Thursday, January 10, 2008

50% of diplomats disagree with Iraq war

8 Jan 2008

The Washington Post reported today that only “18 percent of the U.S. Foreign Service think Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is doing a good job protecting their profession” and 44 percent rate her performance as “poor” or “very poor.” The AP also notes that nearly 50 percent of diplomats disagree with the Bush administration’s Iraq policy:

But 48 percent cited “disagreement” with administration policy as a factor in their opposition, said the survey conducted by the American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. diplomats. In addition, nearly 70 percent of U.S. diplomats oppose forced assignments to Iraq.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed the findings, claiming the poll was “self-selective.”

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/01/08/50-of-diplomats-disagree-with-iraq-war/

"Who's to blame when 'just following orders' means murder?"

From: The Fog of War Crimes
By Frida Berrigan

" ... “You stop war crimes by coming down on the ranking officer,” says Ian Cuth-bertson, a military historian and senior fellow at the World Policy Institute.

“All armies in all wars at all times have committed war crimes,” he continues. “The question is: Does command authority condone or stop them? You can’t just give an 18-year-old an automatic weapon and tell him, ‘Don’t shoot prisoners in the head.’ You need an officer to rein him in. The officer needs to feel as though his own neck is on the line.”

In the case of Haditha, Marines have not put officers’ necks on the line. Maj. Gen. Richard Huck, who was in charge of Marines in Haditha in 2005, along with his chief of staff Col. Richard Sokoloski and Col. Stephen Davis, who headed the regimental combat team, all received letters of censure from the secretary of the U.S. Navy. The censure did not strip the men of their rank or salary, but they will be barred from future promotions, which could force them out of the Marines. According to Gary Solis, a military law expert and former Marine, censure is the Marine Corps’ most serious administrative sanction.

But, as Cuthbertson points out, the generals are not being censured for letting Haditha happen. They are being punished for not investigating. This is a big difference.

Cuthbertson cites the Allied response to the Malmedy massacre in Belgium as one example of taking war crimes seriously up the chain of command. In 1944, German soldiers killed more than 70 unarmed U.S. prisoners of war. In war crimes trials after Germany was defeated, justice was swift and extended far beyond those who actually pulled triggers. “The commander of the regiment wasn’t there. He was found guilty and sentenced to death,” says Cuthbertson. “The general of the Army wasn’t there. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.” ... "

 

'Winter Soldier'

by Aaron Glantz
29 Nov 2008
 
" ... SAN FRANCISCO - U.S. war veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have announced they're planning to descend on Washington, DC this March to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in Iraq.

"The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it," said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. "That's left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like."

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicized incidents of American brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples," as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of "an increasingly bloody occupation."

"This is our generation getting to tell history," Madden told OneWorld, "to ensure that the actual history gets told -- that it's not a sugar-coated, diluted version of what actually happened."

Iraq Veterans Against the War is calling the gathering a "Winter Soldier," named after a similar event organized by Vietnam veterans in 1971. ... "
 

Argentina 'dirty war' sentences

A court in Argentina has sentenced eight former officials to jail terms of 20 to 25 years for abuses during the country's military dictatorship.

Among those sentenced was the former head of the army, Cristino Nicolaides.

He is the highest ranking official to be convicted since an amnesty law was repealed in 2003.

The officials were charged with killing members of a left-wing guerrilla group during Argentina's "dirty war" in the 1970s and 1980s.

Six other former army officers and an ex-police officer were sentenced along with Nicolaides.

Up to 30,000 people are believed to have been kidnapped, tortured or killed during under Argentina's military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

Lawyers said Nicolaides, 80, could not attend the sentencing because of ill health, but the other defendants were present.

One defendant told the judge he was innocent, saying the military regime had brought "order, not repression" to Argentina.

Some spectators shouted insults at the men before they were led from the court.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7151202.stm

'Tampa soldier stops torture at Abu Ghraib, Iraq'

Images of torture at Abu Ghraib were published around the world in early 2004. This prompted numerous investigations by the U.S. government who declared that the abuses were merely “the actions of a few,” and promised that these atrocities were no longer occurring. They lied.  

Torture continued to be routinely used on detainees at Abu Ghraib as disciplinary punishment for trivial offenses such as failing to follow instructions, or if an American soldier felt he was being “disrespected.” Typical torture techniques include the crushing of innocent Iraqis inside of improvised vices. This was done at the explicit command of the U.S. Army officers in charge of the facility.

SGT Michael Keller, a local Tampa software executive who enlisted in the Army National Guard five weeks after the al Qaeda attacks on America, was deployed to Abu Ghraib, Iraq in December of 2005. After discovering that torture was still being routinely practiced, he took on his chain-of-command, disregarding threats of punishment by superior officers, and ultimately prevailed; finally ending torture behind the walls of Abu Ghraib in early 2006. This story has not been told publicly until now.

Torture Central: E-mails from Abu Ghraib, recently published by iUniverse, details Keller’s extraordinary struggle. This “tell-all” exposé is unique, as it is primarily a collection of e-mails written by the soldier to an audience back home describing events in real-time as they occur.

The book contains numerous other revelations, such as: the killing of civilians (which are covered up by military intelligence officials), the indiscriminate detention and abuse of innocent Iraqi children, extreme graft by American contractors, etc.
 
Thought-provoking and full of chilling detail, Keller’s vivid look at Operation Iraqi Freedom is a must-read for every American with a conscience...

Web Site: www.torturecentral.com  
 
~ Link ~
 

Pentagon revising computer-snooping policy

The warning, which appeared on all military computers as the user booted up the machine, raised eyebrows shortly after it was posted on all Marine Corps computers in early December. For a few weeks, the first words on the screens of military computer users when they started the machines stated that law enforcement agents could search and seize whatever they desire ---- for any reason or none at all.

Marine Corps lawyers representing defendants in the military justice system, including Marines facing war crimes trials in the deaths of Iraqis, said a policy that allowed the government to read their correspondence and see their work jeopardized the attorney-client privilege central to a providing a full defense.

A November memo from the Pentagon detailing the new policy stated that privileged communications remain protected from search and seizure.

That piece of information, however, did not appear on the warnings that showed up on the computer screens.

The policy "is not intended to negate any privilege recognized by law," Maj. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the office of the secretary of defense, wrote in an e-mail Thursday to the North County Times.

Ryder also noted that the proposed policy "does not seek to broaden" the Pentagon's authority over searching and seizing any information found on military computers. Instead, Ryder wrote, the purpose of the new policy was twofold: to clarify the old policy that allowed for search and some authorized seizures, and to make the warning language standard throughout all military branches.

"In general terms, the main difference in the two user consent banners is that the updated version seeks to make it clearer to users what they are consenting to when they use a DoD (Department of Defense) computer," Ryder wrote.

But there remains a problem with the revised banner warnings that appeared on the computers last month. Ryder said one of the services brought up a concern with the banner warning and it was pulled until that concern -- which Ryder declined to define -- could be resolved.

On Wednesday, Walker said the banner on computer screens came down late last week....

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/01/07/news/top_stories/15_50_901_6_08.txt

'The FBI did not have an immediate comment'

From:  FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills

by Laura Jakes Jordan
 
" ... WASHINGTON —  Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.
A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.
 
[ ... ]
 
It also found that some field offices paid for expenses on undercover cases that should have been financed by FBI headquarters. Out of 130 undercover payments examined, auditors found 14 cases of at least $6,000 each where field offices dipped into their own budgets to pay for work that should have been picked up by headquarters.

The faulty bookkeeping was blamed, in large part, in the case of an FBI agent who pleaded guilty in June 2006 to stealing $25,000 for her own use, the audit noted. ... "

 

Seeds of Destruction

 
" ... Argentina experienced more fallout as well that threatens to spread. Its soybean monoculture affects the countryside hugely. Traditional farmers close to soybean ones are seriously harmed by aerial Roundup spraying. Their crops are destroyed as that's how this herbicide works. It kills all plants without gene-modified resistance. It also kills animals with farmers reporting their chickens died and horses were gravely harmed. Humans are affected as well and show violent symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and herbicide-inflicted skin lesions. Other reports claimed further fallout - animals born with severe organ deformities, deformed bananas and sweet potatoes, and lakes filled with dead fish. In addition, rural families said their children developed "grotesque blotches on their bodies."

Forest lands were also damaged as vast acreage was cleared for soybean planting. Their loss "created an explosion of medical problems because Roundup is toxic, kills every non-GMO plant that grows and, it harms animals and humans as well that come in contact with it.

As for higher promised yields, results showed reduced harvests of between 5% and 15% compared with traditional soybean crops plus "vicious new weeds" that need up to triple the amount of spraying to destroy. By the time farmers learn this, it's too late. By 2004, GMO soybean plantings spread across the country, they cost more to produce and yield less, and Engdahl summarized farmers' plight: "A more perfect scheme of human bondage would be hard to imagine," and it was even worse than that. Argentina was the first test case "in a global plan that was decades in the making and absolutely shocking and awesome in its scope." ... "
 

'Not the husband, occasionally the kids, always the handbag'

From: More than a kernel of truth in sex stereotypes
by Elizabeth Farrelly
2 Jan 2008

" ... Most women, invited to fill a go-bag against pandemic, tsunami or snap-frozen nuclear winter, will straight away say "baby photos". But if you observe their actual behaviour, it's the handbag they anxiously clutch. Not the husband, occasionally the kids, always the handbag. Take me, take my purse.

Said purse, to the objective eye, might seem little more than lipstick and baby wipes, cards, keys and comms devices. In fact, the female handbag is a veritable omnibus, secreting within its folds and crannies enough of life's essentials that the average female castaway could colonise afresh, should the need arise. Fish-hooks and pocket knives, clothes pegs and doggie bags, things for digging boy scouts out of horses' hooves, even the odd seed. It's why you should never stand between the female and her carry-on during evacuation. And why you should never stand behind her during pre-boarding X-ray.

More than that, though, the handbag is the keeping house of the female dreaming; an external uterus designed to nurture, shield, transport and bring forth. The built form, if you will, of femaleness. No wonder the dillybag assumed such significance in Aboriginal culture and mythology, with deities of both sexes regularly producing humans from, and protecting or transforming humans in, their multiple pendant dillybags.

Any husbands miffed at being the designated handbag may find comfort here, and in the vast handbag frenzy that is the Boxing Day sales. And next time some cheeky Maureen Dowd asks, "Are men necessary?", they should chuck the obvious one-word riposte: accessorise! For if there is an equivalent male form, it is surely something projectile: ball, car, speeding bullet. Something focused, linear and directional.

All of which is why women, in general, shop so well, dropping naturally into the unfocused trance, so beloved of retailers, that finds the right seeds and berries by intuition, not analysis. It's also why men tend to shop rarely, badly and under duress, often breaching shopping's first commandment by pre-deciding, online if possible, then making a beeline. As if shopping were a problem in need of solution, rather than a meditational orison. ... "
 
 

French farmer on hunger strike over GM crops

8 Jan 2008
 
A MILITANT French farmer who once wrecked a McDonald’s restaurant in a food protest has begun a hunger strike over GM crops.

José Bové and around 15 supporters say they want to pressure their government to ban cultivation of genetically modified corn.

“We will hold out for as long as it takes,” said the sheep farmer, who was an unsuccessful presidential candidate last April.

Bové had eaten only vegetable soup for eight days before his fast to accustom his body to the lack of food.

His protest is focused against a seed-type called MON 810, the only type of genetically modified corn currently allowed in France.

He rose to fame in August 1999 when he and supporters used farm equipment to dismantle a McDonald’s branch under construction in Millau, in the foothills of France’s Massif Centrale mountains.

He has faced repeated trials and been jailed for destroying genetically modified crops.

~ Link ~

 

'in my heart I sense the coming of a more beautiful world'

From: The Testicular Age
by Charles Eisenstein

" ... So it is with our civilization's millennia-long thrust to reach ever higher, ever deeper, to forge into new realms, to conquer every frontier. We have reached unimaginable heights indeed, but all around us we see the base of the Tower crumbling, as one crisis after another besets us. The upward thrusting is nearly exhausted. We are seeing in these few decades its highest climax.
The vast womb of mother nature and mother culture has long nourished our growth, but now we are growing up against its limits. Whether in a body or on a planet, this is what triggers birth. We are rapidly entering a state of emergency. It is here that the feminine Yang takes over, bearing down and pushing us forward according to a spontaneous and irresistible rhythm into a new world. We can no more imagine what this world will be like than a fetus can imagine the world outside the womb.
Just as the feminine Yin has complemented the male Yang for the last few millennia, when the female Yang qualities come to the fore in coming centuries, it will be the masculine Yin that supports and sustains them. Already we begin to perceive the necessity of these testicular qualities of conservation, regeneration, patience, forbearance, and steadfastness. As the collective Female of humanity and the planet bear down in this emergency to birth us into the future, the collective Male will be at hand, calm, steadfast, solid and reassuring. These will be the traits that come to define masculinity, while the phallic traits will retreat for a while to a lesser role.
During this birthing, humanity will experience a life-and-death journey just to survive. When we are born into that new world, we will realize that our species is just in its infancy. This process is beginning in earnest in our lifetimes, and it may take centuries to complete. I do not know the specifics, but in my heart I sense the coming of a more beautiful world. ... "
 

War is illegal

Against a background of escalating ecological crises, and the fact that large parts of the world´s population are being exposed to extreme poverty, inhuman working conditions and increasing social tensions, the annual global military expenditure has risen to more than 1000 billion dollars.

The military-industrial complex of just a few G8 countries is responsible for the overwhelming part of this spending, causing incalcuable social and ecological consequences.

Unequal distribution of global resources, increasingly controlled by large multinational companies, global debt policy and unfair international trading practices ultimately could not be maintained without military security. In many countries the military is used to repress critical opposition.

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 are increasingly used to justify systematic surveillance and the dismantling of constitutional rights. Even European countries have helped to establish Guantanomo-like secret prisons, where torture in all probability takes place.

Iraq was attacked based on falsified evidence causing the death of hundreds of thousands of people, widespread destruction, destabilization and contamination with cancer-causing depleted uranium munitions.

Now plans to attack Iran and the possibility of a new World War have been made public, meeting resistance even from moderate elements within the military due to the unforeseeable consequences.

Faced with the choice between a war, that according to some western leaders, will last for many years or a possible peaceful transformation we support the following demands:

1) Impeachment proceedings against US President Bush and US Vice President Cheney before the 2008 election, a demand raised in solidarity with large parts of the US public and some members of US Congress. Furthermore prosecution by the International Court of Justice of G. W. Bush, R. Cheney and other officials from various countries for waging wars of aggression contrary to international law and committing crimes against humanity.

2) International investigation of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. They are used as the central justification for the "War on Terror", but well documented evidence shows that the official explanation of 9/11 cannot be correct. International personalities in science, politics, and culture, including high-ranking military veterans, have called for a new investigation.

3) Immediate military withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, and no attack against Iran. International prohibition of war as a means of conflict resolution. Military intervention and export of weapons should be criminalized.
In a civilized society torture must be prohibited in any form.

4) Conversion of military industries to civilian purposes and the development of ecological and sustainable energy resources. According to the UN environmental agency, a fraction of the annual global defence expenditure could ensure that all humans have access to clean water and a basic supply of food and healthcare.

This statement is based on a commitment to non-violence and tolerance of all ethnic groups and religions. Two devastating World Wars and historical catastrophes like the Nazi Holocaust must always remind us of the worst consequences of nationalism, racism and incitement to war.

Sign this statement, pass it on, whatever we can do. It is up to us.

http://www.war-is-illegal.org/

'We operate on the idea that the biggest threats we face come from the outside'

From: Antibiotics, Counterinsurgency and the Myth of Contagion
by Sean Donahue

Back when the war in Afghanistan began, Donald Rumsfeld said that the U.S. strategy in fighting "terrorists" was to "drain the swamp they live in."
His malarial metaphor revealed deep connections between the way our culture perceives threats to our health and threats to our national security.
We operate on the idea that the biggest threats we face come from the outside -- bacteria, viruses, and parasites entering our bodies through cuts and bug bites and contaminated food; terrorists sneaking across our borders. And so we seek to eliminate those threats using the most potent weapons and strategies available, from broad spectrum antibiotics to the cruise missiles and laser guided bombs the military uses to secure "full spectrum dominance" on the battlefield.
But those approaches are backfiring. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics has spurred the evolution of newer, more virulent diseases. The medical establishment's primary response has been to develop new antibiotics that in turn spur the evolution of stronger bacteria. Large scale bombing, urban firefights, house to house searches, and the detention and torture of suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to upsurges of violent resistance in both countries.
These failures require a reexamination of some of our fundamental assumptions about how the world works – and that re-examination has the potential to be a catalyst for some important cultural shifts...
 

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