What If They Gave a War…?
May 26, 2006
by Tony Long
1968. It was the height of the Vietnam War, the year of My Lai and the Tet offensive. Student riots in Paris nearly brought down the French government. Soviet tanks put a premature end to Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring.
In the United States, the streets were teeming with antiwar protesters and civil rights demonstrators. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other. The Democratic convention in Chicago dissolved into chaos. And by the summer, America’s cities were in flames.
The world was seething, and for good reason. There was a lot to be angry about. It was a lousy year, 1968.
I was in high school then. I quit the baseball team because, frankly, sports seemed frivolous. In 1968, there were more important things to worry about than perfecting a curveball. All very high-minded and, in retrospect, more than a little pompous. But nearly 40 years down the road I don’t regret having done it. My political consciousness was awakened and I was actively engaged in the world around me.
But as bad as things were then, they seem infinitely worse now.
So why aren’t the streets clogged with angry Americans demanding to know why their president lied and deceived them so he could attack a country that had absolutely nothing to do with his so-called war on terror? To an extent, we got suckered into Vietnam. We can’t make that claim about Iraq. Iraq was the premeditated, willful invasion of a sovereign nation that was threatening nobody. “Saddam Hussein is a prick who treats the Kurds miserably” is no justification. By the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and international law, our president is a war criminal.
Why aren’t we marching to demand an end to the illegal surveillance of American citizens by their own government, again under the pretext of waging war on terror? Why do we so blithely surrender our civil liberties — the very thing that supposedly separates us from other societies — to the illusion of security? All the high-tech snooping in the world won’t stop a determined terrorist from striking. If it could, Israel would be the safest country on earth.
Why aren’t irate Americans camping out in the lobby of every newspaper and TV station from coast to coast, demanding that the press reassert the right to perform its single most important function, that of government watchdog? The ghost of Richard Nixon, and a very corporeal Bill Clinton, must be cursing their rotten luck.
Why aren’t enraged college students occupying their campus administration buildings, demanding that the United States sign the Kyoto Protocol? Hell, it might already be too late, but is the luxury of driving your mom’s SUV really worth the coming dystopian world that you, more than I, will inherit?
Why aren’t we storming the battlements of every filthy oil company in America, demanding that their executives be tossed into fetid dungeons for cynically manipulating gas prices while raking in obscene profits?
Why aren’t we demanding that religion return to the pulpit, where it belongs, and keep out of the White House and the courts?
In short, where the hell is everybody?
I’ll tell you where they are. They’re at home, tuning in to root for the next “American idol.” They’re plugged into their iPods, utterly self-involved and disconnected from what lies just outside their doors. They’re spending 25 hours a week playing video games in virtual worlds instead of fighting to save the only world that really matters. They’re surfing porn. They’re text messaging and e-mailing and scheming to close that next big deal. They’re flogging their useless crap on eBay.
All that technology at their fingertips, and they’re completely blind. Two terms for George W. Bush? They’re deaf and dumb, too.
Bread and circuses. The government and the corporations are giving us bread and circuses to keep us sufficiently distracted so the powers that be can pursue their agendas. Television (flat screens only, please) serves up Donald Trump and Paris Hilton as role models, and gives us the abomination of Fox News, which is more a wolf in sheep’s clothing than any Vulpes vulpes you’re likely to encounter.
Hollywood only cares about blockbusters, chick flicks and inane buddy movies. Tiresome reality doesn’t make for good escapism and, more importantly, it doesn’t fill coffers. And George Clooney can’t be expected to produce every movie.
Whither the press? Forget it. Britney Spears gets more ink — and better play — than global warming does.
Iraq civilian deaths unjustified
May 26, 2006
By ROBERT BURNS
WASHINGTON – Military investigators probing the deaths last November of about two dozen Iraqi civilians have evidence that points toward unprovoked murders by Marines, a senior defense official said Friday.
The Marine Corps initially reported 15 deaths and said they were caused by a roadside bomb and an ensuing firefight with insurgents. A separate investigation is aimed at determining if Marines lied to cover up the events, which included the deaths of women and children.
If confirmed as unjustified killings, the episode could be the most serious case of criminal misconduct by U.S. troops during three years of combat in Iraq. Until now the most infamous occurrence was the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse involving Army soldiers, which came to light in April 2004 and which President Bush said Thursday he considered to be the worst U.S. mistake of the entire war.
The defense official discussed the matter Friday only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation. He said the evidence found thus far strongly indicated the killings in the insurgent-plagued city of Haditha in the western province of Anbar were unjustified. He cautioned that the probe was not finished.
Once the investigation is completed, perhaps in June, it will be up to a senior Marine commander in Iraq to decide whether to press charges of murder or other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Three officers from the unit involved — 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. — have been relieved of duty, although officials have not explicitly linked them to the criminal investigation.
In an indication of how concerned the Marines are about the implications of the Haditha case, their top officer, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, flew to Iraq on Thursday. He was to reinforce what the military said was a need to adhere to Marine values and standards of behavior and to avoid the use of excess force.
“Many of our Marines have been involved in life or death combat or have witnessed the loss of their fellow Marines, and the effects of these events can be numbing,” Hagee said a statement announcing his trip. “There is the risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonor upon ourselves.”
A spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, declined to comment on the status of the Haditha investigation. He said no information would be provided until the probe was completed.
According to a congressional aide, lawmakers were told in a briefing Thursday that it appears as many as two dozen civilians were killed in the episode at Haditha. And they were told that the investigation will find that “it will be clear that this was not the result of an accident or a normal combat situation.”
Another congressional official said lawmakers were told it would be about 30 days before a report would be issued by the investigating agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Both the House and Senate armed services committees plan to hold hearings on the matter.
The New York Times reported on Friday that the civilians killed at Haditha included five men who had been traveling in a taxi and others in two nearby houses. The newspaper quoted an unidentified official as saying it was a sustained operation over as long as five hours.
Hagee met with top lawmakers from those panels this week to bring them up to date on the investigation.
“I can say that there are established facts that incidents of a very serious nature did take place,” Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the Senate panel, said Thursday. He would not provide details or confirm reports that about 24 civilians were killed. He told reporters he had “no basis to believe” the military engaged in a cover-up.
Separately, the Marines announced this week that a criminal investigation was under way in connection with an alleged killing on April 26 of an Iraqi civilian by Marines in Hamandiyah, west of Baghdad. No details about that case have been made public.
In the Haditha case, videotape aired by an Arab television station showed images purportedly taken in the aftermath of the encounter: a bloody bedroom floor, walls with bullet holes and bodies of women and children. An Iraqi human rights group called for an investigation of what it described as a deadly mistake that had harmed civilians.
On May 17, Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., a former Marine, said Corps officials told him the toll in the Haditha attack was far worse than originally reported and that U.S. troops killed innocent women and children “in cold blood.” He said that nearly twice as many people were killed as first reported and maintained that U.S. forces were “overstretched and overstressed” by the war in Iraq.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was being kept apprised. Ruff said he did not expect any announcements in the next few days.
Iraqis shot ‘for wearing shorts’
26 May 2006
The coach of Iraq’s tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials.
Coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and players Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda were killed in the al-Saidiya district of the capital.
Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts.
Other Iraqi athletes have been targeted in recent incidents.
In this case, according to accounts, the men dropped off laundry and were then stopped in their vehicle by gunmen.
Two of the athletes stepped out of the car and were shot in the head, said one witness. The third was shot dead in the vehicle.
“The gunman took the body out of the car and threw it on top of the other two bodies before stealing the car,” said the witness, who requested anonymity.
He said leaflets had been recently distributed in the area warning residents not to wear shorts.
Last week, 15 members of Iraq’s taekwondo team were kidnapped between Falluja and Ramadi, west of Baghdad, said a member of the Iraqi Olympic Committee. The kidnappers have demanded $100,000 for their release.