September 21, 2007 archive

It’s Time To Bring Our Soldiers Home

It’s time to bring our soldiers home.  It’s long past time.  They are not George W. Bush’s soldiers.  They are not Dick Cheney’s soldiers.   They are our sons and daughters.  They are our brothers and sisters.  They didn’t enlist to be hired guns for war profiteers.  They volunteered in good faith to serve their country, but they have been betrayed by their own government.  We have all been betrayed.  They have suffered for too long, their families have suffered for too long, America has suffered for too long. 

Iraq Moratorium Day.
Stand up.
Speak out.
Bring America’s sons and daughters home.

Not One Red Cent

One diary (and one late-night story at C&L).

24 hours.

167 donors.

Almost $5,500 dollars.

NotOneRedCent is underway; you all made it happen.

Before I fill you in on where this effort is going next, I feel like I really need to clarify what NotOneRedCent is.  There seemed to be an awful lot of confusion in the comments to yesterdays diary.  Unfortunately, I must not have been clear enough in defining the goals, mission and methods.  Please flip if you are in doubt.

And please flip even if you aren’t…  The plan is organic and has added a layer or two.  And I’m going to need help with the next steps.  If you are a talented programmer and need a project, we need to talk.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started. Also, there will be no Four at Four tomorrow or Sunday as I will be without Internet access. So make this essay count!

  1. Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz of The New York Times reports that the Iraq has concluded the Blackwater shooting was unprovoked.

    In the Interior Ministry’s version of that day, the events began unfolding when a bomb exploded shortly before noon near the unfinished Rahman Mosque, about a mile north of Nisour Square. Embassy officials have said the convoy was responding to the bomb, but it is still unclear whether it was carrying officials away from the bomb scene, driving toward it to pick someone up or simply providing support.

    Whatever their mission, and whoever was inside, the convoy of at least four sport utility vehicles steered onto the square just after noon and took positions that blocked the flow of midday traffic in three directions. But one family’s car, approaching from the south along Yarmouk Street, apparently did not stop quickly enough, and the Blackwater guards opened fire, killing the man who was driving, the ministry account says.

    “The woman next to the driver had a baby in her arms,” said an official who shared the report, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share it. “She started to scream. They shot her,” the official said, adding that the guards then fired what appeared to be grenades or pump guns into the car as it continued to move. The car caught fire. “The car kept rolling, so they burned it,” the official said.

    The account said that the guards entered the square shooting, although Ali Khalaf, a traffic policeman who watched events from a flimsy white traffic booth on the edge of the square and spoke in an interview on Thursday, said a guard got out of the sport utility vehicle and fired.

    Mr. Khalaf, who has also been interviewed by American investigators, spoke standing near his traffic booth on Thursday afternoon. He said that he had tried to reach the woman in the seconds after the man she was riding with was shot. But a Blackwater guard killed the woman before he could reach her, Mr. Khalaf said.

    I think there can be no question now that the Bush administration values Blackwater USA more than their puppet regime in Baghdad. Reuters reports that Blackwater is back again ‘guarding’ US State Department convoys. “Blackwater guards were back on the streets of Baghdad on Friday after the U.S. embassy eased a three-day ban on road travel by U.S. officials outside the capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone… ¶ U.S. embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said the decision to allow “mission essential” trips, some guarded by Blackwater, was taken after consultation with Iraqi authorities. ‘There isn’t a lot of movement in general … But it is likely Blackwater will support some of them,’ she said.” The article also states that “Iraq wants to tighten control over security contractors” and is reviewing the status of all private security contractors. Additionally, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior has drafted a new law, which they expect parliament to pass soon, that “gives the ministry powers to prosecute the companies and to refuse or revoke contracts.”

    Blackwater USA has left a trail of death behind it in Iraq. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman of the Los Angeles Times report that Blackwater is under scrutiny in Iraq. For example, seven months ago a sniper fatally “shot three security guards outside his office at the government-run Iraqi Media Network… ¶ An internal investigation by [the] department found that Blackwater USA was responsible. But seven months after the Feb. 7 shootings no one has been charged… ¶ A U.S. diplomat confirmed that Blackwater guards carried out the shooting, but said he did not know the results of the State Department security office’s inquiry.” The lawless exploits of Blackwater USA and other mercentaries under the employ of the U.S. State Department are undermining U.S. troop safety and the Bush administration’s supposed goal of an Iraqi democracy.

    Blackwater has long operated off the U.S. military’s radar, answering instead to the embassy’s security staff. Military officials express resentment at what they view as renegade behavior by private security contractors, including running Iraqis off the road, throwing water bottles and a quick trigger finger. “We pay for their indiscretions every day,” one U.S. officer said on condition of anonymity…

    The embassy’s security staff will participate with Iraqis in a review of the incident. Although it is standard procedure for the security staff to investigate such cases, a U.S. diplomat suggested that the staff’s close relationship with Blackwater gave the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    “We are at cross purposes, saying, ‘We want to rebuild your country.’ On the other hand, you have this thing going on,” the diplomat said. “At some point you ask, ‘Why am I here?’ For every step forward, there is two steps back.”

    Robert Baer of Time magazine calls the Bush administration’s bluff in ‘Why Blackwater — and More — Should Leave Iraq‘. “Kicking Blackwater out of Iraq, as Prime Minister Maliki suggested, buys the Administration nothing… ¶ What the Administration should do is rescind Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, the decree that puts foreign security contractors beyond the reach of Iraqi law. This would effectively close down private security companies. There is no reason the State Department cannot provide its own security, State security officers are under diplomatic immunity. If there’s a questionable shooting, the Iraqi government at least will have the satisfaction of declaring the shooter persona non grata under the Vienna Convention. ¶ With violence down, and the surge apparently having an effect, now is the time to make a gesture to Iraqis. We can show we are serious about returning their sovereignty to them by pulling out private security contractors, even if it means using U.S. troops to fill the void.”

  2. The front page story for The Independent today is ‘Making a killing: how private armies became a $120bn global industry‘ where reporters Daniel Howden and Lenord Doyle examine “the burgeoning world of private military companies, arguably the fastest-growing industry in the global economy”. Mercenaries, er private security contractors, have “operations in at least 50 countries” and “the single largest spur to this boom is the conflict in Iraq.”

    Now the mercenary trade comes with its own business jargon. Guns for hire come under the umbrella term of privatised military firms, with their own acronym PMFs. The industry itself has done everything it can to shed the “mercenary” tag and most companies avoid the term “military” in preference for “security”. “The term mercenary is not accurate,” says [Bob Ayers, a security expert with Chatham House in London], who argues that military personnel in defensive roles should be distinguished from soldiers of fortune.

    There is nothing new about soldiers for hire, the private companies simply represent the trade in a new form. “Organised as business entities and structured along corporate lines, they mark the corporate evolution of the mercenary trade,” according to Mr Singer, who was among the first to plot the worldwide explosion in the use of private military firms.

    In many ways it mirrors broader trends in the world economy as countries switch from manufacturing to services and outsource functions once thought to be the preserve of the state. Iraq has become a testing ground for this burgeoning industry, creating staggering financial opportunities and equally immense ethical dilemmas.

    None of the estimated 48,000 private military operatives in Iraq has been convicted of a crime and no one knows how many Iraqis have been killed by private military forces, because the US does not keep records.

    Of course mercenary firms like Blackwater aren’t the only ones “making a killing” in Baghdad. The New York Times reports the Pentagon is reviewing $6 billion in contracts. “Military officials said Thursday that contracts worth $6 billion to provide essential supplies to American troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan — including food, water and shelter — were under review by criminal investigators, double the amount the Pentagon had previously disclosed. ¶ In addition, $88 billion in contracts and programs, including those for body armor for American soldiers and matériel for Iraqi and Afghan security forces, are being audited for financial irregularities, the officials said.” And, if the private contractors we’re raking it in, any real estate tycoon in Baghdad is finding a buyer’s market. The Washington Post reports that fear is driving Baghdad’s housing bust and Iraqi families are under threat and desperate to flee, willing to sell their homes at any price. “With hundreds of thousands of Baghdad residents having fled their homes for the relative safety of segregated neighborhoods or foreign countries, a clandestine system of buying and selling property off the books has supplanted more traditional real estate practices. If families being pushed out are lucky, they are able to sell their homes for some small price… Wait too long, and their houses might be seized at gunpoint. ¶ Real estate agent Mahir al-Sultani said business has all but dried up — ironic, he admits, considering how many people are moving in and out. Without exception, half a dozen real estate agents said that houses are still being bought and sold, but that licensed agents have been largely cut out of the equation.” The irony is deafening.

  3. Americans used to never fight their wars with mercenaries. In fact, we won our independence fighting against them. During the American Revolutionary War, the colonists fought against approximately 30,000 Hessian mercenaries that were conscripted to the British. This weekend, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns brings a new film about another war from America’s past, the Second World War to our televisions this Sunday. Peter Ames Carlin of The Oregonian writes of the documentary, “So what makes Ken Burns’ seven-part documentary, “The War,” so powerful — devastatingly so, at times — is its unblinking intimacy. Faced with the task of describing America’s role in the largest of all global conflicts, Burns sticks almost entirely with the firsthand experiences of soldiers and civilians. None becomes a major figure in the war (although a few go on to post-war notoriety). They’re foot soldiers, fighter pilots, navy gunners and the like. But, and this is the real point of the movie, this is precisely what makes their stories so vitally important: For all its enormity in the scope of history, the American effort in World War II was fought, and ultimately won, by the nation’s ordinary people.” I’ve not seen the film yet, but from Carlin’s review it doesn’t seem like the documentary is another ‘see-how-great-war-is’ film.

    But “The War” also takes care to acknowledge some of the less heroic complexities that went along with the war. Allied bombing raids over Hamburg killed as many German civilians in one week as during all of the Nazi bombing raids on England. And while it’s hard to find any sympathy for a country that had turned as psychotic as Nazi-led Germany, the pictures of shattered homes and dead or devastated children still singe the eyes.

    The American homefront wasn’t always a bastion of truth and beauty, either. For all that the nation was repulsed by Nazi talk of an Aryan master race, American society was still defined by its racist distortions. African American munitions workers who settled in Mobile were greeted with resentment bordering on all-out hatred. Some induction offices refused to allow African Americans to serve. The government eventually created race-specific divisions, including one for Japanese Americans who joined up from the internment camps their families had been sentenced to for the duration.

    Such are the soul-killing verities of institutionalized aggression.

    The struggles of ordinary Americans dealing with the horrors of war. Something, I believe we no longer know how to face anymore in America. I’ll be watching.

  4. And now for something completely different: two rail stories. First from London, England, The Independent reports Eurostar puts Brussels within the ‘two-hour club’ after record rail journey. “Railway historians will have to rewrite the record books after a train from Brussels to St Pancras International achieved the fastest rail journey ever between a European capital and London yesterday, knocking more than 30 minutes off the previous timing. ¶ The 20-coach train – the first from Brussels to run on the full stretch of new £5.3bn high-speed line through Kent and east London – covered the 232 miles between the two cities in just 1 hour, 43 minutes, 53 seconds. When the new line opens to the public in November, a trip from London to the Belgian capital will take 1 hour, 51 minutes – faster than to Manchester and a similar travelling time to Nottingham, which is 100 miles closer.” Great news for Europeans. When will Americans get a clue? Now for the second story: Come to Seattle, ride the SLUT! The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the South Lake Union Trolley’s unfortunate acronym seems here to stay. “Officially, it’s now the South Lake Union Streetcar. But the trolley name already has caught on, and in the old Cascade neighborhood in South Lake Union, they’re waiting for the SLUT… ¶ Seattle transportation spokesman Gregg Hirakawa and Vulcan spokeswoman Kym Allen say the name ‘streetcar’ wasn’t selected to avoid the provocative acronym. Trolley seemed vintage, whereas streetcar sounded more modern, Hirakawa said. ¶ And the streetcars — the first of which will be unveiled Tuesday — had the support of 45 businesses that agreed to tax themselves to cover about half the cost, he said.” Congratulations to Seattleites in getting another streetcar line built!

One more story is below the fold…

Killing People Is Wrong

I believe this has been said before. It has all been said before, over and over. Everything you can say about it has been said…Lots of times. If only it were really a trite, pat or obvious statement! Everybody tends to agree that killing people is wrong…and folks like Jesus and others have said it for a while now. And it would be hard to find someone on the street who would disagree with the general sentiment.

But we still keep doing it.

If one person kills another person it is always condemned, even if it excused by circumstance. If one person mass murders it is always a shocking and horrific event. If a mob of people kills someone it is universally condemned.

The snuffing out of a human life is…or should be….the greatest crime a human being can commit. The wrongest thing you can do, the biggest taboo

But if a nation simply ‘declares war,’ or in the current madness euphemistically “Authorizes The Use Of Military Force” and proceeds to kill a million or so people…..and that is supported by millions of other people.


Negative Marketing Works

Companies know it. Your town gossip knows it. Politicians have known it forever. Today’s GOP especially has become amazingly adept at it. Negative marketing works.

It may not work on everyone, but it is effective and the tactic is now an essential tool to any winning political campaign. Many of us despise it, but in reality a main reason we hate it is because deep down we know it works.

You know who else knows it works? Our good friend here at Docudharma, pinche tejano.

To HannahRose!

I wrote this whilst nursing my youngest about a year ago.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Iraq Moratorium Almost Live Blog

Hi All,

I just wanted to let you know that we have the almost live blog up and running.  After your event please come submit a piece at Iraq Moratorium  You can get to the submissions page by clicking on the Read what others have been doing!And don’t forget to add your news!Click here! link.

We would love to hear what you did, how many people were at your event, if you got any media coverage, and of course your pictures, and videos.

Once you submit, one of us will check it over to make sure you aren’t a war monger posting to annoy everyone, and publish it to the blog.


Benign Neglect vs. Strict Control

A little Context

There has been a lot of talk on Political Fleshfeast (PFF) about bannings and the rules/enforcement here at Docudharma. Buhdy, joined in this diary and was besieged. As you can imagine, the comments got pretty harsh. If you can’t handle harsh criticism of this site, I suggest you don’t follow the link.

Personally, I have fond feelings for this site, as many of you are people whose DKos writings I appreciated. I have also come to enjoy the … er … free-for-all at Political Fleshfeast. The depth of difference in administrative approach of these two sites is immense, to say the least.

I do not write this from malice, but from the viewpoint of a well-intended outsider. Some of the Docudharma disciplinary warnings quoted at PFF sounded … almost theocratic. Control of expression by contributors must allow a wide breadth of dissent, else full discourse is impossible.

At PFF, the startup was horrendous in that the posing, name-calling and general crap-spewing between lefties and righties was uncontrolled. Since, the level of discourse has improved (you only have to duck now and then) and a few very unlikely truces have been declared. That has come about without a single banning that anyone knows of.

I do not wish to get into a finger-pointing contest, nor will I. Your comments are invited, though I may or may not participate. Honestly, I write this only because I feel it needs to be said, not for any other purpose.

So, I wrote a comment to Buhdy. I’d like you to read it.

How do you experience Iraq?

I wrote an essay yesterday titled, Collateral Damage. In it I opened with the same photograph reproduced three times of a pre-teen Iraqi girl mouthed ope’d in horror, clinging to herself, with the image of spattered blood puddled and dripping on the wall to her right and her father’s dead, bare feet to her left.  Someone’s hand is seen reaching to touch her father.  The little girl is alone in her own world of horror.

An astute reader alerted me to the need to place advance warnings on images of this type to allow people not to look, should they be disturbed.

Of course, I will honor that request, as I wish never to inflict pain or distress of any kind on anyone.

But I also have very mixed feelings about this.  Is it moral to be able to distance oneself from what is happening in Iraq?  Is it acceptable not to know and to experience what is being inflicted on victims of violence, whoever they may be, and for whatever societal sanctioned reason?

On this first Iraq Moratorium day, I’d like us to discuss the morality of immersion of and identification with the victims of violence.

The New York Times finally came to its senses

and opened its website to anyone and without charge.

Back when the NYT decided to charge $49.95 (or some figure) for access to its most often read columnists, I thought it a moronic journalistic move and an even stupider business move. Obviously, the journalist want the widest audience possible to read their words of wisdom. There was no journalistic justification to limit that audience. Unfortunately, the business wieners gained the upper hand and shut of the reference source.

Reid and Schumer’s secret FEC deal? (it’s not good)

Note: Action item down at the bottom of this diary

I haven’t seen this posted anywhere, and with the focus no longer being on the US attorney firing scandal and the relationship between many of the US attorneys and election integrity issues, I think it bears pointing out.  The deal involves the reconfirmation of Hans von Spakovsky, a hyper partisan republican who has many MANY shady ties to voter suppression tactics over the past couple of decades, as one of six members of the Federal Elections Commission.

PONY PARTY… a little bit raw

I have to share some of what happened last night whilst writing in the raw

This is from fatdave. and every time i read it, it blows me away.

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