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Friday, Apr. 04, 2003 at 8:37 PM
Growing Crisis in Basra; CBS Reports Truth By Mistake; Public Might Put Two and Two Together; U.S. Strikes Iran"; Collateral Damage; War Crimes Aren't War Crimes When The U.S. Commits Them; Public Acknowledgment Of E.M.P.; Food and Politics At Safwan; "Even In Civilian Areas, They Will Be Hit; Flint-locks and Sedans; Signs Of An Expanding War Killing and Burying the Innocent; Iraqi Artillery Targets…Whom?
GROWING CRISIS IN BASRA
There is a storm brewing in southern Iraq, much worse than the sand storms currently harassing U.S. and British troops trying to advance on Baghdad. The civilian population in Basra, over one million Iraqis, is without water, adequate food, or adequate medical care. The UN and NGO relief agencies are warning a large-scale humanitarian crisis is brewing. The results and reasons need to be addressed, for some aspects of both are going unreported, although these facts were initially reported before succumbing to the propaganda machine.
Iraqis in Basra began an "uprising" on March 25. The first reports, from British Royal Marines operating in and around Basra, claimed the residents were not only directing their rebellion at the Iraqi military units in the city, but at the allied forces as well. This was first mentioned on CNN news March 25, then soon reported on CBS that same day. But only once.
Since those initial reports, neither CNN nor CBS repeated the reports. The updates have all mentioned only that the Basra citizens are rebelling against the Iraqi military forces. Presto, the alarming notion that Iraqis might not want us occupying their country vanishes, leaving only the convenient pro-American "uprising" in its place. These guys are spinning like Olympic ice-skaters.
During Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's daily briefing to the media on March 25, he was questioned about reports from military personnel in Basra and journalists in that city, claiming the "uprising" targeted not only Iraqi units but allied units as well. Rumsfeld dismissed the idea it was even possible for Iraqis to harbor ill feelings for U.S. and British forces. The Iraqis were "oppressed," he said repeatedly, and we are "liberating" them, so they would not fire on allied forces, it could never happen.
There are a number of obvious reasons the Iraqis in Basra might be opposed to the presence of U.S. and British soldiers, but let's focus on the immediate reasons here. As mentioned earlier, a humanitarian crisis is looming in Basra. Interviews with U.S. troops in the city and statements by Ari Fletcher and Donald Rumsfeld blame the major problem, lack of water, on the Hussein regime. The now-accepted version of events is that the Iraqi government ordered water to Basra be shut off. Rumsfeld in particular pointed to this as further evidence of Saddam Hussein's lack of care for Iraqi citizens.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of evidence that undercuts this theory. According to reports on March 22 on both CNN and CBS, U.S. bombings in and around Basra destroyed the water treatment and electrical facilities in the city. These reports noted at the time that lack of water and electricity might soon create a serious problem for the Iraqis living in Basra. The U.S. commanders on the scene approved these reports, as CBS constantly reminds viewers.
Incidentally, CBS's embedded reporter in Basra is John Roberts, the same reporter who broke the (now silenced) story on March 21 confirming the previous use of napalm by U.S. forces on the road to Basra, right as the southern oil fields in Iraq caught fire (this story also showed up in the Herald). It was also Roberts who filed the report about U.S. destruction of Basra's water treatment facilities and electricity. He also reported on March 25 that no relief agencies were massing supplies at the Iraqi border because none could get through, pointing to the large contingent of U.S. soldiers guarding access across the border, and continuing that it would not be "days, but weeks" before any relief assistance would be allowed in.
Not that such reporting is setting the standard at CBS, since these flashes of truth are quickly silenced (sometimes by the end of the day, as with the "uprising" reports). However, such moments of honesty are important, especially since independent reporting from Iraq started out slim, and is likely to decline now that U.S. and British troops have fired on and killed some of the best non-embedded reporters. Access to facts in this war are already in short supply, so we must keep our eyes and ears peeled for tid-bits like those popping up on CBS and CNN.
The real facts on Basra are that the U.S. military destroyed the water and electrical services, creating a humanitarian crisis with little relief in sight, then lied and let the media help cover it up. Then, with fighting continuing between allied troops and Iraqis loyal to Hussein's regime, the citizens began an "uprising" against both sets of forces, facts again twisted by the U.S. military and media. While it might seem that the U.S. will have a hard time covering up facts about fighting with Basra citizens, it will actually be easy.
The reporters can be expected to keep unpleasant truths secret, and the dead citizens can be called "elements of the Iraqi military force in Basra," since these elements are reportedly dressed in civilian clothes. Perhaps it is unnecessary to point out that, for all we know, the "loyalist troops" fighting the allies in Basra might all be civilians, hence the U.S. claim that Iraqi military units are not in uniform. Judging from the amount of disinformation around events in Basra, it is at least possible, although probably unlikely.
With one million Iraqis in danger of (besides U.S. bombs, bullets, DU radiation, etc.) either severe thirst or cholera and dysentery from impure water, and malnutrition (and food poisoning, since with no electricity food is spoiling but might be eaten in desperation), the U.S. seems more concerned with PR than the lives of Basra's citizens.
CBS REPORTS TRUTH BY MISTAKE;
PUBLIC MIGHT PUT TWO AND TWO TOGETHER
An important piece of information showed up on CBS during its ongoing coverage of the war in Iraq. John Roberts, the "embedded" reporter traveling with the 3rd Calvary Division, reported by videophone on Friday, March 21, that during the fighting near Basra, artillery fire was heavy, and the U.S. military used napalm to stifle some Iraqi resistance.
This is important because of the Basra oil fields. Keep in mind that retreating Iraqis reportedly set some of the oil wells alight. However, if history offers any instruction, it is that we should be skeptical of U.S. claims of Iraqi sabotage.
During the first Gulf War, the U.S. accused Iraq of igniting hundreds of oil fires. However, a review of media reports, Pentagon statements, and eyewitness accounts inform us that another cause for the fires was likely.
The U.S. air assault on Iraq began on January 17,1991. By January 22, according to a Nuclear Defense Agency report, Iran was experiencing oily black rain on a regular basis, or exactly one month before President Bush accused Iraq of setting oil wells afire. This black rain in Iran started five days after the first U.S. bombings in Basra.
By the end of the first day of U.S. bombing, smoke from burning oil wells could be seen all over Iraq, as the U.S. targeted refineries and oil storage facilities for attack. The assistant director of the Basra refinery told the Harvard International Study Team, during interviews in August-September of 1991, that U.S. bombs had ignited the oil fields.
Rear Admiral Mike Cornell is quoted in the February 13, 1991, San Jose Mercury News as saying, "…there's the possibility that some of our strikes may have had some collateral damage to start a fire." The Department of Energy issued a memorandum, leaked by the Livermore National Laboratory, ordering DOE facilities and contractors to "…discontinue any further discussion of war-related research and issues…the impacts of fires/oil spills in the Middle East…", an official mentioning of oil fires (and official orders not to talk about them) which occurred on January 25, eight days after the air war began.
Scientific American reported in its May 1991 issue that images from the Landsat-5 and NOAA-11 satellites confirmed allied bombing of Iraqi oil refineries and storage facilities. These photos revealed plumes of smoke hundreds of kilometers long all over Iraq. On March 25, 1992, oil consultant and author O.J. Vialls (who had continuing contacts with firefighting teams working in Kuwait) wrote that "in a minimum of 66 known cases" U.S. bombs had blown the wellheads from oil wells in Kuwait and ignited them. This is further confirmed by U.S. firefighters quoted in Life magazine's June 1991 issue, when these firefighters reported finding unexploded U.S. bombs "everywhere", "We've seen hundreds," etc.
Finally, most relevant to the events in Basra reported on CBS, on February 16, 1991, U.S. Marine Harrier aircraft were filmed as crewmembers loaded napalm pods onto the wings of AV88s. The pilots, asked by media journalists, confirmed they were using napalm during bombing missions. Napalm, producing a 5,500-degree fire, is capable of white-heating small bore oil pipes coming from wellheads, rupturing the metal due to pressure from the ignited oil. Simply blowing up the wellheads, as the Iraqis were accused of doing, wouldn't likely set the wells on fire, since it does not create the intense heat needed. In fact, blowing wellheads is actually a method used to put out oil well fires.
The evidence, therefore, all seems to point to U.S. guilt in igniting the oil fires in the first Gulf War. Since then, however, the U.S. government and media have reported Iraqi blowing of oil wells as a historical fact. Now, we have once again the claim of Iraqi sabotage of oil wells, also reported as fact by the U.S. government and media. The media were, interestingly, careful when first reporting the new fires to state that no U.S. bombing had occurred in the Basra region prior to the fires.
Then came the damning report by John Roberts. Roberts said the U.S. had used the napalm and artillery the day before his report. In other words, about the time the wells ignited, when the Pentagon and media were saying no U.S. bombs had fallen in that area.
It should be noted that, as soon as reports came of the oil fires, the price of oil "skyrocketed" (CNN's word) by several dollars. A rise of one dollar per barrel translates to million extra per day, million per week, for every 10 million barrels pumped (about the daily output of Saudi Arabia). Therefore, a price-hike of only five dollars per barrel turns into about 0 million per day, per 20 million barrels produced by oil industries (this is about the maximum daily production by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq alone).
This is all very important if one remembers the U.S. began accusing Iraq of placing explosives in oil wells prior to the start of this new war, thus directing blame for any destruction which might occur. Because oil wells lie in several key areas where the U.S. war-plans call for strikes, it is not unreasonable to suspect the U.S. expected airstrikes to ignite oil wells, especially since this happened during the first Gulf War.
Does this prove for a fact the Iraqis did not set the fires in Basra, and that the U.S. did? No, it does not prove it. It only proves the U.S. does not want anyone to know they dropped napalm in Basra, something that will ignite fires while the Iraqi exploding of wellheads probably wouldn't, and they are willing to lie about it. It is up to individuals to draw what conclusions they may, based on the preponderance of evidence.
The concern about this was appreciatively low, since any damage to the wells is balanced out by the enormous profits that a price-hike would produce. Keep in mind, only nine oil wells had caught fire in Basra when oil prices "skyrocketed", according to news reports. We are left to wonder which is true: are oil producers engaging in blatant price-gouging, or is the report of only 9 oil well fires a deceptively low figure? Both are quite possible, and it is difficult to know which cynical interpretation is correct, since they can't both be true (presuming large price increases are legitimate if large numbers of wells are burning), and yet both would be typical.
It is obviously unnecessary to discuss the Bush-Cheney oil connections, as these facts are so widely reported and understood, it would be verbose to repeat them. Suffice it to say, the point does not go unnoticed.
So, we have the use of U.S. bombs and napalm, subsequent oil well fires, then denial of U.S. bombings of that area, accusations that Iraqis set the fires, then confirmation that the U.S. had bombed and dropped napalm on the area containing the oil fields. Exactly what happened during the Gulf War in 1991, in other words. Expect to see similar "Iraqi sabotage" of northern oil fields, coincidentally as soon as the U.S. moves towards them. As long as these absurd tales continue to go unchallenged in the media, the Pentagon and Bush administration will keep rehashing them. Why come up with new lies, when the same old, tired ones work so well?
The CBS report brings up another issue important to war opponents. While it is tempting for those who recognize the illegitimacy and immorality of this war to turn to alternative and independent news sources for information (which is certainly necessary and to be encouraged), rejecting the jingoistic reporting offered by the "mainstream" media's running commercial for the U.S. war, there is an important reason to at least occasionally tune in to CNN, CBS, et al.
These news sources are the standard disseminators of "facts" to the general population, and as such they provide an eye into the propaganda bombardment most people are subjected to in the U.S. There is great value in understanding the methods of propaganda used by the media, especially if one is attempting to combat the effects it has on the population.
Because of the nature of "self-censorship" practiced in the U.S. media, it is unavoidable that every so often a fact or two will be reported that undermines the "accepted" official versions of events. When this occurs, it is possible to reconstruct events and perhaps actually see through the fog of disinformation covering media reports, so one might reach conclusions that are somewhere close to the realm of reality. How many Americans watching CBS noticed the napalm story, for example, and perhaps concluded that maybe the media is distorting its war coverage to some extent?
One thing is certain: more people will reach such conclusions, if those opposing war are quick to notice such reporting, and immediately bring it to the public's attention. Awareness of the lies told in the name of the "empire" is necessary, if those lies are to be exposed. By comparing the preponderance of lies to the actual facts, it is possible to gain a wider view of the overall "cover story" in contrast to the real events, which can tell us not only what happened, but why. Understanding the "why" is as important as understanding the "what", since this suggests the motives that will determine the course of future events.
For example, watching CNN tells us that the U.S. says Iraq is preparing to ignite oil wells. If we are aware of the background concerning the Gulf War fires, we are more likely to be skeptical of the current U.S. claims. Moreover, we might become alarmed to hear the accusation that Iraq is placing explosives at wellheads, for we could reasonably assume the U.S. expects airstrikes to ignite oil wells again, or at least assume it is a possibility. Hence, we know "why" the U.S. is accusing Iraq of planting bombs.
Once we see CBS reporting the Pentagon assertion that no bombs fell in Basra, followed within hours by the CBS eyewitness report of napalm bombings in Basra, we know not to trust the Pentagon, but we also expect further assertions to back up the Pentagon's original claims. If we remember the Gulf War, we also know that the eventual "factual history" of this war will only acknowledge Iraqi guilt in the oil fires, the earlier admission of U.S. napalm bombing fading into oblivion in favor of the official version of events. So, we know "why" the U.S. denied bombing the Basra region, and further we know "why" CBS suddenly ignored its own report of napalm use by the U.S.
By knowing the "whys" regarding Basra, we can apply it to the Kirkuk oil fields. When the U.S. claims (as it actually has) that Iraqis are also placing explosives on these oil wells, we know exactly what to expect: U.S. bombings, oil well fires, U.S. denials of bombings, U.S. accusations that Iraq blew the wellheads, complicity by the media, etc. Luckily for the average skeptic, the unoriginality of the U.S. government and media let us apply our "whys" on a fairly broad scale, with some degree of accuracy. The price of this application, unfortunately, is the cold comfort of being right, and the awareness of what is to come.
U.S. STRIKES IRAN
On March 21, Tehran reported that three U.S. missiles hit sites in Iran. One of the sites, a government building, was roughly 39 miles inside Iran. There are a few explanations for this, none of which is positive.
So far, the U.S. says it doesn't know if it has any reason to apologize. The Bush administration made no statements even suggesting regret if the story turns out to be true. This might suggest that the missile strikes, if true, were not accidents.
Since one of the missiles struck an Iranian government building, Iran might be feeling a bit uneasy about the cold response from the U.S. government. Nothing has been reported yet regarding what the other two missiles might have hit, so it is still hard to assess. Keep in mind, however, that only a week earlier, it was learned that Iran's nuclear program is much more advanced than anyone thought.
The missiles used by the U.S. are "smart" weapons, supposedly "pin-point" accurate. Are the odds very high that three of these weapons could miss there targets so badly, one by at least 39 miles (if the intended Iraqi target was right beside the Iran-Iraq border), and all accidentally hitting the same country? Moreover, all three struck on the same day.
Let's try to imagine how it looks to Iran. Suppose Cuba referred to the U.S. and Mexico as part of an "Axis of Evil", and then invaded Mexico. Imagine if Cuba had high-tech missiles guided by global positioning systems and lasers, allowing "surgical strikes" against only military targets. Assuming for a moment that the U.S. would allow any such absurd scenario, or that Cuba could accomplish something like this, how might the U.S. respond if three Cuban "smart" bombs hit the U.S., one destroying a federal building in Texas? Even worse, what if Castro went on television and proclaimed he wasn't sure if Cuba had any reason to apologize?
Of course, it is easy to imagine the U.S. reaction to such an event. The real point is, does it sound the least bit feasible that three missiles guided by satellites could all veer so badly off course that they could sail into the wrong nation and blow up government buildings by accident, all without the U.S. military being aware?
It has been several days, and the U.S. says it is still unable to verify the story. This is, quite obviously, a lie. If the U.S. possessed any evidence the story were untrue, this evidence would have immediately come out. There should, by the way, be no doubt as to whether any evidence exists. GPS technology allows the military to determine where these missiles fall, the trajectory of the weapons is tracked all the way to the target, and many nosecones contain cameras.
There is no doubt evidence, but it likely shows that Iran is telling the truth. The question could be asked, why would Iran make the claim if it were false, since the truth is easily ascertainable?
If the missile strike was intentional, why would the U.S. do it? There are several answers to this. First, it may have been a slap at Iran, to provoke a response. Or perhaps it was a "surgical strike" against government targets for any one of many possible reasons (linked to the nuclear issue, spying, supplying Iraq with intelligence, etc.). Maybe it was a warning, in case Iran was considering action to help Iraq (there are some Iranian volunteers fighting alongside Iraqi soldiers). Iran might have even been considering following Turkey's lead, planning to cross the border and seize territory from Kurds.
There are a number of potential reasons the U.S. might choose to strike Iran. Indeed, there is a strong possibility that, once Iraq is out of the way, Iran will be the next nation invaded by U.S. forces (as a guess, let's say sometime in 2004, before the fall elections). Whatever reasons we could come up with, no doubt the Bush administration is way ahead of us in compiling a list.
Now, let's consider another possibility. It may be true that the missile strikes were an accident. This suggests the "smart" weapons might not be as intelligent as we are being led to believe. In fact, during the first Gulf War, only about a quarter of the "smart" bombs performed accurately. Of course, that was over a decade ago, before the weapons were GPS guided. While sometimes they may only be accurate to within hundreds of yards, it's hard to imagine they are only accurate to within 40 miles.
Hence, to believe it was an accident, we must assume these were errant missiles, radically off-target, perhaps fed the wrong coordinates. Maybe a blown fuse, a damaged guidance system, which threw them off course. Three times. Always into Iran.
Yes, this is a possibility. It is true that specific information has not come out about how far apart these strikes occurred. If all three happened within minutes of one another, it becomes easier to imagine a mistake happened, although it seems reasonable to assume the mistake would involve human error, not mechanical failure.
Yet another possibility is that Iran is lying. It is hard to believe that Tehran would stand to gain anything from accusing the U.S. They certainly didn't get an apology, if sympathy was there goal. Besides, as noted above, the facts are easy enough to prove. If Iran measures the damage, photographs it and demonstrates the blast zone and diameter/depth of the crater, etc., it would be hard for the U.S. to deny, especially if no exculpatory evidence is presented.
In addition, with a war raging in the region, there are probably several nations with radar and other surveillance directed towards the hostilities. Information is out there somewhere, but surely nobody wants to come forward on behalf of Iran and anger the U.S. However, if the U.S. were really innocent, of course they would not only immediately present their own evidence, they would request outside verification from Russia or another nation nearby.
Considering the hostile nature of the U.S.-Iran relationship, there is not much reason to think Iran would seek to instigate further tensions between the two countries. This is especially true when other explanations exist that are far more reasonable. One radio commentator suggested the missiles might have been Iraqi, but this notion is so ludicrous it barely merits comment. Suffice it to say, provoking Iran during a war with the U.S. would not likely be high on Iraq's "to do" list, besides the obvious fact that the U.S. detects Iraqi missile launches and would have presented this evidence already.
With all these theories in mind, we must wait to see if more information is forthcoming. If not, the available evidence tells us a few things: U.S. missiles probably did hit Iran; the U.S. will be slow to admit this; any U.S. apology will be tepid; and either due to error or intent, a human hand is responsible for the missile strikes, since the range, type, and number of missiles does not support a conclusion of "mechanical failure."
Between the two most likely scenarios (accident or intentional bombings), the physical evidence will only be that three U.S. missiles did blow up things in Iran. Anything else will be circumstantial, unless the Pentagon or President announces the strikes were on purpose (a highly unlikely event).
What does the circumstantial evidence tell us? That President Bush considers Iran "evil"; that the U.S. accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism; that the U.S. is at war with Iraq because it might support terrorism, as part of an overall "war on terrorism"; the Iran has an advanced nuclear program; that the U.S. is at war with Iraq because it might have a nuclear or other WOMD program; both Iraq and Iran have oil; the U.S. likes oil, a lot; and regarding the missiles themselves, three highly advanced U.S. GPS guided weapons all hit the same nation on the same day, at least 39 or more miles from Iraq, and the U.S. says it can't tell if any U.S. missiles entered Iran.
Circumstantial evidence less than this has convicted people of murder in U.S. courts. While it may sound alarmist to say the U.S. intentionally launched weapons into Iran, remember the U.S. is fighting an illegal war against a nation that has not threatened or attacked the U.S. The facts and circumstances (read "Bush policy") make the theory of a purposeful attack sound quite reasonable. The idea certainly shouldn't be dismissed.
Be sure, Iran is not dismissing it.
During a March 22 CNN interview with an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel flying bombing missions in Iraq, the reporter asked the pilot if he saw the enemy troops he bombed. He replied that he did not see the people he killed. This example provides us an opportunity to address the manner in which military personnel are trained, and the ways in which they kill.
The airstrikes on Baghdad are carried out with missiles launched from Naval vessels hundreds of miles away, and bombs dropped by pilots flying high above their targets. The "enemy" is a building, a target, not a human being. Except for the first night in which only about three-dozen missiles were launched, the U.S. military has dropped roughly one thousand bombs and missiles on Baghdad every day. Read "on Baghdad" as "on people in Baghdad."
Granted, some of the strikes have been against "military and leadership targets," the "organizations charged with internal security," or "command and control targets," terms which almost imply people are being blown up with the buildings, but still refer to dehumanized, faceless entities. In most cases, the only name ever mentioned is "Saddam Hussein," which may as well read "Adolf Hitler" or "Charles Manson," now that he has been properly relegated to the role of evil-incarnate.
Pilots are different from ground troops, in terms of their perception of their enemy. When pilots bomb actual troop placements, even when these soldiers are relatively visible from above, the pilot sees them usually from a considerable distance and at a few hundred miles per hour. They are a blur, and bombs are dropped so fast, the pilots and their aircraft are far off once the human beings below are blown to bits.
Moreover, there is a detachment from the act beyond simply physical proximity. When speaking of pilots blowing up people, it is typically described vaguely as "bombing," not "people dropping bombs on other people." "Missiles rained down," or "bombs fell on Iraq," as if some bizarre weather anomaly occurred. It is a "bombing campaign" in which "bombs hit their targets," the targets being "military sites" or "Iraqi leadership."
For sure, sometimes it may be expedient to use terms like "bombing" to avoid the literary acrobatics or wordiness required to always note the human element whenever discussing air attacks. It isn't these infrequent uses, but the constant and systematic evocation of these phrases, that is dangerous and offensive.
Conversely, ground warfare is not usually described as a "shooting campaign" in which "bullets hit their targets." That is because soldiers hold guns in their hands, point them at a person they have to see, and watch that person fall over dead. There is no point in trying too hard to detach them from their acts. Besides, unlike "bombing campaigns", mass civilian casualties are not an inherent fact of ground fighting (although it still occurs, just not as an implicit factor of the fighting).
Instead, these troops are subjected to a more intense indoctrination than pilots, "brain-washing" as we call it when other nations do the same thing. The enemy must be severely dehumanized, while the ideals of "fighting for freedom" and "to defend your country" are held up as the noblest pursuits. Where pilots are afforded the luxury of detachment, soldiers must be trained to look at people, kill them, and not mind too much.
These differences cannot be mentioned, of course, for several problems arise if they are looked at too closely. For example, when speaking about civilian casualties caused by U.S. bombing, it is correct (within mainstream media and other "polite company") to note that civilian deaths are regrettable, but must be expected and accepted during war. It is interesting that such common sentiments are usually directed towards civilian deaths attributable to "bombings."
Imagine this same standard being applied to ground warfare: U.S. soldiers, in order to shoot enemy soldiers hiding in a building full of civilians, simply shoot everyone in the building. Indeed, this happens. Read pretty much any news report about Israeli military action, and it is bound to include a note about soldiers firing at children for throwing rocks (or some such dastardly Palestinian provocation necessitating a civilian massacre). Of course, the Israeli example is not the norm, since Israel is allowed much more latitude than other nations when it comes to state terrorism and war crimes.
However, it is deemed immoral in most instances for soldiers to fire indiscriminately into civilians, or to regard anyone in their line of fire as a legitimate target, quite unlike pilots. Certainly, in practice U.S. soldiers have in the past done exactly this, as in My Lai (which involved other atrocities, like rape) or any number of other instances, but the practice is at least publicly condemned. The idea that this would be a publicly accepted and excused policy of warfare is ludicrous, and rightly so. Why, then, is this exact policy treated so lightly when instead of bullets it is bombs striking civilians?
The reason is, when soldiers kill civilians, it is a person killing another person. When bombs kill, however, it is part of a "process," a process providing distance not only for the pilots but for the U.S. citizens who view it as well. While it is quite easy to sit at home and see a building suddenly erupt into flames (even the bomb is not visible on the television), it would be quite another thing to watch soldiers shooting civilians in cold blood. Such an image would be much too honest a portrayal of what war really is.
In addition, there is a tendency to be more forgiving of a pilot or naval officer bombing civilians whom he or she cannot see, whom they are not "targeting", whereas the immediacy of soldiers killing people makes attribution of the deaths much easier. This is probably at least a factor in the decision to move towards modes of warfare featuring massive air attacks by U.S. forces, since this shifts the always-inevitable casualties into a form more palatable for the U.S. public.
The obvious danger, of course, is that as war becomes less distasteful, it will likely become more acceptable, and thus more common. A cynic might even suspect this is a policy goal.
So, what if hypothetically, pilots were told, "Bomb this building next to these citizens' houses"? Or, "Fire your missiles into this building, next to this hospital that will also be destroyed"? Would such pronouncements make a difference? There is actually some evidence that it might. During the Vietnam War, the problem of pilots refusing to drop their bombs became somewhat of a problem, although one drastically unreported in the U.S. media (and, considering the horrible level of destruction still achieved on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, one which perhaps had less effect than might be hoped).
Then again, it could be argued that if pilots were made more personally culpable for their killings, the military would simply begin to indoctrinate them more, as the soldiers are trained. However, at least the lie of the "clean" and "surgical" bombing would be stripped away. If U.S. personnel are going to engage in mass murder of civilians, then they should at least be told so, and it should be called exactly what it is.
There is an interesting comparison here, between the treatment of dropping bombs and the death penalty. Both are administered as part of a "system," or a "process." As Sister Helen Prejean noted, there are many people involved in putting someone to death, but they all act as if they have no personal culpability in the killing. They are part of the process of execution, not the executioners. In fact, it is policy to provide this deniability for those executing someone. Great pains are taken to ensure nobody's role is too direct; there is always a buffer between the killers and the victim.
This buffer system, this turning of murder into a process, is mirrored in the processes involved in bombing people. Nobody kills the civilians who die during U.S. air attacks. The bombs killed them. They are not even called civilians, actually. They are "collateral damage," a phrase that elicited much outrage when Timothy McVey used it to describe his victims, but no such anger when the Pentagon uses it. An odd sort of hypocrisy, since McVey learned the phrase from the Pentagon when he was a U.S. soldier in the Gulf War.
To sit on a U.S. warship, push a button, and watch a dot on a screen move across a map of Iraq, towards a "military target," it must be easy to feel detached. One person gives coordinates, one gives the order, and one pushes the button. An inanimate object these folks can't even see shoots up into the air and out of site, headed hundreds of miles away. Minutes later, it crashes into a target in Baghdad, live on CNN, fire and smoke fill the screen, and it's called a "surgical strike against the Iraqi leadership." Meanwhile, innocent people burn to death in the apartment complex located right beside the target, when fire and debris from the blast hit the building. This happens out of sight of the cameras, however, so nobody has to see the messy results.
Those who would doubt civilians are harmed by these "surgical" strikes are surely being disingenuous. Just in case there is anyone who honestly makes this assertion, however, let's look at a few simple facts, as told by the engineers and weapons designers who produce these weapons for the Defense Department.
Here are some facts they gave David Wood of Newhouse News Service, on March 22, regarding the 2,000-pound Mark-84 JDAM bombs, "…the chief weapon used in the air strikes on Baghdad," along with the Tomahawk cruise missiles. The "…thousand pounds of white-hot steel fragments" travel at "6,000 feet per second," and these "…will travel about 3,800 feet, nearly three-quarters of a mile." The pieces of the nose cone and other heavy fragments "…will sail out a mile and a half." The explosion also produces a fireball "…8,500 degrees Fahrenheit, …and hurls off 10,000 pounds of rock and dirt debris at supersonic speed."
In other words, if Iraqi civilians are not harmed by these weapons, it is because they are Iraqis who moved out of Iraq before the war started. Anyone within about a mile is in grave danger every time the U.S. drops one of these weapons, and the U.S. is using thousands of them every day. Despite this, no U.S. military personnel are directly responsible for these civilian injuries or deaths, since as Mr. Wood's article notes in its first paragraph, it is the missile itself "…with a single, deadly purpose: to kill."
How clear it becomes, then, that the people dropping or firing these weapons cannot possibly be responsible, if the weapon itself possesses "purpose," the human agents merely parts of a process. One can almost imagine the missiles and bombs filled with anger at Saddam Hussein, with pride in the U.S.A., as it flies "purposefully" towards its target.
Perhaps, like the pilot flying high above, the missile cannot see the innocent civilians waiting below, either.
WAR CRIMES AREN'T WAR CRIMES
WHEN THE U.S. COMMITS THEM
The news coverage of the war in Iraq has broadcast images of Iraqi soldiers surrendering. One scene, shown repeatedly by CBS news on March 22, treated viewers to a scene of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers sitting on the desert sand while U.S. soldiers stand guard close by. A single Iraqi stands and, with visible humility, appears to request permission to clean his face and hands in a small pool of water on the ground. He finishes quickly, stealing nervous glances at the American troops watching him with rifles in-hand, then returns to his place among the other Iraqi prisoners.
This is only one of several scenes of Iraqis either surrendering or as prisoners of U.S. troops. These images are broadcast on U.S. television for all to see, with the typical journalistic voice-overs milking the prisoners for all the propaganda they're worth.
Interestingly, we are told, quite correctly, by President Bush and others in his administration what we should think of this process of "parading" troops in front of television cameras. It is a violation of the Geneva Convention, a war crime. Of course, this description was actually used in reference to Iraqi televison broadcasting images of U.S. POWs on March 23, but it is nonetheless an adequate guide for viewers of U.S. news programs as well.
Were it not for the long history of such ridiculous hypocrisy, one might be dumbfounded that CNN can refer to the Geneva Convention's restrictions on filming POWs, while keeping a straight face. This was a running commentary for much of the day that the story of U.S. prisoners first broke, with CNN even turning to "expert analysts" for their interpretation of the events. As expected, the talking heads informed the journalists that, yes, Iraq was indeed violating the rules of warfare. On CBS, the March 23 edition of 60 minutes chimed in, showing the footage of U.S. POWs, announcing it as "a war crime," mere minutes before replaying all the CBS footage of Iraqi POWS.
It is somewhat surprising to hear the envocation of war crimes and the Geneva Convention, since the introduction of these topics could work against the Pentagon and the media, in the event someone actually points out these same war crimes are being committed by CNN, CBS, and the U.S. military, not to mention the illegal nature of the war in the first place. Then there are all those prisoners from Afghanistan "paraded" across American television screens, culminating in an entire 60 Minutes episode. Apparently, the media and government are confident the acceptable norms of society will be upheld, and nobody will be impolite enough to notice such inconvenient facts.
Without doubt, the use of prisoners for propaganda is tasteless, definitely a violation of the Geneva Convention. However, it must be remembered that the Convention did not just refer to behavior of states hostile to the U.S. Despite its military and economic power, the U.S. is, in fact, also bound by these same rules, at least in theory.
Then again, to be "bound" by them suggests some measure of both responsible behavior by the nation in question, and a determination by other states to hold all nations accountable, even the powerful ones. So perhaps it is incorrect to say the U.S. is "bound" by the Geneva Convention, after all.
PUBLIC ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF E.M.P. WEAPONS
During all the talk about the bombing campaign in Iraq, a little-noticed admission came out of the Pentagon. The first official confirmation of the existence of E-bombs occurred shortly after the air war against Iraq began. The term "E-bombs" refers to weapons that emit an electromagnetic pulse to disable the electrical systems of a city (or town, etc.).
Electromagnetic pulses are emitted by nuclear weapons, making everything electrical inoperable. It must be hoped these new E-bombs produce the pulse in a way that has nothing to do with the way a nuclear bomb obtains the results. The U.S. has denied possessing EMP technology, and the rather casual way this was revealed is at odds with the implications of such weapons.
The first confirmation of the use of the E-bomb was March 25 in Iraq, reported by several network news outlets (including CNN). The importance of this development should not be underestimated. EMP technology has been rumored to exist for several years but there has never been solid evidence or a formal admission by the Pentagon that even research was occurring. Now, suddenly, we have the E-bomb.
The balance of military power, if there was any question about U.S. dominance in that area, is so significantly tilted in favor of the U.S. as to render the nuclear arsenals of other nations obsolete, if EMP weapons exist on a scale larger than the E-bomb. If this technology is now limited to the E-bomb, it will very quickly lead to the forms making the U.S. unchallengeable.
The use of the weapon against Iraq, and the casual handling of the information, is no doubt intended to send the signal world-wide: Yes, we now have usable EMP weapons, and nothing can get through to us. If nuclear missiles were fired at the U.S., an EMP weapon detonating at high altitude would disable them, if the EMP devices were employed in time. To insure missiles could be intercepted, however, it would be necessary to build a defense system to protect the U.S.---a "strategic defense" sort of initiative, one might say, and one almost impregnable if it were partly space-based.
The U.S., with EMP technology, can wage warfare against any nation in the world without fear of any significant reprisal. Before confronting enemy troops, EMP weapons can be employed, rendering tanks and troop carriers (which use electrical starters), communications, planes, radar and anti-aircraft, artillery and missiles, essentially all modern equipment unusable. An enemy's forces would be defenseless. Of course, this is more effective when confronting a modern military, and EMP technology would not have been much help in Afghanistan.
This, however, is the point. This technology increases as a threat depending on the industrial level of the society it is directed at. So, to Russia or China, for example, it is quite unnerving. The nations with the most ability to resist U.S. hegemony are those that are the most technologically and economically advanced, the ones most threatened by U.S. EMP technology. Other nations, like Iraq or Iran for example, are weak enough by comparison that the U.S. can rely on "conventional" means to enforce its will.
The most alarming development of all concerns nuclear deterrence. If there is no realistic nuclear threat against the U.S., it certainly makes it easier for the U.S. to make use of its nuclear weapons. This is apparent with the publicly stated "new" strategic planning for developing and using tactical nuclear arms. It is not a coincidence that this rethinking of U.S. nuclear policy comes as the U.S. has field-ready EMP weapons.
FOOD AND POLITICS
Humanitarian relief finally made it into at least one of the suffering cities of Southern Iraq on March 26, as trucks from Kuwait delivered food to the Iraqis in the small city of Safwan, located just north of the Iraq-Kuwait border. As citizens stood waiting for relief aid, large numbers of young men professed their hatred of the U.S. invasion, vowing support for the Hussein government. Anti-American slogans could be seen painted on the sides of buildings in the city.
When the trucks full of food pulled in, the crowd turned into a mob, as people pushed and fought for boxes, some footage showing young men pulling items out of the hands of smaller boys. U.S. soldiers were plentiful, but did not interfere (which is not to imply they should have, but perhaps some semblance of a plan should have been in place to distribute the aid). While women with children carried small, torn boxes on their heads, men with pushcarts left, five or six boxes of food stacked on their carts.
A CBS reporter asked a nearby U.S. soldier, "Isn't there a better way to do this?" The soldier watched the crowd for a moment, then smiled and said, "Probably." The scene truly was a near-riot, members of the crowd climbing into the trucks, some being pushed back out, but some actually helping pass boxes out to other citizens.
CBS chose to focus on the fact that, as they put it, the Iraqis were "swearing their lives to Saddam" while ungratefully waiting for U.S. aid (momentarily ignoring the fact the relief aid was from Kuwaiti organizations). No doubt, a few of the Iraqis hadn't gotten over the fact that their nation was under attack by the U.S., or that the reason they were starving was partly due to U.N. sanctions and this war. CBS further commented, "when the food arrived, the politics stopped." What a news scoop: starving people want food, despite anger at illegal invasion of their country.
The distribution of aid in Safwan might be the last aid seen for several days, however. On the same day the food was delivered, new fighting broke out in Umm Qasr, and 70-100 Iraqi military vehicles began heading towards the port city from Basra, while fighting also continued in that city. The U.S. and British control of southern Iraq is still not firmly established, and until it is, humanitarian relief will be limited. A cynical person might even suggest that the U.S. is using aid relief as leverage against the Iraqi population, to force the citizens to capitulate to the U.S. occupation or be starved.
If events in Safwan turn out to be an omen of sentiments throughout Iraq, we can expect to see further exasperation at the "ungrateful" attitude of Iraqi citizens, as expressed by CBS. It should lead Americans to consider the arrogance it takes to demand gratitude for crippling and occupying other people's countries. It should, but it probably won't.
"EVEN IN CIVILIAN AREAS,
THEY WILL BE HIT"
The words were ominous. Retired General John Shepard, speaking on CNN March 27, repeated the official word from the Pentagon. "As military targets emerge, even in civilian areas, they will be hit." It is the most straightforward indication that the U.S. will "avoid civilian casualties" only as long as the civilians do not get in the way of bombs. Almost as if to put a fine point on it, moments later CNN broadcast live images from Baghdad of the massive U.S. strike on the Al Salaam Presidential Palace, and the International Communication Center. Both are within civilian population centers.
Nick Robertson, CNN's reporter in Baghdad, came on the air to announce that the Al Salaam Palace had been hit repeatedly before, but the ordnance dropped on it was not large enough to actually destroy it. He said, however, that even those "small" bombs shattered windows in the civilian residential area less than a quarter of a mile away. His point was clear: if minor ordnance blew out windows, the bombings taking place on March 27—which appeared on screen as huge fireballs—clearly must be causing severe damage to the civilian centers nearby. Reuters News Service confirmed that, yes, both the Al Salaam Palace and International Communication Center were the targets under attack. The Pentagon confirmed late in the day that 4,500 pound "bunker-buster" bombs were used in the attacks (particularly important since, as noted above, previous attacks with ordnance half this size shattered windows of nearby residential homes).
Of course, even as these reports were coming in, and as Robertson made his comments about the obvious destruction visited upon civilians, both John Shepard and the CNN anchor at the studio took great pains to place the blame for civilian casualties squarely on Saddam Hussein. "Iraqis…are putting civilians in areas where there's likely to be a coalition hit…to increase civilian casualties…to make it difficult for coalition forces to hit these military targets," said the anchor. Not difficult enough, obviously. Notice, these statements were literally made seconds after assertions of the Pentagon position of bombing sites even in civilian areas.
It is an amazing feat of propaganda to, in almost the same breath, say the U.S. military will blow up civilian areas, and that when civilians die it is the enemy's fault. Of course Iraq is to blame, if they are so unaccommodating as to place things we want to destroy too close to innocent people. There can be no question about our desire to drop high explosives wherever we wish, even if children are sleeping directly below.
The Shallal market, in the Al Sha'ab District of Baghdad, was hit March 26, killing 15 people. Almost every window on the street was broken, a diner and the apartments above it were destroyed, and an auto repair shop was also destroyed. Burning cars surrounded the bomb's crater. The Pentagon said it could not have been a U.S. bomb or missile strike, since the nearest "military target" was 300 yards away. They claimed the destruction could have been from an Iraqi missile or anti-aircraft fire that landed in the middle of the crowded market. Again, Hussein did it, not one of the nearly 1,500 U.S. bombs and missiles dropped on Baghdad every day, some within 300 yards of the market. By March 27, the media had pretty much ceased mentioning that market attack. On March 28, however, fresh reports of another stray U.S. bomb hitting the Shallal market started coming in, with initial figures claiming at least 50 dead and as many injured. As CNN put it, this has not been "confirmed by coalition forces," merely by the civilians blown up, so we can already see the propaganda game in progress: report, deny, blame Iraqis, ignore. Repeat as necessary.
This is just a continuation of the same truth-twisting that is all-too-common in the U.S. military and media. When Iraqi civilians die from U.S. attacks, it is Hussein's fault. When Iraqi civilians don't rise up jubilantly to welcome their "liberators," it is because they are still afraid of Hussein. When Iraqis in Basra don't have food or water, it is Hussein's fault for delaying the U.S. offensive, thus hindering relief efforts. It is never the fact that the U.S. is invading, bombing, waging war in these Iraqi civilians' country. Our cause is just, so we cannot be responsible for any wrongs that occur.
As CNN reports came in from Basra on March 27, so did reports of children suffering disease from impure water. When an RAF doctor in Basra was interviewed, his statements could easily be predicted: the Iraqi government is responsible, for the poor conditions in southern Iraq, for the lack of water, for the lack of medical care. Saddam Hussein, in case we have forgotten, does not care about his people. Forget that the first Gulf War decimated all of Iraq, with DU bombings causing so much irradiation in Basra that one or two children are born deformed or dead every single day at the main hospital. Forget that the UN sanctions after that war have caused mass starvation and the collapse of medical care all over Iraq, but especially in southern Iraq. Forget that the U.S. bombings in and around Basra destroyed the water treatment facilities and electrical power in the city. Forget that the U.S. will not allow relief into Basra until it is "secured" from military action.
In other words, forget the truth, lest you remember anything that happens does so because the U.S. started a war, a war it will wage anywhere it wishes, "even in civilian areas".
FLINT-LOCKS AND SEDANS
Further evidence of Iraqi feelings about their "liberation" emerged March 27. Embedded CBS reporter Jim Axlerod, reporting from Kifl (75 miles south of Baghdad) told of stiff resistance from Iraqis, and not all military troops. According to Axlerod's report, the entire small town was a battle zone, and people he refered to as "irregular militias" fought the U.S. troops with whatever they could find. These "irregular militias" were dressed in plain clothes, using flint-lock rifles or pistols. They attacked U.S. tanks with sedans, no strategy or hope of success, merely anger and fierce determination to resist rather than succumb.
By the Pentagon's definition, anyone who resists U.S. or British troops is a "irregular militia member," a determination extended to Iraqi civilians in Basra when their "uprising" extends to resistance against coalition forces. Iraqis wearing plain clothes, firing flint-lock rifles from sedans while attacking a tank, are not soldiers. They are not a militia. They are civilians resisting occupation. As Axlerod noted, once the fighting was done, and the Iraqi resistance was either dead or captured…well, that accounted for everyone in the town. Certainly, some of the city's residents likely fled as U.S. forces approached, but the nearest place to go would be Baghdad, not exactly the best place to "flee" to. Besides, the town was not a major objective, so it would be surprising for all the residents to leave—the main reason U.S. troops moved into the town is because they came under attack.
The point is, from the guns and methods of attack, it would appear that some residence did stay behind in Kifl. They wore dirty, ragged clothing, fired flint-lock rifles or pistols, drove suicidally at tanks, and died resisting "liberation."
Another CBS reporter, John Roberts, also gave a telling report on March 27 (Roberts has shown a nagging tendency to slip "facts" into his reports). He was with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, north of Nasiriyah, where he says the Marines are having a tough time telling who is the enemy and who isn't. He suggested Iraqi sentiments are not all "rosey." The report showed a child as young as five-years-old grabbing hold of a Marine's jacket and begging him to "stop throwing things" at the Iraqis. The child, while obviously scared and injured, was also very apparently angry as well.
Winning Iraqi "hearts and minds" will be difficult, as long as the U.S. is bombing and shooting them.
SIGNS OF AN EXPANDING WAR
First came Iranian volunteers. Then U.S. missiles struck sites in Iran, one a government building. Next was an attack by U.S. Apache helicopters on Syrian civilians in three busses at 160 K Station, next to a bridge. The Apaches first blew the bridge, then bombed the busses as civilians tried to flee, returning yet again to bomb them as they awaited help, killing 16 in all and wounding 19 more. Finally, on March 28, the newest signs of the threat of an expanding war reached the airwaves. Syria has been officially accused by the Pentagon of shipping military supplies to Iraqi forces, including night-vision goggles. During the daily press briefing from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he made it clear that the U.S. viewed this as "hostile acts" (of course, "errant" U.S. bombs hitting Iran or a bus load of Syrians are not "hostile" acts). He warned the U.S. would respond if the activity did not cease. He also directed threatening comments at Iran, concerning its support for those volunteers fighting in Iraq, saying those troops pose "a threat to coalition forces."
These events should not be underestimated, regarding their impact on the war in Iraq. Fighters crossing into Iraq from Iran, followed by U.S. missile strikes in Iran, are serious business, despite the fact that it has faded from the media's radar. Likewise, Syrian military support for Iraq, followed by threats from the U.S., signals that events could quickly get out of hand. This is not to mention another long-forgotten issue, that is Turkey's threat to send forces into northern Iraq to "stabilize" that region. Picture Turkish troops invading from the north, U.S. military strikes directed at Syria, and further U.S. strikes inside Iran, while the U.S. expands its troop deployment by another 50,000 soldiers this month, and 100,000 more in April (as the Pentagon announced on March 27), to a total of 400,000 U.S. soldiers in the region.
While it is far from certain the war will expand into Syria and Iran as simultaneous war rages in Iraq, the possibility nonetheless does exist. Should such a broadening occur, this war will very quickly have become a U.S.-Middle East war. 400,000 U.S. troops does seem to send a less-than-subtle signal about what the U.S. intends to do, or at least is threatening to do if "provoked." In fact, since Iran constitutes the same "threat" as Iraq, using the Bush regime's definitions of the word, there is no reason to believe a U.S. invasion of Iran is not in the near future. While the U.S. probably would prefer to mop-up in Iraq before leaping next door to Iran, to time the next war to coincide with elections, they may be reconsidering their options.
The war against Iraq has, regardless of Rumsfeld's chest-thumping denials, gone a bit off-course, with the Iraqis actually being so rude as to resist occupation. Public support for the war seems to be holding above 50%, but it is quickly slipping with every U.S. soldier killed or captured. The Bush government might realize that, once this war ends, it may be difficult to convince U.S. citizens to belly-up to the bar for another round of "kill the Arabs." Therefore, they could think that their best option is to instigate a war with Iran under the pretense of fighting the war against Iraq. It is easier to expand an existing war, than start a brand new one after peace is achieved.
So, we may be seeing the first signs of an intension to broaden this war substantially, with the rhetoric and charges, the strikes outside of Iraq, and the addition of a force that nearly doubles the U.S. deployment. Some would argue that the Pentagon prefers to finish this war before starting another one, and would not want to complicate its mission. This is no necessarily true, for a few reasons. First, the U.S. has a history of stepping into new wars before old ones are finished (the U.S. had forces in Korea at the end of WWII, and had forces in Vietnam as the Korean War ended, etc). Second, Rumsfeld specifically warned Syria and Iran that the U.S. would respond if "hostile acts" continued.
Remember, there just happens to be oil involved in this equation, too. While the oil issue is constantly pushed aside by supporters of this war, the overwhelming evidence of its significance (historically as well as currently) makes such pronouncements hollow. Securing energy reserves and U.S. military dominance in the region is of such vast importance, the Pentagon would not let an opportunity to move into Iran pass by. Besides, with 400,000 troops in place, and the huge supply of military resources at hand in the region, the U.S. would have the forces it needs to wage a two-front or even three-front war. The Syrian question is less certain, since the U.S. has been pretty silent about them for a while. The desire to engage Syria in war may be much less than with regard to Iran, but that does not mean that benefits don't exist.
War allows for disposable production, always desirable, since this is essentially the basis of the U.S. subsidized economy. There is also some benefit for the U.S. in weakening Syria, first because it weakens yet another potential challenger in the region, and second because it may be desirable for Israel. If the U.S. does have a motive to expand the war into Syria, blowing up a bus full of Syrians is certainly a good start in provoking that nation. Accusing them of supplying Iraq with military supplies is another step, and threatening them with force raises the ante yet again. In other words, if the U.S. doen't want a war against Syria, it's doing a terrible job promoting that wish.
What would this war eventually look like, if it expands to Syria and Iran? With citizens across the Middle East already outraged at the U.S. invasion of Iraq, protesting and marching on U.S. embassies, what will happen if two more nations are invaded? How would Arabs respond in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, in Turkey? What could happen in Pakistan, where tensions with India flared again March 27, fighting breaking out in Kashmir as both sides accused the other of supporting fighters in that region?
A broader U.S. war might be just what it takes to put the match to fuming emotions, igniting violence all over the region, and threatening an even wider outbreak of war. Such events could lead to Israeli involvement, if any Arab states strike at Israeli targets, or if Israel decides to join in just because the opportunity presents itself (perhaps the more likely of the two reasons, since it has so much historical basis). Israel, Pakistan, and India all possess nuclear weapons, so things could get quite ugly.
Recent protests (particularly in Egypt) have been quite intense, and on March 28 Jordan saw a spontaneous protest as people left mosques, with chants of not only anti-American slogans, but of opposition to Arab governments supporting the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. Protestors have even accused President Mubarak of Egypt of being "CIA". These events are making governments in the Middle East nervous, for this is what they warned might occur if the U.S. invaded Iraq. Their fear is a popular uprising, something looking more possible with every protest. It could easily be argued that such an uprising, were it successful, would be beneficial for the average citizens of those nations, most pro-U.S. Arab governments being as oppressive as Saddam Hussein (or worse, some would say). Nonetheless, the widespread instability and fighting would lead to much bloodshed and might easily provoke a U.S. military response to support the governments.
Of course, the odds of these worst-case scenarios are relatively low right now. The point is, every day that passes in this war brings a new round of events that move us closer to such worst-case scenarios. Day by day, those low odds get a little higher, and those worst-cases start to look increasingly possible. How long will it be before we move from the word "possible" to the word "probable"?
Well, look where we are now, and it's only been one week.
KILLING AND BURYING
March 28 was a bad day for "winning hearts and minds." The first bad news came when a U.S. bomb exploded in the Shallal market in Baghdad, killing at least 50 people and injuring 50 more. John Burns of The New York Times reported that he counted at least ten to fifteen dead children. As when the same thing happened just days before, the Pentagon "could not confirm" U.S. bombs were responsible. Then, the Associated Press reported U.S. airstrikes hit the al-A'azamiya telephone exchange, destroying thatt building and also "a dozen shops, homes and apartment buildings nearby."
Later in the day came the CBS reports, by John Roberts, that Marines on the road north of Nasiriyah had opened fire on civilian farmers, "mistaking them for Iraqi militia fighters." At least three innocent civilians were killed, and scenes of weeping family members surrounded by Marines did little to enhance the image of Americans as "liberators." The Marines took the bodies to a local mosque for burial, and even helped family members dig the graves. It was a horrible
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