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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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Iraq Invades the United States And Other Headlines from an Upside Down History of the U.S. Military and the World July 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: The Uruguayan journalist and author, Eduardo Galeano, writes with razor-sharp irony.  He is perhaps the most important living Latin American oppositionist commentator, and his “Open Veins of Latin America,” is a classic, and the first book one should read to learn about that continent’s tragic history of being exploited.  Chavez handed a copy to Obama when they met at an international conference shortly after Obama’s first election victory.  There is no reason to believe that Obama bothered to read it.

 

 

And Other Headlines from an Upside Down History of the U.S. Military and the World

[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books).] 

The Day Mexico Invaded the United States
(March 9)

On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale.

This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England.

In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world.

Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget.

The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.

God’s Bomb
(August 6)

In 1945, while this day was dawning, Hiroshima lost its life. The atomic bomb’s first appearance incinerated this city and its people in an instant.

The few survivors, mutilated sleepwalkers, wandered among the smoking ruins. The burns on their naked bodies carried the stamp of the clothing they were wearing when the explosion hit. On what remained of the walls, the atom bomb’s flash left silhouettes of what had been: a woman with her arms raised, a man, a tethered horse.

Three days later, President Harry Truman spoke about the bomb over the radio.

He said: “We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

Manufacturing Mistakes
(April 20)

It was among the largest military expeditions ever launched in the history of the Caribbean. And it was the greatest blunder.

The dispossessed and evicted owners of Cuba declared from Miami that they were ready to die fighting for devolution, against revolution.

The US government believed them, and their intelligence services once again proved themselves unworthy of the name.

On April 20, 1961, three days after disembarking at the Bay of Pigs, armed to the teeth and backed by warships and planes, these courageous heroes surrendered.

The World Upside Down
(March 20)

On March 20 in the year 2003, Iraq’s air force bombed the United States.

On the heels of the bombs, Iraqi troops invaded U.S. soil.

There was collateral damage. Many civilians, most of them women and children, were killed or maimed. No one knows how many, because tradition dictates tabulating the losses suffered by invading troops and prohibits counting victims among the invaded population.

The war was inevitable. The security of Iraq and of all humanity was threatened by the weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in United States arsenals.

There was no basis, however, to the insidious rumors suggesting that Iraq intended to keep all the oil in Alaska.

Collateral Damage
(June 13)

Around this time in 2010 it came out that more and more US soldiers were committing suicide. It was nearly as common as death in combat.

The Pentagon promised to hire more mental health specialists, already the fastest-growing job classification in the armed forces.

The world is becoming an immense military base, and that base is becoming a mental hospital the size of the world. Inside the nuthouse, which ones are crazy? The soldiers killing themselves or the wars that oblige them to kill?

Operation Geronimo
(May 2)

Geronimo led the Apache resistance in the nineteenth century.

This chief of the invaded earned himself a nasty reputation for driving the invaders crazy with his bravery and brilliance, and in the century that followed he became the baddest bad guy in the West on screen.

Keeping to that tradition, “Operation Geronimo” was the name chosen by the U.S. government for the execution of Osama bin Laden, who was shot and disappeared on this day in 2011.

But what did Geronimo have to do with bin Laden, the delirious caliph cooked up in the image laboratories of the U.S. military? Was Geronimo even remotely like this professional fearmonger who would announce his intention to eat every child raw whenever a U.S. president needed to justify a new war?

The name was not an innocent choice: the U.S. military always considered the Indian warriors who defended their lands and dignity against foreign conquest to be terrorists.

Robots with Wings
(October 13)

Good news. On this day in the year 2011 the world’s military brass announced that drones could continue killing people.

These pilotless planes, crewed by no one, flown by remote control, are in good health: the virus that attacked them was only a passing bother.

As of now, drones have dropped their rain of bombs on defenseless victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Palestine, and their services are expected in other countries.

In the Age of the Almighty Computer, drones are the perfect warriors. They kill without remorse, obey without kidding around, and they never reveal the names of their masters.

War Against Drugs
(October 27)

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan took up the spear that Richard Nixon had raised a few years previous, and the war against drugs received a multimillion-dollar boost.

From that point on, profits escalated for drug traffickers and the big money-laundering banks; more powerful drugs came to kill twice as many people as before; every week a new jail opens in the United States, since the country with the most drug addicts always has room for a few addicts more; Afghanistan, a country invaded and occupied by the United States, became the principal supplier of nearly all the world’s heroin; and the war against drugs, which turned Colombia into one big U.S. military base, is turning Mexico into a demented slaughterhouse.

______________________________________

This post is excerpted from Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History Copyright © 2013 by Eduardo Galeano; translation copyright © 2013 by Mark Fried. Published by Nation Books, A member of the Perseus Group, New York, NY. Originally published in Spanish in 2012 by Siglo XXI Editores, Argentina, and Ediciones Chanchito, Uruguay. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City, and Lamy, N.M. All rights reserved.

Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers.  He is the author of Open Veins of Latin America, the Memory of Fire Trilogy, Mirrors, and many other works. His newest book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books) has just been published in English.  He is the recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the American Book Award, and the Casa de las Américas Prize

The Last Letter March 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I want you to picture Bush and Cheney reading this letter.  Notice the arrogance, the smugness, the disgusting grins as they dismiss these heartfelt letter with less concern than they would flicking an annoying fly of the table.  They are impervious to moral criticism,  they act with virtually complete impunity.  It is frustrating, it is infuriating that so much power is in the hands of such reduced human beings.  It is our present reality.  They coined the phrase “axis of evil.”  Ironic. 

“How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”  Bob Dylan

 

IMG_7389-tomas-young-dig-804-cropped

A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

To read Chris Hedges’ recent interview with Tomas Young, click here.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

 

Dig Continued: Vietnam veteran and peace activist Ron Kovic on what it’s like to be wounded in war.

Iraq invasion ‘the most vile crime against humanity of many of our lifetimes’ March 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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63893

Thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the war on Iraq

By Kevin Baker

The author is a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry who spent a total of 28 months in Iraq.

Millions of Iraqi children have suffered the
death of a close family member at the hands
of the U.S. military, and will forever be
impacted by the trauma of living under a
brutal occupation for nearly a decade.

In the next few minutes, as you’re reading this, a mother will give birth in Fallujah. There is a 33% chance because of U.S.-used depleted uranium that the child will be born with a life-crippling birth defect, or dead; a young man will forge through piles of trash for food to feed his impoverished and displaced family. There are over 5 million displaced Iraqis, high estimates of over 1.3 million killed and an entire country with no secure future. Food, water, power, housing, education, safety, freedom of speech—all words absent from America’s “liberated Iraq.” Most of these events are rarely reported.

Today marks the tenth year “anniversary” of the U.S.-led invasion against the people of Iraq. But this wasn’t the beginning of the U.S. war against the people of Iraq, it began much earlier. The United States has been for over 22 years (and still to this day) torturing the Iraqi people. From the bombing of powdered milk factories to the destruction of water purification facilities, the United States government has targeted the most innocent of Iraqis, their children. 500,000 Iraqi children were executed by the United States in the form of sanctions, embargoes, starvation and bombing campaigns prior to the invasion in 2003.

Today Iraq is in shambles because of the almost decade-long US occupation and war. The majority of Iraqi people do not have access to continued supply of clean water, food, shelter, education, healthcare or security. The current Iraqi government has expressed its concern for the Iraqi people in the form of U.S.- supplied guns, bullets and misery. Peaceful demonstrations against government corruption and injustice are met with deadly violence from the new “democratic” government; organizers are jailed and tortured.

Explosions erupt in crowded cities tearing people and families apart, shattering brick and glass while soaking the streets with blood. The country’s once-united national identity, with no sectarian strife, was consciously demolished and manipulated by the U.S. occupation. The people of Iraq never asked for the U.S. invasion or occupation yet it is them who pay the price for it on a daily basis. For them, the Iraq war didn’t end the day the United States withdrew its occupying forces, for them the Iraq war is still very real.

The harsh reality of daily life for the Iraqi people seems to be missing from the mainstream media. The Bush administration submitted false intelligence reports while lying to the American people about WMD’s. Every piece of “evidence” that the Bush administration had introduced to justify going to war with Iraq is now known to be a lie. However, those that convinced the American people it was in our interests to send our loved ones to war and die are still free today.

In fact, those who lied to the American people sending us to die are now waging a new warfare on those service members they depended on to wager their war. They are waging an economic assaults against the enlisted rank-and-file in the form of exterminating the Tuition Assistance programs. The politicians chant slogans like “Support our Troops” while cutting medical aid to those wounded in their wars, and refusing to respond in any meaningful way to the suicide epidemic. The current Democratic administration continues to send young men and women to kill and be killed in the unpopular Afghanistan war, another war for profit based on lies. If this government does not care about its own service members, why would we buy the line that they care about liberating other nations?

On the tenth tragic anniversary of Iraq we send our deepest and most sincere condolences to the people of Iraq. Words cannot express the sorrow, sadness and regret we have for participating in the imperialists’ war. Every war and every act of aggression by the United States is cloaked in the noble cause of “humanitarian intervention” or “promotion of democracy” or “protecting civilians” as bombs, bullets and sanctions rained down upon the heads of the innocent.

Today we mark this anniversary as the most vile crime against humanity in many of our lifetimes. Until people in the United States see the class character of every U.S.- led war, enlisted service members will be sent to kill and die for the wealthy, and millions of innocent people will bear the brutal violence. It is our role as veterans to unmask and expose the real character of U.S. wars and defend the rights of those targeted by U.S.-aggression.

We will continue to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Iraq, fight the Afghanistan war and every war or “intervention” promoted by this government, and expose imperialism as a system we live under, not a policy. The United States government will not re-write history to fit its agenda. The historical tragedy that is known as the “Iraq War” will be remembered for what it is; an act of illegal aggression by the belligerent force of the United States. Together we will work to insure history does not repeat itself, ever again.

Confronting the lies about the Iraq invasion March 18, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
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Statement by Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq

Confronting the lies about the Iraq invasion

Ten years ago, the United States and Britain invaded Iraq. The history of how this invasion came about has been largely falsified by both the right-wing supporters of the invasion and the liberal commentators who opposed the war.

january-18-2003-washington-dc-antiwar

500,000 rally against looming war on Jan 18, 2003

 

The core argument of the professional liberal commentators and historians is that Bush hoodwinked the country and the general public, with the help of a supplicant media, by scaring people into thinking that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the Bush administration had to invade to defend America and its people.

The fallacious handwringing liberal position was typified in the recent 10th-anniversary account of the war by Micah Sifry, published by the National Memo.

“But 10 years ago, it was not a good time to be a war skeptic in America. It rarely is. The vast majority of ‘smart’ and ‘serious’ people had convinced themselves that in the face of Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, the prudent thing to do was to go to war to remove him from power,” writes Sifry.

This is a fanciful and false account.

The “country” was not hoodwinked. There was no general feeling that the U.S. must strike first or be engulfed by Saddam Hussein’s military.

The opposite was true. The people of this country—and the world—mobilized in unprecedented numbers prior to a military conflict under the banner: “Stop the War Before it Starts.”

An unprecedented, massive anti-war movement

In the months prior to the invasion, I was the central organizer of the mass anti-war actions in Washington, D.C., that brought many hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of the capital in repeated demonstrations—on Oct. 26, 2002; Jan. 18, 2003; and March 15, 2003.

The Jan. 18, 2003, demonstration filled up a vast expanse of the Mall west of the Capitol building, which houses the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Washington Post described the Jan. 18 demonstration as the largest anti-war protest since the end of the Vietnam War.

In addition to the Washington demonstrations, there were mass anti-war protests in cities throughout the United States, on both the east and west coasts and nearly everywhere in between.

Thousands of organizations and millions of individuals were participants and organizers in this grassroots global movement.

On Feb. 15, 2003, there were coinciding demonstrations in more than 1,000 cities in almost every country—including many hundreds of cities and towns in the United States.

The rise of a global anti-war movement of such magnitude—before the actual start of military hostilities—was without precedent in human history. Mass anti-war movements and even revolutions have occurred inside one or more of the warring countries at the time of their defeat or perceived defeat, but the Iraq anti-war movement of 2002-2003 was in anticipation of a war and before the gruesome impact of the slaughter could be seen and felt.

The depth of the movement was breathtaking for the organizers and the participants. Millions went into the streets over and over and over again. They knew that they were in a race against time. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were likewise racing to go to war, not because Iraq was getting stronger or closer to having weapons of mass destruction but because this global grassroots anti-war movement had the potential to shake the political status quo to its very foundations

In February 2003, The New York Times described the global anti-war movement as the world’s “second super-power.”

Why the race toward war

It was under these circumstances that the “mass media” went into overdrive to promote the war. Anti-war voices on television were booted off the air. The airwaves were filled up with the obviously bogus imagery that Iraq in league with unspecified “Muslim terrorists” was about to engulf the United States in a nuclear mushroom cloud. The message was that war was inevitable and that protests were futile.

Bush rushed hundreds of thousands of troops to Kuwait in a race to launch the invasion that they knew was likely to destroy the Iraqi military in a few weeks.

The Democratic Party leaders in Congress had already acquiesced to Bush and Cheney’s war demands. Even though the calls and letters to Congress against the war were running 200 to 1, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, by lopsided margins, passed resolutions on Oct. 11, 2002, authorizing Bush to use the armed forces of the United States against Iraq.

The Iraq invasion was a criminal enterprise. Millions of Iraqis died, more than five million were forced into the miserable life of refugees, thousands of U.S. troops were killed and tens of thousands of others suffered life-changing physical and mental injuries.

Today, Bush and Cheney are writing books and collecting huge speaking fees. They are shielded from prosecution by the current Democratic-led government.

The war in Iraq was not simply a “mistake” nor was it the consequence of a hoodwinked public. It was rather a symptom of the primary reality of the modern-day political system in the U.S. This system is addicted to war. It relies on organized violence, or the threat of violence, to maintain the dominant position of the United States all over the world. The U.S. has invaded or bombed one country after another since the end of the so-called Cold War. It has military bases in 130 countries and spends more on lethal violence than all other countries combined. Yes, in the United States the adult population is encouraged to vote every two or four years for one of two ruling-class parties that enforce the global projection of U.S. empire with equal vigor when they take turns at the helm. And this is labeled the exercise of “democracy” and proof that the United States is indeed the land of the free.

The invasion of Iraq succeeded in creating mass human suffering and death. What Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld failed to anticipate was that the Iraqi people, like all people everywhere, would never willingly accept life under occupation. It was the unanticipated resistance of the Iraqi people that eventually forced the withdrawal of the occupation forces nine long years later.

Brian Becker was the lead organizer of the largest anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., between Oct. 26, 2002, and the start of the Iraq invasion on March 19, 2003. The October demonstration drew 200,000 people. Less than two months later, on Jan. 18, 2003, approximately 500,000 demonstrated again in what the Washington Post called the “largest anti-war demonstration” in Washington, D.C., since the end of the Vietnam War. On Feb. 15, 2003, millions of people demonstrated in nearly 1,000 cities around the world, including several hundred cities and towns in the United States. On March 15, just four days before the start of the invasion, 100,000 demonstrated once gain in Washington, D.C.

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Haditha massacre: Covering up war crimes in a criminal war January 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Falsifying history in the service of Empire

The Pentagon has decided that U.S. Marines who killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005, will serve no jail time.

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

If only Private Bradley Manning had slaughtered innocent Iraqi civilians he would have been set free by the Pentagon. The Pentagon brass has kept Manning locked up for 21 months. They say that he leaked the 2007 video of a U.S. helicopter gunship massacring Iraqi civilians and journalists. Manning is facing life in prison for allegedly releasing classified documents and information to WikiLeaks that revealed U.S. war crimes.

In contrast, the Pentagon decided on Jan. 23, 2012, that there will be no jail time for any of the U.S. Marines who systematically and deliberately slaughtered 24 Iraqi civilians in their homes in Haditha, Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005. This was not a battle. They entered the homes of unarmed civilians at night and murdered children and their moms, dads and grandparents. The murdered were in their pajamas.

The superior officers of the rampaging Marines in Haditha lied and covered up the crime. The Pentagon brass, then under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, knew about the massacre and covered it up as well. A Pentagon statement issued just after the Haditha massacre described the incident as an insurgent ambush on a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol that left insurgents, civilians and U.S. troops dead.

If only Private Bradley Manning had slaughtered innocent Iraqi civilians he would have been set free by the Pentagon.

That the Pentagon lied about this war crime should be understood as the norm and not an exception. All Iraqis were seen as the enemy or potential enemy. Indeed, Iraqis from across the political and religious spectrum opposed the occupation of their country. As in the Vietnam War, rampant racism allowed occupying forces to treat the occupied people as less than human. For those involved it was just one more war crime in a criminal war.

The truth about the massacre came out when investigative journalist Tim McGirk broke the story in Time Magazine in March 2006. McGirk had been in contact with an Iraqi human rights organization that provided a video of the aftermath of the massacre. The evidence revealed the bodies of bloodied children in their pajamas, killed in their homes by grenades and direct gunfire.

The trial of the Marine unit’s leader, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was facing life in prison for the massacre, came to an abrupt end this week when he accepted the Pentagon prosecutor’s plea offer. In return for pleading guilty to negligent dereliction of duty, Wuterich was demoted in rank and will have his pay level reduced. Earlier, six other Marines had their charges for their roles in the massacre dropped, and one was acquitted. Those who carried out this known and documented war crime will suffer no real punishment at all.

Even if these individual Marines had been convicted, however, the big shot war criminals—both in and out of uniform—who ordered the invasion and occupation of Iraq, who authorized and institutionalized torture, secret prisons and targeted assassinations, have never been charged for their crimes.

This is part of an unspoken bipartisan agreement between the two parties of imperialism. Both Republican and Democratic administrations are unofficially immunized for any crime committed in the service of the U.S. global empire.

Exposing Pentagon lies

Iraq was torn apart by the U.S. war of aggression. No one knows for certain how many Iraqis perished, but it is minimally in the hundreds of thousands, and probably well over 1 million. Many more suffered grievous wounds. More than 5 million became internal and external refugees. A whole generation of Iraqi children suffered the trauma of living through a decade of war. Every family faced the fear and terror of simply driving up to a U.S.-staffed checkpoint in their own city or town. The rules of engagement for nervous U.S. soldiers was “shoot first, ask questions later.” After all, U.S. casualties inflamed anti-war sentiment at home, while Iraqi casualties were not even a brief media blip.

U.S. crimes in Iraq are being whitewashed inside the United States. Not only were Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld shielded from prosecution by the Obama administration, but the semi-official narrative of the war can only be described as an example of falsification and national chauvinism.

When President Obama spoke to announce the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December 2011, he chose to speak at the military base in Fort Bragg to thousands of assembled soldiers. The speech was widely publicized and his version of history was designed to reach into homes throughout the United States.

He paid tribute to the suffering of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but did not say anything about the Haditha massacre, the destruction of the city of Fallujah, the torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison, or the multiple other episodes that are permanently imprinted on the consciousness of the Iraqi people. That comes as no surprise. But President Obama’s speech did not include even one word about the suffering of Iraqis from the war.

He said, “We know too well the heavy cost of this war. More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq—1.5 million. Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded, and those are only the wounds that show. Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice—including 202 fallen heroes from here at Fort Bragg—202. So today, we pause to say a prayer for all those families who have lost their loved ones, for they are part of our broader American family. We grieve with them.”

The attempt to omit from history the pain and suffering—as well as the heroic resistance—of the Iraqi people must be challenged and contested. This falsified history is a prescription for promoting national chauvinism in the broader population. Such consciousness is useful for the Pentagon and the Military-Industrial Complex as they continue the era of endless imperialist war. We need to tell the truth about Iraq and expose the lies of the Pentagon.

Instead of endless war and occupation on behalf of capitalism and imperialism, we promote a program of international solidarity. Millions of people in the United States recognize that the war and occupation are great crimes. They support the demand that Iraq be paid reparations by the U.S. government for the wanton acts of death and destruction inflicted by the invading forces.

Also read: The Logic of War Crimes in a Criminal War, written by Brian Becker and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard in 2006.

The ANSWER Coalition is organizing every day all over the country against war, racism and economic injustice. Please make an urgently needed donation now to support this critical work.

 

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Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths December 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, Political Commentary.
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Etiquette-based prohibitions on speaking ill of the dead should apply to private individuals, not public figures

By Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com, December 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2005 file photo, British essayist Christopher Hitchens speaks during a debate in New York.  (AP Photo/Chad Rachman, File) (Credit: Associated Press)

One of the most intensely propagandistic weeks in the last several decades began on June 5, 2004, the day Ronald Reagan died at the age of 93 in Bel Air, California. For the next six days, his body was transported to, and his casket displayed in, multiple venues around the nation — first to a funeral home in Santa Monica; then to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it remained for two full days as over 100,000 people paid their respects; then onto the U.S. Capitol, where his casket was taken by horse-drawn caisson along Constitution Avenue, and then lay in state under the dome for the next day-and-a-half; then to a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral presided over by President Bush and attended by dozens of past and present world leaders; and then back to the Presidential Library in California, where another service was held and his body finally interred. Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death; as CNN anchor Judy Woodruff observed the day Reagan’s body arrived in the capital: “Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.”

Each one of those mournful events was nationally televised and drenched in somber, intense pageantry. At the center of it all was the prominently displayed grief of his second wife, Nancy, to whom he was married for 52 years. The iconic moment of the week-long national funeral occurred on the last day, at the internment, when she broke down for the first time and famously hugged and kissed her husband’s casket, while holding a folded American flag, seemingly unwilling to let him go immediately before his body was lowered into the ground.

But the most notable aspect of that intense public ritual was the full-scale canonization of this deeply controversial, divisive and consequential political figure. Americans — including millions too young to remember his presidency — were bombarded with a full week of media discussions which completely whitewashed Reagan’s actions in office: that which made him an important enough historical figure to render his death worthy of such worldwide attention in the first place. There was a virtual media prohibition on expressing a single critical utterance about what he did as President and any harm that he caused. That’s not because the elegies to Reagan were apolitical — they were aggressively political — but because nothing undercutting his deification was permitted. Typifying the unbroken,week-long media tone of reverence was this from Woodruff at the start of CNN’s broadcast on the day Reagan’s casket arrived in Washington:

We are witnessing a moment in history, a moment when this city, which is hustle-bustle personified, a city where people fiercely protect their interests and lobby for the issues that matter most to them, all that is put aside, politics is put aside, while we pay respects and deep honor to this president, who literally changed a generation, if not more, of American students of politics.

I have talked to so many young people over the last few days who came up to me and said, I started paying attention to politics because of Ronald Reagan.

Just a little while ago, I was talking with Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House. He, I got into politics. He said, I ran to be chairman of the my precinct. He said, I was a businessman. I was running an insects — he called it a bug business. It was insect removal. And he said, Ronald Reagan inspired me to get into politics. I’d been sitting around griping, and he was the one. He gave me reason to get involved and to think that we could make a difference.”

So he changed, he inspired, and we now have a chance today and through this whole week to take note of him.

The key claim there was that “politics is put aside.” That’s precisely what did not happen. The entire spectacle was political to its core. Following Woodruff’s proclamation were funeral speeches, all broadcast by CNN, by then-House Speaker Denny Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney hailing the former President for gifting the nation with peace and prosperity, rejuvenating national greatness, and winning the Cold War. This scene repeated itself over and over during that week: extremely politicized tributes to the greatness of Ronald Reagan continuously broadcast to the nation without challenge and endorsed by its “neutral” media — all shielded from refutation or balance by the grief of a widow and social mores that bar one from speaking ill of the dead.

That week forever changed how Ronald Reagan — and his conservative ideology — were perceived. As Gallup put it in 2004: Reagan had, at best, “routinely average ratings . . . while he served in office between 1981 and 1989.” Indeed, “the two presidents who followed Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, each had higher average ratings than Reagan, as did three earlier presidents — Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower.”

Though he became more popular after leaving office (like most Presidents), it was that week-long bombardment of hagiography that sealed Reagan’s status as Great and Cherished Leader. As media and political figures lavished him with politicized praise, there was virtually no mention of the brutal, civilian-extinguishing covert wars he waged in Central America, his funding of terrorists in Nicaragua, the pervasive illegality of the Iran-contra scandal perpetrated by his top aides and possibly himself, the explosion of wealth and income inequality ushered in by “Reagonmics” which persists today, his escalation of the racially disparate Drug War, his slashing of domestic programs for the poor accompanied by a deficit-causing build-up in the military budget, the racially-tinged (at least) attacks on welfare-queens-in-Cadillacs, the Savings & Loan crisis resulting from deregulation, his refusal even to acknowledge AIDS as tens of thousands of the Wrong People died, the training of Muslim radicals in Afghanistan and arming of the Iranian regime, the attempt to appoint the radical Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, or virtually anything else that would undermine the canonization. The country was drowned by a full, uninterrupted week of pure, leader-reverent propaganda.

This happened because of an unhealthy conflation of appropriate post-death etiquette for private persons and the etiquette governing deaths of public figures. They are not and should not be the same. We are all taught that it is impolite to speak ill of the dead, particularly in the immediate aftermath of someone’s death. For a private person, in a private setting, that makes perfect sense. Most human beings are complex and shaped by conflicting drives, defined by both good and bad acts. That’s more or less what it means to be human. And — when it comes to private individuals — it’s entirely appropriate to emphasize the positives of someone’s life and avoid criticisms upon their death: it comforts their grieving loved ones and honors their memory. In that context, there’s just no reason, no benefit, to highlight their flaws.

But that is completely inapplicable to the death of a public person, especially one who is political. When someone dies who is a public figure by virtue of their political acts — like Ronald Reagan — discussions of them upon death will be inherently politicized. How they are remembered is not strictly a matter of the sensitivities of their loved ones, but has substantial impact on the culture which discusses their lives. To allow significant political figures to be heralded with purely one-sided requiems — enforced by misguided (even if well-intentioned) notions of private etiquette that bar discussions of their bad acts — is not a matter of politeness; it’s deceitful and propagandistic. To exploit the sentiments of sympathy produced by death to enshrine a political figure as Great and Noble is to sanction, or at best minimize, their sins. Misapplying private death etiquette to public figures creates false history and glorifies the ignoble.

* * * * *

All of this was triggered for me by the death this week of Christopher Hitchens and the remarkably undiluted, intense praise lavished on him by media discussions. Part of this is explained by the fact that Hitchens — like other long-time media figures, such as Tim Russert — had personal interactions with huge numbers of media figures who are shaping how he is remembered in death. That’s understandable: it’s difficult for any human being to ignore personal feelings, and it’s even more difficult in the face of the tragic death of a vibrant person at a much younger age than is normal.

But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writing but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent.

Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket  (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it. As one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell, put it perfectly in Homage to Catalonia about the anti-fascist, tough-guy war writers of his time:

As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.

The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.

I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them. As Robin put it:

Hitchens had a reputation for being an internationalist. Yet someone who gets excited by mass murder—and then invokes that excitement, to a waiting audience, as an explanation of his support for mass murder—is not an internationalist.  He is a narcissist, the most provincial spirit of all.

Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker‘s John Cook, who — in an extremely well-written and poignant obituary – detailed Hitchens’ vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being “sluts” and “fucking fat slags” for the crime of mildly disparaging the Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”; indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.”

Subordinating his brave and intellectually rigorous defense of atheism, Hitchens’ glee over violence, bloodshed, and perpetual war dominated the last decade of his life. Dennis Perrin, a friend and former protégée of Hitchens, described all the way back in 2003 how Hitchens’ virtues as a writer and thinker were fully swamped by his pulsating excitement over war and the Bush/Cheney imperial agenda:

I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he’s now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.

In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with “Just you wait!” and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets–with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he’d always said so. It’s amazing that he’d dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won’t care.

Currently, Hitch is pushing the line, in language that echoes the reactionary Paul Johnson, that the U.S. can be a “superpower for democracy,” and that Toms Jefferson [sic] and Paine would approve. He’s also slammed the “slut” Dixie Chicks as “fucking fat slags” for their rather mild critique of our Dear Leader. He favors Bush over Kerry, and doesn’t like it that Kerry ”exploits” his Vietnam combat experience (as opposed to, say, re-election campaign stunts on aircraft carriers).

Sweet Jesus. What next? I’m afraid my old mentor is not the truth-telling Orwell he fancies himself to be. He’s becoming a coarser version of Norman Podhoretz.

One of the last political essays he wrote in his life, for Slate, celebrated the virtues of Endless War.

* * * * *

Nobody should have to silently watch someone with this history be converted into some sort of universally beloved literary saint. To enshrine him as worthy of unalloyed admiration is to insist that these actions were either themselves commendable or, at worst, insignificant. Nobody who writes about politics for decades will be entirely free of serious error, but how serious the error is, whether it reflects on their character, and whether they came to regret it, are all vital parts of honestly describing and assessing their work. To demand its exclusion is an act of dishonesty.

Nor should anyone be deterred by the manipulative, somewhat tyrannical use of sympathy: designed to render any post-death criticisms gauche and forbidden. Those hailing Hitchens’ greatness are engaged in a very public, affirmative, politically consequential effort to depict him as someone worthy of homage. That’s fine: Hitchens, like most people, did have admirable traits, impressive accomplishments, genuine talents and a periodic willingness to expose himself to danger to report on issues about which he was writing. But demanding in the name of politeness or civility that none of that be balanced or refuted by other facts is to demand a monopoly on how a consequential figure is remembered, to demand a license to propagandize — exactly what was done when the awful, power-worshipping TV host, Tim Russert, died, and we were all supposed to pretend that we had lost some Great Journalist, a pretense that had the distorting effect of equating Russert’s attributes of mindless subservience to the powerful with Good Journalism (ironically, Hitchens was the last person who would honor the etiquette rules being invoked on his behalf: he savaged (perfectly appropriately) Mother Theresa and Princess Diana, among others, upon their death, even as millions mourned them).

There’s one other aspect to the adulation of Hitchens that’s quite revealing. There seems to be this sense that his excellent facility with prose excuses his sins. Part of that is the by-product of America’s refusal to come to terms with just how heinous and destructive was the attack on Iraq. That act of aggression is still viewed as a mere run-of-the-mill “mistake” — hey, we all make them, so we shouldn’t hold it against Hitch – rather than what it is: the generation’s worst political crime, one for which he remained fully unrepentant and even proud. But what these paeans to Hitchens reflect even more so is the warped values of our political and media culture: once someone is sufficiently embedded within that circle, they are intrinsically worthy of admiration and respect, no matter what it is that they actually do. As Aaron Bady put it to me by email yesterday:

I go back to something Judith Butler’s been saying for years; some lives are grievable and some are not. And in that context, publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.

That’s precisely true. The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role, in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class. It’s a way the political and media class protects and celebrates itself: our elite members are to be heralded and their victims forgotten. One is, of course, free to believe that. But what should not be tolerated are prohibitions on these types of discussions when highly misleading elegies are being publicly implanted, all in order to consecrate someone’s reputation for noble greatness even when their acts are squarely at odds with that effort.

Glenn Greenwald
Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

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  • navamskeSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 9:42 am

Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death; as CNN anchor Judy Woodruff observed the day Reagan’s body arrived in the capital: “Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.”

I wonder if Woodruff thought she was commenting pithily on what might charitably be called the pageantry, because that was simply a factual statement: Prior to Reagan, the last state funeral for a president was that of Lyndon Johnson, in 1973. (Richard Nixon, who died in 1994, didn’t get a state funeral — as per his own wishes, I believe, and not because he was, you know, a crook.) LBJ’s funeral wasn’t choreographed down to the last detail as Reagan’s was — how serendipitous that the closing moments of the spectacle coincided with the setting of the sun over the 40th president’s tomb and the Pacific beyond — so perhaps Woodruff could have commented on that aspect.

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:08 am

I seem to recall JFK’s funeral was fairly dramatic too.

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  • Starogo
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:40 am

JFK was murdered while in office. Reagan died an old man well after his presidency was over. How could you even compare the two?

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

To rebut the following: “Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death.”  Don’t get me wrong, as I am saying that JFK’s funeral was much more dramatic, being the first such event broadcast world-wide via live television.  As you point out, that was for an assassinated President (Lincoln’s slow train ride back to Illinois also comes to mind), but Washington’s funeral procession was just as comparable, if not more so.

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  • Idiotland
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 12:26 am

Forever and always, living in a self deluded bubble.

  • navamskeSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

I seem to recall JFK’s funeral was fairly dramatic too.

Choreographed. Dramatic. Two different words, two different meanings. Capiche?

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

Again, I wasn’t the one to claim: “Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death.” Perhaps your beef is with the author of those words instead of me?

  • navamskeSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Perhaps your beef is with the author of those words instead of me?

No.

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Few doesn’t mean none, douchebag

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It will be so sad when Jimmy Carter goes.  Oh, the humanity!

  • OliverSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

I scarcely know where to begin.  So I’ll just remark that yours is among the most cogent and thoughtful columns I’ve ever read… “Cogent” because it is lens through which so much of the past decade (+) comes into focus; and “thoughtful” because it skips the reflexive in favor of the insight.

Thanks Glenn. You make a difference.

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:35 am

I took my 2-year old son to Simi Valley that next day, and we waited in a huge line for a bus to take us to the Ronald Reagan Library so we could pay our respects.  Hitchens won’t get anything close to that.

  • BeleckSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

Pay your respects to Reagan?

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:55 am

Yes.

In the interest of consolidating my comments into a single post, you’re welcome, Glenn. To talesofunrest: no, and I don’t hate America.

As for namvaske, do you also think that no other US President has received the following?

“For the next six days, his body was transported to, and his casket displayed in, multiple venues around the nation — first to a funeral home in Santa Monica; then to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it remained for two full days as over 100,000 people paid their respects; then onto the U.S. Capitol, where his casket was taken by horse-drawn caisson along Constitution Avenue, and then lay in state under the dome for the next day-and-a-half; then to a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral presided over by President Bush and attended by dozens of past and present world leaders; and then back to the Presidential Library in California, where another service was held and his body finally interred.”

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  • okieprof
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 12:38 am

I sent a small piece, mildly critical of Reagan to the faculty where I teach a few days after his death. It was personally polite, but critical of many of his policies. It asked where the morning was for the dead in Central America, AIDS victims, etc.

I’ve sent a lot of emails to that faculty over the years, before and since. And I’ve never had such a large and harsh response from so many so called liberals. How dare one speak ill of St. Ronnie? While I received as many responses in support, it was shocking to me just how many people buy into the notion Glenn describes.

And let’s be clear. “Speak no ill of dead Reagan” IS a covert endorsement of his politics in much the same way as “support the troops” is really just an endorsement for war. I’ll believe people are sincere in their speak no ill of the dead ethos when they apply it to bin Laden or another leader opposed to right-wing American interests (just wait until Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Noam Chomsky, or Jane Fonda dies…I’m betting no such hagiographic love fest). I’ll believe they support the troops when they quit passing anti-homeless ordinances which disproportionately effect vets and when they start supporting ALL the troops, including Ehren Watada and Bradley Manning.

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  • okieprof
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Ick, mourning.

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Great and thoughtful post.  Worthy of Hitchens’ own critique of Reagan and his ‘rictus of senile fury’ in his 2004 Slate piece ‘Not Even A Hedgehog’, which he later softened in February of this year with his follow-up, ‘Would America Have Been Better Off Without A Reagan Presidency?’.

Nudnik alert: shouldn’t “internment” be interment(?):

“The iconic moment of the week-long national funeral occurred on the last day, at the internment, when she broke down for the first time and famously hugged and kissed her husband’s casket, while holding a folded American flag, seemingly unwilling to let him go immediately before his body was lowered into the ground.”

Ibn al Rahman

  • PedinskaSalon Core Member
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:59 am

Re: “internment”.

That’s what you call one of them Freudidlian slippages. ;-}

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  • Clawrence3
  • Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:04 am

So we can all agree that Hitchens was a miscarriage then?

One of the clearest examples I know of for the ritual and protocol is in the reactions to the deaths of Edward Said and George Plimpton, who died on thesame day — 25 September 2003. Plimpton, a figure of little if any lasting note but threatening to none and obedient sycophant when power required, was hailed with unalloyed, glowing words across the spectrum.

Said, by contrast, was treated very cautiously, when he was treated well. Plenty — including Christopher Hitchens, who had once been a friend of Said’s — excoriated Said in vicious, often deceptive if not outright false language.

Astonishingly, something similar happened when the genuinely great political philosopher John Rawls died. Rawls was no progressive, but his theories seemed to carry pretty straightforward liberal, redistributive implications. The first New York Times obit to run described some of his views as “nonsense” (the Times’s own words). Wow. It took several days, an op-ed obit by (the now pro-torture) philosopher Martha Nussbaum to alter the tone on Rawls.

Look at the treatment of other genuine iconoclastic humanitarians and you will see no concern in the mainstream to treat them with respect in death.

Then, of course, there are the cases of people like Yasir Arafat, treatment with something approaching contempt by The New York Times and NPR. Okay. Maybe the man was ultimately contemptible. But why war criminals like Menachem Begin or Rehavam Zeevi or Ronald Reagan should be treated so gently tells us more about the toadying sycophants of mainstream media, Washington and academia than it does about those who have died.

One of the most intensely propagandistic weeks in the last several decades began on June 5, 2004, the day Ronald Reagan died at the age of 93 in Bel Air, California. For the next six days, his body was transported to, and his casket displayed in, multiple venues around the nation — first to a funeral home in Santa Monica; then to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it remained for two full days as over 100,000 people paid their respects; then onto the U.S. Capitol, where his casket was taken by horse-drawn caisson along Constitution Avenue, and then lay in state under the dome for the next day-and-a-half; then to a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral presided over by President Bush and attended by dozens of past and present world leaders; and then back to the Presidential Library in California, where another service was held and his body finally interred. Few U.S. Presidents in history, if any, have received anything comparable upon their death; as CNN anchor Judy Woodruff observed the day Reagan’s body arrived in the capital: “Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.”

Each one of those mournful events was nationally televised and drenched in somber, intense pageantry. At the center of it all was the prominently displayed grief of his second wife, Nancy, to whom he was married for 52 years. The iconic moment of the week-long national funeral occurred on the last day, at the internment, when she broke down for the first time and famously hugged and kissed her husband’s casket, while holding a folded American flag, seemingly unwilling to let him go immediately before his body was lowered into the ground.

But the most notable aspect of that intense public ritual was the full-scale canonization of this deeply controversial, divisive and consequential political figure. Americans — including millions too young to remember his presidency — were bombarded with a full week of media discussions which completely whitewashed Reagan’s actions in office: that which made him an important enough historical figure to render his death worthy of such worldwide attention in the first place. There was a virtual media prohibition on expressing a single critical utterance about what he did as President and any harm that he caused. That’s not because the elegies to Reagan were apolitical — they were aggressively political — but because nothing undercutting his deification was permitted. Typifying the unbroken,week-long media tone of reverence was this from Woodruff at the start of CNN’s broadcast on the day Reagan’s casket arrived in Washington:

We are witnessing a moment in history, a moment when this city, which is hustle-bustle personified, a city where people fiercely protect their interests and lobby for the issues that matter most to them, all that is put aside, politics is put aside, while we pay respects and deep honor to this president, who literally changed a generation, if not more, of American students of politics.

I have talked to so many young people over the last few days who came up to me and said, I started paying attention to politics because of Ronald Reagan.

Just a little while ago, I was talking with Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House. He, I got into politics. He said, I ran to be chairman of the my precinct. He said, I was a businessman. I was running an insects — he called it a bug business. It was insect removal. And he said, Ronald Reagan inspired me to get into politics. I’d been sitting around griping, and he was the one. He gave me reason to get involved and to think that we could make a difference.”

So he changed, he inspired, and we now have a chance today and through this whole week to take note of him.

The key claim there was that “politics is put aside.” That’s precisely what did not happen. The entire spectacle was political to its core. Following Woodruff’s proclamation were funeral speeches, all broadcast by CNN, by then-House Speaker Denny Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney hailing the former President for gifting the nation with peace and prosperity, rejuvenating national greatness, and winning the Cold War. This scene repeated itself over and over during that week: extremely politicized tributes to the greatness of Ronald Reagan continuously broadcast to the nation without challenge and endorsed by its “neutral” media — all shielded from refutation or balance by the grief of a widow and social mores that bar one from speaking ill of the dead.

That week forever changed how Ronald Reagan — and his conservative ideology — were perceived. As Gallup put it in 2004: Reagan had, at best, “routinely average ratings . . . while he served in office between 1981 and 1989.” Indeed, “the two presidents who followed Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, each had higher average ratings than Reagan, as did three earlier presidents — Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower.”

Though he became more popular after leaving office (like most Presidents), it was that week-long bombardment of hagiography that sealed Reagan’s status as Great and Cherished Leader. As media and political figures lavished him with politicized praise, there was virtually no mention of the brutal, civilian-extinguishing covert wars he waged in Central America, his funding of terrorists in Nicaragua, the pervasive illegality of the Iran-contra scandal perpetrated by his top aides and possibly himself, the explosion of wealth and income inequality ushered in by “Reagonmics” which persists today, his escalation of the racially disparate Drug War, his slashing of domestic programs for the poor accompanied by a deficit-causing build-up in the military budget, the racially-tinged (at least) attacks on welfare-queens-in-Cadillacs, the Savings & Loan crisis resulting from deregulation, his refusal even to acknowledge AIDS as tens of thousands of the Wrong People died, the training of Muslim radicals in Afghanistan and arming of the Iranian regime, the attempt to appoint the radical Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, or virtually anything else that would undermine the canonization. The country was drowned by a full, uninterrupted week of pure, leader-reverent propaganda.

This happened because of an unhealthy conflation of appropriate post-death etiquette for private persons and the etiquette governing deaths of public figures. They are not and should not be the same. We are all taught that it is impolite to speak ill of the dead, particularly in the immediate aftermath of someone’s death. For a private person, in a private setting, that makes perfect sense. Most human beings are complex and shaped by conflicting drives, defined by both good and bad acts. That’s more or less what it means to be human. And — when it comes to private individuals — it’s entirely appropriate to emphasize the positives of someone’s life and avoid criticisms upon their death: it comforts their grieving loved ones and honors their memory. In that context, there’s just no reason, no benefit, to highlight their flaws.

But that is completely inapplicable to the death of a public person, especially one who is political. When someone dies who is a public figure by virtue of their political acts — like Ronald Reagan — discussions of them upon death will be inherently politicized. How they are remembered is not strictly a matter of the sensitivities of their loved ones, but has substantial impact on the culture which discusses their lives. To allow significant political figures to be heralded with purely one-sided requiems — enforced by misguided (even if well-intentioned) notions of private etiquette that bar discussions of their bad acts — is not a matter of politeness; it’s deceitful and propagandistic. To exploit the sentiments of sympathy produced by death to enshrine a political figure as Great and Noble is to sanction, or at best minimize, their sins. Misapplying private death etiquette to public figures creates false history and glorifies the ignoble.

* * * * *

All of this was triggered for me by the death this week of Christopher Hitchens and the remarkably undiluted, intense praise lavished on him by media discussions. Part of this is explained by the fact that Hitchens — like other long-time media figures, such as Tim Russert — had personal interactions with huge numbers of media figures who are shaping how he is remembered in death. That’s understandable: it’s difficult for any human being to ignore personal feelings, and it’s even more difficult in the face of the tragic death of a vibrant person at a much younger age than is normal.

But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writing but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent.

Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket  (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it. As one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell, put it perfectly in Homage to Catalonia about the anti-fascist, tough-guy war writers of his time:

As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.

The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.

I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them. As Robin put it:

Hitchens had a reputation for being an internationalist. Yet someone who gets excited by mass murder—and then invokes that excitement, to a waiting audience, as an explanation of his support for mass murder—is not an internationalist.  He is a narcissist, the most provincial spirit of all.

Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker‘s John Cook, who — in an extremely well-written and poignant obituary – detailed Hitchens’ vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being “sluts” and “fucking fat slags” for the crime of mildly disparaging the Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”; indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.”

Subordinating his brave and intellectually rigorous defense of atheism, Hitchens’ glee over violence, bloodshed, and perpetual war dominated the last decade of his life. Dennis Perrin, a friend and former protégée of Hitchens, described all the way back in 2003 how Hitchens’ virtues as a writer and thinker were fully swamped by his pulsating excitement over war and the Bush/Cheney imperial agenda:

I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he’s now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.

In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with “Just you wait!” and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets–with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he’d always said so. It’s amazing that he’d dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won’t care.

Currently, Hitch is pushing the line, in language that echoes the reactionary Paul Johnson, that the U.S. can be a “superpower for democracy,” and that Toms Jefferson [sic] and Paine would approve. He’s also slammed the “slut” Dixie Chicks as “fucking fat slags” for their rather mild critique of our Dear Leader. He favors Bush over Kerry, and doesn’t like it that Kerry ”exploits” his Vietnam combat experience (as opposed to, say, re-election campaign stunts on aircraft carriers).

Sweet Jesus. What next? I’m afraid my old mentor is not the truth-telling Orwell he fancies himself to be. He’s becoming a coarser version of Norman Podhoretz.

One of the last political essays he wrote in his life, for Slate, celebrated the virtues of Endless War.

* * * * *

Nobody should have to silently watch someone with this history be converted into some sort of universally beloved literary saint. To enshrine him as worthy of unalloyed admiration is to insist that these actions were either themselves commendable or, at worst, insignificant. Nobody who writes about politics for decades will be entirely free of serious error, but how serious the error is, whether it reflects on their character, and whether they came to regret it, are all vital parts of honestly describing and assessing their work. To demand its exclusion is an act of dishonesty.

Nor should anyone be deterred by the manipulative, somewhat tyrannical use of sympathy: designed to render any post-death criticisms gauche and forbidden. Those hailing Hitchens’ greatness are engaged in a very public, affirmative, politically consequential effort to depict him as someone worthy of homage. That’s fine: Hitchens, like most people, did have admirable traits, impressive accomplishments, genuine talents and a periodic willingness to expose himself to danger to report on issues about which he was writing. But demanding in the name of politeness or civility that none of that be balanced or refuted by other facts is to demand a monopoly on how a consequential figure is remembered, to demand a license to propagandize — exactly what was done when the awful, power-worshipping TV host, Tim Russert, died, and we were all supposed to pretend that we had lost some Great Journalist, a pretense that had the distorting effect of equating Russert’s attributes of mindless subservience to the powerful with Good Journalism (ironically, Hitchens was the last person who would honor the etiquette rules being invoked on his behalf: he savaged (perfectly appropriately) Mother Theresa and Princess Diana, among others, upon their death, even as millions mourned them).

There’s one other aspect to the adulation of Hitchens that’s quite revealing. There seems to be this sense that his excellent facility with prose excuses his sins. Part of that is the by-product of America’s refusal to come to terms with just how heinous and destructive was the attack on Iraq. That act of aggression is still viewed as a mere run-of-the-mill “mistake” — hey, we all make them, so we shouldn’t hold it against Hitch – rather than what it is: the generation’s worst political crime, one for which he remained fully unrepentant and even proud. But what these paeans to Hitchens reflect even more so is the warped values of our political and media culture: once someone is sufficiently embedded within that circle, they are intrinsically worthy of admiration and respect, no matter what it is that they actually do. As Aaron Bady put it to me by email yesterday:

I go back to something Judith Butler’s been saying for years; some lives are grievable and some are not. And in that context, publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.

That’s precisely true. The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role, in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class. It’s a way the political and media class protects and celebrates itself: our elite members are to be heralded and their victims forgotten. One is, of course, free to believe that. But what should not be tolerated are prohibitions on these types of discussions when highly misleading elegies are being publicly implanted, all in order to consecrate someone’s reputation for noble greatness even when their acts are squarely at odds with that effort.

Glenn Greenwald
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The real definition of Terrorism December 11, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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By Glenn Greenwald

www.salon.com, December 10, 2011
 The FBI yesterday announced it has secured an indictment against Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a 38-year-old citizen of Iraq currently in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking his extradition. The headline on the FBI’s Press Release tells the basic story: “Alleged Terrorist Indicted in New York for the Murder of Five American Soldiers.” The criminal complaint previously filed under seal provides the details: ‘Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Here is how the complaint, in the first paragraph, summarizes the Terrorism charge against ‘Isa:

By “outside of the United States,” the Government means: inside Iraq, ‘Isa’s country. The bulk of the complaint details conversations ‘Isa allegedly had over the Internet, while he was in Canada, with several Tunisians who wanted to engage in suicide attacks aimed at American troops in Iraq; he is not alleged to have organized the Mosul attack but merely to have provided political and religious encouragement (the network of which he was allegedly a part also carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, though ‘Isa’s alleged involvement is confined to the attack on the U.S. military base that killed the 5 soldiers along with several Iraqis, and the Terrorism indictment is based solely on the deaths of the U.S. soldiers).

In an effort to depict him as a crazed, Terrorist fanatic, the complaint includes this description of conversations he had while being monitored:

Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes: they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?

Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist. That’s because it is an inherent American right to invade or occupy whomever it wants and only a Terrorist would resist (to see one vivid (and darkly humorous) expression of this pathological, imperial entitlement, see this casual speculation from a neocon law professor at Cornell that Iran may have committed an “act of war” if it brought down the American drone that entered its airspace and hovered over its soil without permission: “if it is true, as the Iranians claim, that the drone did not fall by accident but was brought down by Iranian electronic means, then isn’t that already an act of war?”).

It’s one thing to condemn ‘Isa’s actions on moral or ethical grounds: one could argue, I suppose, that the solemn duty of every Iraqi was to respectfully treat the American invaders as honored (albeit uninvited) guests, or at least to cede to invading American troops the monopoly on violence. But it’s another thing entirely to label someone who does choose to fight back as a “Terrorist” and prosecute them as such under charges that entail life in prison (by contrast: an Israeli soldier yesterday killed a Palestinian protester in a small West Bank village that has had much of its land appropriated by Israeli settlers, by shooting him in the face at relatively close range with a tear gas cannister, while an Israeli plane attacked a civilian home in Gaza and killed a father and his young son while injuring several other children; acts like that, or the countless acts of reckless or even deliberate slaughter of civilians by Americans, must never be deemed Terrorism).

Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who were accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.

This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.

Lies We Still Tell Ourselves about 9/11 September 3, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11.
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Published on Saturday, September 3, 2011 by The Independent/UK

 

Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears?

  by  Robert Fisk

By their books, ye shall know them.

I’m talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard, others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few (from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as “boys”, almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street crime: the motive.

Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem out there?

American publishers first went to war in 2001 with massive photo-memorial volumes. Their titles spoke for themselves: Above Hallowed Ground, So Others Might Live, Strong of Heart, What We Saw, The Final Frontier, A Fury for God, The Shadow of Swords… Seeing this stuff piled on newsstands across America, who could doubt that the US was going to go to war? And long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, another pile of tomes arrived to justify the war after the war. Most prominent among them was ex-CIA spook Kenneth Pollack’s The Threatening Storm – and didn’t we all remember Churchill’s The Gathering Storm? – which, needless to say, compared the forthcoming battle against Saddam with the crisis faced by Britain and France in 1938.

There were two themes to this work by Pollack – “one of the world’s leading experts on Iraq,” the blurb told readers, among whom was Fareed Zakaria (“one of the most important books on American foreign policy in years,” he drivelled) – the first of which was a detailed account of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction; none of which, as we know, actually existed. The second theme was the opportunity to sever the “linkage” between “the Iraq issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict”.

The Palestinians, deprived of the support of powerful Iraq, went the narrative, would be further weakened in their struggle against Israeli occupation. Pollack referred to the Palestinians’ “vicious terrorist campaign” – but without any criticism of Israel. He wrote of “weekly terrorist attacks followed by Israeli responses (sic)”, the standard Israeli version of events. America’s bias towards Israel was no more than an Arab “belief”. Well, at least the egregious Pollack had worked out, in however slovenly a fashion, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had something to do with 9/11, even if Saddam had not.

In the years since, of course, we’ve been deluged with a rich literature of post-9/11 trauma, from the eloquent The Looming Tower of Lawrence Wright to the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose supporters have told us that the plane wreckage outside the Pentagon was dropped by a C-130, that the jets that hit the World Trade Centre were remotely guided, that United 93 was shot down by a US missile, etc. Given the secretive, obtuse and sometimes dishonest account presented by the White House – not to mention the initial hoodwinking of the official 9/11 commission staff – I am not surprised that millions of Americans believe some of this, let alone the biggest government lie: that Saddam was behind 9/11. Leon Panetta, the CIA’s newly appointed autocrat, repeated this same lie in Baghdad only this year.

There have been movies, too. Flight 93 re-imagined what may (or may not) have happened aboard the plane which fell into a Pennsylvania wood. Another told a highly romanticised story, in which the New York authorities oddly managed to prevent almost all filming on the actual streets of the city. And now we’re being deluged with TV specials, all of which have accepted the lie that 9/11 did actually change the world – it was the Bush/Blair repetition of this dangerous notion that allowed their thugs to indulge in murderous invasions and torture – without for a moment asking why the press and television went along with the idea. So far, not one of these programmes has mentioned the word “Israel” – and Brian Lapping’s Thursday night ITV offering mentioned “Iraq” once, without explaining the degree to which 11 September 2001 provided the excuse for this 2003 war crime. How many died on 9/11? Almost 3,000. How many died in the Iraq war? Who cares?

Publication of the official 9/11 report – in 2004, but read the new edition of 2011 – is indeed worth study, if only for the realities it does present, although its opening sentences read more like those of a novel than of a government inquiry. “Tuesday … dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States… For those heading to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. Among the travellers were Mohamed Atta…” Were these guys, I ask myself, interns at Time magazine?

But I’m drawn to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan whose The Eleventh Day confronts what the West refused to face in the years that followed 9/11. “All the evidence … indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators – at every level,” they write. One of the organisers of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on “the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel”. Palestine, the authors state, “was certainly the principal political grievance … driving the young Arabs (who had lived) in Hamburg”.

The motivation for the attacks was “ducked” even by the official 9/11 report, say the authors. The commissioners had disagreed on this “issue” – cliché code word for “problem” – and its two most senior officials, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, were later to explain: “This was sensitive ground …Commissioners who argued that al-Qa’ida was motivated by a religious ideology – and not by opposition to American policies – rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… In their view, listing US support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qa’ida’s opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy.” And there you have it.

So what happened? The commissioners, Summers and Swan state, “settled on vague language that circumvented the issue of motive”. There’s a hint in the official report – but only in a footnote which, of course, few read. In other words, we still haven’t told the truth about the crime which – we are supposed to believe – “changed the world for ever”. Mind you, after watching Obama on his knees before Netanyahu last May, I’m really not surprised.

When the Israeli Prime Minister gets even the US Congress to grovel to him, the American people are not going to be told the answer to the most important and “sensitive” question of 9/11: why?

© 2011 The Independent

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Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Sentimental Mass Murderer June 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
3 comments

Published on Thursday, June 23, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by  Linh Dinh

When Obama came into power, there were roughly 35,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Within two years, he tripled that number. Now, Obama announces that 10,000 soldiers will come home by the end of 2011, and 33,000 by the end of next summer. He surges twice, pulls back once, and declares it a successful withdrawal, as promised. I’m sure glad Obama’s not my accountant, or both of us would be arrested for fraud, but wait a sec, Obama is my accountant, and my banker, and my president.

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And why are we in Afghanistan? Officially, we are there to fight the Taliban, whom we propped up in the first place. Democratic Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan armed, financed and trained these freedom fighters or Islamofascists. In the 1980’s, America poured gasoline onto the flames of Islamic fanaticism to burn down the Soviets. Now, we are the Soviets.

America goes into Iraq and Afghanistan, turns these countries upside down, then explains that it would be irresponsible to leave them topsy-turvy, but as long as America stays there, these countries will remain messed up. America causes bombs to explode, then insists that it has to stay put until these bombs stop exploding, but America is the bomb! Time and time again, America has set the fire, then shows up as a volunteer firefighter. Such is the burden of being a world leader in freedom, democracy and weapon sales.

America, you are a sentimental mass murderer. You wage war after war, then pretend to mourn for some of the victims. (The “us” victims, not the “them” victims.) As Barack sends America’s sons and daughters into these needless carnages, Michelle urges us to value their pointless sacrifices.

While our grunts perform their imperial overstretch duties overseas, their loved ones struggle back home, so Michelle wants us offer these families comfort and assistance, “It can be helping a neighbor mow their lawn. People can volunteer to babysit for an afternoon, cook a meal, offer to fix a heater, or reach out to a reserve family living away from the support of a military installation.” Of course, these hardships could be avoided if we would only stop sending our gung ho fodders all over to kill and maim, and sometimes be wiped out in turns.

As the husband kills, the wife comforts, but often, this janus trick is performed by the selfsame joker. It has become an annual rite for Colin Powell to give a solemn speech on the Capitol lawn on Memorial Day. This year, he again paid tribute to Americans “fighting the global war against terrorism, serving and sacrificing in Afghanistan and Iraq and at other outposts on the front lines of freedom. The life of each and every one of them is precious to their loved ones and to our nation. And each life given in the name of liberty is a life that has not been lost in vain.”

Though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction, Powell can claim, even now and with a straight face, that it is a front line of the war against terrorism. Done with his unctuous and hypocritical verbiage, Powell went into the crowd to hug a dozen vets and their loved ones. He patted the baby of a brain-damaged and blind man. Why no one, but no one, stood up and shouted, “Hey, Powell, wasn’t it you who helped to lie us into war? Didn’t you stand in front of the whole world and pointed to bogus satellite photos of ‘mobile laboratories for making biological weapons’?” In contemporary America, an architect of war can play at consoling its victims, and no one will bat an eye.

We are also led to believe that the people we bomb, shoot and rape are our beneficiaries. According to Yahoo! News, the withdrawal of American troops brings “a mix of joy and concern [among Afghans] as the nation struggles with the idea of less assistance,” so to invade a country is to assist it, but such is the logics of empire. Next time someone shoots you, know that you’re being assisted.

The empire is going broke, however, so our victims should voluntarily send us loads of cash. Visiting Baghdad, congressman Rohrabacher (CA) declared, “Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country… we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years. We were hoping that there would be a consideration of a payback because the United States right now is in close to a very serious economic crisis and we could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs.” Bombed by Obama, Libyans should feel a similar gratitude, “If the Libyans for example are willing to help pay, compensate the United States, for what we would spend in helping them through this rough period, that’s one way to do it.”

With one hand, Uncle Sam will shoot you. With the other, he’ll jiggle the tin cup. Give it up already, all you bloody ingrates! America’s in deep, deep trouble. With our media the way they are, our leaders will continue speak nonsense and there’s nothing we can do about it.

America needs an urgent triage, but none is forthcoming. As she decays, festers and convulses, our next president is asked, “Deep dish or thin crust? American Idol or Dancing with the Stars?”

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Linh Dinh

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

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