Archive for January, 2012

Why the U.S. left Iraq

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment
American invaders/occupiers leaving Iraq.

I have been meaning to return to this, and for various reasons have not until now. So I am a bit late on this.

Anyway, in October I wrote of Iraq’s refusal to accept immunity for U.S. forces and how the Obama administration said it was a “deal breaker” by writing that, “Calling the end of immunity a ‘deal breaker’ is probably just an empty threat to get Iraq to back down. And it will probably work.” While I came to that conclusion by noting how, “Back in the summer of 2009 President Obama successfully pressured the Iraqi government to cancel a public referendum calling on US troops to leave,” it turned out I was wrong. Iraq stood their ground, and Obama held true to his word. Regardless of why we left, we are out and that is good (even though we are violating their air space with drones). At the same time we should be honest with ourselves and not construct lies in order to campaign for the Emperor-in-chief.

I bring this up because, with it being an election year, apologists for President Obama are saying he “ended the war.” That’s not true in the sense that Obama was dedicated towards righting a wrong. In fact, he continued the war for most of his term and wanted to continue it even longer. President Obama didn’t want to end the war, but to finish it. There is a big difference. But the idea of American soldiers not having immunity for their crimes was too much for Mr. Hopey Change, and so he pulled out. When soldiers came home he praised them for their service. He thanked the occupiers who committed countless atrocities and obeyed unlawful orders to participate in a war of aggression that liberals believe Obama was opposed to on moral and judicial grounds. But this is a myth; a lie.

So let it be known, the emperor is naked.

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Is another U.S. imperial intervention on the horizon in Syria?

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

“Free” Syrian Army jihadists

First as tragedy, then as farce. If it weren’t for the severity of this, it would be a “farce,” but lives are at stake.

It hasn’t even been a year since all the events unfolded in Libya. Islamic jihadists with close ties to Saudi Arabia masquerading as pro-democracy liberators asking for Western intervention to topple a government that enjoys considerable support—at least as compared to the “rebels.” But here we are again. We even have popular leftists deluding themselves and others about the nature of what’s going on. Stephen Zunes recently wrote that, “The Syrian pro-democracy struggle has been both an enormous tragedy and a powerful inspiration.”

There is even the same old propaganda campaign. Patrick Cockburn of The Independent recently wrote that,

The Syrian opposition needs to give the impression that its insurrection is closer to success than it really is. The Syrian government has failed to crush the protesters, but they, in turn, are a long way from overthrowing it. The exiled leadership wants Western military intervention in its favour as happened in Libya, although conditions are very different.

The purpose of manipulating the media coverage is to persuade the West and its Arab allies that conditions in Syria are approaching the point when they can repeat their success in Libya. Hence the fog of disinformation pumped out through the internet.

Sounds a lot like the propaganda claims of an imminent massacre in Benghazi, which was known to come from the rebels themselves and was never seriously looked into before the U.S. and a handful of other countries signed off on a “No-fly Zone” that was quickly used to turn NATO into the air force for the racist terrorists known as the “rebels.”

And like Libya, the rebels in Syria are getting the blessing and funding of Saudi Arabia. When the House of Saud finances something you know it is not a pro-democratic force of inspiring liberators (take note Mr. Zunes).

That a Salafi preacher is calling for soldiers to defect and fight the government adds to the problem.

The Guardian UK just reported that “Free Syrian Army rebels claim to have made a tactical withdrawal and vow to mount guerrilla-style operations.” Tactical withdraw is a way of saying defeated but trying to save face. But a likely reason for their recent defeat is that they lack popular support (much like the rebels in Libya). According to the New York Times in October of last year:

Tens of thousands of Syrians rallied in central Damascus on Wednesday to show support for President Bashar al-Assad, who faces an uprising against his government that has lost momentum but remains resilient.

Just look at the picture for that article:

Thousands of people rallied in Sabaa Bahrat Square in Damascus on Wednesday in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Bassem Tellawi/Associated Press

Three months prior to this in Tripoli, Libya an estimated 1.7 million turned out in support of Gaddafi.

But a U.S. attack on his fleeing convoy left him alive in a ditch where the rebels quickly found him, beat, tortured, sodomized and then executed the man before burying him in an unmarked grave. Shortly after an Al Qaeda flag was flown over the court in Benghazi, and the ethnic cleansing of black Africans and rounding up of pro-Gaddafi people (who were then tortured to death) was allowed to continue unabated—though it appears the people of Bani Walid who resisted the NATO terrorists are making a come back and reclaiming their city.

Things are not looking good for Syria. While I have no particular fondness for the current leadership in Damascus, the idea of U.S.-backed and Saudi-funded jihadists running the show is even more nightmarish.

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Andrew Jackson: Lies My Daughter Endures

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

My oldest daughter is in second grade and is currently working on a report on Andrew Jackson.  The material provided her is incomplete, to put it mildly. It is horribly one-sided, patriotic and makes a slave-owning genocidal mass-murderer out to be a national hero. That he is on our twenty dollar bill is a testament to the injustice that lives on.

Her report relies on such a lack of information that it was basically provided for her (her infromation came from the White House‘s own page on the man). It is clear that what is expected of her is to just write the appropriate responses, get a good grade, and move on. She is required to say where he was born, something important about him, and three interesting facts. She has that he was born in Tennessee, was the first president from Tennessee (as an important fact), and three interesting facts like “he spoke for all the people,” and favored election by popular vote.

Of course this doesn’t fly with me. While I showed her that he was quite outspoken on the power and influence the rich and banks had over government (she did write “Andrew Jackson was opposed to the power and influence banks had over our government” in place of the “he speaks for all people” lie) I quickly showed her that he didn’t speak for all people, at least not by their consent. I explained to her—much of this she already knew from previous lessons I gave her—the conditions that slaves, indigenous peoples, and women endured.

But she heard the most damaging information of all, which surely affected her view on this great American hero (sarcasm). It came from one of the most important historical books on the American genocide. The book, American holocaust: the conquest of the New World (Oxford University Press, USA; 1993) is by David Stannard and the passage I read to her was this:

From the precipice of non-existence, the Cherokee slowly struggled back. But as they did, more and more white settlers were moving into and onto their lands. Then, in 1828 Andrew Jackson was elected president. The same Andrew Jackson who once had written that “the whole Cherokee Nation ought to be scurged.” The same Andrew Jackson who had troops against peaceful Indian encampments, calling the Indians “savage dogs,” and boasting that “I have on all occasions preserved the scalps of my killed.” The same Andrew Jackson who had supervised the mutilation of 800 or so Creek Indian corpses—the bodies of men, women, and children that he and his men had massacred—cutting of their noses to count and preserve a record of the dead, slicing long strips of flesh from their bodies to tan and turn into bridle reins. The same Andrew Jackson who—after his Presidency was over—still was recommending that American troops specifically seek out and systematically kill Indian women and children who were in hiding, in order to complete their extermination: to do otherwise, he wrote, was equivalent to pursuing “a wolf in the hammocks without knowing first where her den and whelps were.”

Take a moment to digest that. Imagine if Germany was teaching about Hitler in their schools but left out the death camps and genocide and “preventive wars.” That would be greeted with considerable outrage. But we do it and it is not only acceptable but patriotic. When I asked if my daughter wanted to include the fact that he was a slave-owning genocidal mass-murderer in her report, she got real nervous and scared. She said no. I told her, “But, it’s the truth,” to which she replied, “But it might not be my teacher’s truth.” Her bending to pressure to not rock the boat troubled me. I told her that ultimately it is her call, but that she should never be afraid of standing up for what she feels is right. The report is due February 17, so we’ll see.

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On Iran, the Times is Eyeballs-deep in Muddy Water

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was a strong supporter of a free press. Its role was to keep the people informed and to sound the alarm, especially of the tyranny of governments. For Jefferson, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” Going further, Jefferson also warned that

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.

Were Jefferson alive today he would likely note that the danger the American Empire poses to the “security of all” is facilitated by a press that, while technically “free,” muddies the water by willfully genuflecting to the interests of the political and economic establishments.

For example, in a recent Times Magazine is an article by an Israeli analyst, Ronen Bergman, titled “Will Israel Attack Iran?” As usual, the New York Times acts as a parrot for the American Empire. The idea of challenging the empire on its adventures, or that of its closest allies, is unthinkable. There is a serious lack of integrity at the Times. Even the title of the article is suggestive. The question is not should Israel attack Iran, which at least questions the legitimacy, but will they. For Bergman and the Times, the matter of “should” is already answered. All that’s left is pondering whether it will happen or not.

There is no lengthy article published in the Times Magazine from the perspective and interests of the Iranian government. The bias goes one way.

In the opening paragraph Bergman writes that Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, “now faces, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 12 other members of Israel’s inner security cabinet, the most important decision of his life — whether to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran.” Bergman quotes Barak as telling him that, “The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.” Referring to a commonly quoted remark by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad—though taken out of context and subject to poor translation—it passes without comment that Iran has offered Israel peace, though Israel has never offered Iran the same. It passes without comment that it is Israel who is openly considering a “pre-emptive attack,” and which is not the result of poor translation or a comment taken out of context.

That Israel is calling it a “pre-emptive attack” (sometimes called “preventive war”) says a lot. And that it is Israel, a country born out of the ashes of Auschwitz, only adds value to former World War Two veteran, five-star general of the U.S. Army, and American president Dwight Eisenhower’s comment that, “Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not ever listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.”

According to Bergman, “Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger” when told how former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi said “the Iranian threat” was hyped and overblown. For Barak, he sees himself as responsible for the “existence of the State of Israel — indeed, for the future of the Jewish people.”

The Times article then goes on to say that

Barak laid out three categories of questions, which he characterized as “Israel’s ability to act,” “international legitimacy” and “necessity,” all of which require affirmative responses before a decision is made to attack:

1. Does Israel have the ability to cause severe damage to Iran’s nuclear sites and bring about a major delay in the Iranian nuclear project? And can the military and the Israeli people withstand the inevitable counterattack?
2. Does Israel have overt or tacit support, particularly from America, for carrying out an attack?
3. Have all other possibilities for the containment of Iran’s nuclear threat been exhausted, bringing Israel to the point of last resort? If so, is this the last opportunity for an attack?

Notice the hierarchy. While the issue of international law is missing it is still revealing that exhausting peaceful options does not come before having the support of the American Empire or “the ability to cause severe damage.” Priorities are such that all a rogue state needs to ask before considering a serious crime is: do I have the ability to do it, and do I have the blessings of Washington? But this admission arouses no rebuke.

The last category is just absurd. There is no proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and in fact the U.S. Secretary of Defense has admitted there is no such program. Their nuclear energy program is under strict supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and as recently written on (see here, here, and here), Iran—like Japan and South Korea—only wants to develop the capability to quickly create a bomb in case it needs it to defend itself. The idea of containing “Iran’s nuclear threat” with the threat of war, which is widely known as what is driving to develop such a weapon, is a joke. And when considering Israel has nuclear weapons and routinely attacks its neighbors and refuses to allow the Palestinian state to be created within the pre-1967 borders, the talk of containing a threat becomes more ludicrous.

When Bergman quotes Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, as saying that, “Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped,” there is no challenge to this. It is routinely accepted throughout the entire piece that Iran is a threat. The idea of Israel being the threat is never entertained. Nor is the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons.

The article does mention numerous plots to undermine the Iranian government like the sanctions, but also including the assassinations of nuclear scientists and other illegal acts. Bergman even quotes Dagan as saying that the function of these activities is so that “In the mind of the Iranian citizen, a link has been created between his economic difficulties and the nuclear project.” There is a word to describe the tactic of instilling fear in a population for political purposes: terrorism. Does Bergman make note of this? Nope.

Going back to his interview with Barak, Bergman quotes the defense minister as saying that, “I accept that Iran has other reasons for developing nuclear bombs, apart from its desire to destroy Israel, but we cannot ignore the risk.” Again, Iran is not talking about destroying Israel, though Israel is talking about a “pre-emptive” war where their first concern is whether or not they “have the ability to cause severe damage.” For Barak, “An Iranian bomb would ensure the survival of the current regime, which otherwise would not make it to its 40th anniversary in light of the admiration that the young generation in Iran has displayed for the West. With a bomb, it would be very hard to budge the administration.” This is pure nonsense. The “other reasons” Iran has for possibly developing such weapons is not to deter its own population, as Barak surely knows, but to deter Israel from carrying out the kind of attacks it is openly discussing!

Some honesty finally seeps in:

“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

What really concerns Israel is not that Iran would nuke Tel Aviv, but that, while Israel “would not necessarily give up” on using force in the region to achieve its strategic goals, they “would definitely restrict [Israel’s] range of operations.” And of course Bergman does not point this out, as he doesn’t point out the hypocrisy of Barak’s next quoted comment: “And if a nuclear Iran covets and occupies some gulf state, who will liberate it?” While a nuclear Israel covets Palestine, occupies it, continues to gobble up more and more land, Bergman does not ask: who will liberate Palestine? All of this predictably passes without comment or even so much as batting an eye lash.

Again the Times provides space to misrepresentations of truths when Bergman writes that,

Over the past year, Western intelligence agencies, in particular the C.I.A., have moved closer to Israel’s assessments of the Iranian nuclear project. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed this explicitly when he said that Iran would be able to reach nuclear-weapons capabilities within a year. The International Atomic Energy Agency published a scathing report stating that Iran was in breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and was possibly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

As noted in previous writings by this writer (see articles hyperlinked above), U.S. intelligence agencies have been saying that Iran is moving towards having the capability to create a nuclear weapon for deterrence purposes, as we know is the case for allies like Japan and South Korea. With allies this is not a problem. Also, the IAEA report has already been discredited as propaganda since it recycles old and debunked arguments, and comes on the tail of a revelation that the new Director General Amano is a stooge for the American Empire.

The one-sided language continues relentlessly as it does throughout the more than 7,700 words that make up Bergman’s article. We read comments like “the Israelis suspect that the Obama administration has abandoned any aggressive strategy that would ensure the prevention of a nuclear Iran and is merely playing a game of words to appease them.” There is that word: aggressive. How is it that the alleged defenders of civilization are talking about being “aggressive,” while it is the state who is supporting nuclear disarmament, allowing the IAEA to inspects its program, and offering its enemies peace is the “threat”? More important still, how is this not the story the New York Times is covering? Why are they instead giving space to an Israeli analyst who feels that “Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012,” but conveniently ignores a lot of vital information that clearly exposes such a strike as criminal and immoral? Following his prediction Bergman makes a comment about “right or wrong” but I am puzzled seeing how he doesn’t provide more than a superficial investigation of Israel’s argument for war. The closest Bergman can come in speaking out against an Israeli attack is to warn that

In the end, a successful attack would not eliminate the knowledge possessed by the project’s scientists, and it is possible that Iran, with its highly developed technological infrastructure, would be able to rebuild the damaged or wrecked sites. What is more, unlike Syria, which did not respond after the destruction of its reactor in 2007, Iran has openly declared that it would strike back ferociously if attacked. Iran has hundreds of Shahab missiles armed with warheads that can reach Israel, and it could harness Hezbollah to strike at Israeli communities with its 50,000 rockets, some of which can hit Tel Aviv. (Hamas in Gaza, which is also supported by Iran, might also fire a considerable number of rockets on Israeli cities.) According to Israeli intelligence, Iran and Hezbollah have also planted roughly 40 terrorist sleeper cells across the globe, ready to hit Israeli and Jewish targets if Iran deems it necessary to retaliate. And if Israel responded to a Hezbollah bombardment against Lebanese targets, Syria may feel compelled to begin operations against Israel, leading to a full-scale war. On top of all this, Tehran has already threatened to close off the Persian Gulf to shipping, which would generate a devastating ripple through the world economy as a consequence of the rise in the price of oil.

When the only concern is the success of a crime, or whether the costs outweight the benefits, and not peace and justice, we know that the so-called “free press” is failing to do what Thomas Jefferson thought it ought to do: “keep the waters pure.” The Times is eye-balls deep in muddy water on Iran, and of course all of this fits perfectly in Ed Herman’s and Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model.” When you recognize that for the “dominant media”

Its crucial structural factors derive from the fact that the dominant media are firmly imbedded in the market system. They are profit-seeking businesses, owned by very wealthy people (or other companies); and they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit-seeking entities, and who want their ads to appear in a supportive selling environment. The media also lean heavily on government and major business firms as information sources, and both efficiency and political considerations, and, frequently, overlapping interests, cause a certain degree of solidarity to prevail among the government, major media, and other corporate businesses. Government and large nonmedia business firms are also best positioned (and sufficiently wealthy) to be able to pressure the media with threats of withdrawal of advertising or TV licenses, libel suits, and other direct and indirect modes of attack. The media are also constrained by the dominant ideology . . .

—it all makes sense. The role of the media is not to inform and guard against power and corruption, but to be the guardians of power; to regiment the minds of the masses so that they are corralled in narrow thought where they are free to do, and believe, as they are told.

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It’s a Hostage Situation: President Obama’s State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012 1 comment

Last night President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address where he talked a lot about bringing jobs back, and our manufacturing base, and a green jobs program, and taxing the rich.

It all sounds nice and rosey. And I will put aside a fact check on a number of his statements since surely others will comb over it word for word. What I want to bring up is this: President Obama has been in office for three years and he has done a lot to undermine what he said last night. From healthcare reform to financial reform to free trade agreements to obstructing climate talks at Copenhagen to much, much more. The question that should be on everyone’s mind is: Why now?

If you translate what was really being said this is what you get:

After three years of continued and escalated war, empire, obstruction of climate justice, bailing out Wall Street, and bailing on Main Street President Obama announced that his re-election strategy is to hold progress hostage.

With subtlety the President said he would give what we should have received long ago—though you can rest assured that things aren’t what they seem and that the devil is in the details—but only if he is re-elected. He is, as he did in 2008, holding our welfare (or our “hope” for “change we can believe in”) hostage.

Despite this we need to recognize that voting is the least of our struggles. We should not let ourselves be held hostage in order to get things done, nor should we rely on the graciousness of a politicians heart. If we want progress we need to organize our communities and workplaces, and get prepared to carry out direct action so as to pressure Obama and other politicians (and businesses) to do the right thing and to stop hooking for the Lords of Capital. Vote if you want to, or don’t vote. What matters most is that you organize, agitate, and get active to define and build a better world.

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Is the Trévidic Inquiry a Political Stunt?

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Earlier this month it was reported that a report prepared for French judge Marc Trévidic was filed in court. The report is a part of an investigation into the assassination of Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana, on April 6, 1994—an incident that initiated a genocide that lasted throughout the one hundred days it took the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Paul Kagame (now President of Rwanda), to overthrow the government and continued into the Democratic Republic of Congo where six million more people were killed.

In response to the report, the Rwandan government rushed to make announcements like, “[The] findings constitute vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994”, Louise Mushikiwabo, Foreign Minister and Government Spokesperson said. “With this scientific truth, Judges Trévidic and Poux have slammed shut the door on the seventeen-year campaign to deny the genocide or blame its victims. It is now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a coup d’état carried by extremist Hutu elements and their advisors who controlled Kanombe Barracks.”

Most news outlets used the above press release almost verbatim in their reporting. The New York Times has yet to even comment on it. Considering the Trévidic report compliments U.S. interest in the region it is strange that the New York Times has not written on it.

There is a problem, however, with the coverage the report received. At the time, no one had seen the report. CNN said that the report “has not been released publicly,” (it has since been leaked in its entirety, see above) but this didn’t stop them from running sensationalist headlines like, “Report: Rebels cleared in plane crash that sparked Rwandan genocide.” As the article notes, the claim that the report says, “The missile that brought down the plane carrying the president of Rwanda more than 17 years ago was fired from a camp controlled by his own ethnic group and not by Tutsi rebels” is based on what the “attorneys for the rebels said.” The claim that, “The responsibility of the RPF in the attack is therefore dismissed” is based on what the attorneys for the RPF said.

Even BBC jumped on board with their article “Rwanda genocide: Kagame ‘cleared of Habyarimana crash’.” Careful reading of the article reads that, “A report has appeared to clear Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame of orchestrating the 1994 assassination.” [emphasis added]

The Guardian UK also took part in the shenanigans when they published the article “Paul Kagamé ‘cleared’ of part in 1994 downing of Rwandan president’s plane,” which stated that, “The technical inquiry to locate the point from which the fatal missile was fired seems to clear the Rwandan Popular Front (FPR) – the rebel forces led at the time by the current president, Paul Kagamé – of any part in the assassination.” [emphasis added]

The Washington Post made comments such as the “report released by a French commission that found that the missile fire that brought down the Rwandan president’s plane in 1994 and sparked the country’s genocide came from a military camp and not Tutsi rebels,” and that, “The findings essentially clear several people close to Kagame, who was the leader of the Tutsi rebels at the time of the assassination.” [emphasis added]

“Attorneys for the rebels said”? “Appeared”? “Seems”? “Essentially”? Since, as CNN reported, the French government has “declined to comment on the report,” and that it the time of these comments the report had not yet been leaked, it is apparent that the BBC, Guardian, and Washington Post are basing their words off of what Paul Kagame’s attorneys are saying—i.e., one of the suspects!

But before we get to some insights into the report (and in particular, just how absurd the Washington Post comments are), some history is in order.

On October 1, 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda, and with the help of President Yoweri Museveni (who also aided Kagame in the killing carried out in Congo). Prior to this Kagame was in the U.S. where he received military training by the U.S. government at Fort Leavenworth.

It is not known how many people were killed in the RPF attacks from October 1, 1990 until the assassination on the evening of April 6, 1994, though figures put it between 20,000 – 40,0000, and with hundreds of thousands more ethnically cleansed from northern parts of Rwanda.

This “civil war” lasted until the 1993 Arusha Accords brought some peace, though it is well known that the RPF routinely violated the cease fire and carried out attacks.

Then in April of 1994 it all came a part when the plane Habyarimana was in was shot out of the sky. Within a couple of hours the RPF conducted a massive invasion and overthrew the government in just over three months. But the violence didn’t stop with the overthrow of the government. Even in September 1994, the Times was reporting that,

the United Nations has stopped encouraging Rwandan refugees to return and is refusing even to assist those who wish to go home because of a report that the new, Tutsi-dominated Government in Rwanda has killed thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group.

The RPF carried out mass killings, often right in front of international peacekeeping forces. According to the Herald Sun:

By early 1995, the displaced persons’ camp at Kibeho was the biggest in Rwanda, sprawling for 9sq km and containing 80,000 to 100,000 people.

The 32 Australian soldiers and medical officers arrived there as part of the UN peacekeeping force on April 18, 1995.

There were daily random killings by the Rwandan soldiers, but the slaughter exploded out of control soon after 10am on April 22. The Australians had a grandstand view of the nightmare from the Zambian compound.

The RPA soldiers murdered women and children right up to the UN wire. Bodies were everywhere. For the Diggers behind the wire, the next few hours were agonising.

For the refugees, there was nowhere to run.

As the Australians collected the wounded from among the piles of dead, the crisis began to escalate as panic-stricken Hutus overran the Zambian compound, driven forward by machete-and rifle wielding militia.

Hundreds were killed in the crush and the Australians were forced to repel at bayonet point the terrified victims they were supposed to be protecting, pushing them back into the RPA killing zone.

The RPA went wild and cut loose with another hail of fire on the panicking crowd.

The two competing theories of the incident, since hardly anyone disputes that the event was pivotal in all that followed, was that “Hutu extremists” from the Rwandan military killed the president to derail a power-sharing agreement. The other theory is that the RPF carried out the attack as the opening phase of their invasion, which did quickly follow the assassination.

Some of those who don’t accept the “Hutu extremist” theory point out that the report does not accuse anyone of the assassination, and that it only lists a number of possible locations from where the assassination could have taken place, and that it is just one technical report awaiting more information and responses from others to clear up their findings. This is all true. It doesn’t identify the culprit, and it is only a preliminary report. It is not the courts conclusion. Even in its argument against Masaka being the location it is acknowledged that  notYet, remember, the Washington Post said that the report “found that the missile . . . came from a military camp and not Tutsi rebels.” It said no such thing. Furthermore, in no way did the reports “findings essentially clear several people close to Kagame.”

While the report does argue that it was Soviet SAM-16’s that were used for the assassination—and the “Hutu extremists” theory rests on claims that France provided the Rwandan government with the missiles—there is no evidence that the Rwandan military ever received the missiles, or the training to use them. However, it is known that Uganda received the same missiles and training, and considering the close ties between Uganda and the RPF, it is possible they used them, especially considering that Ugandan-purchased SAM-16 missile tubes were recovered near the Masaka location (see Section 3 of Trévidic report above and Bruguiere report below).

Many of the articles reviewed have the claim that the reason Habyarimana was assassinated by a group of his own men was that he was accepting a power-sharing agreement with the RPF. It is said that they wanted to “derail” or “stall” such an agreement. The problem is that within hours of the assassination the RPF went on a major offensive that overthrew the government in one hundred days, all the while committing major war crimes and human rights violations. The idea that the RPF was going to accept a power-sharing agreement is completely false, which their numerous cease fire violations and the April 1994 invasion shows. As well as the testimony of certain UN officials (Luc Marchal), whom we will get to in a moment.

Human Rights Watch has urged the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to prosecute the RPF for their crimes, though not one has been indicted. A fact that led Ed Herman and David Peterson to write in their book, The Politics of Genocide, that: “Although it has failed to convict a single Hutu of conspiracy to commit genocide, the ICTR has never once entertained the question of an RPF conspiracy—despite the RPF’s rapid overthrow of the Hutu government and capture of the Rwandan state.”

Even if the report did “vindicate” Kagame, which it doesn’t, it doesn’t explain the quickness with which the RPF carried out its invasion and coup in 1994. And it certainly doesn’t exculpate him or his forces from their crimes committed during the event, or anything that followed afterwards—whether in Rwanda or in Congo.

“Vindication” is not likely. The former Secretary General of the RPF, Théogène Rudasingwa, has himself said that he has documented proof that Kagame was behind the assassination and that he is “demanding” to testify to the ICTR and present the evidence. He said this in October of 2011. Three months later, there has been no word that he will be allowed to testify.

And it’s not just the testimony of Rudasingwa. A Spanish court has also noted on the matter that,

In order to begin the definite assault to power and to create a situation of civil conflict, several meetings were held in Kabale, followed by meetings subsequently held in Mbarara and in Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina-Fasso). These meetings were attended by the high comand and the leaders of the A.P.W.P.R. The purpose of the meetings was to prepare an attack to assassinate President JUVENAL HABYARIMANA. The last of these meetings took place in Mulindi on 31 March 1994, at 14:30 hours, and was attended by General PAUL KAGAME, Colonel KAYUMBA NUAMWASA, Colonel THEONESTE LIZINDE, Lieutenant Colonel JAMES KARABERE, Major JACOB TUMWlNE and Captain CHARLES K A R M A.

The last arrangements for the attack against the presidential aircraft were made at this meetins, in the sense of determining the place from where the ground to air nlissiles would be launched and the composition of the comnland which would carry out the attack.

There is also the Hourigan report at the UN, which was filed by an investigator and then supressed. While the report has never been leaked, there is evidence of its existence and what it basically says (see DNT 365):

OTP Attorney and Queen’s Counsellor Hourigan had concluded in 1997, along with Amadou Deme, that Gen. Kagame was responsible for the assassination of Pres. Habyarimana and the resumption of the WAR.

James Lyons, an FBI agent who worked closely with Hourigan released a statement where he said:

Mr. Hourigan regularly briefed me and other senior ICTR staff members on the progress of the investigations and that always included the plane crash investigation. Hourigan and some members of his team briefed Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour during one of her few visits to Kigali. At no time did Judge Arbour relay to me, or to my knowledge, any other senior investigator that the plane crash was outside the mandate of the ICTR.

I always worked closely with Mr. Hourigan and his team and was continually briefed on developments. In February 1997, there was a dramatic turn of events in the investigation when three potential cooperating witnesses came forward. Two of the witnesses knew of each other’s cooperation. The third was independent and we believe, had no knowledge of the other two. The witnesses were all past or present members of the RPF and because of their duties were in a position to personally know the accuracy of information being furnished.

The information furnished, although untested, was extremely detailed to the point of naming individuals involved in the planning and the execution of the rocket attack. The sources advised that the then leader of the RPF, General Paul Kagame, formed a commando type group referred to as the “network” and that he and his senior advisors had put into affect the plan to shoot down the Presidential aircraft as it approached Kigali Airport.

During the last days of February 1997 I was present with Mr. Hourigan at the US Embassy in Kigali. He placed a call to Judge Arbour in The Hague on the Embassy secure telephone line. He briefed her on the latest developments in the plane crash investigation. It was obvious to me, from listening to Mr. Hourigan’s side of the conversation, that Judge Arbour was pleased with the progress of the case and enthusiastic about continuing the investigation. Later, Mr. Hourigan advised me that Judge Arbour asked him to travel to The Hague so that they could further discuss this matter personally.

On the first Monday in March, 1997 I returned to the United States as my contract was finished and I did not choose to extend it. I later had a telephone conversation with Mr. Hourigan during which he advised me that during his meeting with Judge Arbour, she unexpectedly ordered him to shut down the investigation. She explained that the shooting down of the President’s airplane was a crime outside the jurisdiction of the ICTR.

And there is much more that goes over all of this, especially in the Bruguiere report—which Rwanda is trying to defame with the report to Trévidic. In it, Bruguiere says of Hourigan’s work that “the group of investigators had also received information that, on the evening of April 6, 1994, an RPF radio message was intercepted, announcing ‘the target has been hit.'”

The Guardian UK article mentioned earlier said of the report that it “was based on testimony hostile to Kagamé,” though that is not true. The work of Hourigan and Lyons are but a couple of examples, and hardly hostile to Kagame, but there is the second-in-command for United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), and Belgian Colonel Luc Marshall. He testified to the ICTR that he too felt that “it is the Rwandan Patriotic Front which has perpetrated the attack,” and that, “From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves.” Marchal said of the RPF that, “Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus.” He went on to tell the court that, ”It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement”, and that, ”All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process.”

Another good source of information on the assassination and more comes from Ed Herman’s and David Peterson’s book The Politics of Genocide (see here for the chapter on Rwanda).

The way the Trévidic investigation is heading it is becoming clear that it is a political event (quite possibly to improve French-Rwandan governmental relations), just as the ICTR is. As Herman and Peterson noted above in their book, the ICTR has yet to file an indictment against an RPF soldier for conspiracy to commit, or carry out an act of genocide (or any crime despite the fact that there is so much evidence that even HRW has urged the court to prosecute).

If we look at the 2008 judgement of Bagosora, et al, we can get an idea of just how politicized the tribunal is. The focus is on “Hutu extremists,” and particular accusations against four men, “the Accused.” The historical context of the “genocide,” as we are told in the judgement, “precede the Tribunal’s temporal jurisdiction.” What happened before January 1, 1994 is “irrelevant” to the court. Even the crimes of the RPF are “irrelevant.”

Despite the fact that the court acknowledges that “a cycle of ethnic violence against Tutsi civilians has often followed attacks by the RPF or earlier groups associated with Tutsis, such as Union Nationale Rwandaise party,” or that “[f]ollowing the October 1990 RPF invasion, there were mass arrests as well as localised killings at the time and in subsequent years in several northern communes and the Bugesera region,” and despite the fact that the court ruled that “the alternative explanations for the events have added relevant context to a few allegations against the Accused,” there is just one problem: “they are irrelevant to the core issues in this case, namely whether the Accused are responsible for the specific criminal allegations charged against them.”

So while the tribunal admits that the military preparations that the prosecution said was proof of a genocidal plan was “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle,” and that “in the context of the ongoing war with the RPF, this evidence does not invariably show that the purpose of arming and training these civilians or the preparation of lists was to kill Tutsi civilians,” or that when you view the creation of lists and arming and training of civilians “in the context of the immediate aftermath of the RPF’s violation of the cease fire agreement, it does not necessarily show an intention to use the forces to commit genocide,” the focus is still on “the Accused,” and not the RPF for the responsibility of what transpired.

In other words, that “the Accused” are innocent of planning a genocide, and that what happened is “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle” due to an RPF invasion in 1990, that after more than two years of terror by the RPF resulted in a power-sharing government that recognized the RPF as a legitimate force, but also in a cease fire that the RPF violated—which would explain why the Rwandan government kept “lists” of Tutsi’s and armed and trained civilians in the north (they were being attacked by invading forces)—the men are still guilty of “genocide” because violent incidents that occurred after the RPF assassinated their president and began a massive invasion which resulted in massacres of Hutu’s. Colonel Bagosora was found guilty of the deaths of ten Belgian peacekeepers, not because he had anything to do with the murders but because of “command responsibility,” and the court noted on the matter that “the evidence suggests that these killings were not necessarily part of a highly coordinated plan.” What is not stated is that Beligan soldiers are quite possibly complicit in the assassination of President Habyarimana, and aiding the RPF in their genocidal slaughter. One of the defense lawyers, Christopher Black, has said that, “The current leader of the RPF junta now in control of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, gave the final order for the shoot down, but he did so with the assistance or complicity of the governments of the United States of America, Britain, Belgium, Canada, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.” For the ICTR, anyone killed by Hutu’s following the invasion and power struggle was a victim of “genocide,” whereas the targeting of Hutu’s by the RPF from 1990 onward was “irrelevant.”

There is simply no other reason for why the ICTR is so selective in its focus than that it is a kangaroo court trial. Bearing in mind that Kagame has close ties to the U.S. government, who was instrumental in creating the ICTR at the UN Security Council, and that even according to UNSCR 955 the trial was created at “the request of the Government of Rwanda,” and who is apparently behind the ICTR’s “temporal jurisdiction” considering UNSCR 955 said the tribunal should be for crimes committed “between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994″—but somehow this has all been one-sided and the RPF excused.

It would be as if some American terrorist trained at military schools of foreign governments (Paul Kagame was trained at Fort Leavenworth), created a terrorist army in Canada with close ties to its military, invaded the U.S., and then assassinated the president, and overthrew the government in an orgy of destruction that lasted 100 days, creating a massive refugee crisis whereupon the invaders chased them into foreign countries and slaughtered them in absolute barbarism, and that the American forces who committed massacres in response to the campaign of terror and invasion were singled out as genocidaires and tried in an international tribunal, as requested by the new dictatorship, and that restricted its “temporal scope” to the crimes of its victims, and dismissed the historical context and crimes of the invaders as “irrelevant.” And years later some political investigation was convened to clear the culprits.

All of this covered above, though well documented, is conveniently missing from the coverage by the BBC, CNN, Guardian UK, Washington Post and New York Times (the Times just simply ignored the whole thing). Even though that much of it is mentioned in the report to Judge Trévidic (see Section 3). Considering that for years there has been plenty of evideice to indict Kagame, not only has he or his associates not been indicted, but there is still an effort to clear his name. It is looking to be, as previously noted, that providing political cover for Paul Kagame and his RPF forces might well be the legacy of the Trévidic investigation, as is the case of coverage by the mainstream media. But that’s not really surprising.

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In ‘Notes From the Front Lines,’ Argument Unbecoming a Decent Human Being

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Anyone who thinks the New York Times is a part of the “liberal media” would be served well by checking out the work of groups like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and gadfly’s like Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, David Peterson, and so on. The Times has shown time and time again to be a propaganda tool for the dominant economic and political powers. On matters of war, the Times routinely helps beat the drums, or provides a venue for jingoists to delusionally go on about the nobility and righteousness of America’s wars.

In yesterday’s “Notes From the Front Lines” the Times gives Ramsey Sulayman, a major in the Marine Corps Reserve and legislative associate with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), space to write a piece titled “In Urination Video, Behavior Unbecoming a Marine.”

We are constantly reassured that the Marines are about “Honor, Courage, Commitment,” and that while “war is a dirty business,” the soldiers who urinated on their victims was “unbecoming a Marine.” Many of Sulayman’s comments read as if a decent human being would be moved by them with awe and respect. Here are a selection:

The values I learned were that we fight ferociously but maintain our honor. Always. We kill as a necessity of our business — not for sport, pleasure, or because we can. That is what makes us professional warriors. We also don’t take trophies, souvenirs, body parts, or desecrate the dead. That’s what separates us and why we can claim the moral high ground and come to terms with the ugliness of war. Gen. James N. Mattis, the current commander of the United States Central Command, summed up the rules for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan perfectly: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

By turning war into a “business,” and being “professional warriors” there is somehow a “moral high ground” to be had. Sulayman even uses the word “perfectly” to describe “the rules for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan”: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” This is said with all seriousness and an intent to come off as righteous. It reminds me of the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero” where the late Beatle sung, “There’s room at the top they’re telling you still, but first you must learn how to smile as you kill.” Being a polite robot ready to kill everyone is, we are told, of the highest virtues defenders of freedom and liberty can have. But for Sulayman, the urinating killers are “Marines acting unprofessionally and inappropriately. Not because they were conducting their business during a combat action, but because they crossed the line after the fighting stopped.”

With the revelation that these men urinated on their victims came a quick response by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saying the incident was “utterly deplorable,” and announced an investigation into the act.

What I want to ask is: What exactly is “deplorable,” or “inappropriate”? Urinating on the dead bodies of people we killed in a criminal war, or the killing (i.e. war) itself? This is an important question to ask because if it’s just the urination, as Sulayman wants to believe, and that there would be no scandal if “our troops” just stopped at killing people, then our disconnect from decency is a much bigger problem than what is being called “deplorable.”

(As a sidenote, all of this reminds me of Mark Twain’s short story The War Prayer, which I recommend everyone read at the end of this article.)

Can we imagine the response of outrage if we were the people of Afghanistan and Iraq reading this? What if the tables were turned and it was us who was invaded and occupied and routinely subjected to crimes “unbecoming a Marine”? Or what if the horrors we endured were at the hands of smiling young men who acted “professionally”? Would we end our grief and say to ourselves, “At least the killer of my family shook my hand”? How would we feel about the New York Times publishing a piece by the article who trivialized our hardships, and made the perpetrators out to be courageous young men?

This is hardly an isolated incident. In one of the first drone attacks in Afghanistan following the October 2001 invasion was the story of Daraz Khan, an Afghan man who was murdered by an American Hellfire missile because he was tall, had a beard and wore a turban. According to the New York Times, a Pentagon spokesperson, Victoria Clarke, said that “We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target,” yet Mr. Clarke acknowledges that “we do not know yet exactly who it was.” Even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld weighed in with the incriminating comment that, “Someone has said that these people were not what the people managing the Predator believed them to be,” he said. ”We’ll just have to find out. There’s not much more anyone could add, except there’s one version and there’s the other version.” It doesn’t take much critical thought to conclude that there is nothing “appropriate” about killing an unknown man because he is tall, bearded and wearing a turban. It is clear that U.S. forces racistly profiled the man, and as the saying goes, shot first and asked questions later.

Another example of an American massacre was in January of 2002 when Time Magazine reported on it the following month by noting that, “In what appeared to be a perfect sneak attack, U.S. special-operations soldiers on Jan. 24 stormed Sharzam High School in Uruzgan” and killed all the men present. A guard hid in a ditch and heard the men pleading for their lives, but none were spared.

According to eyewitnesses, U.S. commandos moved on Uruzgan shortly before 2 a.m. on Jan. 24, accompanied by eight helicopters and at least two armored humvees. Local Afghans said that when the Americans burst into the school, they found Afghan fighters sleeping and began spraying the beds with gunfire.

The Americans accused them of being Taliban fighters however they were what the men were trying to tell the U.S. forces, who likely didn’t understand their language: “The soldiers slaughtered at Sharzam, they say, were not enemy fighters but anti-Taliban troops loyal to U.S.-backed interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. They belonged to a military commission appointed by the new provincial government to oversee the collection of leftover Taliban weapons.”

The article ends with another gruesome account of the incident:

One witness of the aftermath said the Americans shot Afghans as they hid under beds and rushed out of doorways. The Pentagon maintains that the Afghans started shooting first, but villagers say they heard no gunfire from inside the school. Two dead Afghans were found with their wrists bound. One U.S. soldier left behind a note: “Have a nice day. From Damage Inc.” Days after the attack, the classrooms at the school were still soaked in thick blood.

There are many other examples of such bloodbaths. Accounts of drone attacks killing entire wedding parties, or U.S. convoys opening fire as they speed through town, or even the notorious “kill team” where U.S. soldiers hunted civilians and took grisly pictures of them holding the dead bodies as if they were trophies, and much more are easily found thanks to the power of the internet. The mass media however, has not given these bloodbaths the coverage they deserve and are already going down the memory hole.

For example, while the New York Times covered the story of Daraz Khan in one article totaling 1,758 words, in a two month period following the incident and never covered the Uruzgan massacre, the same is not true for an incident where Canadian soldiers were killed in a case of “friendly fire” in what came know as the Tarnak farm incident. In April of 2002 an American F-16 reported seeing surface-to-air fire, asked to fire on the location and while on “stand by” the pilot bombed the place before being told to “hold fire . . .Friendlies, Kandahar.” In a two month period the incident received eight articles totaling almost 6,500 words.

Recently the U.N. reported that, in Afghanistan, torture is “systematic.” As the U.S. follows the tradition of a long line of empires who seek to control Afghanistan, and they never do, there has been a reliance on local forces to ruthlessly go after the dominant Islamic movement, the Taliban. A particularly gruesome example was the Dasht-i-Leili massacre where thousands of suspected Taliban fighters were caught, stored in metal containers and suffocated to death—all of which occurred with U.S. knowledge, and possibly supervision.

As for Iraq, we can turn to a medical report, which was released in late 2010, and where we learn how the effects of our November 2004 U.S. attack on Fallujah was worse than what the U.S. did to Hiroshima, when just over 65 years ago the United States became the first and only country to use a nuclear weapon (“little boy”) on the battlefield. That was in Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later in Nagasaki another nuke (“fat boy”) was dropped.

Back to Fallujah, early on, in our illegal war of aggression, when we “liberated” the country, we set up a military base near a school in the town. Naturally the residents, who were no friends of Saddam, protested. And the protests grew. U.S. soldiers, realizing they weren’t being greeted with candy, opened fire on them, killing 17 and wounding 70. Tensions increased and escalated when the locals got their hands on four Blackwater mercenaries, hung them from a bridge and set fire to their hanging bodies. The U.S. responded in a heavy-handed and disproportionately manner (i.e. a war crime). As expected, Fallujah became a symbol of resistance to U.S. troops. That was the spring of 2004.

After Presidential elections in November 2004, and as the resistance grew like wildfire, the U.S. carried out another massive assault that resulted in numerous war crimes. We literally destroyed the town but before we did we refused to let “men of fighting age” leave despite it being widely known that the resistance fighters had already left. What followed was an orgy of destruction involving conventional and chemical weapons (white phosphorus/Whiskey Pete/WP). Some say WP is not a chemical weapon. That’s simply not true because we relied on the chemical properties of WP as a weapon and used them against people, which legally constitutes it as a chemical weapon.

Fallujah may never recover from the physical damages of our aggression, and the health effects will probably go on for years and years to come. Like Japan, who still struggles with the atomic fallout and a U.S. military presence where the population is expected to foot much of the bill for our destructive presence (Okinawa’s residents are still trying to evict us), the people of Fallujah have a hard life ahead of them and there is no reason to believe the U.S. has any intentions on making it easier for them. In fact, about the only time President Obama has referred to Fallujah has been in the context of the suffering we endured, like he did while a U.S. Senator.

While a list of grievances were made against Saddam Hussein before and during the war, we seem to have managed to achieve every one of them within three years of our occupation: massive arbitrary arrests, torture, various violations of international law including war crimes and crimes against humanity, use of terrorism and chemical weapons against the people of Iraq.

According to Field Artillery Magazine, an Army publication:

WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes where we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive]. We fired “shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.

White Phosphorus was used as a chemical weapon—the U.S. Army publication described it as “an effective and versatile munition”—where its chemical property is used “as a psychological weapon” in order to kill them easier. The “method of warfare” even has a name: “shake and bake.” When Iraqi guerillas got into “trench lines and spider holes where we could not get effects on them with HE” the Marines would use Whiskey Pete to “shake” them out so they could “bake” them with HE.

To expose the fact that we have long known WP is used as a chemical weapon we can turn to a 1995 DIA document titled “POSSIBLE USE OF PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL” that was about Saddam Hussein’s alleged use of Whiskey Pete against Kurds in 1991 (an uprising the U.S. called for and then allowed Saddam to put down). In this document we clearly acknowledge WP as a chemical weapon:


This reads almost like the U.S. siege on Fallujah. In 1991 it was Kurdish insurgents, incited by President Bush but then allowed to be crushed, who received a brutal suppression by Saddam with WP and in which hundreds of thousands fled to live in horrid shelters. That was precisely what happened to Fallujah.

While Lt Col Venable admits that WP was used for its toxic properties as a “method of warfare” he incorrectly claimed that its usage was legal. It was not. Even according to a section from an instruction manual used by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, it is clear that “it is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.”

But no worries, America. This was done “politely” by “professional warriors” who have “honor.”

Another interesting item revealed as Americans were leaving last month was a New York Times reporter who happened upon some four-hundred pages of U.S. military documents pertaining to the 2005 Haditha massacre where American soldiers killed nearly two dozen civilians, many of them women and children. In the article we read of a testimony where a soldier says the murders were not “remarkable” because, “It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country.”

This is just a sample of the horrors the people of Afghanistan and Iraq have endured. In Iraq alone, more than a million people have died, with millions more ethnically cleansed from their communities, or injured, or traumatized, or sick with cancer due to our use of depleted uranium. In Afghanistan, the war and occupation has proved so unpopular that support for the Taliban has increased considerably. In 2007 before President Obama’s “surge,” the Taliban controlled half of the country. Now they control more than 90%. The war and occupation has proved so unpopular that Vice President Biden has had to change tracks and say the Taliban are not the “enemy,” as the Taliban opens an office in Qatar to begin negotiating a settlement to the war.

Sulayman says that Marines “do the right thing because it is the right thing regardless of what those around us would allow,” but that is clearly not the case by the fact that the Iraq War went on for nearly nine years, and that the Afghanistan War is still raging on. Both of these wars were completely illegal (and immoral), and any soldier who participated violated their enlistment oath and are not doing the right thing. In fact, the reason hundreds of thousands of soldiers have not done the right thing is that they were obedient to those around them. Resistance was not “allowed,” nor has it been tolerated. The soldiers who have refused to follow orders and “do the right thing because it is the right thing regardless of what those around us would allow” are the ones who were punished. Folks like Ehren Watada, Naser Abdo, Stephen Funk, Victor Agosto, and Bradley Manning are a tiny minority of resisters, and punishment was sought in every case. Even the case of Alexis Hutchinson—a soldier who refused to deploy so that she could care for her newborn child—endured the military trying to punish her for doing the right thing.

It is worth noting that Sulayman’s piece is completely void of the political, economic, ecological and human realities surrounding the wars he is defending. He talks of noble values, but real honor, courage and commitment lies not in obeying orders to go and kill and occupy, but in disobedience. What makes someone brave or a hero is not being a polite and professional warrior—a mercenary—for a criminal empire, but in resisting it. If Sulayman wanted to see real quality of character he would be looking to Bradley Manning, who has endured nearly two years of detention, often in torturous conditions, for leaking documents that expose corruption and criminality in America’s wars and foreign policies. That the Times provided Sulayman with the platform in which to spread his jingoistic nonsense says a lot about the “paper of record” and their service to the Masters of War.

Read Mark Twain’s The War Prayer.

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