Category Archives: military

The Encyclodpedia of

Check out a thorough collection of articles about 9/11 via NYMAG‘s Encyclopedia of 9/11.

What Dinh didn’t anticipate was a profound shift in liberalism and, therefore, in the politics of the country. Even with a Democrat now in the White House, the liberalism that protects the right of the individual against the majority—the politics of civil rights and abortion and gay marriage—has diminished, in favor of one that aims to improve the lot of the median man. Obama’s liberalism is for the majority, not against it. This spirit, and the unlikely endurance of the Patriot Act, owes something to the central psychological events of the decade: the vitality and threat of new economic competitors, the social violence initiated by the authors of obscure financial instruments, but first and most of all September 11—each of which evoked a particular feeling, that we were all together, under attack. .::Patriot Act

Is it wrong to celebrate Bin Laden’s death?

I’ll give you the short answer: yes.  Read on or click here to jump directly to full article.

 

Impromptu celebrations erupted near the White House in Washington and ground zero in New York when news of Osama bin Laden’s death was reported and tweeted.

Laura Cunningham, a 22-year-old Manhattan reveler — gripping a Budweiser in her hand and sitting atop the shoulders of a friend — was part of the crowd at ground zero in the wee hours Monday. As people around her chanted “U-S-A,” Cunningham was struck by the emotional response. She told New York Observer: “It’s weird to celebrate someone’s death. It’s not exactly what we’re here to celebrate, but it’s wonderful that people are happy.”

Those mixed feelings get at the heart of the moral ambivalence of the moment: Of course there is relief that an evil mastermind cannot commit acts of terror in the future. But is it ever a good idea — from a spiritual or philosophical standpoint — to celebrate with beer and good cheer over the death of anyone, even a widely acknowledged monster? (Source/Read the rest)

Soldiers Allgedly Hunted Afghans for Sport

This is just extremely sad…

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. ##LINK##

DNC Hits McCain

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eejYoz3Nl0[/youtube]

It really is a great strategy to hit John McCain on the one issue that he is supposed to have the most credability on: foreign policy. They really need to keep throwing shurikens right at that artery to make people realize that though McCain served in the Navy for many years, and though he was a POW, he has never commanded any military operation or personel nor has he proven to be wise in this area.

What A Guy …

This is the new John McCain commercial set to air on national television:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpyOSLZw8qo[/youtube]

There is one line in there that’s more nauseating than most. Something like, “In a dangerous world with a broken economy,” … what? John McCain will make it more dangerous and put us further in debt? Two days ago, John McCain said that he would balance the national budget in his first term, should he be elected. This ninja here wants to know how he plans to do that. But that’s one of McCain’s secrets. In the past, candidates have offered some numbers to support their claims. But McCain’s got that one covered: if you don’t give any numbers, there’s no way people can do the calculations to shoot you down. Genius. Considering his plans to potentially lower taxes and maintain our current foreign policy that would leave him with only two more miracles before he would be canonized, right?

As far as the world being more dangerous … my ninja, please. I’m not sure I can get a ninja to tell me that this place is any more insecure (security-wise) than it was 12 years ago. Don’t buy it, folks.

Mehdi Militia Cease-fire Over?

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In Iraq’s southern city of Basra, a critically important location because of it’s proximity to valuable oil and it’s trafficking, it is being reported that “thousands of Iraqi troops [are battling] Shia militias.” This is bad news for everyone. The BBC is reporting that at least 30 people have died, we can assume many more. Apparently, the situation in Basra has instigated altercations throughout the occupied nation, including Sadr City, a neighborhood of Baghdad. There, the militia has ordered the Iraqi army to vacate the vicinity.
Now, I’m trying to make as much sense of this situation as possible with the sources I have available to me, and it appears to be pretty complicated. As I understand it, the Mehdi militia, loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, has been subject to a government crack-down. As a result, the movement has threatened then acted upon a national campaign of civil disobedience in the form of demonstrations and protests. The latest fighting is clearly an escalation of these actions. Ninjas will remember that Sadr’s supporters are currently heeding a call for a six-month cease-fire ordered by al-Sadr.
Different Shia groups are fighting against each other in Basra, as are they fighting government and international forces (though it hasn’t directly been reported that international forces have been involved, air-strikes have been, so that’s got to be either the US or the Brits). The Brits had control of the city until December of ’07, when they turned it over to the local authorities. Now, apparently, these authorities tried to disarm the Mehdi army. Poor decision. The Iraqi government and the U.S. accuse the Mehdi movement of receiving munitions, training, and funds from Iran.
We at the dojo will be keeping a close eye on this situation.

Times Square Bombed

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Today, in the wee hours of the morning, a bomb went off at a military recruitment center in Times Square, Manhattan. No one was injured.

‘It was the only station that could reject far more recruits than it enlisted — more than 200 a year signed up — and still claim top honors in recruiting circles. And it was the only recruiting station in the country without a bathroom.’

Iran, what?

Remember Iran? That country next to Iraq that is enriching uranium and is supposed to be the “Pest to the West” (term hereby copyrighted by MNP)?  It seems that the last major news we’ve seen concerning the clericly run state was back when an NIE (an intelligence report) was released siting that Iran had halted their nuclear weapons development as far back as 2003. Well, they’re back this month, making the front page of the Economist, and American Conservatives are shaking. Stanley Kurtz’s piece from the National Review claims:

Yet, as the truth about the NIE report emerges from decidedly non-neocon sources like The Economist, it’s increasingly clear that the real NIE story is actually a Republican warning come true. Dovish intelligence analysts eager to discredit the administration and tie its hands have not only distorted and betrayed the truth about Iran, they have undercut and infuriated the very European diplomats America’s doves look to for approval and assistance. The NIE lied. Europe’s peacemakers cried. Seizing on this story could bring national security back into the heart of this election campaign — and for all the right reasons.

First and foremost: “the truth” about the report isn’t coming from souces like the Economist being able to analyze it. Now, I’m not going to say that Iran definitely isn’t trying to build nukes-I mean, as recent as yesterday Iran was making international news after the launch of a rocket/long range missle apparatus which would greatly assist their efforts to drop a nuke if they should ever procure one-however, do I think that even if Iran did, somehow, get their hands on a nuke they would turn around and blow us up immediately because they’re just those type of people? My ninjas, please! Of course not. They may be a proud people, but not so much that they’d ensure their destruction to stick it to us. Would it be a security threat, yeah. Would the proper way to deal with that situation be to antagonize them and push them closer to a forging a strong relationship with someone like China (I say this because in the future they might benefit from one another’s relationship with the US)? My ninjas please! Of course not.

So, why is Kurtz arguing for Iran’s importance as an election issue? He doesn’t look like a tough-guy…:

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Because he believes that Iran can get their hands on a nuke in the next four years, and if the military option to engage Iran is off the table for now than he fears the international community has given Iran the green light to take this initiative.  Listen, just becuase we are not eagerly awaiting a time when we can strike Iran for being a punk doesn’t mean we’re playing nice. It’s their move now, and you bet your bottom dollar they understand the international community will not at all tolerate their being a nuclear power. And should that even come to fruition, it won’t be a secret, we’ll know. Right? Neither Obama nor Hillary is willing to comprimise American security for a shot at diplomacy with Iran.

Blackwater in Potrero

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XkfjTBHNeo[/youtube]

Peep this video on Blackwater and their movements out West – setting up shop in a rural town called Potrero. My favorite quote from the video comes from an apparently half-retarded woman about 8 1/2 minutes in:

I know what’s true – I heard them say it, and I believe them

She’s referring to Blackwater claiming that the facility would be safe, quiet, and have little to no impact on the community. Meanwhile, they have 3,000 linear feet of firing ranges, helicopter pads, tanks, test driving tracks, and oh yeah – tons of f#*$ing guns – all of which I’m pretty sure are loud as hell. My ninjas, please! She actually admits she won’t read anything about the negative effects the private military organization will most likely have on her incredibly rural community. What a prime example of being an asshole.

A few quick hits

The Federal Communications Commission is considering rewriting the rules on media ownership. Current rules state that a single company can’t own a TV or radio station and a newspaper within the same media market. The chairman of the FCC, not wanting to unduly burden billionaire media moguls in their ongoing quest for world domination, wants to get rid of this rule. And it makes sense, really. Without all that pesky regulatory work taking up their time, the FCC can get back to its real job: making sure no one can say “fuck” on television.

Fun new controversy on the Iraq front… Remember this guy?

sanchez

Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, US Army (ret.) was commander of U.S. forces in Iraq from mid-2003 to mid-2004. He’s recently emerged from his retirement to level a bit of criticism at the Administration’s policies in that particular quagmire. Now, the irony of that I could comment upon, but I’ll let Jon Stewart cover that (go watch it, Daily Show’s always worth the trip, especially when they don’t even try to resist the filthy play on a political figure’s name).

What is really interesting is the dilemma it brings to light (which Fred Kaplan covers brilliantly here): when is it acceptable, in a constitutional republic, for generals to question civilian leaders? On the one hand, I really do hope that if Bush orders a strike on Iran, that the Joint Chiefs do everything they possibly can to dissuade him. On the other, I don’t much care for the precedent of military commanders overruling civilian authority. Admittedly, this is the sort of thing that’s less of a problem when the civilian leadership isn’t delusional.

Speaking of which, the only President we’ve got is actively discussing World War III, which is always reassuring. The thing that’s most frightening about the quote is that he wasn’t addressing his comment to Iran, but to Russia, the other country on Earth with several thousand nuclear weapons. I don’t really think he’s envisioning a war against Russia over Iran, but still, this sort of belligerent commentary seems… oh, I don’t know, foolish? Anyone with a better adjective, go ahead and suggest it.

12 Captains on the War

Unbelievably great op-ed in the Washington Post this morning. Following in the footsteps of their comrades who wrote for the New York Times a few months back, 12 former Army captains submitted an opinion piece outlining what they observed in their time in Iraq. Strangely, it’s a bit different from what their superior officers have been telling Congress.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It’s certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

It’s the way they conclude their piece, though, that’s most worthy of note:

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

This brings up one of the things that’s bugged me about the Iraq war (and for that matter the whole “Global War on Terror” concept) for a long time now. The Administration keeps telling us that the security of our nation depends on beating the terrorists, and on creating a stable, democratic Iraq. But they clearly don’t mean it.

If we’re in a war for our very survival, then where’s the $2-a-gallon tax on gasoline to finance increased security measures and shut off the flow of oil money to autocratic, terrorist-breeding governments in the Middle East? Where are the draft notices going out to conscript an Army big enough to actually secure a stable Iraq? Where’s the recruitment drive by the CIA to find American citizens who understand Middle Eastern languages and culture? Where’s the grand alliance of Western nations banding together against a common threat? Why didn’t any of this happen?

It’s certainly not because the country wasn’t willing. Hell, right after 9/11 people were practically falling over each other trying to figure out ways to band together and help out. So why the hell didn’t the Administration use that energy, that desire, and try to unite the country in solving this difficult problem?

Because they’re not interested in solving problems. Anytime a problem comes up, the modern GOP is interested in two things: (to quote one of Aaron Sorkin’s finer pieces) making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. “Sure, we could tap into one of our nation’s greatest strengths, its diverse immigrant population, and hire citizens of Arab descent to help our intelligence agencies, but instead, let’s just arrest a bunch of them for no reason. That way, we look like we’re rounding up terrorists, and when the Democrats protest, we can say they’re coddling bin Laden! It’s win-win!”

Alright, I think that should get a bit of cynicism out of my system for a while. In the meantime, this special is going to air tonight on PBS at 9 EDT, and then it’ll be online at www.pbs.org/frontline:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLz5Ja_pius[/youtube]

Once I catch it, I’ll definitely be posting about it. I have a feeling you’ll be reading a lot about Cheney and the “Unitary Executive Theory” around here in the next week.

The Cost of the War in Iraq

The cost of war during a time of war is always a point of high contention. In America, we seemed to have entered into and nationally accepted a perpetual state of war. The so-called ‘war on terror’ has no foreseeable end, as does not any war declared on a thing or a concept. Terrorism, being a military tactic, cannot be conquered. The terrorist groups are not making threats directly to the American people, but rather we are relying on what the government says is the truth. Since we have already accepted this state of perpetual war, we will be kept in fear until the government says it’s OK to come outside again. This functions much in the same way that the cold war did, except the collapse of the USSR changed the social dynamic unexpectedly.

That being said, there is no exact quantifier or tag that you could put on the human cost of the Iraq war. Whether the war is a just one or not, it is probably still important to at least attempt to examine what the nation has spent.

The Human Cost

The Department of Defense puts out a daily release of American casualties in the Iraq war in the form of a pdf file (which can be downloaded by clicking the link).

The Iraq Body Count organization has a website which estimates the amount of Iraqi deaths as of the writing of this post to be at minimum 67,325. That’s a toll of reported deaths alone.

Link

The Iraq Coalition Casualties Count website has a detailed list of all the civilian casualties that have been reported by coalition forces (remember when we used to refer to them as ‘coalition forces’?). The same group has a weekly column called Casualty Trends which puts the entire American death toll at 3,607 dead and 26,695 wounded.

Nobody, however, agrees on the actual Iraqi body count.

In 2000, a team led by Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health used random sampling to calculate the death toll in the Congolese civil war at 1.7 million. This figure prompted immediate action by the U.N. Security Council. No one questioned the methodology.

In September 2004, Roberts led a similar team that researched death rates in Iraq before and after the 2003 invasion. Making “conservative assumptions,” the team concluded that “about 100,000 excess deaths” among men, women and children had occurred in 18 months. Most were directly attributable to the breakdown of the healthcare system prompted by the invasion. Violent deaths had soared twentyfold.

Unlike the respectful applause granted the Congolese study, this one, published in the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet, generated a firestorm of criticism. The outrage may have been prompted by the unsettling possibility that Iraq’s liberation had already caused a third as many Iraqi deaths as the reported 300,000 murdered by Saddam Hussein in his decades of tyranny. So shocking was this concept that liberals joined hawks in denouncing the study.

Some of the attacks were selfevidently absurd. British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, for example, questioned the survey because it “appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count,” as if Blair had never made a political decision based on a poll.

Some questioned whether the sample was distorted by unrepresentative hot spots such as Fallouja. In fact, the amazingly dedicated and courageous Iraqi doctors who actually gathered the data visited 33 “clusters” selected on an entirely random basis. In each of these clusters, the teams conducted interviews in 30 households, again selected on a rigorously random basis. As it happened, Fallouja was one of the clusters that came up in this process. Erring on the side of caution, they eliminated Fallouja from their sample. Strictly speaking, the team should have included the data from that embattled city in their final result — random is random after all — which would have given an overall post-invasion excess death figure of no less than 268,000.

From Refiguring the Iraq Body Count, a 2005 essay by Andrew Cockburn

In any case, it’s harder to find real facts about the human cost than anything else. And once you get past the human cost there is the emotional cost: tens upon thousands of scarred soldiers; emotional ties forever strained between America, Iraq and the rest of the middle east; a broken country in shambles.

Link

The Economics

This is the part that nobody wants to talk about, the pure economic side of the war. Of course there is division over this issue as well, so it’s probably best to look at several figures. It is also important to remember, as one New York Times article points out, that before the war the Pentagon had estimated the cost to be approximately $50 billion.

Democratic staff members in Congress largely agreed. Lawrence Lindsey, a White House economic adviser, was a bit more realistic, predicting that the cost could go as high as $200 billion, but President Bush fired him in part for saying so.

The article also speculates on what else could have been accomplished with $1.2 trillion, the eventual price tag that the author (through research) has placed on the war.

For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.

Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.

The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place — better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation — could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban’s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.

What 1.2 Trillion Can Buy by David Leonhardt

I encourage all readers to check that out.

zFacts has a counter on the cost of the war, as does the National Priorities Project which both put the estimated cost at more than $400 billion and climbing steadily.  I’m not going to go as far as to say that I can suggest what should have been done with the money instead, but I will give you a realistic evaluation.

In a country of less than 30 million people, $400 billion is equal to $13,793 per man woman and child that we have spent on waging war against the country.  It might be a bit facetious considering those numbers alone for anyone to suggest that there existed no better and more diplomatic way to coax Saddam out of power.

Link

Bush Paves the Way for Martial Law

In October 2006, Bush signed into law the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. Quietly slipped into the law at the last minute, at the request of the Bush administration, were sections changing important legal principles, dating back 200 years, which limit the U.S. government’s ability to use the military to intervene in domestic affairs. These changes would allow Bush, whenever he thinks it necessary, to institute martial law–under which the military takes direct control over civilian administration.

Sec. 1042 of the Act, “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” effectively overturns what is known as posse comitatus. The Posse Comitatus Act is a law, passed in 1878, that prohibits the use of the regular military within the U.S. borders. The original passage of the Posse Comitatus Act was a very reactionary move that sealed the betrayal of Black people after the Civil War and brought the period of Reconstruction to an end. It decreed that federal troops could no longer be used inside the former Confederate states to enforce the new legal rights of Black people. Black people were turned over to the armed police and Klansmen serving the southern plantation owners, and the long period of Jim Crow began.

During the 20th century, posse comitatus objectively started to play a new role within the bourgeois democratic framework: as a legal barrier to the direct influence of the powerful military establishment and the armed forces over domestic U.S. society. It served to some degree as an obstacle against military coups and presidents seizing military control over the country. (However, National Guard troops have been legally available to the ruling class for use inside the U.S., and there have been other loopholes to the prohibition of the use of armed forces domestically, as in the mobilization of Marine troops during the 1992 L.A. Rebellion.)

So the changes to posse comitatus signed into law by Bush are extremely significant and ominous. Bush has modified the main exemptions to posse comitatus that up to now have been primarily defined by the Insurrection Act of 1807. Previously the president could call out the army in the United States only in cases of insurrection or conditions where “rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.” Under the new law the president can use the military in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or “other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”

The new law requires the President to notify Congress “as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of the authority.” However Bush, as he has often done during his presidency, modified this requirement in his signing statement, which declared, “The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive.” In other words, Bush claims that he does not even need to inform Congress that martial law has been declared!

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