Monday, May 25, 2009
Unfortunately, I believe that death will come to America's shores, and not just in flag draped coffins from our senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Change? There has been no change. We are still in Iraq. President Obama has promised to be there at least three more years, not the one or two the Iraqi people wanted, nor the fewer still the American people wanted.
Memories aren't very good anywhere, but are particularly bad in Washington, D.C. It seems President Obama has forgotten the people who made Senator Obama President Obama by their votes, because nearly everyone of them wanted the unjustified war in Iraq to end and our troops to come home, as soon as possible. Of course, "it's the economy stupid" has come back to haunt, so millions of Americans are more concerned about getting food on the table and their medical bills paid, than whether we kill people on the other side of the planet.
Are we going to completely walk away from Afghanistan? No, we are not. We are attacking their culture and killing their people. In fact, we seem to have had a new program for escalating the conflict this past year, using drones and missiles to blow up wedding parties and any other gathering of Afghani villagers. Keeps our troops out of harms way, until they showup later.
We are also letting contractors get away with murder and supplying Afghanis with ammunition. We learned in Iraq that you can't have much of a war if the other side can't fight back. During the second invasion of Iraq, we left the ammo dumps unguarded. Then, when the Iraqis surrendered in shock and awe, we sent them home with their weapons.
Shortly after 9-11, Osama bin Laden gave us three reasons as to why we were hit, again.
So, we've covered having our troops occupying holy land, and imposing Western will on a devote Islamic country, Afghanistan. The third reason UBL gave us for disintegrating the World Trade Center and striking at the center of our military power was our lopsided support of Israel.
If you haven't noticed, we are back to the "Two-State" solution for solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue, same dance, new partners. We are still providing Israel with the weapons promised in a Bush-Cheney $30 billion, ten year aid deal, even though Israel has failed to follow through on their part of the enabling legislation--using the weapons only for defensive purposes. No one in Congress seemed to have noticed the invasion of Lebanon and the invasion of Gaza. too busy stuffing dollars in their pockets from AIPAC and the Military Industrial Complex to run for office, I suppose.
Like our President or not, his Moonwalk--pretending to move forward, but actually moving backwards--is endangering America.. My guess is before September 11, 2009, the third president not to change Reagan/Bush corporatist ME policies will get a wake up call from al-Qaeda.
Friday, May 22, 2009
May 8th marked the 64th anniversary of the end WWII in Europe. It’s sad this day declaring peace in Europe, the end of fascist tryanny, and great sacriface by millions wasn’t recognized.
The Reich was finished a week earlier with the fall of Berlin. The only fighting going on there being against the Russians. The advance of the Americans and British was much easier, with Germans willfully surrendering, much like the Iraqis did during both U.S. invasions. Americans were known as the guys in white hats. Women and children would throw flowers, while our troops threw them candy and other western goods. Those days are over.
While it made sense to the German soldier to lay down his arms to the Yanks and the Brits, as their father's Great War (WWI) had showed that the west treated prisoners humanely, it would be suicide or worse to not fight the Russians to the death. The “worse,” of course is torture and maiming. This wasn’t fighting for Hitler or the homeland, this was fighting to survive the war unscarred.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others say torture is a military and intelligence tool that helps saves lives and win wars. They are wrong, but then their goal has never been to win wars, but to create wars, as their lies to create these wars has proven.
Torture is a crime. Dick Cheney and those that promulgated its use are war criminals, as certain as Goring, Hess or Borman were found to be at Nuremburg. America needs to rejoin the civilized world, and once be known as the guys in white hats. That requires rejoining the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and that means if extradition of U.S. citizens is required for the illegal renditions and torture, then so be it. At least we would be honest in accepting accountability, something that seems lost on our Congress and President.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Whether or not we know the story behind a picture or not, our reactions to images are always valid, and most often right.
Had the picture of Don Ayala and Abdul Salam been taken moments earlier (see previously posted blog below), it could have been as powerful as Eddie Adams’s Pulitzer prize winning photograph of Saigon’s police chief, Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Vietcong prisoner on the street forty years ago, shown here. I’m sure President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates breathed a sigh of relief that picture wasn't as powerful as this one, and that the “justifiable rage” spin quelled any outcries of injustice.
I was a high school student in the D.C. area, who read the Washington Post in the morning and the Evening Star at night, and saw this picture in the newspaper. The war was also on TV, and I followed it as carefully as my mother and sisters because my father had been there once, and was in the process of learning Vietnamese to go back again, this time as one of 44 senior province advisors. The back story I read at the time, 1968, was that some of Loan’s family had been killed in a dawn sapper (terrorist) attack and this man was captured. I remember believing that as horrific as the picture appeared, the killing of this Vietcong by the General was a case of justifiable rage.
For many Americans, knowing the back story didn’t matter. This picture was one of many that lent itself to moral outrage and spurred the anti-war movement. It helped Richard Nixon get elected on his promise to end the war—delayed until he was re-elected, of course. The bottom line is this and other images hastened the end of the war. Who hasn’t seen the Napalm Girl?
It is much, much easier to spin words, than pictures. Great pictures etch themselves on the mind due to their singularity and focus. Words are always in flux, while images are generally immutable.
This is precisely why President Obama listened to Secretary Gates, and reneged on his promise to release the torture pictures. One or more of them could become a horrific symbol of this country’s immoral, unjustifiable and illegal decision to torture. It may bring louder cries to bring those to justice who made the decision to violate the law and torture. If torture stays above the fold in print and online, and leads the news shows, people will link the torture to the wars. Interrogations that caused death and needless suffering, often to innocents, occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. We haven’t seen the War in Iraq and Afghanistan like we did the Vietnam War, and we won’t as long as a handful of corporations, some who make the machinery of war, control the media.
If we see the street execution of Salam Abdul and this Vietcong as "justifiable under the circumstances," it is only because we view the incidents out of context. The circumstances of both these deaths is solely the result of U.S. making war in these countries on the basis of lies, without justification, and without the support of the people here or in those countries. If we hadn’t been defending our puppet regimes in the South Vietnam, there would have been no sappers. Had we not been defending our puppet regime in Kabul, Loyd or Ayala wouldn’t have been in a village in Afghanistan with a platoon of soldiers, and Paula Loyd and Abdul Salam would be alive, and Don Ayala wouldn't have had his life turned upside down.
Monday, May 18, 2009
This photograph didn’t get much play. In fact, it is hard to find on Google—I found it through the Washington Post, but not until I’d seen it on http://www.stern.de/, Germany’s online version of "der Stern”, a photo magazine, like the Look and Life magazines many of us grew up with. Unfortunately, American corporate media doesn’t show the world as completely as our European counterparts. (The picture was taken in Afghanistan on Nov. 4, 2008, and released to the public on May 8, 2009.)
The story behind the picture…
On May 9th, a contractor for BAE Systems and former Army Ranger, Don Ayala (shown in desert fatigues) was given probation and a fine for his plea of voluntary manslaughter in the execution of a bound Afghani named Abdul Salam. Salam had minutes earlier doused Paula Loyd, another BAE Systems employee with a pitcher of gasoline at set her ablaze. Ayala and Loyd were travelling with an Army platoon in the village of Chehel Gazi. After helping subdue the man and learning of the seriousness of Loyd’s burns, Ayala told an interpreter to tell Salam he was the devil and then shot Salam in the temple with his 9mm weapon. Loyd, who had second and third degree burns over 60 percent of her body, died of her injuries at the famed burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in January.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of over six years, but Judge Hilton of the Second District Court in Virginia gave Ayala probation and a $12,500 fine. He said given the horrific circumstances, and that while the incident didn’t occur on the battlefield, it did happen in the middle of a war, his not following sentencing guidelines was appropriate. In their reports, the headliners at Fox, Cox, and the other corporate media outlets framed the second degree murder as “justifiable rage.”
Ironically, Abdul Salam and the Taliban would have used the same argument had Salam made it to trial. They would have said the violent and horrific attack by Abdul Salam was simply a case of justifiable rage. This political party and now citizen army, the Taliban, took credit for the attack on Loyd. From their perspective, as devout Muslims and proud Afghanis, it is an abomination for foreign troops to be in their country attacking their citizens, religion and culture. It was also an affront to their beliefs for this woman to be in a uniform, doing business and speaking as an equal to Afghani men.
Because of Abdul Salam’s attack killing the infidel and his execution Salam is now both hero and martyr to the Afghani people. According to the papers, Don Ayala is considered a hero by family and friends of Loyd. Seeing only their moment in time, like a photograph, they fail to see the big picture. Justifying rage only continues a cycle of death.