Monday, October 15, 2007

Blackwater: A Metaphor

I'm on the run today. But (just about) everything you need to know about the Blackwater problem in Iraq can be found in these two first-person accounts.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Robert Bateman a U.S. Army officer who served in Iraq, recounts an encounter with a Blackwater convoy, during which Blackwater guards fired their guns and drove Iraqi cars onto the sidewalk. He recalls,

It enraged me...and Blackwater is, at least nominally, on our side.

But imagining that incident from an Iraqi perspective made it clear to me that though Blackwater USA draws its paycheck from Uncle Sam, it's not working in Uncle Sam's best interests. If I was this angry, I can only imagine the reactions of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who encounter Blackwater personnel on a regular basis.

Iraq operates on the basis of an honor culture. Honor is, arguably, more important than Islam. Being dishonored, in word or deed, or even by implication, is enough to set the average Iraqi man to plotting his revenge. This is a culture in which political assassinations (usually based on honor issues) are not an abstraction but an everyday occurrence. Every time one of those Blackwater convoys drives an Iraqi civilian off the road because the most important thing in the world is the protection of their "principal," they make a new enemy for the United States. Every time they ram another car to clear the way (and, yes, I've seen them do that), so that they could maintain their own speed and thereby minimize their exposure to "improvised explosive devices," they make another enemy. Every time they kill innocent civilians, or wound them, they make whole families of new enemies.

Talking to CBS News, Adam Hobson, a former political aide at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, discussed the tragedy that occurred on May 12, when a Blackwater guard protecting him shot at two men in a cab. One of the men was killed. After Blackwater and the State Department investigated and found the guard had not followed appropriate procedures, he was sent home. There was no other punishment. Here's a piece of the CBS interview with Hobson:

CBS: How did having this aggressive security detail affect your work in Iraq?

Hobson: Every time we went out there was a huge cost--just in alienating people. Even if no shots were fired, we were driving down the wrong side of the road; we were stopping traffic. People don't like that. That's why we never made the decision to go out lightly.

CBS: Does your conscience ever trouble you now about that day when the man died?

Hobson: Yes. I think about it every day. That's when I really understood. I went to a meeting and somebody died because of it. It made meetings in the future a lot less important. In fact, I never left the [Embassy] compound again.

Blackwater is really a metaphor (or fall guy) for the bigger mess in Iraq--a war that a former commander calls a "nightmare." For years, U.S. policy and actions have alienated the Iraqi population (and, not coincidentally, much of the rest of the world). Ignorance and arrogance--did someone say hubris?--has been animating the Bush administration's approach to Iraq from before the invasion until now. Though Blackwater deserves investigation and punishment, it is a convenient heavy. It's only the muscle for a crew that doesn't know what it's doing.

Posted by David Corn at October 15, 2007 07:27 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

Blackwater "It's only the muscle for a crew that doesn't know what it's doing."

Blackwater and those behind it are not only muscle - they are mecenary millionaires and billionaires made by the "crew" that employs their criminal enterprise.

Moreover, they are Reich-wingnuts that support EVERYTHING this insane maladministration has done.

The people involved in and behind Blackwater have returned millions to the politicos that funnel the billions in no-bid contracts to do the dirty work for Busheney.

Curious why a person with your connections and insight would ever give the Blackwater slugs any kind of a pass for anything they have done.

I predict Blackwater is charged with war crimes at the international criminal court. Everything America has done in Iraq has been immoral and illegal and made even more so by warriors for profit. What a sham and what a shame.

Thanks for all of your work


capt said...

A complete Democratic failure

Democrats have failed America but they're not alone

Nancy Pelosi is such a complete, utter, failure as Speaker of the House that even she admits it.

When a politician admits failure, you know they realize they've screwed up big time.

Writes political columnist Marsha Mercer:

She's not Glinda, the Good Witch from "The Wizard of Oz," able to wave her magic wand and change things.

In nine months on the job as House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi has learned to live with the limits of her power.

Pelosi may be the top Democrat in the House and the most powerful woman in Washington, at least for now, but she can't change things instantly. And so, she endures the wrath of the Democratic base for failing to end the war in Iraq.

"I don't disagree with the public," she told reporters at a lunch last week. "We have not done well in ending this war."

Not well? That's an understatement from someone who opposes the war herself. Pelosi chooses her words carefully; she also can speak plainly.

"It is not just the opinion of the Democratic base that we should end the war but of the American people," she said. Democrats, independents and some Republicans agree the war should end.

"They don't want to hear about 60 votes in the Senate," she said. "Just do it."

The problem, of course, is that the Democrats didn't "just do it." They "just didn't do it" and then they "just" came up with excuse after excuse for "not doing it."

The blame is not Pelosi's alone. That corrupt political hack from Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is just as big a failure when it comes to delivering on political promises. So are other members of the Democratic Party who have backed down, time and time again, to the demands of a despot named George W. Bush.

And a large part of the blame lies with ignorant voters who expected the daughter of one of the most corrupt mayors in the history of Baltimore to be either effective or honest. Pelosi is just another corrupt crook who talks out of both sides of her mouth and kowtows to the moneyed special interest groups who control both political parties in this nation.

Under her watch, the Democrats voted to give Bush more power to spy on Americans and abuse the Constitution. The backed away from campaign promises to put limits on Bush's power to wage war and send more American men and women to death in illegal wars based on lies.
Democrats proved themselves no more honest than the corrupt Republicans they replaced in the offices of power. They became accomplices in Bush's dismantling of the Constitution and the elimination of the freedoms that once stood as the foundation for this nation.

As we head into the Presidential campaign season, the Democrats appear poised to anoint yet another she-devil as their leader, the double-dealing, jive-talking Hillary Clinton. All the repackaging in the world can't hide the fact that Clinton voted to give Bush the power to wage war and, to this day, she refuses to either apologize for that vote or admit she made a mistake. Underneath the veneer of consultant-packaged rhetoric is the soul of a warmonger who can be just as much of a hawk as the Republicans and that vicious streak should share the hell out of Americans.

Americans enter the excesses of a Presidential election year with no real choices among the frontrunners of either party. Any chance for change remains mired in the muck of the second and third tier of candidates and they have no chance of breaking out.

Yes, Nancy Pelosi is a failure. The Democratic Party is a failure. But the real failure is a political system that has allowed Democrats and Republicans to become the only choices. In the end, a victory by either party is a failure of the system and the real losers are the American people and a once-great nation called the United States.


capt said...


Blogger News Network

The article was written by David Corn in The Nation and also published in The Washington Post. The scenes he described are not from the new “Halloween” ...

A pregnant woman being murdered. Innocent people being shot at close range. An old man’s body found riddled with holes from a power drill. Another man found dead, hanging on a meat hook.Did you miss this story? The article was written by David Corn in The Nation and also published in The Washington Post. The scenes he described are not from the new “Halloween” movie or another “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” flick. They were recounted at a Congressional hearing by Iraqi Judge Radhi al-Radhi, who fled to this country to testify.

Radhi attributes all of these grisly acts, as well as the illegal use of billions of dollars, to what he alleges to be a corrupt and criminal regime led by the current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

You read that correctly. Maliki, not Saddam Hussein.

With a story this unsettling, it seemed important to do some checking on the credibility and biases of the key people involved. Most of us remember many cases of misinformation that came out in the early stages of some emerging story. (Remember Jessica Lynch?)

David Corn is the author of The Lies of George W. Bush. Did he slant this Iraq story to discredit Administration war policy? Is Radhi believable? A search for the transcript of the actual testimony led to something better–a YouTube video, posted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of the judge reading his statement.

The video confirms every detail of Corn’s report and leaves one with the impression that Judge Radhi is a true Iraqi patriot, courageous, artless and forthright. You can watch it and judge for yourself. This is a straightforward, no fluff, ten minutes of testimony with no padding added or needed.

So what exactly did Judge Radhi say?

Radhi was the head of the Commission on Public Integrity in Iraq, leading a staff that investigated crime and fraud in the government. He alleges that he narrowly escaped a sniper’s bullet and that his home has been attacked by rockets. His staff members have received death threats. Family members of his staff have been kidnapped or killed (at least 31 dead), including the father of his security chief, whose body was hung on a meat hook. Staff and their families have been shot at close range, including one man’s wife who was seven months pregnant. The father of one of Radhi’s clerical workers was kidnapped and his body was found full of holes from a power drill. A suicide bomber walked into the office of one of Radhi’s top staff members and murdered him.

This is all in addition to the CapNews.Net piece that tells more about the tens of billions of dollars of misappropriated funds/oil. The Senior Ministry of Oil allowed the militia to sell oil to the insurgents, thereby helping support the very kind of terrorism our own troops are battling to end.

Thus, the insurgents give money to militias who are out to kill them, the militias give oil to the insurgents, who are threatening the country supposedly protected by the militias, and the whole insane mess sounds like something out of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Radhi did not claim that Maliki was directly involved in any of this but was cautious to say only that the Prime Minister had protected his own family members who were involved. One of the questions in the Congressional hearing suggested that Iraq is living in a “culture of corruption” that is a continuation of precedents set by Saddam’s regime.

The dialogue at the hearing focused on the word “corruption.” That description is too mild and limited. The barbarism alleged by Judge Radhi goes beyond corruption. It is outright depravity.

The news of these allegations has received lackluster attention beyond the initial reporting. They remain only allegations, at least to the public. But they are certainly credible enough to be seriously investigated.

Consider this sobering and obvious point: If Radhi’s allegations are true, then we may have another leader in Iraq as corrupt and sadistic as Saddam. We originally fought this war to throw out Saddam and give the Iraqi people the right to a democratic government.

Maliki is the man they chose. If he is truly as ruthlessly barbaric as Saddam, what do we do now? Turn our U.S. forces against Maliki, depose him, monitor his execution, and let the Iraqis hold another democratic election? For what? To choose yet another leader as evil as Saddam and Maliki?

We could theoretically win a war against corrupt and elusive insurgencies, although most of our own generals seriously doubt it. But we cannot win a war against a whole culture of corruption in a nation we are defending. If the civil war antagonists are actively doing business with each other, who do we fight? And how can we win a battle against a democratically elected government that is potentially as corrupt and depraved as the one it replaced?

The war against terror is a serious matter that deserves serious, intelligent, shrewd interventions. It also requires massive funding. All of this is being sucked down a rat hole in Iraq in a war we cannot win. Our interventions should be targeted elsewhere, places where we actually can win.

President Bush has taken some hard hits for his decisions about the Iraq War. Some of these criticisms are well reasoned, some are guesswork, some are propaganda, and some are merely comfortable hindsight.

And let’s be honest with ourselves. Remember five years ago. Most of us supported this war–citizens and Congress and the military. Some of the intelligence was faulty or nonexistent. Try to name any war in history where that hasn’t been true. But it was not much of a leap to conclude that someone who had gassed his own countrymen and systematically tortured and murdered many others would certainly use more sophisticated WMD’s if he could get his hands on them.

The president was not psychic (neither were we), and he has made some decisions that have had tragic results. But it does not require psychic ability to see this: It is time for the president to lead, not resist, the movement to pull our troops and resources out of Iraq and select better terrorist targets. There is still time for him to salvage American lives, not to mention his own legacy, with victories in other winnable areas.

Perhaps it is time for all of us to quit pitting “red states” against “blue states” and unite to win the larger war against terror. Every minute we waste pointing our fingers at each other gives our enemies another minute to point their guns at our soldiers.


Gerald said...

American soldiers are being killed to help a corrupt regime in Iraq. There is something wrong with our demonic and diabolic Hitler Bush.

capt said...

"There is something wrong . . ."

There is nothing right about Bushitler.


Gerald said...

A Comment on My Book

Dear Posters:

My cousin has just finished reading my book and here is her note to me.

Hi Jerry,

I just finished reading your book and I thought it was wonderful. You have such an excellent writing style and I think the things you wrote needed to be said. I liked the outline of the book and the way you simply stated your beliefs and accurate views on important matters.

Congratulations on your publication.



Gerald said...

Now if another 200+ million Americans can believe my views on important matters that I have stated, we will change our world for the better.

Gerald said...

October 15 and no bombing of Iran! Hitler Bush must be totally depressed. Did Putin's visit to Iran halt the nuclear bombing of Iran?

David B. Benson said...

Gerald --- Get your hopes up. Even another 100 million would do it...

capt said...

Ask the Iraqis

In the upcoming Presidential primaries, Americans will have the chance to choose among candidates who propose immediate withdrawal from Iraq (Richardson), rapid drawdowns (Edwards and Obama), open-ended commitment to the war (Giuliani, Romney, McCain), or a resigned middle ground, notably Hillary Clinton, who acknowledges that the occupation will likely endure well into the next Presidential term no matter which party occupies the White House.

The Iraqi people have no such choice, even though it’s their future that is at stake—and even though the creation of a democratic republic, one in which the Iraqis command their own destiny, has been a stated goal of the war. According to President Bush, American troops will leave whenever the Iraqis ask us to. “It’s their government’s choice,” he has said. “If they were to say, leave, we would leave.” But while the Iraqi government is divided and uncertain about the presence of occupying forces, the will of the Iraqi people has been clear from the beginning: they want the troops withdrawn.

As early as August of 2003, five months after the invasion, a Zogby poll found that two-thirds of Iraqis wanted the U.S. and British forces to leave the country within a year, and more than half said that the Iraqis should be left alone to set up their own government. Two years later, as Iraqis were about to vote in their first democratic election, two-thirds wanted the Coalition troops out either immediately or as soon as the new government was established. (The model that Iraqis most admired was that of the United Arab Emirates, a loose federation of seven tribal states, each overseen by a prince, and ruled by a president who is, essentially, a king.) In 2006, when the Iraqi government was in place, a poll by the University of Maryland found that seventy-one per cent of Iraqis wanted their government to ask the Americans to leave within a year; an even higher number doubted that the U.S. would comply with the request.

A poll released last month (by ABC News, the BBC, and the Japanese broadcaster NHK), half a year after the surge in American forces, found that nearly half of Iraqis favored an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, while thirty-four per cent of Iraqis, most of them Kurds, said that the U.S. should remain “until security is restored.” Among Shiites, forty-four per cent favored immediate withdrawal, and among Sunnis the figure reached seventy-two per cent—substantial increases in both cases. More Iraqis than ever—fifty-seven per cent—say that violence against American forces is acceptable, diminishing the prospect of order being restored as long as the occupation continues.

One might assume that if American forces could make the country more secure, Iraqis would feel better disposed toward the U.S. presence. Apparently not. American military leaders say that the surge has reduced sectarian attacks to their lowest level in more than a year, and yet the number of Iraqis wanting the U.S. to withdraw has risen by twelve per cent over the same period of time. Anbar Province, which President Bush recently visited because the surge had its greatest success there, has the highest concentration of those saying America should leave immediately.

The Iraqi government has a far more ambivalent view of the occupation than its people do. Inside the Green Zone, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and a restive Council of Representatives have been struggling to respond to the sentiments of their constituents while not actually asking the Americans to leave. In June, the demagogic militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who heads one of the most powerful Shiite parties in the country, sponsored a resolution requiring the government to seek permission of the parliament before asking the U.N. to reauthorize the presence of foreign forces in Iraq. The resolution passed, gathering support even from Sunni lawmakers, including Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, then speaker of the parliament, who had previously called for the Americans to stay in the country for as long as a decade, or until “they have corrected what they have done.” Yet even Sadr was pressing not for an immediate pullout but, rather, for an unspecified “timeline” for withdrawal.

The ambivalence among the Iraqi lawmakers doesn’t mean that they are out of step with the Iraqi people. Although the surveys suggest that they would overwhelmingly ask us to leave, countless anecdotal reports suggest that Iraqis are woefully aware of the dangers that could ensue. “If the Americans leave right now, there is going to be a massacre in Iraq,” a twenty-seven-year-old music student told the Washington Post last year, in a typical comment. “But if they don’t leave, there will be more problems.” “There will be lakes of blood,” another young man said. “Of course we want the Americans to leave, but if they do, it will be a great disaster for us.”

Beyond the risks of sectarian slaughter, there’s the prospect that other countries in the region will be quick to assert their influence, further weakening Iraqi self-governance. Kurds and Shiites in the oil regions will strain to pull the country apart. Yet the presence of American troops is itself a goad to insurgency, and an impediment to the creation of legitimate civil authority. As long as we remain in Iraq, the Iraqi people will feel themselves to be subjugated by a foreign power. If the Iraqis were to go to the polls, dip their fingers in the purple ink, and actually choose whether or not to allow the Americans to remain, they would have to reconcile their loathing for the occupation with their dread of what might happen without it.

As the Republican and Democratic Presidential contenders debate whether we should leave now, or soon, or years from now, they should remember that it’s not just an American decision. We didn’t ask the Iraqis if we could invade their country; we didn’t ask them if we could occupy it; and now we are not asking them if we should leave. Whatever we end up doing, we need to remember that eventually the only people who are going to occupy Iraq are the Iraqis, and that the decision of when we leave, as inevitably we will, should be as much theirs as ours.


Gerald said...

Dick Hitler Devos was seeking to be the governor of Michigan.

Gerald said...

If the Turkish government did not slaughter the Armenians that still does not rule out the Turkish people. Someone slaughtered the Armenians and someone is responsible. I have heard about the slaughter of Armenians for many years and the blame was on the Turkish people who comprise present day Turkey. These are the people who slaughtered the Armenian people.

The story of the Armenian people must be told.

The story of Nazi Israel slaughtering the Palestinian people must also be told. What is going on in Palestine is genocide by the Nazi Israeli government.

The story of Native Americans and their slaughter by Nazi America must also be told. This was genocide plain and simple.

The story of Blacks being used as guinea pigs regarding the use of certain drugs prior to WW II was also genocide by our Nazi American government.

All these stories must be told.

Nazi America believes in and practices genocide.

The wrong and immoral war in Iraq is the practice of genocide by the Nazi American government. We are using depleted uranium in our bullets, bombs, and missiles that will remain in Iraq for 4.5 billion years.

The Nazi American government has also used chemical warfare to slaughter the Iraqi people. Chemical warfare is genocide.

Nazi America seeks glorification through the genocide and the slaughter of human beings. Nazi America is a land of murderers and war criminals.

capt said...

US News: "Waxman Hunting for Bush Lies"

US News' "Washington Whispers" columnist Paul Bedard reports:

Rep. Henry Waxman, considered the meanest dog in town by the GOP, is still sniffing around the White House for proof the president lied when making the case for going to war in Iraq. We hear that he's been quietly summoning former Bush aides, especially speechwriters, to testify behind closed doors about what they knew and how they phrased his words on the issue. Whispers hears that one called in was John Gibson, a former National Security Council speechwriter. He wouldn't spill to us. The committee had no comment either, but an administration official says, "It is yet another item on the ever growing fishing expedition list from Representative Waxman."

After interviewing those NSC officials, here's another reference Waxman's investigators can peruse.


capt said...

Congressional Dems Cave to Billionaire Equity Fund Managers, Won't Make Them Pay Fair Share of Taxes

Senate lawmakers have shelved plans to close the loophole that every year saves Corporate America’s richest wheelers and dealers billions of dollars in taxes.

In Detroit last week, just days after announcing major new layoffs at five factories, officials at Chrysler cut a deal on a new union contract that leaves workers with less wage, job, and retirement security -- and executives at Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that now owns Chrysler, with a significantly better shot at hitting the jackpot.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office confirmed that the Senate will take no action this year on closing the tax loophole that saves private equity and other private investment fund managers an estimated $12 billion a year.

Thanks to this loophole, private equity executives -- many of them billionaires -- pay federal taxes on the windfalls they make buying and selling companies like Chrysler at the 15 percent “capital gains” tax rate, not the 35 percent rate that otherwise would apply.

The three leading Democratic Party Presidential candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards -- earlier this year all vowed to end this private investment fund tax loophole, and last week two of them, Obama and Edwards, quickly blasted the Reid decision.

"If there was ever a doubt that Washington lobbyists don't actually represent real Americans," Senator Obama from Illinois noted, "it's the fact that they stopped leaders of both parties from requiring elite investment firms to pay their fair share of taxes."

"We have to end," added Edwards, "the rigged system in Washington."

Under this rigged system, America's 20 top private equity and hedge fund managers last year averaged $657.5 million in income. Overall, after inflation, the fees private equity managers collect have quadrupled since 1994.

Lobbyists for the private investment partnerships, for their part, did not claim victory last week.

"The conclusion that the fight is over and done, that's not the case," Lisa McGreevy of the Managed Fund Association told Politico. "It's not over. It's only just beginning."

"The issue of the buyout industry's multiple tax dodges and their impact on the tax burden of working people is not going away," agreed Stephen Lerner, the director of the Service Employees union's Private Equity Project. "The tax treatment of buyout industry profits is just the tip of the iceberg."

The entire iceberg has considerably increased inequality inside the United States. Kingpins from Wall Street banks, law firms, and private investment partnerships, a recent study by two University of Chicago analysts points out, dominate the ranks of America's highest-income households.

In 2004, executives from non-financial corporations made up just 5 percent of the tax filers in the rarefied air of America's highest-income 0.01 percent. The bulk of the top 0.01 percent, the University of Chicago research suggests, came from the Wall Street economic sector, from "executives of financial companies, employees of investment banks, hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, and private equity investors."

More Here

*****end of clip*****

Oh, to be a wealthy and set Roman while Rome burns.


capt said...

New Thread