Tag Archives: Iraq

Broken Government Cares Not For the Troops

Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) addresses the media after the Republicans shut down a veterans jobs bill on 19 September.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) addresses the media after the Republicans shut down a veterans jobs bill on 19 September.

Once upon a time, the United States was fighting a war half way around the world from home. Actually, despite the content of your nightly newscast, the United States is still fighting a war half way around the world from home – just ask any of the 68,000 troops still in Afghanistan. Military families know that there’s still a war going on, to say nothing of individual members of the armed forces. You may have a friend or friend-of-a-friend who has a family member either who is either fighting nor or was one of the many tours of duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan, now finally home. The evening news – well, most news in its entirety – has moved on from this reality onto much more pressing issues, like honeys that boo boo and new phone gadgetry.

After being a mainstay in political rallies and conventions – whether or not their ultimate value to the party platform was more negligible than a uniformed prop – the presidential election campaign this year has produced a rather remarkable occurrence: one of the top two contenders for the White House accepted his party’s nomination with a speech that went on to not mention our fighting men and women even once. What is even more remarkable is that the nominee to notch this dubious acheivement was from the Republican party. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the Republican party standard-bearer, did not give so much as a wink or nod to the military – even a fake one for optics.

Far from being a slip-up from the Romney campaign, the diminished care for the military carried straight over to the U.S. Senate, where in a remarkable vote on September 19, a bill to provide for a jobs program for returning troops was killed with a procedural vote after winning 58 – 40. In not-wonky-politic speak, that means that the bill was defeated, despite having more than enough votes to pass. All forty Senators voting against the bill were Republicans, including a handful of Republicans who had authored the language of the bill.

Read more »

Dozens of Young Iraqis Stoned to Death for Dressing Western

In Iraq, wearing this might as well be a death sentence in the eyes of religious militias.

In Iraq, wearing this might as well be a death sentence in the eyes of religious militias.

Sadr City is a conservative district of Baghdad, Iraq, known during the Iraq War for being a focal point of anti-American resistance. Multiple sieges, lock downs, and arrests of criminals top kidnapping ring leaders led to a steep decline in the number of murders emanating from there – whether it was attacks on troops or civilians. The very conservative worldviews that led to violence were not eradicated however, and in recent weeks it appears there is a new group for the violent to center their hatred on – young people who dare to dress Western.

Latching on to the “emo” label but really, in general, just dressing more like one would expect a Western teen than traditional Iraqi dress, these young people wanting a different world than the one they have grown up in appear to be on hit lists of local armed gangs and militias. Reports as to how many have been killed vary widely – from as low as 14 to well over 100. The reasons for and methods of killing remain the same – brutal stoning and crushing to death with cement blocks for the crime of having different hair and dress than what is considered “acceptable” by the local violent conservatives:

Militants in Shi’ite neighborhoods where the stonings have taken place circulated lists on Saturday naming more youths targeted to be killed if they do not change the way they dress.

The killings have taken place since Iraq’s interior ministry drew attention to the “emo” subculture last month, labeling it “Satanism” and ordering a community police force to stamp it out.

“Emo” is a form of punk music developed in the United States. Fans are known for their distinctive dress, often including tight jeans, T-shirts with logos and distinctive long or spiky haircuts.

At least 14 bodies of youths have been brought to three hospitals in eastern Baghdad bearing signs of having been beaten to death with rocks or bricks, security and hospital sources told Reuters under condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Read more »

Quietly, Iraq War Ends

They're finally going home.

They're finally going home.

Ending with the absolute antithesis of the way it began, the U.S./Iraq War was officially declared over yesterday during a modest ceremony at Baghdad’s main airport. The announcement served almost as a news footnote of the day, impressively contrasting with the made-for-prime-time-television start of the war in the now-infamous Shock and Awe campaign. The announcement was also decidedly more low-key than the also made-for-television “end of war” broadcast on May 1st, 2003 – which contributed the phrase “Mission Accomplished” to popular culture, where “accomplished” actually translated to “abject failure”.

More than eight years later with 4,487 American lives ended, 32,226 Americans injured, untold tens of thousands of new sufferers of PTSD, and oh by the way somewhere north of 100,000 Iraqis (perhaps far north of that number) killed, this regrettable war finally ends.

No sinister weapons of mass destruction were found, of course. On the bright side a dictator was toppled and eventually answered for his previous war crimes. Iraqi oil was also de-nationalized with fields being newly developed by international companies. With the removal of their biggest rival in the region, Iran has seen its influence expand and grow more bold.

Iraqis have somewhat of a functioning representative democracy now, so that’s an improvement. The three historically incompatible factions in Iraq (Sunni, Shia, Kurd) have managed to begrudgingly fit under one parliamentary roof instead of forming three separate countries. It won’t be until 2014 before Iraq conducts a national election without American troops keeping the peace, however.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, at that ceremony, made note to mention that dangerous days still are ahead for the country:

“Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”

By-in-large though, keeping the peace will be an Iraqi operation from this point forward. A token force will remain behind – a few hundred troops – to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and military contractors will continue to do whatever it is they do around the country, but at least finally the army is coming home.

Now for the next step: to not get involved in decade-long, murky objective filled, far too costly conflicts.

We’re still at war, by the way. Does anyone know with who?

The “Ground Zero Mosque” debate (which, by the way, has all but died as we approach election day) continues to have its effects seen in televised topical conversation, melted into a gigantic pot that contains general hatred of all Muslims and the heaviest ingredient – the world since 9/11.

The most recent blowup in this never ending discussion came from The View, where two of the hosts walked off the show in disgust after Bill O’Reilly of Fox News said “Muslims attacked us on 9/11″.  Vague and generalizing, such a sentiment doesn’t do much of anything to advance discussion and peer into the why behind the why behind the why – a process typically called “understanding”.  Such foreign concepts are usually a good idea to research if one would actually like to understand why a conflict is going on and, better yet, how to end it.

The discussion is nowhere near that.  The discussion is a lot closer to the link above.  There are well thought out rebuttals that make huge strides toward actually understanding the roots of conflict, but they’re typically left to obscurity – since reason and thought aren’t good for ratings.  Still, thankfully it happens (skip ahead to about 2:45 for something of relevance):

Intelligence like this, sadly, winds up tossed to the wind of the discourse, as all the mature people stand on the sidelines – trying to live their lives – hoping the day will come when the windbags of fear and broad-based discrimination finally blow their selves out.

A ‘Jack Bauer’ Republican, except this is the real world

Ilario Pantano (right) after his primary night victory

Ilario Pantano (right) after his primary night victory

While we are still months out from the midterm elections in the United States, at this early day there are some rather intriguing races setting up.  Some of these races involve incumbent Senators getting upset by radical-leaning constituents showing up to a caucus and demanding someone even more conservative than who is already in place, some of these races involve closely-fought over seats from the 2008 elections, and one in particular, involves references to a man who is synonymous with Chuck Norris in the world of meme-based tough guy lore, Jack Bauer.

Jack Bauer became a household name by taking one day out of his otherwise uneventful year to save the country from imminent attacks by terrorist organizations.  Instead of abiding by the laws and process in place of the day, Bauer used torture tactics to get exactly the information he needed, virtually exactly every time he needed it.  This recurring and successful plot tangent wound up being used as justification (by some) for real torture in the real world, whether that be CIA renditions or episodes like Abu Ghraib.

Enter newly-official Republican nominee for Congress, Ilario Pantano.  He has become a sort of darling in Conservative circles with his backstory

In 2001, immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks, Pantano, a veteran who had previously fought in the Gulf War, left his career as a successful producer and media consultant in his native Manhattan to rejoin the Marines and was eventually deployed to Iraq.

A vet, a hero, someone who has fought for this country.  This is something you would expect to come from the right, since they like to wrap the flag around their selves the tightest – when push comes to shove.  There’s one other significant detail in his bio, however…

In April 2004, Pantano killed two unarmed Iraqi detainees, twice unloading his gun into their bodies and firing between 50 and 60 shots in total. Afterward, he placed a sign over the corpses featuring the Marines’ slogan “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” as a message to the local population.

Even Jack Bauer would be impressed.

Read more »

Representative hung in effigy over health care reform

In today’s edition: The health care debate keeps stepping toward the surreal, diplomacy is a neat tool, and the CEO of Blackwater has been implicated in a murder investigation.

Rep. Kratovil (D-MD) is hung in effigy at a health care 'protest'

Rep. Kratovil (D-MD) is hung in effigy at a health care 'protest'

—–

The health care debate seems to continue to take turns for the progressively more and more surreal with each passing day – and it’s only August 4th.  Today’s latest way that was cooked up by someone somewhere to really wow them came from an unidentified protester in Maryland, who hung Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in effigy to support killing current efforts to reform the health care system.  Suggesting the death of someone voting for a bill that will more than likely save lives is quite the interesting touch, and at the very least it’s a great way to get attention of passing media.  The noose was a nice addition, too – the vague suggestion of lynching surely not lost on people of this ilk.

This unidentified man decided he was doing the Tea Party-anti-reform effort a real solid by hanging freshman Maryland Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in effigy … with a placard “Congress Traitors The American [and a word that looks like "idol"].

The event — a rally in Salisbury, Md. on the Eastern Shore — was attended by members of the business-funded Americans for Prosperity, a group that includes James Miller, a Federal Trade Commission chairman and budget director during the Reagan administration.

Of course the spin on this sort of thing is supposed to suggest that there is a wide ranging, grassroots type of movement against health care reform, and we are to look away from suggestions that it is being bankrolled by very wealthy individuals who have a vested interest in maintining the status quo.  That status quo is quite profitable, by the way.

Stock price change since ~December, 2008:

Cigna: +249%
Wellpoint: +89%
Aetna: +88%
United Health Care: +85%

S&P 500: +25%

—–

Diplomacy, noun: the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations.  Example, today:

Bill Clinton’s spokesman says the former president has left North Korea with two American journalists who had been held hostage.

Matt McKenna said late Tuesday that Clinton has “safely left North Korea with Laura Ling and Euna Lee.” He said they’re flying to Los Angeles, where the journalists will be reunited with their families.

The White House is not commenting the trip.

No bombs dropped, no bullets fired, no wars waged, no unneeded death, no unneeded suffering, just good old fasioned diplomacy.  It almost feels like the 1990′s, again (save for the economy).  Kudos to Mr. Clinton for getting the safe return of these two journalists.  Up next are the Iranian hostages.

—–

The Nation is currently running a story that, if true, would be a huge blockbuster and would also probably shed a hell of a lot of light over the Iraq war, how it was waged, and why America was never able to win those hearts and minds.  The founder of Blackwater has been implicated in murder:

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

Mind you, this is all 100% under oath.  This is not on some talk radio show, not on some forum, website, or blog, not in front of a crowd of people, and not said publicly to get a reaction out of people.  This is sworn testimony from two individuals who know what could become of them if they were lying about the whole ordeal.  The allegations go on to say that Mr. Prince believed that he was on a mission from God to rid the world of Muslim people, and that this belief drove him to suggest and sanction the murder of innocent Iraqis that would help lead to this conclusion.  If true, this would completely undermine the attempt by the U.S. military to stabalize the country of Iraq after the war, and probably led to the extreme resentment of Americans in that country by the general Iraqi populace.  When the faces of the outsiders look the same, even though they do two entirely different things, how can you trust that those outsiders have your best interests, or any interests, at all?

“Taking matters into our own hands”: U.S. attacks inside Syrian territory

From the “oh now what!?” files, via the BBC

US helicopter-borne troops have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including a woman, Syrian authorities say.

The official Syrian news agency Sana said the raid took place in the Abu Kamal border area, in eastern Syria.

It said that American soldiers on four helicopters had stormed a building under construction on Sunday night.

Follow up:

If true, I can see this being explained as a needed cross-borer raid to go after high value targets, or something of that sort.  Believable?  You decide.

With the collapse of our financial system taking up most of the headlines it’s easy to get that the situation in Iraq has basically been fought to a stalemate on all sides: there’s little political progress between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd.  Beyond political stalemates there is also a stalemate in the Middle East powder keg, which occasionally has a match tossed its way but has thankfully yet to light.  Whether it be the Turks raiding northern Iraq (Kurdistan) or the Kurds hitting back, whether it be this seemingly new U.S./Iraq v. Syria “interaction”, whether it be Iranian allegations of allied backing of terrorists in their west or our allegations of backing of terrorists in Iraq’s east – or hell, the Saudis getting twitchy seeing Iran as the new, and rising, kid on the block… there’s a lot of explosive energy here just waiting for the next bad policy decision.

While the media may spin this as an opportunity for McCain – if it ever even gets discussed – let us not forget to mention to those on the fence that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy ideas will take us further away from the threat of regional war or stirring up hornet nests that are best left alone.

…and let us hope that we can get through the next nine days without one last epic international sendoff from the Bush/McCain/New American Century administration.

Update from MSNBC:

A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the foreign fighter network that travels through Syria into Iraq in an area where the Americans have been unable to shut it down because it was out of the military’s reach.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq.

Oh. Just. Peachy.

The Sadr Uprising Appears to be Moving Forward

Coming on the heels of passing 4,000 dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq, any vague hopes that “The Surge” is working seem to be falling apart before our eyes.  What is being exposed is something very important to the American presence in Iraq: in the end, they have no control.

Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has decided to defy the American-backed government like he did before, and appears to be taking the leash off of the dog that is his Mehdi Army.  Gun battles are raging from Basra to Baghdad with threats to spread across the rest of the country.

Read more »

4,000

Now official…

AP via MSNBC: BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000.

The grim milestone came on the same day that rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in violence.

Read more »

We know who is one of the main suppliers of the Iraq insurgents. Why aren’t we attacking?

110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, and 250,000 pieces of body armor and helmets have been supplied to one of the enemies fighting and killing American troops in Iraq. We know that the enemy, the insurgents in Iraq, took delivery of the weapons in 2005 according to new reports that have surfaced this week. No doubt the political tension between Washington and the government responsible for supplying these weapons to the insurgents has been increasing, and may soon reach a boiling point that could result in the widening of this conflict beyond the borders of Iraq.

President Bush today was even on the offensive on the situation:

“It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that they’re a stabilizing force as opposed to a destabilizing force. After all, this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon,” he said during a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

So we have the saber rattling, we have the proof, when do we start the bombing?

There’s only one minor road block to get around first. Those 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, and 250,000 pieces of body armor and helmets were not exactly shipped in crates saying “From Tehran, with love!” Instead, this large shipment of needed weapons to fuel the insurgency in Iraq was shipped from none other than the United States of America.

Read more »