October 31, 2009

The Jerusalem Post Slams Amnesty International - Again

If you only got your news from the Jerusalem Post, you’d think that Amnesty International was the vilest, most hate-filled organization on the planet. You’d probably think it was a branch of Hamas. You’d probably have no idea that it’s actually a well-respected human rights organization with a long history of speaking out for, well, for human rights.

In a recent editorial, the Post, which has a history of slandering Amnesty, claimed:

Israel is under fire yet again for supposed human rights contraventions. Hot on the heels of the Goldstone Report, which at the behest of the UN Human Rights Council charged Israel with war crimes against Gazan civilians in Operation Cast Lead, Amnesty International this week accuses Israel of depriving the Palestinians of the most basic and vital of all commodities—water.

In question is an Amnesty International report that accuses [pdf] Israel of severely restricting the Palestinians’ access to fresh water. The report points out that there are just two main fresh water resources in the West Bank—the Jordan River and the Mountain Aquifer. As is well known, Israel denies the Palestinians access to the Jordan River, forcing them to rely solely on the Mountain Aquifer. But it turns out that Israel only allows Palestinians to use around 20% of this water. Consequently, “Palestinian consumption in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] is about 70 litres a day per person—well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)—whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much.”

The Post never disputes any of the above facts. What it does instead is claim that Israel “might possess legal rights [to the Mountain Aquifer] by virtue of the fact that it was first to discover, develop and pump from it.” Now this line of reasoning seems obviously flawed. Do any of us really believe that someone is the rightful owner of something simply because he found and developed it? So, for example, if I’m in your backyard, shooting for some food, and up from the ground comes a bubbling crude, do any of us really believe that, even though the bubbling crude is in your backyard, I’ve suddenly become the rightful owner of it?

The Mountain Aquifer, let’s remember, lies underneath both Israeli and Palestinian territory, primarily Palestinian territory. Which, according to commonly accepted notions of justice, would seem to mean that Palestinians should at least have equal access to the aquifer’s water and not a mere 20%. Similarly, since the Jordan River runs along both Israeli and Palestinian borders, it would seem that both people are entitled to that water. But, again, Israel prohibits Palestinians from using any water from the Jordan.

The Post goes on to note:

Water availability to Israelis has fallen sharply in recent decades. In 1967 it stood at 500 cu.m. [cubic meters]—so today's figure represents a 70% drop. Until the Six Day War, Palestinians could count on a mere 86 cu.m. yearly. Their situation has improved by 22%.

In other words: We’re not screwing over the Palestinians nearly as badly as the Jordanians did—so yay for us!

The Post continues:

Had it been given the opportunity, the Water Authority would also have highlighted that Israel supplies water to the PA [Palestinian Authority] well in excess of its 1995 Oslo Accords undertakings.

In other words: We’re not screwing over the Palestinians nearly as badly as we could be—so another yay for us!

And the Post isn’t done yet:

Systematically overlooked by Amnesty, meanwhile, are Palestinian breaches of these accords—including pirate drilling, water theft and routine damage to pipelines, failures to purify waste water (despite massive contributions by donor nations), irrigating crops with fresh rather than reclaimed water, dumping untreated sewage into streams, severely contaminating Israel's Coastal Aquifer and forcing Israel to deal with PA sewage.

Now, first of all, it’s simply untrue to say that the Amnesty report overlooks Palestinian wrongdoing. In fact, it contains an entire section entitled “PA/PWA [Palestinian Water Authority] Failures and Mismanagement.” Of course, Amnesty also notes that Israel’s permit regime has largely prevented the Palestinians from improving their situation. “Projects for which the PWA and local municipalities have secured funding from international donors have been delayed, in some cases for several years, of the Israeli authorities’ refusal to grant permits or because they have imposed unreasonable conditions relating to the type of treatment and reuse of the wastewater.”

Moving on, the Post’s charges of “pirate drilling” and “water theft” only make sense if we assume that Israel owns the West Bank. But this clearly isn’t the case. According to international law, all of the West Bank, including all of its natural resources, belongs to the Palestinians.

As far as the charge of polluting water goes, Amnesty reminds us that “the pollution of both the Mountain Aquifer and the Jordan River predates the establishment of the PWA in 1996 and occurred on a large scale during the preceding 30 years when Israel had full responsibility for civil affairs throughout the entire OPT. It is also continuing in the 60 per cent of the West Bank in which Israel retains full control of civil affairs and where the PA has no jurisdiction.”

Moreover, Israel has long used Palestinian territory as a “dumping ground for its waste, establishing dumpsites throughout the OPT without lining them, leaving dangerous substances, including hazardous industrial waste, to permeate through the soil and pollute the aquifer.” Amnesty further notes that much of the West Bank’s water is being polluted by Israeli settlers. According to figures provided by the Israeli government, an astonishing one-third of Israel’s 121 settlements do not use wastewater treatment facilities.

Of course, the court intellectuals at the Jerusalem Post never bother to mention any of this. After all, they have such important propaganda to write.

October 29, 2009

Book Review: ‘Mass Casualties’

Anyone thinking about going into the military would do well to read Specialist Michael Anthony’s memoir, Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq. While the title might suggest that this is the work of some renegade peacenik, another soldier-turned-antiwar-activist, Anthony in fact seems proud of his military service, and he never criticizes the US mission in Iraq. Not that any of that matters. Mass Casualties isn’t about the politics of war. It’s simply what it claims to be, a memoir, one soldier’s remembrance of his time in Iraq.

A natural storyteller, Anthony populates his book with memorable characters, some loveable, some not so loveable. There’s Denti, a fellow operating room medic. “Denti’s always been a storyteller, and I quickly learned to never believe anything he says, including the fact that he was a pimp, a drug dealer, gang member, and a weightlifting power-lifter—he says he only joined the Army because he wanted to get away from the hectic lifestyle.” There’s also Gagney, the staff sergeant in charge of the operating room who’s not exactly the world’s most gracious loser. “Then a month ago Gagney, Reto, Denti, and I were playing Risk, a game of global domination. I had an alliance with Reto, and we attacked Gagney’s armies. Gagney flipped out, knocked the game board over, called us all ‘fucking idiot cheaters,’ and stormed off.”

One can’t read Mass Casualties without at some point being reminded of M*A*S*H. People are often joking around. People are often—okay, usually—okay, almost always—having sex—lots and lots of sex. But, more to the point, nobody wants to be there. This isn’t summer camp. This is the Army. This is war. And everyone knows that at any given moment his life could come to a sudden, tragic end.

The more we read, the more we realize that the practical jokes and adulterous escapades are really just a desperate attempt to create some sense of normalcy. But, of course, normalcy can’t be created in the hellishness of war. No matter how hard Anthony and his cohorts try to escape the horrors of their present reality, there they find themselves, operating on a soldier who’s just had his face blown off, running into a bunker as mortar rockets rain down from the sky. “When I close my eyes,” Anthony writes, “I dream of death and war. When I open my eyes I see death and war. I blink and as my eyes close I see images of death, and as they flutter open I see death—there is no escaping it.”

Many who went to Iraq undoubtedly had it worse than Anthony. Indeed, his experience appears to have been a relatively good one. (Let me stress the word relatively.) And this is precisely why those wanting to join the military should read Mass Casualties. Because, as Anthony so masterfully illustrates, war thrusts all of its participants, even those who don’t end up getting shot full of holes, into a situation that the human psyche is simply not equipped to handle.

Contrary to what most eighteen-year-olds think, war isn’t like a game of Halo. It’s certainly nothing like the latest Army recruitment video. And to make matters worse, the military is largely run by a bunch of self-absorbed, even sadistic, people who don’t seem to give a damn about those serving under them. At one point, Anthony describes how a colonel postpones treating a severely wounded soldier so he can finish attending an awards ceremony. Another time, the unit’s officers refuse to send a suicidal soldier away to receive the care he needs, fearing that doing so might make them look bad.

Yes, the military might “make you a man,” that is, if you come back alive. But, as Mass Casualties demonstrates, as the record number of soldiers returning home with drug and alcohol addictions, with brain damage, with PTSD and other mental disorders further demonstrates, it’s also likely to destroy you.


Update, 11/25/09: You can read my interview of Michael Anthony here.

October 26, 2009

more right-wing hate mail

for today's post, i'm not going to be using capital letters. why would i do such a thing? simply to honor the guy who sent me my latest piece of hate mail. (technically, hate e-mail.) this person didn’t use capital letters in his hate mail, so, for today, i've decided not to either.

this hate mailer accused me of being anti-semitic. never mind that i'm jewish. never mind that i actually have family members living in southern israel. because i dare defend the palestinians, because i think they're entitled to the same rights as their israeli counterparts, i'm evidently anti-semitic. oy vey.

i'm not going to quote this guy's entire email, mainly because writing in all lowercase letters is starting to annoy me and i want to end this post as soon as possible. but here's a portion:

palestinian arab identity is novel, artificial, and synthetic. in the last 3,000 [years], there was not a state of indigenous people that was not Jewish. the historical/archaeological evidence is all over Israel.

you are a such a big defender of the stupidity that has elicited international sympathy and support, consider this: what were the ancient borders of arab palestine? what was its anthem? what is the date of its ancient national festival? what was its currency called? who were its national heroes? name works of ancient palestinian poetry, literature. who were the national poets, authors, artists? if you have not realised it yet, there was no palestinian arab identity that dates back more than 80 years. it was contrived to oppose the Jews. even after syria and egypt supported the idea of an arab palestine, they had no intention of seeing the creation of an independent arab state in palestine.

and on and on he continues. (as a sidenote, i just realized that the only words he capitalizes are "israel" and "jewish.")

anyway, i have no idea what his points have to do with the price of tea in ramallah. it's no secret that modern zionism predates palestinian nationalism. but so what? that doesn't change the fact that, going into the 20th century, there were brown people living in the land, people whose descendants we now refer to as palestinians. just because these people didn't have their own anthem doesn't mean that the israeli army had the right to prevent the 1948 refugees from returning to their homes. just because these people didn't have their own currency doesn't mean that the israeli army had the right to expropriate land from the west bank. and so on.

this hate mailer later writes:

I suspect that you know some of the foregoing or that you are indifferent. what you care about is your obsession with Israel. you don't know much but you have your hate. that hate is called "anti-semitism." you wear it. own it.

(another sidenote: he also capitalizes "i." he capitalizes "israel," "jewish," and "i." kind of telling, i think.)

anyway, this is all so absurd that i feel the need to resort to his level and will end this post with a simple, yet i think profound, response:

i'm rubber, you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

please join me later in the week as i resume blogging in both lowercase and uppercase letters. ttfn.

October 24, 2009

The Israel Lobby’s New Butt Boy

It looks like the Israel Lobby has found itself a new butt boy in Robert Bernstein. And I know what you’re thinking. “Don, did you really just say butt boy?” And, yes, I did just say butt boy. Not sure why, but I’ve been trying to work that into a post for some time now.

Anyway, writing in the New York Times, Bernstein complains that Human Rights Watch, which he once headed, has lost its way. Specifically, he feels that HRW has been unfairly singling out Israel over the past few years. The Middle East, he writes, is “populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.”

Now I’m not sure if HRW does in fact spend more time criticizing Israel than its neighbors. As a regular reader of HRW’s news feed, I can tell you that it produces lots of reports on lots of different nations. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Bernstein is right in this accusation. In response, I can only say, so what? Really, so what?

As readers of this blog can testify, I myself spend much more time criticizing Israel than its neighbors. But this isn’t because I’m anti-Semitic. This isn’t because I hold a special place in my heart for ruthless Arab dictatorships. I don’t spend much time condemning the regimes in such places as Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia for the simple reason that there’s no need to. Everyone already knows how the governments in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc., etc., oppress and brutalize their people.

But Israel’s a different story. Most people don’t see through the establishment’s rhetoric. Most people don’t understand the full extent of Israel’s crimes, not just in the Occupied Territories, but also in Israel Proper. Most people don’t understand that Israel has become a terrorist state. Therefore, I tend to focus on Israel, not because it’s worse than its neighbors, but because, unlike its neighbors, its sins still need to be brought to light. So if it’s true that HRW spends a disproportionate amount of time chronicling Israeli human rights abuses, then I imagine its being guided by similar motives.

Butt Boy Bernstein doesn’t buy this, however. “At Human Rights Watch,” he continues, “we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them—through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform. That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights.”

He makes a point, of course. There certainly is a difference between democratic and nondemocratic societies. I just wonder what this has to do with the State of Israel. Israel, you might have heard, currently rules over 11 million people. And of those 11 million people, 4 million of them (that is, everyone living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) cannot vote. Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t exactly sound like a democracy to me.

Bernstein continues in this vein, at one point all but justifying Israel’s January assault in the Gaza Strip, telling us that “there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense [Israel’s war crimes] and those perpetrated intentionally [Hamas’ war crimes].” Not surprisingly, he never explains exactly how killing defenseless Palestinians is a wrong “committed in self-defense.” Nor does he explain why dropping bombs in civilian population centers isn’t a wrong “perpetrated intentionally.” Call me crazy, but it seems pretty clear to me that if you know that civilians are living in a certain neighborhood but go ahead and bomb that neighborhood anyway, then you’re intentionally killing civilians.

Anyway, I’m not going to spend any more time dealing with Robert Bernstein and his non-arguments. He is, after all, just a butt boy.




Related Posts:
Israel Doesn’t Want Peace
And They Say There’s No Israel Lobby
The Liberation of Palestine

October 19, 2009

Sibel Edmonds 101

A name you should know
Sibel Edmonds is a name that every American should know.

Because of our derelict media, however, most people have never heard of her, and many of those who have don’t know why she’s so important. But I hope to remedy all this. Not singlehandedly, of course. But I’m determined to do my part, and in what follows I’m going to provide a brief overview of her story.

It’s a fascinating story, one that unfolds much like a John Grisham novel. It’s a story that involves espionage and blackmail. It’s a story that implicates high-ranking members of the US Congress, State Department, and Pentagon of treason.

It’s a story that, you’ll soon realize, needs to be heard.


Turkish spies?
Born in Iran in 1970, Edmonds fled with her family to Turkey shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. After graduating from high school, she moved to the United States, went to college, and eventually became an American citizen. Just days after the September 11 attacks, she went to work as a translator for the FBI. Her job there was to listen to wiretapped conversations and decide which conversations were “pertinent” and needed to be translated and passed on to her supervisors.

One Sunday morning, fellow FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson and her husband, Air Force Major Douglas Dickerson, paid Edmonds an unexpected visit. Before long, it became clear that the Dickersons had an agenda—to get Edmonds to join the American-Turkish Council. If the ATC knew that she worked for the FBI, Douglas said, they’d be more than happy to see that all her financial needs were taken care of. He proceeded to describe how he and his wife had benefited from their “network of high-level friends.”

Aware that the FBI was currently investigating the American-Turkish Council, Edmonds reported this conversation to Special Agent Dennis Saccher. Saccher in turn asked Edmonds and another colleague to go back and translate some of the wiretaps that Melek Can Dickerson had marked “not pertinent.” In one of these conversations, a Turkish official could be heard offering $7,000 to a US State Department official in exchange for certain undisclosed secrets. In another conversation, officials discussed paying a Pentagon official for weapons. In yet another conversation, Turkish officials implied that they’d been putting doctoral students inside various US institutions in order to obtain information about nuclear weapons. By marking these wiretaps “not pertinent” and thus not translating them, Dickerson had prevented them for being heard by anyone else in the bureau.

Needless to say, this seemed to suggest that she was engaging in treason, and Saccher immediately passed the information onto FBI Headquarters. But, to his surprise, they told him not to investigate the matter any further, calling it a “can of worms.” Undeterred, Edmonds appealed to the two Justice Department agencies responsible for investigating the FBI, as well as the senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Just the tip of the iceberg

All the while, Edmonds continued listening to wiretaps, some of which she claims involved other American officials—including high-ranking members of the US Congress, State Department, and Pentagon—engaging in similarly treasonous behavior. The Dickersons, it seemed, were just the tip of the iceberg.

Though Edmonds subsequently shared this information with the Senate Judiciary Committee, the 9/11 Commission, and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, a 2002 Bush administration gag order prevented [.pdf] any of it from becoming public. The nature of the gag order seemed to suggest that she was telling the truth. As former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi has noted, the gag order “was not requested by the FBI but by the State Department and Pentagon—which employed individuals she identified as being involved in criminal activities. If her allegations are frivolous, that order would scarcely seem necessary.”

The FBI fired Edmonds in March 2002, claiming she had a “disruptive effect” on her department.

Though unable to give specifics, she spent the next six years telling parts of her story to anyone who would listen. In 2004, she told The Independent that, contrary to the claims of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, senior US officials knew months before 9/11 that al-Qaeda was planning to attack major American cities with airplanes. In 2008, she told the London Times that a high-ranking State Department official had knowingly provided Israeli and Turkish “moles” with “security clearance to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities.” She further claimed that Turkish officials “often acted as a conduit for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency.” Given everything we know about the ISI, this means that some of these secrets were very likely passed on to al-Qaeda, as well as Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.


Ungagged

This past August, former Ohio Congressional candidate David Krikorian subpoenaed Edmonds to testify in a libel case that indirectly involved several Turkish organizations. In what came as a surprise to many, the Obama Justice Department didn’t step in, and Edmonds was finally able to elaborate upon some of her allegations and even name names.

First, she identified former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman as the State Department official from the London Times story. According to Edmonds, Grossman was receiving money from various Turkish operatives. On one occasion, he allegedly arranged for a State Department colleague to go and collect a bag filled with $14,000 in cash. Aside from providing Israeli and Turkish moles with “security clearance to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities,” she claims that Grossman “assisted his Turkish and Israeli contacts directly, and he also facilitated access to members of Congress who might be inclined to help for reasons of their own or could be bribed into cooperation.”

Edmonds further alleges that Grossman was working closely with Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, both of whom provided him with the names of Pentagon employees with access to top-secret information relating to policy, weapons, and nuclear technology. She contends that Perle and Feith also gave Grossman “highly sensitive personal information” about these individuals—information, for instance, disclosing that “this person is a closet gay; this person has a chronic gambling issue; this person is an alcoholic.” Turkish operatives in turn could have used this information to blackmail government secrets from these employees.

During her deposition, Edmonds also identified former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL). She allegedly heard Turkish individuals claiming that they’d “arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks.” According to journalist David Rose, who has interviewed others familiar with the wiretaps, “the recordings also contained repeated references to Hastert’s flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government—the continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide.” In August 2000, Hasteret promised to bring the resolution to a vote before the entire House. “He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.” Rose notes that “a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.”

Along with Hastert, Edmonds claimed that Congressmen Roy Blunt ( R, Mo) and Dan Burton (R-IN) and former Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-CA), Bob Livingston (R-LA), and Stephen J. Solarz (D-NY) have performed favors for various Turkish connections in exchange for money. Lantos, she told Philip Giraldi in a recent interview, had an associate named Alan Makovsky working “very closely with Dr. Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University, who is widely believed to be a Turkish spy. Lantos would give Makovsky highly classified policy-related documents obtained during defense briefings for passage to Israel because Makovsky was also working for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).” AIPAC would then weed out the information that they believed would be helpful to Israel. “The Turks would go through the leftovers, take what they wanted, and then try to sell the rest. If there were something relevant to Pakistan, they would contact the ISI officer at the embassy and say, ‘We’ve got this and this, let’s sit down and talk.’ And then they would sell it to the Pakistanis.”

Edmonds claims that many other government employees—including Congressional staffers and several lesser known officials at the Pentagon and State Department—were also involved in such illicit activities.


“She’s credible”

“If Sibel Edmonds is a fabricator,” writes Philip Giraldi, “she is a damned good one. I would also note that there is a fundamental flaw to the criticism of Sibel, which is that she claims that every single statement made by her is backed up by actual documents in FBI investigative files dealing with the activities of foreign agents who were suborning our elected officials and senior bureaucrats. She has even provided the numbers of the files. At the end of the day, either the files and the evidence they contain are there or they are not. If they are not, then the government should make its case publicly that fraud is being committed by Sibel and her supporters and take whatever legal action they consider to be appropriate. I would suggest that the silence from the government over this matter in itself confirms that the allegations are true in every detail.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has found Edmonds trustworthy. “She’s credible,” he told 60 Minutes in 2004. “And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.”

After conducting a fairly extensive investigation into some of Edmonds’ claims, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that "many of her core allegations” regarding Melek Can Dickerson were “supported by either documentary evidence or witnesses other than Edmonds.” Regarding “an allegation that focused on the co-worker’s [Dickerson’s] performance, which Edmonds believed to be an indication of a security problem, the evidence clearly corroborated Edmonds’ allegations.”

The report further notes that both Edmonds and Dickerson had been given lie detector tests in March 2002. Both women passed their tests, but the report notes that an FBI Security Officer and other FBI managers later complained that Dickerson was not asked any specific questions about Edmonds’ claims.

More recently, former FBI Counterintelligence and Counterespionage Manager John Cole has corroborated many of Edmonds’ claims. He’s confirmed that the FBI spent several years investigating Marc Grossman and that the case was ultimately “buried and covered up.” Moreover, Cole “says that from 1993 to 1995 alone, he had ‘125 open cases’ of Israeli espionage, representing nearly half of all the investigations carried on in his Global Unit.” “Inside the FBI itself, Cole said, tracking suspected Israeli spies was hush-hush. In a sharp break with FBI procedures, he was prohibited from notifying field offices when an investigation crept into their jurisdictions. ‘No one was supposed to know we were investigating the Israelis.’”

There is also considerable circumstantial evidence supporting her allegations. For instance, upon retiring from the State Department in 2005, Grossman became a consultant for a Turkish holding company and began earning a salary of $100,000 a month. Kind of smells like payback money to me. Similarly, since leaving Congress, Hastert, Livingston, and Solarz have all received enormous salaries lobbying for the Turkish government.


Call to action

Although Congress has previously investigated all sorts of relatively trivial matters, from steroid use in Major League Baseball to consensual oral sex in the White House, there’s been no move to investigate any of Edmonds’ allegations. Given that Edmonds has implicated both Democrats and Republicans, this is hardly surprising. In the same way, Clinton would have never been impeached had Republicans learned that he’d been fellated by New Gingrich and not some unknown intern.

If you go to Edmonds’ website, you’ll see that she’s asking people to send the following message to their representatives in Congress:

I am requesting the immediate release of the entire report completed in July 2004 by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-IG) of its investigation into confirmed reports by FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, but which has remained classified; and further insist that it be followed by a joint investigation by Congress, including open public hearings, into those reports of wrongdoing, criminal activities, and cover-ups against the security and interests of the United States and its citizenry.

Of course, writing to Congress isn’t enough. In order to force investigations, it’s important to get her story out there. The mainstream media—and I hate to break it to you Republicans out there, but this includes Fox News—has its own corporate-mandated agenda and has refused to do its job. Which means that the burden falls to us.

So go to it, fellow bloggers.

For more on Edmonds’ story, see:

October 16, 2009

More Madness from General McChrystal

While reading through the news this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of horror when coming across an AP story that began:

The top military commander in Afghanistan is asking for up to 80,000 more American troops even as he warns that rampant government corruption there may prevent victory against the Taliban and al-Qaida.


What I found horrifying was not just that General McChrystal’s asking for 80,000 more troops but that he’s asking for these troops while, at the same time, admitting that his plan “carries a high risk of failing.” Yes, you heard me right. Citing officials at the Pentagon and White House, the AP story noted that McChrystal has prepared a document which admits that, even with these additional troops, the counterinsurgency “carries a high risk of failing.”

Now I’m personally not against taking chances. Whenever I’m playing a game of Risk, for instance, I’ll often try my luck. If I have ten pieces on Alaska and my buddy has twenty on Kamchatka, I might roll the dice a few times, see what happens.

But McChrystal’s not playing a fucking board game. He’s not sacrificing plastic game pieces but actual human beings. Now I’m not saying that I’d support the escalation if it had “a high risk of succeeding.” Of course I wouldn’t. I’m absolutely against this war. Period. I’m just astounded by the general’s brazen disregard for human life, for American life no less.

If President Peace Prize approves McChrystal’s plan, then many more American soldiers will be killed and injured and maimed. Many more soldiers will come home with brain damage and PTSD. Many of these returning soldiers, after being denied proper care from the VA, will turn to drugs and alcohol. Many will ultimately commit suicide.

Even those of you who think the war is justified would be hesitant to sacrifice your son or daughter or niece or nephew for a plan that “carries a high risk of failing.”

But, of course, the war isn’t justified. It has nothing to do with keeping America safe from terror. We’re no longer even fighting al Qaeda. We killed most of those guys back in 2001, and even Obama’s National Security Advisor admits that there are currently less than one hundred al Qaeda operatives in the country. Rather, we’re fighting a homegrown insurgency, one being lead by a nationalist organization that has never even attacked the United States.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I definitely don’t want these Taliban scumbags returning to power. But, as it is, the US is just propping up Hamid Karzai, a truly despicable man, one who’s aligned himself with warlords, one who stole the August presidential election and recently signed a bill into law which effectively legalizes rape within marriage.

Of course, McChrystal insists that, if the Taliban comes back into power, they will again provide a safe haven for al Qaeda. Oh give me a break. “Protecting al Qaeda back in 2001 brought no end of trouble to Mullah Omar and his associates,” Harvard’s Stephen Walt has written, “and if they were lucky enough to regain power, it is hard to believe they would give us a reason to come back in force.”

And even if the Taliban allowed al Qaeda to return, Walt continues, “the United States isn’t going to sit around and allow them to go about their business undisturbed. The Clinton administration wasn’t sure it was a good idea to go after al Qaeda’s training camps back in the 1990s (though they eventually did, albeit somewhat half-heartedly), but that was before 9/11. We know more now and the U.S. government is hardly going to be bashful about attacking such camps in the future.”

I don’t exactly know why this war is being fought. I don’t know why McChrystal and the politicians so desperately want to rule Afghanistan. I just know that they’re lying. By now, anyone with half a brain should know that they’re lying. And I know that more people—many, many more people—are going to die as a result. And, in the end, we might never know what it was all really about.


Related Posts:
General McChrystal’s Afghan Plan
Time to Leave Afghanistan
Adventures in Imperialism

October 11, 2009

The Human Toll of US Military Bases

From Democracy Now!:

Guam Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island

“The United States is planning an enormous $15 billion military buildup on the Pacific island of Guam. The project would turn the thirty-mile-long island into a major hub for US military operations in the Pacific in what has been described as the largest military buildup in recent history. We speak with Julian Aguon, a civil rights attorney from the Chamoru nation in Guam.”



Forcibly Exiled Nearly 40 Years Ago, Diego Garcia Natives Fight to Return to Island Home Now Used as Key US Military Outpost

“We turn now to another island that is a key military outpost for the United States. Located in the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia has often been used for strikes on Iraq and Afghanistan and played a critical role in the US extraordinary rendition program. Unlike Guam, Diego Garcia has no inhabitants resisting the US military. All of the island’s residents were forcibly removed in the early 1970s. For the last four decades, former residents of Diego Garcia and their descendants have been fighting for the right to return. We speak with Olivier Bancoult, a leader of the exiled people of Diego Garcia and president of the Chagos Refugees Group; and David Vine, author of the book Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia.”



(h/t Scott Horton)

October 9, 2009

War is (Still) a Racket

Over seventy years ago, Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler wrote:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Sadly, little has changed since Butler penned those words. America continues sending its soldiers into harm’s way, while the likes of Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and General Dynamics (GD) continue raking in the dough. Of course, none of this war profiteering would be possible without politicians, whose job it is to trick the public into believing that war, or at least the current war, really is necessary, that if we don’t keep bombing all those defenseless Cambodians or Iraqis or Afghans, then somehow the world won’t be safe for democracy, somehow the things Americans most value will be jeopardized.

Our politicians don’t actually believe that wars will make the world a better place. They start wars, they send other people’s sons and daughters into harm’s way, because they themselves stand to profit. According to an April 2008 study by the Center for Responsive Politics, members of Congress have between $79 million and $196 million of their own money invested in defense firms. (Because lawmakers are “only required to report their assets in broad ranges,” the exact amount is unknown.) The Congressmen with the most money invested are:

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-MA): $28,872,067 to $38,209,020
  • Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): $12,081,050 to $49,140,000
  • Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC): $9,232,037 to $37,105,000
  • Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI): $5,207,668 to $7,612,653
  • Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA): $2,684,050 to $6,260,000
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI): $2,469,029 to $8,360,000
  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV): $2,000,002
  • Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI): $1,365,004 to $5,800,000
Not surprisingly, all of the above individuals are warmongers. All of them, for instance, voted for the Iraq War in 2002. (See Senate vote here, House vote here.)

Also not surprisingly, the above individuals receive money—lots and lots of money—from defense firms in the form of campaign contributions. For instance, Frelinghuysen’s top donor is Lockheed Martin, and four of Jane Harman’s top five donors are Northrop Grumman (NOC), Raytheon (RTN), Boeing (BA), and SAIC (SAI). The same is true of other congressional warmongers. If you don’t believe me, just go to OpenSecrets.org and look at all the money that such firms as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics have doled out over the years.

Now unless you’re a real idiot, it’s not tough to connect the dots here. Simply put, more war means more money for defense firms, which in turn means more money for members of Congress.

The answer to all this is, first of all, to get pissed, to get really pissed. I mean, let it all out. The system’s a fraud! You’re being used! Your sons and daughters are being sent out to die so a bunch of sleazy politicians can make a buck!

After you’ve gotten this out of your system, you need to do something about it. Follow Jim Davidson’s lead and divest from the death merchants. If you own stocks in any of these companies, sell them. If you have US Savings Bonds, cash them in. And, of course, do all you can to kick these sleazebags out of office.

And then tell others what’s going on. Blog about it, yell it out your window, whatever.

Look, I’m not exactly an optimist. I’m not saying we’re going to end the wars. But we at least have to try.

October 6, 2009

Summary of Smedley Butler’s ‘War is a Racket’

[Major General Smedley Butler served in the US Marine Corps from 1898-1931. During this time, he fought in several conflicts, including the Boxer Revolution and World War I, and earned two Medals of Honor. Upon his retirement, Butler began traveling the country and speaking out against war profiteering. In 1935, he penned his now-classic work, War is a Racket. Source: Wikipedia.]

Smedley Butler begins his masterpiece:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.


What’s that? Evidence? You want evidence? Well, Butler is more than happy to deliver.

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people -- didn't one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn't much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let's look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump -- or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Butler goes on to chronicle how numerous other companies profited from the war. And all of their bills, he notes, were footed by the majority of Americans, by the taxpayers. Of course, American soldiers paid the biggest price.

If you don't believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran's hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men -- men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital, at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Moreover,

…they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam -- on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. They paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain -- with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.


The families of soldiers have also paid, and continue to pay, for the war.

They pay it in the same heart-break that he [the soldier] does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly -- his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too -- as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.


So how can we end the war racket? Butler offers three solutions. First, we should

…conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation -- it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted -- to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages -- all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers -- yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders -- everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed
that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Second, Butler proposes that only soldiers should be allowed to decide whether or not they go to war.

There wouldn't be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant -- all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war -- voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms -- to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.


Finally, Butler claims that we should “make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.”

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can't go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

Writing shortly before World War II, Butler knew that the next war would be fought, “not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.” He continues:

If we put them [scientists] to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war -- even the munitions makers.

So...I say,

TO HELL WITH WAR!

And to that, I can only add a heartfelt, Amen!