Glenn Greenwald confirms what I wrote five years ago: that the militarization of our politics was a Bush/neocon goal and that it has succeeded. Joe Biden, a supposed Democrat, is referring to Obama as our next Commander-in-Chief.
Biden’s formulation here is a particularly creepy rendition, since he’s taunting opponents of Obama that, come Tuesday, they will be forced to refer to him as “our commander in chief Barack Obama” (Sarah Palin, in the very first speech she delivered after being unveiled as the Vice Presidential candidate, said of John McCain: “that’s the kind of man I want as our commander in chief,” and she’s been delivering that same line in her stump speech ever since).
This is much more than a semantic irritant. It’s a perversion of the Constitution, under which American civilians simply do not have a “commander in chief”; only those in the military — when it’s called into service — have one (Art. II, Sec. 2).
Worse, “commander in chief” is a military term, which reflects the core military dynamic: superiors issue orders which subordinates obey. That isn’t supposed to be the relationship between the U.S. President and civilian American citizens, but because the mindless phrase “our commander in chief” has become interchangeable with “the President,” that is exactly the attribute — supreme, unquestionable authority in all arenas — which has increasingly come to define the power of the President.
matttbastard at Comments from Left Field (where I’ve been posting this week, thus my absence from here) points to what he calls “the ‘WTF?!’ story of the day” – a piece by the WaPo’s Walter Pincus, one of the few real reporters the paper’s got left, on the way the commander of our detention camps has borrowed a leaf from the Chinese Communists’ Handbook of Re-education.
The U.S. military has introduced “religious enlightenment” and other education programs for Iraqi detainees, some of whom are as young as 11, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, said yesterday.
Stone said such efforts, aimed mainly at Iraqis who have been held for more than a year, are intended to “bend them back to our will” and are part of waging war in what he called “the battlefield of the mind.” Most of the younger detainees are held in a facility that the military calls the “House of Wisdom.”
The religious courses are led by Muslim clerics who “teach out of a moderate doctrine,” Stone said, according to the transcript of a conference call he held from Baghdad with a group of defense bloggers. Such schooling “tears apart” the arguments of al-Qaeda, such as “Let’s kill innocents,” and helps to “bring some of the edge off” the detainees, he said.
First, somebody needs to explain to me why we’ve got 11-yr-olds in jail. Second, Gen Stone’s optimism may be, it seems to me, slightly misplaced. I mean, wouldn’t it seem fairly obvious to the meanest observer that the occupation of their country, the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the fact that they’re in jail basically for being Iraqi might explain their “extremism”?
I guess not.
When Bush and Cheney said they were going to run the govt like a business, they apparently included ripping off their consumers and employees in their prescription. What with Halliburton, KBR, Blackstone, Custer Battles, et al, up to their ears in fraud, theft, and over-charging for everything, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the Cheney-inspired, Bush-built military is now actually – I feel I have to assure you I’m not making this up – billing combat soldiers who served in Iraq for lost or damaged equipment. From CBS-TV in New York:
A 2006 government report found more than 1,000 soldiers being billed a total of $1.5 million. And while fighting overseas put their lives on the line, this battle on paper could cost them their future by ruining their credit. Rodriguez will be reported to credit agencies next month.
“It makes a terrible point about the nature of military service today,” citizen soldier Tod Ensign said.
Ensign is a veteran’s advocate. He says this is all part of the military’s push to be run more like a business.
“They’ll just pound him and call him, call his employers, and make his life as miserable as they can until he pays up,” Ensign said.
Testimony before Congress detailed in a report found that “although unit commanders and finance offices are authorized to write off debts for lost and damaged equipment … they have not always done so.”
“It happens too often and it’s just disgraceful,” Sen. Charles Schumer said. “Here are people who are risking their lives for us and they come home and they’re being treated as if they’re criminals instead of heroes.”
And because they’re the military rather than an actual business, which could never get away with it, they don’t even bother to tell the soldiers they’re billing what the equipment is that they’re supposed to pay for, much less explain how it’s connected to them.
The Rodriquez mention in the above quote is combat engineer Brian Rodriquez, whose job was finding and defusing land mines and IEDs. The Army has been sending him bills for $700 all summer.
Although he was discharged some four years ago, bills recently arrived demanding payment, but giving no details on what or why — nor do they offer a way to dispute the charges.
“For doing my job you’re going to bill me?” Rodriguez said.
(all emphasis added)
Yeah. War is a business, pal. Troops that don’t pay with their lives or limbs have to pay some other way. Get used to it. This is govt-as-business, it’s what we said we wanted. Well, we got it. Like it?
What, you think corporations pay their own expenses? Hell, no. Corporate tradition: Pass It On. Customer pays, and if the customers won’t, the employees do. That’s life in Bush America. Hope you enjoy it.
(Via Crooks and Liars)
Three years ago I predicted, based on my experience with Viet Nam vets, that the day was going to come when we read of atrocities committed by our troops in Iraq.
I thought it would come as My Lai came or the depredations of Tiger Force–in gonzo attacks on Iraqis in the field. I expected Fallujah might very likely be that moment. Marines storming into a beleagured city where you can’t tell the enemy from the friendlies and mowing down everything in sight without fear or favor. It’s still possible, don’t kid yourself. The troops are exhausted, angry, betrayed by their own commanders (anybody remember “fragging”?) and by the President who lied to get them there and then put them in the position of jail-keepers, only the jail they have to watch over is an entire country. It is hard enough to control an army when it believes in its mission; it is almost impossible when it doesn’t.
I’m not making excuses for those involved, only trying to put what’s happened into the context of the reality they are now facing, a reality most of us–lucky us!–will never have to face. If you ask young men and women to die for you in the name of some great humanitarian cause and it turns out to be a crock, it turns out that you’ve asked them to die for some cock-eyed dream of empire or the piling up of your personal wealth or the fortunes of yourself and your family–and in this case, your contributors–you have turned those young men and women into mercenaries, Hessians. You have made them not a force of liberation but a force of occupation, not liberators but oppressors, and don’t think they don’t know it. Their rage, depression, and growing sense that everything they’ve just done was pointless, worthless, a sham, has to go somewhere.
Unfortunately, though we haven’t yet seen fragging*, we’ve seen massacres of civilians in Haditha and elsewhere, and a slaughter of probable innocents in Baghdad. I warned in a different post (that I can’t find at the moment) that the effect of a dirty war on the men and women who had to fight it wasn’t going to be pretty, especially when they came home and had to somehow learn to live with what they’d done.
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.
The effect on the troops who do such things or see them done is devastating.
CB in Iraq (Reuters)
Back in July of ’04, I was writing a blog about literary blogs – blogs that used the form for fiction or poetry or photography, or that featured exceptional writing – and in surfing for them I stumbled across one called My War: Fear and Loathing in Iraq by an anonymous Iraqi soldier stationed near Mosul who called himself “CBFTW”. The writing was raw, honest, and vibrant. CBFTW reminded me of a cross between Norman Mailer and Hunter Thompson (even without the clue in the title, it would have been impossible not to recognize CB as a Thompson fan from the style of his writing). I was very impressed and said so when I reviewed it.
This is, as far as I know, one of a kind. Not only is it a blog written by a soldier now serving in Iraq, it’s written by a soldier who can write. His grammar isn’t great, his spelling is OK, his punctuation is horrible. All of that is beside the point….[H]e can communicate a sense of time and place so clearly that it’s almost physical–you can hear it, you can see it, you can almost reach out and touch it.
He…seems to write at least one post a day, sometimes two, and they all slice directly into the heart of what the troops are up against and, to a degree, how they’re coping. He doesn’t make judgments and he doesn’t talk poilitics; if he has opinions he mostly keeps them to himself. What you will read is raw, frontline reporting, practically in real-time. In other words, everything we don’t get–or only rarely–from our Bush-addled media.
This is one of the best combat soldier’s diaries I’ve ever read. It has the immediacy and authenticity of an eye-witness account under extreme stress, and the power of a Hemingway novel to punch you in the gut when you’re not expecting it. Consider it a Must-Read and check it every day. If he can live it, we can read it.
Somebody told him about the review and not long after I got an email from CBFTW, thanking me for the attention and the nice things I said. He wrote that it was encouraging to get that kind of praise because he was just a low-income kid from a suburb of San Francisco with no education to speak of who had never written anything before and often felt lost, like he wasn’t sure he was doing it right. He told me his name – Colby Buzzell – and that the “FTW” stood for “Fuck This War”.
Well, I was hooked, of course. A working-class kid – like me – who wanted to write and actually had talent? I couldn’t resist. (more…)
This letter was published on the website of what appears to be an Italian magazine called Bellaciao. It was written by the parents of a soldier serving in Iraq, both of whom are themselves retired from the military.
As a military family with a combined total of 57 years of active service in the U. S. Army, myself, son, and daughter-in-law have accumulated over 80 combat medals, one or more of us have served in Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Kosovo, Bosnia, and three of us served together during Desert Storm. My son recently returned from the Iraq War, his third war, and, being fed up with Bush lies and back-to-back deployments, applied to be discharged from his “indefinite enlistment” status.
Six days later he was under investigation for making “disloyal comments” about George Bush…which amounted to saying in general conversation with other soldiers that “Bush should have never started the war” and “Bush is no military leader.” He was charged under Article-15 and was denied an attorney and could not cross-examine the case against him. His 14 years of military service up to this point was flawless, he was an excellent soldier, and in spite of numerous superiors who testified in his favor, he was demoted and sentenced to 45 days of extra duty.
His crime involved nothing more than expressing his personal political opinion as guareeteed under the Bill of Rights, the very document that he had risked his life defending. Our government claims to be fighting for democracy, however those who risk their lives for democracy are being denied their basic rights of freedom of speech and opinion. My friends, the Bill of Rights and democracy are dead under the Bush Administration. This is only a sampling of what will happen if this administration is re-elected.
For generations we have been a loyal and faithful military family, however with this recent action taken against a member of our family, we will no longer encourage military service to our future generations. In other words, we are going to do the same thing that Bush, Cheney, Wolfovitz, and most members of congress do, WE AIN’T SERVING NO MORE!!
The Iraq War was based on lies and exaggerations, poor intelligence, a mass deception with no rhyme nor reason for invading Iraq. For those who still have kids and loved ones in this illegal war, our blessings and best wishes go out to you. We pray for their safe return. It is refreshing to see an organization like Military Families Speak Out because our active service members are silenced by the system and need all the voices that can be mustered.
Charlie C. Carlson II
Command Sergeant-Major USA Ret.
[Ex-Major USA Vietnam Vet]
An ex-military commenter noted that Article 15 discipline is company-level punishment, the lowest type of discipline there is. Still, at the very least it’s ironic that troops supposedly fighting for ‘freedom’ are denied it themselves.
A while ago, I wrote about Gen John Abizaid’s order that any soldier dissing Junior was to be punished. This would appear to be proof that they are.
(Thanks to Polis for the link. In the same post, he links to an article in the Guardian about Rep Henry Waxman’s on-going attempt to trace the $$$Billions$$$ earmarked for Iraq that are unaccounted for.
He wrote to the Republican chairman of the reform committee on July 9, suggesting there was a serious case to answer. Subpoenas should be issued, he said, “to investigate potential mismanagement of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) by the United States”.
The DFI was set up after last year’s invasion as the depository for Iraq’s multi-billion-dollar oil revenues and was administered, until June 28, by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) – with notional UN oversight.
In particular, Mr Waxman is curious about “the [Bush] administration’s last-minute ‘draw-down’ of billions of dollars from the DFI for unspecified expenses” prior to last month’s transfer of sovereignty. “For example, $1bn [about £550m] was withdrawn from the DFI during the last month of the CPA’s existence for unspecified ‘security’ purposes.”
The administration provided no information about how these funds would be spent, Mr Waxman says, and has yet to do so.
Officials from Congress’s financial watchdog, the general accounting office, have pointed out meanwhile that while the CPA was keen to appropriate Iraqi oil revenues, it was much more reluctant to spend bilateral US aid funds.Nearly all of the $20bn in the DFI was spent or allocated by June 28 – but only 2% of the $18.4bn promised by the US for reconstruction was actually spent. According to White House figures, for example, and despite all the rhetoric about building a new Iraq, not a cent of America’s own money had been spent on construction, healthcare, sanitation and water projects as of last month.
Last month, Iraq Revenue Watch, part of the Soros Foundations network, accused the CPA of “committing billions of dollars to ill-conceived projects” using Iraqi rather than US funds, effectively pre-empting budgetary decisions that should have been left to the interim Iraqi authority.
Yet another story in which the US media is interested. NOT. If you read the whole piece, what Waxman is basically saying is that the whole ‘reconstruction’ effort seems to be a) riddled with possible corruption, and b) a rip-off of Iraqi resources by US corporations. Well, mainly one US corporation–can you guess who?
Halliburton was the largest single recipient of Iraqi oil funds during the occupation, according to the Army Corps of Engineers’ figures released last month. And among US politicians, according to the Center for Public Integrity, Mr Bush has been the largest single recipient of US oil and gas industry campaign contributions since 1998 – his total stands at $1,724,579.
There is, of course, no connection between those two facts.)