Thoughts on Memorial Day 2011

This is one of those holidays where I don’t know what I should write about. On the one hand I am very grateful for the brave men and women who have given us the ultimate sacrifice throughout the ages to keep this country safe and protect the freedoms we all enjoy. As sincere as that feeling is, it is dulled by the fact that everyone says that because you’re some kind of a major asshole if you don’t. Hell, if you’re a Republican it’s practically tattooed on your forehead even if you’re working hard to destroy many of the freedoms you supposedly claim to care about.

Anyway, I thought I’d look around to see what some other folks were writing about it. Decrepit Old Fool, as usual, had some very good things to say on how crazy war can be:

War is crazy; it is crazy-making. It drains reason out of what passes for civilization. The stories matter. They let us know about courage, who have never been there. And yes, many wars should not ever have happened. The stories punch holes in the fantasy that it’s all some kind of glorious video game. If we’re going to do this to human beings, let’s be damn, damn sure there’s a real reason.

Let’s keep an eye out for those reasons and head them off at the pass before they ever become a cause for war. We need to learn to think ahead, past the current tension and most importantly of all, see the humanity we have in common with our enemies. It is exactly that humanity – or at least the realization of it – that war must first destroy.

via Memorial Day 2011 « Decrepit Old Fool.

I’ve never been to war myself and I hope to hell I never have to go. I don’t think I’d be very good at it. Especially if my performance in the war video games DOF mentions is anything to go by. My biological father, long since dead, was in World War II and was wounded at some point. I only know this because we still have the purple heart someplace in the family. I was given his dog tags years ago and they’ve long since been packed away. I don’t know any of his stories because I was five when he died and he never got a chance to tell me any at an age where I could remember them. My dad, or step-father technically, had a lazy eye that kept him out of Vietnam. My father-in-law did go to Vietnam, but he doesn’t talk much about it. Given how he looks when he does talk about it, I can’t blame him for not wanting to say much. I have various friends and family who have been in the military since then and have even participated in the current wars, but, again, it’s not something we talk about often.

But when others do talk about their experiences, well, I try to pay damned close attention:

There were young men in that unit who knew you had to be a little crazy to survive.  So they’d be crazy.  You’d have to be crazy to be pinned down in trenches, under heavy fire, running out of ammo, and go fetch an enormous sack of the stuff, come back through the trenches with that sack on your back singing “Here comes Santy Claus, here comes Santy Claus – and what can Santa do for you?”

And my father, giddy with the relief of seeing rather more useful bullets come his way than the ones that had been coming his way a moment before, said, “Well, Santa, I’d like some ammunition.”

And the man – Jimmy Blue, I believe, though you can’t trust a kid’s memory and I hesitate to dredge my father’s memory at this time of year – the crazy man with the enormous sack of ammunition on his back handed over some ammunition with a cheerful “Here you go!” and went singing off to the next man pinned down under fire, the best Christmas present they could have asked for.

via Memorials « En Tequila Es Verdad.

I’ve heard enough to know that it’s a whole lot of not fun covered in a thick layer of fuck this shit. I know enough to know that war is something that should be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. I know enough to realize that it has impacts far beyond the battlefield that affect people individually, and nations collectively, long after the guns have gone silent.

Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but too often it’s not and we should beware anyone who talks of going to war in a cavalier manner as though it’ll be cheap and easy and painless. It’s never any of those things. I hold onto an optimism that humanity may someday be able to reach a point where they can work out their differences without having to kill each other in the process, be we’ve still got way too far to go before we’ll see that day.

Osama’s death is no victory worth celebrating.

So I promised on Twitter that I would comment on the big news from the weekend. Which, on the off-chance that you somehow missed it, is that after almost 10 years we finally managed to track down and murder Osama bin Laden. When President Obama made his announcement there was lots of images in the news of people around the country celebrating in the streets and chanting USA USA USA, including among the Arab population in Dearborn, Michigan.

I’m still not sure what it was we were supposed to be celebrating.

Sure a bad man who was, at least indirectly, responsible for the deaths of lots of Americans was finally assassinated. Many people said, including the President, that “justice had finally be served.” I disagree. Justice would’ve been to have captured him alive and put him on trial in New York City. Killing him is simple vengeance and vengeance is not something that should be celebrated. He wasn’t on the same scale as Hitler or Stalin, though you would be forgiven for thinking so given the reaction to his death.

It would’ve helped if this could have occurred 10 years ago. Say within months of the launch of the military campaign on Afghanistan. That was, after all, our reason for invading that country and starting that war to begin with. Or at least that’s what we were told at the time. Instead of quick and meaningful justice, Osama would be allowed to live free for another 10 years while he did everything he could to contribute to America’s downfall. He knew he couldn’t defeat us militarily and that was never his plan. Instead his goal was to do to us what he had done to the Soviets: Bleed us dry. And the Bush Administration was only too happy to help him with that plan.

President Bush, who had promised to hunt down and bring in Osama dead or alive, quickly lost interest in the whole pursuit of justice thing when he saw an opportunity to start another war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no immediate threat to the United States. Osama must’ve been very pleased with that decision. Not only did it take the heat off of him, but it helped him to realize his goals. He couldn’t have planned for a better way to drag America down. On top of providing Osama with an easy means of instigating trouble and forcing Americans to spend billions in Iraq, it also guaranteed that the effort in Afghanistan would be neglected prolonging the amount of time and money that would have to be spent there as well. We made it cheap and easy for Osama to weaken us and left him free to make new attempts at blowing shit up that would seem to be failures, but in reality forced us to add new layers of pointless security theater that cost billions to maintain while providing no real protection.

Remember the Republican’s oft repeated talking point that they “hate us for our freedoms”? If that’s true then why did we so readily give so many of those freedoms up as a result? Between the Bush warrantless wiretapping laws that can’t be challenged because of the “risk” to national security to the stupid bans on liquids and fingernail clippers on airplanes to the degrading naked body scanners or public molestation policies that are still in place under Obama. All of this despite the fact that the average American is still 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. We are far less free today than we were on September 11th, 2001. And to what end? There hasn’t been a single terrorist plot that was foiled by these new security systems. All of the plots that were intercepted since 2001 used traditional intelligence gathering systems.

Worse than the loss of our freedoms is the loss of our national values. America had been a leader in the condemnation and prohibition of the use of torture only to decide that torture was exactly what we needed to prosecute the wars we had “preemptively” started. Not one scrap of useful information has ever been gleaned under the Bush torture programs, but that hasn’t stopped some folks for arguing for their continuance even today. In fact there is a false claim by those on the Right that torture provided the information needed for the death of Osama. A claim that is patently false. Those on the Right like to claim that waterboarding is no worse than the hazing that goes on in college fraternities even while those, on the Right or Left, who have undergone the technique to prove it’s “no big deal” come out of with their minds changed. It’s torture plain and simple.

Ten years on from 9/11 and we’re more polarized and divided than ever after having squandered a great deal of global good will that was given to us in the immediate aftermath of that terrible day. Our international reputation is heavily damaged and our credibility has never been more in question. We’ve been suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression and yet our spending on the Military is beyond consideration in the moves to reign in the mounting national debt. Sure, we’re not completely bankrupt just yet (at least not financially), but tell me how many of Osama’s goals weren’t realized, often by our own hands?

But hey, at least we killed him, right?

Video of Pakistani kids pretending to be suicide bombers is nothing to freak-out over.

The above video clip is popping up all over the Internet causing all sorts of horrified commentary like this:

This amateur video of Pashtun children enacting a suicide bombing has circulated on the internet in Pakistan in recent days, highlighting the disturbing psychological impact of Taliban violence on a generation.

The unsettling 84-second clip has divided opinions, with some amused by the smiling child actors and fake explosions; others appalled by evidence that suicide bombers have become playground heroes of sorts.

“It’s horrifying and alarming. These children have become fascinated by bombers rather than condemning them,” said Salma Jafar of Save the Children UK in Pakistan.

“If they glamorise violence now, they can become part of it later in life.”

via War games: conflict becomes child’s play for young Pashtuns | World news | The Guardian.

I’m not convinced this should be all that surprising or upsetting. I can remember pretending to be all sorts of things as a child, some of which would could be considered disturbing. Cops and Robbers requires someone to be the robbers and it’s just not a chase unless you’re shooting guns at each other or attempting to run each other over. Cowboys and Indians isn’t as much fun unless you collect a few scalps along the way. Can’t fight WWII without someone playing the part of the Nazis. Oh, and whoever got to be the Evil Aliens got to make people’s heads explode (that was my favorite).

Despite all of that glorification of violence, I somehow managed to grow up and not be a head scalpin’ evil Nazi alien bank robber who caused people’s heads to explode while trying to shoot them in a car chase. But, I hear you say, this is different! This is something that really happens! Yeah, so did scalpings, and Nazis, and bank robbers. Though that’s true enough about the aliens… as far as we know.

My point is that a lot of child play contains sinister undertones and has throughout history. Hell, there are a number of classic games kids play to this day that have histories most folks would find unsettling if they knew about them. Most folks will instantly think of Ring Around the Rosies as an example as it’s common knowledge that it’s about the Black Plague. Reality is that it’s not about the Plague, but a lot of people think it is. But what I’m saying is that most of us manage to grow up relatively unmarred from pretending to be the bad guys.

There’s also the fact that this video is obviously being filmed by an adult. That calls into question whether or not the children are pretending to be suicide bombers out of admiration or just because an adult was instructing them to do so. Given how much attention is being aimed at the camera man I’m less inclined to think this was a spontaneous moment caught on film than I am that the whole thing was staged by adults probably to freak people out. Though if the kids are being indoctrinated then that would be something to be worried about. If it’s just something they decided to do on their own then it’s probably harmless.

[SEB Guest Post] Yeah I’m a Dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

With the modern equivalent of the Library Of Alexandria at the fingertips of around 310,650,000 Americans, why are we all still so ignorant, naive, and proud of, what politicians like to call and rely on, uneducated votes?

A little research will reveal (to those who deal with Cognitive Dissonance logically and honestly) just how big of a sucker we all are for perpetuating an argument for 200 years, all the while allowing only the most depraved kind of persons to be the soul profiteers from it. So proud you voted for Demagogues that care as much for this country as dope dealers care about addicts .

If you consider yourself a “Democrat” or a “Republican” (or TEA Party Douche) it looks as if you are the reason this “Democracy” will be as short lived and end as VIOLENT as EVERY Democracy has before this one.

Read up on Communication of falsehoods, propaganda techniques, and the many logical fallacies politicians use (I fucking Hate being lied to. Don’t you?) before you defend whatever perceived ‘lesser of two evils’ you settled for with the same glittery generalities they sold to you. Because as morally corrupt as it is to employ those methods all while claiming to be god-fearing and virtuous is nowhere near as bad as the decadence they indulge whilst serving you as long and hard as they can. Case in point (mild in comparison to the fleecing that goes on in  Washington everyday) the coveted Ms. Palin received a “per diem” expense allowance for 312 nights she spent at her home in Wasilla. Over 17,000 dollars, by definition, embezzled from the state of Alaska and already cash strapped United States. Common thievery from another greedy low life. Now if those same villainous officials were caught doing the same  in a private or company setting there would be dire consequences, very likely prison.

This fact disturbs me deeply me because, for instance, those very same verboten acts of an individual against his neighbor or his employer victimize only the neighbor or the vitality of the company, whereas the licentious and criminal undertaking of an elected official undermine the prosperity and vitality of our entire country!

I think it is not unreasonable to define “corruption in public office”, or even the lackadaisical way in which some of these trusted servants carry out their responsibilities, as TREASON. For there is no doubt our enemies are aided by their criminal exploits as well as the often over looked imprudence of these elected ignoble officials. And what enemy would not take comfort in seeing our country become weaker.

In 1790, the Congress of the United States enacted that:

“If any person or persons, owing allegiance to the United States of America, shall levy war against them, OR shall adhere to their enemies, giving them AID AND COMFORT within the United States, or elsewhere, and shall be thereof convicted on confession in open Court, or on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act of the treason whereof he or they shall stand indicted, such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of treason against the United States, and SHALL SUFFER DEATH.”

If we want to make this country great and prosperous again, a good place to start would be to take the next smug miscreant asshole who is caught fleecing America from his desk at any level of government and try him then hang him. (the death penalty has been imposed on countless Americans for far lesser crimes.)

We can all be assured that the level of quality and productivity from our over-paid and over-privileged servants might finally match the salaries and benefits they currently are rewarded.

And no longer will our enemies take aide and comfort knowing the injuries WE sustain from unchecked corruption in government. And trust that not a penny would be found wanton in our social security if those greedy pricks had to rely on it for retirement.

All you registered Democrats and Republicans should probably read up on some of the federalists papers, most notably federalists paper No. 10 and anti-federalist paper Brutus No. 1, if you would care to get to know a little bit about that which you claim to love.

Voting is no where near as powerful in preserving liberty and freedom as is a well informed public. This age of information and communication has made the fundamental arguments, that started these factions INVALID and only serves to retard prosperity and, if history teaches anything, herald tyranny.

One more thing. Do you want to us to WIN the war on drugs? Really?

OK. Take the Billions of dollars given to law enforcement each year and fund education. Make teachers the prestigious and highly paid civil servants they once were.  Provide them the tools to produce generations of adults that are not only scholastically superior to the rest of the world but perhaps more importantly, with the addition of required psychology courses from grade 1 thru 12 may enjoy a higher quality of life being expertly aware of all the complex feelings and emotions one feels in life and well equipped with highly effective coping mechanisms and conflict resolution techniques.

Would that not be attacking the demand at its source? Yes. It would put a huge god-damned dent in the demand AND would deliver, for the very first time I might add, a devastating blow to supply.  Pretty fucking simple economics.

What kind of backward misanthropic asshole would declare a war on the drugs that was perceived to threaten and attack indiscriminately the health and well-being of  people and then, to the absolute dismay of the VICTIMS of these drugs, find themselves the sole VICTIM of said war. If someone where looking into our little screwy  terrarium they would draw the conclusion that for reasons unknown a small but apparently very powerful group of ruling bipeds had decided to ally themselves with a substance they call drugs in an ongoing effort to destroy lives of all the other worker bipeds with a much more proactive approach by bashing in homes and breaking up  families as well as many diabolically creative attempts at ensuring a lifetime of hardships by adding insult to the injuries of their disease with the social stigma of being a criminal.

And fuck all those in advance who disagree on this point and sympathize in any way whatsoever with the atrocities of the war on mankind carried out every day with  acts of terrorism exploding, fully loaded, into homes of women and children, taking their source of income or even just the bit of stability and love those innocents had.

Alright I’m gettin’ really pissed. I better stop before I start cursing all those enemies of freedom and liberty that carry out this war so vehemently. I don’t pray, but just for fun lets all end this collection of ideas with a prayer to all the gods those screwballs pray to.

Dear god we ask you on this fine day to make aware the evils and sufferings they themselves bestow upon the relative innocents daily and in mass.  We ask you with your mighty hand grant these whore mongers a compassion and desire to help and promote health and the value of family, instead of just saying those things and then doing the opposite. Let your love of justice cause their new god-given goodwill to eat thru the sins of their crimes against humanity until there is left only a hole. The kind of hole that can only be filled by the drugs they employed as a cover for oppressing political upheavals they perceived as a threat to the free ride they all enjoy. And then cause them all to die and go to…I don’t give a shit where.  In your many names we pray.  Oh yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, your divine word, IF it was ever clear and concise, is anything but now. So if you could drop by and clear some things up it would end pretty much every problem that plagues this world today.


How’s this for an odd couple: Atheist soldier tasked with protecting a Chaplain.

There is an absolutely fascinating article at about a Navy Chaplain in Afghanistan who is protected by an atheist soldier:

SANGIN, Afghanistan—They say there are no atheists in foxholes. There’s one on the front lines here, though, and the chaplain isn’t thrilled about it.

Navy Chaplain Terry Moran is steeped in the Bible and believes all of it. His assistant, Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Philip Chute, is steeped in the Bible and having none of it.

Together they roam this town in Taliban country, comforting the grunts while crossing swords with each other over everything from the power of angels to the wisdom of standing in clear view of enemy snipers. Lt. Moran, 48 years old, preaches about divine protection while 25-year-old RP2 Chute covers the chaplain’s back and wishes he were more attentive to the dangers of the here and now.

It’s a match made in, well, the Pentagon.

“He trusts God to keep him safe,” says RP2 Chute. “And I’m here just in case that doesn’t work out.”

Why does the Chaplain have an assistant? Apparently because Chaplains aren’t allowed to carry weapons so they have to rely on the troops around them and an assistant to provide protection. Assistants, however, aren’t Junior Chaplains so they don’t have to be of the same faith, or any faith, to do the job.

“They don’t have to be religious,” says retired Navy Capt. Randy Cash, who served 30 years in the Chaplain Corps and now is its historian. “They have to be able to shoot straight.”

In the case of Chaplain Moran and RP2 Chute, their theological paths diverged long before their career paths joined. Terry Moran grew up in Spokane, Wash., a Seventh-Day Adventist, a denomination that believes the Sabbath should be on Saturday, not Sunday.

I have nothing but sympathy for for RPS 2nd Class Philip Chute. It would be a hard enough assignment as it is without adding in the fact that the Chaplain is a Seventh-Day Adventist.

Lt. Moran takes the Bible at its word, rejects the evolution of species and believes the Earth to be 6,000 years old. He carries a large Bible with him into the combat zone, while RP2 Chute totes writings of Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and fierce critic of the notion that God designed the universe.

Philip Chute was raised a devout Baptist in Nova Scotia and moved to Greenville, S.C., as a teen. His avid reading of the Bible, however, weakened his belief that fact lay behind faith. Soon he was a “full-blown atheist,” he says.

Well that certainly sounds familiar. I’m telling you, reading the Bible can be quite an effective way to destroy your faith.

Of course they eventually had The Discussion and it apparently rattled the Chaplains cage:

At first the chaplain got the sense RP2 Chute was agnostic. “I can work with that,” Lt. Moran recalls thinking.

But a few days later RP2 Chute dropped the A bomb: He was an atheist.

Appalled, Lt. Moran contacted his fellow chaplains. He says he was simply seeking counsel about whether atheists can really be chaplain’s assistants. RP2 Chute is convinced Lt. Moran was trying to trade him in for a believer.

RP2 Chute was senior among Lt. Moran’s possible assistants. More importantly, he already had two combat tours under his belt, while Lt. Moran hadn’t yet seen a bullet fly. In the end, Lt. Moran says, he chose experience over faith.

Now you’d think, given that last sentence, that this would show that the Chaplain has a bit of common sense in him. Then you continue to read the article where it talks about how he has this bad habit of standing out in the open where snipers have been known to pick off Marines and you have to wonder why he would do that:

“Hey, sir, don’t get out of the vehicle until I lay down a sniper screen,” Gunnery Sgt. Mark Shawhan, an agnostic with a suspicion of organized religion, instructed Chaplain Moran before the patrol. “That’s where he’s been getting us, and when you cross the bridge—RUN.”

Lt. Moran wasn’t troubled. “I believe the Lord is going to protect us,” he said. But he wondered aloud whether to finish his Meal, Ready-to-Eat packaged lunch before heading to the armored vehicle.

Gunny Shawhan shook his head in disbelief.

When their turn came, the chaplain and his assistant bolted across the bridge and pivoted into a cornfield, where the minister stood upright. RP2 Chute shouted at Lt. Moran to get down. “Take a knee,” he yelled.

[…] During a pause to allow the minesweepers to check for booby-traps on the path ahead, the chaplain, wearing his prescription eyeglasses instead of anti-shrapnel goggles, sat down on the bank of an irrigation ditch, dropped his backpack on the ground and snapped a few pictures. RP2 Chute grimaced when he noticed. Insurgents have seeded the entire town with powerful explosives, and Marines step in the exact footprints of the man ahead to minimize the risk.

Lt. Moran says he follows the Marines’ safety instruction and wears a helmet, despite his confidence in the divine. But the way he glides blithely through battle is a constant source of worry for his assistant.

“All my training and experience doesn’t always help when the man I’m protecting isn’t afraid of being hurt,” says RP2 Chute.

Perhaps this will help explain why:

He laid out a selection of religious books: The New International Version of the Bible in desert camouflage. A book called Freedom from Fear. Two books promoted the protective powers of the 91st Psalm.

“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday,” the psalm tells believers. “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

As you can imagine there is often a certain amount of tension between the two men, but contrary to what many would think the atheist doesn’t try to undermine the Chaplains work. Though he has been known to add his own thoughts on it:

RP2 Chute looked on, his impassiveness masking his disdain for talk of angels. “It’s frustrating to listen to him tell people things I know not to be true, but I know it’s not my place to get involved when people come to him for help,” he said later.

There are times, however, when RP2 Chute feels he has to intervene and looses his own ample arsenal of biblical references, dredged up from his Baptist boyhood and doubting teenage years.

In August, the pair visited India Co. in dug-in positions on a ridge line overlooking the Helmand River. The company commander asked the chaplain to visit every foxhole. Lt. Moran did so, spending four hours in the mortar pit, fielding the Marines’ questions about the End Times.

The chaplain was struck both by RP2 Chute’s command of the Book of Revelation, and his refusal to take it seriously. “He’s familiar with the Christian doctrine, but he chooses not to believe it,” says the chaplain, a slender-faced, soft-spoken man with a fringe of gray in his black hair. “That’s what I find puzzling.”

On a visit to Kilo Co., a Marine asked for a biblical ruling on tattoos. Lt. Moran said the Book of Leviticus bans them. RP2 Chute disagreed. Leviticus, he said, says people shouldn’t get tattoos to mourn the dead.

“I don’t believe as Chaplain Moran believes,” RP2 Chute often tells the Marines during these visits.

It’s always entertaining when a True Believer™ is surprised by how familiar many atheists are with the Christian Bible. The assumption is almost always that we can’t have read it otherwise we’d believe it and, as demonstrated here, it’s difficult for many of them to understand how we could be well versed and reject it as nonsense.

It’s worth reading the whole article as there is yet another point where the Chaplain blissfully stands out in the open in a dangerous area while those around him scream at him to get behind some cover:

“No matter what situation you find yourself in on planet Earth, God will protect you,” he said after the patrol returned safely to base. “All He asks is that you trust and believe what He says. So, if I find myself in a combat situation, His promise of protection is still valid.”

I can imagine just how hard that makes the atheist job to keep the Chaplain’s ass safe. Not to mention the fact that if he succeeds the Chaplain will give all the credit to God.

You’d almost have to be a Saint to put up with that kind of gratitude…

With regards to the Collateral Murder video…

The folks at Wikileaks unleashed the following video of American AH-64 Apache chopper gunners opening fire on what they believed to be armed insurgents in Iraq, but which turned out to be a couple of Associated Press journalists and (likely) a bunch of civilians. Later in the video when a van pulls up to try and help one of the wounded journalists the chopper again opens fire killing all the adults and wounding two children in the van. Fair warning: Once seen it cannot be unseen so think about it before deciding to view it:

The Pentagon has been repeatedly hit with Freedom of Information Act requests to release this video over the years and has refused to do so for various bullshit reasons. The real reason they didn’t want to release it is because it’s a monumental fuck up that is embarrassing and which would be used by their critics to denounce the war effort.

I’ve never been in the military so I don’t know a lot about how things are done in a combat zone, but from what I see in this video the soldiers involved acted appropriately – if somewhat callously – based on the information they had on hand; and I can’t really get all that upset about the callousness given the situation they are in. It’s a terrible mistake on their part, but I can’t say they did anything wrong.

The real problem with this video is, as ***Dave points out in his own (much better written) entry on this topic, the fact that the Pentagon tried to hide it:

What I find unconscionable is that, once the evidence was together, the government (or, at least the military) decided to lie.  To not only hide the truth from the world and the nation, but de facto indict the soldiers involved by making what they did effectively too terrible to admit.

If you are honest, and in the right, and fighting on principle, then you admit your mistakes, show you’re trying to learn by them, and move on.  You hold people appropriately accountable. You take responsibility for your actions.  You “man up.”

Instead, now we have this.

The video becomes the very thing you were trying to prevent it from becoming by hiding it. This is why transparency is so important. This is why the government needs to be in the hands of responsible adults who aren’t afraid of accountability.  So that later when you have another fuck up where the soldiers do try to cover it up – such as the botched nighttime raid in Afghanistan that’s been in the news – your commitment to accountability isn’t questioned.

“Joe the Plumber” has no sense of irony.

So “Joe the Plumber” has managed to milk his 15 minutes of fame into a new career as a “journalist” for the conservative website Pajamas TV. One of his first assignments has been to cover the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas. When asked about what he’s learned since taking on his new role he proceeded to say the following without a hint of irony:

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.

Wow. Just wow. The eloquence and intelligence of this man is simply overwhelming. I can see why he’s so popular with the Republicans. He really speaks their language. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Joe himself:

You gotta admire a journalist who’s so prepared with thousands of questions that he can’t think of one right off top of his head to ask. You also gotta admire a journalist who feels journalists shouldn’t be allowed to do their jobs and cover wars. Clearly Joe feels the People don’t have a right to know! Sit the fuck down and just let the people who are the deciderers make the dicederisions for you like you elected them to do!

If America doesn’t torture then why did we hide it from the Red Cross?

Here’s a news item that’ll boil your blood. Newly released documents reveal that our government, which claims it doesn’t torture, went to some length to hide detainees from the International Red Cross to avoid being called out for torture:

“We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,” Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who’s since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to “break” detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. “True, but officially it is not happening,” she is quoted as having said.

A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.

“In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has ‘moved’ them away from the attention of the ICRC,” Fredman said, according to the minutes.

[…] It’s unclear from the documents whether the Pentagon moved the detainees from one place to another or merely told the ICRC they were no longer present at a facility.

Fredman of the CIA also appeared to be advocating the use of techniques harsher than those authorized by military field guides “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong,” the minutes report Fredman saying at one point.

Am I reading that right? Are they suggesting that if someone doesn’t die from it then it’s not torture?

Not everyone involved was blind to the possible repercussions of what they were doing:

The administration overrode or ignored objections from all four military services and from criminal investigators, who warned that the practices would imperil their ability to prosecute the suspects. In one prophetic e-mail on Oct. 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, then the deputy commander of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, wrote a colleague: “This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of. … Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.” The objections from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines prompted Navy Capt. Jane Dalton, legal adviser to the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to begin a review of the proposed techniques.

But Dalton, who’s now retired, told the hearing Tuesday that the review was aborted quickly. Myers, she said, took her aside and told her that then-Defense Department general counsel William Haynes “does not want this … to proceed.” Haynes testified that he didn’t recall the objections of the four uniformed services.

Of course he doesn’t recall the objections. No one in this administration ever remembers being told what they were doing was probably illegal. Not that it matters, he should have known they were illegal and not needed objections from anyone.

Here’s the interesting part: We train our soldiers on how to resist being tortured. Guess what they did in order to develop their own “harsh interrogation techniques” for use in Guantanamo. That’s right, they checked in with the folks who train our boys to resist torture:

Officials in Rumsfeld’s office and at Guantanamo developed the techniques they sought by reverse-engineering a long-standing military program designed to train U.S. soldiers and aviators to resist interrogation if they’re captured.

The program, known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, was never meant to guide U.S. interrogation of foreign detainees.

An official in Haynes’ office sought information about SERE as early as July 2002, the documents show. Two months later, a delegation from Guantanamo attended SERE training at Fort Bragg, N.C. Levin said, “The truth is that senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees.” The documents confirm that a delegation of senior administration lawyers visited Guantanamo in September 2002 for briefings on intelligence-gathering there. The delegation included David Addington, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; Haynes; acting CIA counsel John Rizzo; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and now the homeland security secretary. Few of the Republicans at Tuesday’s hearing defended the Bush administration’s detainee programs. Guidance provided by administration lawyers “will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation’s military intelligence communities,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C..

Of course this all makes America look like a nation of hypocrites when the Bush Administration has the gall to chastise countries like China on their civil rights abuses. How can we claim the moral high ground when we’re acting no better than the countries we’re berating?

How the hell any of these people in the Bush administration will walk away without being tried and convicted for war crimes is beyond me.

This just in: The Congressional Democrats are still a bunch of pussies.

U.S. Democrats to back down on Iraq war conditions | Reuters

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Congress, who came to power last year on a call to end the combat in Iraq, will soon give President George W. Bush the last war-funding bill of his presidency without any of the conditions they sought for withdrawing U.S. troops, congressional aides said on Monday.

Lawmakers are arranging to send Bush $165 billion in new money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, enough to last for about a year and well beyond when Bush leaves office on Jan. 20.

“It’ll be the lump sum of money, veterans (funding) and that’s it,” said one House aide familiar with the negotiations on the legislation.

The aide was referring to the funding for the unpopular Iraq war, now in its sixth year, and a measure being attached to expand education benefits for combat veterans.

[…] With this bill, Congress will have written checks for more than $800 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with most of the money going to Iraq.

Yes, I know they’re just waiting until the next President gets in there on the assumption it’ll be Barack and they can finally start bringing troops home, but these assholes have rolled over on just about every demand that Bush has made since they took control in 2006. It’d be nice to see some backbone for a change.

Desperate for some sort of legacy, Bush makes capturing Osama Bin Laden a priority.

Get Osama Bin Laden before I leave office, orders George W Bush – Times Online

President George W Bush has enlisted British special forces in a final attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before he leaves the White House.

Defence and intelligence sources in Washington and London confirmed that a renewed hunt was on for the leader of the September 11 attacks. “If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source.

After seven years all I can say is that it’s about fucking time Bush made Osama Bin Laden a priority. Just think of how much money and resources he would’ve had available to him if he hadn’t had a burr up his ass about Saddam and his fictional WoMDs.

I honestly hope he manages to pull it off because it’d be one of the few bright spots of the eight years of hell we’ve been living through.