Sunday, March 18, 2012

Murder in Afghanistan - It Isn't Simply Madness

Well, Robert Fisk has it right, that it is not madness that is the reason for the repeated attacks on Afghan and Iraqi (and from a more distant past, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, and numerous others) civilians in the past 10 years. But unfortunately, he doesn't identify quite what it is. Fisk believes it is revenge at work, but read on to find out what Glen Ford believes is the reason, and I don't think Glen is wrong.

Let's recall that we have routinely seen white folks characterized as deranged when they commit mass murders - remember Jared Loughner? When it's a brown guy, however, we see the virtually automatic terminology used - "terrorism" and "terrorist." Don't you think there might be something wrong here? Isn't it possible we're observing a double standard?

Richard Jehn

Marines urinating on Afghan corpses.

Madness is Not the Reason for this Massacre
By Robert Fisk / March 17, 2012

I'm getting a bit tired of the "deranged" soldier story. It was predictable, of course. The 38-year-old staff sergeant who massacred 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, near Kandahar this week had no sooner returned to base than the defence experts and the think-tank boys and girls announced that he was "deranged". Not an evil, wicked, mindless terrorist – which he would be, of course, if he had been an Afghan, especially a Taliban – but merely a guy who went crazy.

This was the same nonsense used to describe the murderous US soldiers who ran amok in the Iraqi town of Haditha. It was the same word used about Israeli soldier Baruch Goldstein who massacred 25 Palestinians in Hebron – something I pointed out in this paper only hours before the staff sergeant became suddenly "deranged" in Kandahar province.

"Apparently deranged", "probably deranged", journalists announced, a soldier who "might have suffered some kind of breakdown" (The Guardian), a "rogue US soldier" (Financial Times) whose "rampage" (The New York Times) was "doubtless [sic] perpetrated in an act of madness" (Le Figaro). Really? Are we supposed to believe this stuff? Surely, if he was entirely deranged, our staff sergeant would have killed 16 of his fellow Americans. He would have slaughtered his mates and then set fire to their bodies. But, no, he didn't kill Americans. He chose to kill Afghans. There was a choice involved. So why did he kill Afghans? We learned yesterday that the soldier had recently seen one of his mates with his legs blown off. But so what?

The Afghan narrative has been curiously lobotomised – censored, even – by those who have been trying to explain this appalling massacre in Kandahar. They remembered the Koran burnings – when American troops in Bagram chucked Korans on a bonfire – and the deaths of six Nato soldiers, two of them Americans, which followed. But blow me down if they didn't forget – and this applies to every single report on the latest killings – a remarkable and highly significant statement from the US army's top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, exactly 22 days ago. Indeed, it was so unusual a statement that I clipped the report of Allen's words from my morning paper and placed it inside my briefcase for future reference.

Allen told his men that "now is not the time for revenge for the deaths of two US soldiers killed in Thursday's riots". They should, he said, "resist whatever urge they might have to strike back" after an Afghan soldier killed the two Americans. "There will be moments like this when you're searching for the meaning of this loss," Allen continued. "There will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back. Now is not the time for revenge, now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are."

Now this was an extraordinary plea to come from the US commander in Afghanistan. The top general had to tell his supposedly well-disciplined, elite, professional army not to "take vengeance" on the Afghans they are supposed to be helping/protecting/nurturing/training, etc. He had to tell his soldiers not to commit murder. I know that generals would say this kind of thing in Vietnam. But Afghanistan? Has it come to this? I rather fear it has. Because – however much I dislike generals – I've met quite a number of them and, by and large, they have a pretty good idea of what's going on in the ranks. And I suspect that Allen had already been warned by his junior officers that his soldiers had been enraged by the killings that followed the Koran burnings – and might decide to go on a revenge spree. Hence he tried desperately – in a statement that was as shocking as it was revealing – to pre-empt exactly the massacre which took place last Sunday.

Yet it was totally wiped from the memory box by the "experts" when they had to tell us about these killings. No suggestion that General Allen had said these words was allowed into their stories, not a single reference – because, of course, this would have taken our staff sergeant out of the "deranged" bracket and given him a possible motive for his killings. As usual, the journos had got into bed with the military to create a madman rather than a murderous soldier. Poor chap. Off his head. Didn't know what he was doing. No wonder he was whisked out of Afghanistan at such speed.

We've all had our little massacres. There was My Lai, and our very own little My Lai, at a Malayan village called Batang Kali where the Scots Guards – involved in a conflict against ruthless communist insurgents – murdered 24 unarmed rubber workers in 1948. Of course, one can say that the French in Algeria were worse than the Americans in Afghanistan – one French artillery unit is said to have "disappeared" 2,000 Algerians in six months – but that is like saying that we are better than Saddam Hussein. True, but what a baseline for morality. And that's what it's about. Discipline. Morality. Courage. The courage not to kill in revenge. But when you are losing a war that you are pretending to win – I am, of course, talking about Afghanistan – I guess that's too much to hope. General Allen seems to have been wasting his time.

Source / Z-Net

The U.S. Empire’s Achilles Heel: Its Barbaric Racism
By Glen Ford / March 14, 2012

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

American racism will always cripple its ability to occupy non-white countries, whose people the U.S. fundamentally disrespects. “The United States cannot help but be a serial abuser of the rights of the people it occupies, especially those who are thought of as non-white, because it is a thoroughly racist nation.” The latest atrocities in Afghanistan are just par for the course.

The U.S. Empire’s Achilles Heel: Its Barbaric Racism
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“What people would agree to allow such armed savages to remain in their country if given a choice?”

The American atrocities in Afghanistan roll on like a drumbeat from hell. With every affront to the human and national dignity of the Afghan people, the corporate media feign shock and quickly conclude that a few bad apples are responsible for U.S. crimes, that it’s all a mistake and misunderstanding, rather than the logical result of a larger crime: America’s attempt to dominate the world by force. But even so, with the highest paid and best trained military in the world – a force equipped with the weapons and communications gear to exercise the highest standards of control known to any military in history – one would think that commanders could keep their troops from making videos of urinating on dead men, or burning holy books, or letting loose homicidal maniacs on helpless villagers.

These three latest atrocities have brought the U.S. occupation the point of crisis – hopefully, a terminal one. But the whole war has been one atrocity after another, from the very beginning, when the high-tech superpower demonstrated the uncanny ability to track down and incinerate whole Afghan wedding parties – not just once, but repeatedly. Quite clearly, to the Americans, these people have never been more than ants on the ground, to be exterminated at will.

The Afghans, including those on the U.S. payroll, repeatedly use the word “disrespect” to describe American behavior. But honest people back here in the belly of the beast know that the more accurate term is racism. The United States cannot help but be a serial abuser of the rights of the people it occupies, especially those who are thought of as non-white, because it is a thoroughly racist nation. A superpower military allows them to act out this characteristic with impunity.

“The whole war has been one atrocity after another, from the very beginning.”

American racism allows its citizens to imagine that they are doing the people of Pakistan a favor, by sending drones to deal death without warning from the skies. The U.S. calls Pakistan an ally, when polls consistently show that its people harbor more hatred and fear of the U.S. than any other people in the world. The Pakistanis know the U.S. long propped up their military dictators, and then threatened to blow the country to Kingdom Come after 9/ll, if the U.S. military wasn’t given free rein. They know they are viewed collectively as less than human by the powers in Washington – and, if they don’t call it racism, we should, because we know our fellow Americans very well.

The U.S. lost any hope of leaving a residual military force in Iraq when it showed the utterly racist disrespect of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, the savage leveling of Fallujah, the massacres in Haditha and so many other places well known to Iraqis, if not the American public, and the slaughter of 17 civilians stuck at a traffic circle in Nisour Square, Baghdad. What people would agree to allow such armed savages to remain in their country if given a choice?

The United States was conceived as an empire built on the labor of Blacks and the land of dead natives, an ever-expanding sphere of exploitation and plunder – energized by an abiding and general racism that is, itself, the main obstacle to establishing a lasting American anti-war movement. But, despite the peace movement’s weaknesses, the people of a world under siege by the Americans will in due time kick them out – because to live under barbarian racists is not a human option.

[BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at]

Source / Black Agenda Report

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, March 16, 2012

But Will It Keep Working This Way?

In which Greg Smith, (now former) Goldman Sachs executive director, offers a master class on how to compose a letter of resignation.

Everything Dies
By William Rivers Pitt / March 16, 2012

Call me a convert, but I'm beginning to dig this whole let-the-marketplace-work-it-out capitalism thing. You know, actual market capitalism and stuff? It's pretty awesome when you make it work its magic.

First of all, and since Rush Limbaugh has been all the buzz of late, let's be clear on a couple of important points:

1. Those who categorize advertiser-aimed activism against Limbaugh and his orgiastic festival of woman-hatred as attacks on "Free Speech" need to remember that free speech equals the First Amendment. That Amendment can only be attacked by the government, which is why it's called an "Amendment." You know, to the Constitution and stuff, right? When ordinary citizens go after an obnoxious diaper-rash of a radio personality like Limbaugh, that's nothing more or less than people exercising their right to free speech, too.

2. Going after advertisers of an offensive public figure is the equivalent of using money as speech. As the current ultra-conservative Supreme Court has seen fit to re-establish money as speech, by way of their Citizens United decision, that means those who attack Limbaugh through his sponsors are following the black-letter spirit of conservative law.

So, yeah, sorry about that.

In other news along the same happy lines, a high-ranking Goldman Sachs bot saw fit to flee his chosen profession like a firework across the sky. The manner of his departure was comprehensively enjoyed by the Occupy movement, and of course Mr. Smith was fully trashed for his candor.

Even so:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. saw $2.15 billion of its market value wiped out after an employee assailed Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein's management and the firm's treatment of clients, sparking debate across Wall Street.

The shares dropped 3.4 percent in New York trading yesterday, the third-biggest decline in the 81-company Standard & Poor's 500 Financials Index, after London-based Greg Smith made the accusations in a New York Times op-ed piece.

Smith, who also wrote that he was quitting after 12 years at the company, blamed Blankfein, 57, and President Gary D. Cohn, 51, for a "decline in the firm's moral fiber."

The power of the pen - a single op-ed - cost these brutes more than $2 billion in a single day.

That, right there, is how capitalism is supposed to work. Real capitalism is a process in which those who can't compete, and those who cheat, die.


Sounds pretty good to me.

"Too Big To Fail" is someone else's catch-phrase. Not mine. I think the very idea is pure nonsense.

Nothing on the skin of this Earth is too big to fail.

Not even the fake-ass robber-baron shell game currently passing itself off as "capitalism."

Everything dies, sooner or later.



Source / Truthout

Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stop Development of the Alberta Tar Sands !!

Source / Information Clearing House

Fluxed Up World

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

You Are What You Monsanto

Source / Pragmatic Progressive Page

Thanks to Alan Brodrick / Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Right-Wing Morons: How Much More Can We Take?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

A Sex Ed 101 Curriculum for Conservatives
By Amanda Marcotte / March 2, 2012

Recent national kerfuffles over abortion and contraception access bring up many important questions: Should employers retain control over your wages and benefits after they sign them over to you? Is contraception, a service used by 99 percent of American women, really so controversial? How much state regulation should there be over women’s most private decisions? But amidst all those questions is one overarching one: Do conservatives need a crash course in sex ed? [Radio show host Rush Limbaugh speaks at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation on the similarities between the war on terrorism and the television show 24, in Washington, June 23, 2006.

Usually, when we think of the sex education debate, we think of junior high and high school kids putting condoms on bananas. But recent events indicate that this country needs remedial sex education for adults, specifically social conservatives who wish to hold forth on reproductive rights without seeming to know the basics regarding who has sex and how it works in 2012. With that in mind, I designed a quick curriculum for these surprisingly necessary courses.

Intercourse 101: It Takes Two to Tango. After voting for a mandatory ultrasound bill that serves no other purpose than to shame abortion patients for their sexuality, Virginia delegate David Albo complained in the legislature that he’s not getting the sex he feels entitled to from his wife. CNSNews columnist Craig Bannister shamed women on the pill for being “sex-crazed co-eds” who exhibit too much “sexual zeal” — before ending his piece by wistfully wishing he could have sex with all the sexually active women he just insulted. Rush Limbaugh, who is on his fourth marriage and is an admitted Viagra user, called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress about her use of contraception, a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

In this first section of the remedial sex education course, we will discuss this sexual double standard: When having sex, men are behaving well and women behaving badly. The midterm will be an essay on the following prompt: “If women are supposed to say no to sex, whom do you propose straight men sleep with?”

Contraception 101: History as Prologue. Many conservatives appear to believe that prior to the Obama administration requiring employers to fully cover contraceptive care as part of their health plans, contraception wasn’t considered a medical service, but something more like a party item you pick up with your beer and cigarettes. Tina Korbe of Hot Air argued that supporters of the new regulation “labor under the illusion that contraception is a medical necessity.” Limbaugh argued that health insurance covering contraception means women are “paid to have sex.” The reaction on the right suggests that this is the first time in history someone has suggested that contraception care be included in general health benefits.

During this portion of the class, we will look at the history of medicalized birth control. Students will learn (in conjunction with another mandatory class, The Pill 101) that the birth control pill has always been controlled by doctors and pharmacies, and that insurance companies treat it as medical care by offering the drug with a co-pay. Special attention will be paid to the 28 states that already require contraception coverage, the existing Medicaid coverage of contraception, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision that found that contraception coverage is a normal part of women’s healthcare that should be covered by healthcare plans.

Premarital Sex 101: A Quantitative Look. Underlying many of the arguments over women’s reproductive healthcare is a widespread fear of women using these rights to have sex outside of marriage. During the Arizona Republican primary debate, Rick Santorum blamed contraception for the problem of teen pregnancy, presuming that teenagers in a contraception-free world would instead abstain. Utah Republican state representative Bill Wright defended a bill banning discussion of contraception in schools by saying: “Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”

Contrary to students’ expectations, there is no high-level math prerequisite for this course. The statistics involved are relatively straightforward. Students will learn that 95 percent of Americans have premarital sex and have done so for decades [centuries - rdj] without bringing ruin to the nation. In addition, students will read literature showing that the teen pregnancy rate actually declined after the sexual revolution, leaving it at half the rate it was in the 1950s. Students will be asked to research why it is that blue states, where residents are more likely to use contraception and delay marriage, have lower rates of divorce and teen pregnancy.

The Pill 101: A Scientific Look. The ignorance on display on the right regarding the birth control pill, which has been around as a contraceptive for over 50 years, has been astounding. Limbaugh’s comment — “she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills” — indicates that he believes there’s a correlation between the number of sexual encounters and the number of pills necessary. Limbaugh also seems to think mothers and women who use birth control are mutually exclusive categories, saying: “How do you become a mom if you’re into birth control?” Additionally, with words such as “slut,” “prostitute” and “sex-crazed” flying around to describe women on hormonal contraception, it appears many conservatives believe that the drugs exist primarily for use by single women with multiple partners.

Students in our remedial sex ed course will take their time learning about hormonal contraception. They will learn that women on the pill must take one every day for it to work, no matter how much sex they’re having. Students will discover that monogamy isn’t enough to prevent unintended pregnancy, and thus married and monogamous women use the pill just as single women do. To drive home what not using contraception would mean for women, married and otherwise, students will be asked to watch the TLC show about the Duggar family, with its 19 children, and then offer a five-minute presentation in class.

As evidenced by the ignorant rot tumbling out of various right-wing mouths in response to these controversies, a curriculum of this kind is sorely needed. Perhaps female Democrats in Congress can write a bill funding Sex Education for Grown-Up Pundits and help elevate the conversation with a little basic understanding.

[Amanda Marcotte blogs every day at, and contributes a weekly podcast to RH Reality Check. She lives in Austin, TX with her two cats, boyfriend, and environmentally correct commuter bicycle.]

Source / Reuters

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, March 2, 2012

How Many 'High-Level Targets' Could There Be?

Photo: Source.

Drone-Strike Survivors Ask, "What Kind of Democracy Is America?"
By Kathy Kelly / March 1, 2012

Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.

That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.

Now Fazillah and Aymal share a small dwelling with the deceased man’s mother. According to the tradition, a husband’s relatives are responsible to look after a widow with no breadwinner remaining in her immediate family. She and her son have no regular source of bread or income, but Fazillah says that her small family is better off than it might have been: one of the men killed alongside her husband left behind a wife and child but no other living relatives that could provide them with any source of support, at all.

Aymal’s grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her son’s death, and that of his four friends. “All of us ask, ‘Why?’” she says, raising her voice. “They kill people with computers and they can’t tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts, they had suspicions. But they didn’t take time to ask ‘Who is this person?’ or ‘Who was that person?’ There is no proof, no accountability. Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring us bread. I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life.”

Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s Waziristan province. Exasperated at the increasingly common experience which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.

“Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”

“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”

One question Fazillah cannot answer for her son is whether anyone asked the question at all of whether to kill his father. Forbes Magazine reports that the Air Force has sixty-five to seventy thousand analysts processing drone video surveillance; a Rand review states they actually need half again that number to properly handle the data. Asked to point to the human who actually made the decision to kill her husband, she can only point to another machine.

In June 2010, Philip G. Alston, then the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, appeared before the UN Human Rights Council and testified that “targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law … In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated.”

“Such an expanded and open-ended interpretation of the right to self defense comes close to destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the United Nations Charter. If invoked by other states in pursuit of those they deemed to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos.”

This past week, on February 23, the legal action charity "Reprieve" spoke up on behalf of more than a dozen Pakistani families who had lost loved ones in drone strikes, and asked the UN Human Rights Council to condemn the attacks as illegal human rights violations.

“In Pakistan, the CIA is creating desolation and calling it peace,” said Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith. “The illegal programme of drone strikes has murdered hundreds of civilians in Pakistan. The UN must put a stop to it before any more children are killed. Not only is it causing untold suffering to the people of North West Pakistan – it is also the most effective recruiting sergeant yet for the very ‘militants’ the US claims to be targeting.”

The lawyer representing the families, Shahzad Akbar of Pakistan’s “Foundation for Fundamental Rights”, said:

“If President Obama really believes the drone strikes have ‘pinpoint’ accuracy, it has to be asked where the deaths of kids like Maezol Khan’s eight-year-old son fit into the CIA’s plan. If the US is not prepared to face up to the reality of the suffering the strikes are causing, then the UN must step in. The international community can no longer afford to ignore the human rights catastrophe which is taking place in North West Pakistan in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.”

Drone warfare, ever more widely used from month to month from the Bush through the Obama administrations, has seen very little meaningful public debate. We don’t ask questions – our minds straying no nearer these battlefields than in the coming decades the bodies of our young people will – that is, if the chaos our war making engenders doesn’t bring the battlefields to us. An expanding network of devastatingly lethal covert actions spreading throughout the developing world passes with minimal concern or comment.

A member of the 214th Reconnaissance Group flies a Predator aircraft drone. Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

So who does Fazillah blame? Who does one blame when confronted with the actions of a machine? Our Pakistani friend asks, “What kind of a democracy is America where people do not ask these questions?” Becoming an actual democracy, with an actual choice at election-time between war and peace rather than between political machines vying for the chance to bring us war, seems to many Americans, if some of the less-reported polls are to be believed, a near-unachievable goal. The U.S. has become a process that churns out war – today Afghanistan and (in any real sense) Iraq; tomorrow Iran and Pakistan, with China securely, however distantly, on the horizon - and for those of us with any concern for peace, a principled opposition to war ultimately requires a determination to make the U.S. at long last into a democracy, striving as Dr. King enjoined us, in “molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”

It must begin with compassion - powerless compassion perhaps, perhaps only the ghost of dissent, but compassion for people like Fazillah and Aymal, - and with deciding to be human, maybe only the ghost of a human, but alive in some way and alive to what our assent, and perhaps especially our silence are accomplishing in the world. Humanity is the first thing to be won back - and then, if we have the strength, relentlessly defended - against indifference, complacency, and, above all, inaction. If enough of us refuse to be machines, if enough of us refuse enough, can democracy, and even peace, not be at last achieved? But first comes the refusal.

Fazillah wants a peaceful life. She doesn’t want to see any more people killed, any more ghosts like that of her husband. Any more bodies, burned (as she recalls) so charred that they are almost unrecognizable one from another.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone,” says Fazillah. "I don’t want any children to be left without parents.”

And,” she adds, “I want the U.S. troops to leave.”

Source / Truthout

Thanks to Bix Burkhart / Fluxed Up World

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