View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Thursday, April 17, 2003

Weapons Update


"People are sick over there already," says Dr. Doug Rokke. He used to be the director of the Army's depleted uranium project. In 1991 he was asked to head clean-up operations and medical care of soldiers exposed to DU weapons in friendly-fire situations, but was later relieved of his duties when he criticized commanders for not following the safety rules regarding DU.

Fighting on land polluted with toxic materials from the Gulf War, today's soldiers have been exposed not only to sandstorms, but to oil fires and DU waste. Doctors at Army medical facilities, according to Dr. Rokke, are seeing soldiers with respiratory problems, diarrhea, and "horrible skin conditions."

Denise Nichols successfully lobbied Congress to pass a 1997 law requiring the Pentagon to conduct a physical and take blood samples of all soldiers before and after deployment. But the Pentagon did not conduct these baseline tests. Rokke points out that "if you don't look, you don't find.If you don't find, there is no correlation. If there's no correlation, there's no liability."

That's what it all comes down to. The U.S. military doesn't want the health or environmental impacts of DU weapons known, because it wants to keep using DU. I'm very much afraid that a lot of our troops--the ones we peaceniks are accused of not supporting--are going to have serious health problems that the Pentagon just doesn't want to know about.

Cluster Bombs

CentCom has finally acknowledged that it used cluster bombs in areas of Baghdad. A spokeswoman defended the decision to use the bombs, saying that the bombs were aimed at Iraqi missile systems and artillery and "we had to use them in an urban environment because that was where Saddam Hussein put those weapons."

Why use such imprecise bombs when the U.S. military has been boasting all this time of its precision bombs? Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks "explained" that "cluster bombs can create 'situational obstacles,' such as blocking the movement of Iraqi soldiers." He said, "The conditions for people, the conditions for unintended consequences, are taken into account before the decision."

Please click on the link above and read the whole story.

Awarding Iraq Policing Contract To Rapists, Sex-Slave Traders, and Frauds

The Observer reports that DynCorp has won a multi-million dollar contract to police postwar Iraq. I've since read that DynCorp is a "key contender," suggesting that perhaps it's not yet a done deal. On the other hand, a State Department spokeswoman says that the federal government has already asked DynCorp to recruit candidates for the police force in Iraq.

DynCorp has a criminal past, but hey, it donated over $150,000 to the Repugs. Who cares if DynCorp personnel in Bosnia bought and sold girls as young as twelve and videotaped the rape of one of the women? That they ran a brothel? That they competed to see who could own the youngest girl?

Who cares that they were forced to pay over $150,000 in compensation to a UN police officer it fired for blowing the whistle on their sex ring? Not only that, but an employee of the company, Ben Johnson, was fired and forced into protective custody by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Unit until they could get him safely out of the country. According to a lawsuit filed on Johnson's behalf, "In the latter part of 1999 Johnston learned that employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts. Johnston witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased." Johnson also reported that drinking on the job (while repairing military aircraft!), fraud, and complete incompetence were de rigeuer at DynCorp.

Who cares that DynCorp's own site supervisor, John Hirtz, wrote in an e-mail, "The bottom line is that DynCorp has taken what used to be a real positive program that has very high visibility with every Army unit in the world and turned it into a bag of worms. Poor quality was the major issue."

As Former British Labour Defense Minister Peter Kilfoyle says, "I find it difficult to believe that, at a time when bringing law and order to Iraq needs to be handled with delicacy and sensitivity, a private American firm like DynCorp is entrusted with this job."

No kidding. But it's the Bushite way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Censorship and Blacklisting

Recently we've seen censorship creeping--no, wait, make that leaping--into news reporting, the arts, and the entertainment world. Herewith, a roundup of some of the most infamous examples of the erosion of free speech:

There's been a war on journalists. Peter Arnett's firing was one thing, but targeting journalists in a bombing campaign is another. The Pentagon claims that it has not deliberately targeted journalists, of course, but those "precision" bombs certainly do seem to have been imprecise.

Baseball's Hall of Fame cancelled a tribute to the film Bull Durham (one of my all-time favorites!) on its 15th anniversary because of Tim Robbins' and Susan Sarandon's anti-war stance. One interesting effect has been to bring about the cancellation of an appearance at the Hall of Fame by sportswriter Roger Kahn, who wrote to President Dale Petroskey, "You are choking freedom of dissent. How ironic. In theory, at least, we have been fighting this war to give Iraqis freedom of dissent. But here you, through the great institution you head, have moved to rob Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and (writer-director) Ron Shelton of that very freedom."

In addition to the cancelling of the Hall of Fame tribute, the United Way of Tampa Bay cancelled an April 11 event with Susan Sarandon after receiveing "three dozen complaints" about her anti-war views. Three dozen? Are those people thin-skinned or what?

Janeane Garofalo is the subject of an e-mail campaign to have her dropped from consideration for an ABC sitcom. ABC is being threatened with a boycott of its advertisers if it airs her show.

Execs at Pepsi and Unilever are debating whether to run an ad that the Dixie Chicks made for Lipton Brisk.

I could go on, but why not visit the website that keeps track of "the elitists among us" who feel they actually have a constitutional right to "speak out against the very country that afforded them the opportunity to earn a King's fortune"? Yes, this site keeps track of what celebrity has voiced an "anti-Americanism," or "AntiAm," to use their shorthand, and what companies have made their movies, albums, etc. Sigh.


What if we all worked hard to register new voters for peace between now and the 2004 elections? Visit Tom Paine.com and find out about the one peace demonstration that Bush can't ignore.

E-mail the Senate--keep the Patriot Act from becoming permanent!

If you know anyone who's thinking of joining the military, help them find out the facts about enlistment.

The Coalition for World Peace has a Media Challenge going--a mass call-in campaign requesting balanced coverage of what's going on in Iraq. Join now!

Monday, April 14, 2003

Anti-War Actions Continue

Join MoveOn's Media Corps. So far, over 30,000 people have signed on and made the commitment to push fair coverage of the war and its aftermath.

Boycott the War.

The Iraq Pledge of Resistance continues to function and is calling for a National Week of Noncooperation with War, today through April 20. Nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, including war tax resistance (tomorrow is tax day), are encouraged.

An Appeal to Conscience: join Joan Baez, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and others in signing a statement in support of those refusing to pay war taxes.

The War Resisters League has a new site on War Tax Resistance.

A three-day march from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. will take place April 26-28.

On May 3, there will be a Showdown in Texas. The American Friends Service Committee is sponsoring this national rally in Austin, Texas: "Weapons manufacturers, the country's largest military base and a network of oil refineries all flourish in this state known internationally for its poor record on human rights, social justice, and the environment."

Back after a long week of living without Internet access, followed by a weekend of outdoor work.

What Is There to Brag About?

The gloating and triumphalism over our "victory" in Iraq is heartsickening, to say the least. Shame on those who brag of our superiority, who jeer at anti-war people with the equivalent of "nyah, nyah!", who justify the bloody, brutal means that achieved the end of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

What is there to brag about? The United States invaded a country without provocation. Faced with no threat from Iraq, our nation attacked another sovereign nation. In doing so, it violated--even sneered at--international law, estranged us from most of our allies, outraged the citizens of the planet, and taught people around the world that the United States is now operating on the "might makes right" philosophy.

What is there to brag about? Iraq's army was a fraction of the U.S. military machine--no surprise that we "won" so easily. As Arundhati Roy wrote, this venture should have been called "Operation Let's Run a Race, but First Let Me Break Your Knees." There is no honor in beating--or beating up--the incapacitated, and the Iraqis were incapacitated by twelve years of sanctions following a war that decimated their army.

What is there to brag about? The "precision" bombing--the bombing that Donald Rumsfeld referred to as "humanitarian"--killed somewhere between 1373 and 1626 civilians. Mark Heron, analyzing the the period of March 20 through April 1, says that during that time, the bombing was over three times as deadly to civilians as that of the Gulf War, even though so-called precision bombs made up 90% of the number dropped, compared to only 6% in the Gulf War! That translates to around 1,350 civilians killed per 10,000 tons of bombs dropped, whereas it was more like 400 civilians killed per 10,000 tons in the Gulf War.

What is there to brag about? Visit Mark Heron's piece on the killing of civilians; read it and weep. I certainly did. Every single member of Congress, every single person who backed this war, every pilot of every bomb-dropping plane, every flag-waving super-patriot ought to read this piece and look at the photographs that have been so carefully omitted from our newspapers and propaganda-spewing electronic media. What were U.S. forces doing bombing farms far away from any military target? Why target a grain silo? If our bombs are so accurate, why all this carnage? And if they really are that accurate, then what accounts for all these civilian deaths?

Maybe it has something to do with our forces. "We had a great day," said U.S. Marine Sgt. Eric Schrumpf. "We killed a lot of people. We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do? I'm sorry...but the chick was in the way." Commander Jeff Penfield, reflecting on a day of dropping "precision" bombs on Baghdad, said, "It was exhilarating...It was all nice and calm in the city...[but] once those bombs hit all hell broke loose. I bet we saw 15 SAMs. About three or four up our way so we had to defend a couple of times. What I felt more than anything was exhilaration."

Is this something to brag about? The "exhilaration" of bombing a city full of civilians? The killing of a "chick" who "got in the way"?

What is there to brag about? The United States has allowed the Iraqi National Museum to be looted of its 7,000-year-old treasures from the dawn of human civilization. It has allowed the looting of hospitals. But you can be sure that the oil fields are being more than adequately guarded.

What is there to brag about? The pro-war faction will say that the U.S. has freed Iraqis from the rule of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party. Americans who have swallowed the propaganda so cynically offered by this administration will say that we are bringing democracy to the Iraqis. It is true that Saddam Hussein and his followers have been routed, but it remains to be seen what will replace him. Currently, anarchy rules in Iraq, at great cost to the citizenry. I don't believe for one minute that democracy can be imposed from above, nor do I think that Iraq will see true democracy. (Indeed, I'd like to see true democracy in my own nation.)

This war has been about establishing American supremacy and instilling fear into any nation that dares oppose the United States. And that is nothing to brag about.

For shame.

This page is powered by Blogger.