Thursday, September 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US targets the widow of a US soldier, Camp Bucca closes, face-to-face between Iraq and Syria, Blackwater (like the US) remains in Iraq, and more.
CNN reports that one US military prison in Iraq, Camp Bucca, has been closed. BBC Radio World Service notes that at one time the prison held many prisoners "some of whom were held for years without charge." Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "It grew into the military's largest prison in the world, and commanders used it as a closely monitored laboratory for studies in long-term detention. The results changed U.S. military doctrine on enemy prisoners of war, leading to new manuals on interrogation and detention practices, commanders told McClatchy in previous interviews. As Iraqi officials point out, however, the changes at Bucca came only after the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal exploded into the news, undercutting the U.S. military's perceived moral superiority and fueling support for insurgents." Martin Chulov (Guardian) observes it was the largest US prison and that "Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport -- will still be operating" and he quotes Mohaamed al-Janabi stating, "I was there for 18 months. I was arrested by the Americans at my uncle's house because one of their trucks had been blown up the day before. They fed me well and they trained me in woodwork and I only ever did four nights in isolation. But I should not have been there in the first place. My story was similar to almost everyone else I met there." The US military states that they now only run the prisons Camp Taji and Camp Cropper in Iraq and still holds 8,305 prisoners. Alsumaria explains, "US army will submit a list of detainees who might be released to Iraqi authorities which have 75 days to issue warrants before any release." UPI notes that the closing meant some prisoners were transferred to Camp Cropper. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports that "the U.S. military plans to transfer the Camp Taji detention facilities, which cost $5 million a year to operate and maintain, to Iraq control." Iran's Press TV provides the history of Camp Bucca, "The isolated Camp Bucca began as a small tent camp for prisoners of war just after the US-led 2003 invasion. Over the next six years, it grew into a 40-acre desert prison filled with row after row of watchtowers, barbed-wire-topped fences and metal trailers or plywood barracks to house detainees."
Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) was released from a Baghdad prison (under Iraqi control) on Tuesday. AFP reports the journalist is now in Greece for medical treatment and "A family member said he suffers frequent headaches after being injected with unknown chemicals by jailers." An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy reports that before going to Greece, Muntadar first was first received by Muhsin Bilal, Syria's Minister of Information, in Damascus.
Tensions continue between Syria and Iraq. Xinhua reports Ahmed Davutoglu (Turkey's Foreign Minister), Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister), Walid Mualem (Syria's Foreign Minister) Amr Moussa (Arab League Secretary General) met in Istanbul today. The meeting follows the governments of Syria and Iraq withdrawing their ambassadors from each other's country after Nouri al-Maliki's government began making charges against Syria following the August 19th Baghdad bombings and demanding that Syria hand over 179 former Ba'athist members. BBC News notes, "Iraq says it has evidence that groups based in Syria orchestrated the bombings in Baghdad, a claim Damascus has dismissed."
AP reports the ministers for Iraq and Syria exchanged charges and counter-charges with Zebari insisting the country was "fueling sectarian issues" as well as "supporting terrorism and violence that threaten Iraqi unity" while Mualem (also spelled al-Moallem by some outlets) accused the Iraqi government of scapegoating Syria to cover up for its own failures. However, Hurriyet reports that the dominant issue of the talks was Iraq's drought issue: "Nearly all Iraqi ministers complained about the severe drought problem in their war-torn country, with the interior minister saying that the water shortage has sparked tensions among locals in central and southern Iraq. He said the shortages have become a security issue in the country."
Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden has been in Iraq. Scott Wilson (Washington Post) reports that "Biden pressed Iraqi leaders Wednesday to approve as quickly as possible legislation that establishes rules for the planned January general election and to make the next round of bids to develop Iraqi oil concessions more attractive to foreign investors." Edwin Chen (Bloomberg News) adds, "In back-to-back meetings with top Iraqi officials while in Baghdad yesterday, Biden addressed issues such as job creation and regulations that he told them would lead to greater interest from companies that want to do business in the oil-rich nation, according to an administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity." David Rising (AP) notes, "Over his three-day visit, Biden's main focus was expected to be plans for January elections and the ongoing violence in Iraq's north. Biden last visited Iraq on July 4 to spend U.S. Independence Day with the troops. During that triGina Chon (Wall St. Journal) detailed Biden's agenda for today, "On Thursday, Mr. Biden is scheduled to travel to the Kurdish north to hold talks with regional president Masoud Barzani. Tensions between the semi-autonomous Kurdish government and Baghdad have worried U.S. officials, who fear the disputes could turn violent."p he also met with his son, Beau, who is an Army captain serving in Iraq."
The White House issued the following last night and we'll note it in full since there's been so very little press coverage of Biden's visit:
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (As Translated) In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful, I welcome Vice President Biden in his visit to Baghdad. This is not his first visit. It is a continuation and a follow-up of previous visits and a follow-up on the issues of mutual interest to both countries.
And as in each time, these were beneficial and positive discussions and that continue with the discussions held previously during our previous visits or also during my visit to Washington. And we -- he affirmed further the need to deepen the positive relationship between the two countries and taking them and advancing them.
We have discussed the steps that has been -- have been taken so far with regards to the Status of Forces Agreement that are so far going on with a high credibility and taking their normal course. We also discussed the issues within the Strategic Framework Agreement which we have very high hopes and expectations.
And within the Strategic Framework Agreement, touching that issue, we focused on all the aspects of cooperation -- economic, political, cultural, scientific and commercial -- and the ways to foster and to support further the political process, this political process that has cemented the democracy in Iraq. And we also talked about the various challenges that we face.
And in steps on the implementation of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we had started discussions early on in Washington during the work and the proceedings of the high coordinating -- coordination committee between the two countries. We talked about that and we talked about -- through which there was this conference that will be held on October 20th and 21st in Washington. We discussed that and the need for this conference to be a success in order to provide investments, opportunities for the companies and also in order to provide -- and we spoke about how to advance the various legislative reform needed with regard to investments and so forth.
In that endeavor, the National Iraqi Authority for Investments will be putting forth some lists -- lists about the needs for types of contracts and the type of investments that this conference would attract for the big corporations, the capital and the merchants to know what we need. And we ask also from the various relevant ministries in Iraq to put forth such lists to define other needs in contracting and opportunities.
And we also focused on the way to fight terrorism, this threat that is threatening the security and the peace -- international security and peace. And we also talked about our ongoing efforts to pursue the terrorists who hit the lives of people and who hit the infrastructure.
And once more I welcome Vice President Biden, thank him for his visit, and hope for further good relations -- mutual bilateral relations between the two countries.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you once again for the welcome. I'm delighted to be back in Baghdad to discuss with the Prime Minister and his advisers issues of mutual interest. And I think we concluded some very productive talks.
And once again, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for your hospitality as well as your leadership. And I want to assure -- I've assured the Prime Minister that the United States' commitment to strengthen our relationship with Iraq remains strong. President Obama emphasized that when the Prime Minister visited in July, and I repeat it again today: Our goal is to work in partnership with Iraq to help the Iraqi people build a country that's sovereign and stable and self-reliant -- and they're well on their way. I want -- we want a long-term relationship based upon mutual respect.
And we look at the accomplishments of the last several years and in recent months -- I think we're making steady progress mutually toward that goal. We're determined to stand with our Iraqi friends as they address the challenges that remain and that --
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I'm very tired. (Laughter.)
(The interpreter translates.)
My compliment to the interpreter. (Laughter.)
At the end of -- at the end of June, we took a very important step by transferring security responsibility in Iraqi cities and towns to the Iraqi Security Forces. This transition was part of the security agreement concluded between our countries last November. And in accordance with that agreement, we will continue to provide training and support for Iraqi Security Forces.
And we'll also move ahead in other aspects of the security agreement by removing all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August 2010 and all remaining U.S. troops by the end of 2011.
As the terrorist bombings on August 19th so vividly demonstrated, the enemies of national unity in Iraq are ready to murder innocent civilians as they attempt to re-ignite sectarian conflict. Once again, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, we extend our condolences to the families of the victims, and condemn such attacks. And we are confident -- we are confident -- the terrorists will fail.
The Iraqi people and security forces charged with protecting them have shown great courage, resilience and restraint in the face of this danger. And they'll continue to reject the forces of division and destruction. I'm confident of that, as well.
We also discussed the Prime Minister's efforts of his government to strengthen national unity. The Prime Minister was kind enough to discuss with us several of the issues that are in need of resolution if the Iraqis are to achieve the bright future that they have fought so hard for and deserve.
As the Prime Minister also mentioned, and mentioned just a moment ago, we discussed the status of the Strategic Framework Agreement. This agreement lays the groundwork for a strong and long-lasting relationship between our countries in cultural, educational, economic and scientific fields. And it will, in our view, allow us to partner in improving governance and delivering services and promoting the rule of law, as well.
The Strategic Framework Agreement is the foundation of our relationship, and we look forward to joining our Iraqi friends in developing and carrying out programs that will benefit both our countries in the near future and the long term.
We're expanding our economic partnerships, and we very much look forward to the Iraqi Business and Investment Conference that was also referenced that is going to be held in Washington next month and which we believe will help bring together American and Iraqi businesses for additional economic activity in Iraq.
Iraqis as, as I might add, as well as Americans have made many sacrifices in the last six and a half years, and much hard work remains. But under the Prime Minister's leadership and the efforts of the Iraqi people, Iraq is on the road to a better future. And we remain committed to cooperating with the Iraqi government and people as they work together to create a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.
Again, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your hospitality.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded a driver and a bodyguard for "the head of Islamic studies in the Sunni Endowment office," Baghdad mortar attacks which wounded four people, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two people, a Mosul truck bombing which claimed the life of 1 suicide bomber and 3 civilians (six people -- three police -- were wounded), a Mosul car bombing which injured four people, a Kirkuk sound bombing followed by a roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 members of Kurdish intelligence and left three more injured. Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib bombing claimed 2 lives and left a third person injured and, dropping back yesterday, a Baquba car bombing which left five people injured, a Baghdad car bombing which injured one person and a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two people.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in a Mosul drive-by and 1 more person wounded in a shooting attack on his store.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Correction to yesterday's snapshot noted, "Yesterday's snapshot noted the release from a Baghdad prison of Iraq journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) where he'd been sentenced for throwing two shoes at Bully Boy Bush on December 14th. Today, another shoe thrower apparently emerged. The Telegraph of London reports Ahmed Latif was shot dead today by the US military in Falljua after he hurled insults and a shote at them." Sahar Issa reports today that the man was wounded. Nawaf Jabbar and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add the man's name is Ahmed Abdul Latif and that Latif fell to the ground after being shot according to eye witness Ahmed Mukhlif who says that then "the four U.S. Humvees stopped and a man stepped out, his rifle pointing toward the wounded Iraqi, and a policeman intervened and prevented the American from firing again."
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan hosts a weekly radio and online broadcast, Cindy's Soapbox. This week's first guest is independent journalist Dahr Jamail whose latest book is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. We noted a section of the broadcast yesterday and we'll note another section today where Cindy and Dahr discuss his new book.
Cindy Sheehan: Dahr tell my listeners about your book The Will to Resist. I just I support soldiers who refuse to go to these illegal and immoral wars. I support them financially, I support them morally. My son didn't want to go but he thought it was his duty so he went and he was killed hours after he actually got to post. But the thing I support about these-these men and women is that they realize they're being used as tools of the US empire and they don't want to die and they don't want to kill anybody as tools. So tell my listeners about your book.
Dahr Jamail: And that is really the spirit of the book. It's about people in the military, most of which are Iraq and/or Afghanistan veterans, some of them are active duty folks. And it's about people that basically joined the military for various reasons whether it's for economic reasons or out of patriotism or wanting to serve their country and then realizing that being in Iraq or Afghanistan, it literally pushes them up against a moral crisis where they realized they're being asked to follow unlawful orders and so many of them understand that, for example, not only the situation in Iraq but the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan violates the Geneva Conventions as well which by definition given that the US is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution which then by definition puts a soldier in a moral crisis where they have to decide "Do I follow these orders which are actually illegal by both domestic and international law or do I stand up and refuse?" And to do the moral thing as well as the lawful thing, these people realize, well I'm going to have to take a stand and basically go up against against the US military and be court martialed and probably have to do some jail time and so I-I started running into people who were actually taking public stands against both occupations as well as other kinds of resistance against of which there's myriad types of resistance -- whether it's from doing fake patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan or coming back home and becoming very outspoken against it and having things like Winter Soldier events like Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored. So really I started running into all these different types of resistance that veterans and active duty folks were involved in and realized "Wow, there's more than enough material here to write a book."
Cindy Sheehan: And so, um, most of my listeners know what Winter Soldier is, my listeners are very smart and they're very well informed. But for maybe a few that wouldn't know what Winter Soldier is, could you explain to my listeners what that was?
Dahr Jamail: Winter Soldier was a phenomena that began during Vietnam when similarly soldiers were coming back from Vietnam and realizing that most of the people in this country were not getting any real clear information about how bad it was over there and what was actually happening. So similarly a bunch of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans associated with Iraq Veterans Against the War came back and held a big conference in Silver Spring, Maryland -- it was spring a year ago. And about fifty-six or so of them testified on different panels about what they did in Iraq, what they saw over there and showed photos and showed videos and really gave us a clear picture about what it was and the atrocities they were carrying out and how horrible the situation really was. It was a really shocking conference to be a part of and be there and was a very, very difficult weekend but a very necessary one and so it was all over the alternative media of course -- Pacifica outlets, some satellite stations, Democracy Now!, etc., Laura Flanders, but of course no big shocker corporate media in large part basically censored it.
We're stopping there. KPFA carried the first IVAW Winter Soldier starting Friday morning, continuing Saturday and Sunday. Aaron Glantz and Aimee Allison anchored the coverage. Pacifica Radio's webpage offered all of that coverage in a live stream and once offered it in full. Then it was decided that KPFA The War Comes Home was archiving, so it could be removed from the Pacifica site. It's a little over a year later. The War Comes Home? It's been history for months now. Click here for March 14th live coverage, here for March 15th live coverage, here for March 16h live coverage at KPFA. Now in real time, WBAI elected not to break away from their very pressing weekend schedule of repeats of dead Al Lewis programs and moldy-oldy records. Translation, they didn't broadcast Winter Soldier on Saturday or on Sunday. Democracy Now!? Click here and here for their broadcast (which is more of a mix). Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier page provides a link to video of this Winter Soldier (other Winter Soldiers have been staged regionally since -- at least two in California). Click here for Sprouts coverage of it (one hour, audio, also a mix). Chris Hayes wrote about it for The Nation (which was tremendously appreciated and that's not sarcasm). Despite a promise from a publisher of an indy rag -- shall I start telling tales off the school yard? -- that he would write about it . . . he 'forgot.' Let's drop the pretense that anyone did a damn thing in Panhandle Media. The ones who did -- whether I like them or not -- are mentioned: Aimee Allison, Aaron Glantz, Christopher Hayes, Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders. The ones who didn't? Oh, I could make a list. Including the author whose book was cited at Winter Soldier, who swore he'd cover it and then . . . like ____ . . . forgot.
And all those promises
That you made me from the start
Were filled with emptiness
From the desert of your heart
Every sweet caress
Was just your second best
-- "All Those Promises," written by Janis Ian, from her album Folk Is The New Black
Sidebar, Janis is touring (always) and one show is in Dallas, Texas. A record producer friend asked that we get the word out on it. Tickets are priced from $25 to $75 for the October 22nd concert presented by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with StraightOut Media & Marketing, SRO Artists and Revenge Touring, Inc. Click here for details and to purchase tickets. Back to the topic at hand . . .
No offense, but I'm not in the mood for this bulls**t. This bulls**t not being called out loudly in real time resulted in where we are today.
Little useless Jeff Cohen shows up a week after Winter Soldier presenting a pat-on-the-back column for Panhandle Media where he LIED that people could hear it on the radio and get it here and there and everywhere. LIES. WBAI did one damn day. That's NYC. That's a huge population center and it's the media center, THE, in the US. One damn day. More important to air repeats of Al Lewis' program -- in March 2008, more important to air repeats of Al Lewis' radio program, Al Lewis who died in February 2006.
We covered it in this community. This isn't empty finger-pointing. Community-wide, refer to "I Hate The War," "Iraq snapshot," "Jason Hurd (IVAW's Winter Soldiers Investigation),"
"IVAW's Clifton Hicks," "Kelly Dougherty at Winter Soldiers Investigation," "Corporal Eric Estenzo testifies at Winter Soldiers...," "Steve Mortillo at Winter Soldiers Investigation,"
"Tantrum in the Oval Office" & " THIS JUST IN! INTERVIEW IN THE OVAL OFFICE!" (joint-post), "Katrina vanden Heuvel avoids Winter Soldier," "Saturday's Winter Soldier Investigation," "Truest Statement of the Week," "Editorial: Are you ready to listen," "TV: Nothing-ness," "Veterans Healthcare," "Roundtable," "Negative Critisicm of Winter Soldiers Investigation," "And the war drags on . . .," "Iraq snapshot," "Dahlai Wasfi: Rock Star," "Garret Reppenhagen at Winter Soldier," "Jesse Hamilton Winter Soldier," "IVAW, silence, Hillary," "CounterPunch never heard of IVAW?," "Common Dreams doesn't include Winter Soldier," "Iraq snapshot," "Jesse Hamilton Winter Soldier Investigation," "Iraq snapshot," "The Peter Pans of Panhandle Media refused to cover Winter Soldiers," "Jesse Hamilton, Hillary, Barack," "Video, Hillary's Iraq speech," "Jesse Hamilton Winter Soldier," "Iraq snapshot" and "Ron Cantu at Winter Soldier." I may have missed something but that's the coverage beginning the Thursday Winter Soldier started and continuing through the week after it ended.
There were tons of stories to be told, tons of thing to comment on or share. But people took a pass. And then after, people took a pass on calling out the silence. Whores like Jeff Cohen showed up to attack Real Media for not covering but he had nothing to say about the many, many in Panhandle Media who ignored it. (And Real Media did do some coverage by the way. We covered that in real time. I'm not in the mood to go through all that now.) (John Stauber critiqued the silence on Winter Soldier. To be clear, John Stauber did not and is not a whore. He and Cohen were both guests for a KPFA segment and I don't want anyone to wrongly think that he's being lumped in with Cohen.) FAIR, Coehn's brothel, showed up the Friday after Winter Soldier ended with CounterSpin where they found time to cluck over the lack of coverage . . . but forgot to include themselves because FAIR has a website and forgot to do a damn thing on Winter Soldier before it started or while it was going on. That's empty finger-pointing. Repeating, in this community, we covered it in real time.
This topic will come back up at Third this weekend. But for now, this nonsense of acting like Panhandle Media did something? It didn't do a damn thing. It's as pathetic as Green Party members being thrilled that Amy Goodman gives their national convention, where they nominate a presidential candidate, a mention in headlines. The Green Party gets a headline. The DNC convention gets ten hours of coverage from Amy Goodman. The RNC convention gets tens hours of coverage from Amy Goodman. But Greens want to pretend that getting tossed scraps is something wonderful. I'm not in the mood for scraps. Winter Soldier was a HUGE story and should have been the biggest story for anyone slightly-left-of-center all the way to the extreme end. Now The Progressive missed Winter Soldier. Completely. While it was happening, they took a pass. But the week after Winter Soldier, they're live blogging a multi-day DNC event. Don't forget that. Don't forget where their priorities were.
Good luck to Dahr with his book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan but I'm not in the mood for pretending what happened didn't happen nor am I dependent upon Foreign Policy in Focus, The Progressive or anyone else for good reviews or a paycheck. So I can and will call them out for their gross negligence and silence. And Ava and I went round and round with FPIF in real time. The refusal of others to do so, the refusal to hold them accountable? It's part of the reason why Iraq has fallen off the radar despite the fact that the illegal war continues.
In related news, which is also good news for Random House, George W. Bush is more popular than anyone could have guessed (Crown Publishing will be publishing Bully Boy Bush's memoir I Came, I Killed, I Giggled aka Decision Points). So says a new poll by Gallup which finds US President Barack Obama's highest job approval coming on the Iraq War with 56% under "approve." Since Barack's 'plan' is nothing but Bush's plan, 56% of the American people -- those polled by Gallup -- have just given George W. a big sloppy kiss.
Don't know just what I wanted
But I know I wanted more
Someone smooth, presentable
To blend with my decor
And now at night I think of how
You grinned when you undressed
And I find I miss you
More than I'd ever guessed
-- "The Carter Family," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, from her No Secrets album (Carly's new album, Never Been Gone, is released October 27th)
And apparently a large number of Americans just wanted someone "smooth, presentable" to continue the policies of George W. Bush because that's what Barack's done and, with regards to Iraq, that's all he's done. The Status Of Forces Agreement (a treaty masquerading as a SOFA) was pushed through by the Bush White House -- and prior to it being pushed through, Barack joined the chorus of US Congress members calling out the SOFA (Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, etc.). And Barack promised that, ten months after being sworn in, US forces would be out of Iraq! (Houston, Texas, speech given February, 2008. Check Tom Hayden's dresser for mash notes and fan fiction on the speech.) Sworn in and, golly, he decides the 'plan' for Iraq is . . . exactly what Bush mapped out. And 56% of Americans surveyed are fine and dandy with it. Barack Obama has not ended the Iraq War. Iraqis have not stopped dying, US forces have not stopped dying. Greenville Daily News reports that the 1073rd Maintenance Company of the Michigan Army National Guard "earlier served more than a year in Iraq is going back for 12 more months." They quote Sgt Amanda Cole stating, "We're not as comfortable with our mission. We've never done this before. A lot of the weapons we'll be using have never been used before by members of our unit." At The Hill, two comments on the polling results are worth noting. Jim: "Isn't it interesting that his highest approval rating is simply for the continuation of the Bush doctrine in Iraq . . . hmmm . . ." and Bob: "Exactly the point! He is doing best in the one thing he has not tried to change!!! America? Do you get it yet?" Do not think the right-wing hasn't noticed the hypocrisy of so many on the left. Paul Gottfried (Right Side News) went to town yesterday, "These days, as I walk among my formerly pacifist colleagues and read their preferred news sources, I don't hear a murmur of complaint about 'the president's strategy' for extricating our troops from military danger. It is as if we were living in messianic times, when the wolf is lying down with the lamb. This is all because we now have Obama in the White House and overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Once I was naive enough to wonder why the critics of our war in Iraq on the right and on the left did not join hands in a common enterprise. The answer is that the Democratic Left, with few exceptions, was never opposed in principle to military entanglements overseas. While rightwing opponents of Bush's foreign policy were marginalized and vilified for their dissent by GOP commentators and the mainstream conservative movement, the Democratic Left engaged in griping as a means of taking power." The only 'change' has been the 'antiwar' movement packing it in after they whored to elect a Democratic president. Jeremy Scahill (The Nation via CBS News) asks, "Why Is Obama Still Using Blackwater?" and notes:
Two years to the day after the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater remains in Iraq, armed and dangerous. As The Nation has reported, the Obama administration recently extended the company's contract there indefinitely. Blackwater has big-money contracts in Afghanistan as well, working for the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA. As in Iraq, Blackwater forces are alleged to have shot and killed innocent civilians there. We now know that Blackwater was hired as part of the secret CIA assassination program that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered concealed from Congress and that the company continues to work for the CIA as part of its drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Kristin M. Hall (AP) reports on military widow Hotaru Ferschke whose husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. He was shot dead during a house search. He and Hoatru had married a month before and she gave birth to their son, Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, eight months ago. They married by proxy which means a ceremony "on seperate continents" and with his dying a month later, immigration officials are insisting the marriage isn't valid because, get this, it was not consummated.
A child would argue the relationship was. More importantly, immigration isn't supposed to be concerned with consummation. They're required to make sure that marriages are valid but as to whether or not a couple actually has sex? That's really none of the government's business. There are couples -- if you caught that bad 20/20 'medical' show, you know this -- who do not have sex. The article notes talk that the law needs to be updated but it actually needs to be tossed out and any judge worth his or her salt would move to do so quickly. It's creating a barrier that's not present in other legally recognized marriages in the US.
Hall reports that Hotaru and Michael spent "13 months" together "before he left for Iraq in April 2008. He had proposed and they were trying to conceive a baby before he deployed, Hotaur Ferschke said." Approximately two weeks after he deployed, Hotaru discovered she was pregnant and the couple then moved quickly to have the proxy marriage. This was to be sure Michael's military benefits covered the pregnancy expenses and, you can be sure, this was also to be sure -- for both Michael and Hotaur -- that their relationship was legally recognized.
Now immigration is threatening deportation. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke states, "She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child." US House Rep John Duncan has a bill that needs a sponsor in the Senate. Apparently Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander are too busy to sign on. (Tennessee is the family's state.)
We'll close with this from the last of the independents, the true independents, Chris Hedges (via Information Clearing House):
The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country's future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.
The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.
Violence is a dark undercurrent of American history. It is exacerbated by war and economic decline. Violence is spreading outward from the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan to slowly tear apart individuals, families and communities. There is no immunity. The longer the wars continue, the longer the members of our working class are transformed by corporate overlords into serfs, the more violence will dominate the landscape. The slide into chaos and a police state will become inevitable.
The soldiers and Marines who return from Iraq and Afghanistan are often traumatized and then shipped back a few months later to be traumatized again. This was less frequent in Vietnam. Veterans, when they get out, search for the usual escape routes of alienation, addictions and medication. But there is also the escape route of violence. We risk creating a homegrown Freikorps, the demobilized German soldiers from World War I who violently tore down the edifice of the Weimar Republic and helped open the way to Nazism.
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