1074

Can’t Bust This
Like drugs? An ex-narcotics agent reveals the secrets to staying one step ahead of the law
07/24/07
By Neel Shah

During his eight-year stint as a cop inTexas—two of them as head of narcotics for the Gladewater Police Department—Barry Cooper made over 800 drug-related arrests, impounded more than 50 vehicles, and seized at least $500,000 in cash and assets. He worked with everyone from the DEA to the FBI to border patrol, earning a reputation as the “best narcotics officer in the state, and perhaps the country,” according to a former colleague. So what did Cooper, now married with four kids, learn from his experience?

“The war on drugs is an utterly losing proposition,” he tells Radar. “We caused more harm breaking up families to put non-violent drug offenders in jail than the drugs ever did. And for what? To eradicate 1/10th of a percent of drugs on the street.”

Cooper’s epiphany stems in part from a few legal skirmishes of his own—he’s been arrested five times (all non-drug-related offenses), though convicted only once, of a misdemeanor verbal assault charge. Plenty of cops lose faith in the system, but Cooper’s 180 was so complete, he’s now helping people to subvert it. Never Get Busted Again, in stores this September (or available now through his website), is a DVD compendium of advice for potheads looking to avoid the po-po, breezily narrated by the man formerly tasked with putting them behind bars. “I really just felt guilty about what I had done with my life,” says Cooper. “This was the least I could do.”

Because potheads have notoriously short attention spans, we asked Cooper to boil down his DVD into easy-to-read bullet points. Safe toking.

TRAVELING WITH MARIJUANA

  • The best advice I can give you is this: Never carry more marijuana than you can eat. If the police turn on the red and blues, just eat it. It’s not illegal to smell like pot—it’s just illegal to possess it.
  • Don’t think that by hiding pot in coffee grounds, or masking the scent with Bounce fabric softener or vanilla extract, you’re gonna be okay. Police dogs are trained to cut through these scents. Petroleum and cayenne pepper don’t work either—a dog may jerk back after smelling it, but humans will recognize the reaction.
  • If you are going to travel with marijuana, place it in a non-contamined container right before you leave. The drug odor won’t have time to permeate through the plastic. If you are handling pot at your house, wear latex gloves or wash your hands—marijuana dust can reside on your fingers, and dogs can smell it. You’d be surprised at how many people get busted when dogs start sniffing around car door handles.
  • Hiding your drugs in food is also a wise move. The mixed smells will throw off a dog.
  • If you just have a joint on you and you get pulled over, put it in a straw, and throw the straw in a fast-food bag. Alternately, reach under the dashboard and place it in one of the numerous nooks and crannies you find. Don’t attempt to throw it out the window—it’s too obvious, and they’ll always find the joint.
  • If you are driving with large quantities of narcotics, do so in the rain. Cops hate pulling people over when it’s wet out. Traveling during rush hour and other times of heavy traffic is also a good tactic.
  • If you are driving in an area where police officers frequently use dogs, a smart play is to spray your car tires with the “deer scents” and fox urine used by hunters. Often, dogs will get so excited over the smell of a hunt they’ll forget they’re looking for drugs.
  • Don’t put marijuana in a gas cap, in an external tank, or anywhere else on the exterior of your vehicle. Dogs will smell it immediately.
  • Alternately, travel with a cat. They make a good distraction for canines used in a search.
  • A great place to stash pot in your car is toward the interior of the vehicle, tucked into a roof panel. The dog is less likely to detect the scent up high.
  • If you want to be extra safe, cook up a batch of cookies or brownies. You rarely, if ever, see arrests made on pot-laden baked goods.
  • Don’t hide marijuana with other drugs. If cops find the pot, that’s one thing; getting caught with more serious drugs, though, is a much tougher legal battle to fight.
  • DO NOT put any of the following on your vehicle, they’re red flags: D.A.R.E. stickers, Jesus Fish, your Kappa Sig frat sticker, or Vietnam vet stickers. Also, don’t drive a Corvette—cops will pull you over just ’cause. (Ed: According to Mr. Cooper, if you’re driving in Texas, try not to be black or Hispanic, either. Racial profiling abounds.)
  • DO NOT scratch your head, light a cigarette, or turn your palms up. All are telltale signs you are nervous and hiding something.
  • Know your rights. It’s important to remember the distinction between “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.” As stand-alone items, rolling papers, clear baggies, and bongs (as long as there is no resin in them) aren’t sufficient grounds for an officer to search your car. A cop can only conduct a search based on one of the following: he sees or smells a controlled substance, an informant tells him drugs are in the car, or a dog is alerted to the presence of narcotics.
  • You have the right to remain silent. Use that. Never answer questions if they are damaging.
  • Never admit to having smoked pot just because a cop threatens you with a blood test. The only time you are obligated to consent to a test is if you are served with a search warrant, as is often the case if you are involved in a traffic accident involving serious bodily harm.
  • If you have just a little bit of marijuana on you, and it’s decently well-hidden in your car, consent to a search. More often than not, the cop will do a cursory search and be on his way. Claiming your constitutional right against illegal search and seizure is fantastic in theory, but not so much in practice.

1073

Is the US Heading for ‘Developing Nations’ Inequality Levels?
July 30, 2007
By Paul Harris

On the surface, Mark Cain works for a time-share company. Members pay a one-off sum to join and an annual fee. They then get to book holiday time in various destinations around the globe.

But Solstice clients are not ordinary people. They are America’s super-rich and a brief glance at its operations reveal the vast and still widening gulf between them and the rest of America.

Solstice has only about 80 members. Platinum membership costs them $875,000 to join and then a $42,000 annual fee. In return they get access to 10 homes from London to California and a private yacht in the Caribbean, all fully staffed with cooks, cleaners and “lifestyle managers” ready to satisfy any whim from helicopter-skiing to audiences with local celebrities. As the firm’s marketing manager, Cain knows what Solstice’s clientele want. “We are trying to feed and manage this insatiable appetite for luxury,” Cain said with pride.

America’s super-rich have returned to the days of the Roaring Twenties. As the rest of the country struggles to get by, a huge bubble of multi-millionaires lives almost in a parallel world. The rich now live in their own world of private education, private health care and gated mansions. They have their own schools and their own banks. They even travel apart — creating a booming industry of private jets and yachts. Their world now has a name, thanks to a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank which has dubbed it “Richistan.” There every dream can come true. But for the American Dream itself — which promises everyone can join the elite — the emergence of Richistan is a mixed blessing. “We in America are heading towards ‘developing nation’ levels of inequality. We would become like Brazil. What does that say about us? What does that say about America?” Frank said.

In 1985 there were just 13 US billionaires. Now there are more than 1,000. In 2005 the US saw 227,000 new millionaires being created. One survey showed that the wealth of all US millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the GDPs of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined.

The rich have now created their own economy for their needs, at a time when the average worker’s wage rises will merely match inflation and where 36 million people live below the poverty line. In Richistan sums of money are rendered almost meaningless because of their size. It also has other names. There is the “Platinum Triangle” used to describe the slice of Beverly Hills where many houses go for above $10m. Then there is the Jewel Coast, used to describe the strip of Madison Avenue in Manhattan where boutique jewelry stories have sprung up to cater for the new riches’ needs. Or it exists in the MetCircle society, a Manhattan club open only to those whose net worth is at least $100m.

The reason behind the sudden wealth boom is, according to some experts, the convergence of a new technology — the internet and other computing advances — with fluid and speculative markets. It was the same in the late 19th century when the original Gilded Age of conspicuous wealth and deep poverty was spawned by railways and the industrial age. At the same time government has helped by doling out corporate tax breaks. In the 1950s the proportion of federal income from company taxes was 33 per cent, by 2003 it was just 7.4 percent. Some 82 of America’s largest companies paid no tax at all in at least one of the first three years of the administration of President George W. Bush.

But who are the new rich? Some of the names are familiar, Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates and savvy stock investor Warren Buffett. But most are unknown, often springing from the secretive world of financial hedge funds. Men like James Simons, who took home compensation of $1.7bn last year. Last year the 25 top earning hedge fund bankers in the US earned an average of $570m each. The average US household income is $50,000.

It is such men — and they are usually men — who feed the outlandish luxury goods economy of Richistan. It is they who are responsible for the rebirth of the butler industry, which was all but dead in the Seventies and is now facing a shortage of trained staff. So keen is the demand that many can expect to earn a six-figure salary when they graduate from booming butler schools.

Then there is the runaway feeder-industry of luxury consumer items. The new ultra rich turn up their noses at Rolexes; the sought-after brand is Franck Muller, which sells a high-end timepiece for $736,000. Or try a Mont Blanc pen, encrusted in jewels, for $700,000. Louis Vuitton’s most exclusive handbag sells for $42,000. Only 24 were ever made and none ever touched a shelf as all were pre-sold to Richistani clients.

In places such as Manhattan and Los Angeles, restaurants and bars outdo themselves in excess. New York’s Algonquin Hotel has a $10,000 “martini on a rock” (it comes with a diamond at the bottom of the glass). City eateries sell burgers for more than $50. One offers a $1,000 omelette. In Los Angeles there is a craze for Bling mineral water — at $90 a bottle.

Then there are the boats. The private yacht industry in America has been caught in an arms race of size and luxuriousness. So far, there has been a clear winner: Oracle-founder Larry Ellison’s 450 foot water palace, the Rising Sun. More than 80 rooms on five stories and a landing craft that carries a Jeep, a basketball court doubling as a helipad and a fully-equipped cinema.

Now an Oregon-based company is taking things further: private submarines. An estimated 100 or so private subs are now drifting around the world’s oceans. Then there are the rockets — several notable billionaires are now leading the way in private exploration of space. One of them is Robert Bigelow who has ploughed $500m into trying to build an inflatable space hotel. A miniature prototype model was successfully launched and tested last month. In a scene that perhaps James Bond would find familiar, armed guards now patrol the fences of Bigelow Aerospace’s headquarters wearing badges decorated with an alien as their corporate logo.

But this is not just a world of riches gone mad that the rest of America can ignore. The growth of such a large super-rich class, coupled with a deepening poverty in many communities, is starting to tear at the fabric of society. Even some of the most wealthy — like Gates and Buffett — have spoken openly of the needs to address the massive “inequality gap” that they have come to exemplify. In effect, some of the very richest Americans are calling for themselves to be taxed. In a speech last month Buffett — the third richest man in the world — pointed out that his tax rate was 17.7 per cent of his income while his secretary was taxed at 30 per cent. “Many of the new super-rich are looking long term at the world and they see a collapsing US education system and health-care system and the disappearance of the middle class and they realize: this is bad for everybody,” said Frank.

Defenders of low tax for the very rich point to the theory of trickledown economics — the spending power of the rich benefiting the poor. But while the super-rich have boomed, the earning power of the average and poor citizen has not nearly matched the performance of the elite. In 2005 the top one per cent of earners in the US gained 14 per cent in income in real terms, while the rest of the country gained less than one per cent. The situation is especially bad for the severely poor — those living at half the poverty level — whose numbers are at a 32-year high. The rich are getting richer but are not bringing everyone else with them. “If you look at the impact of the last 20 years it seems pretty clear that trickledown just does not work,” said Paul Buchheit, economics professor at Chicago’s Harold Washington College.

There are some signs of a change in attitude. Recent huge Wall Street flotations such as the listing of private equity giants like Blackstone have created a push in Congress for taxes on the instant billionaires they have created. Scandals of excess such as Enron and WorldCom and the trial of Conrad Black have been high-profile. But few politicians, needing campaign cash from new millionaires, will get far preaching higher tax. Calls for more equality tend to have come from men like Buffett and Gates whose fortunes are so enormous that a little extra tax would make no difference. Bush has pushed to phase out taxes like the estate tax, which benefit only the rich. “I don’t see it changing. No matter what administration is in power,” said Buchheit.

But many think it must change. To a large degree, the debate over the booming lives of the super-rich is an argument about the American soul. America is a country that has always worshiped wealth, where the creation of a fortune was seen as virtuous and a source of pride.

But now that huge wealth has started to squeeze the “middle class” out of existence, leaving the haves and have-nots in very separate worlds. It is possible that political will may develop to address the problem or that the problem will correct itself. The notorious end of the Gilded Age came in the panic of 1893 that sank America into depression.

Frank believes the signs of a coming storm are there. “The trick is to spot when prosperity turns to excess,” he said. “When a large amount of people make a lot money very quickly it’s a sign you are near the top of the market.”

In a world of mega-yachts, private submarines and space hotels, that peak might be close at hand. And it’s a long way down.

Billionaire’s row

— There are 7.5 million households in America worth up to $10m. A further two million are worth $10m-$100m and thousands are worth more than $100m.

— There is now a two-year waiting list for 200ft yachts. If put end to end, the boats on that list, which cost $50m each, would be 15 miles long.

— Sebonack Golf Club in the Hamptons, Long Island, charges $650,000 for membership. That doesn’t include the $12,000 annual dues, or tips for caddies.

— Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have a private Boeing 767.

— John D. Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire. Adjusted for inflation, he had $14 billion — less than the net worth of each of Sam Walton’s five children today. There were 13 US billionaires in 1985. Now there are more than 1,000. There are as many millionaires in North Carolina as in India.

— “Affluent” is Richistani for “not really rich.” According to Frank, you need about $10m to be considered entry-level rich.


how come we can provide universal health care for iraq and afghanistan, but not for ourselves?

blurdge

PART II

continued from previous post.

The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness

The Enemy
American troops in Iraq lacked the training and support to communicate with or even understand Iraqi civilians, according to nineteen interviewees. Few spoke or read Arabic. They were offered little or no cultural or historical education about the country they controlled. Translators were either in short supply or unqualified. Any stereotypes about Islam and Arabs that soldiers and marines arrived with tended to solidify rapidly in the close confines of the military and the risky streets of Iraqi cities into a crude racism.

As Spc. Josh Middleton, 23, of New York City, who served in Baghdad and Mosul with the Second Battalion, Eighty-Second Airborne Division, from December 2004 to March 2005, pointed out, 20-year-old soldiers went from the humiliation of training–“getting yelled at every day if you have a dirty weapon”–to the streets of Iraq, where “it’s like life and death. And 40-year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can–do you know what I mean?–we have this power that you can’t have. That’s really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level.”

In Iraq, Specialist Middleton said, “a lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don’t speak English and they have darker skin, they’re not as human as us, so we can do what we want.”

In the scramble to get ready for Iraq, troops rarely learned more than how to say a handful of words in Arabic, depending mostly on a single manual, A Country Handbook, a Field-Ready Reference Publication, published by the Defense Department in September 2002. The book, as described by eight soldiers who received it, has pictures of Iraqi military vehicles, diagrams of how the Iraqi army is structured, images of Iraqi traffic signals and signs, and about four pages of basic Arabic phrases such as Do you speak English? I am an American. I am lost.

Iraqi culture, identity and customs were, according to at least a dozen soldiers and marines interviewed by The Nation, openly ridiculed in racist terms, with troops deriding “haji food,” “haji music” and “haji homes.” In the Muslim world, the word “haji” denotes someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is now used by American troops in the same way “gook” was used in Vietnam or “raghead” in Afghanistan.

“You can honestly see how the Iraqis in general or even Arabs in general are being, you know, kind of like dehumanized,” said Specialist Englehart. “Like it was very common for United States soldiers to call them derogatory terms, like camel jockeys or Jihad Johnny or, you know, sand nigger.”

According to Sergeant Millard and several others interviewed, “It becomes this racialized hatred towards Iraqis.” And this racist language, as Specialist Harmon pointed out, likely played a role in the level of violence directed at Iraqi civilians. “By calling them names,” he said, “they’re not people anymore. They’re just objects.”

Several interviewees emphasized that the military did set up, for training purposes, mock Iraqi villages peopled with actors who played the parts of civilians and insurgents. But they said that the constant danger in Iraq, and the fear it engendered, swiftly overtook such training.

“They were the law,” Specialist Harmon said of the soldiers in his unit in Al-Rashidiya, near Baghdad, which participated in raids and convoys. “They were very mean, very mean-spirited to them. A lot of cursing at them. And I’m like, Dude, these people don’t understand what you’re saying…. They used to say a lot, ‘Oh, they’ll understand when the gun is in their face.'”

Those few veterans who said they did try to reach out to Iraqis encountered fierce hostility from those in their units.

“I had the night shift one night at the aid station,” said Specialist Resta, recounting one such incident. “We were told from the first second that we arrived there, and this was in writing on the wall in our aid station, that we were not to treat Iraqi civilians unless they were about to die…. So these guys in the guard tower radio in, and they say they’ve got an Iraqi out there that’s asking for a doctor.

“So it’s really late at night, and I walk out there to the gate and I don’t even see the guy at first, and they point out to him and he’s standing there. Well, I mean he’s sitting, leaned up against this concrete barrier–like the median of the highway–we had as you approached the gate. And he’s sitting there leaned up against it and, uh, he’s out there, if you want to go and check on him, he’s out there. So I’m sitting there waiting for an interpreter, and the interpreter comes and I just walk out there in the open. And this guy, he has the shit kicked out of him. He was missing two teeth. He has a huge laceration on his head, he looked like he had broken his eye orbit and had some kind of injury to his knee.”

The Iraqi, Specialist Resta said, pleaded with him in broken English for help. He told Specialist Resta that there were men near the base who were waiting to kill him.

“I open a bag and I’m trying to get bandages out and the guys in the guard tower are yelling at me, ‘Get that fucking haji out of here,'” Specialist Resta said. “And I just look back at them and ignored them, and then they were saying, you know, ‘He doesn’t look like he’s about to die to me,’ ‘Tell him to go cry back to the fuckin’ IP [Iraqi police],’ and, you know, a whole bunch of stuff like that. So, you know, I’m kind of ignoring them and trying to get the story from this guy, and our doctor rolls up in an ambulance and from thirty to forty meters away looks out and says, shakes his head and says, ‘You know, he looks fine, he’s gonna be all right,’ and walks back to the passenger side of the ambulance, you know, kind of like, Get your ass over here and drive me back up to the clinic. So I’m standing there, and the whole time both this doctor and the guards are yelling at me, you know, to get rid of this guy, and at one point they’re yelling at me, when I’m saying, ‘No, let’s at least keep this guy here overnight, until it’s light out,’ because they wanted me to send him back out into the city, where he told me that people were waiting for him to kill him.

“When I asked if he’d be allowed to stay there, at least until it was light out, the response was, ‘Are you hearing this shit? I think Doc is part fucking haji,'” Specialist Resta said.

Specialist Resta gave in to the pressure and denied the man aid. The interpreter, he recalled, was furious, telling him that he had effectively condemned the man to death.

“So I walk inside the gate and the interpreter helps him up and the guy turns around to walk away and the guys in the guard tower go, say, ‘Tell him that if he comes back tonight he’s going to get fucking shot,'” Specialist Resta said. “And the interpreter just stared at them and looked at me and then looked back at them, and they nod their head, like, Yeah, we mean it. So he yells it to the Iraqi and the guy just flinches and turns back over his shoulder, and the interpreter says it again and he starts walking away again, you know, crying like a little kid. And that was that.”

Convoys
Two dozen soldiers interviewed said that this callousness toward Iraqi civilians was particularly evident in the operation of supply convoys–operations in which they participated. These convoys are the arteries that sustain the occupation, ferrying items such as water, mail, maintenance parts, sewage, food and fuel across Iraq. And these strings of tractor-trailers, operated by KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) and other private contractors, required daily protection by the US military. Typically, according to these interviewees, supply convoys consisted of twenty to thirty trucks stretching half a mile down the road, with a Humvee military escort in front and back and at least one more in the center. Soldiers and marines also sometimes accompanied the drivers in the cabs of the tractor-trailers.

These convoys, ubiquitous in Iraq, were also, to many Iraqis, sources of wanton destruction.

According to descriptions culled from interviews with thirty-eight veterans who rode in convoys–guarding such runs as Kuwait to Nasiriya, Nasiriya to Baghdad and Balad to Kirkuk–when these columns of vehicles left their heavily fortified compounds they usually roared down the main supply routes, which often cut through densely populated areas, reaching speeds over sixty miles an hour. Governed by the rule that stagnation increases the likelihood of attack, convoys leapt meridians in traffic jams, ignored traffic signals, swerved without warning onto sidewalks, scattering pedestrians, and slammed into civilian vehicles, shoving them off the road. Iraqi civilians, including children, were frequently run over and killed. Veterans said they sometimes shot drivers of civilian cars that moved into convoy formations or attempted to pass convoys as a warning to other drivers to get out of the way.

“A moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one,” said Sgt. Ben Flanders, 28, a National Guardsman from Concord, New Hampshire, who served in Balad with the 172nd Mountain Infantry for eleven months beginning in March 2004. Flanders ran convoy routes out of Camp Anaconda, about thirty miles north of Baghdad. “So speed was your friend. And certainly in terms of IED detonation, absolutely, speed and spacing were the two things that could really determine whether or not you were going to get injured or killed or if they just completely missed, which happened.”

Following an explosion or ambush, soldiers in the heavily armed escort vehicles often fired indiscriminately in a furious effort to suppress further attacks, according to three veterans. The rapid bursts from belt-fed .50-caliber machine guns and SAWs (Squad Automatic Weapons, which can fire as many as 1,000 rounds per minute) left many civilians wounded or dead.

“One example I can give you, you know, we’d be cruising down the road in a convoy and all of the sudden, an IED blows up,” said Spc. Ben Schrader, 27, of Grand Junction, Colorado. He served in Baquba with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, from February 2004 to February 2005. “And, you know, you’ve got these scared kids on these guns, and they just start opening fire. And there could be innocent people everywhere. And I’ve seen this, I mean, on numerous occasions where innocent people died because we’re cruising down and a bomb goes off.”

Several veterans said that IEDs, the preferred weapon of the Iraqi insurgency, were one of their greatest fears. Since the invasion in March 2003, IEDs have been responsible for killing more US troops–39.2 percent of the more than 3,500 killed–than any other method, according to the Brookings Institution, which monitors deaths in Iraq. This past May, IED attacks claimed ninety lives, the highest number of fatalities from roadside bombs since the beginning of the war.

“The second you left the gate of your base, you were always worried,” said Sergeant Flatt. “You were constantly watchful for IEDs. And you could never see them. I mean, it’s just by pure luck who’s getting killed and who’s not. If you’ve been in firefights earlier that day or that week, you’re even more stressed and insecure to a point where you’re almost trigger-happy.”

Sergeant Flatt was among twenty-four veterans who said they had witnessed or heard stories from those in their unit of unarmed civilians being shot or run over by convoys. These incidents, they said, were so numerous that many were never reported.

Sergeant Flatt recalled an incident in January 2005 when a convoy drove past him on one of the main highways in Mosul. “A car following got too close to their convoy,” he said. “Basically, they took shots at the car. Warning shots, I don’t know. But they shot the car. Well, one of the bullets happened to just pierce the windshield and went straight into the face of this woman in the car. And she was–well, as far as I know–instantly killed. I didn’t pull her out of the car or anything. Her son was driving the car, and she had her–she had three little girls in the back seat. And they came up to us, because we were actually sitting in a defensive position right next to the hospital, the main hospital in Mosul, the civilian hospital. And they drove up and she was obviously dead. And the girls were crying.”

On July 30, 2004, Sergeant Flanders was riding in the tail vehicle of a convoy on a pitch-black night, traveling from Camp Anaconda south to Taji, just north of Baghdad, when his unit was attacked with small-arms fire and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). He was about to get on the radio to warn the vehicle in front of him about the ambush when he saw his gunner unlock the turret and swivel it around in the direction of the shooting. He fired his MK-19, a 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher capable of discharging up to 350 rounds per minute.

“He’s just holding the trigger down and it wound up jamming, so he didn’t get off as many shots maybe as he wanted,” Sergeant Flanders recalled. “But I said, ‘How many did you get off?’ ‘Cause I knew they would be asking that. He said, ‘Twenty-three.’ He launched twenty-three grenades….

“I remember looking out the window and I saw a little hut, a little Iraqi house with a light on…. We were going so fast and obviously your adrenaline’s–you’re like tunnel vision, so you can’t really see what’s going on, you know? And it’s dark out and all that stuff. I couldn’t really see where the grenades were exploding, but it had to be exploding around the house or maybe even hit the house. Who knows? Who knows? And we were the last vehicle. We can’t stop.”

Convoys did not slow down or attempt to brake when civilians inadvertently got in front of their vehicles, according to the veterans who described them. Sgt. Kelly Dougherty, 29, from Cañon City, Colorado, was based at the Talil Air Base in Nasiriya with the Colorado National Guard’s 220th Military Police Company for a year beginning in February 2003. She recounted one incident she investigated in January 2004 on a six-lane highway south of Nasiriya that resembled numerous incidents described by other veterans.

“It’s like very barren desert, so most of the people that live there, they’re nomadic or they live in just little villages and have, like, camels and goats and stuff,” she recalled. “There was then a little boy–I would say he was about 10 because we didn’t see the accident; we responded to it with the investigative team–a little Iraqi boy and he was crossing the highway with his, with three donkeys. A military convoy, transportation convoy driving north, hit him and the donkeys and killed all of them. When we got there, there were the dead donkeys and there was a little boy on the side of the road.

“We saw him there and, you know, we were upset because the convoy didn’t even stop,” she said. “They really, judging by the skid marks, they hardly even slowed down. But, I mean, that’s basically–basically, your order is that you never stop.”

Among supply convoys, there were enormous disparities based on the nationality of the drivers, according to Sergeant Flanders, who estimated that he ran more than 100 convoys in Balad, Baghdad, Falluja and Baquba. When drivers were not American, the trucks were often old, slow and prone to breakdowns, he said. The convoys operated by Nepalese, Egyptian or Pakistani drivers did not receive the same level of security, although the danger was more severe because of the poor quality of their vehicles. American drivers were usually placed in convoys about half the length of those run by foreign nationals and were given superior vehicles, body armor and better security. Sergeant Flanders said troops disliked being assigned to convoys run by foreign nationals, especially since, when the aging vehicles broke down, they had to remain and protect them until they could be recovered.

“It just seemed insane to run civilians around the country,” he added. “I mean, Iraq is such a security concern and it’s so dangerous and yet we have KBR just riding around, unarmed…. Remember those terrible judgments that we made about what Iraq would look like postconflict? I think this is another incarnation of that misjudgment, which would be that, Oh, it’ll be fine. We’ll put a Humvee in front, we’ll put a Humvee in back, we’ll put a Humvee in the middle, and we’ll just run with it.

“It was just shocking to me…. I was Army trained and I had a good gunner and I had radios and I could call on the radios and I could get an airstrike if I wanted to. I could get a Medevac…. And here these guys are just tooling around. And these guys are, like, they’re promised the world. They’re promised $120,000, tax free, and what kind of people take those jobs? Down-on-their-luck-type people, you know? Grandmothers. There were grandmothers there. I escorted a grandmother there and she did great. We went through an ambush and one of her guys got shot, and she was cool, calm and collected. Wonderful, great, good for her. What the hell is she doing there?

“We’re using these vulnerable, vulnerable convoys, which probably piss off more Iraqis than it actually helps in our relationship with them,” Flanders said, “just so that we can have comfort and air-conditioning and sodas–great–and PlayStations and camping chairs and greeting cards and stupid T-shirts that say, Who’s Your Baghdaddy?”

Patrols
Soldiers and marines who participated in neighborhood patrols said they often used the same tactics as convoys–speed, aggressive firing–to reduce the risk of being ambushed or falling victim to IEDs. Sgt. Patrick Campbell, 29, of Camarillo, California, who frequently took part in patrols, said his unit fired often and without much warning on Iraqi civilians in a desperate bid to ward off attacks.

“Every time we got on the highway,” he said, “we were firing warning shots, causing accidents all the time. Cars screeching to a stop, going into the other intersection…. The problem is, if you slow down at an intersection more than once, that’s where the next bomb is going to be because you know they watch. You know? And so if you slow down at the same choke point every time, guaranteed there’s going to be a bomb there next couple of days. So getting onto a freeway or highway is a choke point ’cause you have to wait for traffic to stop. So you want to go as fast as you can, and that involves added risk to all the cars around you, all the civilian cars.

“The first Iraqi I saw killed was an Iraqi who got too close to our patrol,” he said. “We were coming up an on-ramp. And he was coming down the highway. And they fired warning shots and he just didn’t stop. He just merged right into the convoy and they opened up on him.”

This took place sometime in the spring of 2005 in Khadamiya, in the northwest corner of Baghdad, Sergeant Campbell said. His unit fired into the man’s car with a 240 Bravo, a heavy machine gun. “I heard three gunshots,” he said. “We get about halfway down the road and…the guy in the car got out and he’s covered in blood. And this is where…the impulse is just to keep going. There’s no way that this guy knows who we are. We’re just like every other patrol that goes up and down this road. I looked at my lieutenant and it wasn’t even a discussion. We turned around and we went back.

“So I’m treating the guy. He has three gunshot wounds to the chest. Blood everywhere. And he keeps going in and out of consciousness. And when he finally stops breathing, I have to give him CPR. I take my right hand, I lift up his chin and I take my left hand and grab the back of his head to position his head, and as I take my left hand, my hand actually goes into his cranium. So I’m actually holding this man’s brain in my hand. And what I realized was I had made a mistake. I had checked for exit wounds. But what I didn’t know was the Humvee behind me, after the car failed to stop after the first three rounds, had fired twenty, thirty rounds into the car. I never heard it.

“I heard three rounds, I saw three holes, no exit wounds,” he said. “I thought I knew what the situation was. So I didn’t even treat this guy’s injury to the head. Every medic I ever told is always like, Of course, I mean, the guy got shot in the head. There’s nothing you could have done. And I’m pretty sure–I mean, you can’t stop bleeding in the head like that. But this guy, I’m watching this guy, who I know we shot because he got too close. His car was clean. There was no–didn’t hear it, didn’t see us, whatever it was. Dies, you know, dying in my arms.”

While many veterans said the killing of civilians deeply disturbed them, they also said there was no other way to safely operate a patrol.

“You don’t want to shoot kids, I mean, no one does,” said Sergeant Campbell, as he began to describe an incident in the summer of 2005 recounted to him by several men in his unit. “But you have this: I remember my unit was coming along this elevated overpass. And this kid is in the trash pile below, pulls out an AK-47 and just decides he’s going to start shooting. And you gotta understand…when you have spent nine months in a war zone, where no one–every time you’ve been shot at, you’ve never seen the person shooting at you, and you could never shoot back. Here’s some guy, some 14-year-old kid with an AK-47, decides he’s going to start shooting at this convoy. It was the most obscene thing you’ve ever seen. Every person got out and opened fire on this kid. Using the biggest weapons we could find, we ripped him to shreds.” Sergeant Campbell was not present at the incident, which took place in Khadamiya, but he saw photographs and heard descriptions from several eyewitnesses in his unit.

“Everyone was so happy, like this release that they finally killed an insurgent,” he said. “Then when they got there, they realized it was just a little kid. And I know that really fucked up a lot of people in the head…. They’d show all the pictures and some people were really happy, like, Oh, look what we did. And other people were like, I don’t want to see that ever again.”

The killing of unarmed Iraqis was so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape. “The ground forces were put in that position,” said First Lieut. Wade Zirkle of Shenandoah County, Virginia, who fought in Nasiriya and Falluja with the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from March to May 2003. “You got a guy trying to kill me but he’s firing from houses…with civilians around him, women and children. You know, what do you do? You don’t want to risk shooting at him and shooting children at the same time. But at the same time, you don’t want to die either.”

Sergeant Dougherty recounted an incident north of Nasiriya in December 2003, when her squad leader shot an Iraqi civilian in the back. The shooting was described to her by a woman in her unit who treated the injury. “It was just, like, the mentality of my squad leader was like, Oh, we have to kill them over here so I don’t have to kill them back in Colorado,” she said. “He just, like, seemed to view every Iraqi as like a potential terrorist.”

Several interviewees said that, on occasion, these killings were justified by framing innocents as terrorists, typically following incidents when American troops fired on crowds of unarmed Iraqis. The troops would detain those who survived, accusing them of being insurgents, and plant AK-47s next to the bodies of those they had killed to make it seem as if the civilian dead were combatants. “It would always be an AK because they have so many of these weapons lying around,” said Specialist Aoun. Cavalry scout Joe Hatcher, 26, of San Diego, said 9-millimeter handguns and even shovels–to make it look like the noncombatant was digging a hole to plant an IED–were used as well.

“Every good cop carries a throwaway,” said Hatcher, who served with the Fourth Cavalry Regiment, First Squadron, in Ad Dawar, halfway between Tikrit and Samarra, from February 2004 to March 2005. “If you kill someone and they’re unarmed, you just drop one on ’em.” Those who survived such shootings then found themselves imprisoned as accused insurgents.

In the winter of 2004, Sergeant Campbell was driving near a particularly dangerous road in Abu Gharth, a town west of Baghdad, when he heard gunshots. Sergeant Campbell, who served as a medic in Abu Gharth with the 256th Infantry Brigade from November 2004 to October 2005, was told that Army snipers had fired fifty to sixty rounds at two insurgents who’d gotten out of their car to plant IEDs. One alleged insurgent was shot in the knees three or four times, treated and evacuated on a military helicopter, while the other man, who was treated for glass shards, was arrested and detained.

“I come to find out later that, while I was treating him, the snipers had planted–after they had searched and found nothing–they had planted bomb-making materials on the guy because they didn’t want to be investigated for the shoot,” Sergeant Campbell said. (He showed The Nation a photograph of one sniper with a radio in his pocket that he later planted as evidence.) “And to this day, I mean, I remember taking that guy to Abu Ghraib prison–the guy who didn’t get shot–and just saying ‘I’m sorry’ because there was not a damn thing I could do about it…. I mean, I guess I have a moral obligation to say something, but I would have been kicked out of the unit in a heartbeat. I would’ve been a traitor.”

Checkpoints
The US military checkpoints dotted across Iraq, according to twenty-six soldiers and marines who were stationed at them or supplied them–in locales as diverse as Tikrit, Baghdad, Karbala, Samarra, Mosul and Kirkuk–were often deadly for civilians. Unarmed Iraqis were mistaken for insurgents, and the rules of engagement were blurred. Troops, fearing suicide bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, often fired on civilian cars. Nine of those soldiers said they had seen civilians being shot at checkpoints. These incidents were so common that the military could not investigate each one, some veterans said.

“Most of the time, it’s a family,” said Sergeant Cannon, who served at half a dozen checkpoints in Tikrit. “Every now and then, there is a bomb, you know, that’s the scary part.”

There were some permanent checkpoints stationed across the country, but for unsuspecting civilians, “flash checkpoints” were far more dangerous, according to eight veterans who were involved in setting them up. These impromptu security perimeters, thrown up at a moment’s notice and quickly dismantled, were generally designed to catch insurgents in the act of trafficking weapons or explosives, people violating military-imposed curfews or suspects in bombings or drive-by shootings.

Iraqis had no way of knowing where these so-called “tactical control points” would crop up, interviewees said, so many would turn a corner at a high speed and became the unwitting targets of jumpy soldiers and marines.

“For me, it was really random,” said Lieutenant Van Engelen. “I just picked a spot on a map that I thought was a high-volume area that might catch some people. We just set something up for half an hour to an hour and then we’d move on.” There were no briefings before setting up checkpoints, he said.

Temporary checkpoints were safer for troops, according to the veterans, because they were less likely to serve as static targets for insurgents. “You do it real quick because you don’t always want to announce your presence,” said First Sgt. Perry Jefferies, 46, of Waco, Texas, who served with the Fourth Infantry Division from April to October 2003.

The temporary checkpoints themselves varied greatly. Lieutenant Van Engelen set up checkpoints using orange cones and fifty yards of concertina wire. He would assign a soldier to control the flow of traffic and direct drivers through the wire, while others searched vehicles, questioned drivers and asked for identification. He said signs in English and Arabic warned Iraqis to stop; at night, troops used lasers, glow sticks or tracer bullets to signal cars through. When those weren’t available, troops improvised by using flashlights sent them by family and friends back home.

“Baghdad is not well lit,” said Sergeant Flanders. “There’s not street lights everywhere. You can’t really tell what’s going on.”

Other troops, however, said they constructed tactical control points that were hardly visible to drivers. “We didn’t have cones, we didn’t have nothing,” recalled Sergeant Bocanegra, who said he served at more than ten checkpoints in Tikrit. “You literally put rocks on the side of the road and tell them to stop. And of course some cars are not going to see the rocks. I wouldn’t even see the rocks myself.”

According to Sergeant Flanders, the primary concern when assembling checkpoints was protecting the troops serving there. Humvees were positioned so that they could quickly drive away if necessary, and the heavy weapons mounted on them were placed “in the best possible position” to fire on vehicles that attempted to pass through the checkpoint without stopping. And the rules of engagement were often improvised, soldiers said.

“We were given a long list of that kind of stuff and, to be honest, a lot of the time we would look at it and throw it away,” said Staff Sgt. James Zuelow, 39, a National Guardsman from Juneau, Alaska, who served in Baghdad in the Third Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, for a year beginning in January 2005. “A lot of it was written at such a high level it didn’t apply.”

At checkpoints, troops had to make split-second decisions on when to use lethal force, and veterans said fear often clouded their judgment.

Sgt. Matt Mardan, 31, of Minneapolis, served as a Marine scout sniper outside Falluja in 2004 and 2005 with the Third Battalion, First Marines. “People think that’s dangerous, and it is,” he said. “But I would do that any day of the week rather than be a marine sitting on a fucking checkpoint looking at cars.”

No car that passes through a checkpoint is beyond suspicion, said Sergeant Dougherty. “You start looking at everyone as a criminal…. Is this the car that’s going to try to run into me? Is this the car that has explosives in it? Or is this just someone who’s confused?” The perpetual uncertainty, she said, is mentally exhausting and physically debilitating.

“In the moment, what’s passing through your head is, Is this person a threat? Do I shoot to stop or do I shoot to kill?” said Lieutenant Morgenstein, who served in Al Anbar.

Sergeant Mejía recounted an incident in Ramadi in July 2003 when an unarmed man drove with his young son too close to a checkpoint. The father was decapitated in front of the small, terrified boy by a member of Sergeant Mejía’s unit firing a heavy .50-caliber machine gun. By then, said Sergeant Mejía, who responded to the scene after the fact, “this sort of killing of civilians had long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment.” The next month, Sergeant Mejía returned stateside for a two-week rest and refused to go back, launching a public protest over the treatment of Iraqis. (He was charged with desertion, sentenced to one year in prison and given a bad-conduct discharge.)

During the summer of 2005, Sergeant Millard, who served as an assistant to a general in Tikrit, attended a briefing on a checkpoint shooting, at which his role was to flip PowerPoint slides.

“This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun,” he said. “This car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that’s a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged 4 and the daughter was aged 3. And they briefed this to the general. And they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, ‘If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn’t happen.'”

Whether or not commanding officers shared this attitude, interviewees said, troops were rarely held accountable for shooting civilians at checkpoints. Eight veterans described the prevailing attitude among them as “Better to be tried by twelve men than carried by six.” Since the number of troops tried for killing civilians is so scant, interviewees said, they would risk court-martial over the possibility of injury or death.

Rules of Engagement
Indeed, several troops said the rules of engagement were fluid and designed to insure their safety above all else. Some said they were simply told they were authorized to shoot if they felt threatened, and what constituted a risk to their safety was open to wide interpretation. “Basically it always came down to self-defense and better them than you,” said Sgt. Bobby Yen, 28, of Atherton, California, who covered a variety of Army activities in Baghdad and Mosul as part of the 222nd Broadcast Operations Detachment for one year beginning in November 2003.

“Cover your own butt was the first rule of engagement,” Lieutenant Van Engelen confirmed. “Someone could look at me the wrong way and I could claim my safety was in threat.”

Lack of a uniform policy from service to service, base to base and year to year forced troops to rely on their own judgment, Sergeant Jefferies explained. “We didn’t get straight-up rules,” he said. “You got things like, ‘Don’t be aggressive’ or ‘Try not to shoot if you don’t have to.’ Well, what does that mean?”

Prior to deployment, Sergeant Flanders said, troops were trained on the five S’s of escalation of force: Shout a warning, Shove (physically restrain), Show a weapon, Shoot non-lethal ammunition in a vehicle’s engine block or tires, and Shoot to kill. Some troops said they carried the rules in their pockets or helmets on a small laminated card. “The escalation-of-force methodology was meant to be a guide to determine course of actions you should attempt before you shoot,” he said. “‘Shove’ might be a step that gets skipped in a given situation. In vehicles, at night, how does ‘Shout’ work? Each soldier is not only drilled on the five S’s but their inherent right for self-defense.”

Some interviewees said their commanders discouraged this system of escalation. “There’s no such thing as warning shots,” Specialist Resta said he was told during his predeployment training at Fort Bragg. “I even specifically remember being told that it was better to kill them than to have somebody wounded and still alive.”

Lieutenant Morgenstein said that when he arrived in Iraq in August 2004, the rules of engagement barred the use of warning shots. “We were trained that if someone is not armed, and they are not a threat, you never fire a warning shot because there is no need to shoot at all,” he said. “You signal to them with some other means than bullets. If they are armed and they are a threat, you never fire a warning shot because…that just gives them a chance to kill you. I don’t recall at this point if this was an ROE [rule of engagement] explicitly or simply part of our consistent training.” But later on, he said, “we were told the ROE was changed” and that warning shots were now explicitly allowed in certain circumstances.

Sergeant Westphal said that by the time he arrived in Iraq earlier in 2004, the rules of engagement for checkpoints were more refined–at least where he served with the Army in Tikrit. “If they didn’t stop, you were to fire a warning shot,” said Sergeant Westphal. “If they still continued to come, you were instructed to escalate and point your weapon at their car. And if they still didn’t stop, then, if you felt you were in danger and they were about to run your checkpoint or blow you up, you could engage.”

In his initial training, Lieutenant Morgenstein said, marines were cautioned against the use of warning shots because “others around you could be hurt by the stray bullet,” and in fact such incidents were not unusual. One evening in Baghdad, Sergeant Zuelow recalled, a van roared up to a checkpoint where another platoon in his company was stationed and a soldier fired a warning shot that bounced off the ground and killed the van’s passenger. “That was a big wake-up call,” he said, “and after that we discouraged warning shots of any kind.”

Many checkpoint incidents went unreported, a number of veterans indicated, and the civilians killed were not included in the overall casualty count. Yet judging by the number of checkpoint shootings described to The Nation by veterans we interviewed, such shootings appear to be quite common.

Sergeant Flatt recounted one incident in Mosul in January 2005 when an elderly couple zipped past a checkpoint. “The car was approaching what was in my opinion a very poorly marked checkpoint, or not even a checkpoint at all, and probably didn’t even see the soldiers,” he said. “The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car. And they literally sat in the car for the next three days while we drove by them day after day.”

In another incident, a man was driving his wife and three children in a pickup truck on a major highway north of the Euphrates, near Ramadi, on a rainy day in February or March 2005. When the man failed to stop at a checkpoint, a marine in a light-armored vehicle fired on the car, killing the wife and critically wounding the son. According to Lieutenant Morgenstein, a civil affairs officer, a JAG official gave the family condolences and about $3,000 in compensation. “I mean, it’s a terrible thing because there’s no way to pay money to replace a family member,” said Lieutenant Morgenstein, who was sometimes charged with apologizing to families for accidental deaths and offering them such compensation, called “condolence payments” or “solatia.” “But it’s an attempt to compensate for some of the costs of the funeral and all the expenses. It’s an attempt to make a good-faith offering in a sign of regret and to say, you know, We didn’t want this to happen. This is by accident.” According to a May report from the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department issued nearly $31 million in solatia and condolence payments between 2003 and 2006 to civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who were “killed, injured or incur[red] property damage as a result of U.S. or coalition forces’ actions during combat.” The study characterizes the payments as “expressions of sympathy or remorse…but not an admission of legal liability or fault.” In Iraq, according to the report, civilians are paid up to $2,500 for death, as much as $1,500 for serious injuries and $200 or more for minor injuries.

On one occasion, in Ramadi in late 2004, a man happened to drive down a road with his family minutes after a suicide bomber had hit a barrier during a cordon-and-search operation, Lieutenant Morgenstein said. The car’s brakes failed and marines fired. The wife and her two children managed to escape from the car, but the man was fatally hit. The family was mistakenly told that he had survived, so Lieutenant Morgenstein had to set the record straight. “I’ve never done this before,” he said. “I had to go tell this woman that her husband was actually dead. We gave her money, we gave her, like, ten crates of water, we gave the kids, I remember, maybe it was soccer balls and toys. We just didn’t really know what else to do.”

One such incident, which took place in Falluja in March 2003 and was reported on at the time by the BBC, even involved a group of plainclothes Iraqi policemen. Sergeant Mejía was told about the event by several soldiers who witnessed it.

The police officers were riding in a white pickup truck, chasing a BMW that had raced through a checkpoint. “The guy that the cops were chasing got through and I guess the soldiers got scared or nervous, so when the pickup truck came they opened fire on it,” Sergeant Mejía said. “The Iraqi police tried to cease fire, but when the soldiers would not stop they defended themselves and there was a firefight between the soldiers and the cops. Not a single soldier was killed, but eight cops were.”

Accountability
A few veterans said checkpoint shootings resulted from basic miscommunication, incorrectly interpreted signals or cultural ignorance.

“As an American, you just put your hand up with your palm towards somebody and your fingers pointing to the sky,” said Sergeant Jefferies, who was responsible for supplying fixed checkpoints in Diyala twice a day. “That means stop to most Americans, and that’s a military hand signal that soldiers are taught that means stop. Closed fist, please freeze, but an open hand means stop. That’s a sign you make at a checkpoint. To an Iraqi person, that means, Hello, come here. So you can see the problem that develops real quick. So you get on a checkpoint, and the soldiers think they’re saying stop, stop, and the Iraqis think they’re saying come here, come here. And the soldiers start hollering, so they try to come there faster. So soldiers holler more, and pretty soon you’re shooting pregnant women.”

“You can’t tell the difference between these people at all,” said Sergeant Mardan. “They all look Arab. They all have beards, facial hair. Honestly, it’ll be like walking into China and trying to tell who’s in the Communist Party and who’s not. It’s impossible.”

But other veterans said that the frequent checkpoint shootings resulted from a lack of accountability. Critical decisions, they said, were often left to the individual soldier’s or marine’s discretion, and the military regularly endorsed these decisions without inquiry.

“Some units were so tight on their command and control that every time they fired one bullet, they had to write an investigative report,” said Sergeant Campbell. But “we fired thousands of rounds without ever filing reports,” he said. “And so it has to do with how much interaction and, you know, the relationship of the commanders to their units.”

Cpt. Megan O’Connor said that in her unit every shooting incident was reported. O’Connor, 30, of Venice, California, served in Tikrit with the Fiftieth Main Support Battalion in the National Guard for a year beginning in December 2004, after which she joined the 2-28 Brigade Combat Team in Ramadi. But Captain O’Connor said that after viewing the reports and consulting with JAG officers, the colonel in her command would usually absolve the soldiers. “The bottom line is he always said, you know, We weren’t there,” she said. “We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but make sure that they know that this is not OK and we’re watching them.”

Probes into roadblock killings were mere formalities, a few veterans said. “Even after a thorough investigation, there’s not much that could be done,” said Specialist Reppenhagen. “It’s just the nature of the situation you’re in. That’s what’s wrong. It’s not individual atrocity. It’s the fact that the entire war is an atrocity.”

The March 2005 shooting death of Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari at a checkpoint in Baghdad, however, caused the military to finally crack down on such accidents, said Sergeant Campbell, who served there. Yet this did not necessarily lead to greater accountability. “Needless to say, our unit was under a lot of scrutiny not to shoot any more people than we already had to because we were kind of a run-and-gun place,” said Sergeant Campbell. “One of the things they did was they started saying, Every time you shoot someone or shoot a car, you have to fill out a 15-[6] or whatever the investigation is. Well, that investigation is really onerous for the soldiers. It’s like a ‘You’re guilty’ investigation almost–it feels as though. So commanders just stopped reporting shootings. There was no incentive for them to say, Yeah, we shot so-and-so’s car.”

(Sergeant Campbell said he believes the number of checkpoint shootings did decrease after the high-profile incident, but that was mostly because soldiers were now required to use pinpoint lasers at night. “I think they reduced, from when we started to when we left, the number of Iraqi civilians dying at checkpoints from one a day to one a week,” he said. “Inherent in that number, like all statistics, is those are reported shootings.”)

Fearing a backlash against these shootings of civilians, Lieutenant Morgenstein gave a class in late 2004 at his battalion headquarters in Ramadi to all the battalion’s officers and most of its senior noncommissioned officers during which he asked them to put themselves in the Iraqis’ place.

“I told them the obvious, which is, everyone we wound or kill that isn’t an insurgent, hurts us,” he said. “Because I guarantee you, down the road, that means a wounded or killed marine or soldier…. One, it’s the right thing to do to not wound or shoot someone who isn’t an insurgent. But two, out of self-preservation and self-interest, we don’t want that to happen because they’re going to come back with a vengeance.”

Responses
The Nation contacted the Pentagon with a detailed list of questions and a request for comment on descriptions of specific patterns of abuse. These questions included requests to explain the rules of engagement, the operation of convoys, patrols and checkpoints, the investigation of civilian shootings, the detention of innocent Iraqis based on false intelligence and the alleged practice of “throwaway guns.” The Pentagon referred us to the Multi-National Force Iraq Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, where a spokesperson sent us a response by e-mail.

“As a matter of operational security, we don’t discuss specific tactics, techniques, or procedures (TTPs) used to identify and engage hostile forces,” the spokesperson wrote, in part. “Our service members are trained to protect themselves at all times. We are facing a thinking enemy who learns and adjusts to our operations. Consequently, we adapt our TTPs to ensure maximum combat effectiveness and safety of our troops. Hostile forces hide among the civilian populace and attack civilians and coalition forces. Coalition forces take great care to protect and minimize risks to civilians in this complex combat environment, and we investigate cases where our actions may have resulted in the injury of innocents…. We hold our Soldiers and Marines to a high standard and we investigate reported improper use of force in Iraq.”

This response is consistent with the military’s refusal to comment on rules of engagement, arguing that revealing these rules threatens operations and puts troops at risk. But on February 9, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, then coalition spokesman, writing on the coalition force website, insisted that the rules of engagement for troops in Iraq were clear. “The law of armed conflict requires that, to use force, ‘combatants’ must distinguish individuals presenting a threat from innocent civilians,” he wrote. “This basic principle is accepted by all disciplined militaries. In the counterinsurgency we are now fighting, disciplined application of force is even more critical because our enemies camouflage themselves in the civilian population. Our success in Iraq depends on our ability to treat the civilian population with humanity and dignity, even as we remain ready to immediately defend ourselves or Iraqi civilians when a threat is detected.”

When asked about veterans’ testimony that civilian deaths at the hands of coalition forces often went unreported and typically went unpunished, the Press Information Center spokesperson replied only, “Any allegations of misconduct are treated seriously…. Soldiers have an obligation to immediately report any misconduct to their chain of command immediately.”

Last September, Senator Patrick Leahy, then ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, called a Pentagon report on its procedures for recording civilian casualties in Iraq “an embarrassment.” “It totals just two pages,” Leahy said, “and it makes clear that the Pentagon does very little to determine the cause of civilian casualties or to keep a record of civilian victims.”

In the four long years of the war, the mounting civilian casualties have already taken a heavy toll–both on the Iraqi people and on the US servicemembers who have witnessed, or caused, their suffering. Iraqi physicians, overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a study late last year in the British medical journal The Lancet that estimated that 601,000 civilians have died since the March 2003 invasion as the result of violence. The researchers found that coalition forces were responsible for 31 percent of these violent deaths, an estimate they said could be “conservative,” since “deaths were not classified as being due to coalition forces if households had any uncertainty about the responsible party.”

“Just the carnage, all the blown-up civilians, blown-up bodies that I saw,” Specialist Englehart said. “I just–I started thinking, like, Why? What was this for?”

“It just gets frustrating,” Specialist Reppenhagen said. “Instead of blaming your own command for putting you there in that situation, you start blaming the Iraqi people…. So it’s a constant psychological battle to try to, you know, keep–to stay humane.”

“I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people,” said Sergeant Flanders. “The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned.”


PART I

“We support your war of terror…”
— Borat

The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness
July 30, 2007
by CHRIS HEDGES & LAILA AL-ARIAN

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported–and almost always go unpunished.

Court cases, such as the ones surrounding the massacre in Haditha and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in Mahmudiya, and news stories in the Washington Post, Time, the London Independent and elsewhere based on Iraqi accounts have begun to hint at the wide extent of the attacks on civilians. Human rights groups have issued reports, such as Human Rights Watch’s Hearts and Minds: Post-war Civilian Deaths in Baghdad Caused by U.S. Forces, packed with detailed incidents that suggest that the killing of Iraqi civilians by occupation forces is more common than has been acknowledged by military authorities.

This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions.

While some veterans said civilian shootings were routinely investigated by the military, many more said such inquiries were rare. “I mean, you physically could not do an investigation every time a civilian was wounded or killed because it just happens a lot and you’d spend all your time doing that,” said Marine Reserve Lieut. Jonathan Morgenstein, 35, of Arlington, Virginia. He served from August 2004 to March 2005 in Ramadi with a Marine Corps civil affairs unit supporting a combat team with the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (All interviewees are identified by the rank they held during the period of service they recount here; some have since been promoted or demoted.)

Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims–at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.

“I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi,” said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. “You know, so what?… The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we’re trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us.”

He said it was only “when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then.”

The Iraq War is a vast and complicated enterprise. In this investigation of alleged military misconduct, The Nation focused on a few key elements of the occupation, asking veterans to explain in detail their experiences operating patrols and supply convoys, setting up checkpoints, conducting raids and arresting suspects. From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.

Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

“I’ll tell you the point where I really turned,” said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. “I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg…. An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn’t crying, wasn’t anything, it just looked at me like–I know she couldn’t speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?… I was just like, This is–this is it. This is ridiculous.”

Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured “an innocent noncombatant.”

These attitudes reflect the limited contact occupation troops said they had with Iraqis. They rarely saw their enemy. They lived bottled up in heavily fortified compounds that often came under mortar attack. They only ventured outside their compounds ready for combat. The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.

Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.

In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía’s unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.

“The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them,” Sergeant Mejía said.

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they’d mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

“Take a picture of me and this motherfucker,” a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía’s squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

“Damn, they really fucked you up, didn’t they?” the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man’s brothers and cousins.

In the sections that follow, snipers, medics, military police, artillerymen, officers and others recount their experiences serving in places as diverse as Mosul in the north, Samarra in the Sunni Triangle, Nasiriya in the south and Baghdad in the center, during 2003, 2004 and 2005. Their stories capture the impact of their units on Iraqi civilians.

A Note on Methodology
The Nation interviewed fifty combat veterans, including forty soldiers, eight marines and two sailors, over a period of seven months beginning in July 2006. To find veterans willing to speak on the record about their experiences in Iraq, we sent queries to organizations dedicated to US troops and their families, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the antiwar groups Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and the prowar group Vets for Freedom. The leaders of IVAW and Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of IAVA, were especially helpful in putting us in touch with Iraq War veterans. Finally, we found veterans through word of mouth, as many of those we interviewed referred us to their military friends.

To verify their military service, when possible we obtained a copy of each interviewee’s DD Form 214, or the Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty, and in all cases confirmed their service with the branch of the military in which they were enlisted. Nineteen interviews were conducted in person, while the rest were done over the phone; all were tape-recorded and transcribed; all but five interviewees (most of those currently on active duty) were independently contacted by fact checkers to confirm basic facts about their service in Iraq. Of those interviewed, fourteen served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, twenty from 2004 to 2005 and two from 2005 to 2006. Of the eleven veterans whose tours lasted less than one year, nine served in 2003, while the others served in 2004 and 2005.

The ranks of the veterans we interviewed ranged from private to captain, though only a handful were officers. The veterans served throughout Iraq, but mostly in the country’s most volatile areas, such as Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, Falluja and Samarra.

During the course of the interview process, five veterans turned over photographs from Iraq, some of them graphic, to corroborate their claims.

Raids
“So we get started on this day, this one in particular,” recalled Spc. Philip Chrystal, 23, of Reno, who said he raided between twenty and thirty Iraqi homes during an eleven-month tour in Kirkuk and Hawija that ended in October 2005, serving with the Third Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade. “It starts with the psy-ops vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be, saying, basically, saying, Put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they’re needed, and it’s also a good show of force. And we’re running around, and they–we’d done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader and maybe a couple other people.

“And we were approaching this one house,” he said. “In this farming area, they’re, like, built up into little courtyards. So they have, like, the main house, common area. They have, like, a kitchen and then they have a storage shed-type deal. And we’re approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, ’cause it’s doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn’t–motherfucker–he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out. So I see this dog–I’m a huge animal lover; I love animals–and this dog has, like, these eyes on it and he’s running around spraying blood all over the place. And like, you know, What the hell is going on? The family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad, horrified. And I’m at a loss for words. And so, I yell at him. I’m, like, What the fuck are you doing? And so the dog’s yelping. It’s crying out without a jaw. And I’m looking at the family, and they’re just, you know, dead scared. And so I told them, I was like, Fucking shoot it, you know? At least kill it, because that can’t be fixed….

“And–I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but–and I had tears then, too–and I’m looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and, you know, I get my wallet out and I gave them twenty bucks, because that’s what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I’m so sorry that asshole did that.

“Was a report ever filed about it?” he asked. “Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not.”

Specialist Chrystal said such incidents were “very common.”

According to interviews with twenty-four veterans who participated in such raids, they are a relentless reality for Iraqis under occupation. The American forces, stymied by poor intelligence, invade neighborhoods where insurgents operate, bursting into homes in the hope of surprising fighters or finding weapons. But such catches, they said, are rare. Far more common were stories in which soldiers assaulted a home, destroyed property in their futile search and left terrorized civilians struggling to repair the damage and begin the long torment of trying to find family members who were hauled away as suspects.

Raids normally took place between midnight and 5 am, according to Sgt. John Bruhns, 29, of Philadelphia, who estimates that he took part in raids of nearly 1,000 Iraqi homes. He served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, a city infamous for its prison, located twenty miles west of the capital, with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in March 2003. His descriptions of raid procedures closely echoed those of eight other veterans who served in locations as diverse as Kirkuk, Samarra, Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit.

“You want to catch them off guard,” Sergeant Bruhns explained. “You want to catch them in their sleep.” About ten troops were involved in each raid, he said, with five stationed outside and the rest searching the home.

Once they were in front of the home, troops, some wearing Kevlar helmets and flak vests with grenade launchers mounted on their weapons, kicked the door in, according to Sergeant Bruhns, who dispassionately described the procedure:

“You run in. And if there’s lights, you turn them on–if the lights are working. If not, you’ve got flashlights…. You leave one rifle team outside while one rifle team goes inside. Each rifle team leader has a headset on with an earpiece and a microphone where he can communicate with the other rifle team leader that’s outside.

“You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you’ll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there’s no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.

“You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you’ll ask the interpreter to ask him: ‘Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all–anything–anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?’

“Normally they’ll say no, because that’s normally the truth,” Sergeant Bruhns said. “So what you’ll do is you’ll take his sofa cushions and you’ll dump them. If he has a couch, you’ll turn the couch upside down. You’ll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you’ll throw everything on the floor, and you’ll take his drawers and you’ll dump them…. You’ll open up his closet and you’ll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.

“And if you find something, then you’ll detain him. If not, you’ll say, ‘Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.’ So you’ve just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you’ve destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes.”

Each raid, or “cordon and search” operation, as they are sometimes called, involved five to twenty homes, he said. Following a spate of attacks on soldiers in a particular area, commanders would normally order infantrymen on raids to look for weapons caches, ammunition or materials for making IEDs. Each Iraqi family was allowed to keep one AK-47 at home, but according to Bruhns, those found with extra weapons were arrested and detained and the operation classified a “success,” even if it was clear that no one in the home was an insurgent.

Before a raid, according to descriptions by several veterans, soldiers typically “quarantined” the area by barring anyone from coming in or leaving. In pre-raid briefings, Sergeant Bruhns said, military commanders often told their troops the neighborhood they were ordered to raid was “a hostile area with a high level of insurgency” and that it had been taken over by former Baathists or Al Qaeda terrorists.

“So you have all these troops, and they’re all wound up,” said Sergeant Bruhns. “And a lot of these troops think once they kick down the door there’s going to be people on the inside waiting for them with weapons to start shooting at them.”

Sgt. Dustin Flatt, 33, of Denver, estimates he raided “thousands” of homes in Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul. He served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004. “We scared the living Jesus out of them every time we went through every house,” he said.

Spc. Ali Aoun, 23, a National Guardsman from New York City, said he conducted perimeter security in nearly 100 raids while serving in Sadr City with the Eighty-Ninth Military Police Brigade for eleven months starting in April 2004. When soldiers raided a home, he said, they first cordoned it off with Humvees. Soldiers guarded the entrance to make sure no one escaped. If an entire town was being raided, in large-scale operations, it too was cordoned off, said Spc. Garett Reppenhagen, 32, of Manitou Springs, Colorado, a cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, who was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004.

Staff Sgt. Timothy John Westphal, 31, of Denver, recalled one summer night in 2004, the temperature an oppressive 110 degrees, when he and forty-four other US soldiers raided a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Tikrit. Sergeant Westphal, who served there for a yearlong tour with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February 2004, said he was told some men on the farm were insurgents. As a mechanized infantry squad leader, Sergeant Westphal led the mission to secure the main house, while fifteen men swept the property. Sergeant Westphal and his men hopped the wall surrounding the house, fully expecting to come face to face with armed insurgents.

“We had our flashlights and…I told my guys, ‘On the count of three, just hit them with your lights and let’s see what we’ve got here. Wake ’em up!'”

Sergeant Westphal’s flashlight was mounted on his M-4 carbine rifle, a smaller version of the M-16, so in pointing his light at the clump of sleepers on the floor he was also pointing his weapon at them. Sergeant Westphal first turned his light on a man who appeared to be in his mid-60s.

“The man screamed this gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, just horrified scream,” Sergeant Westphal recalled. “I’ve never heard anything like that. I mean, the guy was absolutely terrified. I can imagine what he was thinking, having lived under Saddam.”

The farm’s inhabitants were not insurgents but a family sleeping outside for relief from the stifling heat, and the man Sergeant Westphal had frightened awake was the patriarch.

“Sure enough, as we started to peel back the layers of all these people sleeping, I mean, it was him, maybe two guys…either his sons or nephews or whatever, and the rest were all women and children,” Sergeant Westphal said. “We didn’t find anything.

“I can tell you hundreds of stories about things like that and they would all pretty much be like the one I just told you. Just a different family, a different time, a different circumstance.”

For Sergeant Westphal, that night was a turning point. “I just remember thinking to myself, I just brought terror to someone else under the American flag, and that’s just not what I joined the Army to do,” he said.

Intelligence
Fifteen soldiers we spoke with told us the information that spurred these raids was typically gathered through human intelligence–and that it was usually incorrect. Eight said it was common for Iraqis to use American troops to settle family disputes, tribal rivalries or personal vendettas. Sgt. Jesus Bocanegra, 25, of Weslaco, Texas, was a scout in Tikrit with the Fourth Infantry Division during a yearlong tour that ended in March 2004. In late 2003, Sergeant Bocanegra raided a middle-aged man’s home in Tikrit because his son had told the Army his father was an insurgent. After thoroughly searching the man’s house, soldiers found nothing and later discovered that the son simply wanted money his father had buried at the farm.

After persistently acting on such false leads, Sergeant Bocanegra, who raided Iraqi homes in more than fifty operations, said soldiers began to anticipate the innocence of those they raided. “People would make jokes about it, even before we’d go into a raid, like, Oh fucking we’re gonna get the wrong house,” he said. “‘Cause it would always happen. We always got the wrong house.” Specialist Chrystal said that he and his platoon leader shared a joke of their own: Every time he raided a house, he would radio in and say, “This is, you know, Thirty-One Lima. Yeah, I found the weapons of mass destruction in here.”

Sergeant Bruhns said he questioned the authenticity of the intelligence he received because Iraqi informants were paid by the US military for tips. On one occasion, an Iraqi tipped off Sergeant Bruhns’s unit that a small Syrian resistance organization, responsible for killing a number of US troops, was holed up in a house. “They’re waiting for us to show up and there will be a lot of shooting,” Sergeant Bruhns recalled being told.

As the Alpha Company team leader, Sergeant Bruhns was supposed to be the first person in the door. Skeptical, he refused. “So I said, ‘If you’re so confident that there are a bunch of Syrian terrorists, insurgents…in there, why in the world are you going to send me and three guys in the front door, because chances are I’m not going to be able to squeeze the trigger before I get shot.'” Sergeant Bruhns facetiously suggested they pull an M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle up to the house and shoot a missile through the front window to exterminate the enemy fighters his commanders claimed were inside. They instead diminished the aggressiveness of the raid. As Sergeant Bruhns ran security out front, his fellow soldiers smashed the windows and kicked down the doors to find “a few little kids, a woman and an old man.”

In late summer 2005, in a village on the outskirts of Kirkuk, Specialist Chrystal searched a compound with two Iraqi police officers. A friendly man in his mid-30s escorted Specialist Chrystal and others in his unit around the property, where the man lived with his parents, wife and children, making jokes to lighten the mood. As they finished searching–they found nothing–a lieutenant from his company approached Specialist Chrystal: “What the hell were you doing?” he asked. “Well, we just searched the house and it’s clear,” Specialist Chrystal said. The lieutenant told Specialist Chrystal that his friendly guide was “one of the targets” of the raid. “Apparently he’d been dimed out by somebody as being an insurgent,” Specialist Chrystal said. “For that mission, they’d only handed out the target sheets to officers, and officers aren’t there with the rest of the troops.” Specialist Chrystal said he felt “humiliated” because his assessment that the man posed no threat was deemed irrelevant and the man was arrested. Shortly afterward, he posted himself in a fighting vehicle for the rest of the mission.

Sgt. Larry Cannon, 27, of Salt Lake City, a Bradley gunner with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, served a yearlong tour in several cities in Iraq, including Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul, beginning in February 2004. He estimates that he searched more than a hundred homes in Tikrit and found the raids fruitless and maddening. “We would go on one raid of a house and that guy would say, ‘No, it’s not me, but I know where that guy is.’ And…he’d take us to the next house where this target was supposedly at, and then that guy’s like, ‘No, it’s not me. I know where he is, though.’ And we’d drive around all night and go from raid to raid to raid.”

“I can’t really fault military intelligence,” said Specialist Reppenhagen, who said he raided thirty homes in and around Baquba. “It was always a guessing game. We’re in a country where we don’t speak the language. We’re light on interpreters. It’s just impossible to really get anything. All you’re going off is a pattern of what’s happened before and hoping that the pattern doesn’t change.”

Sgt. Geoffrey Millard, 26, of Buffalo, New York, served in Tikrit with the Rear Operations Center, Forty-Second Infantry Division, for one year beginning in October 2004. He said combat troops had neither the training nor the resources to investigate tips before acting on them. “We’re not police,” he said. “We don’t go around like detectives and ask questions. We kick down doors, we go in, we grab people.”

First Lieut. Brady Van Engelen, 26, of Washington, DC, said the Army depended on less than reliable sources because options were limited. He served as a survey platoon leader with the First Armored Division in Baghdad’s volatile Adhamiya district for eight months beginning in September 2003. “That’s really about the only thing we had,” he said. “A lot of it was just going off a whim, a hope that it worked out,” he said. “Maybe one in ten worked out.”

Sergeant Bruhns said he uncovered illegal material about 10 percent of the time, an estimate echoed by other veterans. “We did find small materials for IEDs, like maybe a small piece of the wire, the detonating cord,” said Sergeant Cannon. “We never found real bombs in the houses.” In the thousand or so raids he conducted during his time in Iraq, Sergeant Westphal said, he came into contact with only four “hard-core insurgents.”

Arrests
Even with such slim pretexts for arrest, some soldiers said, any Iraqis arrested during a raid were treated with extreme suspicion. Several reported seeing military-age men detained without evidence or abused during questioning. Eight veterans said the men would typically be bound with plastic handcuffs, their heads covered with sandbags. While the Army officially banned the practice of hooding prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, five soldiers indicated that it continued.

“You weren’t allowed to, but it was still done,” said Sergeant Cannon. “I remember in Mosul [in January 2005], we had guys in a raid and they threw them in the back of a Bradley,” shackled and hooded. “These guys were really throwing up,” he continued. “They were so sick and nervous. And sometimes, they were peeing on themselves. Can you imagine if people could just come into your house and take you in front of your family screaming? And if you actually were innocent but had no way to prove that? It would be a scary, scary thing.” Specialist Reppenhagen said he had only a vague idea about what constituted contraband during a raid. “Sometimes we didn’t even have a translator, so we find some poster with Muqtada al-Sadr, Sistani or something, we don’t know what it says on it. We just apprehend them, document that thing as evidence and send it on down the road and let other people deal with it.”

Sergeant Bruhns, Sergeant Bocanegra and others said physical abuse of Iraqis during raids was common. “It was just soldiers being soldiers,” Sergeant Bocanegra said. “You give them a lot of, too much, power that they never had before, and before you know it they’re the ones kicking these guys while they’re handcuffed. And then by you not catching [insurgents], when you do have someone say, ‘Oh, this is a guy planting a roadside bomb’–and you don’t even know if it’s him or not–you just go in there and kick the shit out of him and take him in the back of a five-ton–take him to jail.”

Tens of thousands of Iraqis–military officials estimate more than 60,000–have been arrested and detained since the beginning of the occupation, leaving their families to navigate a complex, chaotic prison system in order to find them. Veterans we interviewed said the majority of detainees they encountered were either innocent or guilty of only minor infractions.

Sergeant Bocanegra said during the first two months of the war he was instructed to detain Iraqis based on their attire alone. “They were wearing Arab clothing and military-style boots, they were considered enemy combatants and you would cuff ’em and take ’em in,” he said. “When you put something like that so broad, you’re bound to have, out of a hundred, you’re going to have ten at least that were, you know what I mean, innocent.”

Sometime during the summer of 2003, Bocanegra said, the rules of engagement narrowed–somewhat. “I remember on some raids, anybody of military age would be taken,” he said. “Say, for example, we went to some house looking for a 25-year-old male. We would look at an age group. Anybody from 15 to 30 might be a suspect.” (Since returning from Iraq, Bocanegra has sought counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and said his “mission” is to encourage others to do the same.)

Spc. Richard Murphy, 28, an Army Reservist from Pocono, Pennsylvania, who served part of his fifteen-month tour with the 800th Military Police Brigade in Abu Ghraib prison, said he was often struck by the lack of due process afforded the prisoners he guarded.

Specialist Murphy initially went to Iraq in May 2003 to train Iraqi police in the southern city of Al Hillah but was transferred to Abu Ghraib in October 2003 when his unit replaced one that was rotating home. (He spoke with The Nation in October 2006, while not on active duty.) Shortly after his arrival there, he realized that the number of prisoners was growing “exponentially” while the amount of personnel remained stagnant. By the end of his six-month stint, Specialist Murphy was in charge of 320 prisoners, the majority of whom he was convinced were unjustly detained.

“I knew that a large percentage of these prisoners were innocent,” he said. “Just living with these people for months you get to see their character…. In just listening to the prisoners’ stories, I mean, I get the sense that a lot of them were just getting rounded up in big groups.”

Specialist Murphy said one prisoner, a mentally impaired, blind albino who could “maybe see a few feet in front of his face” clearly did not belong in Abu Ghraib. “I thought to myself, What could he have possibly done?”

Specialist Murphy counted the prisoners twice a day, and the inmates would often ask him when they would be released or implore him to advocate on their behalf, which he would try to do through the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps office. The JAG officer Specialist Murphy dealt with would respond that it was out of his hands. “He would make his recommendations and he’d have to send it up to the next higher command,” Specialist Murphy said. “It was just a snail’s crawling process…. The system wasn’t working.”

Prisoners at the notorious facility rioted on November 24, 2003, to protest their living conditions, and Army Reserve Spc. Aidan Delgado, 25, of Sarasota, Florida, was there. He had deployed with the 320th Military Police Company to Talil Air Base, to serve in Nasiriya and Abu Ghraib for one year beginning in April 2003. Unlike the other troops in his unit, he did not respond to the riot. Four months earlier he had decided to stop carrying a loaded weapon.

Nine prisoners were killed and three wounded after soldiers opened fire during the riot, and Specialist Delgado’s fellow soldiers returned with photographs of the events. The images, disturbingly similar to the incident described by Sergeant Mejía, shocked him. “It was very graphic,” he said. “A head split open. One of them was of two soldiers in the back of the truck. They open the body bags of these prisoners that were shot in the head and [one soldier has] got an MRE spoon. He’s reaching in to scoop out some of his brain, looking at the camera and he’s smiling. And I said, ‘These are some of our soldiers desecrating somebody’s body. Something is seriously amiss.’ I became convinced that this was excessive force, and this was brutality.”

Spc. Patrick Resta, 29, a National Guardsman from Philadelphia, served in Jalula, where there was a small prison camp at his base. He was with the 252nd Armor, First Infantry Division, for nine months beginning in March 2004. He recalled his supervisor telling his platoon point-blank, “The Geneva Conventions don’t exist at all in Iraq, and that’s in writing if you want to see it.”

The pivotal experience for Specialist Delgado came when, in the winter of 2003, he was assigned to battalion headquarters inside Abu Ghraib prison, where he worked with Maj. David DiNenna and Lieut. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, both implicated in the Taguba Report, the official Army investigation into the prison scandal. There, Delgado read reports on prisoners and updated a dry erase board with information on where in the large prison compound detainees were moved and held.

“That was when I totally walked away from the Army,” Specialist Delgado said. “I read these rap sheets on all the prisoners in Abu Ghraib and what they were there for. I expected them to be terrorists, murderers, insurgents. I look down this roster and see petty theft, public drunkenness, forged coalition documents. These people are here for petty civilian crimes.”

“These aren’t terrorists,” he recalled thinking. “These aren’t our enemies. They’re just ordinary people, and we’re treating them this harshly.” Specialist Delgado ultimately applied for conscientious objector status, which the Army approved in April 2004.


contnued in the next post

1070

Samantha Power, Bush & Terrorism
2007-07-31
by Noam Chomsky

The following exchange took place in the ZNet Sustainer system, where Noam hosts a forum…

ZNet Sustainer: Noam, Would you be willing to comment on Samantha Power’s review essay in the 29 July NYT Book Review? The Times presents her as the very model of the liberal academic — a columnist for Time, adviser to Democratic presidential candidates, etc. The article is a good deal more than a book review.

Noam Chomsky: It was an interesting article, and her work, and its popularity, gives some insight into the reigning intellectual culture.

There are many interesting aspects to the article. One is that “terrorism” is implicitly defined as what THEY do to US, excluding what WE do to THEM. But that’s so deeply engrained in the state religion that it’s hardly worth mentioning.

A little more interesting is Power’s tacit endorsement of the Bush doctrine that states that harbor terrorists are no different from terrorist states, and should be treated accordingly: bombed and invaded, and subjected to regime change. There is, of course, not the slightest doubt that the US harbors terrorists, even under the narrowest interpretation of that term: e.g., by the judgment of the Justice Department and the FBI, which accused Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch of dozens of terrorist acts and urged that he be deported as a threat to US security. He was pardoned by Bush I, and lives happily in Florida, where he has now been joined by his associate Luis Posada, thanks to Bush II’s lack of concern about harboring terrorists. There are plenty of others, even putting aside those who have offices in Washington. Like John Negroponte, surely one of the leading terrorists of the late 20th century, not very controversially, so naturally appointed to the position of counter-terrorism Czar by Bush II, with no particular notice.

Even keeping to the completely uncontroversial cases, like Bosch, it follows that Power and the NY Times are calling for the bombing of Washington. But — oddly — the Justice Department is not about to indict them, though people are rotting in Guantanamo on far lesser charges. What is interesting and enlightening is that no matter how many times trivialities like this are pointed out — and it’s been many times — it is entirely incomprehensible within the intellectual culture. That reveals a very impressive level of subordination to authority and indoctrination, well beyond what one would expect in totalitarian states.

A little more subtle, perhaps, is her observation that “if you continue to believe (as I do) that there is a moral difference between setting out to destroy as many civilians as possible and killing civilians unintentionally and reluctantly in pursuit of a military objective, you will indeed find “On Suicide Bombing” disturbing, if not always in the way he intends.” Let’s accept her judgment and proceed.

Evidently, a crucial case is omitted, which is far more depraved than massacring civilians intentionally. Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don’t regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don’t even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I’ll probably kill lots of ants, but I don’t intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.

I’ve written about this repeatedly, for example, in 9/11. And I’ve been intrigued to see how reviewers and commentators (Sam Harris, to pick one egregious example) simply cannot even see the comments, let alone comprehend them. Since it’s all pretty obvious, it reveals, again, the remarkable successes of indoctrination under freedom, and the moral depravity and corruption of the dominant intellectual culture.

It should be unnecessary to comment on how Western humanists would react if Iranian-backed terrorists destroyed half the pharmaceutical supplies in Israel, or the US, or any other place inhabited by human beings. And it is only fair to add that Sudanese too sometimes do rise to the level of human beings. For example in Darfur, where their murder can be attributed to Arabs, the official enemy (apart, that is, from “good Arabs,” like the tyrants who rule Saudi Arabia, “moderates” as Rice and others explain).

There’s a lot more like this. It’s of some interest that Power is regarded — and apparently regards herself — as a harsh critic of US foreign policy. The reason is that she excoriates Washington for not paying enough attention to the crimes of others. It’s informative to look through her best-seller Problem from Hell to see what is said about US crimes. There are a few scant mentions: e.g., that the US looked away from the genocidal Indonesian aggression in East Timor. In fact, as has long been indisputable, the US looked right there and acted decisively to expedite the slaughters, and continued to do so for 25 years, even after the Indonesian army had virtually destroyed what remained of the country, when Clinton, under great international and domestic pressure, finally told the Indonesian generals that the game was over and they instantly withdrew — revealing, as if we needed the evidence, that the immense slaughter could have been easily terminated at any point, if anyone cared. The implications cannot be perceived.

But in general US participation in horrendous crimes is simply ignored in Problem from Hell. Few seem to able to perceive that a similar book, excoriating Stalin for not paying enough attention to US crimes, would very likely have been very highly praised in the old Soviet Union. What better service could one provide to the cause of massacre, torture, and destruction — by the Holy State and its clients, of course, whose only fault is that they do not attend sufficiently to the crimes of others.

I don’t think, incidentally, that it would be fair to criticize Power for her extraordinary services to state violence and terror. I am sure she is a decent and honorable person, and sincerely believes that she really is condemning the US leadership and political culture. From a desk at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School at Harvard, that’s doubtless how it looks. Insufficient attention has been paid to Orwell’s observations on how in free England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. One factor, he proposed, is a good education. When you have been through the best schools, finally Oxford and Cambridge, you simply have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things “it wouldn’t do to say” — and we may add, even to think.

His insight is quite real, and important. These cases are a good illustration, hardly unique.

NC


1069

Retired general censured in Tillman case
2007-07-31
By RICHARD LARDNER and ERICA WERNER

The Army on Tuesday censured a retired three-star general for a “perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership” after the 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

Army Secretary Pete Geren asked an Army review panel to decide whether Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger should also have his rank reduced.

Geren told a Pentagon news conference that, while Kensinger was “guilty of deception” in misleading investigators, there was no intentional Pentagon cover-up of circumstances surrounding the former pro football player’s death — at first categorized by the military as being from enemy fire.

“He failed to provide proper leadership to the soldiers under his administrative control. … He let his soldiers down,” Geren said. “General Kensinger was the captain of that ship, and his ship ran aground.”

At least six other officers received lesser reprimands.

Geren said he considered recommending a court-martial for Kensinger but ruled it out.

“You are hereby censured for your conduct and failure of leadership in matters relating to the investigation and reporting of the death of Corporal Pat Tillman,” said a memo reprimanding the retired general. “Your failings compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family, resulted in the dissemination of erroneous information and caused lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army.”

The Army panel will decide whether Kensinger should be stripped of his third star, a move that would cut his retirement benefits. Kensinger, who headed Army special operations, retired in 2006.

Geren said that investigations have shown that accidental fire from U.S. troops was responsible for the death of Tillman, who had walked away from a $3.6 million pro football contract to become an Army Ranger.

The Army initially suggested that Tillman, who was 27, had been killed in a firefight with enemy militia forces. The Army then arranged a ceremony to award Tillman a Silver Star for bravery.

Five weeks after his death in April 2004, the Army notified the Tillman family that Tillman died from rounds fired in error by U.S. troops.

Geren cited “multiple actions on the part of multiple soldiers” in compounding the confusion that surrounded the death.

“It’s a perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership,” he said. “There was never any effort to mislead or hide” or keep embarrassing information from the public, he added.

He said Tillman deserved the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, despite the circumstances surrounding his death.

He could understand how the Tillman family and other Americans might reach the conclusion that there was a cover-up, Geren said. “The facts just don’t support this conclusion,” he said. “There was no cover-up.”

Still, he said, “We have made mistakes over and over and over, an incredible number of mistakes in handling this. We have destroyed our credibility in their eyes as well as in the eyes of others.”

Tillman’s family has insisted there was a cover-up that went as high as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Geren was asked whether there was any indication Rumsfeld was aware that Tillman’s death was by friendly fire before that information was made public.

“I have no knowledge of any evidence to that end,” Geren replied.

Aside from his decision to censure Kensinger, Geren said that he was accepting recommendations by Gen. William Wallace, who conducted the investigation, for the other officers.

These other officers included Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, and Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon and played a role in the recommendation for his Silver Star. Both will receive memoranda of concern, Geren said.

Escaping any blame was Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. He oversees the military’s most sensitive counterterrorism operations.

Ahead of the announcement, Geren briefed Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., Tuesday morning and told the congressman that Kensinger lied to military investigators on multiple occasions to protect himself, according to Daniel Kohns, Honda’s spokesman.

Honda, a Democrat who represents the area where Tillman grew up, believes “there are lingering questions hanging over this that point to the possibility of it going broader and higher,” Kohns said.

But Geren “stated that to the best of his knowledge it does not go higher than this, that he exhausted every line of investigation,” said Kohns, who sat in on the briefing.

A review of the aftermath of Tillman’s death by the Pentagon inspector general — one of more than half a dozen investigations so far — found “compelling evidence that Kensinger learned of suspected fratricide well before the memorial service and provided misleading testimony” on that issue. That misrepresentation, the report said, could constitute a “false official statement,” a violation of the Military Code of Justice.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena Monday night for testimony from Kensinger, said committee spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot. The subpoena is currently in the hands of U.S. marshals who are trying to deliver it in advance of Wednesday’s committee hearing on the Tillman affair, Lightfoot said.


New Evidence Clearly Indicates Pat Tillman Was Executed
Army medical examiners concluded Tillman was shot three times in the head from just 10 yards away, no evidence of “friendly fire” damage at scene, Army attorneys congratulated each other on cover-up, Wesley Clark concludes “orders came from the very top” to murder pro-football star because he was about to become an anti-war political icon
July 27, 2007
By Paul Joseph Watson
Astounding new details surrounding the death of Pat Tillman clearly indicate that top brass decided to execute the former pro football star in cold blood to prevent him from returning home and becoming an anti-war icon.

These same criminals then engaged in a sophisticated conspiracy to create a phony “friendly fire” cover story.

Shocking new facts emerged about the case last night but were bizarrely underplayed by the Associated Press under nondescript headlines like ‘New Details on Tillman’s Death’ – a complete disservice to the horrific implications that the new evidence carries. Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors – whose names were blacked out – said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

The report also states that “No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene – no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.”

The article also reveals that “Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.”

So there was no evidence whatsoever of friendly fire, but the ballistics data clearly indicated that the three head shots had been fired from just 10 yards away and then the Army tried to concoct a hoax friendly fire story and sent gloating back-slapping e mails congratulating each other on their success while preventing the doctors from exploring the possibility of murder. How can any sane and rational individual weigh this evidence and not come to the conclusion that Tillman was deliberately gunned down in cold blood?

The evidence points directly to it and the motivation is clear – Tillman abandoned a lucrative career in pro-football immediately after 9/11 because he felt a rampaging patriotic urge to defend his country, and became a poster child for the war on terror as a result. But when he discovered that the invasion of Iraq was based on a mountain of lies and deceit and had nothing to do with defending America, he became infuriated and was ready to return home to become an anti-war hero.

As far back as March 2003, immediately after the invasion, Tillman famously told his comrade Spc. Russell Baer, “You know, this war is so fucking illegal,” and urged his entire platoon to vote against Bush in the 2004 election. Far from the gung-ho gruff stereotype attributed to him, Tillman was actually a fiercely intellectual man with the courage of his convictions firmly in place.

Tillman had even begun to arrange meetings with anti-war icons like Noam Chomsky upon his return to America before his death cut short any aspirations of becoming a focal point for anti-war sentiment.

According to Daily Kos, Wesley Clark appeared on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown last night and stated that “the orders came from the very top” to murder Tillman as he was a political symbol and his opposition to the war in Iraq would have rallied the population around supporting immediate withdrawal.

The notion that the U.S. government gave orders for Army top brass to execute Pat Tillman in cold blood is the most damaging indictment of the Iraq war since it began, trumping the lies about weapons of mass destruction tenfold, but if the establishment media continue to soft-peddle and steam-valve one of the biggest stories of the century its impact will be completely diluted.

It is up to us to make this story go viral because the implications are so dire that they could act as the final death knell for the blood-soaked and illegal occupation of Iraq and become the clarion call to bring our troops home.


1068

this is a two part dream: the first part was out in a very rural area somewhere near place where a rural road split off and crossed a river. i lived somewhere relatively close, because i had walked there. the road ran parallel to the river and split off at right angles, where it crossed the river at right angles, over a bridge that was basically like a hill that went up, turned into a bridge and crossed the river, and then went down again, without any superstructure over the bridge, and the land around the river crossing was swampy, except for one place where there was a fairly modern building, with a parking lot. the building was some kind of spy organisation, and there were a lot of people there, both men and women, working busily. outside the building looked relatively small and normal, but inside it was a maze of corridors with offices and rooms on several floors, but i was only allowed to see the rooms on the ground floor. a lot of the people were speaking in code or using very specific technical jargon that i couldn’t always understand, and laughing about the fact that i couldn’t understand it. they said that if i told anybody about the fact that it was a spy organisation, i would be sorry, but at the same time, they gave me a very specific coded message that i was to give to somebody verbally. it was complex enough that i couldn’t remember all of it (and i can remember none of it now). i left on my “mission”, walking toward the river, and thinking how the only person that i could hope to tell all of this to was randy, who i knew to have been dead for at least 15 years, so it didn’t matter what they said about my being sorry, but at that exact same moment, i was attacked by three teenagers – or somebody on skateboards – dressed as ninjas, with machine guns, and i ran to the other side of the bridge and hid in the bushes.

when i emerged from the bushes, everything had changed. the one building on the other side of the river was now a sprawling industrial park, although the one building was still where it had been, now it was part of a lot of single-level buildings that were all connected together. randy was there, and we talked as though he had never died. we walked back across the river towards the industrial park, and i noticed my car, ganesha, parked in the parking lot next to the spy headquarters, so i decided to show him what i had been talking about. but the closer we got, the more suspicious i got that the people were really spies or something, and so when we got to the building, next to my car, we walked into the spy headquarters, and then turned the corner and walked out again, through a different door that lead to a kind of courtyard between the buildings. some of the people in the spy headquarters recognised me and commented that i shouldn’t have brought somebody else there, but they didn’t make a fuss about it when we immediately walked out again, although i did feel rather nervous about the whole thing, and i remember commenting to randy that they were all dangerous spies in this place.

we walked through the courtyard, which ran parallel to the river, behind the building complex, and eventually came to a place where there was a real agarbathiwallah – a guy who sold incense – at first he didn’t appear to be indian, but the more we talked to him, the more indian he appeared, although i was still convinced that he was somehow connected with the spy headquarters, and i was very suspicious about him for a long time. when i told him that i ran an incense business online, he told me that he wouldn’t sell incense to me because it was too “electrical and complex”. he did, however, sell incense to randy – really exotic, bulk incense for $4.50 a kilo – and i watched as randy wrote him a check, and he signed with his signature which i remember being exactly like the signature that randy signed when he was alive. more people came into the agarbathiwallah’s shop, who were apparently related in some way to the owner; an old man with a beard, and a young kid. the agarbathiwallah had a thing that looked like a shoe, only made out of wood, and he started doing something with some incense and a thing that looked like a pestle, also made out of wood, which he set on fire until it was smoldering and then ground the incense in the bottom of the shoe-like thing. i finally convinced him to sell me some incense: three large boxes and three small boxes of “pitha” incense. The Stars And Stripes Forever was playing on the piped in music thing in the store, and now i’ve got that march stuck in my head.


also another dream that i had yesterday, which was very short:

i dreamed that i was running an indian import business in the basement of a corner building in an old part of town – somewhere (possibly bellingham?). the basement was completely lined with wood, on the floor, on the ceiling, on the walls, and there was a huge wooden beam that supported the roof in the middle of the room. there was also what used to be a stairway to the upper floor, that was at least 100 years old, and was no longer a stairway, but was a bin for holding firewood. somehow this all came out of a previous dream in which i was selling indian imports at something like the oregon country fair: i remember a huge booth with flashy, twinkly lighted toys and doodads at the close of the fair, after everyone had left, but i don’t remember the context. anyway, i was in the process of moving (back?) into the basement store, and going around the store making sure everything was as it should be. one of my suppliers had an aqua imac that was having some difficulties, and i said i could fix it for him, but it had an operating system with which i am not familiar on it, and a whole bunch of obsolete software and stuff that was interfering with the process of getting it back to “normal”, and i was getting more and more frustrated with it.


1066

The Threat Of Martial Law Is Real
07/27/07
By Dave Lindorff

The looming collapse of the US military in Iraq, of which a number of generals and former generals, including former Chief of Staff Colin Powell, have warned, is happening none too soon, as it my be the best hope for preventing military rule here at home.

From the looks of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military rule, such that at this point it really lacks only the pretext to trigger a suspension of Constitutional government. They have done this with the active support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting was done by the last, Republican-led Congress.

The first step, or course, was the first Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed in September 2001, which the president has subsequently used to claim-improperly, but so what? -that the whole world, including the US, is a battlefield in a so-called “War” on Terror, and that he has extra-Constitutional unitary executive powers to ignore laws passed by Congress. As constitutional scholar and former Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observes, that one claim, that the US is itself a battlefield, is enough to allow this or some future president to declare martial law, “since you can always declare martial law on a battlefield. All he’d need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack inside the U.S.”

The 2001 AUMF was followed by the PATRIOT Act, passed in October 2001, which undermined much of the Bill of Rights. Around the same time, the president began a campaign of massive spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, conducted without any warrants or other judicial review. It was and remains a program that is clearly aimed at American dissidents and at the administration’s political opponents, since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would never have raised no objections to spying on potential terrorists. (And it, and other government spying programs, have resulted in the government’s having a list now of some 325,000 “suspected terrorists”!)

The other thing we saw early on was the establishment of an underground government-within-a-government, though the activation, following 9-11, of the so-called “Continuity of Government” protocol, which saw heads of federal agencies moved secretly to an underground bunker where, working under the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, the “government” functioned out of sight of Congress and the public for critical months.

It was also during the first year following 9-11 that the Bush/Cheney regime began its programs of arrest and detention without charge-mostly of resident aliens, but also of American citizens-and of kidnapping and torture in a chain of gulag prisons overseas and at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

The following year, Attorney General John Ashcroft began his program to develop a mass network of tens of millions of citizen spies-Operation TIPS. That program, which had considerable support from key Democrats (notably Sen. Joe Lieberman), was curtailed by Congress when key conservatives got wind of the scale of the thing, but the concept survives without a name, and is reportedly being expanded today.

Meanwhile, last October Bush and Cheney, with the help of a compliant Congress, put in place some key elements needed for a military putsch. There was the overturning of the venerable Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which barred the use of active duty military inside the United States for police-type functions, and the revision of the Insurrection Act, so as to empower the president to take control of National Guard units in the 50 states even over the objections of the governors of those states.

Put this together with the wholly secret construction now under way–courtesy of a $385-million grant by the US Army Corps of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc–of detention camps reportedly capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret, which declares there to be a developing “insurgency” within the U.S, and which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the United States.

As we go about our daily lives–our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizing-we need to be aware that there is a real risk that it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.

Bruce Fein isn’t an alarmist. He says he doesn’t see martial law coming tomorrow. But he is also realistic. “Really, by declaring the US to be a battlefield, Bush already made it possible for himself to declare martial law, because you can always declare martial law on a battlefield,” he says. “All he would need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack on the U.S.”

Indeed, the revised Insurrection Act (10. USC 331-335) approved by Congress and signed into law by Bush last October, specifically says that the president can federalize the National Guard to “suppress public disorder” in the event of “national disorder, epidemic, other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident.” That determination, the act states, is solely the president’s to make. Congress is not involved.

Fein says, “This is all sitting around like a loaded gun waiting to go off. I think the risk of martial law is trivial right now, but the minute there is a terrorist attack, then it is real. And it stays with us after Bush and Cheney are gone, because terrorism stays with us forever.” (It may be significant that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq, but not of the earlier 2001 AUMF which Bush claims makes him commander in chief of a borderless, endless war on terror.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has added an amendment to the upcoming Defense bill, restoring the Insurrection Act to its former version-a move that has the endorsement of all 50 governors–but Fein argues that would not solve the problem, since Bush still claims that the U.S. is a battlefield. Besides, a Leahy aide concedes that Bush could sign the next Defense Appropriations bill and then use a signing statement to invalidate the Insurrection Act rider.

Fein argues that the only real defense against the looming disaster of a martial law declaration would be for Congress to vote for a resolution determining that there is no “War” on terror. “But they are such cowards they will never do that,” he says.

That leaves us with the military.

If ordered to turn their guns and bayonets on their fellow Americans, would our “heroes” in uniform follow their consciences, and their oaths to “uphold and defend” the Constitution of the United States? Or would they follow the orders of their Commander in Chief?

It has to be a plus that National Guard and Reserve units are on their third and sometimes fourth deployments to Iraq, and are fuming at the abuse. It has to be a plus that active duty troops are refusing to re-enlist in droves-especially mid-level officers.

If we are headed for martial law, better that it be with a broken military. Maybe if it’s broken badly enough, the administration will be afraid to test the idea.


Bush Fulfills His Grandfather’s Dream
July 28 2007
By David Swanson

It’s remarkably common for a grandson to take up his grandfather’s major project. This occurred to me when I read recently of Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson taking up his mission to cross the Pacific on a raft. But what really struck me was the BBC story aired on July 23rd documenting President George W. Bush’s grandfather’s involvement in a 1933 plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist dictatorship. I knew the story, but had not considered the possibility that the grandson was trying to accomplish what his grandfather had failed to achieve.

Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 to 1972) attended Yale University and joined the secret society known as Skull and Bones. Prescott is widely reported to have stolen the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. As far as I know, this has not actually been confirmed. In fact, Prescott seems to have had a habit of making things up. He sent letters home from World War I claiming he’d received medals for heroism. After the letters were printed in newspapers, he had to retract his claims.

If this does not yet sound like the life of a George W. Bush ancestor, try this on for size: Prescott Bush’s early business efforts tended to fail. He married the daughter of a very rich man named George Herbert Walker (the guy with the compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, that now belongs to the Bush family, and the origin of Dubya’s middle initial). Walker installed Prescott Bush as an executive in Thyssen and Flick. From then on, Prescott’s business dealings went better, and he entered politics.

Now, the name Thyssen comes from a German named Fritz Thyssen, major financial backer of the rise of Adolph Hitler. Thyssen was referred to in the New York Herald-Tribune as “Hitler’s Angel.” During the 1930s and early 1940s, and even as late as 1951, Prescott Bush was involved in business dealings with Thyssen, and was inevitably aware of both Thyssen’s political activities and the fact that the companies involved were financially benefiting the nation of Germany. In addition, the companies Prescott Bush profited from included one engaged in mining operations in Poland using slave labor from Auschwitz. Two former slave laborers have sued the U.S. government and the heirs of Prescott Bush for $40 billion.

Until the United States entered World War II it was legal for Americans to do business with Germany, but in late 1942 Prescott Bush’s businesses interests were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Among those businesses involved was the Hamburg America Lines, for which Prescott Bush served as a manager. A Congressional committee, in a report called the McCormack-Dickstein Report, found that Hamburg America Lines had offered free passage to Germany for journalists willing to write favorably about the Nazis, and had brought Nazi sympathizers to America. (Is this starting to remind anyone of our current president’s relationship to the freedom of the press?)

The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was established to investigate a homegrown American fascist plot hatched in 1933. Here’s how the BBC promoted its recent story:

“Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.”

Actually, if you listen to the 30-minute BBC story, there is not one word of so much as speculation as to why this story is so little known. I think a clue to the answer can be found by looking into why this BBC report has not led to any U.S. media outlets picking up the story this week.

The BBC report provides a good account of the basic story. Some of the wealthiest men in America approached Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, beloved of many World War I veterans, many of them embittered by the government’s treatment of them. Prescott Bush’s group asked Butler to lead 500,000 veterans in a take-over of Washington and the White House. Butler refused and recounted the affair to the congressional committee. His account was corroborated in part by a number of witnesses, and the committee concluded that the plot was real. But the names of wealthy backers of the plot were blacked out in the committee’s records, and nobody was prosecuted. According to the BBC, President Roosevelt cut a deal. He refrained from prosecuting some of the wealthiest men in America for treason. They agreed to end Wall Street’s opposition to the New Deal.

Clearly the lack of accountability in Washington, D.C., did not begin with Nancy Pelosi taking Dubya’s impeachment off the table, or with Congress’ decision to avoid impeachment for President Ronald Reagan (a decision that arguably played a large role in installing Prescott Bush’s son George H.W. Bush as president), or with the failure to investigate the apparent deal that George H.W. Bush and others made with Iran to not release American hostages until Reagan was made president, or with the failure to prosecute Richard Nixon after he resigned. Lack of accountability is a proud tradition in our nation’s capital. Or maybe I should say our former nation’s capital. I don’t recognize the place anymore, and I credit that to George W. Bush’s efforts to fulfill his grandfather’s dream using far subtler and more effective means than a military coup.

Bush the grandson took office through a highly fraudulent election that he nonetheless lost. The Supreme Court blocked a recount of the vote and installed Dubya.

Prescott’s grandson proceeded to weaken or eliminate most of the Bill of Rights in the name of protection from a dark foreign enemy. He even tossed out habeas corpus. The grandson of Prescott, that dreamer of the 1930s, established with very little resistance that the U.S. government can kidnap, detain indefinitely on no charge, torture, and murder. The United States under Prescott Bush’s grandson adopted policies that heretofore had been considered only Nazi policies, most strikingly the willingness to openly plan and engage in aggressive wars on other nations.

At the same time, Dubya has accomplished a huge transfer of wealth within the United States from the rest of us to the extremely wealthy. He’s also effected a major privatization of public operations, including the military. And he’s kept tight control over the media.

Dubya has given himself the power to rewrite all laws with signing statements. He’s established that intentionally misleading the Congress about the need for a war is not a crime that carries any penalty. He’s given himself the right (just as Hitler did) to open anyone’s mail. He’s created illegal spying programs and then proposed to legalize them. Prescott would be so proud!

The current President Bush has accomplished much more smoothly than his grandfather could have imagined a feat that was one of the goals of Prescott’s gang, namely the elimination of Congress.


Gangs Spreading In The Military
July 28, 2007

U.S. Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson got a hero’s welcome while home on leave in June of 2004.

“Not only did I love my son – but my god – I liked the man he was becoming,” his mother, Stephanie Cockrell, remembers.

But that trip home was the last time his family saw him alive.

When Johnson died, he wasn’t in a war zone, he was in Germany.

“He had finished his term in Iraq,” his mother said. “I talked to him the day before his death. He said, ‘Mom, I’m in the process of discharging out. I’ll be out in two weeks’.”

On July 3, 2005, Sgt. Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated into the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a “jump-in” – an initiation rite common to many gangs.

“My son never spoke of joining a gang,” Cockrell told CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

Johnson died that night from his injuries. His son, Juwan Jr., was born five months later.

“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have,” his mother said. “But how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him.”

Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it “a threat to law enforcement and national security.” The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.

“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.

“If we weren’t in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue,” Glass said. “But with a war going on, I think it’s very difficult to do.”

Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.

The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he’s been warned he’s as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.

“We represent America – our demographics are the same – so the same problems that America contends with we often times contend with,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004. But army officials point out less than 1 percent of all its criminal investigations are gang related.

“We must remember that there are a million people in the army community,” Smith said, “And these small numbers are not reflective of a tremendous, pervasive, rampant problem.”

The rise in gang activity coincides with the increase in recruits with records. Since 2003, 125,000 recruits with criminal histories have been granted what are known as “moral waivers” for felonies including robbery and assault.

A hidden-camera investigation by CBS Denver station KCNC found one military recruiter was quick to offer the waiver option even when asked, “Does it matter that i was in a gang or anything?” That is well within military regulations.

“You may have had some gang activity in your past and everything … OK … but that in itself does not disqualify…,” the recruiter said.

Military regulations disqualify members of hate groups from enlisting, but there is no specific ban on members of street gangs. Sgt. Juwan Johnson’s family says such a prohibition is long overdue.

“Just maybe we can save someone else’s child … somebody else’s husband … somebody else’s father,” his mother said. “I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard.”

This month a military court sentenced two of Juwan Johnson’s attackers to prison.


Flagged down: Activists arrested in row over protest flag, allege abuse by Buncombe deputy
07/26/2007
by David Forbes

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office arrested activists Mark and Deborah Kuhn in West Asheville Wednesday morning after a complaint that the couple was desecrating an American flag. They say a deputy invaded their home and used excessive force. [The photo at right, taken by a neighbor, shows Mark on the ground, with Deborah standing by, during the arrest.]

The flag was hung upside down as an act of protest and had several statements pinned to it, including a picture of President Bush with the words “Out Now” upon it and one explaining the meaning of the upside down flag, a sign of distress.

The Kuhns, along with several neighbors and witnesses, assert that a sheriff’s deputy violently invaded their home at 68 Brevard Road. The sheriff’s office claims that the couple assaulted deputy Brian Scarborough and resisted arrest.

According to the report from the sheriff’s office, Scarborough arrived at the home at 8:45 a.m. in response to a complaint about the desecration of a flag.

Lt. Randy Sorrell says that while the address was in the city of Asheville, “when we receive a complaint that the law is being broken, we have to respond.”

Under a rarely enforced state statute, it is a misdemeanor to desecrate or trample a U.S. or North Carolina flag. The Kuhns said the flag was taken as evidence, though the sheriff’s department has no record of it.

After knocking on the door, the couple answered it and, after being shown the statute, said they complied and took the flag down. Scarborough then asked for their identification.

“The flag covered our whole front porch; he comes up with this printout about the law and tells us that we can’t attach things to the flag, that we’re desecrating it,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We tell him we’re not meaning to desecrate it — all we had was a picture of [President] Bush with ‘out now’ on it and a note saying this was not a sign of distress or disrespect. We did this because the country is in distress and we don’t know what to do.”

Then, she said, Scarborough “started talking arrest, so we took the flag down. He kept wanting to see our ID. We refused. We said, ‘Why should we show you our ID — are you arresting us?’; so we walked back into the house and closed the door.”

There, the accounts diverge. According to Deborah Kuhn, Scarborough “tried to force the door, but we got it closed and locked it with the deadbolt. He then kicked it, punched the glass out, unlocked our door and came after us.”

The sheriff’s office report states that “the man [Mark Kuhn] refused to identify himself and slammed the door on the officer’s hand, breaking the glass pane out of the door and cutting the officer’s hand.”

However, the Kuhns’ account is backed up by Jimmy Stevenson, who was working with Ace Hardwood Floors nearby and asserts that he saw Scarborough break down the door.

“I saw that one cop [Scarborough] pull up and I saw those people come out on the porch and start talking to him,” Stevenson said. “They took their flag down, asked the officer to leave and closed the door. Then he started kicking the door, he kicked it about five or six good times, then he laid right into it. After he got done kicking it, he broke the window out – I saw him hit the window.”

Deborah Kuhn says that Scarborough then “pursued my husband into the kitchen, they were scuffling, [and] Mark was trying to get away from him. He pulls out his billy club and I call 911 and say that an officer has broken into our house and is assaulting us.”

Scarborough sustained a cut to his arm when the window broke and Mark Kuhn had several cuts on his face from the scuffle with Scarborough.

“I was just trying to defend myself and back away from him,” Kuhn said. “They never, ever told us why we were being arrested until we were in jail.”

Deborah Kuhn asserted that no warrant was displayed or permission asked to enter the house. After calling 911, she says, she ran outside and began screaming for help.

Sam York, who lives nearby the couple, was awakened by the struggle, as the Kuhns and Scarborough both came out into the yard. “I woke up to Debbie screaming,” he said. “Mark and Debbie were saying ‘you assaulted us’ and the officer [Scarborough], was demanding their identification. Then another officer threatened them with a taser. He told Debbie to back away or he’d taser her and demanded that Mark get on the ground.”

Sorrell confirms this part of the account: “When they were outside, one of the other officers produced a taser and he [Mark Kuhn] surrendered and submitted.”

Deborah Kuhn’s screams also drew the attention of Shawn Brady and several of his roommates, who live next door to the couple. “I run outside and ask them what’s going on and there’s cops chasing Mark around his car,” Brady said. “They threaten to taser him and demand that he get on the ground. He gets on the ground and we ask them what they’re being charged with. They tell us it’s none of our concern. I tell them they’re our neighbors and it is our concern.”

Neal Wilson, who lives with Brady, also saw the deputy produce the taser, he says. After repeated questions, Brady and roommate Tony Plichta said that the deputies replied that “they didn’t know yet” what the couple would be charged with.

“This is an outrage,” Brady said. “The 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments were clearly broken today.”
Plichta expressed similar anger. “They actually wanted to know why we cared — these are our neighbors,” he said.

Following the arrest, the Kuhns were taken to the Buncombe County Detention Facility, where they were charged with two counts of assaulting a government official, and one count each of resisting arrest and desecrating an American flag. Their son posted their bail shortly afterwards.

This was not the first time that the flag had attracted attention. On July 18, with just the upside-down flag hanging, an Asheville police officer stopped by to inquire about the situation.

“He was very polite and just said that because it was a sign of distress, he wanted to make sure everything was OK,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We said we had it out as a show of desperation — our country is in distress and we just don’t know what to do. We asked if we had violated any ordinance. He said, ‘No, you have every right.’”

After that, Deborah Kuhn said that she posted up the picture of Bush and the explanation of their reasons for displaying the flag in protest.

A couple of days later, Mark Kuhn said that a man in military fatigues came to their door, and was driving a car with a federal license plate. “He stood here telling me that I needed to take the flag down or fly it right,” he said.

Kuhn adds that he assumed the man was with the National Guard, due to the nearby armory.

Wilson, Plichta and Brady said that after the man stopped by, they also saw him drive by several times during the following days, and one night, witnessed several other men in fatigues taking pictures of the flag.

Furthermore, Wilson said that as the Kuhns were being arrested and taken off, he saw a man in fatigues drive by and shout “Go to jail, baby!”

After his experience, Mark Kuhn said he is convinced this is not an isolated occurrence. “If Americans don’t wake up to the martial state we’re in, the cops, the police, the sheriffs, the state police will all come to our door and take us away if we allow this to happen – it’s time for America to wake up.”


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Are high-profile evangelical leaders endangering victims of domestic violence?
July 25 2007
By Bill Berkowitz

While domestic violence — also known as intimate partner violence — is in no way limited to any particular race, religion, ethnic group, class or sexual preference, author Jocelyn Andersen maintains that for far too long too many evangelical pastors have tried to sweep the problem under the rug. According to Andersen, the problem of physical, as well as emotional and spiritual abuse, is being exacerbated by the outdated teachings of several high-profile conservative Christian pastors.

In the introduction to her new book “Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence” (One Way Cafe Press, 2007), Andersen points out that “The practice of hiding, ignoring, and even perpetuating the emotional and physical abuse of women is … rampant within evangelical Christian fellowships and as slow as our legal systems have been in dealing with violence against women by their husbands, the church has been even slower.”

Andersen maintains that domestic violence in Christian families “often creates a cruel Catch-22 as many Christians and church leaders view recommending separation or divorce as unscriptural, but then silently view the battered woman, who chooses not to leave, with contempt for staying and tolerating the abuse. Victims quickly pick up on this hypocritical attitude and either leave the church altogether — or begin hiding the abuse. Either way they are giving up the spiritual guidance, and emotional support, they desperately need.”

“The secular medical world has had to reach in to advise and help women from the church see the truth of their situations, get shelter, and inform religious leaders about the need to accept medical and clinical facts about physical and mental abuse,” OneNewsNow.com — a news service of the American Family Association — reported in late June.

“Secular organizations are constantly addressing the religious aspects of domestic violence,” Andersen told the news service. “Christian women struggle with it and the secular organizations see what Christian women go through and religious women go through. They have set it up as their goal to educate spiritual leaders on the spiritual aspects, and the different aspects of domestic violence so they can give good counsel to the women coming to them. It’s a big issue.”

Andersen’s book discusses why women who are victims of domestic abuse stay with their abusers: “The third chapter of [the Book of] Genesis give us a clue, when the woman is told, ‘your desire will be to your husband’ — and he will ‘rule over’ you. The clue right there is no matter how he acts, her desire is often still toward him. She loves him. She responds to the abuse with an even greater determination to try to resolve the situation … and make it better.”

According to OneNewsNow, “Andersen never advocates divorce — yet she says after domestic violence enters the marriage picture, there must eventually come a point where a Christian woman decides what the will of God is for her in the face of the dangers of abuse. And that is where Andersen says the woman will likely conflict with pressure from the church to stay, no matter what.”

High-profile evangelical leaders blaming the victim
Andersen, whose account of physical abuse by her husband makes for a harrowing first chapter, says that the problem is exacerbated by misguided advice and use of outdated information in the writing of Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Dr. John MacArthur, a pastor-teacher at the Sun Valley, California-based Grace Community Church. “We do see some very big-name evangelical leaders blaming the battered woman for the abuse,” Andersen explained. “You know, talking about how she may provoke her husband into doing it; or that her poor, non-communicative husband can’t handle maybe what she’s trying to communicate to him and he lashes out and hits her — [that] shifts the blame right off him and to her.”

Via several emails, Anderson told Media Transparency that the work of Dobson and MacArthur perpetuate the problem of domestic violence among evangelical Christians.

She chose to look closely at their work because of the “scope of influence” they wield “within the Christian Community.” Both men are “prolific writers with best-selling books,” and the both “have large listening audiences for their radio broadcasts,” which “have been staples of Moody Christian Radio for years.” Millions of people listen to the broadcasts weekly, she said.

“Both Dobson and MacArthur are high-profile evangelical leaders with enough influence and ability to make a positive contribution to the plight of battered women which would result in lives being saved.” Instead, “their words are often used to send Christian women back into the danger zone with counsel that encourages them to try and change violent husbands or return to violent homes as soon as the ‘heat is off.’ The last time I looked, assault was a crime, but Christian women are generally not encouraged to report that crime.”

In her book, Andersen cites an incident in which a battered wife wrote to Dobson telling him that “the violence within her marriage was escalating in both frequency and intensity and that she feared for her life.” Dobson “replied that her goal should be to change her husband’s behavior–not to get a divorce (‘Love Must Be Tough,’ (1996) [this is the edition that was being sold as of March 2007]).”

“He did suggest leaving as a temporary solution, but only as a way of manipulating the husband’s behavior. I found it inexcusable that not one note of real concern for this woman’s immediate physical safety was sounded in his response–in spite of the fact that she clearly stated she was in fear for her life.”

“Dobson counseled her to precipitate a crisis in her marriage by choosing the most absurd demand her husband made, then refusing to consent to it. This was not only absurd advice in a domestic violence situation, but life-threateningly dangerous as well, and very telling of the fact that, in spite of over 1,000 deaths per year due to wife-beating, the wife beater is not generally viewed as a real threat to his wife’s life or safety. “

Andersen also takes on MacArthur: According to a tape titled Bible Questions and Answers Part 16, a member of Grace Community Church asked MacArthur how a Christian woman should react “and deal with being a battered wife.”

MacArthur’s answer contained “some very dangerous advice to battered wives. He said divorce is not an option to a battered wife, because the Bible doesn’t permit it.” While saying that it was okay “for the wife to get away while the pressure was on” it was with the understanding that she would return. “He warned wives to be very careful that they were not provoking the abusive situations. Because, he said, that was very often the problem.”

“Three years later, MacArthur said essentially the same thing (softened with a few disclaimers) in a booklet he still distributes today titled ‘Answering Key Questions About the Family.'”

“How many thousands of pastors, leaders and lay Christians have been and are still being influenced through the writing of James Dobson, John MacArthur and others who share their views?” Andersen asked.

Andersen says that both of these pastors “admit they believe a large percentage of battering cases are instigated and provoked by the wife.” While Dobson “described the issue of domestic violence as a problem of ‘epidemic proportions,’ in ‘Love Must Be Tough,’ only five-plus pages are devoted to the subject. And he used over half those pages to highlight a case in which a wife deliberately provoked her husband into hitting her so she could gain her ‘trophy’ of bruises which she could then parade around with in order to gain sympathy.”

While those incidents happen, Andersen points out that “the bulk of the research about domestic violence refutes the myth that battered wives enjoy being battered or deliberately provoke the violence in order to gain some moral advantage. That unfair example in no way typifies the face of domestic violence.”

“If a Christian Leader blames a woman for the violence in her marriage and neglects to encourage a battered wife to use the legal resources available to her in order to preserve her physical safety, that leader is not only sanctioning the abuse but perpetuating it as well,” Andersen maintains.

“Many wife-beaters who are church-goers, professing Christians, even pastors and leaders of churches are getting the message loud and clear that their spiritual leadership is not so concerned with the fact that they beat their wives as they are concerned that wives should be submitting to their husbands and not seeking legal protection or divorce.”

“Telling a woman to leave while the heat is on with the intention of returning is not uncommon advice among evangelicals. It amounts to no less than sending a battered woman back into a violent home. With a violent spouse when is the heat ever really off? This is sin and, in my opinion, it is criminal.”

Thus far, Andersen hasn’t received any grief for the charges in her book. She said that she received a request for a review copy of her book and a media kit from a news correspondent at Family News in Focus — a Focus on the Family news service — which she mailed several weeks ago, but hadn’t yet heard from them again.

1064

LSD as Therapy? Write about It, Get Barred from US
BC psychotherapist denied entry after border guard googled his work
April 23, 2007
By Linda Solomon

Andrew Feldmar, a well-known Vancouver psychotherapist, rolled up to the Blaine border crossing last summer as he had hundreds of times in his career. At 66, his gray hair, neat beard, and rimless glasses give him the look of a seasoned intellectual. He handed his passport to the U.S. border guard and relaxed, thinking he would soon be with an old friend in Seattle. The border guard turned to his computer and googled “Andrew Feldmar.”

The psychotherapist’s world was about to turn upside down.

Born in Hungary to Jewish parents as the Nazis were rising to power, Feldmar was hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust when he was three years old, after his parents were condemned to Auschwitz. Miraculously, his parents both returned alive and in 1945 Hungary was liberated by the Russian army. Feldmar escaped from communist Hungary in 1956 when he was 16 and immigrated to Canada. He has been married to Meredith Feldmar, an artist, for 37 years, and they live in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. They have two children, Soma, 33, who lives in Denver, and Marcel, 36, a resident of L.A. Highly respected in his field, Feldmar has been travelling to the U.S. for work and to see his family five or six times a year. He has worked for the UN, in Sarajevo and in Minsk with Chernobyl victims.

The Blaine border guard explained that Feldmar had been pulled out of the line as part of a random search. He seemed friendly, even as he took away Feldmar’s passport and car keys. While the contents of his car were being searched, Feldmar and the officer talked. He asked Feldmar what profession he was in.

When Feldmar said he was psychologist, the official typed his name into his Internet search engine. Before long the customs guard was engrossed in an article Feldmar had published in the spring 2001 issue of the journal Janus Head. The article concerned an acid trip Feldmar had taken in London, Ontario, and another in London, England, almost forty years ago. It also alluded to the fact that he had used hallucinogenics as a “path” to understanding self and that in certain cases, he reflected, it could “be preferable to psychiatry.” Everything seemed to collapse around him, as a quiet day crossing the border began to turn into a nightmare.

Fingerprints for FBI
He was told to sit down on a folding chair and for hours he wondered where this was going. He checked his watch and thought hopelessly of his friend who was about to land at the Seattle airport. Three hours later, the official motioned him into a small, barren room with an American flag. He was sitting on one side and Feldmar was on the other. The official said that under the Homeland Security Act, Feldmar was being denied entry due to “narcotics” use. LSD is not a narcotic substance, Feldmar tried to explain, but an entheogen. The guard wasn’t interested in technicalities. He asked for a statement from Feldmar admitting to having used LSD and he fingerprinted Feldmar for an FBI file.

Then Feldmar disbelievingly listened as he learned that he was being barred from ever entering the United States again. The officer told him he could apply to the Department of Homeland Security for a waiver, if he wished, and gave him a package, with the forms.

The border guard then escorted him to his car and made sure he did a U-turn and went back to Canada.

‘Curious. Very curious’
Feldmar attended the University of Toronto where he graduated with honours in mathematics, physics and chemistry. He received his M.A. in psychology from the University of Western Ontario. At University of Western Ontario, he was under supervision with Zenon Pylyshyn, who was from Saskatchewan and had participated, along with Abram Hoffer and Duncan Blewett, in the first experiments with LSD-25.

“Zenon told me he had had enough strange experiences, that he had gone about as far with LSD as he wished to go. He still had what was once legal…. Looking back 33 years, I don’t quite recall why I decided to accept his tentative offer. I was 27 years old and thought of myself as a rational scientist, and had no experience with delirium, hallucination, or altered mind states. I was curious. Very curious. I thought that, like Faust, I might make a pact with the devil in return for esoteric knowledge.”

Zenon gave him 900 micrograms of acid and the surprise of his life, he wrote in the Janus Head article. “Following this initiation, I traveled to many regions many times with the help of many different substances. I took peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, cannabis, MDMA, DMT, ketamine, nitrous oxide 5-MEO-DMT, but I kept coming back to LSD. Acid seemed my most spacious, most helpful ally. While on it, I explored my past, regressed to the womb, to my conception. I remembered, grieved, and mourned many painful events. I saw how my parents would have liked to love me, and how they didn’t because they didn’t know how. I learned, on acid, to endure troubling and frightening states of mind. This enabled me, as meditation has done, to identify with being the witness of the workings of my mind, observing whatever was going on, while knowing that I was simply captivated by the forms produced by my own psyche.”

After receiving his MA, Feldmar spent a semester in the U.S. at the Johns Hopkins University’s Ph.D. program in theoretical statistics. In 1969, he began Ph.D. work with Dr. Charles Osgood in psycholinguistics at the University of Illinois at Champagne Urbana. He did further Ph.D. studies at Simon Fraser University.

Legal options expensive
Feldmar was determined, in the months after the aborted border crossing, to turn things around. He was particularly determined because the idea of not being able to visit his children at their homes was unthinkable.

He contacted the U.S. Consul in Vancouver to protest and was again told to apply for a waiver. When he consulted Seattle attorney Bob Free at MacDonald, Hoague and Bayless about going through this process, he learned that for $3,500 (U.S.) plus incidentals, he’d have a 90 per cent chance to get the waiver, but it would probably be just for a year, and the procedure would have to be initiated again, any time he wished to cross the border. Each time, he would have to produce a statement saying that he had been “rehabilitated.”

He looked into filing suit against the U.S. government for wrongdoing but gave up the idea when he learned that a legal battle with U.S. Customs would cost his life’s savings and, with the balance of power tipped so extremely in the government’s favor, he would almost surely lose.

Again, he appealed to the U.S. Consulate. The consulate wouldn’t return his phone calls, but in this e-mail message to Feldmar, the consulate explained its position.

“Both our countries have very similar regulations regarding issuance of visas for citizens who have violated the law. The issue here is not the writing of an article, but the taking of controlled substances. I hear from American citizens all the time who have decades-old DUI convictions who are barred from entry into Canada and who must apply for waivers. Same thing here. Waiver is the only way.”

Ensnared by Section IV
“Admitted drug use is admitted drug use,” says Mike Milne, spokesman for U.S. border and protection, based in Seattle. Milne said he could not comment specifically on the Feldmar case, due to privacy issues, but he quoted from the U.S. Immigration Law Handbook section which refers to “general classes of aliens ineligible to receive visas and ineligible for admissions” to help shed light on the clauses that may have ensnared the Vancouver psychotherapist.

“Persons with AIDS, tuberculosis, infectious diseases are inadmissible,” Milne said. And then there is Section IV. “Anyone who is determined to be a drug abuser or user is inadmissible. A crime involving moral turpitude is inadmissible and one of those areas is a violation of controlled substances.”

If there’s no criminal record, as in Feldmar’s case?

Not necessarily the criterion, Milne said. You can still be considered dangerous.

‘More diligent and vigilant’
“The level of scrutiny at our nation’s borders have definitely gone up since the 9-11 disaster and we are more diligent and vigilant in checking people’s identities and criminal histories at our nation’s borders.”

Milne goes on, “There are three main areas that we have employed since 9-11 to better secure our borders. First is the number of officers we have working at our borders. We’ve doubled the numbers at the border. We’ve combined officers from Homeland Security and border protection. We brought in the officers from immigration and naturalization service, the department of agriculture and U.S. border patrol. By combining the expertise of those disparate border agencies into a single agency under a single management with the single purpose of protecting the U.S. against terrorism and other related offences, it created a more effective border agency. It created a more secure border.

“The second thing would be our information systems, our watch list systems are better shared within the U.S. government and between governments, between information sharing agreements, through Interpol, through terrorist watch list sharing internationally, we have better access for our front line officers to query information systems up to and including public based systems, including the Internet. Third, we have better infrastructure at our entries. We have cameras in some of our more remote points of entry, gates, lighting, to make them more secure. We do more checks at the borders. It depends on what level of alert we’re at. At certain alert levels we do 100 per cent identity checks.”

War on drugs meets war on terror
Eugene Oscapella is an Ottawa lawyer, who lectures on drug policy issues in the department of criminology at the University of Ottawa. He also works as a policy advisor to a range of government agencies and departments, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Oscapella sees the American security system upgrades and the potential uses alarming.

“This is about the marriage of the war on drugs and the war on terror, and the blind, bureaucratic mindset it encourages. Government surveillance in the name of the war on drugs and the war on terror is in danger of making us all open books to zealous governments. As someone mentioned at a privacy conference I attended in London, U.K., several months ago, all the tools for an authoritarian state are now in place; it’s just that we haven’t yet adopted authoritarian methods. But in the area of drugs, maybe we have.”

‘Ominous omen’
Feldmar was in the process of considering whether to apply for a waiver when he sought help from Ethan Nadlemann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York, whose financial backer is another Hungarian, George Soros.

Nadlemann was outraged. “Nobel Peace prize winners, some of the great scientists and writers in the world have experimented with LSD in their time. We know people are being pulled out of lines and racially profiled as part of the war against terrorism. But this is a different kind of travesty, banning someone because they used a substance in another country thirty years ago,” he said.

In February he wrote Feldmar, “Not that it helps much, but I just want you to know that I have not forgotten you or your situation. I feel frustrated vis a vis the media, and on other avenues, but I am not forgetting. I really think this situation is absurd, and an ominous omen of things to come.”

When Feldmar was barred from entering the U.S., he joined the ranks of other intellectuals and artists. Pop singer Cat Stevens was turned back from the U.S. in 2004, after being detained. Bolivian human rights leader and lawyer, Leonida Zurita Vargas was prevented from entering in February of 2006. She was planning to be in the U.S. as part of a three week speaking tour on Bolivian social movements and human rights. The tour would have taken her to Vermont, Harvard, Stanford and Washington D.C., but she never got beyond the airport check-in at Santa Cruz, Bolivia where she was informed her ten-year visa had been revoked because of alleged links to terrorist activity.

‘Ideological exclusion provision’
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied Professor John Milios entry into the country upon his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport last June. Milios, a faculty member at the National Technical University of Athens, had planned to present a paper at a conference titled “How Class Works” at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Milios told Academe Online that U.S. officials questioned him at the airport about his political ideas and affiliations and that the American consul in Athens later queried him about the same subjects. Milios, a member of a left-wing political party, is active in Greek national politics and has twice been a candidate for the Greek parliament. Milios’s visa, issued in 1996, was set to expire in November. The professor had previously been allowed entry into the United States on five separate occasions to participate in academic meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center, filed a lawsuit this year challenging a provision of the Patriot Act that is being used to deny visas to foreign scholars. They did this after Professor Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss intellectual, had his visa revoked under “the ideological exclusion provision” of the Patriot Act, preventing him from assuming a tenured teaching position at the University of Notre Dame. It’s a suit that attempts to prevent the practice of ideological exclusion more generally, a practice that led to the recent exclusions of Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan scholar who had been offered a position at Harvard University, as well as numerous scholars from Cuba.

In March 2005, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the government’s use of the Patriot Act ideological exclusion provision. Cuban Grammy nominee Ibrahim Ferrer, 77, who came to fame in the 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club, was blocked by the U.S. government from attending the Grammy Awards, where he was nominated for the Best Latin album award in 2004. So were his fellow musicians Guillermo Rubalcaba, Amadito Valdes, Barbarito Torres and the group Septeto Nacional with Ignacio Pineiro. The list goes on.

Cut off from friends
Nine months after being turned back at the border, Feldmar has concluded that his banishment is permanent. The waiver process is exhausting, costly and demeaning. The David and Goliath aspect of the situation is too daunting.

This is devastating to his family and friends. “My father was doing nothing wrong, illegal, suspicious, or at all deviant in any way, when he was trying to visit the U.S.,” his daughter, Soma, an instructor at a Denver college, says. “In terms of family it really sucks. ”

It’s hard for his friend, Alphonso Lingis, a professor of philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. “I’m deeply pained by the prospect of no longer being able to welcome him in the United States,” Lingis said. “The notion that he and his work could harm anyone is preposterous. He’s a victim of scandalous bureaucratic incompetence by the United States officials involved in this matter.”

‘Alchemist’s dictum’
When Feldmar looks back on what has happened, he concludes that he was operating out of a sense of safety that has become dated in the last six years, since 9-11. His real mistake was to write about his drug experiences and post this on the web, even in a respected journal like Janus Head. He acknowledges that he had not considered posting on the Internet the risk that it turned out to be. So many of his generation share his experience in experimenting with drugs, after all. He believed it was safe to communicate about the past from the depth of retrospection and that this would be a useful grain of personal wisdom to share with others. He now warns his friends to think twice before they post anything about their personal lives on the web.

“I didn’t heed the ancient Alchemists’ dictum, ‘Do, dare, and be silent,'” Feldmar says. “And yet, the experience of being treated as undesirable was shocking. The helplessness, the utter uselessness of trying to be seen as I know myself and as I am known generally by those I care about and who care about me, the reduction of me to an undesirable offender, was truly frightening. I became aware of the fragility of my identity, the brittleness of a way of life.

“Memories of having been the object of the objectifying gaze crowd into my mind. I have been seen and labeled as a Jew, as a Communist, as a D. P. (Displaced Person), as a student, as a patient, a man, a Hungarian, a refugee, an émigré, an immigrant…. Now I am being seen as one of those drug users, perhaps an addict, perhaps a dealer, one can’t be sure. In the matter of a second, I became powerless, whatever I said wasn’t going to be taken seriously. I was labeled, sorted and disposed of. Dismissed.”


Flex Your Rights

1063

Sheehan: Let’s get away from usual party politics
Peace activist voices her independent streak
July 22, 2007
By Cindy Sheehan

The feedback I have been receiving since I announced that I would challenge U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for her House seat — unless she gives impeachment the go-ahead — has been running about 3-to-1 positive.

Some people have offered to quit their jobs to move to California’s Eighth Congressional District to help my possible campaign. People are lining up to donate and help, and I am again very grateful and touched beyond belief by the generosity and energy of my fellow Americans.

I truly understand the not-so-supportive people, though, because I have been in their shoes. Here in the United States, most of us put our faith in a two-party system that has failed peace and justice repeatedly. The Republicans do not have a monopoly on the culture of corruption (although BushCo has elevated it to policy status), and the way we do politics in this country needs a serious shakeup, when all we the people are getting is a shakedown.

I was frightened out of ever voting for a third party, or an independent candidate, but voting out of fear is one of the things that bestowed us with the Bush crime mob and may give us the Republican, if not in party affiliation, Hillary Clinton.

I was a lifelong Democrat only because the choices were limited. The Democrats are the party of slavery and were the party that started every war in the 20th century, except the other Bush debacle. The Federal Reserve, permanent federal income taxes, not one but two World Wars, Japanese concentration camps, and not one but two atom bombs dropped on the innocent citizens of Japan — all brought to us via the Democrats.

Don’t tell me the Democrats are our “saviors” because I am not buying it — especially after they bought more caskets and more devastating pain when they financed and co-facilitated more of President Bush’s abysmal occupation. The Democrats also are allowing a meltdown of our republic by allowing the evils of the executive branch to continue unrestrained by their silent complicity.

Good change has happened during Democratic regimes, but as in the civil rights and union movements, the positive changes occurred because of the people, not the politicians. I will run as an independent because I find the corruption in both parties unhealthy, and I believe we need to have more allegiance to humans than to a political party.

I have nothing personally against Pelosi and have found our previous interactions very pleasant. However, being “against” the occupation of Iraq means ending it by ending the funding, preventing future illegal wars of aggression and holding BushCo accountable. Words have to be backed up by action, and if they aren’t, they are as empty as Vice President Dick Cheney’s conscience.

If Pelosi does her constitutional and moral duty by Monday, then I believe some balance will be restored to the universe, and my organization, People for Humanity, can carry on with its humanitarian projects. If she doesn’t, we will carry on anyway, with a political campaign to boot.

I hope this challenges other people who desire healthy political change and not temporary Band-Aids to replace other Democrats and Republicans who do not conform to the beatitudes of peace, sustainability and the rule of law for everybody, not just poor or marginalized people.

Being a born and raised Californian and being a Bay Area resident for the past 14 years have given me great insight into the people and concerns of San Francisco.

I am concerned with many of the same things: same-sex partnership laws, the environment, health care, affordable post-secondary education, better schools, counter-military recruitment, poverty, AIDS research and cures, decriminalization of marijuana, and especially stopping war and ensuring real peace.

I think I agree with Pelosi on many of these issues, but the difference is, I don’t live in a mansion on the hill. Many of these issues have affected me and my family personally, and I am committed to fighting for the people, not the corporate interests.

I wouldn’t put myself through this if I weren’t dead serious and committed to making America a better country than we have now, and holding people to a much higher standard than politics as usual. I am rested, restored to health and ready to rumble. I realize that if ever there was a time for politics as unusual, it is now.


The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-
Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul

July 22, 2007
By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL

Whipping westward across Manhattan in a limousine sent by Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” Ron Paul, the 10-term Texas congressman and long-shot Republican presidential candidate, is being briefed. Paul has only the most tenuous familiarity with Comedy Central. He has never heard of “The Daily Show.” His press secretary, Jesse Benton, is trying to explain who its host, Jon Stewart, is. “He’s an affable gentleman,” Benton says, “and he’s very smart. What I’m getting from the pre-interview is, he’s sympathetic.”

Paul nods.

“GQ wants to profile you on Thursday,” Benton continues. “I think it’s worth doing.”

“GTU?” the candidate replies.

“GQ. It’s a men’s magazine.”

“Don’t know much about that,” Paul says.

Thin to the point of gauntness, polite to the point of daintiness, Ron Paul is a 71-year-old great-grandfather, a small-town doctor, a self-educated policy intellectual and a formidable stander on constitutional principle. In normal times, Paul might be — indeed, has been — the kind of person who is summoned onto cable television around April 15 to ventilate about whether the federal income tax violates the Constitution. But Paul has in recent weeks become a sensation in magazines he doesn’t read, on Web sites he has never visited and on television shows he has never watched.

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He communicates with his constituents through birthday cards, August barbecues and the cookbooks his wife puts together every election season, which mix photos of grandchildren, Gospel passages and neighbors’ recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge and Cherry Coke salad. He is listed in the phone book, and his constituents call him at home. But there is also something cosmopolitan and radical about him; his speeches can bring to mind the World Social Forum or the French international-affairs periodical Le Monde Diplomatique. Paul is surely the only congressman who would cite the assertion of the left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that “the world is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony.” The word “empire” crops up a lot in his speeches.

This side of Paul has made him the candidate of many people, on both the right and the left, who hope that something more consequential than a mere change of party will come out of the 2008 elections. He is particularly popular among the young and the wired. Except for Barack Obama, he is the most-viewed candidate on YouTube. He is the most “friended” Republican on MySpace.com. Paul understands that his chances of winning the presidency are infinitesimally slim. He is simultaneously planning his next Congressional race. But in Paul’s idea of politics, spreading a message has always been just as important as seizing office. “Politicians don’t amount to much,” he says, “but ideas do.” Although he is still in the low single digits in polls, he says he has raised $2.4 million in the second quarter, enough to broaden the four-state campaign he originally planned into a national one.

Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq, deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June, despite a life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded from a Republican forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian groups. His school of Republicanism, which had its last serious national airing in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, stands for a certain idea of the Constitution — the idea that much of the power asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from Congress, and that much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped from the states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn’t go far enough), he still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from them: Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.

Over the years, this vision has won most favor from those convinced the country is going to hell in a handbasket. The attention Paul has captured tells us a lot about the prevalence of such pessimism today, about the instability of partisan allegiances and about the seldom-avowed common ground between the hard right and the hard left. His message draws on the noblest traditions of American decency and patriotism; it also draws on what the historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in American politics.

Financial Armageddon

Paul grew up in the western Pennsylvania town of Green Tree. His father, the son of a German immigrant, ran a small dairy company. Sports were big around there — one of the customers on the milk route Paul worked as a teenager was the retired baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner — and Paul was a terrific athlete, winning a state track meet in the 220 and excelling at football and baseball. But knee injuries had ended his sports career by the time he went off to Gettysburg College in 1953. After medical school at Duke, Paul joined the Air Force, where he served as a flight surgeon, tending to the ear, nose and throat ailments of pilots, and traveling to Iran, Ethiopia and elsewhere. “I recall doing a lot of physicals on Army warrant officers who wanted to become helicopter pilots and go to Vietnam,” he told me. “They were gung-ho. I’ve often thought about how many of those people never came back.”

Paul is given to mulling things over morally. His family was pious and Lutheran; two of his brothers became ministers. Paul’s five children were baptized in the Episcopal church, but he now attends a Baptist one. He doesn’t travel alone with women and once dressed down an aide for using the expression “red-light district” in front of a female colleague. As a young man, though, he did not protest the Vietnam War, which he now calls “totally unnecessary” and “illegal.” Much later, after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, he began reading St. Augustine. “I was annoyed by the evangelicals’ being so supportive of pre-emptive war, which seems to contradict everything that I was taught as a Christian,” he recalls. “The religion is based on somebody who’s referred to as the Prince of Peace.”

In 1968, Paul settled in southern Texas, where he had been stationed. He recalls that he was for a while the only obstetrician — “a very delightful part of medicine,” he says — in Brazoria County. He was already immersed in reading the economics books that would change his life. Americans know the “Austrian school,” if at all, from the work of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, two economists who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and whose free-market doctrines helped inspire the conservative movement in the 1950s. The laws of economics don’t admit exceptions, say the Austrians. You cannot fake out markets, no matter how surreptitiously you expand the money supply. Spend more than you earn, and you are on the road to inflation and tyranny.

Such views are not always Republican orthodoxy. Paul is a harsh critic of the Federal Reserve, both for its policies and its unaccountability. “We first bonded,” recalls Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, “because we were both conspicuous nonworshipers at the Temple of the Fed and of the High Priest Greenspan.” In recent weeks, Paul’s airport reading has been a book called “Financial Armageddon.” He is obsessed with sound money, which he considers — along with the related phenomena of credit excess, bubbles and uncollateralized assets of all kinds — a “sleeper issue.” The United States ought to link its currency to gold or silver again, Paul says. He puts his money where his mouth is. According to Federal Election Commission documents, most of his investments are in gold and silver and are worth between $1.5 and $3.5 million. It’s a modest sum by the standards of major presidential candidates but impressive for someone who put five children through college on a doctor’s (and later a congressman’s) earnings.

For Paul, everything comes back to money, including Iraq. “No matter how much you love the empire,” he says, “it’s unaffordable.” Wars are expensive, and there has been a tendency throughout history to pay for them by borrowing. A day of reckoning always comes, says Paul, and one will come for us. Speaking this spring before the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation in Reston, Va., he warned of a dollar crisis. “That’s usually the way empires end,” he said. “It wasn’t us forcing the Soviets to build missiles that brought them down. It was the fact that socialism doesn’t work. Our system doesn’t work much better.”

Under the banner of “Freedom, Honesty and Sound Money,” Paul ran for Congress in 1974. He lost — but took the seat in a special election in April 1976. He lost again in November of that year, then won in 1978. On two big issues, he stood on principle and was vindicated: He was one of very few Republicans in Congress to back Ronald Reagan against Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. He was also one of the representatives who warned against the rewriting of banking rules that laid the groundwork for the savings-and-loan collapse of the 1980s. Paul served three terms before losing to Phil Gramm in the Republican primary for Senate in 1984. Tom DeLay took over his seat.

Paul would not come back to Washington for another dozen years. But in the time he could spare from delivering babies in Brazoria County, he remained a mighty presence in the out-of-the-limelight world of those old-line libertarians who had never made their peace with the steady growth of federal power in the 20th century. Paul got the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 1988, defeating the Indian activist Russell Means in a tough race. He finished third behind Bush and Dukakis, winning nearly half a million votes. He tended his own Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE) and kept up his contacts with other market-oriented organizations. What resulted was a network of true believers who would be his political base in one of the stranger Congressional elections of modern times.

A Lone Wolf

In the first days of 1995, just weeks after the Republican landslide, Paul traveled to Washington and, through DeLay, made contact with the Texas Republican delegation. He told them he could beat the Democratic incumbent Greg Laughlin in the reconfigured Gulf Coast district that now included his home. Republicans had their own ideas. In June 1995, Laughlin announced he would run in the next election as a Republican. Laughlin says he had discussed switching parties with Newt Gingrich, the next speaker, before the Republicans even took power. Paul suspects to this day that the Republicans wooed Laughlin to head off his candidacy. Whatever happened, it didn’t work. Paul challenged Laughlin in the primary.

“At first, we kind of blew him off,” recalls the longtime Texas political consultant Royal Masset. “ ‘Oh, there’s Ron Paul!’ But very quickly, we realized he was getting far more money than anybody.” Much of it came from out of state, from the free-market network Paul built up while far from Congress. His candidacy was a problem not just for Laughlin. It also threatened to halt the stream of prominent Democrats then switching parties — for what sane incumbent would switch if he couldn’t be assured the Republican nomination? The result was a heavily funded effort by the National Republican Congressional Committee to defeat Paul in the primary. The National Rifle Association made an independent expenditure against him. Former President George H.W. Bush, Gov. George W. Bush and both Republican senators endorsed Laughlin. Paul had only two prominent backers: the tax activist Steve Forbes and the pitcher Nolan Ryan, Paul’s constituent and old friend, who cut a number of ads for him. They were enough. Paul edged Laughlin in a runoff and won an equally narrow general election.

Republican opposition may not have made Paul distrust the party, but beating its network with his own homemade one revealed that he didn’t necessarily need the party either. Paul looks back on that race and sees something in common with his quixotic bid for the presidency. “I always think that if I do things like that and get clobbered, I can excuse myself,” he says.

Anyone who is elected to Congress three times as a nonincumbent, as Paul has been, is a politician of prodigious gifts. Especially since Paul has real vulnerabilities in his district. For Eric Dondero, who plans to challenge him in the Republican Congressional primary next fall, foreign policy is Paul’s central failing. Dondero, who is 44, was Paul’s aide and sometime spokesman for more than a decade. According to Dondero, “When 9/11 happened, he just completely changed. One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was . . . it was, ‘Now we’re gonna get big government.’ ”

Dondero claims that Paul’s vote to authorize force in Afghanistan was made only after warnings from a longtime staffer that voting otherwise would cost him Victoria, a pivotal city in his district. (“Completely false,” Paul says.) One day just after the Iraq invasion, when Dondero was driving Paul around the district, the two had words. “He said he did not want to have someone on staff who did not support him 100 percent on foreign policy,” Dondero recalls. Paul says Dondero’s outspoken enthusiasm for the military’s “shock and awe” strategy made him an awkward spokesman for an antiwar congressman. The two parted on bad terms.

A larger vulnerability may be that voters want more pork-barrel spending than Paul is willing to countenance. In a rice-growing, cattle-ranching district, Paul consistently votes against farm subsidies. In the very district where, on the night of Sept. 8, 1900, a storm destroyed the city of Galveston, leaving 6,000 dead, and where repairs from Hurricane Rita and refugees from Hurricane Katrina continue to exact a toll, he votes against FEMA and flood aid. In a district that is home to many employees of the Johnson Space Center, he votes against financing NASA.

The Victoria Advocate, an influential newspaper in the district, has generally opposed Paul for re-election, on the grounds that a “lone wolf” cannot get the highway and homeland-security financing the district needs. So how does he get re-elected? Tim Delaney, the paper’s editorial-page editor, says: “Ron Paul is a very charismatic person. He has charm. He does not alter his position ever. His ideals are high. If a little old man calls up from the farm and says, ‘I need a wheelchair,’ he’ll get the damn wheelchair for him.”

Paul may have refused on principle to accept Medicare when he practiced medicine. He may return a portion of his Congressional office budget every year. But his staff has the reputation of fighting doggedly to collect Social Security checks, passports, military decorations, immigrant-visa extensions and any emolument to which constituents are entitled by law. According to Jackie Gloor, who runs Paul’s Victoria office: “So many times, people say to us, ‘We don’t like his vote.’ But they trust his heart.”

In Congress, Paul is generally admired for his fidelity to principle and lack of ego. “He is one of the easiest people in Congress to work with, because he bases his positions on the merits of issues,” says Barney Frank, who has worked with Paul on efforts to ease the regulation of gambling and medical marijuana. “He is independent but not ornery.” Paul has made a habit of objecting to things that no one else objects to. In October 2001, he was one of three House Republicans to vote against the USA Patriot Act. He was the sole House member of either party to vote against the Financial Antiterrorism Act (final tally: 412-1). In 1999, he was the only naysayer in a 424-1 vote in favor of casting a medal to honor Rosa Parks. Nothing against Rosa Parks: Paul voted against similar medals for Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He routinely opposes resolutions that presume to advise foreign governments how to run their affairs: He has refused to condemn Robert Mugabe’s violence against Zimbabwean citizens (421-1), to call on Vietnam to release political prisoners (425-1) or to ask the League of Arab States to help stop the killing in Darfur (425-1).

Every Thursday, Paul is the host of a luncheon for a circle of conservative Republicans that he calls the Liberty Caucus. It has become the epicenter of antiwar Republicanism in Washington. One stalwart member is Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who during the debate over Iraq suggested renaming French fries “freedom fries” in the House dining room, but who has passed the years since in vocal opposition to the war. Another is John (Jimmy) Duncan of Tennessee, the only Republican besides Paul who voted against the war and remains in the House. Other regulars include Virgil Goode of Virginia, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Scott Garrett of New Jersey. Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Jeff Flake, the Arizonan scourge of pork-barrel spending, visit occasionally. Not all are antiwar, but many of the speakers Paul invites are: the former C.I.A. analyst Michael Scheuer, the intelligence-world journalist James Bamford and such disillusioned United States Army officers as William Odom, Gregory Newbold and Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief of staff), among others.

In today’s Washington, Paul’s combination of radical libertarianism and conservatism is unusual. Sometimes the first impulse predominates. He was the only Texas Republican to vote against last year’s Federal Marriage Amendment, meant to stymie gay marriage. He detests the federal war on drugs; the LSD guru Timothy Leary held a fundraiser for him in 1988. Sometimes he is more conservative. He opposed the recent immigration bill on the grounds that it constituted amnesty. At a breakfast for conservative journalists in the offices of Americans for Tax Reform this May, he spoke resentfully of being required to treat penurious immigrants in emergency rooms — “patients who were more likely to sue you than anybody else,” having children “who became automatic citizens the next day.” (Paul champions a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship.) While he backs free trade in theory, he opposes many of the institutions and arrangements — from the World Trade Organization to Nafta — that promote it in practice.

Paul also opposes abortion, which he believes should be addressed at the state level, not the national one. He remembers seeing a late abortion performed during his residency, years before Roe v. Wade, and he maintains it left an impression on him. “It was pretty dramatic for me,” he says, “to see a two-and-a-half-pound baby taken out crying and breathing and put in a bucket.”

The Owl-God Moloch

Paul’s message is not new. You could have heard it in 1964 or 1975 or 1991 at the conclaves of those conservatives who were considered outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. Back then, most Republicans appeared reconciled to a strong federal government, if only to do the expensive job of defending the country against Communism. But when the Berlin Wall fell, the dormant institutions and ideologies of pre-cold-war conservatism began to stir. In his 1992 and 1996 campaigns, Pat Buchanan was the first politician to express and exploit this change, breathing life into the motto “America First” (if not the organization of that name, which opposed entry into World War II).

Like Buchanan, Paul draws on forgotten traditions. His top aides are unimpeachably Republican but stand at a distance from the party as it has evolved over the decades. His chief of staff, Tom Lizardo, worked for Pat Robertson and Bill Miller Jr. (the son of Barry Goldwater’s vice-presidential nominee). His national campaign organizer, Lew Moore, worked for the late congressman Jack Metcalf of Washington State, another Goldwaterite. At the grass roots, Paul’s New Hampshire primary campaign stresses gun rights and relies on anti-abortion and tax activists from the organizations of Buchanan and the state’s former maverick senator, Bob Smith.

Paul admires Robert Taft, the isolationist Ohio senator known during the Truman administration as Mr. Republican, who tried to rally Republicans against United States participation in NATO. Taft lost the Republican nomination in 1952 to Dwight Eisenhower and died the following year. “Now, of course,” Paul says, “I quote Eisenhower when he talks about the military-industrial complex. But I quote Taft when he suits my purposes too.” Particularly on NATO, from which Paul, too, would like to withdraw.

The question is whether the old ideologies being resurrected are neglected wisdom or discredited nonsense. In the 1996 general election, Paul’s Democratic opponent Lefty Morris held a press conference to air several shocking quotes from a newsletter that Paul published during his decade away from Washington. Passages described the black male population of Washington as “semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and stated that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Morris noted that a Canadian neo-Nazi Web site had listed Paul’s newsletter as a laudably “racialist” publication.

Paul survived these revelations. He later explained that he had not written the passages himself — quite believably, since the style diverges widely from his own. But his response to the accusations was not transparent. When Morris called on him to release the rest of his newsletters, he would not. He remains touchy about it. “Even the fact that you’re asking this question infers, ‘Oh, you’re an anti-Semite,’ ” he told me in June. Actually, it doesn’t. Paul was in Congress when Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 and — unlike the United Nations and the Reagan administration — defended its right to do so. He says Saudi Arabia has an influence on Washington equal to Israel’s. His votes against support for Israel follow quite naturally from his opposition to all foreign aid. There is no sign that they reflect any special animus against the Jewish state.

What is interesting is Paul’s idea that the identity of the person who did write those lines is “of no importance.” Paul never deals in disavowals or renunciations or distancings, as other politicians do. In his office one afternoon in June, I asked about his connections to the John Birch Society. “Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!” he said in mock horror. “Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John Birch Society. They’re generally well educated, and they understand the Constitution. I don’t know how many positions they would have that I don’t agree with. Because they’re real strict constitutionalists, they don’t like the war, they’re hard-money people. . . . ”

Paul’s ideological easygoingness is like a black hole that attracts the whole universe of individuals and groups who don’t recognize themselves in the politics they see on TV. To hang around with his impressively large crowd of supporters before and after the CNN debate in Manchester, N.H., in June, was to be showered with privately printed newsletters full of exclamation points and capital letters, scribbled-down U.R.L.’s for Web sites about the Free State Project, which aims to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian enclave, and copies of the cult DVD “America: Freedom to Fascism.”

Victor Carey, a 45-year-old, muscular, mustachioed self-described “patriot” who wears a black baseball cap with a skull and crossbones on it, drove up from Sykesville, Md., to show his support for Paul. He laid out some of his concerns. “The people who own the Federal Reserve own the oil companies, they own the mass media, they own the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, they’re part of the Bilderbergers, and unfortunately their spiritual practices are very wicked and diabolical as well,” Carey said. “They go to a place out in California known as the Bohemian Grove, and there’s been footage obtained by infiltration of what their practices are. And they do mock human sacrifices to an owl-god called Moloch. This is true. Go research it yourself.”

Two grandmothers from North Carolina who painted a Winnebago red, white and blue were traveling around the country, stumping for Ron Paul, defending the Constitution and warning about the new “North American Union.” Asked whether this is something that would arise out of Nafta, Betty Smith of Chapel Hill, N.C., replied: “It’s already arisen. They’re building the highway. Guess what! The Spanish company building the highway — they’re gonna get the tolls. Giuliani’s law firm represents that Spanish company. Giuliani’s been anointed a knight by the Queen. Guess what! Read the Constitution. That’s not allowed!”

Paul is not a conspiracy theorist, but he has a tendency to talk in that idiom. In a floor speech shortly after the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he mentioned Unocal’s desire to tap the region’s energy and concluded, “We should not be surprised now that many contend that the plan for the U.N. to ‘nation-build’ in Afghanistan is a logical and important consequence of this desire.” But when push comes to shove, Paul is not among the “many” who “contend” this. “I think oil and gas is part of it,” he explains. “But it’s not the issue. If that were the only issue, it wouldn’t have happened. The main reason was to get the Taliban out.”

Last winter at a meet-the-candidate house party in New Hampshire, students representing a group called Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth asked Paul whether he believed the official investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks was credible. “I never automatically trust anything the government does when they do an investigation,” Paul replied, “because too often I think there’s an area that the government covered up, whether it’s the Kennedy assassination or whatever.” The exchange was videotaped and ricocheted around the Internet for a while. But Paul’s patience with the “Truthers,” as they call themselves, does not make him one himself. “Even at the time it happened, I believe the information was fairly clear that Al Qaeda was involved,” he told me.

“Every Wacko Fringe Group In the Country”

One evening in mid-June, 86 members of a newly formed Ron Paul Meetup group gathered in a room in the Pasadena convention center. It was a varied crowd, preoccupied by the war, including many disaffected Democrats. Via video link from Virginia, Paul’s campaign chairman, Kent Snyder, spoke to the group “of a coming-together of the old guard and the new.” Then Connie Ruffley, co-chairwoman of United Republicans of California (UROC), addressed the crowd. UROC was founded during the 1964 presidential campaign to fight off challenges to Goldwater from Rockefeller Republicanism. Since then it has lain dormant but not dead — waiting, like so many other old right-wing groups, for someone or something to kiss it back to life. UROC endorsed Paul at its spring convention.

That night, Ruffley spoke about her past with the John Birch Society and asked how many in the room were members (quite a few, as it turned out). She referred to the California senator Dianne Feinstein as “Fine-Swine,” and got quickly to Israel, raising the Israeli attack on the American Naval signals ship Liberty during the Six-Day War. Some people were pleased. Others walked out. Others sent angry e-mails that night. Several said they would not return. The head of the Pasadena Meetup group, Bill Dumas, sent a desperate letter to Paul headquarters asking for guidance:

“We’re in a difficult position of working on a campaign that draws supporters from laterally opposing points of view, and we have the added bonus of attracting every wacko fringe group in the country. And in a Ron Paul Meetup many people will consider each other ‘wackos’ for their beliefs whether that is simply because they’re liberal, conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, evangelical Christian, etc. . . . We absolutely must focus on Ron’s message only and put aside all other agendas, which anyone can save for the next ‘Star Trek’ convention or whatever.”

But what is “Ron’s message”? Whatever the campaign purports to be about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and their numbers — and anger — are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together.


blurdge

1061

Gingrich: Fear Islamic dictatorship
He tells crowd at Stabler Arena that’s what will happen here if U.S. loses Iraq war.
July 20, 2007
By Daryl Nerl

Former House speaker and possible presidential contender Newt Gingrich, speaking Thursday night at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, conjured up images of an Islamic dictatorship in the United States as the consequence of failure in Iraq.

”It isn’t about Israel. It isn’t about us being in Iraq,” Gingrich told about 500 people gathered at the Impact ’07 leadership conference at Stabler Arena. ”They want to impose their dictatorship on us.”

In grim terms, Gingrich described the most severe consequences for women, who he said would not have been allowed to attend the Lehigh conference.

”If you want to be able to drive, to have a job, to have a checkbook; if you don’t want to have to wear a veil; if you want to be able to appear in public without a man, you’d better hope our team wins,” Gingrich said as he concluded his appearance on the Stabler stage, the first visit to the Lehigh Valley by a potential 2008 White House contender.

During a question-and-answer session, event host and radio personality Bobby Gunther Walsh put Gingrich on the spot about his presidential aspirations, but the Pennsylvania-born former congressman from Georgia remained coy.

”Beats me,” Gingrich said when Walsh asked him if he would run. Asked about a possible running mate, Gingrich said: ”I don’t know.”

Walsh then asked the crowd if they wanted Gingrich to run, and most responded with enthusiastic applause.

Among those cheering was John Hinkle, a Lehigh County Republican committeeman from Upper Milford Township, who said Gingrich is his favorite candidate.

”I think Newt is a very smart man,” Hinkle said. ”He understands the war on terror.”

Gingrich has been touring the country in much the same way a hopeful would, making frequent stops in New Hampshire and Iowa where the presidential primary will kick off in January 2008.

Before introducing Gingrich, Walsh noted that a recent poll of Republican-leaning voters had ”undecided” leading the presidential race. ”We couldn’t get him here tonight,” Walsh said.

That poll, sponsored by The Associated Press, had Gingrich in fifth place behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former ”Law & Order” star and ex-Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Thompson and Gingrich have not declared their candidacies. Gingrich has said he will not decide until October.

Nonetheless, Gingrich took an unsolicited swipe at another politician flirting with a run, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently announced he has abandoned the Republican Party to become an Independent. Some have speculated that the billionaire did this in preparation for a third-party run at the White House.

”I predict that if Bloomberg runs next year and he tries to spend $90 a vote, he’ll do surprisingly poorly,” Gingrich said. Voters will not respond well to a presidential candidate who is running ”as a hobby,” he said.

But the former House speaker saved his deadliest venom for Senate Democrats, accusing them of ”trying to defeat the U.S. in case Gen. [David] Petraeus wins” during a marathon debate on the war Wednesday night. Petraeus commands the U.S. military forces in Iraq.

”If Gen. Petraeus tomorrow morning announced the death of al-Qaida and peace in Iraq, a third of the U.S. Senate would be deeply disappointed,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said he has not always been happy with the decisions made in Iraq. ”It has been a mess,” he said. ”But it is getting better.”

He was the headline speaker at the conference, for which about 1,800 tickets had been sold or handed out to sponsors, said Pat Breslin, the event’s organizer. The goal was to raise about $35,000 to support the Life Academy of Allentown and the Boys and Girls Club of Easton, though Breslin was uncertain whether the target would be reached.


Old-line Republican warns ‘something’s in the works’ to trigger a police state
07/19/2007
by Muriel Kane

Thom Hartmann began his program on Thursday by reading from a new Executive Order which allows the government to seize the assets of anyone who interferes with its Iraq policies.

He then introduced old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts — a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq War — by quoting the “strong words” which open Roberts’ latest column: “Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran.”

“I don’t actually think they’re very strong,” said Roberts of his words. “I get a lot of flak that they’re understated and the situation is worse than I say. … When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order] … there’s no check to it. It doesn’t have to be ratified by Congress. The people who bear the brunt of these dictatorial police state actions have no recourse to the judiciary. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule. … The American people don’t really understand the danger that they face.”

Roberts said that because of Bush’s unpopularity, the Republicans face a total wipeout in 2008, and this may be why “the Democrats have not brought a halt to Bush’s follies or the war, because they expect his unpopular policies to provide them with a landslide victory in next year’s election.”

However, Roberts emphasized, “the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that Cheney and Rove and the Republicans are ignorant of these facts, or it assumes that they are content for the Republican Party to be destroyed after Bush has his fling.” Roberts believes instead that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the War on Terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party. “Something’s in the works,” he said, adding that the Executive Orders need to create a police state are already in place.

“The administration figures themselves and prominent Republican propagandists … are preparing us for another 9/11 event or series of events,” Roberts continued. “Chertoff has predicted them. … The National Intelligence Estimate is saying that al Qaeda has regrouped. … You have to count on the fact that if al Qaeda’s not going to do it, it’s going to be orchestrated. … The Republicans are praying for another 9/11.”

Hartmann asked what we as the people can do if impeachment isn’t about to happen. “If enough people were suspicious and alert, it would be harder for the administration to get away with it,” Roberts replied. However, he added, “I don’t think these wake-up calls are likely to be effective,” pointing out the dominance of the mainstream media.

“Americans think their danger is terrorists,” said Roberts. “They don’t understand the terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. … The terrorists are not anything like the threat that we face to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution from our own government in the name of fighting terrorism. Americans just aren’t able to perceive that.”

Roberts pointed out that it’s old-line Republicans like himself, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein, and Pat Buchanan who are the diehards in warning of the danger. “It’s so obvious to people like us who have long been associated in the corridors of power,” he said. “There’s no belief in the people or anything like that. They have agendas. The people are in the way. The Constitution is in the way. … Americans need to comprehend and look at how ruthless Cheney is. … A person like that would do anything.”

Roberts final suggestion was that, in the absence of a massive popular outcry, “the only constraints on what’s going to happen will come from the federal bureaucracy and perhaps the military. They may have had enough. They may not go along with it.”


You Are Destroying America. Yes, You.
Jul 19, 2007
by Brian Trent

…Terrorism will never destroy America. It will come from within. From fear-addicts who have raped the U.S. so much that they should be drawn up on charges of treason. The cowards who want a nanny state to coddle them, hug them, and ultimately contain them in a little crib with bars and monitors and cameras…

Sooner or later (as all great civilizations through time have dealt with) America will be attacked by terrorists again. There are too many people out there hopelessly addicted to extremism, to acting as pawns in a game of supernatural Risk, to blind fanaticism for it not to happen.

But that won’t destroy America.

In history, there have been the Hyksos, the Hittites, the Visigoths, the Huns, the Golden Horde, the Crusaders, and countless other unnamed peoples who have arrived with sword and torch to bring devastation to society. Today they use bombs and AK-47s. And in the future, even if education raises up humanity from the gutters of ignorance there will still be those of the fanatic pathology. It is likely there will always be barbarians.

But that won’t destroy America either.

You will.

I’m referring to the screeching fear-addicts who have raped the United States so thoroughly that they should be drawn up on charges of treason. The cowards who, unlike their grandfathers and earlier ancestors, want a nanny state to coddle them, hug them, and ultimately contain them in a little crib with bars and monitors and cameras.

These are the whining tantrum-throwers who live in such a fear-choked world that they will trade in America’s Constitution and Bill of Rights for far less than thirty pieces of silver.

They want the President to have the power to arrest Americans without review or charges. To have the power to imprison them indefinitely. To be able to strip away a citizen’s status with the magic words “enemy combatant” and cart them off to secret military trials per the PATRIOT ACT’s overbroad definitions.

These are the traitorous weasels who think that standing up for America’s rights is an act of weakness! The fools who have forgotten that every President swears an oath to “protect, defend, and preserve the Constitution of the United States.” At the end of the day, it is the Constitution which must survive us and continue as the guiding principle for America’s future as it has been for our past.

These are the cultists who have surrendered their most precious ability – freethinking – to be told by pundits what to echo and chant with brainless repetition.

I am not afraid of terrorists.

My country defeated the British Empire when we were but scattered colonies in the wilderness.

We defeated Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

We can defeat today’s Visigoths without devolving into a police state, without becoming the very antithesis to freedom and civil liberty that we were founded upon. For it is these notions that form the spine of our founding document – the Constitution.

And while we’re at it:

You spineless people who endorse the government listening to your phone calls, invading your homes, monitoring you beneath banners of “Freedom is Slavery” and ever-watchful eyes.

You people who are so terrified of open and honest debate that you simply parrot your equally cowardly pundit priests. You who refuse to hold the government accountable, refuse to remind them that they work for us, that we have the power in this nation, that the principles of liberty you mouth are things which must be fought for on domestic soil.

You who allows George W. Bush’s illegal wire-tapping and surveillance and propaganda machines to operate unfettered, without realizing that someday a Hillary or PETA or Moore will have access to the same system put in place today. Didn’t think of that, did you?

America can only be destroyed from within, not without. It isn’t gay marriage or pluralism that destroys us. It is the fear-addicts who are also astounding hypocrites: who support the right to bear arms despite 11,000 deaths a year (and for the record, I also support the Second Amendment wholeheartedly) but freak out when confronted with the proportion of deaths-from-terrorism over the last several years and will fork over their souls to a nanny-state self-perpetuating White House regime without hesitation.

Hypocrites. Cowards. Traitors.

Make no mistake that those in power are keenly aware of how easy you are to manipulate. They flash the lightning and you cower. They feed you a steady diet of feel-good platitudes because they know the real meal – reading the Constitution – is something you won’t bother to stomach.

Shame.

When we’re attacked again, we need to stand strong and firm and fight, against those barbarians who hurt us and against those opportunistic politicians who will try to exploit the tragedy.

Don’t let others tell you what the Founding Fathers wrote. Read it for yourself, brush up on your history, and rediscover the bravery of your progenitors.

Before it’s too late, and the “land of the free/home of the brave” becomes a footnote filed under irony.


Congressman Denied Access To Post-Attack Continuity Plans
July 22, 2007
By JEFF KOSSEFF

Constituents called Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure “bubbleroom” in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents.

On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED.

“I just can’t believe they’re going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack,” DeFazio said.

Homeland Security Committee staffers told his office that the White House initially approved his request, but it was later quashed. DeFazio doesn’t know who did it or why.

“We’re talking about the continuity of the government of the United States of America,” DeFazio said. “I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee.”

Bush administration spokesman Trey Bohn declined to say why DeFazio was denied access: “We do not comment through the press on the process that this access entails. It is important to keep in mind that much of the information related to the continuity of government is highly sensitive.”

Norm Ornstein, a legal scholar who studies government continuity at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he “cannot think of one good reason” to deny access to a member of Congress who serves on the Homeland Security Committee.

“I find it inexplicable and probably reflective of the usual knee-jerk overextension of executive power that we see from this White House,” Ornstein said.

This is the first time DeFazio has been denied access to documents. DeFazio has asked Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to help him access the documents.

“Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right,” DeFazio said.


1059

okay, here’s another reason why i have been grumpy and out of sorts since my return from OCF:

a couple of friends of mine from bellingham, ken and kamalla, have been planning a celebration of “the summer of love” for a while, and i have been invited to play music, along with a bunch of other musicians including a guy who is a famous musician (he played with some big name musicians back in the ’60s and ’70s but i can’t remember their names at the moment). i was planning on staying at the house that i lived at when i was in bellingham, called the “madhouse”, but then i learned that the madhouse is currently vacant because of the fact that collette, a very old friend of mine who has also been staying at the madhouse recently, has gone crazy and has driven everyone else away. the guy who owns the madhouse, darol (another very old friend of mine) and collette are the only people living there – there are usually at least 4 people, apart from darol, who lives there all the time, living there, and sometimes more than that.

the thing is, the psycho hose-beast from hell also lived at the madhouse before her first visit to the state loony bin a couple years ago, and i don’t want my association with these people (collette and the PHBFH) to affect my relationship with darol, and i don’t have anyplace else to stay in bellingham these days, because ken and kamalla have decided that they can’t have house guests while they’re preparing for the show. i have been waffling back and forth, one day i’m going to go to bellingham, and the next day i’m not, ever since i came back from OCF, and i’m getting really tired of not knowing whether i’m going to go or not, especially since the show is supposed to be in two weeks.

i had an appointment with ned this afternoon, but i had a BSSB performance at highline community college beforehand, and there was a massive traffic jam, so i arrived to my appointment 10 minutes late, and ned had already left for the day – something that wouldn’t have happened if i were paying him, which i can’t do because i don’t have health insurance. at the same time, i have been feeling more and more grumpy and out of sorts, and i have been seriously considering things like attacking the car that i saw ahead of me in the traffic jam today that had a bumper sticker that said “marriage = 1 man + 1 woman” with my car, or jumping out and giving them a lecture on why discrimination of any kind is the exact opposite of what jesus would do, and i have been more and more concerned that this country is going to hell in a handbasket and there’s nothing i can do about it. i’ve even been seriously considering suicide because things seem so hopeless and there’s no possibility that things are going to change, except for the worse, any time in the forseeable future

1058

okay, here’s one of the reasons why i have been grumpy and out of sorts for the past 3 days, since i got back from OCF.

i applied for a paypal account for my business back in, oh, i don’t know exactly, somewhere in 2004 or 2005. i applied for their “expanded use program” and they said that they had sent me an expanded use enrollment number on my bank statement in february of 2005, but i never received it. ever since then, about once a month, i have called paypal and tried to work it out to the limit of my frustration, and then given up until next month, having failed to complete my expanded use enrollment. at this point, i don’t even recall why the expanded use enrollment was so important to me, but it probably has to do with money i could be making if i completed it, or something like that.

since then, i have lost count of the number of paypal “associates” i have talked to, but at least ⅔ of them have had extremely heavy indian accents and have spoken quickly enough that i found it very difficult to understand them. not only that, but around ½ of them have given me a completely different story than the other ½, something about how i have a visa card, and there is a policy where they don’t allow more than one expanded use number to be sent for a visa card – which doesn’t really make any difference, because they never sent it me the first time.

finally, two days ago (the day after i got back from OCF), i talked to yet another associate who told me (once again) to look at my february 2005 bank statement (who would have guessed that it would be necessary to save a document for that long) and read off the charges to her. when i read off the charges and they didn’t include a charge from paypal, she wanted me to fax the statements from february and march (just to make sure). i don’t have a fax machine any longer, and they don’t accept email attachments (probably a good thing, considering their general incompetence), so i had moe fax them from her place of employment the next day (yesterday). today i called them…

AND THEY HAVEN’T RECIEVED THE DOCUMENTS YET!

they said that it takes 24 to 48 hours for them to receive faxes, which doesn’t make any sense to me. according to how i understand fax is supposed to work, fax is supposed to be a way to transmit printed documents on an almost instantaneous basis… but they said that it takes 24 to 48 hours. and then, on top of that, they wouldn’t confirm their fax number for me. i don’t know who has my bank statements but i’m thinking more and more that i may have directed moe to fax my bank statements to an unknown and potentially harmful recipient.

not only that, but the first associate i talked to said that she was putting me on hold while she went and checked whether the documents had been received or not, and then hung up on me. the second associate i talked to was very apologetic about the first associate hanging up on me, but she wouldn’t even go check on the documents because it hasn’t been 48 hours yet.

i used to be very nice to telephone drones when i had occasion to call them, but that was a very long time ago. since then i have actually been a technical support engineer (telephone drone) for microsoft, and heard all the phone calls from the other side, and now i have absolutely no patience with idiots, pointless policies, people who assume that they’re never going to talk to me again, so why bother being nice, and outsourced people from another country who don’t know what they’re taking about and can’t speak the language anyway.

if it weren’t for the fact that i actually use my paypal account on a regular basis, i would close my account and go somewhere else in an instant.

and to make matters worse, i have no cannabis and no way to obtain more… and the country is going to hell in a handbasket and there’s nothing i can do about it.

>BP

1056

i’m grumpy and out of sorts, which is odd since i just got back from OCF, which was awesome. there is a bunch of shit going on in my life currently, which OCF distracted me from for long enough that, when i was forced to go back to it, it really sucked. i’ll post about OCF now, and get to the griping about shit later.

blurdge

there are a bunch of pictures, and there are still a huge quantity that i have yet to process. there will be more photos over the next few days as i get around to it.

i got a ride to the fair from moe(!), but she had to leave on saturday, so i rode back with norma. we got there thursday and ended up camping behind morningwood, which was much superior to mosquito acres (sorry ducky), where i camped last year. it was completely shaded, so it was much cooler even in the hottest part of the day, there weren’t any mosquitos or yellowjackets or obvious bug sex, and it was about 10 feet from the backstage area, behind a “secret” door next to the band locker.

blurdge

the shows went extremely well. we had our first and only dress rehearsal on thursday night, did a run of six shows in 3 days, and came away with a solid script that is being expanded on by the entire cast. it was amazing, because even though simon and a few others didn’t completely know their lines, we were able to pull it off with a humour that the crowd found infectious, and those who didn’t have their lines completely ready by the first show were doing quite well indeed by the second show. the music was outstanding. there were songs by stuart, jeremy(!), kiki, and amy bob, and the audience invariably went away humming the tunes.

blurdge

BBWP performed at the “real” fire show (which is the one for the public, in kermit lot) again this year. it was huge. the backdrop was enormous, and there were around 1,500 – 2,000 people in the audience. i fell off my buckets about 5 minutes before we were supposed to go on, but, miraculously, i didn’t sprain my ankle again. i don’t like performing on an uneven surface when i’m doing BBWP, but if i hadn’t done it, there would only have been two of them, so i “took one for the team” and did it anyway. it was exciting, too, because i haven’t been practicing as much as i probably should, and as a result, my spinning got so erratic that i had to stop and start over again, which resulted in my burning all the hair off of the exposed area of my hips and crotch… very exciting indeed… it was also a miracle that the diaper i was wearing didn’t catch fire. it didn’t matter, though, because that’s part of the show – it’s supposed to be humourous, and it was. everything was good.

blurdge

the fremont philharmonic played at the ritz saturday night. apparently we have a standing invitation to play at the ritz saturday nights from now on, and it’s likely because the guy who is the ringmaster of ceremonies for the fremont solstice parade, Baron Von Huffenfuel (otherwise known as peter toms) is in charge of scheduling artists to play at the ritz. this, too, is a very good thing, because it means that we get into the ritz for free, and the ritz is one of my favourite places at the fair. during the four days i was there, i spent at least 8 hours in the sauna.

saturday night i discovered that my digital camera doesn’t necessarily have to flash, and if i tell it not to flash, that it has a significantly slower shutter speed, which makes pictures of things at night really interesting. chelamela meadow is one of those things: it is full of hippies with sparkly and twinkly toys, costumes and suchlike, of all kinds. also, there was one installation where there were a bunch of solar-powered lights that were hidden in metal sculptures, and a solar-powered fire sculpture that was really cool: it was about 8 feet tall, and consisted of an elaborate base on which there was a narrow tube that had fire dripping down from the top of it.

in a strange way, OCF is comparable to an enormous, outdoor, hippie-oriented mall: the main thing to do there is buy stuff, eat, go to concerts and watch the strange people. it’s interesting to me that i dislike malls as much as i do, and yet i feel totally at home at OCF… although i do tend to avoid the crowds most of the time.

i’ll probably write more, but now i’m going to do something else.

1055

i’m back from OCF. i’m extremely exhausted and going to sleep soon. the fair was a lot of fun and i have 264 pictures that i will post over the next few days.