Archive for September 2nd, 2013

“Services: Death of Wife/ Qty: 1/ Unit Price $2,500.”
— Iraq Body Count


23 March 2003:

“Donald Rumsfeld says the American attack on Baghdad is “as targeted an air campaign as has ever existed” but he should not try telling that to five-year-old Doha Suheil. She looked at me yesterday morning, drip feed attached to her nose, a deep frown over her small face as she tried vainly to move the left side of her body. The cruise missile that exploded close to her home in the Radwaniyeh suburb of Baghdad blasted shrapnel into her tiny legs ­ they were bound up with gauze ­ and, far more seriously, into her spine. Now she has lost all movement in her left leg.

Her mother bends over the bed and straightens her right leg which the little girl thrashes around outside the blanket. Somehow, Doha’s mother thinks that if her child’s two legs lie straight beside each other, her daughter will recover from her paralysis. She was the first of 101 patients brought to the Al-Mustansaniya College Hospital after America’s blitz on the city began on Friday night. Seven other members of her family were wounded in the same cruise missile bombardment; the youngest, a one-year-old baby, was being breastfed by her mother at the time.” — From “This is the reality of war. We bomb. They suffer.” 

Who will punish America’s government and military for the taking of civilian lives in Iraq, and the impending slaughter of innocent civilians, women and children in Syria by our weapons of shock and awe mass destruction?

One might think that if our Administration feels morally obligated to punish someone in Syria for the deaths of civilians in Syria (allegedly at the hands of Assad) that we might expect ourselves to observe the same judgment at some point in time (remember the Nuremburg trials?).

The PLOS Medicine journal estimates that 11,516 civilians were killed by American and Coalition forces in the first 5 years of Operation Iraqi Freedom:

In temporal analysis, numbers of civilian deaths from Coalition air attacks, and woman and child deaths from Coalition forces, peaked during the invasion. We applied a Woman and Child “Dirty War Index” (DWI), measuring the proportion of women and children among civilian deaths of known demographic status, to the 22,066 civilian victims identified as men, women, or children to indicate relatively indiscriminate perpetrator effects… Coalition forces had higher Woman and Child DWIs than Anti-Coalition forces, with no evidence of decrease over 2003–2008, for all weapons combined and for small arms gunfire, specifically.

Now is a good time to review the costs to Iraqi civilians — the 10’s of thousands of men, women and children — that we killed in the name of Operation Iraqi Freedom. One just needs to spend some time at to be reminded that our  attempt at nation building and exporting freedom & democracy — American style — dealt a heavy death toll to innocent civilians and children.

So when our present imperial president says he is going to engage in military action (with the acquiescence of Congress or not) to punish Syria for those 1500 deaths he’s feeling vindictive over, just how much civilian blood on our own hands are we willing to accept? 5? 50? 500? 5,000? 50,000? More? Throw enough hundred dollar bills at affected family members to assuage our guilt, then turn our backs?

Here is just one snippet from Iraq Body Count on how our military handles the cost of punishing and exacting revenge upon a dictator with no WMD’s:

“The Price of Loss: How the West values civilian lives in Iraq.” — by Lily Hamourtziadou, 12 November 2007

The American military has expressed regret “that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism,” after the 11 October killing of 15 women (one pregnant) and children in an air raid near lake Thar Thar. The civilian death toll by US fire was 96 in October, with 23 children among them, while in September US forces and contractors killed 108 Iraqi civilians, including 7 children. In August US troops killed 103 civilians, 16 of them children, and in July they killed 196. In fact, during the last five months US forces in Iraq have killed over 600 Iraqi civilians. Regrettably, as always.

It is the ‘price to pay’, the ‘sacrifice’ that has to be made as we fight terrorism, the ‘cost’ of this war against evil forces. That is what we say to justify these killings. But those of us who speak of this price to be paid, this sacrifice to be made, do not pay this price, do not make this sacrifice. Our own country is not being destroyed, attacked, occupied. Our own children are not being blown up, our civilians are not becoming homeless by the millions. Those who speak of the necessity of this sacrifice, would they be prepared to pay such a price? In their own country? With the blood of their own families? 

How much easier it is to sacrifice others, to let others pay with their lives. The value of those lives is hardly high enough to trouble us. It is nothing our military cannot afford. Here is an example:

“A fisherman was fishing in the Tigris river in the early morning, when a Coalition Forces (CF) helicopter flew over and shone a spotlight on him. The fisherman began to shout in English, ‘Fish! Fish!’ while pointing to his catch. A patrol of Humvees arrived, and as the deceased bent down to turn off the boat’s motor, CF shot and killed him. CF did not secure the boat, which drifted off and was never retrieved.” Compensation for death denied due to combat exemption; compensation for boat granted: $3,500 US.

The US Army paid $7,500 to two children whose mother they killed inside a taxi that ran a checkpoint — both children were also in the taxi, and were shot and injured; they also paid $6,000 for killing a child looking out of the window, while a raid was on-going in the house across the street. They refused, as they do in the majority of cases, to compensate the child whose father they killed as he drove home, but agreed to make a ‘condolence payment’ of $1,500. More recently, the US military is reported to have paid $2,500 to each family of the three men they killed near Abu Lukah, as they guarded their village.

There are more: Continue Reading »

by lizard

I came across a succinct, must-read analysis of Libya and Its Contexts written by Greg Shupack for Jacobin. The piece discusses a book by Maximilian Forte, titled Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa.

The context of the Libya war is important because the template is being replayed in Syria, though the reasons are different. In Libya, one of the incentives to destroy the Gaddafi regime was its support of the African Union and its opposition to AFRICOM. From the Jocobin piece:

As Forte’s book clarifies, NATO’s war in Libya was at least in part a war for power and control in Africa, one which has hastened the militarization of the continent. At the centre of what Forte calls a “new scramble for Africa” is the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM), an organization based in Germany, and in charge of US military relations with 53 African states. The Qadhafi regime’s opposition to AFRICOM is a context in which NATO’s decision to intervene on the side of anti-Qadhafi forces must be understood. Citing cables from the US embassy in Tripoli, Forte documents American frustration with African governments, “mostly notably…Libya,” who prevented the U.S from establishing a base for AFRICOM operations in Africa and who viewed AFRICOM as a vehicle for “latter-day colonialism.” While the organization claims that its command is “indirect” and that it will collaborate with civilian agencies, Forte quotes AFRICOM commander General Ham as saying that this “does not mean we simply wait for others to ask for our support. I expect our Command to actively seek and propose innovative and imaginative approaches through which we may apply the considerable military capability of the United States to its best advantage.”

The rise and fall of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) is another key context. CEN-SAD is a Tripoli-Based regional body, formed in 1998 to promote trade, free movement, telecommunications, and security among its member countries. The organization, which included approximately half of the population and territory of Africa, was a building block of and a source of competition with the AU. Under Qadhafi, Libya was a major player in CEN-SAD as shown by the country’s launching and funding of the Sahel-Saharan Bank for Investment and Commerce (BSIC) and its establishing the Fund for Assistance and Support to Women, Children and Youths. In 2007, CEN-SAD issued a statement “categorically rejecting” AFRICOM and any foreign military presence in any member state. Because of this, US officials were irritated by CEN-SAD, and misrepresented it as a solely Libyan organization. What CEN-SAD represented was an organization of African states that collectively had the potential to curtail US influence and to chart an independent path for much of the continent.

In view of this, it will come as no surprise that in the month of Qadhafi’s murder, the U.S announced it was sending troops to the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With Qadhafi’s regime gone, AFRICOM announced before Libya could have an election that a new military relationship had been established between AFRICOM and a post-Qadhafi Libyan government that was appointed by the NTC. Furthermore, the U.S established an Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S Embassy in Tripoli to “help coordinate security assistance, international military education and training and other security cooperation.” CEN-SAD, meanwhile, is all but defunct.

Going back further, this clip from Democracy Now (2007) features Wesley Clark talking about the list of nations targeted by Bush after 9/11. We, as an out-of-control empire, are still working on the list:

We will see how the debate evolves in DC when Congress returns. There is already criticism that the authorization Obama is seeking is too broad:

U.S. lawmakers began work on Monday on their version of an authorization of the use of military force in Syria, worrying that President Barack Obama’s draft could open the door to possible use of ground troops or eventual attacks on other countries.

I wonder where Obama keeps his Nobel peace prize.


by lizard

There really is an awakening spreading across the globe, and it really is a threat to the current configuration of power. It is my belief that the Arab spring was as inevitable as Occupy, and because of that inevitability, there was a degree of pre-planning involved by the current configuration of power, to channel the discontent.

What I do not want to imply is that every expression of discontent within the current configuration of power is controlled. I have no doubt that the humans who were born into the nation-state called Syria want nothing more than a chance to determine the course of their lives unencumbered by the mechanisms of state control.

The plus side of the Arab Spring is a general shift in expectations, especially from the youth. They now know a different world beyond borders is possible, and that possibility is not a button that can be un-pushed.

A comment from Steve Kelly at Mark’s place caught my attention because he mentioned the idea of bio-regionalism. Because what comes next?


Cascadia is the name of a bioregion and proposed country located within the western region of North America. Potential boundaries differ, with some drawn along existing political state and provincial lines, and others drawn along larger ecological, cultural, and economic boundaries.

The nation would consist of British Columbia, Canada, along with Oregon, Washington, and portions of other states from the United States. At its maximum extent Cascadia would extend from coastal Southeast Alaska to the north, extending into Northern California in the south, and inland to include parts of the Yukon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Western Montana.

New configurations will only become possible when the old configurations become glaringly dysfunctional. We’re not there yet, not even close.

I guess we need more evidence.

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