Slaughter of the Innocents
Something is Rotten in Iraq and the Pentagon
By DAVE LINDORFF
Isn't it odd that in the air attack that the US military claims killed 19 high-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and 15 civilians, all the slain Al Qaeda members were men and all the men were Al Qaeda, while all the civilians were women (6) and children (9)?
Think about this a minute.
This means that no women were Al Qaeda--and yet we know that women also fight, and also blow themselves up as suicide bombers. Yet these women were all civilians. The children, of course, were children.
And we're to believe that there were no men who were innocent bystanders? All those adult males who were killed were "bad guys."
Yet there were innocent bystanders: the women and the children. Somehow, any innocent bystanding men managed to duck out of the way, or the bullets and bomb fragments (and I'm sure they were fragmentation bombs that were used, as well as a withering spray of machine-gun fire) that hit all those poor women and kids, just somehow (magically?) missed the men.
Pretty amazing huh?
Except that it's an absurd claim that should insult our intelligence.
It's not like the Pentagon has a list of all the enemy fighters, after all. What actually happens is the military has people come in after an action, and they find all these dead people. They look at the guys and have to decide, are they fighters or are they civilians? If the guy's got a gun in his hand, or nearby, they might assume he's a fighter, but is that a good test in a country where every guy has an AK47? And if he doesn't have a gun? Do you honestly think all 19 of those dead guys had a gun with him? I doubt it. These were people fleeing an attack by US troops and planes. They were--whether fighters or ordinary citizens--fleeing for their lives in a surprise attack. If they didn't have a gun with them at the time, they wouldn't have stopped to get one.
And since they don't let reporters travel independently to these battle sites and check what happened, who knows if they even bother looking for evidence. (And this doesn't even get to the point that they call every kill a "terrorist" or member of Al Qaeda, when odds are that if they are combatants they are neither, but rather some other insurgent group or other just fighting to drive the US out.)
It's clear to me that what we're getting is a big lie. Just as in Vietnam the troops would just count the bodies and turn in a report saying that was how many VC were killed, in Iraq (and Afghanistan), they count the men and call them the enemy.
Nobody calls them on this. Certainly nobody in what used to be called the free press.
The numbers are simply accepted as fact and dutifully reported to us.
The truth: we are conducting a slaughter of innocents in Iraq that is as bad as anything the Nazis did in their Eastern Front campaign.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's newest book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
Slaughter of the Innocents
Posted by TONY on 15.10.07
Afghanistan 'is going down fast : Terry Friel | October 13, 2007
THE bloodshed in Afghanistan has reached levels not seen since the 2001 invasion as anger at bungling by an ineffective Government in Kabul and its foreign backers stokes support for the Taliban and other extremist groups.
The death of Trooper David Pearce underlines the rising dangers for Australia's 1000 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of them deployed in the Taliban's southern heartland -- a region some of Canberra's NATO allies consider too dangerous to fight in.
"This place can only go up or down, and it's going down fast, which is something the international community simply will not understand," said a security analyst who has been working in and out of Afghanistan for 30 years.
Almost six years after the hardline Islamist Taliban were ousted, their insurgency is gaining strength, fuelled by resentment at NATO bombing of civilians, billions of dollars of wasted aid, a lack of jobs and record crops of opium, the raw material for heroin.
The fighting is spreading to places once relatively safe, including the capital and the western and northern parts of the country.
"This is a guerilla movement but it does seem to have a real momentum behind it at the moment," said Joanna Nathan, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank headed by former foreign minister Gareth Evans.
In Kabul, where suicide bombs have killed almost 50 people in two weeks, foreigners are increasingly ordered into "lockdown" -- barred by employers from leaving their heavily protected compounds, often behind armed guards, razor wire and concrete blast walls.
"It's all now too close -- people are jumpy," said a UN official who has lived in the dusty, chaotic city ringed by mountains for four years.
The revitalised Taliban have switched tactics back to traditional guerilla warfare after attempts to take on foreign troops under separate NATO and US commands in pitched battles last year resulted in heavy casualties.
"They never evaporated into thin air. The Taliban were there, they have been there and they are here now," said government adviser and former minister Hamidullah Tarzi, carrying his trademark silver pistol.
"One reason for their renewed strength is that the people are more or less amenable to what they are doing and maybe some of the (NATO) bombardments have not been very wisely executed.
"That has helped the people get closer to the Taliban. They are dying and they feel that they are the same (as the Talibs) from the religious point of view."
Scores, possibly hundreds, of civilians have been killed in air strikes, mainly called in to support ground troops fighting rebels. The US-led NATO force, government officials and village leaders differ over details and numbers.
The Taliban-led insurgency is also being bolstered by drugs money -- the UN reported a 50per cent jump in this year's opium crop -- local and tribal disputes, and a lack of jobs.
With the wrecked economy and the dangers of getting crops to market, being a paid fighter for the Taliban is often the only way isolated Afghans can feed their families.
"It's important to emphasise: I don't think the Taliban themselves are wildly popular," Ms Nathan said.
"I don't think people want Taliban times back. It is a broad dissatisfaction with what is happening in the country now. I think the Taliban are very clever at appealing to people or groups that are locally disenfranchised or disempowered."
The Taliban shelter and train in neighbouring Pakistan -- once the group's main sponsor -- and President Pervez Musharraf faces international pressure to do more to stop them.
But the border, a random line in the sand drawn by British colonial rulers, passes through rugged, inhospitable territory and divides fiercely loyal ethnic groups who have never been fully controlled by any government for centuries. General Musharraf and NATO generals say stemming the flow of fighters is a tough task.
While some analysts say Tehran may be supporting the Taliban, most say no firm evidence has surfaced, rejecting Defence Minister Brendan Nelson's suggestion that the bomb that killed Trooper Pearce might have been made with supplies from Iran.
"He made that comment before any proper investigation had been done," said one soldier serving with NATO.
Much of the violence in Afghanistan is rooted in ordinary crime as the conflict erodes security and the rule of law and young men desperately seek money.
"Some of my friends don't have jobs. They just walk the streets. They talk among themselves of kidnapping a foreigner just to make some money," said "Sayed", a university business student who did not want his real name used.
Guns are easy to come by and drug addiction in the country that supplies almost all the world's opium is rising.
Unemployment is near 40 per cent and many Afghans live in appalling conditions, with no running water, sewerage or electricity. Roads are poor and in the capital -- crammed with tens of thousands of squatters camped in mud brick huts -- most middle-class residents are lucky to have power a few hours a day.
"People thought democracy would give them everything -- jobs, roads, electricity, water -- but nothing of this sort has happened," Mr Tarzi said.
"In fact, it's getting worse. There is a lack of jobs, a lack of employment. Overall, nothing much has been done.
"The money that has come in has not been productive in relation to industrialisation."
Confidence in the Afghan Government, the first democratically elected administration in three decades, is fading fast.
President Hamid Karzai, 49, the philosopher and former freedom fighter who has ruled this country since 2001, faces criticism for his failure to stamp out the Taliban and raise living standards.
Dubbed "the mayor of Kabul", because he rarely leaves his palace and his Government's writ barely extends beyond the capital, Mr Karzai is battling to balance the demands of the people who elected him with those of the foreign backers who prop up his Government.
He is also undermined by the fact his administration has control over only a small share of the billions of foreign aid dollars spent in his country.
Mr Karzai is not a popular leader, his critics say, accused of being ineffective and indecisive. In Kabul and many parts of the country his public portraits and banners are dwarfed and outnumbered by those of Ahmed Shah Masood, a popular mujaheddin leader assassinated by al-Qa'ida two days before the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001.
Domestically, Mr Karzai relies on a ragtag collection of former warlords, mujaheddin freedom fighters, ex-communists and others for support and is locked in a power struggle with his parliament. The President and the legislators -- a large number of whom are illiterate -- are coming to grips with democracy as much as with each other.
Mr Karzai has been criticised for failing to sack or prosecute corrupt officials and of handing out jobs as political favours to shore up support.
His Government has also failed to make serious inroads into the $3.3billion-a-year opium industry, which is tightly intertwined with the conflict and has been breaking production records almost every year since the Taliban's fall.
"The narcotics and insurgency feed into each other," said Ms Nathan.
Trooper Pearce, 41, a father of two, was killed when his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Uruzgan province, a major opium centre where Australian and Dutch troops are working on reconstruction.
Although it is a volatile area and a centre of Taliban support, the Dutch forces had forged close links with community leaders, cutting down the fighting, until a botched poppy eradication program by a US private security firm a few months ago, analysts say.
"Uruzgan was going OK until they went in with tractors and started ripping the poppy fields up," said the Kabul-based security analyst. "The Dutch had a good relationship with the people down there, the local leaders, but when they rip up your crop, what do you do? You grab your gun. They didn't even do that much damage to the crops in the end."
Australian troops make up a fraction of the 50,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan, and opinion is divided about how effective Canberra's contribution is.
"It's more symbolic," Mr Tarzi said. "I think (John) Howard is trying his best to see what (US President George W.) Bush is thinking, and he's going along that line.
"He should concentrate more on what his people, the Australians, think. He is just following MrBush."
But Australia is one of a small group of countries -- along with the US, Britain, Canada and The Netherlands -- willing to send its soldiers to where most of the fighting is.
Some European countries refuse to deploy their troops to the volatile south. Several members of the NATO-led force impose tough -- and, critics say, absurd -- limits, or caveats, on how their soldiers can be used, with some barring their units from fighting in the snow, above certain altitudes or at night.
Ms Nathan said: "It is incredibly important to have nations who are prepared to go south in a robust way, to go down there not laden by caveats; to go down there to do what is needed, when it's needed, how it's needed."
by Maxim Kniazkov
Sat Oct 13, 3:18 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former top US military commander in Iraq said the current White House strategy in Iraq will not achieve victory in the four-and-a-half-year war, which he described as "a nightmare with no end in sight" in a hard-hitting speech.
In the bluntest assessment of Iraq by a former senior Pentagon official yet, retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez also lambasted US political leaders as "incompetent," "inept," "derelict in the performance of their duty" and suggested they would have been court-martialed had they been members of the US military.
"There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight," said Sanchez on Friday, addressing a meeting of military correspondents and editors in Arlington, a Virginia suburb of Washington.
He blasted President George W. Bush's "surge" strategy which calls for maintaining more than 160,000 US troops in Iraq until the end of the year in the hope of reducing sectarian violence and bringing political stability.
The strategy has since been adjusted, with the current plan calling for the withdrawal of about 21,500 combat troops by next July to bring the total to the "pre-surge" level of 130,000 servicemen.
But Sanchez said he did not believe these changes would prove effective.
"Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory," he said. "The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat."
Born into a poor family in southern Texas, Sanchez rose through the ranks of the US military to become the highest-ranking Hispanic in the US Army.
In 1991, he served as a battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm, a US-led allied operation to drive Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait.
He became commander of coalition forces in Iraq in June 2003, after the US-led invasion, and served in that capacity for a year.
Sanchez retired from the military in November 2006, part of the fallout from a scandal over abuse of detainees by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Reacting late Friday to Sanchez's comments, the White House evoked a September report to Congress by the current US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They painted a difficult situation they said was nevertheless marked by gradual improvements.
"We appreciate his service to the country," White House spokesman Trey Bohn told AFP, of Sanchez. "As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have said, there is more work to be done, but progress is being made in Iraq. And that's what we are focused on now."
Sanchez, however, had a starkly different view.
"There is nothing going on today in Washington that would give us hope," he said in his speech.
He said US political leaders from both parties have been too often consumed by partisan grandstanding and political struggles that, as he put it, at times have "endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield."
"There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders," the retired general complained. "In my profession, these type of leaders would immediately be relieved or court-martialed."
"The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable," he added.
For all his criticism, Sanchez essentially agreed with President George W. Bush's position that a precipitous US military withdrawal from Iraq would plunge the country and, possibly the whole region, into chaos.
He argued that some level of US military presence in Iraq would be necessary "for the foreseeable future."
The New York Times cited Sanchez as saying he favored promoting reconciliation among Iraqi sectarian factions and standing up an effective Iraqi army and police force -- projects already being tackled by the Bush administration.
It reported that the ex-commander was said to be considering publishing a book.
The only punishment doled out to US security men involved in deadly shootings is a jet home
Saturday October 6, 2007
Erik Prince, the secretive 38-year-old owner of the leading US mercenary firm Blackwater, has seldom appeared in public. But on Tuesday he found himself in front of a Congressional committee, TV cameras trained on his boyish face. The official focus of the hearing, convened by Henry Waxman's committee on oversight and government reform, was two questions that should have been asked long ago: whether the government's heavy reliance on private security is serving US interests in Iraq, and whether the specific conduct of Blackwater has advanced or impeded US efforts.
What put Prince in the hot seat were the infamous Nisour Square shootings in Baghdad on September 16, in which as many as 28 Iraqi civilians may have been killed. Waxman said the justice department had asked him not to take testimony on the incident because it was the subject of an FBI investigation. In Prince's prepared testimony, he said that people should wait for the results of the investigation - originally handled by the state department - "for a complete understanding of that event".
But the investigative process so far has hardly been impartial. Just hours before Prince's testimony, CNN reported that the state department's initial report on the shooting was drafted by a Blackwater contractor, Darren Hanner. The next day came the news that the FBI team assigned to look into the incident in Baghdad had a contract with Blackwater itself to provide security for their investigation.
At the hearing Prince boldly declared that in Iraq his men have acted "appropriately at all times" and appeared to deny that the company had ever killed innocent civilians, only acknowledging that some may have died as a result of "ricochets" and "traffic accidents". This assertion is simply unbelievable. According to a report prepared by Waxman's staff, since 2005 Blackwater operatives in Iraq have opened fire on at least 195 occasions. In more than 80% of these instances, the Blackwater agents fired first.
Not surprisingly, Prince said he supported the continuation of Order 17 in Iraq, the Bremer-era decree giving organisations such as Blackwater immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. Prince said Blackwater operatives who "don't hold to the standard, they have one decision to make: window or aisle" on their flight home. In all, Blackwater has sacked more than 120 of its operatives in Iraq. Given that being fired and sent home have been the only disciplinary consequences faced by Blackwater employees, it is worth asking: what did they do to earn this punishment?
Waxman's committee scrutinised one incident: the killing of one of the Iraqi vice-president's bodyguards by an allegedly drunk Blackwater contractor last Christmas Eve. Prince confirmed that Blackwater had whisked him out of Iraq and fired him, and said that he had been fined and billed for his return ticket.
According to the committee report, after the killing the state department chargé d'affaires recommended that Blackwater make a "sizable payment" to the bodyguard's family. The official suggested $250,000, but the department's diplomatic security service said this was too much and could cause Iraqis to "try to get killed". In the end, the state department and Blackwater are said to have agreed on a $15,000 payment.
A pattern is emerging from the Congressional investigation into Blackwater: the state department urging the company to pay what amounts to hush money to victims' families while facilitating the return of contractors involved in deadly incidents for which not a single one has faced prosecution.
· Jeremy Scahill, a contributing writer for the Nation, is the author of Blackwater: the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
Posted by TONY on 6.10.07