Wednesday, May 12, 2004

From "Just A Common Soldier"

From "Just A Common Soldier"

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land

A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,

Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

--A. Lawrence Vaincourt


Iraq- Sheila Provencher's view from the inside

Iraq- Sheila Provencher's view from the inside

Sheila Provencher- Torture and Responsibility in Iraq

Sheila Provencher is a Christian Peacemaker Team member in Iraq, is a Catholic lay minister, and full-time activist from South Bend, Indiana.

CPT comments on `patterns of abuse' in Iraq

With horrific images of abused Iraqi prisoners in the media this week, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) urged attention to the patterns of abuse in Iraq and the question, "How did this happen?" CPT is a ministry initiated by Mennonites, Brethren, and Friends, and has an "Adopt a Detainee Program" to support Iraqi detainees.

The organization has been documenting abuses within the detention system in Iraq for nearly a year, a CPT release said. "The problem is very broad," wrote Sheila Provencher in the release. "These photos, tragically, were not a surprise to me." Provencher has been a member of the CPT team in Iraq, where her work focused on detainees. The team left Iraq in April on the advice of Iraqi colleagues of risks to international workers. CPT has had a team in Iraq almost continuously since Oct. 2002.

"We have communicated grave concerns about the detention system in several meetings with US military and Coalition Provisional Authority officials in Iraq, and with representatives in Congress," said Provencher. "Many Iraqis who tell us stories of degrading abuse also comment on the `noble soldiers' who protested such abuse and treated them with respect. However, the sheer number of allegations of mistreatment, many of which I have heard personally, suggests that the problem is not just a matter of a few `bad people,'" she wrote. She acknowledged that there are Iraqis guilty
of violent acts, but added that "the methods used to capture, imprison, and interrogate such Iraqis are so violent that the Coalition only creates more resisters."

Provencher suggested that factors contributing to the abuse include ideology that separates the world into "good guys" and "bad guys," military hierarchy, and the dehumanization of young US soldiers by their training, combat stress, and neglect. "To feel a constant threat to one's life, coupled with the psychological stress of being separated from home and family, is devastating," she said.......

"Once the men are in detention, families find it extremely difficult to secure information about them, and do not know if they are alive or dead....." [SEE LINK]

IRAQ: Abundant life
by Sheila Provencher

5-year-old Hussein sits with his father, Emir, along Abu Nawwas street across from the Tigris River. Emir sells cigarettes and juice from a tiny stand tucked against the gate of an abandoned building. Humvees and tanks roar past. Across the street, nearly empty restaurants block the sight of the river's dignified movement between shores littered with plastic bags and garbage.

Hussein always runs to greet me with a smile, his little cheek tilted up for a kiss. One day I surprised him with a box of crayons. Two days later, he surprised ME when he ran behind his father's stand and emerged clutching a 10"x10" piece of cardboard. He had used a cigarette carton as a canvas for a crayon masterpiece.

Hussein's picture teems with life. The Tigris flows a brilliant blue, and pink flowers sway amid a blanket of grass. A donkey munches on a tree bursting with orange blossoms, a duck contemplates a date-palm heavy with fruit, and a rabbit smiles under a smiling sun. A flock of birds soars within the stripe of sky colored across the top of the page. Two fish and a giant duck swim through the river of turquoise, and what looks like a bumblebee (as large as the duck!) flies over it all.

A few days ago, an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded not two blocks away, shattering windows and sending a child Hussein's age to the hospital. But in this picture, there is no broken glass, no guns or tanks or helicopters, no presidential palace. Instead--abundant life. How did Hussein see such a Garden in the dust?

. . . . .

It is easy to see only the dust these days. Daily reports describe attacks, kidnapping, and hundreds of deaths. Our Iraqi friends are visibly upset at the escalating level of violence across the country. "We are tired, so tired," says Maryam, a young mother who has lived through three wars. "We have suffered so much,and it is getting more frightening now."

Violence comes from so many places: the past regime, the US-led wars and sanctions, resistance fighters who attack soldiers, terrorists who bomb civilians, and Coalition troops who imprison thousands of innocent Iraqis alongside the guilty, surround entire cities, and kill civilians in the street battles with militia. And this violence is not just external . . . violence is born in all of our hearts.

But this morning, as I sat on the rooftop above the city, a bumblebee landed on my shoulder. Chickadees and turtledoves flitted about and chatted to each other. Across the street, tall green rushes swayed on the banks of the Tigris.

Maybe Hussein's picture is not so imaginary. Maybe we just have to NOTICE the life that is already here in front of us, and draw it out, and nurture it. How can we call forth the abundant life that already IS--in every river, every animal, every heart of every person --to overcome the darkness?

Beheaded Man's Firm Was On Right-Wing 'Enemies' List

Beheaded Man's Firm Was On Right-Wing 'Enemies' List

Sound familiar?
I helped to break this story early yesterday at Daily Kos.
(Patting self on back).
Fintan Dunne has expanded upon this initial enemy-list-discovery and raises some compelling points.
Could it possibly be because of this "enemy list" that Nick Berg was detained in Iraq for so long?

The family firm of beheaded American Nick Berg, was named by a conservative website in a list of 'enemies' of the Iraq occupation. That could explain his arrest by Iraqi police --a detention which fatally delayed his planned return from Iraq and may have led directly to his death.

Tom Tomorrow has caught wind of the story, too.

Hart Seeley's Rumsfeld Poetry Makes Today's News Headlines

Hart Seeley's Rumsfeld Poetry Makes Today's News Headlines

As I told you about on March 16th, Syracuse columnist Hart Seeley's "Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld" has been set to music by San Francisco-based pianist Bryant Kong. (Songs sung by soprano Elender Wall).

Kerry's eyeballing McCain for Defense Secretary

Kerry's eyeballing McCain for Defense Secretary

What do we think about that?

What does McCain think about that?
(The article doesn't really say)

What about Wesley Clark?

Update- 5/13 Taegan Goddard blog- McCain says no dice.

Thoughts About America and Her Relation to the World

Thoughts About America and Her Relation to the World


To advocate an imperial foreign policy is to call for a foreign policy that attempts to organize the world along certain principles affecting relations between states and conditions within them. The U.S. role would resemble 19th century Great Britain....Coercion and the use of force would normally be a last resort; what was written by John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson about Britain a century and a half ago, that “The British policy followed the principle of extending control informally if possible and formally if necessary,” could be applied to the American role at the start of the new century.

--Richard N. Haass, director of policy planning in the State Department [LINK] between.......

Shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give those poor things a rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first?

--Mark Twain

....lies our truth.

American democracy is at risk today from many sides: from media ownership concentration, from the power of money in politics, from the red scare atmosphere of our nebulous war on terror and Islamic fundamentalism, and from an administration that has a touch of fundamentalism of its own. But even an American society that has suffered the depredations of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft holds more hope as a model than one shaped by the caste system of India, the lockstep vision of al-Qaida and its supporters, the ethnic rivalries of the Balkans, or the strongman politics of most of Africa, Central Asia and the Arab world.

This, to me, is the paradox: that what is, at home, perhaps the most vibrant civil society on earth is, abroad, a trigger-happy superpower of terrifying arrogance. If there is a single hope I have for my country it is that the great promise of the one can begin to rescue us from the great dangers of the other.

--Adam Hochschild [LINK]

Conservative vs. Conservative

Conservative vs. Conservative

Coming Thursday to the Washington Post:
William Bennett will repudiate Limbaugh's recent comments about Abu Ghraib. Bennet says that although the actions of U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib may fall short of war crimes, the offenses were serious and the photos of naked Iraqis piled on top of each or tethered to leashes will becomes effective "al Qaeda recruiting posters."

Exactly! Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer 'em because they had a good time.You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time. These people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of needing to blow some steam off?[LINK]

The Vactican's foreign minister has told Italian newspaper La Repubblica:

"The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves," Lajolo was quoted as saying in La Repubblica.

Lajolo said that "intelligent people in Arab countries understand that in a democracy such episodes are not hidden and are punished ... Still the vast mass of people — under the influence of Arab media — cannot but feel aversion and hate for the West growing inside themselves."
And, he added, "the West is often identified with Christianity." [LINK}

Should Nick Berg's death dilute the outrage over Abu Ghraib?

Should Nick Berg's death dilute the outrage over Abu Ghraib?
The media should have the respect to ask Nick's own family. I believe, from all I know of them so far, that they would most likely NOT wish the death of their son to be condensed into a partisan spin on this human rights issue...or to have his death used as an excuse for more wrongly-directed war.

Should Nick's death reinforce our nation's resolve to "win" in Iraq? If so, why? (I implore all to step away from your emotion and look at the big picture). What does "win" mean? How do we plan to succeed? Nothing is clear.

How would this man's beheading suddenly make us "see" we have a magical strategy to win anything in Iraq? How would Nick's savage treatment prove we ever had good reason to be occupying the Iraqi state (where WMDs/imminent threat still haven't appeared)? How would Nick's death give us a clear idea of who will be taking the reins of Iraqi government on June 30th?

Will Nick's death prove that violence begets violence? Will his death prove that the photos of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners were a direct cause of the decision made by his killers to execute him? Will Nick's death make more torture acceptable?

I'm sorry. I don't think we should let our emotion over Nick's death distract us from the core issues and facts at hand in Iraq today.

This "war on terror" is not being properly prosecuted and Americans are beginning to see it clearly. Our nation's reputation is seriously at stake.

Lynndie a Mere Model in Psy-op Photos

Lynndie a Mere Model in
Psy-op Photos

"I was instructed by persons in higher rank to stand there and hold this leash and look at the camera."

- Lynndie England

"To all of us who have been charged, we all agree that we don't feel like we were doing things that we weren't supposed to, because we were told to do them. We think everything was justified, because we were instructed to do this and to do that," England said.


Who's Responsible for Abu Ghraib?

Who's Responsible for Abu Ghraib?

Every Sunday ChIP’s (Choosing an Independent President 2004 Process) political coordinator Jacqueline Salit and activist/philosopher Fred Newman watch the political talk shows and discuss them. This link provides excerpts from what I consider to be exceptionally interesting dialogue last Sunday- May 9, 2004- after they'd watched “The McLaughlin Group,” “Meet the Press” and “The Chris Matthews Show” – all on NBC.


There are all kinds of conflicts in the American psyche which are exposed in this scandal at Abu Ghraib, and we have to deal with that. This is a country of the underdog, but it’s the wealthiest country in the history of civilization. These are fundamental conflicts in the American psyche. We have to – not just for psychological purposes, but for political purposes – go forward with a recognition of that conflictedness and try to build and develop with that as a basepoint. That’s not how partisan politicians think about it. To them, the basic axiom of public presentation is ‘Never admit that you have a dark side. Never admit that there’s a down side. Never admit that you’re conflicted.’ With those as guiding methodological premises, these kinds of situations are very difficult to deal with.

--Fred Newman

All of us. Americans are responsible. That’s who’s responsible. Are there some particular people who are going to be judged responsible because of their positions? Yes – and probably they should be. But who’s responsible? We are. We are conflicted, but easily seduced by our arrogance. Americans like to hear from our leadership that we are the Righteous People, and so forth. It sounds good. It just happens that some people in the world don’t go along with that. So, this arrogance of ours lives side by side with our goodness and our decency and our wealth and our this and our that. But it’s all there mixed together. It’s all mixed together, and so we are responsible for the people who we elect, and the people who they select, and our troops. Daniel Goldhagen wrote a book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust,” that said that the German people were responsible for the Holocaust. And today, the American people are responsible for this war and for the way it’s being conducted, because this is a democracy. The American people did select this president. I know some people would argue that they didn’t really, not by the popular vote, but Bush managed to get elected according to the laws of this land, and we have to take responsibility for it. And if we take responsibility, as we justifiably do, for all the extraordinary good things that this country does throughout the world, we have to take responsibility for what it means to be the sole superpower – whether we like the title or not. We are an imperialist power. De Facto. Forget about what you think of anybody’s intent.

--Fred Newman

(Many thanks to Hamilton for referring me to this one.)

Meet The Judge Advocate General: Thomas J Romig

Meet The Judge Advocate General:
Thomas J Romig

General Romig

General Thomas J Romig is Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army. You may have seen him at yesterday's Congressional hearings about Abu Ghraib, where he said the Army is now tracking a total of 83 different prisoner abuse cases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's a few things you may not know about him.

Born, raised, and educated in our great state of Kansas, General Romig has been with the U.S. Army since October, 1971. In 1977, General Romig was selected for the Funded Legal Education Program and attended Santa Clara University School of Law, where he served as an editor on the Santa Clara Law Review and as a member of the Honors Moot Court Board. He graduated with honors in 1980. He is a graduate of the National War College and the Armed Forces Staff College. He was promoted from Colonel to brigadier general in July 1998. General Romig's most recent assignment was as the Assistant Judge Advocate General for Military Law and Operations, Office of The Judge Advocate General, United States Army, Rosslyn, Virginia.

Gen Romig paid a visit to Iraq in November, 2003, accompanied by three personal staffers. According to the Pentagon, the purpose of his trip was "to assess the provision of legal services, look at integration of RC (Reserve Component) soldiers in our operations, talk with commanders, look at both traditional and nontraditional legal issues, gather lessons learned ... and check on the status of our soldiers and our equipment."

Sadly, Gen Romig's combat mission became a nightmare when one of the two Blackhawk helicopters transporting him and his team was shot down. Romig's assistants, Chief Warrant Officer
Sharon T. Swartworth and Sgt. Maj. Cornell W. Gilmore, were killed along with the entire Blackhawk crew, Capt. Benedict J. Smith, Chief Warrant Officer Kyran E. Kennnedy and Sgts. Paul M. Neff and Scott C. Rose.[link]