Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The costs of war

Sunday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Two U.S. Army helicopter pilots were killed as a result of an accident near an airfield on a U.S. base in northern Iraq, Feb. 21. The aircraft made a hard landing inside the base. There were no enemy forces present and no hostile fire was reported. The accident is under investigation and release of the Soldiers' identities are being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased Soldiers will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at The Task Force Marne command team mourns the loss of these two aviators and extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to their Families." One of the two was was Billie Jean Grinder. Jennifer Easton (Tennessean) reports she is "the first woman Guard member to die there since the war began". Easton speaks with the fallen's sister, Melissa Smith, who states Billie Jean Grinder was due home "within two weeks," at which point, they planned to work on Melissa's wedding, "She was looking forward to helping me plan my wedding. We were going shopping for dresses in two weeks." Matt Lakin (Knoxville News Sentinel) reports on the other fallen in the crash, Marcus Ray Alford Sr. who leaves "behind two children, a son and a daughter. His death makes him the fourth former South-Doyle student killed since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq". (Grinder's survivors include her husband and her step-daughters.) Allison Kropff and Mike McCarthy (Volunteer TV -- link has video and text) speak with Marcus Alford's former classmates and teachers including Jackie Smith who says, "I used to always get picked on in high school, and one thing Marcus would always say to me was, 'It's OK. The best people always get picked on'."

Staying with the deaths, Layla Anwar's "Hunted" (An Arab Woman Blues) reports on the many Iraqi deaths that go unreported in the Western press:

Let's start with the Dead shall we ? I have no time to write an essay, I will give just headlines...

- 30 dead today in different parts of Iraq - Baghdad, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul, what follows is not included in the reported 30 dead.

- several sectarian murders by the Katem - the silencer gun the favorite weapon of the Shiite Militas. namely 3 in Adhamiya, ordinary people, gunned down early in the morning. 1 Academic gunned down in his car. a family of 8 in East Baghdad, including all the children, found beheaded, another family of 4 in Baghdad gunned down by the silencer, and another 4 women gunned down by the silencer...
Regarding the killing and the beheading of the family of 8 mentioned above, I just read an article by the BBC stating that the family was a Shia family. This information is NOT correct. Brig. General Qassem Atta said all the above deaths by gunning were done by "unknown" gunmen. Usually Qassem Atta blames "Al-Qaeda and Saddamists" for everything but not this time round....Iraqi police showed the silencer guns and some stolen goods but no more info from any other Arabic source including the Iraqi police and the Brigadier General who pronounced himself publicly on the matter.So where did the BBC get the sect affiliation info from ?

- 70 corpses found in the South, gunned down by the silencer - the Katem.

- political candidates who are not favored by Iran and the Shiite parties are receiving regular death threats and there is a CAMPAIGN OF PHYSICAL LIQUIDATION ORGANIZED BY THE IRANIAN QUDS FORCE.

- 5 mortars fell in the Green Zone.

- a group of lawyers are presenting in Brussels a list of not less of 16 names, related to the Shiite parties and their militias responsible for sectarian mass killings, following the discovery of mass graves in :

* Sadr City
* Taji
* Basra where a mass grave of 300 people was found, mainly women and 100 children.

That's an excerpt and there's much, much more violence charted in her post.

A few e-mails ask about the bomb 'detectors' in Iraq. These are the wands that the operator holds in their hands while stomping their feet. They have resulted in fraud charges in England. But Iraq has continued to use them. (Kickbacks is whispered to be the reason why the Iraqi government spent so much on them and why a real investigation in Iraq will not take place.) What's going on with those? Alsumaria TV reports today that their use in Iraq continues but, quoting Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson, states that 50% are defective and those will no longer be used. Which makes Nouri look like a big joke since, CNN reports, that they're planning to sue . . . on some. Long before the company and its head were brought up on charges in England, the US military had repeatedly warned that the 'detectors' did not work and were a joke. All this time later, the best Nouri can do is to say some will no longer be used.

In other Iraq news, Austrian Times reports "Idris A." "was arrested in Iraq on 4 February 2010". The Iraqi born male became an Austrian citizen and fled that country shortly after murdering his ex-wife in 2001: "The man had invited his daughter to his apartment and then forced her at gunpoint to take him to her mother's residence, the address of which she had kept secret from him after their divorce. The daughter was shot in the lower arm when she tried to stop her father from shooting her mother but survived. The man fled from the scene in his car and then disappeared."

Turning to the US, yesterday, a protest against the continued wars and their toll on humanity took place in New York. The demonstration was staged by NYC Peace Grannies. Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She was part of the demonstration and has written "Rain-Drenched, Wind-Tossed New York City Peace Grannies Hold Memorial For The 1,000 Dead G.I.s in Afghanistan:"

It seems as if most of our U.S. populace has forgotten that U.S. soldiers are dying in Afghanistan. Focused on Tiger Woods' sex life and, more understandably, the seemingly endless, unresolvable health reform and jobs battles in Washington, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be ignored.
However, a group of New York city peace grannies and their supporters DO remember, and they publicly so acknowledged on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the just-announced grim tally of 1,000 U.S. soldiers' loss of life in Afghanistan. The event was coordinated by Grandmothers Against the War and the Granny Peace Brigade. Members of Peace Action New York, Veterans for Peace, The World Can't Wait, the Gray Panthers, Brooklyn for Peace, and the Raging Grannies attended as well.
On the cold, wet and windy evening, approximately 30 mostly elderly people assembled in front of Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to pay tribute to the 1,000 American G.I.s sacrificed in the wrong-headed war in Afghanistan. They also mourned the many Afghani deaths caused by our missiles and bombs.
The great actor-author, Malachy McCourt , opened the proceedings with a powerful speech lambasting the tragic expenditure of life and resources in the hopeless pursuit of peace through war. A statement of support by NY State Senator Bill Perkins, who had to be in Albany with the legislature, was read. Following that, the vigil members read the names of deceased soldiers AND deceased Afghani civilians to the accompaniment of a single muffled drum beat.
Names of dead in Afghanistan are read Feb. 23 on Fifth Avenue (photo by Masahiro Hosodo)
It was startling and extremely saddening to hear that so many of the Afghanis whose names were read were small children. One wondered: How can we feel morally justified in waging a war that causes so many innocent people to die whom we are supposedly protecting?
Strangely enough, the police erected a barricade around the anti-war stalwarts. This had never been done before in the six plus years that Grandmothers Against the War, the Vets for Peace and the Granny Peace Brigade have been holding a weekly Wednesday vigil on that Rockefeller Center site.
The soggy Peaceniks then walked down Fifth Avenue and over to the Times Square recruiting station where the Raging Grannies sang familiar songs with their revised anti-war lyrics. They kept singing despite the fact that several policemen insisted that the group leave. Finally, thoroughly soaked and shivering, the hardy old folks (and a few young ones) dispersed.
It is worth quoting part of Sen. Perkins' statement: "It is obvious that the lessons of the unjust war launched by the previous Bush administration have yet to sink in on the current administration. Each day the goal of honorable victory will be ever more elusive. The goal of an honorable peace for a dishonorable war will continue to have its price."
As I write, one day later, the tragic number of our young military dead in Afghanistan has climbed to 1,006.

Meanwhile Mark Thompson (Time magazine) observes:

You know the government's broken when, in the face of tough fiscal times, the President freezes government spending but gives the military a pass. That's because spending on the military and homeland security, following 9/11 and the launch of two wars in its wake, has become sacrosanct. But it's too bad — because there is plenty of money to be saved by lopping off the well-marbled fat that clings to the $700 billion the U.S. spends annually on national security.
The U.S. military is now spending more on defense, on average, than it did during the Cold War -- even after the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are erased.

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oh boy it never ends