Category Archives: War

Notebook: A Kill Team and a HST killer quote

Rolling Stone has produced the journalism other haven’t — or won’t. They’ve tackled the worst known war scandal since Abu Ghraib with their coverage of “The Kill Team.”

The mag published the photos of soldiers posing with their random kills. The photos I haven’t seen in any other U.S publication. The mag wrote about the Pentagon’s efforts to confiscate the photos — an effort to  quell the fallout, which came anyway, and looks worse with the cover-up.

Well, the fallout and great narrative came at the hands of this magazine journalism and a list of muckrakers including the author, Mark Boal, and dating back to Hunter S. Thompson.

Read it.

Unquote” the Good Doc

Reading a punch of prose from Hunter S. Thompson is like downing shots of Wild Turkey. His style wakes you up, makes you feel a bit more alive.

Here’s an Unquote” of his pitch to write for the Vancouver Sun circa 1958:

“The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It’s a year old, however, and I’ve changed a bit since it was written. [Benign enough start, but keep reading.] I’ve taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to write for you.”

An Unquote” worth a drink

The disconnect from this fact in the Libyan war coverage makes The Tank want to pour another shot of Wild Turkey.

In Time, where complacence often reins, this upcoming Unquote” fact was in a story about energy, and probably not alluded to in the old guard’s war “reporting.”

“Libya: The site of the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, the nation remains largely underexplored.”

It’s a fact which makes the Tank think about John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.” He would say this U.S.-led effort wreaks of an ulterior motive to grab at the country’s resources. A strategy he documented from his first-hand experience in the book how similar tactics occurred in Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, and later, Iraq, and others.

Somewhere, the World Bank, the IMF, the Rand Corp., Bechtel and Halliburton prepare business operations and light up for profits in Libya.

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Looking for a bigger picture

One news story this week has captured my attention more than any other — and it isn’t the war in Libya or the continuing fallout from the triple disaster in Japan.

It’s the U.S. court-martial of Spc. Jeremy Morlock for the indiscriminate killings of three unarmed Afghan civilians last year. He said, “the plan was to kill people.” But that isn’t really it.

What’s grabbed my attention was how the U.S. newspapers I read avoided publishing the photos the unit took of the “disconcertingly satisfied” soldiers posing with their kills.

The New York Times wrote about how the photos could divide the Afghan and U.S. governments at a crucial time in the war, but didn’t link the photos online. The St. Paul Pioneer Press picked up the Times’ story, but no photos either. The Minneapolis Star Tribune didn’t pick the photos or the story.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel published the photos on March 20. The Times’ story said “it was not clear how Der Spiegel obtained the images.” It also said, “a military judge had prohibited the release of the photos.”

But newspapers have shown they aren’t beholden to the directives of the U.S. government with their extensive coverage of the Wikileaks documents this winter.

The Tank just read about a book that included some 1970s history about how the editor of the New York Times refused to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers after Nixon’s administration threatened the newspaper with a violation of the Espionage Act. (Ironically, that’s the same charge the Obama administration is purportedly exploring the use of with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.)

Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison Wednesday. The Pioneer Press continued to cover it; the Star Tribune again had nothing. The largest newspaper in Minnesota failed to include what the Associated Press called “some of the most serious criminal allegations to come from the war in Afghanistan.”

There is a precedence, however, with main newspapers ignoring damaging photographs. In 2004, when photos of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison went public, London’s newspapers displayed them across their front pages and continued in full color on inside pages. The Tank saw this coverage on London’s Tube. Back in the U.S. the next day, only below-the-fold follow-ups from the U.S. papers.

Why is this? If Der Spiegel has the photos, U.S. news organizations could probably get them from Der Spiegel if they credit where they came from. There has to be more here. But since we’re not in the newsrooms of the major papers, the Tank will hope for answers later.

But if you don’t want to be beholden to the sometimes limited coverage of our nation’s newspapers, click here to see the photos. They aren’t pretty, but they help tell the story and they should have been run with the articles.

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Off script, on truth

A favorite quote: “Don’t believe anything until it’s been officially denied.”

An amendment: “Don’t believe anything until it’s been randomly cited.”

The inspiration to revise comes from what U.S. Gen. Stanley McCrystal said Wednesday in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Instead of sticking to the talking points about the U.S. government finding funding for the Afghan surge, McCrystal said course correction is not about “making money.”

What, McCrystal? No one in the mainstream is saying that. Now, they should believe it.

From the estimated 100,000-plus private contractors in Afghanistan to the millions of U.S. workers making F-22s, MREs and ETC., all war is all about making USD – U.S. dollars.

Plain and simple.

An amendment to an amendment: “Don’t believe anything until it’s been originally filtered.”

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From negative to noxious numbers: War deaths

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The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan in October marked the highest total in any month of the war.  The October tally raised the ever-growing total to more than 830 since the 2001 invasion.

That’s grim news indeed, but not as startling as what the Soviet Union encountered when they faced the same enemy during its 10-year war there.

13,000

The total of Soviet soldiers killed from 1979 to 1989. Sadly, the number of afflicted skyrocketed to more than 500,000 when the wounded and those addicted to Afghan’s vast supply of heroin were added.

The comparison of negative to noxious numbers is stressed now because of the pending decision from President Obama on whether to add more of America’s youth into combat zones.

Although this next quote from “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair is in reference to a war a century prior between Japan and Russia, the Tank thought of its timeless pertinence to current affairs.

“Realize it! Realize it! Realize that out upon the plains of Manchuria tonight two hostile armies are facing each other — that now, while we are seated here, a million human beings may be hurled at each other’s throats, striving with the fury of maniacs to tear each other to pieces! And this in the twentieth century, nineteen hundred years since the Prince of Peace preached as divine, and here two armies of men are rending and tearing each other like wild beasts of the forest! Philosophers have reasoned, prophets have denounced, poets have wept and pleaded — and still this hideous Monster roams at large! We have schools and colleges, newspapers and books; we have searched the heavens and the earth, we have weighed and probed and reasoned — and all to equip men to destroy each other! We call it War, and pass it by — but do not put me off with platitudes and conventions — come with me, come with me — realize it! See the bodies of men pierced by bullets, blown into pieces by bursting shells! Hear the crunching of the bayonet, plunged into human flesh; hear the groans and the shrieks of agony, see the faces of men crazed by pain of a man. This blood is still steaming — it was driven by a human heart! Almighty God! and this goes on — it is systematic, organized, premeditated! And we know it, and read of it, and take it for granted; our papers tell of it, and the presses are not stopped — our churches know of it, and do not close their doors — the people behold it, and do not rise up in horror and revolution!”

Last week, I had the privilege to listen to a first-hand account of war from a Vietnam veteran. The Tank watched as his eyes widened with intensity as he described his story about “men pierced with bullets, blow into pieces by bursting shells.” Saw his face “crazed by pain of a man,” if you will.

The nearly 60-year-old man believes in service to country — either military or peace corp. — and he stressed the importance of Obama taking a thoughtful deliberation on whether to send more troops to theater.

During his ongoing deliberation, Obama took a rare trip Wednesday night to honor dead soldiers as they arrived in caskets from foreign countries. He called the rare trip a “sobering” reminder.

Let’s hope that reminder convinces him that the risk is higher than the rewards.

Keep the troops home so we don’t have to witness their “shrieks of agony.”

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Go up the food chain

The federal investigation into the CIA for its interrogation tactics doesn’t go far enough.

The alleged acts are horrendous and shameful, including choking prisoners, water dousing, mock executions and — worse of all — threatening the health of their wives and children.

Instead of current plan of seeking prosecution for the subordinates who acted at the direction of their superiors and under their sketchy legal jurisdiction, the inquiry should start with then-CIA Director George Tenet and go up the Bush Administration ladder.

The most egregious acts were conducted by the bosses and lawyers who authorized the interrogations, which have been reportedly ineffective and counterproductive anyway.

I agree with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who compared the current purview of the inquiry to Abu Ghraib, when “lower ranking troops who commited abuses were hung out to dry.”

A narrow scope on administration officials would debunk one of the main justifications for not conducting the inquiry in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial. The Journal goes to the knee-jerk conservative reaction of how it sends the wrong message to those who execute the war. If the inquiry goes after Veep Cheney and Justice lawyers who concocted the “enhanced interrogation tactics,” the CIA operatives are spared.

Regardless of finish, this inquiry is going to get ugly. It’s necessary to prosecute  those who’ve put in motion such travesties,  but it will also detract from larger, more important issues, such as health care reform.

The inquiry also doesn’t look good for the Obama administration, which previously sought to overlook the past and move on to “change.” But once the ACLU won a Freedom of Information Act request to get the 2004 internal CIA report, then Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama called the inquiry.

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Gates around a theory

Not so fast, Robert Gates.

The U.S. Defense Secretary — and, to a larger extent, the Obama administration — tried to fool you Tuesday by lauding their hard stance on the F-22 fighter jet program.

robert gates

The warmongerers said the move to cut the $1.7 billion expansion showed their efforts to rein in military spending, but a day earilier they had pushed the $1 billion expansion of the army by 22,000 members.

Robert Gates and Bush

Gates called it essentially a trade-off, but spending will increase further with a multiplier effect placed on the added “temporary” fighters.

There will undoubtedly be other authorizations to train and equip them, and who believes the Department of Defense, i.e. the Department of War, will shrink its ranks in the future?

The endless wars and the military industrial congressional complex rage on.

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The other shoe?

The relative peace in Iraq comes with a deadly caveat – what happens when former Sunni insurgents stop getting payments from the U.S. governments and aren’t hired into the Iraqi military?

When that shoe drops, the big picture in Iraq will come into focus.

Members of the Sunni Awakening were bribed into the nationalistic Shiite government years ago to help stop the rampant sectarian violence. Now, with only five percent being placed in the military, the Sunnis have voiced disappointment with being left out of the government, according to Tuesday’s New York Times.

If the Sunnis return to fighting the Shiites, all assumed progress in the war – and reason for the removal of American troops in 2011 – is lost.

In another sign of assumed progress in Iraq, Baghdad will become a “walled fortress,” with four major and 18 minor checkpoints entering the capital, said Thursday’s New York Times.

A bright spot – across the Atlantic

Once British troops leave Iraq in July, a government inquiry into the justification for entering the war will commence, BBC radio reported Wednesday.

The Tank welcomes vetting of the Iraq war – if only it could happen on this side of the Atlantic.

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