Category Archives: US Military

Our Carceral State

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French philosopher, Michel Foucault once famously argued that society operates as a vast prison. While Foucault’s concerns were with an individual’s freedom constrained in such a system, maybe a more direct analogy to our current situation is how our judiciary and police force is used to control and literally imprison a vast swath of our lower classes.

It is no secret that in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson, much of the city’s income was derived from fines and court fees for minor traffic violations, essentially converting area police work from “public safety” officers to revenue collectors. These violations disproportionately fell on poorer individuals and minorities who may not have had the money to keep their hedges trimmed and their vehicles perfectly equipped. In effect, the tickets and citations amount to a regressive tax on members of our society least able to afford it.

In the wake of the Brown killing, Governor Jay Nixon signed a broad municipal court reform bill that capped court revenue and imposed new requirements in an attempt to end what the bill’s sponsor called predatory practices aimed at the poor. Good. The bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Eric Schmitt, said people have the right “not to be thrown in jail because you’re a couple of weeks … late on a fine for having a taillight out.” He called the current system in place in Ferguson, “taxation by citation.”

“Under this bill, cops will stop being revenue agents and go back to being cops,” Nixon said.

This is all good, too, and certainly the caps on revenue collection by police is a step in the right direction, but in the larger scheme of things, I’m not nearly as sanguine as Governor Nixon is about “cops going back to being ‘cops.’”

…in Southern states groups of designated white men would set out on patrols to round up runaway slaves during the antebellum period. The phrase for these men—paddy rollers, or patrollers — has come down to us as patrolmen or patrol officers and it’s not too much a stretch to suggest that in areas of the deep American South their function is much the same.

For one thing, the historical precedent that they might ‘go back’ toward isn’t exactly edifying, especially in Southern states where groups of designated white men would set out on patrols to round up runaway slaves during the antebellum period. The phrase for these men—paddy rollers, or patrollers — has come down to us as patrolmen or patrol officers and it’s not too much a stretch to suggest that in areas of the deep American South their function is much the same; that is, ensuring the safe keeping of property for the wealthy. In the North, police officers often functioned as barriers between the wealthy elites and the immigrant “hordes.” The history of industrialization and unionization in this country is rife with struggles between union supporters and police officers or private firm surrogates operating in their wake (such as the Pinkerton Detective Agency –fun fact, at the height of its existence, the Pinkertons had more agents than the standing army of the United States of America).

We like to think of police officers as neutral arbiters of the law, itself a neutral amalgam of well thought out rules for living, but whether rounding up runaway slaves or busting union organizers, the police have historically found themselves on the side of property owners. What this means in contemporary America is a focus on things like illegal drug use and sale, vehicle violations, public disturbance rules, and zoning laws that disproportionately hit the poorest members of our society first and hardest. If we run back through just the most noteworthy police shootings in the last year (topping 1,000 according to an unofficial list compiled by the New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/08/us/fatal-police-shooting-accounts.html?_r=0), most of the precipitating causes involved minor infractions, expired inspection stickers, broken signal lights, or tail lights, unpaid fines or alimony. Public service, protecting humans from harm to themselves or to others might be a nice ancillary outcome of a police officer doing his job, but it’s not the main event.

In fact, the idea that police are here to protect us is not much more than a happy slogan. In its landmark decision DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services,the U.S. Supreme Court declared that “the Constitution does not impose a duty on the state and local governments to protect the citizens from criminal harm.” The United States Supreme Court, in the 2005 case, Castle Rock v. Gonzales upheld that decision and extended it to include a state or municipality’s police force– codifying what many folks in poorer neighborhoods had long since suspected: neither the state nor the police have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm.

Strictly speaking, the police are law enforcement officers, they are present to make sure the laws as passed by city, county, and state legislators are followed. Towards that end they write tickets, and citations for breaking the law, make arrest and testify in court about their actions. This narrow interpretation of their duties is often clarified in training on the so called ‘public duty’ doctrine that provides that a “governmental entity owes a duty to the public in general, not to any one individual.”

Police are also warned—constantly—to look out for themselves. According to ex-Officer, Seth Stanton, writing in the Atlantic Magazine, “police training starts in the academy, where the concept of officer safety is so heavily emphasized that it takes on almost religious significance.” Rookie officers are taught what is widely known as the “first rule of law enforcement”: An officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift. One slogan that is bandied about squad rooms sums up the mind set: “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

Police are trained to fear the public they are nominally intended to serve. During their training “they are shown painfully vivid, heart-wrenching dash-cam footage of officers being beaten, disarmed, or gunned down after a moment of inattention or hesitation. They are told that the primary culprit isn’t the felon on the video, it is the officer’s lack of vigilance.” Writes Stanton, “in most police shootings, officers don’t shoot out of anger or frustration or hatred. They shoot because they are afraid. And they are afraid because they are constantly barraged with the message that that they should be afraid, that their survival depends on it.”

“In most police shootings, officers don’t shoot out of anger or frustration or hatred. They shoot because they are afraid. And they are afraid because they are constantly barraged with the message that that they should be afraid, that their survival depends on it.”

If you happen to peruse Police Magazine, you’ll find that the majority of the stories are about violence against police—and the weapons or tactics they can use to keep themselves safe. This month’s issue features a large photo of an Armalite AR-10 20-Inch Tactical Rifle that was initially designed for the US military. To drive home the point, Police magazine’s logo shows the O in policeman segregated by cross hairs, like a target.

Of course, in addition to the protect-thyself-first attitude, there’s also an underlying racial bias; probably because police officers fear blacks more than whites. In 2015, The Washington Post documented 990 fatal shootings by police, 93 of which involved people who were unarmed. “Black men accounted for about 40 percent of the unarmed people fatally shot by police and, when adjusted by population, were seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire.”

“The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black,” said Justin Nix, a criminal justice researcher at the University of Louisville and one of the report’s authors. “This just bolsters our confidence that there is some sort of implicit bias going on,” Nix said. “Officers are perceiving a greater threat when encountered by unarmed black citizens.”

The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black…

The report noted that officers may unconsciously develop biases over time. “In other words, the police — who are trained in the first place to be suspicious — become conditioned to view minorities with added suspicion,” according to the report.

So we have a fearful police force, over trained for self-protection with an underlying bias against minorities whose main job is not to protect citizens but to enforce legal codes that order society for the benefit of property owners (that will likely make a poor person’s life more difficult). Add to the brew, the over militarization of our police force (do we really need armored tanks on civilian streets?) and the fact that most police officer shootings are investigated by the police departments themselves and it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand how deeply dysfunctional the whole shebang is. I had one friend suggest that, given the stress our minority communities are under, it was surprising incidents like Dallas hadn’t happened more frequently.

But they haven’t– and perhaps that’s a testimony to what many police departments are coming to recognize—the necessity for retraining and community engagement. In fact, it’s a sad irony that the Dallas Police department has done an exceptional job in just this area. It’s obvious that Police Chief David Brown –whose own life is rife with personal tragedy—is dedicated to a community outreach program. Just hours before the killings began last Thursday night in Dallas, his officers took time to chat with protesters, even taking selfies with them.

“We saw police officers shaking hands and giving high fives and hugging people and being really in the moment with us,” demonstrator Sharay Santora said.

But then the shooting began, and, as if granted permission, police departments like those in Baton Rouge quickly reverted to form and began arresting activists on private property without cause or due process, much less warrants. In fact, they arrested the individual who provided video evidence of the Alton Sterling shooting. All of this should tell us that police forces in this country are as diverse as their leaders and the communities that they serve. Our own city, Richmond, Virginia, much like Dallas, has done excellent work in reaching out to the various communities here—including, surprisingly, the LGBT community. So it’s not hopeless, but no one solution will fit all the municipalities across the nation, and maybe one of the questions we should be asking is how well our expectations of police service match the reality? After all, as Chief Brown has noted, “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve”

But then the shooting began, and, as if granted permission, police departments like those in Baton Rouge quickly reverted to form and began arresting activists on private property without cause or due process, much less warrants. In fact, they arrested the individual who provided video evidence of the Alton Sterling shooting

Many of our poor neighborhoods have a nearly round the clock police presence—from squad cars anyhow. Police appear, write up infractions, and arrest vagrants, keep an eye on shifty characters, “gangbangers” and the like. They do what they are trained to do. But the result isn’t a working society. The result, as I suggested in the beginning of this essay, is a carceral state.

Right now, if you are an Afro-American male, your odds of being in jail at some point in your life are 1 in 3. I doubt this is because 1 in 3 Afro-American males are genetically predisposed to periodic episodes of violence and criminal behavior. More likely, it has to do with the incredible dearth of job prospects made infinitely worse by a rap sheet and applying while black.

Police officers can’t solve that problem. They aren’t social workers or teachers or medical service personnel, as Brown correctly points out—but the nature of the system we have put in place allows all the problems of our society to flow downward to the cop on the beat whose one job is to enforce the law, but who we mistakenly believe can somehow catch all the detritus of a dysfunctional system and keep it working.

In Michel Foucault’s famous work, Discipline and Punishment, the ruling metaphor is society as a vast prison; a kind of panoptic nightmare—a word derived from Jeremy Bentham’s famous panopticon which was a prison designed so that every cell is view-able from a raised central location, like a watchtower plunked into the middle of a cell block. The point was to understand and react to the behavior of the individuals in the surrounding cells so as to control them. But even at this rudimentary level we are failing, for it’s obvious we don’t understand the individuals caught in our system and we aren’t really controlling behavior, we’re merely holding them in our prison cells precisely because we don’t know what else to do with them.

You can’t fix a mental health problem with an AR-10, any more than you can fix homelessness with a traffic citation, or drug abuse with an armored vehicle, or unemployment with a prison cell.

Our criminal justice system is trying to repair something it simply isn’t equipped to mend. You can’t fix a mental health problem with an AR-10, any more than you can fix homelessness with a traffic citation, or drug abuse with an armored vehicle, or unemployment with a prison cell. Perhaps if we, as a society, decided that the carceral state was a bad idea; if we decided, instead, to fund jobs programs and provide secure housing for those in need, if, indeed, we provided drug treatment programs instead of felony convictions we might resolve many problems before they become statistics. We can tinker with police community outreach, provide stricter guidelines for engagement and the use of force and institute better ways of policing the police (oh, please let us have a uniform standard for conduct and an external agencies that review police shooting across the nation), but in the end the panacea we are looking for won’t come from a guy or gal on the beat– with or without a gun. They will come from providing adequate resources to all our public workers,  developing jobs programs and training for individuals from all walks of life, and from our own personal engagement with the community in which we live. Maybe it’s time to stop looking to the police to solve the problems of our deeply dysfunctional system. Rather, we should restructure the system so we don’t need the police—or not nearly as much. Maybe it’s time we all signed up.

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Victory

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When I was 21, and a cub reporter for a local college rag, I interviewed a ninety-year-old man who had witnessed first hand the German attacks at the Battle of Cantigny back in 1918. Actually, he bore witness to something that happened just prior to the battle of Cantigny, and what is not widely reported. The Germans dropped about 15,000 gas shells on the newbie American troops, the ‘dough boys’, cutting off all communication with the forward positions. These gas shells contained the infamous mustard gas; which is sometimes referred to as sulfur mustard, a gas that produces blisters on the skin and lungs if inhaled. When a soldier was caught without a mask and was hit with a heavy dose, death would result—it amounted to suffocation by drowning in your own bodily fluids.

Since then of course, the American military has been adept at preparing for  chemical warfare. The US Army and USMC Boot Camps train troops for potential nerve gas attacks and they equip everyone with gas masks and hypodermic syringes filled with sarin’s antidote, atropin. The hypodermic needle is jabbed into your thigh should a nerve gas attack occur. No one questions the efficacy of these measures even though a general ban on chemical and biological weapons was reached by the world community and signed into law as early as 1925 with the Geneva Protocols. US troops and most military organizations across the globe continue some type of training for potential chemical or biological weapons attack because there are still a lot in circulation among allies and enemies alike. We famously have one of the larger stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons on Earth. Our allies and one-time allies do, too. We used Agent Orange and Agent Blue in eradicating whole swaths of crops and the Vietnamese countryside in our failed effort to destroy North Vietnam’s ability to seek cover in the jungle and to feed their own people. Ironically, Secretary of State John Kerry apparently has forgotten that our government’s chemical warfare in Vietnam killed 400,000 people and caused birth defects in 500,000 children. Many died from starvation since crops were targeted.

Israel used white phosphorous, a chemical weapon that burns uncontrollably when used against personnel, against Palestinians in Gaza in 2008 and 2009. Amnesty International said a fact-finding team found “indisputable evidence of the widespread use of white phosphorus” in crowded civilian residential areas of Gaza City and elsewhere in the territory.” In 2004 we used white phosphorous in Fallujah in Iraq–which at first we denied– but later, on November 15, 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed to the BBC that white phosphorus had been used as an incendiary anti personnel weapon in Fallujah.

Speaking of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was our friend and erstwhile ally, he used the same deadly nerve gas in the Iran and Iraqi war that we are accusing the Assad regime of using. In 1987 we wanted to prevent an Iranian sweep of the city of Basrah and a potential victory for the Iranian army. So we provided crucial reconnaissance information to Iraq indicating Basrah was going to be hit. Should Basrah fall, the foreign policy thinking was that Iraq would fall and Iran would be victorious in their decades long war. President Reagan read the report and wrote a note in the margin addressed to Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci: “An Iranian victory is unacceptable.” Subsequently, a decision was made at the top-level of the U.S. government (almost certainly requiring the approval of the National Security Council and the CIA) to allow Saddam to do whatever he needed to do in order to prevent the fall of Basrah.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, the sarin attacks then followed.

“CIA analysts gauged the number of dead as somewhere between “hundreds” and “thousands” in each of the four cases where chemical weapons were used prior to a military offensive. …That March, Iraq launched a nerve gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq. A month later, the Iraqis used aerial bombs and artillery shells filled with sarin against Iranian troop concentrations on the Fao Peninsula southeast of Basrah, helping the Iraqi forces win a major victory and recapture the entire peninsula. The success of the Fao Peninsula offensive also prevented the Iranians from launching their much-anticipated offensive to capture Basrah.”

According to the magazine, “Washington was very pleased with the result because the Iranians never got a chance to launch their offensive.”

We seem quite hardened to chemical weapons as a matter of national policy. I wonder what has changed so dramatically? A bare two decades ago we enabled sarin gas to be used successfully against Iran and we were apparently, “very pleased with the result.”

Nearly three decades ago when I interviewed the 90-year-old World War I veteran, I was heartless and ambitious in equal measure as only a true cub reporter can be. I asked him to describe the effects of the events around the battle of Cantigny in detail. I was thinking it would be a great interview, filled with graphic information about a distant war that few living Americans actually remembered, much less lived through.

He did not give me the story I wanted. Not one graphic detail.

Instead, he wept.

When I asked him to remember Cantigny, he shook his head, said it was awful and wept. His wife came in and ushered me away. That’s about all I know about the battle from his perspective.

If you read accounts of The Battle of Cantigny from standard histories to Wikipedia, you will find that it was considered a victory for the Allies and that it proved the ‘strength’ of the new American fighting units. General Pershing made his reputation there. He proved his mettle, as they say. Today we might use the more common euphemism ‘credibility.’ Only a single sentence in the Wikipedia entry describes the use of 15,000 canisters of mustard gas against the American soldiers, hardly a footnote.

In the news today, Russia has volunteered to isolate and monitor Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons while Syria’s foreign minister says his country welcomes Russia’s proposal. Syria’s chemical weapons would be under international control and then dismantled to avert the 60 to 90 days of U.S. strikes that congress is contemplating. That seems like a reasonable idea. Especially when I consider that 30 some years ago, an old man broke down remembering a moment that transformed his life forever; a moment that no one had even bothered to record, because, after all, The Battle of Cantigny was a victory.

I didn’t get the details or the interview I wanted that day, but I think his actions explained well enough just how careful we ought to be when weighing what new strikes might entail. His eyes said better than any words what war is, what it can cost. There was no mention of who won or who lost the Battle of Cantigny, or the war. For him, it didn’t matter.

Uranium – The Virginia Battleground

(Click the map to see where future uranium mines could be in Virgina.)

Update –
Here’s an article about last night’s meeting: Science meets passion at uranium briefing

As you may know, Va. Beach is hosting a public briefing tonight on Uranium Mining in Virginia. A surprising number of people are getting seriously involved with this issue, and not just the people of Virginia.

Uranium mining can’t begin unless the moratorium is lifted, and due to a lack of support, the vote was postponed until 2013. The corporate money and power behind the mining project is becoming more clear all the time, though it’s been framed as a FFV’s love for their community and ultimate concern for its progress. The public isn’t buying it though, and they’re passionate about keeping the ban in place. As that firestorm continues to mount, I think we could have a real People v. Profit showdown next year, and that may be just what the doctor ordered.

I hope you’ll find a way to attend the briefing tonight, but even if you can’t, read this great exposé by award-winning investigative journalist, Rose Ellen O’Connor. It’s a three-part series that started in November about lifting Virginia’s ban, but covers much more than the 30-year moratorium. She carefully includes both sides, but weaves in and out of the ‘truth or consequences’ of uranium mining, complete with horror stories, lies, politics, corruption and misinformation. Each one is a prize, so if you’re interested in the prospects of mining and milling uranium in Virginia, I recommend reading all three for the nitty-gritty.

Uranium Mining – The Virginia Battleground – Environmental Concerns vs. Corporate Interests Part One
Just a taste:

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Marline, the Canadian firm that failed to win approval for mining from the Virginia General Assembly before the market tanked in 1985, had workers crisscross the state with Geiger counters, hopping out of their cars when an area seemed promising. Marline bought up leases on 16,000 uranium-rich acres in Fauquier, Madison, Culpeper and Orange counties, which have since expired. Opponents of lifting the moratorium say they fear that Virginia Uranium will seek to mine the sites that Marline found and that the state will be overrun by uranium mines.

Virginia Uranium executives insist publicly that they have no interest in other mines.

“We’ve made it clear we’re only interested in Coles Hill,” Wales said at the Richmond forum.

But Coles Jr. seemed to suggest that the company is, indeed, interested in other mining possibilities at a meeting with potential investors in London in February. Coles said the geologist who discovered uranium at Coles Hill has long believed that more deposits will be found. Virginia could be another “Athabasca Basin” Coles said, referring to an area in Saskatchewan, Canada, where 41 companies mine one-third of the world’s uranium supply.

“Talking to the lead geologist,” Coles said, “he’s insistent to this day that Coles Hill is the first of more major discoveries in Virginia that might lead to another Athabasca-style resource play.”

Uranium Mining – The Virginia Battleground – Environmental Concerns vs. Corporate Interests Part Two

Uranium Mining – The Virginia Battleground – Environmental Concerns vs. Corporate Interests Part Three

The main study on Uranium Mining in Virginia came out in December. Most people have read the non-technical brief that has been linked in many articles. But the full report to view on the internet is linked below. From the link, scroll to the Table of Contents and from there you can either read the full report, select chapters, or skim. Under the skim feature you can also search by “suggested” keywords.
Full report: “Uranium Mining in Virginia: Scientific, Technical, Environmental, Human Health and Safety and Regulatory Aspects of Uranium Mining and Processing in Virginia.”

Who owns Virginia Uranium Inc.?
Here’s how the company is structured: VA Uranium Holdings Inc., a company incorporated in Yukon, Canada, for tax purposes, owns 100 percent of Virginia Uranium Inc.  A little less than 50 percent of VA Uranium Holdings is owned by Canadian firms. Virginia Energy Resources Inc., a uranium development company based in Vancouver, Canada, owns 29.44 percent of the holding company’s shares, while Sprott Resource Corp., a Toronto-based natural resource development firm, owns another 18.06 percent. Local investors own about 52.5 percent of the holding company, according to Virginia Uranium.

Video: “Uranium has never been mined east of the Mississippi River–for good reason. Kay Slaughter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, explains why mining and milling uranium in southern Virginia poses serious threats to the environment and public health.”

Health effects of uranium exposure in charts, graphics and pictures (pdf)

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I think lifting the ban has less to do with Virginia’s economy and more to do with the mining industry’s profits. Plus, our military’s unsustainable need for uranium and other strategic elements and rare earth minerals is a thirst we should be concerned about. It certainly won’t be sated in Pittsylvania County. In that context alone, I think the ban will be lifted by our lawmakers regardless of every foreseeable negative impact, and we can expect that this sort of dangerous mining and toxic dumping will spread … unless we can stop it.

Ms. O’Connor did point out the large Canadian presence involved, and in fact they are present throughout U.S. mining operations – but she didn’t mention that their web of partnerships sells to global markets. In foreign-owned hands, how can we control, or even know where the uranium and its by-products are being sold?

After 35 years of continuous mining (which is unheard of because they quit working when the market is down), the damage would be done and the mine would be abandoned. A hand full of people – maybe even some Virginians – would have made a startling fortune. After that, many generations of our children would be charged with finding safe ways to escape something we did knowing that we couldn’t control the outcome and that it could cause them cancer, birth defects and genetic mutations – among other things.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding … Virginia has a long history of catastrophic weather events, and that’s not including the climate change that promises to deliver circumstances we can’t conceive of today. There’s not a corporation nor a government on earth that can ensure a thousand years of safety. Nor can they deny that in the next thousand years, no matter how “safe” the clean-up is, one healthy explosion in the reclamation area is all it would take to contaminate the water, air and land that sustain millions of Americans. That’s a bullseye.

A while back, I read a comment that a physicist made about nuclear energy production, but I think it applies to uranium mining as well. He said, “We can send a spaceship to Alpha Centauri today but it would take a hundred years or more to arrive. In 80 years, we might send a spaceship that would pass the original en route. Are we advancing our progress by sending one today? Unlikely – we already know what the current technology can and cannot do. If we used the money on basic research instead of giving it to companies to try to make inferior technology competitive, we would be better off in the long run.”
DCKennedy

Debuting at #1

This Alternet article, Rachel Maddow: How America’s Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane is an excerpt from Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Maddow’s new book that will debut at #1 on the New York Times best seller list.

Here’s a little taste of it:

It’s not just the small-potatoes post-9/11 Homeland spending that feels a little off mission. It’s the big-ticket stuff too. Nobody ever made an argument to the American people, for instance, that the thing we ought to do in Afghanistan, the way we ought to stick it to Osama bin Laden, the way to dispense American tax dollars to maximize American aims in that faraway country, would be to build a brand-new neighborhood in that country’s capital city full of rococo narco-chic McMansions and apartment/office buildings with giant sculptures of eagles on their roofs and stoned guards lounging on the sidewalks, wearing bandoliers and plastic boots. No one ever made the case that this is what America ought to build in response to 9/11. But that is what we built. An average outlay of almost $5 billion a month over ten years (and counting) has created a twisted war economy in Kabul. Afghanistan is still one of the four poorest countries on earth; but now it’s one of the four poorest countries on earth with a neighborhood in its capital city that looks like New Jersey in the 1930s and ’40s, when Newark mobsters built garish mansions and dotted the grounds with lawn jockeys and hand-painted neo-neoclassic marble statues.

The New York Times, Janet Maslin, published one of many good reviews, How War Came Home to Stay:

A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.

Sounds like a good read. 275 pages, Crown Publishers, $25.
DCKennedy

The old Lie

DULCE ET DECORUM EST (It is sweet and right.) ~Wilfred Owen

Remembering the Context of War Crimes: The Crime of War Itself is a thoughtful opinion by Camillo “Mac” Bica, in Truthout.

I was particularly struck by his comment about military training: “Despite the moral depravity of their actions, these individuals were not born killers. Rather, they were created to do our bidding, first conscripted or lured into the military with promises of employment, a college education, or US citizenship, then subjected to sophisticated indoctrination techniques of values manipulation, moral desensitization, and psychological conditioning, aimed at destroying and overriding both their humanity and their moral aversion to killing.”

Recently, the media has drawn attention to deviant behavior by some soldiers and spurred conversations that really highlight Bica’s opening:

“One would think that, by now, America would have made the connection between war and atrocity. Or, are we too obsessed with our consumer-driven lifestyles, or too apathetic to even pay attention? Or perhaps we believe the military is a refuge for miscreants and deviants capable of unspeakable acts of cruelty and barbarism.”

A friend of mine, a combat soldier, said about it, “The problem is, the American people don’t know or want to know what really happens to us, our minds, during training.” I think that’s really sad and I hope most soldiers don’t think we feel that way.

The two links below are an account that follows the activities of men in Fort Carson’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. More documents and court records than usual were made available for it because of the public outcry on behalf of these soldiers, many of whom are now dead, or in prison. It poses good questions about our training and our wars in general. It begins with the war in Iraq.

Casualties of War, by Dave Philipps

“He was really good. If I had 10 Eastridges, my job would be a lot easier,” said his platoon sergeant, Michael Cardenaz.”
Part I: The hell of war comes home 

“If they did what they did, fine, they have to answer to the justice system, but these guys like Eastridge who tried so hard and loved the Army . . . they are a casualty of war. Their psyches are casualties of war.”
Part II: Warning signs

DCKennedy

American Pie

If you don’t want apple pie, quit giving apples to the baker.

Sixteen of Americas intelligence agencies have reaffirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and yet the chest-beating war mongers in the media and congress are all but counting their money from betting against efforts to work toward peace and diplomacy with a nation full of innocent people who are probably as baffled by some of their state policies as I am with ours.

The American people pay dearly so our leaders can afford to have a smart, effective, representative State Department, foreign policy and military equipped to make friends with the people of other nations, promote peace and defend the American people against … whatever, and somewhere in that mix, somebody is responsible for strategy. So, what’s going on with our policy toward Iran and why aren’t we being consistent in our war against terrorism?

Stipulating for the point, say the Iranian government, not the people, but the state – is doing something that could result in killing people and that’s what we don’t want them to do – kill people. That’s the bottom line, right? Say we also know that there are terrorists in Iran, non-state actors, angry and itching to kill Americans and Israelis. Now say somebody, not America, starts murdering scientists in Iran and the Iranians think we’re involved in that terrorism. What’s the best strategy for our war on terror to protect and defend Americans, and prevent another war … or … terrorist attack involving the people of the Middle East?

Posing here with his young son is Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a scientist, an Iranian university professor and chemical engineer who worked on procurement for the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. He was 32 years old and buried recently after having been murdered by a terrorist.

Although the United States claims to be looking for terrorists, all we’ve done about this is to deny our involvement in these concerted attacks – several in the last years killing Iranian scientists. We didn’t so much as send a flower arrangement for the funeral service, let alone a diplomat to convey our condolences and assure the Iranian people that we are striving to end this sort of terrorism around the world. That is what we’re doing, right?

The Iranian people, who obviously need international cooperation to find these terrorists, just as we would if it were happening here, have had no help from the U.S. nor have we used our influence to garner support for them among other nations. When their Human Rights Secretary-General wrote to the U.N. asking for help, he was told that these illegal “extrajudicial executions” must be investigated by Iran. And here’s what U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: “We have some ideas as to who might be involved. But we don’t know exactly who was involved.”

That’s the level of interest and concern we’re showing for terrorism while leading a global war on terrorism. Rather than seizing an opportunity to help, win friends, or influence the Iranian people in our fight against these murderers, here’s what happened instead:
[“Death to America! Death to Israel!” roared the crowd streaming away from weekly prayers at Tehran University, where the dead man was hailed as a martyr in the tradition of Imam Hussein, a revered figure for Iran’s Shi’ite branch of Islam.

“Nuclear energy is our absolute right!” young men chanted.]

If the people in Iran held anti-American sentiments before this funeral, how do you think they’re feeling now?

But furthermore, what danger to the people in America and around the world has been exacerbated by our apparent strategy to exclude the people of Iran from our otherwise hell-bent war on terror? The answer to the first question is easy: Not illogically under the circumstances, we’ve been branded as the terrorist.

Whatever our strategy in the war on terror, it would seem we need to stand against terrorism. Wherever it happens, we should treat the people of nations the way we were treated after 9/11, with compassion and support.

If we’re not standing against the senselessness of reacting to state policy by murdering innocent people who live in the country, what are we doing?

Knowing everything our government knows about terrorism (and I’m sure it’s a boatload whether the intelligence is right or wrong), they seem to be unmindful of the danger of further enraging an already enraged populace that supposedly includes elements of non-state acting crazy people who want to kill us – and who now, if not before, probably have the ear of some very capable scientists.

That serious consideration has been analyzed by CSIS, a Foreign Policy think tank that informs Washington with strategic analyses on security issues. While we often think of 9/11 as the type of attack we could face again, these assessments involve attacks that require less organization and expense, and focus on the broad spectrum of our population. Our media never calls attention to the very real possibility of our being the recipients of a weapons grade “hazard” that spreads uncontrollably across America, but I think the possibility increases with time and strategy that creates enemies of state and non-state players rather than allies.

Click pictures to enlarge. (CBR = Chemical, Biological and Radiological Hazards, N = Nuclear)

Personally, I don’t think we’re headed for war with Iran, but that wouldn’t mean the coast is clear. There are people in Iran who believe, and with good reason, that their nation is under attack, that their people are in danger, and that either we are part of it, or protecting the culprits. And while we may have some control over the actions of the Iranian government and their military, we will never have control over all their people, or other people around the world who think our “war on terror” is evil.

Any good strategy to provide for the safety of Americans would not include the callous indifference we’ve shown to the people who live in Iran while they have been under attack. Looking the other way while our “allies” are murdering innocent citizens of another nation is clearly a breach in our stated objective. It shows our intentions are without integrity and attracts the ire of would-be terrorists world-wide.

Knowing the whereabouts and intentions of all non-state actors is impossible. All our surveillance, black ops and intelligence gathering is of little use against even one really enraged scientist who would unleash a chemical, biological or other uncontrollable weapon to spread across our country. George W. Bush said it: They only have to be right once. Ironically, and regardless of why he said it, that’s the best reason I know of for the sort of diplomacy and foreign policy that he was not recommending – one that embraces and helps the people of other nations.

9/11 should have taught us that, and how to treat our global neighbors. Instead, we continue to push our luck in every conceivable way. Our reputation around the world gets worse with every drone that drops a bomb in a neighborhood killing innocent bystanders. Our military does that with impunity, including in nations we’re not even at war with. Under those circumstances, we should all be able to understand anti-American sentiment.

War is political failure, not success. And it’s always the people, not the state, who pay the price for that failure whether it’s here, there, or somewhere else. When I look out my front door and think about my neighbors and my community, especially when I think about the stealth involved with chemical and biological weapons, I know that any foreign policy that attracts terrorism is dangerous and not a strategy designed to defend or protect the people. Americans are as divided on this as they are about everything else, which stands to inhibit the public outrage necessary to change it. But one thing’s for sure, if we keep giving apples to the baker, we’re just begging for apple pie, and it’ll find its way over here sooner or later.
DCKennedy

(all photos in Iran – Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Image)
(all graphics – CSIS, http://csis.org/files/publication/110916_Iran-US-IsraeliPerspII.pdf)

If We See It, and When

Trying to figure out what our leaders are attempting to accomplish from one week to the next is a daunting task that should, it seems to me, be much easier. Truthful accounts for the people to consider are not too much to ask. It is, after all, our country. But finding out the truth (even for our lawmakers) – about the Internet, Wikileaks, drone use and cluster bombs, or plans for regime changes, has become a harried dash through a maze of conflicting reports, where the “best guess” approach is all we have.

At some point, like this picture, it just boils down to if we can see it, and when.

The current presidential debates have been no comforting indication that our leaders will have a grip on reality any time soon. I find myself watching them anyway, and sometimes they’re the only good comedy on.

The thing is, as long as our government is permitted to have secret laws, secret distribution of our money, and secret plans for global expansion that are so covert our Generals are shocked to learn about them, the “best guess” approach will probably include reports that seem incredible.
I know that one year ago I didn’t believe some of what is today’s common knowledge, including 26 TRILLION dollars in bank bailouts!

And by the way, with everything else that’s going on, just the thought of equipping our police forces with domestic drones gives me the creeps.

Anyway, these DemocracyNow! War and Peace Reports from yesterday cover several concerning issues of domestic and foreign policy, and the guest is Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon Magazine. Deciding who is “in the know” and who isn’t, is getting ridiculous, but I like these two sources because they report on pretty much everything and have a good track record. So, see what you think.

WikiLeaks Wins Major Australian Journalism Prize

And this one: Glenn Greenwald: Is Obama Fulfilling the Neocon Dream of Mass Regime Change in the Muslim World?

One more thing … and this is really important. Congress is set to change the internet from what we have now to something very different. SOPA and PIPA are acts that threaten the structure of the web with the use of DNS filtering. Please do what you can to stop them from going through. Here’s a video about it and an urgent message from DailyKos with a link to where you can help.

And for the daunted, a little pep talk from Howard Zinn. We can do this!

Thanks from APV. We hope you get involved, and have a great week!
DCKennedy

Wait! Here’s an update from APV member, Katherine Walker. I love this one. It’s short and it’s a great share!

Iran – Stardate: 3192.1

Eminiar VII

In 1967, I saw the Star Trek episode, Taste of Armageddon. Kirk and Spock beamed onto Eminiar VII, were informed that the Enterprise had been annihilated in a computer simulation, and that the crew were obliged to be executed.

Trying to avoid the destruction of their planets, the inhabitants had decided to have a computer war instead of a real one. When a “hit” by the computer was scored, those living within the strike’s radius went willingly into “antimatter chambers” to be vaporized, making the casualties legitimate. That gives new meaning to save the planet, right? You gotta love Star Trek.

It was a good thought experiment, though. Even today, efforts to desensitize the reality of war leave me cold. I want to see the ugly. Anything else seems condescending or manipulative, neither of which serves the people on this planet. Reality has all its glory and shame in full view.

A seemingly innocent example is Steve Mumford’s work in Iraq as an embedded artist. But Robert Shetterly called him out saying, objectivity is “to present many sides of an issue, and let the viewer try to make sense of the complexity and live with the uncertainty.”

Uncertainty gives rise to choices.

There’s a lot of extra news lately about Iran’s nuclear energy program, so it’s time to ratchet up the fear level and make sure our military has enough money to protect us from the people who live in Iran.

If the supper committee doesn’t do its job of further slashing and dashing the hopes of Americans, the agreement laid out by a “previous congress” was for deep and automatic cuts that included the military. But of course, military spending cuts are frowned upon by some lawmakers just like tax sharing for the wealthy. Therefore, at [a recent meeting of the deficit reduction panel, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, sought assurances that nothing would prevent Congress from changing the mechanism for automatic cuts in military spending. Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, replied, “Any Congress can reverse the actions of a previous Congress.”] And there we have it. The built-in “out” has been revealed.

As for Iran, word has it today out of Tel Aviv, Washington and London that the IAEA will deliver breaking news soon – an already well leaked report that is reminiscent of the pre-Iraq war claims with an ISIS satellite photo of a bus sized metal bomb testing room (think mobile biological weapons labs). France and Russia have both warned Israel against a military strike, warning of irreparable damage to the region – the understatement of a decade.

Looking for an Intelligence Estimate, I found a report from three weeks ago by CSIS, a foreign policy think tank with heavy influence in Washington. It goes through September, but does not end two or three weeks ago. It takes its blazing strategy and analysis into the future. With diagrams, charts and possible scenarios, it describes what might happen if ….

It’s another thought experiment. I looked through the pages and saw what THEY think could happen. It’s ugly. And I think if we stay on this course, if we don’t force our governments to settle their differences without sizing up the people for annihilation, our planet stands to be assessed one country at a time, one city at a time, just like Tehran:

This is a PDF and it’s not for sissies:
Iran’s Strategic Competition with the US and Arab States – Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Capabilities

Update: Here’s the IAEA Iran Nuclear Report. I see too much hype and stale information, and not enough critical thinking or factual explanation for assumptions. I remain concerned about our political persuasion and our recent tendency to rush to judgement in matters of war against the people of other nations. What I consider reasonable breakdown of it can be found here and here.

Find a better way. Save the planet. Peace.
DCKennedy

US to Withdraw All Troops from Iraq

This is the right move for the wrong reason. The troops are coming home only because Iraq’s government would not give legal immunity to the remaining forces in the field.

via US to Withdraw All Troops from Iraq | FDL News Desk.

New Video: Wasting Billions of Taxpayer Dollars on Government Contractors

“So how about those overpaid government workers? We should probably just can the whole unionized lot of them and contract out their jobs to the lean-n-mean private sector. That’d save the taxpayers some serious dough, wouldn’t it? Maybe not. There’s a reason that private contractors are called Beltway Bandits, after all.”

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones.

via New Video: Wasting Billions of Taxpayer Dollars on Government Contractors.