middle.” Oh, yes, bit of a “muddle” there in Afghanistan, but like Dudley Do Right, the Canadians were only trying to develop and tidy up the place.

Not in the opinion of Jerome Klassen and a formidable stable of academics, researchers, journalists, and peace activists who see Canada’s role in Central Asia less as a series of policy blunders than a coldly calculated strategy of international capital. “Simply put,” writes Klassen, “the war in Afghanistan was always linked to the aspirations of empire on a much broader scale.”

“Empire’s Ally” asks the question, “Why did the Canadian government go to war in Afghanistan in 2001?” and then carefully dissects the popular rationales: fighting terrorism; coming to the aid of the United States; helping the Afghans to develop their country. Oh, and to free women. What the book’s autopsy of those arguments reveals is disturbing.

Calling Canada’s Afghan adventure a “revolution,” Klassen argues, “the new direction of Canadian foreign policy cannot be explained simply by policy mistakes, U.S. demands, military adventurism, security threats, or abstract notions of liberal idealism. More accurately, it is best explained by structural tendencies in the Canadian political economy — in particular, by the internationalization of Canadian capital and the realignment of the state as a secondary power in the U.S.-led system of empire.”

In short, the war in Afghanistan is not about people failing to read Kipling, but is rather part of a worldwide economic and political offensive by the U.S. and its allies to dominate sources of energy and weaken any upstart competitors like China, and India. Nor is that “broader scale” limited to any particular region.

Indeed, the U.S. and its allies have transformed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from a European alliance to contain the Soviet Union, to an international military force with a global agenda. Afghanistan was the alliance’s coming-out party, its first deployment outside of Europe. The new “goals” are, as one planner put it, to try to “re-establish the West at the centre of global security,” to guarantee access to cheap energy, to police the world’s sea lanes, to “project stability beyond its borders,” and even concern itself with “Chinese military modernization.”

If this all sounds very 19th century — as if someone should strike up a chorus of “Britannia Rules the Waves” — the authors would agree, but point out that global capital is far more powerful and all embracing than the likes of Charles “Chinese” Gordon and Lord Herbert Kitchener ever envisioned. One of the book’s strong points is its updating of capitalism, so to speak, and its careful analysis of what has changed since the end of the Cold War.

Klassen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies, and Greg Albo is an associate professor of political science at York University in Toronto. The two authors gather together 13 other academics, journalists, researchers and peace activists to produce a detailed analysis of Canada’s role in the Afghan war.

The book is divided into four major parts dealing with the history of the involvement, its political and economic underpinnings, and the actual Canadian experiences in Afghanistan, which had more to with condoning war crimes like torture than digging wells, educating people, and improving their health. Indeed, Canada’s Senate Standing Committee on National Security concluded that, in Ottawa’s major area of concentration in Afghanistan, Kandahar, “Life is clearly more perilous because we are there.”

After almost $1 trillion dollars poured into Afghanistan — Canada’s contribution runs to about $18 billion — some 70 percent of the Afghan population lives in poverty, and malnutrition has recently increased. Over 30,000 Afghan children die each year from hunger and disease. And as for liberating women, according to a study by TrustLaw Women, the “conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined” make Afghanistan the “most dangerous country for women” in the world.

The last section of the book deals with Canada’s anti-war movement.

While the focus of “Empire’s Ally” is Canada, the book is really a sort of historical materialist blueprint for analyzing how and why capitalist countries involve themselves in foreign wars. Readers will certainly learn a lot about Canada, but they will also discover how political economics works and what the goals of the new imperialism are for Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin.

Klassen argues that Canadians have not only paid in blood and gold for their Afghanistan adventure, they have created a multi-headed monster, a “network of corporate, state, military, intellectual, and civil social actors who profit from or direct Canada’s new international policies.”

This meticulously researched book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in the how’s and why’s of western foreign policy. “Empire’s Ally” is a model of how to do an in-depth analysis of 21st century international capital and a handy guide on how to cut through the various narratives about “democracy,” “freedom,” and “security” to see the naked violence and greed that lays at the heart of the Afghan War.

The authors do more than reveal, however; they propose a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan. It is the kind of thinking that could easily be applied to other “hot spots” on the globe.

For this book is a warning about the future, when the battlegrounds may shift from the Hindu Kush to the East China Sea, Central Africa, or Kashmir, where, under the guise of fighting “terrorism,” establishing “stability,” or “showing resolve,” the U.S. and its allies will unleash their armies of the night.

Two familiar faces at the State of the Union told us everything February 1, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Here is a soldier’s eye’s view of what war is all about.  I cannot say how much this represents the feelings and beliefs of other soldiers.  But I do belief that this soldier has hit upon a truth of who benefits and who pays the price for the kinds of imperial wars that are being conducted by the American government and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

An Iraq war veteran’s reflection

January 29, 2014, By Mike Prysner
carlos-and-odierno

The author is a former U.S. Army Corporal who spent 12 months in Iraq, starting with the invasion in March 2003. He is a co-founder of March Forward! and a member of the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace.

odiernoq
Post-war life is good for Odierno, along with the other generals, politicians and CEOs in his circles.

Before President Obama even began the State of the Union address, two people I knew in the audience, from two defining points in my life, were much more significant to me. I thought their presence reflected the “State of the Union” better than anything the President could have said.

The first guest was General Ray Odierno, now the Chief of Staff of the Army. One of my most invasive memories is of my time on an outpost with his 4th Infantry Division, relentlessly attacked, in a rural farming area called Hawija. I would see him from time to time—in much safer places, of course. Long nights huddled in a smoke-filled bunker, feeling like nothing but target practice, was no place for a general.

I remember him as the happiest (and highest-ranking) person I encountered in country, always jovial and excited. I remember thinking then, at age 19, that he was so happy because he knew that deployment could make his career. And he was right; commanding an armored division during the biggest invasion and occupation of a country since Vietnam would certainly do that; especially when your soldiers end up capturing Saddam Hussein. The future was looking bright for Odierno in 2003.

Odierno even slept in Saddam Hussein’s main palace in Tikrit. Far away, his soldiers bled all over his outposts and drove over IEDs, earning him his “glory.” Iraqi civilians in his area of operations experienced what would lead to major criticism of the “belligerence” of his tactics as a commander.

arredondo
Carlos took this striking memorial to his son all over the country, for years, trying to end the war by sharing his pain.

The other guest was Carlos Arredondo, the “cowboy hat wearing hero” of the Boston bombing, famously photographed rushing a victim with severed legs to safety.

The first time I ever spoke publicly at an anti-war event, back in 2006, it was sharing a panel with Carlos. His first of two sons, Alexander Arredondo, was killed in Iraq in 2004, in a different part of the country from Odierno and me.  He was just 20 years old. I didn’t say much that day, but just sitting there with him and his partner, Melida, was a source of strength and inspiration that would never leave me.

Carlos—at the time an undocumented immigrant—reacted to the death of Alexander by dedicating his entire life to anti-war activism, touring the country with a striking visual memorial to his son, talking to everybody he encountered along the way about opposing the war. He became a definitive icon of the Iraq war—a shattered, mourning father, pulling a flag-draped coffin with his son’s photo in front of the White House.

Odierno’s career had been made. He shot up to Four-Star General by 2008. Like all general officers, especially of his privileged West Point-graduate variety, very lucrative post-retirement “advisor” positions in the defense industry have opened up. He got the top staff position in the Army under Obama in 2011.

Carlos’s only surviving son, Brian, committed suicide that same year. It was just days before Christmas. He was only 24 years old. Suicide—another hallmark of the misery caused by that war for both veterans and families—became another cause Carlos would dedicate his life to.

Millions of lives were torn apart by the Iraq war. But not equally.

It was working-class and immigrant families who had to bear the hair-pulling horror of seeing their children come home in coffins. It was idealistic, college- and career-aspiring youth who were sent to be blown apart in those flimsy Humvees. It was Iraqi teachers, nurses, farmers, hotel workers—and their children, babies and grandparents—who were the so-called “collateral damage.”

It wasn’t the general officers who built their careers on having the most aggressive strategy, which they watched from computer screens in palaces while their soldiers were blown to pieces. It wasn’t the families of the CEOs of the defense and energy industry giants, bursting with profits from Pentagon contracts, or the families of the politicians they take to dinner.

Some got promotions and career boosts. Some got bonus checks and fat dividends. But most are shredded, in body and mind. Most will spend the rest of their lives overwhelmed with trying to recover; many on crutches and canes, many with pills. Most will forever struggle to choke back tears whenever a reminder of those years enters their minds.

Carlos and Odierno may have been guests at the same speech, but they live in two very different worlds.

Whatever Obama said in his address, from employment and immigration to foreign policy, it was all about fixing things within a world like that—where only one class (which constitutes the majority of us) is made to make the biggest, hardest sacrifices, and another class—a much smaller one—is the supreme leader and benefactor.

A system set up like this can only replicate the same heart-wrenching tragedies for people like us.

No need to watch the State of the Union—we need a revolution.

This article was originally published by MarchForward.org

I Worked on the US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes On December 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t)

The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical long endurance missions.

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analyzing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

Heather Linebaugh

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter: @hllinebaugh

US Court: Military’s Prisoners in Afghanistan Have No Rights December 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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Roger’s note: this article, of course, contradicts the myth that under Obama torture and illegal detention has stopped.

 

In Christmas Eve ruling, judges say U.S. Constitution does not apply to notorious Bagram prison

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Afghanistan’s Bagram prison. (Photo: File)

In a Christmas Eve ruling that passed with little fanfare, three U.S. Appeals Court Judges gave their legal stamp of approval to indefinite detentions without trial for prisoners of the U.S. military in occupied Afghanistan.

In a 44-page decision, penned by George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Karen Henderson, the habeas corpus petitions filed by five captives at Afghanistan’s infamous Bagram military prison—known to some as the “Other Guantanamo“—were rejected.

The petitions were invoking the men’s rights to challenge unlawful detention—rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for Guantanamo Bay inmates (though not fully implemented in practice).

The ruling claimed there are “significant differences between Bagram and Guantanamo” because “our forces at Bagram… are actively engaged in a war with a determined enemy.”

Yet, as Michael Doyle writing for McClatchy notes, “[O]ne might wonder whether a ‘war’ has changed into an ‘occupation,’ and whether that affects the legal analysis.”

The court statement expressed concern that “orders issued by judges thousands of miles away would undercut the commanders’ authority” and “granting the habeas corpus petitions would distract “from the military offensive abroad to the legal defensive at home.”

The report claimed there are many “practical obstacles” to honoring these inmates’ constitutional rights.

The decision followed in the path of a 2010 similar ruling, which involved three of the five appellants who report having been captured outside of Afghanistan—in Thailand, Iraq and Pakistan.

The U.S. maintains control over the prison’s non-Afghan inmates, many of whom were captured in other countries then transported to this prison, giving the U.S. military broad latitude to violate their rights and hold them indefinitely.

Bagram, which is under an even more stringent media blackout than Guantanamo Bay, is notorious for torture and abuse, including sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assault, rape and dehumanization.

_____________________

Mario Rivera speaks out the Army’s decision to separate his wife from their newborn baby December 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace.
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Roger’s note: Kimberly Rivera is one of those rare soldiers who understands the Nuremberg principles.  After serving a tour in Iraq, she refused to go back to participate in the commitment of further war crimes.  After years living in Canada the corrupt and unjust Tory driven refugee process made a final negative determination.  When a bill in the Canadian parliament was introduced to prevent the deportation of American war resisters, a bill with majority support from the three opposition parties, it was defeated when the current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and some other Liberals failed to show up for the vote.  When it was finally announced in parliament that Kimberly had been deported, the Tory (Conservative) members burst out in applause.

But as this letter from Kimberly’s husband demonstrates, the Canadian Tories have nothing over the American military when it comes to mean spirited vengeance.  A disgusting way to treat a strong and courageous woman.

 
By (about the author)

http://www.opednews,com, November 30, 2013

 
The following statement was written by Kimberly Rivera’s husband Mario about what has happened these last few days and about how  the decision of Brig. General Michael A. Bills to deny clemency has affected this family.

After reading this letter, please make plans to participate in the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera.


When I arrived at the hospital I checked in to see my wife deliver the baby.  Upon entering the room the staff sergeant proceeded to tell me that because Kim is a prisoner she is not allowed any visitations period but she said she would allow me an hour like it was some sort of favor.  I politely agreed and proceeded to visit with Kim who was very upset at how they were treating her.  And then I got upset too when I found out that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be there for the delivery.

Once the hour was up she kicked me out of the room.  I then called our attorney and anyone else I thought might help to tell them about the situation.  While I was in the waiting room I overheard a lieutenant talking with the staff sergeant and some nursing staff about Kim and what they were going to do with me. They were not happy because I had called the social worker, who called the staff sergeant to find out why I was being kept out. So I walked up to the lieutenant and asked him how I could see my son be born and bond with him. He then made me go with him to another room with another soldier and then they locked the door. They then said that had to stay in there because of SOP (standard operating procedure) and that they would need more manpower for me to be in the room, and that they already had the staff sergeant in there with Kim at all times. I continued to explain my situation and how I felt. I told him I understood that Kim had to stay under guard since she was a prisoner, but that I believed my rights as a Dad were being violated.

The lieutenant said he was “on my side” but it didn’t seem like he wanted to really listen either.  He did tell me that he would put a request in with the admiral. He then took me down to security where I sat and waited.

20 minutes or so later he came back. He said the admiral approved me being in the delivery room with the stipulation that I not be allowed to have my cellphone with me, and that I would of course have to follow their rules and medical rules.  I of course complied with these conditions so I was allowed to be with Kim and our baby for the rest of the day.

The following day I came back to the hospital. I did not have anyone to watch my other kids, so I brought them with me. They held me at gate for about 20 minutes before letting us on base.  At security, I checked my phone (as agreed) and they told me it would be no problem for me to bring our kids with me, but when I got to Kim’s floor they said that it was a problem and that we would not be allowed to see Kim or the baby until they talked to the Admiral. After a two hour wait, the Admiral gave the ok and our family got to be together.

The next day I was told that Kim was being discharged at 4 p.m. but the Brig actually came to get her at 9 a.m. The baby is now with me.

As you can imagine this whole experience has been horrible for our family. Our children are deeply traumatized from being continually separated from their mom and they are scared that if I leave without them, that they will not see me again either. Two of the younger kids, Katie and Gabriel are taking it really hard. And Christian now has depression and anxiety from this.  They cry when they think of Kim and miss her a great deal.  Christian has told me, “The military is supposed to protect us so why are they hurting us?  Why did they take momma?”

Rebecca, a young lady now, misses her mom very much as well and is having to go through her female changes without her momma around. Katie always says she wants to rescue mommy from the bad people who put her in jail” and Gabriel, he just looks for her still not understanding why she is gone.

This has hit us all very hard.  My kids are hurting and traumatized from all this and now my son Matthew cannot breastfeed.  He is separated from his mom who carried him the last 8 and a half months.  All night last night he cried looking for her, for her touch, for her smell.  It breaks my heart.  Matthew did not sleep well because of the separation and I am afraid it could impact him psychologically since he is unable to be calmed by his momma.  I do not have her smell or touch that he is needing.  I cannot breastfeed him and to give him those vital nutrients.  Only my wife can and because of the Fort Carson general, Matthew can’t have that.

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Join the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

http://www.jmbranum.com

Attorney/Legal Director of the Center for Conscience in Action Minister of Peace & Justice, Joy Mennonite Church of Oklahoma City

 

The Conservatives’ treatment of veterans is hypocritical November 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Support Our Troops (by screwing them after they have killed, been shot at in a place they have not business being,  and come home)!

“Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, ‘I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.’”

As the doctor said to my father when he announced my gender to him on the day of my birth in 1941: “CANNON FODDER.”

Gerald Caplan

If the politics of contempt is the hallmark of Stephen Harper’s governing style – for Parliament, for accountability, for critics, for science, for journalists – nothing is more shameful than its contempt for Canada’s veterans. It’s not merely that vets have won the right to so much better. It’s also the flat-out hypocrisy, the unbridgeable chasm between the Harper government’s rapturous rhetoric and its actual policies.

Besides the usual Remembrance Day platitudes, there was the PM at the recent Conservative Convention in Calgary shamelessly boasting that only his party cared about Canada’s “brave men and women in uniform.” Yet precisely one week earlier, Corporal David Hawkins from London, Ont., injured in the field and suffering from post-traumatic stress, was booted out of the military before he was eligible to collect an indexed pension – one of many wounded vets who are being treated so callously.

The ugly truth is that Mr. Hawkins is only one example of the many “brave men and women in uniform” who have been betrayed by the Harper government. And refusing veterans their rightful pensions is only one example of the many heartless ways it has actually treated so many of them.

Indeed, just in the weeks around Remembrance Day 2013, the media has been replete with examples of this absolutely inexplicable phenomenon. In the typical words of Corporal Shane Jones, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, “We go overseas, we fight for our country, we do what we’re asked and when we come home it’s like we have to start another war all over again just to get the help we need.” That was three days after Mr. Harper’s Calgary speech and exactly one week before November 11.

And on Remembrance Day itself, in B.C., retired Air Force captain Claude Latulippe was among other vets who chose to turn their backs on their Conservative MP at the local cenotaph, “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.” This attitude hardly surprises Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, appointed by the Harper government, who angrily points out that the Harper government’s New Veterans Charter will relegate hundreds of the most severely disabled vets to poverty in their old age.

But lest we forget, Remembrance Day 2013 was no aberration on this front. Remembrance Day 2010, for example, was marked by a farewell J’Accuse! from Patrick Stogran, a 30-year vet and Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, also appointed by Stephen Harper but pointedly not reappointed.

“What I am here to do,” Mr. Stogran said, “is to expose to Canadians what I perceive as a system that for a long time has denied veterans not just what they deserve, but what they earned with their blood and sacrifice.”

“It is beyond my comprehension,” he later added, “how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the Government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide.”

Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, “I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.”

Mr. Stogran’s cri de coeur did not come as a surprise to veterans. Over the 2010 Remembrance Day weekend they hit the streets in an unprecedented series of nation-wide demonstrations to publicize their long list of grievances against a government that has made a fetish of its devotion to Canada’s veterans.

Remembrance Day 2012 once again saw a series of public protests by vets against their own government. As reported by Canadian Press, disabled veterans and military widows assembled on Parliament Hill “to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority….Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled.”

What does it take for the Harper government to be shamed into action? This Remembrance Day, 2013, many media finally gave the vets’ grievances significant coverage. Besides several news stories, The Globe, for example, published an editorial, two pieces by its own columnists and an editorial cartoon all harshly critical of the government.

There are some indications that the government is finally paying attention, though Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino insists, in quintessential Harperland style, that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.” At about the same time, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens took to the streets of Sydney, N.S., (population: 31,597) to support local veterans in protesting the government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs Department district offices across the country, including theirs.

Some Opposition MPs have been pressing the vets’ case for some time; Peter Stoffer has been an especially tireless advocate. But surely the Opposition must go further and make this just cause an absolute priority. Shaming Stephen Harper is not an easy task, as years of protest by vets have sadly proved. But surely his betrayal of Canada’s veterans cannot be allowed to continue.

Is Omar Khadr a pawn in a cynical political game by the Harper Government? November 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: I have written and posted before about Omar Khadr, and it is important that he should not be forgotten.  I refer you again to the documentary: “You Don’t Like the Truth: Four Days Inside Guantanamo,” which depicts the torturous interrogation this child was put through by Canadian spooks, and the torture he suffered at the hands of the Americans at the same time as he was wounded to the near point of death.  This photo shows the condition he was in when the CIA interrogated him.

omar_battlefield

 

| November 19, 2013, http://www.rabble.ca 

 

edney

 

Is the continued imprisonment of Omar Khadr actually a question of principle for the Harper Government, or has it become such an embarrassment that our Conservative leaders in Ottawa have concluded he must be kept under wraps as long as possible for reasons of political expediency?

The hatred and hysteria with which the supporters of this government attack the former child soldier, who is now 27 and resides in a federal penitentiary here in Edmonton after pleading guilty to a variety of war crimes charges before a “military commission” run by the U.S. armed forces, suggests the latter.

Either way, though, the explanation hardly shows our federal government in a good light. And perhaps not the rest of us Canadians either, given the sorry tale of what happened to our fellow citizen when he was still a child, abandoned  by his father in a war zone, pressed into service as a child soldier and put on trial after being grievously injured in a battle with American forces.

The question Canadians who believe in common decency and the rule of law need to ask themselves now, though, is what can we do about it?

Various legal challenges are in the works, as regular readers of the news columns surely know. Khadr’s Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, has launched an appeal of an Alberta court decision that denied his request to be transferred from the maximum-security Edmonton Institution to a provincial jail.

Khadr’s American attorney, Samuel Morison of the United States Department of Defense, has challenged his conviction for war crimes by a military commission inside the extra-territorial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in occupied Cuban territory.

But the wheels of justice grind slowly, when they grind at all. And the Canadian government, which never lifted a finger to help this young man and which resisted his return to Canada until the embarrassed Americans put him on a plane and sent him home, has now adopted a strategy of doing anything it can to prevent his release.

“The government is going to run the clock out on Omar Khadr,” said Edney, who spoke a week ago today at a packed forum on the case at Edmonton’s King’s University College, a private university founded by the Christian Reformed Church that has taken up Khadr’s case with increasing vigour.

The Harper government, Edney explained, has the legal power to do the right thing, “but it can’t, because it’s put its reputation at stake” by supporting the prosecution of a 15-year-old boy in a judicial proceeding, that while not quite a kangaroo court, hardly lives up to the standards of Canadian justice.

Even that explanation may be a generous one, it is said here, because the passions aroused by Canada’s enthusiastic participation in the war in Afghanistan obviously made Khadr’s fate an effective wedge issue for the relentlessly cynical Harper Tories. Is it beyond the pale they would care more about their own electoral fate than justice for a young man caught in the meat-grinder of a war he didn’t choose?

Surely it is not that hard to imagine that the Harper Government risking even a constitutional crisis to prevent Khadr’s release before the next election if actually ordered to do so by a court.

Adherents of the Harper government’s line are bound to angrily assert that Khadr pleaded guilty to the charges. Indeed, Steven Blaney, the minister of Public Safety, said just that, telling the CBC: “Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to very serious crimes… The government of Canada will vigorously defend against any attempted court action to lessen his punishment for these crimes.”

But as Morison pointed out to the crowd at King’s last week, “If he had been tried by the standards that prevailed here in Canada, he would never have been convicted.”

What’s more, the American lawyer explained, given the Kafkaesque inversion of justice in the Guantanamo commissions, “the only way to win at Gitmo is to lose … the only way to get off the island was to plead guilty.” For a prisoner to insist he is innocent is to sentence himself to life in prison: “That drains the trial process of any real meaning.”

Indeed, last Friday, Canadian lawyers representing Khadr filed civil arguments claiming the Canadian government conspired with U.S. authorities to abuse the prisoner to ensure he pleaded guilty.

Morison, perhaps with the hyperbole of a good trial lawyer, insists the principal crime to which Khadr pleaded guilty — killing a U.S. soldier with a hand grenade — could never have happened the way prosecutors claimed. Indeed, he said, not only did Khadr not perpetrate a war crime, “he was himself the victim of a war crime!” You can click here to see a video of Morison’s illuminating remarks.

This case was the first time in modern history, Morison added, that a 15-year-old was prosecuted for war crimes.

But what can Canadians do now?

“There’s no great big fix in the world,” Edney told the approximately 300 people who attended the forum at King’s. “There’s steps, little steps.”

“You can’t speak in the Supreme Court, but you can speak to your friends,” he explained. “You can go to your local politician…” But nothing will happen, he advised, “without you, without you getting angry, without you saying you will work night and day … only then will you get a result.”

And you must have faith in the rule of law, Edney counselled, as has King’s – “the rule of law is applying here today.”

King’s, he said, “this little Christian university,” has “advocated far more strongly than any other university in Canada, for a Muslim boy.”

So what are the rest of us going to do?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

 

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

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